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Learn Chinese in China

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Week 11 - 我怎么学习



One of the reasons I now enjoy writing this blog so much, is the feedback and help that I get when I do.  I think that at the end of my first year I might try and make a list of the resources I have used, as it will include many things that get suggested over the weeks.  This week gwr71 was incredibly helpful in suggesting a cultural visual dictionary, one for measure words, and a grammar book, all of which I now have an am beginning to tuck into. 


Last week I was also asked about my schedule, including how much time I spend on homework, and so I will give that here.  Each week we have 20 hours of class, with each class lasting 2 hours.  That is broken down into 4 comprehensive classes, which, as the name suggests, brings all the elements we learn from the other classes together.  We have 2 listening classes, 1 reading/writing class, and 3 speaking classes.  Listening classes can be a bit repetitious, but I think that's just the nature of it, and there's really no way to avoid it.  I also really need it as listening is what I find hardest.  Regarding homework, some days we get it, some days we don't, it's fairly unpredictable for the most part.  What is predictable is our reading/writing homework each week.  In class we cover 2 chapters in the book, and for homework we take the list of new words from each chapter and write them out a couple of times, then make a word of our own choosing, then make a sentence which includes that word.  I really enjoy doing this because it's where I get to experiment a lot and the corrections help a ton.  We also have to do the exercises for each chapter, and then at the end of each chapter there is a text, and we need to write and answer 3 of our own questions relating to the text.  This homework is supposed to be done over the course of the week, but being as it's on a day when I have 4 hours to kill on campus, I just hammer it out then.  As I do other reading and writing throughout the week, I don't think it negatively impacts my studies in any way.  We rarely get any homework for listening, and for speaking and comprehensive it really varies.  Some days we might need to write a dialogue relating to the topic we are studying, or talk about a specific subject.  Most days we have dictation in class, and so we need to learn the appropriate characters.  We have now moved on to phrases (started with single characters, then words, now phrases, and I assume longer sentences will be next).  My assumption is that the idea behind this is so we don't forget characters we have learned previously, and it seems to be doing the job!  Being as we are still looking at very common characters, there may only be one or two that I really need to memorize, and so this doesn't normally take very long.  This frees me up to do more of my own studying.  Random new words that come up in class, and vocabulary that I just want to learn myself, I study throughout the week.  I will attach a picture of what it looks like but I just do it in the way that I have found works best for me (and before it gets pointed out, I know how messy my handwriting is, both in Chinese and English!) - I write down 5-7 characters/words that I want to learn, and then write each of them down 5 times.  A bit later I come back and write them down again, this time in a different colour.  The following day I come back a third time, and again with a different colour I write them down a final time.  How many words I do just depends on the week.  Once I have a full page of words, I put them into Anki. 


For listening I just try and get myself as immersed as possible, and spend time with Chinese people.  I really like tattoos, and so I have made good friends with 2 tattoo artists who have a shop just down the street from where we live.  They don't speak English which is perfect, and they are really fun to hang out with, and have even offered to teach me some stuff!  It's perfect because they speak just like anybody else, which of course is often a far cry from what we learn in the books!  I also find myself reading and writing more with Wechat (although it is of course pinyin input).  I frequently message my current teachers, and my previous ones, with different questions about new vocab and grammar, and I will actually often ask the same question to different teachers, or just make up a question so that I can practice reading when they respond.  Thankfully none of them have let on that they are fed up of me yet hah!


A highlight this week was attending a sort of 'Chinese competition' at the international student center at uni.  Fortunately I wasn't involved, as this is only for the short term classes that I was a part of before I started the degree.  This was a more advanced level than the one I had to compete in, as I was watching my friend who has now moved up to a higher level class.  The reason I was happy not to be involved was that not only did they have to act out a skit of some sort in Chinese, but they had to sing a song, and my voice is unbelievably bad!  It was great to watch, and actually quite funny.  I think it also alerted me to the fact that the previous classes seem to have been much more rigid in the structure they follow.  I feel like in the degree program there is much more freedom and the pace is basically whatever the students make it, rather than very rigidly sticking to the book and having to pack a large amount of content into a short space of time.  I chuckled when I heard the phrases '三天打鱼,两天晒网不行‘ 和 ’在家靠父母,出去靠朋友‘,which I myself learned in the short term class only a few months back!


The final thing for this week (I feel like there is a ton I want to write, but I want to save stuff for future posts also!), was my reading/writing midterm.  I think it went fairly well.  I kicked myself afterwards at having written 容 incorrectly!  I wrote two characters next to each other to try and compare them and remember which was right, one of them had a tiny extra heng just above the kou, and unfortunately I went with that one and erased the other one!  Other than that, unless I have grossly overestimated my ability, I don't think it was too bad.


Ok, one final, final thing!  As I add pictures each week and describe what I am doing to learn, please feel free to critique, make suggestions, tell me why there is a better way of doing things etc.  I want to learn and I want to do it efficiently, and so far the help that people have given has been really, really useful.  Thank you!


Edit - Please excuse the lack of pictures this week.  I tried 4 times to upload a couple of photos but for some reason it failed every time, even after copying the blog post and reloading the page.  I will try again next week. 


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" I tried 4 times to upload a couple of photos but for some reason it failed every time, even after copying the blog post and reloading the page."

If you have any more problems drop me a line at admi[email protected] - will try and figure out what's going on.


Keep up the good work!

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Wow long post this week. Thanks for sharing your method for vocabulary learning, it gives me ideas...

Sometimes computers do what they want, not what we want :evil: Perhaps the pictures were too big?

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They were from my phone so they were only 1-2MB, which was way under the limit.  Very strange!  Definitely a long post, and I tried to restrain myself hah!  A lot of it was in response to a request for my schedule and learning method.  I am really starting to look forward to the week when I can try and do my blog post in Chinese!  I might even try it as a finisher for the first semester!

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Thanks for another great write up! Really appreciate the hours you put into updating all of us. 


Your schedule sounds pretty similar to what I experienced when I did a semester of Chinese at Uni here. I've neglected writing characters for a while, so I've planned to get back into that shortly in preparation for any dictation in the future. At least the homework doesn't sound too painful at this stage! 


Have you found out much about the other years ahead? A lot of the universities here all have the 'Chinese Language and Literature' degree, but Zhejiang Uni also has a 'Chinese Language' Degree which is aimed at foreigners. I'm trying to find out what is taught in each year, but nothing's too detailed online or in person when I've asked. 

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No problem, it's a joy to write, and it doesn't take hours so don't worry!


I'm not all that sure on the years ahead to be honest, I am just kind of taking it as it comes!  What I know for sure(ish) is that this year we have 4 classes (comprehensive, speaking, listening, reading/writing), next year there are 6 or 8 (my teacher told us today but I have completely forgotten!), but I am not sure what the extra 4 are.  Third year I think he said it was 6, and then 4th year back to 4.  The amount of hours per week remains constant though.  My friend who graduated this year told me that although we have class in 4th year, basically all of our time is spent writing our thesis.  We have to present it and get checked at various points along the way.  I've also heard that during our third semester (shorter than the other two) we do a lot more presentations.  For example we will take a trip somewhere, and then present it to the class etc.


Writing characters is a big deal here.  Thankfully our thesis can be done on a computer, but we will have multiple exams during which we have to write 3000 character texts.  For experienced people that might not be hard, but for me right now that just seems impossible! 


Sometimes I have found it hard to get a straight or reliable answer about things hah! 

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