Learn Chinese in China
Napkat

Finally getting my rear into gear and studying. [Personal Progress Thread]-

81 posts in this topic

At a Glance - Years of Progression

 

7th September (thread start) - 31st December 2016

702 characters learned, 116 hrs 45 mins. spent studying.

 

1st January 2017 - 31st December 2017

HSK 4 exam passed (218/300)

[ongoing]

 

____________________________________________________

 

 

Hey guys! Welcome to my personal Chris-promises-he's-going-to-buckle-down-and-study thread.

 

Who am I?

 

My name's Chris. Last year I studied in China for six months on a British Council scholarship (culminating in a wonderful 120/300 HSK 4 fail) and I'm back this year teaching English in Beijing. I've been constantly - albeit passively - trying my best to improve my Chinese and build on what I already know, but I've never ever really documented what I've been studying on a week-by-week basis or how I've been studying. I've never really had any form of accountability for my actions, and as such no stick to poke me whenever I get lazy (cue this thread).

 

 

Why are you doing this?

 

I'm making this thread with the purpose of logging what Chinese (and how) I study per week, alongside the effectiveness of the study method that I used. This is partially to remind myself that study pays off; looking back at progress achieved is a small reward in its own right. It's partially for accountability's sake - with this thread being public on the forums, it would be suspiciously noticeable were I not posting weekly updates all of a sudden. It's also - and it's a bit embarrasing to say - for the sake of support. I've had an account on these forums for an embarrassingly long time and have never really used them, but I'd like to try. I'd love to get to know some people on here and would really appreciate advice and support from those who have already broken through the plateau of intermediate Mandarin. I'd love to hear any advice or tips. :)

 

 

So - what are the goals?

 

I shall answer this in the clearest of ways - bullet-points. Expect these to be added to and updated as time goes by, and crossed off in green should I ever complete these (or, for the subjective goals, consider them complete).

  • All skipped HSK 3 vocabulary and grammar points learned. Done!
  • HSK 4 Pass - 14th January, 2017* Passed! 218/300.
  • HSK 5 Pass - By the end of August 2017.
  • Functional spoken Mandarin - fewer slip-ups in conversation, etc.
  • Functional command of business Chinese.
  • Basic knowledge of Classical Chinese (less important - ETA 2017).
  • More Chinese Friends!

* 'What happened to your HSK 4 exam being on 4th Dec. at Tsinghua University?' I hear you ask. I completely forgot to pay for my admission on time and as such my spot's been cancelled. I've had to rearrange for the above date. I'm an idiot.

 

What resources are you using?

 

Bullet points again - I know you love them. You know I can't resist.

 

  • Pleco. The Holy Grail.
  • Hacking Chinese
  • New Practical Chinese Reader 2 & 3, BCLUP (textbooks and workbooks - more on why I'm using '2' later).
  • 标准教程 (Standard Course) HSK 4 上 & 下 (textbooks and workbooks), BCLUP.
  • Glossika.
  • Anki. The water within the Holy Grail.
  • Chinese Grammar Wiki
  • Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar, A Practical Guide (textbook and workbook), Routledge.
  • Lang-8.
  • The Chairman's Bao
  • Beeminder
  • Chinese language exchange partners.

 

What particular problems do you face?

 

No bullet-points here, I'm afraid.

 

Firstly, prior to studying Chinese in a Chinese university, I knew around 150 characters. Having then been thrown immediately into the intermediate (HSK4) class, I feel like I've missed a lot of important grammar points and vocabulary. I need to go back and master those whilst continuing at the pace that I am (hence NPCR 2 and 3).

 

Beyond that, I'm terrible at remembering grammar patterns and my own procrastination may be the death of me. Lack of confidence might lead to 'giving up' - as a result, nice messages would definitely be appreciated in this thread. :)

 

 

Would you like any suggestions or words of encouragement?

 

YES. If you have any suggestions or nice words to say at all, I'd really love to hear them. Post below and let me know! A message might not seem like much, but it's a real lifeline of motivation to the recipient.

 

With all that being said and done, time to crack on! Let the thread begin...

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Week 1

31/8/16 - 7/9/16

 

New words learned: 97

Source: HSK4 上 Hanban textbook

Daily Anki?: Yes

 

Strategies used

  • Began writing characters out in different colours as to represent the four different tones. 
  • Listened to textbook audio and wrote out the Chinese in tandem to practice listening. Then translated from Chinese to English.
  • Extra - created flash cards for all 214 radicals. Will review twice per day to help understanding of characters.
  • Created sentences with characters that I failed to remember correctly on Anki.

 

Problems faced

  • Remembering and understanding grammar. Lesson one introduced the concept of 中 (e.g. 你理想中的男/女朋友是什么样的?为什么?) and 上 (e.g. 今天的作业是复习生词,明天课上听写), but I'm not 100% sure on how to use them. Really struggling with knowing when to recognise 得 instead of 的 in listening passages.

 

Potential solutions to try

  • Research grammar on Chinese grammar wiki. Practice using on Lang-8.
  • Unsure - any advice? :)
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Beyond that, I'm terrible at remembering grammar patterns and my own procrastination may be the death of me.

 

I've nothing earth-shaking or global to add, but I wanted to point out that the key to this problem is using them a whole lot. Over and over, until they become natural.

 

Use the important sentence patterns both in speaking and in writing. Make a special point of it every day. Abuse those people on Lang-8; show them no mercy. Soon correct speech will become second nature. I think that vocabulary often gets more emphasis than it should and that sentence patterns, good Chinese syntax and grammar, are given short shrift by self-motivated learners.

 

Early on Chinese friends I was chatting with would say, "Oh, you must be studying such and such a construction." I would laugh and admit it. I would beat these new things to death: even with taxi drivers, shopkeepers and so on. I was absolutely shameless about it. Eventually learned when they were situation-appropriate and when they sounded bookish and stilted.

 

Courage is essential to your pursuit. Fear of appearing foolish needs to be pushed way far into the background. Need to adopt a relentless mindset.

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"Really struggling with knowing when to recognise 得 instead of 的 in listening passages."

Honestly I'm not sure it's that important. If there were all that many cases where you needed to know that to understand something, the pronunciation would have evolved to differentiate. You could compare it to your / you're in English. It's the kind of thing your maybe going to notice in writing, but if I was saying this out loud there's not much chance of you're noticing my errors. 

 

I guess you should be able to think about a sentence and say which one it should be. But there's no need to be able to give a very quick response in the course of live listening. 

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Are you working with any tutors with a textbook? Or all self directed learning?

how will you fit in all that learning material and a full time job at the same time?

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And to add to Roddy's comments: even many older books don't distinguish between 的 得 and 地. The meaning can always be inferred from context (hence why even though they are homophones they don't cause Chinese speakers to misunderstand each other when talking).

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Hello Napkat / Chris!

 

I have recently started to make a daily effort to learn more Chinese myself because I did not make much (any?) progress at all.

You should get some graded readers. Even if you don't like reading that much (or are short on time) you'll need the reading practice eventually. Check out the Chinese Breeze series, it comes with mp3 cds. I'm currently listening to them myself.

For those times when you can only listen to audio recordings ChinesePod is great too. The difference to Glossika is that the hosts explain a short Chinese dialogue in English. The lower the level, the more English is used.

I prefer to know a base set of characters before trying to remember words and read texts.
Learning all radicals at the beginning is alright (I am too lazy for that) but not necessary. One can cover more ground by learning the base components when encountered for the first time while learning characters. Of course in the long run it doesn't really matter and it may not matter in your case since you're not an absolute beginner.
A good character book can help you remember; I do not know how well characters are introduced in NPCR.

I don't have plans for taking an HSK exam (anytime soon) but finally reaching a solid intermediate level in 2017 would be great, so we're in a similar situation ;)

Good luck with your studies!

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Blimey, I wasn't expecting so many responses! :)

 

Roddy - firstly, I love your signature. Is that a reference to a certain M&G book, per chance? Aah, I should've mentioned - I've been listening to audio passages and trying to write down the Chinese as each passage goes along. As you said, the pronunciation of the three is (largely) the same, so I'm now slightly paranoid of which character to write whenever I'm listening. Although 的 is easy to remember (being the possessive particle), I'm not sure on the rules for 得 and 地.

 

Flickserve - self studying. I might try and organise a once-in-a-blue-moon private lesson if things look dire, but I'm putting that off for now. As for time scheduling, although I do teach ten different classes per week, I'm blessed with each class belonging to the same grade. Having to only plan one lesson per week is such a beautiful thing. Love it. As a result, I have enough time to play with during evenings (and office hours when kids don't want any help) to crack on.

 

Mati1 - thanks for the advice! All the best with your studies. Hope you break through into intermediate in the timeliest of fashions. :)

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Fair enough - in that case just read up on the rules and remember 'em ;-) 

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Week 2

7/9/16 - 14/9/16

 

New words learned: 61

Source: HSK4 上 Hanban workbook, daily surroundings (pictures of signs in lifts, shop names etc)

Daily Anki?: 6/7 days completed. One day skipped as I was hella busy.

 

Strategies used

 

  • Carried on writing characters in colours to represent tones - working really well. I'll keep doing this in future.
  • Read through the workbook (a mini-HSK exam based on the respective textbook class) and learned some vocabulary. Once learned, took the mock test. Good for listening and reading.
  • Created flash cards for a few grammatical structures. When I pick one out, I practice using it on Lang-8. Used CGW for finding grammar rules and examples.

Problems faced

 

  • Being too busy! I haven't had time to do last week's translit. practice owing to work. I'll try to organise myself a bit better so that I can next week. Also reflects in lower numbers of characters studied, but I consider that a worthy trade-off for mastering last weeks' grammar prob.

Potential solutions to try

 

  • Pre-plan full week ahead. Schedule time for Mandarin learning - don't replace this with impulse wudaokou bar crawls with friends.
  • I made a Chinese friend this week! I might ask her for help with explaining the annoying particle that is 就。

Aims for the next week

 

  • Start and finish HSK (上) textbook/workbook lesson 2. I've spent a week to make sure the vocab stuck for L1, but I think I can crack on at a speedier pace now. Using L1 as a control, one lesson per week is too slow. I can do a bit better than that.
  • Set alarms for daily grammar/radical flash carding. Try not to be too lazy.
  • Enter moon cake-induced coma Immerse myself in Mid-autumn festival.

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(Belated) Week 3


14/9/16 - 21/9/16


 


(Sorry for the late update with this! I've been life-ing hard.)


 


New words learned: ~10-15


Source: HSK4 上 Hanban workbook, HSK frequency-based vocab book


Daily Anki?: Every day.


 


Strategies used


 


  • I was very Anki-heavy this week. In particular I changed my physical grammar cue-cards into Anki cards also to stop myself from forgetting to do them. It's been useful.
  • Made a mental note to myself to always speak in Chinese to my Chinese friends as the 'default.' If they'd prefer to speak in English then I'm happy to go with that, but they've been very kind and understanding in helping me practice and improve.
  • Set alarms for various flash cards.

 


Problems faced


  • I've been very busy. As a result, although I've had enough time to anki before going to sleep every night, I haven't had as much time as I'd like in order to just work through a good, old-fashioned textbook or listen to genuine audio.
  • I'm very good at ignoring alarms.

 


Potential solutions to try


  • Currently unsure. Will report next week when ideas crop up.

 


Aims for the next week


  • Try to establish some form of routine to facilitate better learning.

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Week 4


21/9/16 - 28/9/16


 


 


New words learned: 57


Source: HSK 3 textbook and frequency-based vocab book.


Daily Anki?: Every day.


 


 


Strategies used


  • Rather than go too heavy on new vocabulary, I've been paying more attention to Anki than usual. It's been wonderful for grammar patterns. I've been using this week mainly for the purpose of reviewing what current vocab I have down.
  • As with last week, more time with the Chinese friends.
  • A Chinese teacher at my school lent me a book this week, 明子的长夜。I'm going to try of (as of the 25th) to work through at least one page a night.
  • I've created a full weekly timetable (flexible) which focuses on setting up a solid sleeping routine, prioritises Mandarin during the day and evenings (aiming for four hours per day in various ways) and regular hearty meals for better energy. I'll report back on how well that's worked next week.

 


Problems faced


  • Slowly beginning to lose motivation for studying my textbooks - I think the problem stems from both a lack of sleep and due to leaving Mandarin as the last thing I do before bed, when I'm most tired.
  • My Anki flashcards don't always make sense as I haven't provided example sentences for each character.
  • As I went from HSK 2ish immediately to HSK 4 in my studies, there's a lot of HSK 3 vocabulary that my textbooks assume. I simply don't know it. It's not an issue for vocabulary as I can just look it up, but it can be a bit tricky to recognise grammar patterns.
  • I now have a lot of (text-based) resources - all of which are useful. I need to prioritise/schedule their usage.
  • I don't have any video resources - I'd love some for downtime.

 


Potential solutions to try


  • Adjust to the new timetable over the course of the next week, see if I feel better for it.
  • I don't feel like adding example sentences to roughly 200 characters right now, but I'll make sure to add an example sentence or two for every character in future. In particular, my HSK 3 + 4 frequency vocabulary lists each give two example sentences per word Ooer.
  • Go through HSK 3 books and learn what I've missed. A lot of it should already be known, so it shouldn't be too slow.
  • Try to schedule specific textbooks per time slot in the timetable.
  • Trawl this lovely forum for HSK3/4-appropriate videos.

 


By the end of next week, I aim to have achieved:


  • Work through 2-3 new lessons. [2 of 2-3 complete]
  • I've worked out that there are 232 characters from HSK 2-3 that I don't know/have forgotten how to write/have forgotten the meaning. Learn the first 50-100 of these over the next week. [57 of 50-100 complete]

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I made a Chinese friend this week! I might ask her for help with explaining the annoying particle that is 就。

 

Great way to run off your new Chinese friends. Think about it. Would you like a casual friend to hold your feet to the fire and try to make you explain some feature of English grammar that you have used automatically all your life since age 5 or 6?

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Think about it. Would you like a casual friend to hold your feet to the fire and try to make you explain some feature of English grammar that you have used automatically all your life since age 5 or 6?

 

Normally I'd agree with you, but it's a friends-with-linguistic-benefits scenario. She's a linguistics/English grad student at Beijing Normal University, so on top of being regular friends we've also been helping each-other out with strange parts of our respective languages. It's all above-board and not unwarranted - promise. :)

 

That said, I do take your advice on not immediately beginning conversations with 'hello, nice to meet you. How do you use x particle?' I'd much rather make genuine friends than, as you suggest, alienate them with weird language requests. I'm very conscious of this.

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Haha! Understood! She sounds like a good lady to know! I would probably buy her dinner, all other things being equal.

 

Best wishes in your quest to understand the language, make friends and grow roots here in China. Sounds like you are on the right track.

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Thanks very much! I appreciate it.  :D

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Week 5


28/9/16 - 7/10/16


 


New words learned: 107


Source: HSK 3 textbook and HSK 3 frequency-based vocab book.


Daily Anki?: No. Monday and Tuesday were both skipped as a friend visited for two days.


Hours studying [this week]: 14.722


Hours studying [from 25/9]: 22.315


 


Strategies used


  • As with the tail-end of last week, my 'strategy' is to work through my HSK 3 Standard Course textbook and NPCR 2 simultaneously to pick up any straggling bits of vocab or grammar that I've previously missed in my studies. I've found the former to be surprisingly useful for common phrases and idioms, which was a surprise.
  • Prior to my nightly Anki, I'll work through my HSK 1-3 frequency book and aim to study 10-15 new characters per day (whilst adding them to my Anki). As of tonight (dying hours of 29th), there are 154 remaining characters that I need to look through in this book. Roughly 100 of these are characters that I can read but cannot write, and the remaining are characters that I haven't previously encountered.
  • As of the 25th, I log how many hours I've spent studying Mandarin. I use my phone's stopwatch to accurately record time spent studying and can then transfer that figure to my excel spreadsheet. I'll add the total number of hours studied (per week and from start of log) to the top of this and all subsequent posts. I find it's quite nice to see it rise for motivation's sake.

 


Problems faced


  • The approaching holiday. I was looking forward to having this time to myself to really hammer some Mandarin down, but plans appear to have been made. I'll try to cram in as much as I can, but I fear the next three days (at least) are going to be brutally unproductive.
  • Lack of 'fun' mandarin resources (TV shows, movies etc). Simply down to me not looking. My bad.

 


Potential solutions to try


  • Try to find 'fun' mandarin resources to work through. I need entertainment that counts as listening practice.

 


By the end of next week, I aim to have achieved:


  • Work through 2-3 new lessons. [3 of 2-3 complete]
  • Learn another 50-100 HSK 3 characters. [107 of 50-100 complete]

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Try to find 'fun' mandarin resources to work through. I need entertainment that counts as listening practice.

When you do this, try to find several of different 'fun' resources, so that when you finish one, you already have the next one ready and waiting to go.

 

Having a ready stack of material you plan to watch/listen to/read reduces the downtime between finishing one and starting the next one because you don't need to go searching for the next one (and possibly give up for a few weeks if you can't find anything) once you finish the current one.

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I agree with Imron. Recently I've decided that the most difficult thing about studying for me is the non-studying aspect, i.e. administration, and I've now basically allocated a third of my study time to it: finding materials for the next couple of days, organising documents, fighting with the printer, shortcutting to audio or movie files, putting recently noted vocab into Anki, previewing upcoming material for new vocab, literally bookmarking a (hard-copy) textbook ... so now when it's time to do a slug of study, it's 100% hassle free. Previously that hassle was sapping willpower and causing me to delay actual useful study. In fact cutting admin off as a completely separate activity from studying has made me feel much better about the world... and of course if I finish the admin tasks early then there's plenty of study ready and waiting to be done.

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