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mackie1402

Weekly Intermediate Study Updates - join in!

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Flickserve

I had some real problems with my PC. It basically stopped working. Luckily all my data were on other HDDs. In fact, I think it was some hardware fault as my disk drives are working in my new PC. Yes, I had to buy a new PC which was rather annoying. The upshot is that my intended Anki listening practice has been non-existent over two weeks.

I mentioned another problem with reimporting my decks from apkg in that fields had information swopped around. I ended up reimporting my decks through the tsv files that still existed. So this took up more time.

I did manage to set up a deck from my collection of "Growing up with Chinese" sentences. I converted it into a listening only deck. It's too early to say whether I have any objective improvement in listening comprehension but so far so good. I have only been using it for two days. I really like the way I can now repeatedly listen to a sentence very quickly without having to search for it within 5 minutes of dialogue. Cheating on the card is a bit of a temptation. To be honest, I don't think of translating the sentence from Chinese to English. I just go for a feel of, "oh yeah, it means such and such" without even having any English coming into my head.

Having the cards on my android phone is really cool. I show different colleagues phrases and ask them, "Have you seen this? How is it said in Cantonese?"

Some of the replies might be, “噢,书面“. Or, Cantonese has the expression but it has dropped out of use or perhaps the older generation tend to use it. I find this really helps my feel. Of course, this is only a stepping stone to having a real conversation. I will try a couple of weeks of the learning on Anki and then see where I am.

Work has also been busy so I really haven't had much time run through my 8000 sentences book and take pictures of the pages to scan in OCR. It's actually been more satisfying to pull out sentences from GUWC and work on those. I recall watching the program about one and a half years ago and being almost totally lost. They talk pretty fast, miss out some words and use 北京方言 - all in all, difficult material for a beginner but probably very realistic.

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stapler

Okay another 2 week report.

 

I'm 2/3 of the way through 現代漢語書面語學習手冊 "A Learner's Handbook of Modern Chinese Written Expressions". The book is fairly easy going as I seem to have learnt almost all the 書面 styles, structures, and grammatical vocabulary through reading Chinese novels. But it has been nice to get some clarification on a few things, particular the usage of 爲 as a passive modifier, some of the conjunctions and prepositions, and some of the measurements (eg 成 for 10%). All the written examples presented with each item have been very helpful in that they generally read like 書面 topics eg "雖然政府三令五申,亂收費現象仍屢禁不絕" or "經濟形勢如此嚴峻,僅僅靠借款已無濟於事“. The book has been a good backup for after-work reading when I need a bit of rest and can;t handle more intensive practice like listening or speaking.

 

I read 30 pages of my current novel 工廠女孩.

 

I worked through 2 chapters of Chinese Russian language textbook. It's not exactly "Chinese study" but it still a good extra little benefit. I'm even learning some new spoken phrases inadvertently eg 瞧

 

I made it through 1/2 of an NPCR chapter. Still determined to finish this series but good damn is it killing me. I think I might be past doing all the textbook exercises. I'm primarily interested in the audio anyway so I might just go ahead and chop out all the audio into anki production sentences, review the videos etc, but leave the rest. My perfectionism here is really detrimental to my progress. But it's something I can't fight.

 

I also did a chapter from a listening exercise textbook. I had the same feeling as I do with NPCR - that the exercises are just wasting my time. I mainly just want to listen to the dialogue and drill it. I'm not sure why I have such a huge aversion to textbook exercises with Chinese. It might be because at this moment I'm beyond the level of the textbooks and just find them 好煩 and not really like im "connecting" with the language. I can see how textbooks are useful when you start learning but I might be crossing the threshold where this isn't really the case. I think what I need now is just massive quantities of input rather than "learning" the language.

 

Over the last few weeks added a large amount of audio sentences cut from Chinesepod dialogues and the "expansion" example sentences. Because I'm already spending around 30 minutes a day on my production sentence cards I decided to make these "mass listening sentences" - eg add 10 new sentences a day and mark them just for being able to comprehend them rather than reproduce them. This is much less cognitive work and saves time I don't really have anyway. In line with my hypothesis that I just need to ramp up input now rather than "study" anything I'm going to continue this. I hope after listening to many 1000's of sentences I might be able to transition over to actual TV (which I failed spectacularly at earlier this year). It's interesting that even the simplest TV shows are well well beyond anything in the Chinesepod intermediate or upper intermediate podcasts. The jump into "real" Chinese is larger than I could have ever imagined. Even after going through all the "learning" material I still not anywhere near "fluency".

 

These two weeks I've also made more of an effort to speak Chinese when the opportunity arises. I'm getting maybe 15-20 minutes more speaking/listening per week with native speakers now. Even this is pretty exhausting for me but I feel like I'm making progress.

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imron

The problem is that the naming of difficulty levels of many learning products (and I include university courses in this) are designed in part to make people feel good about their progress, and aren't 100% reflective of actual difficulty.

This then sets unrealistic expectations about transitioning to actual native content.

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艾墨本

I've been getting ready to take the HSK 5 and HSKK 中级 on December 4th. I'm really excited but this is also my first time sitting for an HSK. I've been doing plenty of practice and it seems I'll have no trouble passing it. I just hope my score is high enough to make me competitive for CIS to study at 北师大.

 

One thing I did was copy and past HSK 1-5 vocab into CTA and create notecards from any words that I hadn't marked as known, previously. Great time saver. As I go through them, any word that seems extra unfamiliar I will open up pleco and read a bunch of sentences, then pull out a couple that perhaps also include another word I'm working on or a grammar point I want to be more familiar with. After 24 days of doing 2+ hours of Anki per day, I finally got through all 400 words (40 new notes and >100 reviews per day) and have another week to shift my focus back to practice exams. I'm crossing my fingers that all that new vocab will be able to push my score from 210/220 up to 250ish. 

 

Nonetheless, just maintaining discipline with Anki for so long, I feel really proud of myself. I will keep reviewing these words after the test until they taper off (which should take another half-month). Then I want to shift my focus to reading 欢乐颂, which I bought during 双十一. I finished watching season 1 and after reading the first few pages of the book found that the show was near verbatim the books. I also found a fantastic free audio book version of it on 喜马拉雅 that was released about a month ago. It has multiple voice actors, background music, and good quality audio. 

 

I'm just really looking forward to getting past "HSK Chinese" and getting back to authentic material. However, I did find a test to be a wonderful motivator for me to learn the more technical sides of the language: vocabulary and grammar. 

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eddyf

Well, on the subject of ChinesePod, they do have an "Advanced" level, which is markedly easier than native content yet the jump from Upper Intermediate is still a challenge. So naturally, jumping from Upper Intermediate straight to native content is going to be very difficult. But it's true that the naming is misleading because Advanced is probably more like B1.

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Flickserve

Work and social life has taken up an incredible amount of time and guess what has suffered. Yes, Chinese. Real work on Chinese has been practically nothing. Only converted a few episodes of Growing up with Chinese into Anki decks. I am now up to episode 40. Of the characters , I now start to omit more of Mike's dialogue. He is the American kid. His slight mispronunciation is starting to test my tolerance. Whilst acceptable when I was starting out in learning Mandarin, now it seems I prefer more authentic accent speech or am very selective on committing Mike's sentences into Anki.

I do have times at work when I come into contact with Mandarin speaking patients. My co-workers have been quite impressed with my improved speaking skills (limited topic range). I haven't put a lot of recent effort into deliberate practice in the last three months. For instance, I haven't done any tone pair drills. I blame the improvement on listening. Listening practice helps me pick up the rhythm of the sentence. What I try to do when using a word is say it out and feel whether the word fits like a jigsaw puzzle in the sentence. I am frequently wrong, can feel where I am wrong and now know where to correct.

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stapler

Okay so I made it through the year updating here fairly regularly! And this will be my the last post here now that 2016 is pretty much over.

 

At this point I can't really gauge too easily if I've made much progress in Chinese since the beginning of the year.

 

I can sense that my reading speed is now about twice as fast and the amount of times I need to look up words in a dictionary when reading Chinese has dramatically decreased. So at least when it comes to reading I think my recognition and vocabulary have improved quite a bit. I also seemed to have really developed a intuitive grasp of 書面語 grammar/particles/etc. In fact I would say I have a much easier time reading complex Chinese than I do understanding directly transcribed 口語, where some of the phrases and grammar reductions and truncation are a mystery to me; I often feel 口語 is ungrammatical when reading. It's a bizarre and hard to describe feeling.

 

Here are some sentences that are "simple" but still confuse me in a way 書面語 doesn't. "現在這些暴發戶也太不像話了,踢了人還這個態度,這不就是因為自己有錢欺負人嗎?" - in this sentence the "踢了人還這個態度" makes me scratch my head. What is the "" doing here? Or this sentence "幹部們一想,也是怎麼回事,畢竟這是兩個孩子誤傷,市長又能怎麼樣?" - these kind of phrases "是怎麼回事" and "能怎麼樣" still confuse me. I don't understand how they function. I can tell they are very 口語, and that expressing things like "also this kind of thing/like this" and "what will he do/think/be like" etc. But I have never seen these kinds of expressions written before, neither in textbooks nor novels. And I certainly couldn't use them even though I feel like I should - even though I feel like these phrases are as basic as "在哪裡”. All this indicates is that I still have incredibly little exposure to spoken Chinese.

 

Despite my limited exposure to spoken Chinese the other major thing I achieved this year was really focusing more on listening and speaking. I have consistently spent 30 minutes to 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, listening to and producing Chinese sentences. I notice I'm having an easier and easier time overhearing spoken Chinese when I'm walking around now. Complex topics still throw me off completely. But that is to be expected. I still have trouble when people ask me questions. The trouble results from me missing a small bit of information that is vital to answering the question. I also still have immense difficulty with non-university educated speakers and people with Northern accents.

 

Perhaps my biggest achievement this year hasn’t been so much about my abilities but my attitude. For the first time in a long time I’ve actually just enjoyed speaking and reading and Chinese. As I’ve lost my anxiety about mastering the language and I’ve rediscovered the original fun I had with the language when I first started.

 

Chinese is such a long, slow, longgggg, sloowww, process, especially the listening/speaking part of the language. Without a strategy to really increase the amount of input I get and the amount of output I need to produce I don't think I'll ever achieve fluency in spoken Chinese in the way I have with written (being able to use it as an enjoyable tool). I'm still contemplating the possibility of going to a Chinese speaking country in the (distant) future as a way to boost my spoken Chinese. Until then I'll just stick with my current routine of practicing the basics of the spoken language but without the expectation of achieving any kind of functional fluency.

 

Also, thanks to everyone else who also made many posts in this thread over the year. I really enjoyed reading about everyone's struggles and victories with the language. Merry Christmas and happy New Year!

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Wurstmann

踢了人还这个态度

Why does that confuse you? Doesn't it simply mean that they kicked somebody and still have this kind of attitude (which was probably mentioned in a former sentence)?

 

怎么回事

I always thought that 回 is just the classifier for 事, like 件

 

If you know what it means I wouldn't stress about the why. I have seen expressions like these in novels. A lot of characters speak using 口语.

 

Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you too! I always enjoy reading your entries here. I think you have come a far way and certainly surpassed me in a lot of areas. Keep going!

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calibre2001

Here are some sentences that are "simple" but still confuse me in a way 書面語 doesn't. "現在這些暴發戶也太不像話了,踢了人還這個態度,這不就是因為自己有錢欺負人嗎?" - in this sentence the "踢了人還這個態度" makes me scratch my head. What is the "" doing here? Or this sentence "幹部們一想,也是怎麼回事,畢竟這是兩個孩子誤傷,市長又能怎麼樣?" - these kind of phrases "是怎麼回事" and "能怎麼樣" still confuse me. I don't understand how they function. I can tell they are very 口語, and that expressing things like "also this kind of thing/like this" and "what will he do/think/be like" etc. But I have never seen these kinds of expressions written before, neither in textbooks nor novels. And I certainly couldn't use them even though I feel like I should - even though I feel like these phrases are as basic as "在哪裡”. All this indicates is that I still have incredibly little exposure to spoken Chinese.

 

 

 

 

Despite my limited exposure to spoken Chinese the other major thing I achieved this year was really focusing more on listening and speaking. I have consistently spent 30 minutes to 1 hour a day, 5 days a week, listening to and producing Chinese sentences. I notice I'm having an easier and easier time overhearing spoken Chinese when I'm walking around now. Complex topics still throw me off completely. But that is to be expected. I still have trouble when people ask me questions. The trouble results from me missing a small bit of information that is vital to answering the question. I also still have immense difficulty with non-university educated speakers and people with Northern accents.

 

 

I think all you need to do is speak with native speakers more regularly. Find the right language partner on Skype etc. Don't be afraid of making mistakes & clarifying words you couldn't catch. Pronunciation ability plays a huge part in determining whether they speak to you in Chinese or English, so this is worth investing in.

 

In terms of vocabulary, it's worthwhile focusing on spoken Chinese vocabulary & in no time you'll understand radio talk shows effortlessly.

 

 

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stapler

 

踢了人还这个态度

Why does that confuse you? Doesn't it simply mean that they kicked somebody and still have this kind of attitude (which was probably mentioned in a former sentence)?

 

怎么回事

I always thought that 回 is just the classifier for 事, like 件

 

well with the 态度 phrase I can't help but think "Shouldn't there be a 有 or something in here to go with the noun? Something like 还有这个态度? And maybe a 但 too - 踢了人但是还有这个态度“, etc etc. Just having 还态度 feels ungrammatical to me.

 

I have no problem with 怎么回事,  but when combined with 是 it also makes it feel ungrammatical. I think “shouldn't this be something like 想事情也是这样" - Again I don't even know if the sentences I'm coming up with are correct or not. But the 口语 style of speaking always feels like it's dropped some important particular/character/piece/phrase somewhere to me and often causes me to have to stop and reread the sentence to understand it.

 

There's a deep 'colloquialness' to 口语 that trips me up.

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Mr John

This has been a wonky year for my Chinese. While I don't think I have gone backwards, I certainly haven't made a great deal of progress. However, having completed my course, I now find myself with more time and more motivation to get back into it again.

 

In terms of practice I have started attending language exchanges again and was surprised to find that I can still hold a conversation. I also recently read Mandarin Companion's latest offering which wasn't too bad all things considered. Finally, I have been watching a series of short documentaries on youtube about university life for Chinese students in Canada. While the topic isn't crazy interesting, it is still pretty good listening practice as they talk about a lot of everyday stuff. It is produced by sunnyspeed studio in case anyone wants to look it up.

 

It's almost time to formulate my goals for Chinese for the year. I hope everyone feels that they have made progress, regardless of whether it has been great or small.

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Publius

Hi stapler:

 

踢了人还这个态度

This is perfectly normal. Probably a verb is omitted, for example, 踢了人还(表现出/摆出)这个态度. I don't know how to explain it, but with some nouns, we don't feel like we need a verb. For example, 你怎么这个态度!你这人怎么这样啊?

 

一想,也是怎么回事

I suspect it's a typo. 这么回事 fits better. You know, not all Chinese speakers can produce the retroflex sounds, so in actual speech you'll probably hear ze4me5->zen4me5 instead of zhe4me5.

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艾墨本

After finishing my HSK 5, I initially shifted my gaze to 欢乐颂, as mentioned above. I found the whole book as a .txt and put it in CTA. I was sorely disappointed to find that 76% of the unique characters are unknown. That's a lot. On the other hand, only 12% total characters are unknown. I can't decide if that is an acceptable level to commit to or if I should start with something simpler.

 

As it stands, I have opened a kid's edition of 西游记 and can read it with near perfect comprehension, spare the 西游记 specific technical terms. It's only 130 short pages, so I'm gonna start here and just enjoy this one. 

 

I feel a bit adrift with goals after having just achieved such a major one. I want to set new ones but am not sure where to go next.

 

I hope to start studying at 北师大 or another Chinese university next year in the fall. I'm also considering going for the 对外汉语 masters. I have three months to decide this.

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imron

Don't look at unique words - there will be a long tail of unique words that appear infrequently.

 

Instead in the word list on the bottom right, select the 'All' tab.

 

Click on the header of the 'Frequency' column to sort the entire list by frequency.  Clicking again toggles between ascending/descending order.  Make sure you are sorting in descending order (e.g. most frequent first).  Now scroll down, paying attention to the 'Cumulative % Frequency' column.  Stop when you get to 98%.  98% is the point at which you can easily keep reading without unknown words causing too many problems.

 

What row number are you up to at this point, and how many words are still remaining?

 

If I do this with the text 活着, I hit 98% coverage from the 3,122 most frequent unique words.  There are a grand total of 4,251 unique words in the text.  This means there are over 1,000 words that contribute to 2% of understanding.  1,000 words is a lot to learn for such a tiny increase in understanding.  It's not worth fretting about those words until you read a different text that has them at a higher frequency.

 

The main takeaway is not to let the raw numbers put you off.  Sometimes you need to dig a little deeper to see what impact those numbers are actually going to have.

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艾墨本

Thanks for the tip, Imron.

 

Still, that would put 欢乐颂 at 7,000 to 98%. 活着 is at 1,000 words to 98%. However, 欢乐颂 is all three books (660,000 total words), whereas 活着 is a mere 60,000 words. What are your thoughts?

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imron

If you learn that 1,000 words from 活着, what percentage will that give you in 欢乐颂?

 

Generally I think it's a better idea to start with things that are easier, and work your way up to more and more advanced content, with the vocab you learn from the earlier content making it easier to approach the later content.

 

So have a think about 3-4 novels that you think you might like to read, and then put them all in CTA and see which one requires the least amount of words to get 98%.  That's probably the one to start with.

 

Once you finish that (even if you didn't learn all of the words to get to 98%), try again with the remaining novels, each time choosing the one that is easiest to get 98% comprehension.  You'll find that by the time you get to the last novel it'll be much easier to get to 98% compared to if you had just chosen it from the start.  This also means that it will be a much more enjoyable read.

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imron

Also just to add, I'm sure you probably *can* read 欢乐颂 at this point, but the question is *should* you?  At your current level I think it would be somewhat of a struggle so you're probably going to be better off reading a bunch of other easier things first.  I had a similar experience when I first started actively reading and wanted to read some 金庸, which I wrote about in a post here.

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Flickserve

On to 2017.

Went on holiday over Christmas, came back and didn't do much.

Visited Guangzhou last weekend. A little disappointed to find out a lot of conversation when directly spoken to is still beyond me. Probably other factors are coming into play such as ambient noise, people speaking at their natural speed, change of environment and other distractions.

Homework has been slow. Stopped converting Growing Up With Chinese into Anki cards due to a technical problem with the PDFs. It can be overcome but not with efficient use of time. Otherwise I am still listening to previously recorded italki lessons trying to analyse why I cannot understand certain parts of sentences - is it being unused to the tutor's pronunciation, or unused to the structure of the sentence or simply unknown vocabulary. I am never slowing down the recordings to make it easier.

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mackie1402

Can't believe its coming up to a year since I started this post! Thanks to everyone participating and keeping it up!

 

I'm very happy with my 2016, albeit studying Chinese wasn't a huge part. Now I emphasize the word studying Chinese, and hopefully you'll see why.

 

So for 2016:

- My wife and I finally had our wedding!

- We bought a house, got it decorated and finally moved in.

- I took 22 of my students and families on a trip to the UK for summer.

- Moved office to a prime location for us and refurbished/rebranded it.

 

All pretty big steps for me in my life.

 

Prior the Wedding:

So how does any wedding start? With the planning of course! Now what kind of husband would I be if I let my wife deal with everything. At first I was pretty timid going to different wedding planners, photography companies, hotels etc. After the first couple I realized it was just the same old vocab and questions so I got pretty comfortable. Eventually I would go by myself to plan! That was a huge step for me. The planners (most of) were very friendly and excited to be planning a wedding with a foreign groom, so were helpful when I couldn't quite explain what we wanted. We'd slowly go through a process of talking, drawing and hand signals. Nonetheless we would get there in the end! About 6 weeks before the wedding we would have our photography done. Not something I would ever want to do again. Long, long days! I feel for models who do this as a profession!

 

The Big Day:

Of course the wedding day would come. At this stage I had my mum and brother with me. I felt a lot of responsibility as they can't speak a lick of Chinese, and majority of the people on the day couldn't speak English. Add in the fact that they had just travelled around the world to be with me the day. On top of this, they would constantly worry about doing the wrong thing which would upset someone in Chinese culture. I simply replied with "me and you, both!". I know my friends and family are very understanding, so I told them it wouldn't be a problem. The morning of the wedding was my first day without my wife by my side to help. The drivers arrived, the photographers arrived, the videographers arrived. I felt a little out of my depth at first, but I wasn't going to ask my wife on the wedding morning to translate for me! I managed to pull it together and get everything organized that morning, and only 10 minutes behind schedule! The rest of the day was pretty straight forward. Everyone else took care of everything for us!

 

That afternoon we got back to the hotel to rest and have a rehearsal. I went to the hall to see our wedding planner had completely changed our design! After he told me "This way is better. It's nicer", Chinese suddenly became so natural! I've never spoken so clearly and fast in my life! The thought of the layout upsetting my wife really kicked me to get everything right. All of a sudden I realized I was capable of communicating exactly what I wanted, but I wasn't scared to use Chinese. If you want to really push your speaking, get into uncomfortable situations! Long story short, it was a great night!

 

 

The House:

Decorating it was pretty longwinded, but I learnt quite a bit about different rooms and furniture. I also learnt a few things about DIY itself, but all in Chinese so that was nice. My wife was usually the one dealing with this. I did the job of holding the shopping while we spent days and weeks in IKEA and B&Q.

 

UK Trip:

I took 10 of my students with parents on a trip the UK in summer. They had been asking me for a couple of years to take them. I arranged the whole lot myself. That took up a lot of time, especially making sure accommodation, transport and destinations all linked up. Parents requested "a house that big groups of us can all live together in, in London but not too far, which is cheap. And the houses need to be near eachother." After AirBnbing I found 3 houses down the same street in Bethnal Green. Perfect! It was a great trip and I was in my zone as we were back in England! I did miss Chinese food, though!

 

New Office:

I decided to rebrand and get a new office. The place we chose was a pretty good location (30 seconds from West Lake Cultural Square). My wife found a decorator and then I had the fun of telling him exactly what needed to be done. It used to be a dance studio so it needed a big overhaul. Two long weeks of communicating with this decorator and it finally came together. It was nice having to deal with it all myself, actually.

 

 

 

So there we go. I didn't do much studying. However my Chinese really did improve over 2016. I was put in a lot of real life situations which I had to deal with. Being out of my comfort zone really pushed me more than I would've expected. As you can imagine I had a lot of family dinners with my wife's family last year. This really boosted my speaking and listening. Funny how drinking really opened up my speaking. Double the Baijiu, double my ability to speak Chinese (or so I would think).

 

After a great year, here are my tips:

 

- Get married in China!

- Buy a house and decorate in China!

- Get angry/upset and shout at wedding planners in China!

 

Not your cup of tea? Okay. So how about these:

 

- If you rely on Chinese speakers around you (whether it be Chinese friends or your best friend with great Chinese) try and get into a situation without them. Many times I used to think "It doesn't matter if my wife is here, I can still speak Chinese." But let's face it, we fall back into our comfort zone. When you have no choice, there's no comfort zone to fall back into.

- If you rely on Chinese speakers around you, then why not ask them to go out to dinner or to a bar with them and their Chinese friends. If there's a group of 5-6 people, and only your friend can speak English, you'll be encouraged to at least try and speak Chinese to the others.

- If you rely on Chinese speakers around you, then start to appreciate them. Don't use them as your translation tool. If they weren't there, would you still be in this situation? If so, what would you do? Say? Give it a try!

 

You might see a pattern here. For too many years have I relied on other Chinese speakers.

 

Have you guys had a similar problem? What did you do?

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wensente

@mackie congrats

 

I will try to take HSK6 this summer. My listening is already at HSK6 level (lots of Chinese TV has been watched) however I'd say there are roughly 1000 words I still need to memorize and need to work on writing. I'm not sure there is an oral part for HSK6, would need to work on that as well.

 

The huge challenge is that I recently moved to France and need to learn French at the same time. 

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