First semester is over and exams are finished! It feels strange to be entering into my big break now, rather than in between years, but it's still a very welcome break. I was very pleased with how my exams went, and finished with 94, 96, 98 and 99, in speaking, comprehensive, listening and reading/writing respectively. Obviously those are pretty good grades, but to be honest I don't think they are all that meaningful, and while I do of course want to score high in my exams, the emphasis has to be on actually being able to effectively use Chinese! I enjoy exams as they are great for showing me my limits and areas that need the most work, but with something as vast as a language I think it is hard to put together a 2 hour test, especially at this point in our learning. Although I think it changes in the future, our speaking final didn't even have any speaking on it!
Stand out things across my exams - TONES! Still the hardest thing for me is distinguishing tones that I hear. The only reason I was able to do so well on my listening was because I knew the majority of the words that came up in the pinyin sentences, and so was able to mark the tones on them before even hearing them on the audio. Other than just continuing to listen as much as possible, I am not sure what else I can do to get better at this.
Knowing when something is wrong - although I haven't seen the graded exams, I imagine this was the section I dropped most marks on in my speaking test. We were given 10-15 sentences to change, and told that some are right and some are wrong. I only left one sentence unedited. While I don't think I had too much trouble writing correct sentences, I felt that I probably edited some which were actually written correctly, because I simply wasn't sure enough.
Reading/writing - while I love pretty much everything about Chinese, this is definitely the part I enjoy most. It's also the part I can do the most self study on! I was a little bit nervous about this exam as I hadn't been to class, and while I had studied plenty of extra stuff, I wasn't sure that I had spent enough time making sure I did actually know the content in the book. Thankfully I was fine, and the extra stuff I have been doing has also paid off, as it meant I knew almost all of the characters across all 4 exams (there are always characters included that we haven't learned, which will steadily increase over the next period, until we have learned a lot more in our own time). It feels good to get a head start here, and I want to try and keep this up.
All in all I am really pleased, and encouraged to keep cracking away and working hard! I'm not sure how much I will get done over the break, but I am not going to punish myself if I don't do a ton! My family are here and so we are going to be spending lots of time out and about, and having fun sledging in the snow here! I am trying to do at least something every day though, even if it is just reading over a text. I am also taking new vocabulary/characters and putting them into sentences, which I send to a Chinese friend to edit (trying to hit an average of 5 a day), then put into Pleco flashcards and reread those sentences every day to absorb the new stuff. This is to try and continue to build up my base of characters, as well as new vocabulary.
I know this post is getting a bit long, but I have to say I am feeling the effectiveness of some of the things Imron wrote in a couple of threads. Since getting rid of my Anki decks and starting to only input vocabulary that I am actually reading, all of the new words have been coming up again and again! I heard one word in a song, so made a sentence to learn it, then saw it in a notice on the door of our building. I can definitely see the truth in words that are important for me to learn now appearing frequently in real life, and how an SRS is meant to mimic that process. Very cool!