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How independent study has worked well for me


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Very interesting post.  How long did it take you to transition from a beginner's level to the relative fluency you are at now (HSK 5) with tutors?  Thanks.

I had a semester at home and then some time in the program before I started on my own with tutors. Then I have spent half a year with tutors independently. About HSK, I'm probably above HSK5, I think somewhere in the 6 range, but I don't care about it. I used to care about testing levels, but spending time outside of programs and in the real world made me realise that tests for foreigners are not very important. What matters is your level compared to native speakers, in other words, if you understand well conversations and movies and internet, can communicate, and read and write native level material. Being independent was very good to make me clear my head and live in the real world. :)

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Great write up. Makes me feel bad about my Chinese haha which is probably what I need.

What was your study schedule like? I mean, you watched TV, tried to speak, read books etc. what was a typical day of self study like for you? Did you have a schedule at all?

Did you use textbooks? If so, which?

You mention not needing to be lectured about grammar in a class. What did you do if you needed clarification? Did you find students / novice "tutors" we're able to help you understand this?

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If what you say is true about your journey to fluency (and I have no doubt about the veracity of your truthfulness) I think it should be added  that you are a very intelligent individual, who speaks English, Chinese Mandarin and quite possibly another language as well. I stand behind my statement because you have spent a modicum of time studying Chinese Mandarin ("a semester at home...some time in a program...(and) started on my own with tutors") compared to most. Bravo to you; I wish I had your learning skill set. I think most self learners on this board would chorus what I have said about your journey to fluency ("HSK 5, maybe 6"). Somehow (because you have omitted discussing periodic targeted learning objectives, goals, and self - assessments) you have found the Holy Grail of Mandarin fluency. I think for those of us who have read and responded to your most interesting post, it would be very appreciative if you could provide further detail to the following questions (posted by  ChTTay):

1) "what was your study schedule like (hours per day, per week of study)?

2) "did you watch TV?

3) "what books did you use?"

4) "how did you master Chinese grammar?"

and 5) how many months/years did it take for you to reach HSK 5?


I truly believe that there are no shortcuts to success for most people including my self. However, learning the "rules of the road" certainly help on reaching the targeted  goal. I think your journey to fluency would greatly enhance my ability, as well as others, understanding on how to reach fluency . Thanks, MariaMaria, I hope you have the time to answer the questions that I posted above. Happy Holidays.

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"I was encouraged by Roddy to post something, I actually didn't want to at first but he's right that maybe it could help motivate to other people."

For background, Maria got in touch with me to see if I could help her get in touch with Tamu, who she wanted to thank for his post, which she links to. Maria was reluctant to post about her experiences as she felt as a relative newcomer she didn't have much to offer. I'm glad to see she changed her mind - this is currently the fifth most popular post of the year.


One learner's experiences may not be directly applicable to others - everyone's circumstances are different. But it's still interesting, and - as grawrt's post shows - can be motivational. 


Thanks, Maria!

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  • 3 weeks later...

MariaMaria, you're awesome, thanks for taking the time to write this - it is super helpful and encouraging. I'm another foreign girl in China trying to learn Chinese, haha, so I guess you wrote this just for me ;) I have a couple more logistical questions for you... how did you find your non-teacher tutors? Also, I realize this is not necessarily applicable in different situations, but how did you handle the visa allowing you to stay in China for a long time without working or studying full-time? Thanks a lot, I'm saving your post, take care!

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  • 1 year later...

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