Learn Chinese in China
Napkat

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

82 posts in this topic

That's a good point - thanks for the comments you two. I'm a bit busy tonight, but I'll try to bookmark the best part of a day a week (minimum) to both finding new material and preparing everything I need to study through for the next week.

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Week 6


7/10/16 - 14/10/16


 


New words learned: 185 


Source: HSK 3 textbook and HSK 3 frequency-based vocab book (now complete). HSK 4 frequency-based vocab book. Supporting sentences from youdao.com. Chinesepod, audio tapes and two graded Chinese readers.


Daily Anki?: Yes.


Hours studied [this week]: 17.889


Hours studied [from 25/9]: 40.204


 


Strategies used


  • Sacrificed a few hours to find some 'fun' resources. Discovered a lot of films and ChinesePod. Lots of fun has occurred. Result.
  • Had a gander at AJATT (All Japanese All The Time) and have applied sections to my Mandarin study. Heavily upped the amount of time I spend/day listening (although don't count it in the hours log, nor watching Chinese TV) and decided to try out the 'MCD' (mass cloze-deletion sentences) the website advocates. Pretty happy with it so far, but need more time for better evaluation of it. Listening clocking in at roughly 10 hours/day.
  • Upping the amount of 生词 studied per day to 20 minimum, 25 as ideal. I'm finding character-learning easier and easier and I love it.
  • I now have four graded readers focused at knowledge of 500, 1000 and 1500 characters respectively. The first is very easy but good practice for speed, the second a little tricky and the third too hard. The fourth is for 1000 characters also. Very happy to have them though - reading five pages per night before bed starting with the 500 and then moving up. (They came with MP3s too, so nice)

 


Problems faced


  • This is bitterly ironic compared to last week's 'problem' - the holiday's ending. Less free time to study. Thankfully not too much of a problem as I don't work very long hours.
  • I've been doing an immense amount of reading, listening and speaking, but not a lot of writing. I've been practising individual words ruthlessly (I write them all out as part of my Anki review) but haven't been doing enough actual sentence-making.

 


Potential solutions to try


  • Sneak in some Anki reviews/read my graded reader during lesson breaks. Shh.
  • Massively upping the number of words I want to learn per week on this thread. Upping from 50-100 to 140-175 (aiming for 20-25 words/day).
  • Try to write one article on Lang-8 per day.

 


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


  • Work through 4-5 new lessons. [3 of 4-5 complete]
  • Learn 140-175 HSK 3 characters. [185 of 140-175 complete]
  • Complete my HSK 3 frequency list/know all HSK 3 vocabulary! [0 characters left to study - complete!]
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  •  
  • Massively upping the number of words I want to learn per week on this thread. Upping from 50-100 to 140-175 (aiming for 20-25 words/day).

 

 

That's a lot of new words each day. Are you sure it's prudent to push so fast in lieu of spending more time to review?

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This is my thought exactly. Long term you'll get greater benefit from more effort per word rather than more words per day.

High word rates are not sustainable long term and make you prone to burnout.

The definition of *high* will be different for each person based on their available time to study, but if as you noted you're about to have *less* free time, I would caution against increasing raw word count.

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These are both completely fair points.

 

That's a lot of new words each day. Are you sure it's prudent to push so fast in lieu of spending more time to review?

 

 

I'm somewhat suspicious of that myself, but I do have a reason for pushing on despite that suspicion - my HSK 4 date is set for 4th December, and keeping up at a rate of 20-25 characters a day should lead to all of the vocabulary being 'learned' (or rather studied and plugged into various Anki decks) with around 35-45 days to spare depending on how merciless I am. In that final month plus, I plan to learn no new vocabulary and just review, review, review. Not that I'm not reviewing currently - I'm spending around 1-2 hours a night reviewing vocab with Anki and self-made cloze questions. At the very least, I'm keeping fairly well-disciplined.

 

The definition of *high* will be different for each person based on their available time to study, but if as you noted you're about to have *less* free time, I would caution against increasing raw word count. 

 

 

My free time during work is still quite generous - I (through some wonderful miracle) have two lessons to plan each week, which on top of teaching hours equates to roughly 13-15 hours of work per week. I'm reasonably confident that I have enough time.

 

That said, I do respect that it's a very large jump and - as you both suggest - quite possibly a bit reckless. Given the heavy accumulation of words, I also understand what you mean about it being non-sustainable, but I do plan to stop once I'm comfortable with HSK-4 vocabulary rather than carrying on permanently. I'll stick it out for a week or two to see how I find it, and if the volume's simply too much then I'll reduce it to a more manageable quantity. Having seen most of this vocabulary at some point prior however (having previously studied for and taken the HSK 4), I hope that the vocabulary will be easier to (re-) pick up compared to learning completely fresh, never-before-seen vocab.  :)

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I expect a week or two in to it, the rate will still be sustainable.

 

What will happen in a month or two however is that one day, it'll be 10.00pm at night and for a combination of reasons all conspiring against you, you won't have done your Anki reviews for the day.  You'll fire up Anki and see 600 words for review and think "aaaahh, 600 reviews, I'm too tired, I'll do them tomorrow".  And then tomorrow you'll open up Anki and it'll be 800 words for review, and your brain will think, "I've been studying so hard these last few months, a small break for a day or two won't make a difference", and then before you know it, it turns in to a week and then a month and the longer it goes on the harder it gets to go back in to it because you know those Anki reviews are just piling up and piling up.

 

The key to long term success with Chinese, is consistent and regular practice and it's important to structure you learning in a way that you can sustain over a long period of time, and *not* encounter a situation like the one described above.

 

It's also important to consider what you are learning and whether your learning process is too heavily weighted towards one certain aspect e.g. vocabulary.

 

If you're doing the HSK, I can understand wanting to cover all the vocabulary for the HSK at that level, but remember the HSK is more than just reciting vocabulary.  It's no good getting all the of vocab down but then not being able to read sentences at a fast enough pace to cover all the questions.  Likewise, the vocab is no good if your listening skills aren't up to speed and you miss half the words because you can't follow along with the audio.

 

Anyway, I'm not saying don't increase the word count, but just make sure you're also getting in enough other activities besides just drilling vocabulary.  Personally when I'm in vocabulary learning mode, I don't like reviews to take up more than about 30 mins a day (out of say 1-2 hours of studying).

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It's true that pile-up of reviews can be crippling but it's easy enough to get round it: for example you could (if you're not too familiar with Anki then it may seem like a big hassle but in reality it's only a couple of minutes work): take out all of the due cards from your too-heavy deck and separate them into new decks: you could make three new decks, split equally, separated by length of interval. Then ignore the longest-intervals deck for a few days. And prioritise the shortest-intervals deck. Or, if it's really too much, just reset and suspend the shortest-intervals deck and focus on clearing out the middle of the three. If you find you've bitten off more than you can chew, then just spit some of it out! In the future when you come back to it it'll be easier to digest second time around.

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Although from a technical perspective it is relatively easy to solve (my solution as you know is just to regularly delete my decks), from an emotional perspective the knowledge that there is a large backlog of cards can be enough to keep people procrastinating about doing anything about it - which is a vicious cycle because the longer it is left the bigger the backlog grows.

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Oh definitely, I know that soul-crushing energy-sapping backlog gloom too well ... I remember a couple of times just pressing the space bar non-stop to answer 'correct' to hundreds of backlogged cards. Now I know how to solve the problem (as I mentioned), so it's not a problem anymore. But I agree, it's right to warn about the consequences of entering too many cards.

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I expect a week or two in to it, the rate will still be sustainable.

 

What will happen in a month or two however is that one day, it'll be 10.00pm at night and for a combination of reasons all conspiring against you, you won't have done your Anki reviews for the day.  You'll fire up Anki and see 600 words for review and think "aaaahh,600 reviews, I'm too tired, I'll do them tomorrow".  And then tomorrow you'll open up Anki and it'll be 800 words for review, and your brain will think, "I've been studying so hard these last few months, a small break for a day or two won't make a difference", and then before you know it, it turns in to a week and then a month and the longer it goes on the harder it gets to go back in to it because you know those Anki reviews are just piling up and piling up.

 

 

I know exactly what you mean - I've suffered this fate before!

 

One thing on my side time-wise is that there's a hard limit for when I'll stop adding vocab, which is once all of the unfamiliar HSK 4 vocabulary (or words that I've forgotten how to write) have entered. If I were to plough on at a rate of 20-25 words/day, this should be done in around 16-17 days. It's a little longer than the week or two you advise as being the limit, but I'm willing to push on for the sake of the extra three days. After that, I'll spend the next month just working through it all. No new words, just lonely nights with audio tapes, Anki, lang-8 and readers. That month-long run-up to the exam should allow enough time to really absorb a lot of the vocabulary (especially through repeated usage) and keep the number of nightly Anki reviews in check. I just have to stay on target for the 16 days...! 

 

 

Remember the HSK is more than just reciting vocabulary.  It's no good getting all the of vocab down but then not being able to read sentences at a fast enough pace to cover all the questions.  Likewise, the vocab is no good if your listening skills aren't up to speed and you miss half the words because you can't follow along with the audio.

 

 

Although I'm going at some pace with the vocab, I'm not neglecting the other three elements of language use. :) As you say though, it is a bit weighted at the moment in favour of vocab - I'll give it a week/fortnight and re-evaluate just how sensible this is.

 

Not to completely fly in the face of your advice, though! I do understand the consequences of what will happen if I don't keep up with my Anki reviews or for whatever reason don't stay disciplined. I'm keeping your advice on board and will change the work rate depending on results. I genuinely do appreciate the suggestions.

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My advice is more just a caution to make sure you're covering yourself for this sort of thing.

 

Everyone has their own pace and their own limits and there is nothing wrong with short-term bursts of intensive study.

 

That being the case, in my opinion, the number one most important thing for long-term language acquisition is discipline and good habits that lead to consistent study over sustained periods of time.  As long as you've got that covered, the rest will work itself out.

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Week 7 [MIA]


14/10/16 - 21/10/16


 


New words learned: 40 


Source: HSK 3 textbook, HSK 4 frequency-based vocab book. Supporting sentences from youdao.com. Chinesepod, Chinese graded readers.


Daily Anki?: Yes


Hours studied [this week]: ~10


Hours studied [from 25/9]: ~48.204


 


Strategies used


  • A lot of reviewing took place this week in order to hammer home both new vocabulary and unfamiliar grammar problems, both of which seem to have been tackled fairly well.
  • Began using The Chairman's Bao. I originally tried using this at launch (the hype was so real) but found that they only offered articles for HSK 3+. Given that my level at the time was HSK 1, I sadly had to wait until a better time, such as now. On the downside, it's no longer free, but on the upside (for Chinese newbies) they now offer articles for HSK 1+2.

 


Problems faced


  • This week has been very, very busy. So busy in fact that I've had to let the Chinese slip - hence the smaller quantity of new words this week. In order to save myself from the horror or receding into lazy Chinese habits, I at least made sure to keep on top of my Anki pile every day. I'm very grateful that I did.
  • Sleeping pattern's out of whack. I'm getting up at 11-12 on days where I don't have work, but I don't enjoy going to bed at 3am. I'd like to make more use of morning hours.

 


Potential solutions to try


  • Better planning of my time needs to be in order.
  • I still have some prescribed sleeping tablets left over from my trip to Australia, so I'll try to use some of those to wean myself on to a better (and hopefully more productive!) sleeping pattern.

 


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


  • Work through 2-3 new lessons. [1 of 2-3 complete]
  • Learn 140-175 HSK 4 characters. [40 of 140-175 complete]

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You sound like a robot  :P

 

[joking]

 

good luck with the HSK! 

 

 

 

edit

 

are you?

a) mostly focused on passing the HSK, improving your Chinese in general won't hurt 

or

b) trying to "warm your chair" (as my primary school teacher used to say) in order to cross the coveted threshold: "can you speak Chinese" - "yes, I can"

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Thanks for the luck! I appreciate it :D

 

 

are you?

a) mostly focused on passing the HSK, improving your Chinese in general won't hurt 

or

b) trying to "warm your chair" (as my primary school teacher used to say) in order to cross the coveted threshold: "can you speak Chinese" - "yes, I can"

 

Mostly A - one of my final exams at Fuzhou University last year was a university-administered HSK 4 paper which I (just!) passed with 61%. Although I can put that on my CV as a result of it being on my transcript, it doesn't feel as legitimate as I'd like - especially with Chinese universities being renowned for being flexible with grading to improve pass rates. With the trial work permit system coming in to place soon, it would be a handy thing to have/a more concrete thing to offer to gain more points as opposed to my university transcript, which I have a hunch might not be accepted as a real HSK 4. The HSK also offers a sense of direction for study if nothing else. 

 

But aside from that, yes, I'm very much warming my chair by thoroughly increasing my base knowledge. :) The HSK acts as a really nice benchmark to aim for - setting a specific date for taking it has really helped to improve my productivity and ensure that I get things done. The lack of a tangible reward for an otherwise arbitrary deadline wouldn't work as well for me, I think.

 

Beyond that, I'm improving my general Chinese as I go along. I only have one expat friend in the city (who conveniently lives on the complete opposite side) so whenever I leave the house I'm completely in Mandarin mode (save for teaching). The practical need to learn and develop the skill for day-to-day things is definitely helping with progression.

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Did you sign up for the computer-based HSK?

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Nah - paper test. I'm learning to write the characters as I go along, I practice writing them out as part of my Anki reviews. If I can't write it correctly, it counts as a fail. Takes a while, but I think it's a reasonably nice skill to have (plus it really helps with reading). Because of this, I thought it best to take the trickier route of paper over PC. :)

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Week 8


22/10/16 - 29/10/16


 


Bonus note: It's currently the 25th - a month today since I started the 'hours studied log.' I've just logged tonight's study and can note that in one month I studied (head-down studying, not passively) Mandarin for 58.45 hours. Lovely. 


 


 


New words learned: 175 (thus far)


Source: HSK 3 textbook, HSK 4 frequency-based vocab book. Supporting sentences from youdao.com. Chinesepod, Chinese graded readers. Chairman's Bao.


Daily Anki?: Yes


Hours studied [this week]: 10.73


Hours studied [from 25/9]: 60.45


 


 


Miscellaneous notes/thoughts


  • I bought a mini whiteboard today! It's my new to-do list. It's lovely.
  • I've begun to create my HSK 4 study/revision 'plan' - I've broken down each day to contain one hour of listening, reading and writing plus one HSK 4 mock paper and Anki. I'll be fiddling with this to include specific targets per day and to also factor in Lang-8 usage to really hammer down grammar and new vocab. I might try a test-run of it one day next week...
  • Watching loads of motivational YouTube videos. Actually helping! (If you're ever in need of a motivational pick-me-up, look on YouTube for videos of people who are celebrating getting into Oxbridge. It's nerdy, but really awesome.)
  • Due to knowing all of the HSK 3 vocab (I tested myself recently, there's ~10 words that I struggled with last week and I think I've got them down now to boot) the textbook lessons are really easy to go through - it's just picking up the grammar points. There's two grammar points per textbook lesson (quite a lot of which I already know), so it's not too hard to work through two lessons per day. Should have the textbook completed (and move to HSK 4 textbook full-time) in two days!
  • Discovered this monstrosity of a thread by Tamu. Their work ethic and dedication is genuinely amazing. Motivational and full of really good advice.

 


 


Strategies used


  • I'm only (as of 8:30pm, 22nd) on the first day of this week, so there's not much to throw in here - one of the things I've tried to do today is to better organise myself (and my time) for practical and effective studying. I've previously found that dividing my day into Chinese-related tasks (e.g. two lessons in a book, x number of words etc) can make it very tempting to only study these things for a short while and then say that they're done, so for this week I'm setting minimum times for each task; spend one hour going over new vocab, etc. Hopefully the forced time threshold should lead to a better understanding of the topics at hand.
  • I'm condensing my notes on grammar points this week - that is, picking a grammar point (a loose name, e.g. 'comparisons with 比' and then writing notes that are both as condensed and clear as I can make them. Example sentences here will be ones created by myself and tested on Lang-8. I'll mainly be going over grammar points that I'm not 100% on to make sure I learn them well.

 


Problems faced


  • Sleeping. 

 


Potential solutions to try


  • This morning [24th] I went into school early to observe a Chinese-taught English class for students (began at 8:50am). Powered through the day on six hours' sleep, felt completely dead by 9pm. I consider this a success for hopefully regulating sleep (and I hope it's not something I have to repeat often).

 


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


  • Work through 2-3 new lessons. [10 of 2-3 complete]
  • Learn 140-175 HSK 4 characters. [175 of 140-175 complete]
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Week 9

29/10/16 - 5/11/16

 

 

New words learned: 134 (thus far)

Source: HSK 4 frequency-based vocab book, HSK 4 textbook + workbook. Supporting sentences from youdao.com. Chinesepod, Chinese graded readers. Chairman's Bao. Lang-8 (particularly after 4th Nov).

Daily Anki?: No. I didn't anki at all on 5/11/16 owing to being really sick that day. Flopped in bed.

Hours studied [this week]: 17.10

Hours studied [from 25/9]: 77.55

 

 

Miscellaneous notes/thoughts

  • Having gone through various frequency books and textbooks, I appear to have made a miscalculation on how many characters I have left to learn for the HSK 4. According to my wonderful excel spreadsheet, I currently have 1162/1200 which are either learned or in Anki ready for reviews. After flicking through the final ten pages of my HSK 4 frequency vocab book (admittedly in the 'super rare frequency' and 'zero frequency' sections), I found around 110 characters that I just don't know. I'm slightly unsure as to how this has happened. I suspect I've either learned quite a bit of supplementary vocab or some of the material contained in those last few pages (being as 'rare' as they are) are supplementary themselves. Hopefully it won't be huge problem, but I don't have enough time to learn all of them. Hrm.  
  • Completed my regular Mandarin notebook earlier this week. Sounds a bit stupid, but it's quite nice to see it all filled in with actual work. On to the next one!
  • 4th November is the one-month countdown to my HSK 4 exam. As a result, I'll be focusing entirely on revision from that point on. 

 

 

 

Strategies used

  • I've started setting out a plan for the next day before going to bed each night and leaving it on my desk. Once the day's done, I put it into a lever-arch folder so that I can look back and see exactly what I did/studied for that day. Tasks are colour-coded in order of importance. It's been working pretty well and it's quite nice to see.
  • I've tentatively opened a beeminder  account as a way of keeping on track with various tasks and goals. The site doesn't seem to play completely nicely with my Chinese ISP so I've just set it to a reasonably easy non-Chinese goal for the moment (gym), and if everything works out nicely I'll add Chinese post-HSK exam.
  • I've upped my Chinese hours from an average of roughly 2 to an average of 3.7-4. The benefit of this isn't the raw amount of time going in, but the fact that the work I'm putting into those hours is quite productive. It's nice to see the results of it.

 

 

Problems faced

  • Above note with unexpected 100+ characters.
  • Synonyms in Anki. Currently, my Anki reviews all contain a word in English - I write the word in Chinese, check it, and mark whether it was right and how easy it was via Anki's feedback options. Synonyms are a problem here. In the case where I have a synonym, I'll write the initial letter of each character in brackets next to the English translation (e.g. 'Apple (p..g...)'). This was originally fine, but I'm trying to phase this out as it just leads to me focusing on the two letters as opposed to the English meaning itself. 
  • Again, sleep. I got into a good habit with this temporarily, but that honeymoon period's ended (and here I am writing this at 2:28am).
  • Related to the above - I struggle to find the motivation to do Chinese early on during the day. I'm typically starting between 6-8pm. I'm trying to find a practical method to help with this and I think beeminder might be the solution. 
  • There's a discrepancy between the time logged on my excel spreadsheet and the time I'm logging here. I think this is because my excel spreadsheet contains numerals to the third decimal whereas here I limit it to two, but there's currently a difference of 5.5 hours which seems a bit excessive. I assume I've just forgotten to put a days' worth of study in here. If the numbers don't add up from next week's post, ignore it for that week - I'm just updating the total to reflect my spreadsheet's values. :)

 

 

Potential solutions to try

  • Still have some sleeping tablets left (which I've neglected to use).
  • Start Mandarin work much earlier (between 2-3). When done, go to the gym. Should have me tired enough to get to sleep at a sensible hour.
  • For the surprise characters that I didn't know: if I were to learn these, it would be during my revision month which makes things awkward. I'd be tempted to learn these at a reduced rate (perhaps 5 per day) to allow for plenty of time to revise despite the new words. This won't be enough time to learn all of them, but it'll mitigate problems in the exam.

 

 

 

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

  • Work through 2-3 new lessons. [1 of 2-3 complete]
  • Complete studying HSK 4 characters and begin revising.. [134 of remaining 138 complete - 4 to go]

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Do you use Pleco just as a dictionary or do you use other functions as well?

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Do you use Pleco just as a dictionary or do you use other functions as well?

 

 

Predominantly as a dictionary when I stumble across a character/word that I've never seen before - being able to swipe in characters is truly a godsend. Occasionally I use it for characters where I'm not sure of the stroke order (animated stroke orders on pleco), but not that often.

 

I tried the flash card/test section of Pleco last year and didn't fall madly in love with it, but I might pick it up again as a quick and easy way to test my current vocab against what I need to know for the exam. :)

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