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爬中文山

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About this blog

I'm starting this blog because sometimes I feel like saying something about (my) Chinese learning that isn't really worth a forum post or is not a question. Somewhere to document my progress. It has been just about exactly a year now of consistent work, so I'm interested to see where my 普通话 is next New Year's holiday. I will try to use this space to post some interesting things I find along the climb!

Entries in this blog

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Home 烧烤


cooking

OK, this is barely cooking, but so delicious. Had this home 烧烤 a few days ago. The beef was sent frozen and vacuum sealed as a gift from my wife's friend in Guangzhou. She sent it to us to have during the impending BJ lockdown...which never happened - hooray! 

 

 

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Chinese Breeze progress


books

I was reminded by the "2022 goals" thread that I had listed a goal of completing all the Chinese Breeze level 2 and 3 readers. Up to now, I had only completed 3 of 7 of 二级 and hadn't cracked one open in 6 months. So last week I banged out the remaining 4 books of 二级. The nice thing was that I was able to read them extremely easily. I remember a year ago I found them very slow going. Now I was able to read them in one sitting of about 1.5 hours each and not looking up anything , just glancing at a few footnoted items. I also rarely had to re-read a sentence to get the meaning. I put that down to reading DuChinese intermediate every day and just general improvement.

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I also ordered (and received next day - 京东谢谢!)four of the five level 3 books and will start in on them next week.

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扎啤 🍺 bags


draft beer

This summer I've been enjoying an extra bit of 扎啤 / draft beer. Something about draft always tastes better than bottles and I like buying local stuff. It's pretty popular in Beijing to sell these bags(or sometimes canisters) of draft beer by waimai 外卖 or walking in the shop directly. They add  pressure to the bag before sealing, so it arrives fresh, bubbly and cold within about a half hour. The price is right too. 1.5 - 2 liters for around 17rmb for Beijing/qingdao draft, 35-50 for white or wheat beer, 70-100 for Ipa. 

 

This one is wheat from a place called URbrew and made in 河北:

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Standard Beijing draft and Qingdao( I was drinking the Qingdao during a zoom call with some friends back home and they thought it was hilarious:

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My favorite hands down, a beautiful beer, ipa, from 叁金叁 whatever that is(?)  85kuai for about 5 pints:

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Another wheat beer that's very popular, 泰山 Taishan from Shandong, pretty nice fresh wheat beer, 60kuai for 2 liters:

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I just received this yesterday cold-chain shipped from the city of 青岛 , no idea yet how it tastes, but 40,000 people have ordered it on taboo and positive reviews, on sale for 28kuai for 2 liters, I had to get one:

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Next one I'll prob try is this one:

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My wife was busy doing something and asked me to cook. I said ok you instruct me something (in Chinese, of course) and I'll do the footwork. So I made these 2 dishes, nothing complicated, but they turned out damned tasty! 

 

1)String beans 豆角儿 

cubed Beef 牛肉块儿

potatoe 土豆儿条 🥔

green onion 葱

garlic 大蒜 🧄

oil 油

oyster sauce 蚝油

soy sauce 酱油

cooking wine 料酒 🍷

sugar 白糖 

salt 盐🧂

Thirteen aroma 十三香

 

2)Water spinach 空心菜,

garlic 大蒜 🧄

green onion 葱

soy sauce 酱油

red pepper that I have been drying for months 辣椒 🌶️

oil 油

salt 盐🧂

 

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4上 to 下


books

Finally finished Hsk-4上. Took me six months. That's a bit slow but I'm simultaneously studying the Chinese Made Easier 4 book and almost halfway through that as well. The CME and Hsk series have a different focus, but also overlap in many places. Tomorrow I will break the seal on the 4下 book. I definitely feel it's getting harder, but not overly difficult, so I think Im at my sweet spot.

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I happened to be near Beijing Foreign Studies university today and saw there was a bookstore, so I popped in for a look. They had loads of Chinese study books, graded readers and so on. I need more resources like I need a hole in the head but I couldn't help myself. I can NEVER have enough listening, so I picked up 汉语听力系列教材( hanyu tingli xilie jiaocai). I assumed intermediate level but was surprised to see:

Elementary 上 = hsk3

Elementary 下 = hsk4.

Intermediate 上and下 comprises hsk 5

 

So I took the hsk 4 one for now and the hsk 5 for later. These have downloadable mp3s by scanning the QR code.

 

I also bought Short-Term Listening and Short-Term Reading, again Elementary corresponds to Hsk 4(Elementary sounds so low 😕). This came with a CD of mp3s, so I will have to go to a copy shop and get them to put it on a usb for me.

 

Finally, I took a sort of Hsk4 dictionary 词汇学习手册 and a book of cloze practice for Hsk4 words. Altogether ran me 165 块. Not for dust collection, I will finish them all 💪

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我的青春谁做主 -My Youthfulness


listening

Had to give up on 人世间 for now. Too difficult for my level. Dongbei hua and the length don't make it any easier. Decided instead to watch 我的青春谁做主 -My Youthfulness (2009). This is the second series of the "Youth" trilogy 奋斗,and 北京青年 being the first and third. Have watched the first two episodes, there are 32 in total. I'm watching it on my 小米 wall projector, so it's not very convenient to stop and look up words. That's my goal for this one, just to watch it and get what I get. 

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Latest study routine


routine

I've switched up my language learning schedule several times over the years, I'm really enjoying my current routine(somewhat influenced by Matt vs. Japan/AJATT). It's also simple to  follow:

 

1/3 time spent on textbook - currently Hsk Standard Course 4 and CME 4

1/3 time spent on reading (including videos where I read all hanzi subtitles line by line) - currently 奋斗 tv drama and Du chinese

1/3 time spent just listening - currently "Free to Learn videos", Native YouTube videos(on topics that I'm familiar with)

 

Other: 3-4 italki classes per week, Srs Flashcards, real life 

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Saving money on classes


teachers

I decided to make a change regarding teachers. After having studied for quite a while with teachers in the 18-22usd an hour range I decided to experiment with finding a cheaper main teacher. Six weeks ago I found a teacher charging 10usd/hr to go through the Hsk 4 book with. She has a nice standard accent(哈尔滨)and is engaging. I also found 2 teachers that charge 5usd/hr. to do discussion/speaking only exercises with topics I provide them.

 

The last "pricey" teacher I had was more skilled and experienced, but probably only 20 percent "better". Now I can have 4 lessons a week for less than I was paying for 2 lessons. In the end I think the loss in quality, is outweighed by more time spent listening and speaking.

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奋斗 fèn dòu


listening

I'm really enjoying the 奋斗 series, which I found on a forum thread here listing various tv programs with descriptions and levels. This is my first time following a Chinese drama. While it is definitely above my level, it's still comprehensible. The way I've been attacking it is to first watch each scene without stopping and get what I get. I then go back and pause each sentence and read the 汉字. I look up a minimal amount of words. The ones that seem very useful / hsk 4-ish level / easy to remember / or keep coming up - I add to my srs. Next, I re-watch the whole scene again without pausing. Finally, I watch the whole episode(45 mins). I'm on episode 5 of 32 so far.

 

For me 奋斗 almost perfect: Tons of Northern accented Mandarin, all kinds of everyday situations(restaurants, arguments, home, work, bowling and barbecuing,...) engaging story, cool characters, scenery of Beijing 15 years ago. The one con is that they sometimes speak very, very quickly, but I expect that can only help my listening skills. 

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北京烤鸭


real world

A while back I watched a unit in YoYo Chinese upper intermediate video course where they went to a restaurant in Beijing and ordered duck. Just for the hell of it and to go somewhere I haven't been, I emailed them and asked for the name of the restaurant. They wrote back telling me it was 青年餐厅( qīngnián) Fēngtái branch and the other day I finally got around to taking the subway down there. Turned out to be EXCELLENT roast duck! My wife is not a fan of duck, so I got a half all to myself. 半只 was 118块, not the cheapest, but not terribly expensive either. Service was great. I also had a little win moment in that I did all the ordering for myself and my wife, including some adjustments and requests - all the while the waitress did not once ask my wife for any clarification, confirmation, or even look her way💪. It also reminded me that I don't go for duck often enough. So now I'm going to make it a point to try as many duck restaurants in Beijing as I can and see which one I like best. I already passed by a random one in a Hutong near 东四 and tagged the location in my phone, so that will be next.

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3 year progress video


progress video

Today marks exactly 3 years from the day I signed up for my first Chinese course, studying Beginning Chinese. I’ve studied at least an hour, pretty much every day since then. I made a video of me speaking to record my progress. Still cannot speak very fast, but I’m not reading from a paper or anything, just trying to speak from my mind. Feel free to point out any mistakes or problems.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eL30qb3HLY4

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It took me quite a while to knock these off since I only did one lesson a week with a teacher on this book. (I'm also busy working my way through Chinese Made easier - book 1 and 2 done, halfway through book 3.) I feel a sense of accomplishment having stuck with the BASIC series consistently and finishing the Spoken, Written and Practice books. I think it's a fantastic set of books and found lots that has been useful in real life. I also found it to contain quite a bit of language that I haven't come across in other places and even enjoyed some of the more "dated" vocab. The books ( especially the practice book) feels like a somewhat modernized version of FSI. I am now going to begin the Intermediate level books of the same series.

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我新买的茶盘


grammar

The other day, my teacher gave me homework to write about the new tea tray I bought. Here's my writing followed by her corrections:

 

让我介绍一下我新买的茶盘。因为我南方家里的茶盘比较大,所以我买了一个小的更适合我北京房间。我选择这种茶盘的过程是这样。我两年以前去广东北边的潮州古城旅游。那时候我很多次看过老人坐在走道上喝茶,聊天。他们用的茶盘很简单。它的样子是圆形的,不太大。有的人用陶瓷的,有的人用不锈钢的。几天前我在淘宝上看了看。我找到一些从潮州来自功夫茶盘。最后我选择了一个12英寸(30厘米),白色的。它要花差不多一百块钱包括快递费。今天早上茶盘到了。我很开心。我觉得这个茶盘挺好看的。我现在能在家里喝茶像潮州老人一样。

 

With corrections(my wrong sentence in parenthesis):

让我介绍一下我新买的茶盘。因为我南方家里的茶盘比较大,所以我买了一个小的更适合我北京房间。我选择这种茶盘的过程是这样。我两年以前去广东北边的潮州古城旅游。那时候我很多次看过老人坐在走道上喝茶,聊天。他们用的茶盘很简单。它的样子是圆形的,不太大。(他们用的茶盘很简单,圆的,不太大。)有的人用陶瓷的,有的人用不锈钢的。几天前我在淘宝上看了看。我找到一些从潮州来自功夫茶盘。(我找到一些从潮州来的功夫茶盘/我找到一些来自潮州的功夫茶盘。)最后我选择了一个12英寸(30厘米),白色的。它要花差不多一百块钱包括快递费(加上邮费差不多一百块钱)。今天早上茶盘到了。我很开心。我觉得这个茶盘挺好看的。我现在能在家里喝茶像潮州老人一样。(我现在在家里就能像潮州老人一样喝茶了。)

 

茶盘=tea tray 

过程 = process

潮州 = Chaozhou

古城 = ancient city

走道 = sidewalk

圆 = circle, round

陶瓷 = porcelain, ceramic

不锈钢 = stainless steel

功夫 = gong fu

英寸 = inches

厘米 = cm

厘米 = include

快递费 = delivery fee

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May 2021 recording


pronunciation

It's been about six months since I last posted a recording, I've been studying and practicing a lot, but also busy with work. I think it's a decent amount of time to see if there's been improvements or 退步. So here's a short recording I made today. Did a few takes, but nothing written down. I don't know if the grammar is all correct or not. Feedback always welcome.

 

 

 

 

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A barrier broken through

I've achieved a big milestone recently. Up until the last few months my significant other(a native) would never speak mandarin with me. When I first started, I pushed it but she wouldn't budge. I let it go and decided not to push it anymore. Still had her mother to speak Chinese with.

 

As I've improved, expanded my vocabulary, grammar etc, I casually - even accidentally would slip in some mandarin and she kind of naturally started replying in mandarin. It has happened quite naturally. Lately she's even been starting conversations with me in Chinese sometimes. Also, if she says something in English to me that I want to hear in Chinese or that is well within my understanding, I say "再说一遍“, she's a good sport about it and says it again in Chinese. Other than that, I'm still not pushing it. I also don't bother her with grammar questions and the like. 

 

Right now I suppose it's 25 percent Chinese 75 English, but a huge change from zero. I'm sure as I continue to improve my skills the percentage will shift further.

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One minute audio messages on WeChat

I didn't give up on my recording myself  speaking for one minute(I had posted several up here last year), I just found a better avenue for it! I found a tutor who sends me a question on WeChat every morning and I send her back an audio message (approx 1 minute in length) of my response. She then sends me corrections. I pay her 30 kuai a week for this. Today was the 50th answer. Sometimes her questions are above my level, but I find a way to answer. An example question: "家庭和事业哪一个让你更乐于投入时间和精力?“ I have found this very useful on several levels: I learn some new vocabulary, I think of an answer in Chinese, I have become more comfortable recording audio messages. Sometimes I pose the question to Chinese friends and get their responses.

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1 minute(or so) of speaking > November

Have not posted a recording in a long while, so here goes. This one is done with no editing, no stopping the recorder, no reading. I realize there are of grammar mistakes and I am speaking very slowly. Not sure, but I do "feel" like I sound more natural than the last recording I posted. This was my 5th take.

 

The file is slightly over the max size, so I had to put it on a Dropbox link:

 

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ixumvia9oiudfad/我不高兴.wav?dl=0

 

 

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September update

Time to update this blog. I have been ridiculously busy with work coming back onboard. I have not stopped working on Chinese at all though. I was planning to post more "One minute speaking" recordings, but 1) I realized I was running through them 10 times to get a decent one without too many mistakes and I don't think that is best done unless someone checks the grammar first. 2) I thought it best to wait a while and see if there's any progress over a longer period before posting another. Now its been a few months, I may do another round soon.

 

I've been doing a lot of speaking practice in class and out on the street, learning characters, reading. listening -  I'm pretty happy with my progress the last 6 months. This last few weeks we've been working on an eating out chapter in my main textbook, so I've made a real point of ordering new(to me) dishes, getting them to modify my order, etc in order to practice what I'm learning. I travel a lot for work, so I ask my teacher what I should try here and there. It gives me a nice language practice mission each time.

 

I am going to 武汉 for work next week and it's doubly exciting because my teacher lives there. I told her I'm coming and we've arranged to meet for a meal. We have been studying together on Skype for just over a year so it will be really interesting, if weird to talk in person! I'm a bit nervous, but I don't want to pass up the opportunity. She's a great teacher too so the least I can do is 请老师吃火锅!

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I'm going through the Growing Up With Chinese episodes much more slowly than i expected. Partially because I'm doing lots of other resources right now and partially because a 15 min episode takes me at least an hour to go through. I've just finished episode 25, 1/4 of the way through the whole lot. Great stuff and perfect for my level.

 

Been doing a lot of speaking practice on Italki lately. I send them a pdf of a few  chinesepod episodes dialog and and ask them to review/discuss them with me. It has proven to be a decent way to have something to talk about and reinforce what I learned in the episode.

 

Also joined a Language exchange chat group, which is super interesting and useful for extra listening speaking practice on all sorts of random stuff. I like to post audio messages on there so I can listen back and keep working on my pron.

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How I'm going to use my speaking recordings

So I found a teacher on Italki and sent him the first of these recordings. I found a male with good standard pronunciation who is not very expensive. I told him i didn't want a lesson, but rather use the time to listen, correct any grammar, vocab or pronunciation mistakes. I also asked him to send back a recording of him saying the same (corrected version) dialog in his natural speaking voice and normal speed. I will then use this to shadow and work on better sentence intonation, speed, etc.

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One minute of speaking 说一分钟

The project I am starting now (inspired by Imron's  https://www.chinesethehardway.com/article/train-what-you-want-to-learn/  ) is to record myself speaking about a topic freely - no reading, no stopping/starting Audacity and no editing out mistakes. I may record several times to listen for mistakes i can catch myself and trying to improve on it, choosing the best of the lot to post. I will try first to speak for one minute and gradually increase it. My aim is to improve my fluency, speed, pronunciation, grammar and vocab speaking about a topic. That being, for me, the most difficult aspect of learning Chinese.

 

I am going to post these on my blog to motivate me to keep doing this activity and maybe get some useful feedback as well.  Although I realize listening to a Lower Intermediate level 老外 is not a joy - feel free to listen if you feel like it and give any kind of feedback if you like.

 

Here goes, topic #1 慢跑 / Jogging

主题 慢跑.wav

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