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The 2020 Aims and Objectives Progress Topic

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2 hours ago, imron said:

The whole point of deleting decks is to make sure the vocab you are focused on is recently relevant, and to get to a point where you spend almost zero time crafting and maintaining decks (which helps prevent getting emotionally attached to them).


Suspending a card means that I never see it anymore until I activate it again. So if I delete it and in the future recreate it, I actually spend more time.. It's not as quick as clicking a button like in Pleco, I hand pick example sentences that I understand and find most helpful.


I also don't spent any time looking for these cards, when I see an irrelevant card during review I suspend it. I just have to do it a bit more aggressively in the future. That's the only advantage I see in deleting decks, you don't have decide what is relevant and what is not.

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The main advantage is that it keeps the deck focused on recently relevant vocabulary, and reduces overall deck maintenance. 

Yes the other vocabulary will be relevant again eventually, but vocabulary study is a zero-sum game in that time you spend on less relevant vocab takes away from time you could spend on more relevant vocab and/or other study activities.

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On 9/1/2020 at 4:11 PM, timseb said:

My target for this year was set up this summer: finish all Harry Potter books and at least one Chinese novel (not translated from English, that is). I will be moving away from actively studying Chinese, while the plan is to keep exposing myself to it, somewhere around Christmas


Met my target for the year, or at least I could have if I decided to, so I'm happy enough, I guess. I took a break between the last Harry Potter books to read other s tuff, but finished the final entry in early december. However, I decided after that that I didn't want to read as few books in English as I had been doing over the last six months, so right now I have had a few weeks of reading stuff in that language. Since I'm not a native in English and it's a very important language, I think I shouldn't neglect it over too much time. After I've finished Burmese Days, I'm jumping into Chinese again though! Probably 活着, but perhaps 山楂树之恋. Though it might also be the second Harry Potter book but in traditional characters, which I also ordered.'


If it's one thing I learned during the year, it's that reading physical books is way more educating. Will never go back to e-books.


I started to stduy Japanese somewhere in August or September, don't remember when exactly, and have kept it going as a secondary. I will not be quitting Chinese in Anki in January as was the original plan, but I have drastically reduced my workload. My goal is still to have no, or very few, new characters in a new novel. I also make sure to know all chengyu before I start reading a novel.


Regarding the whole words vs sentences discussion, I have tried both this year. I did a total of about 10 000 isolated word cards in Anki (via Pleco, automated process) and that helped me a lot. This worked especially well for nouns and simple verbs, but some words just wouldn't stick no matter what, and I was a bit too OCD and didn't introduce clues or sentences for just those cards. After that, I have started using a new model which has been working excellently, and the good thing with it is that it has an endpoint. What I do is that I have one deck for chengyu. Here I add all chengyu I will encounter in my next novel. My other deck is a morpheme deck (or whatever I should call it), that is based on the idea of word families. These are primarly sentence cards, to show context for that specific hanzi and its specific meaning. My reference for how to split word families is the Xiandai Hanyu Guifan Cidian. My example sentences are all plucked from the Oxford dictionary, to avoid mistakes.


The thought is that whatever hanzi I encounter in a book, odds are I not only recognize it, but also know the specific reading and meaning from context, even if it's not a very common one for that specific hanzi. There are obviously still moments where that's not the case, but my experience is it's mostly been due to me not recognizing the hanzi just yet.


I'm now at about 3500 characters where I "know" all common readings (as per 通用规范汉字表) and "primary meanings", which means the amount of new characters per novel are rapidly decreasing. If a novel has too many new characters waiting, I just pick another one.


Sentence cards have drastically improved my understanding of grammar points and how to actually handle a word when I encounter it in the wild. It has also (obviously) increased my ratio of correct answers in Anki. This is the first week my Japanese studying in Anki has been more time consuming than my Chinese, since the work load is constantly decreasing, with fewer and fewer chengyu and characters added. Hopefully in a few months there are barely any new chengyu and characters in a normal book.

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Ok, so it's that time of year where the current-me tries to think up excuses to tell the last-year-me why I didn't do all the cool stuff he promised to do. He's not buying it:





I'll be in China for the first quarter of the year, and then in the UK after that. I estimate that I will have around 6 months of full time Chinese studying, after that I should be busy with whatever job I manage to find.


HA! A global epidemic, an expired passport/visa and 3 cancelled flights later and I finally got back to the UK at the end of September. 人算不如天算.





1. Improve my writing - I plan to write at least 3,000 characters per week. I've already been writing 2,000 characters essays fairly frequently this year (although not on a weekly basis, haha). I think I can easily increase my output next year. I always have plenty of ideas, and never have much trouble writing once I start, but I just need to be more disciplined.


I did do a fair amount of writing (probably around an essay a day) for the first few months or so of the year, but that came to an end when my Chinese classes ended. Unfortunately, italki no longer accepts new essays from a PC (mobile only), so I don't have a good outlet for my writing now. 




2. Improve my memory in Chinese - I still find it much harder remembering details in Chinese than I do in English, although this area has naturally improved a fair bit this year (I'm much more likely to remember a character's name in a movie I watched the day before, for example). To further improve it I'm going to change the way I write essays. Normally I take a lot of notes (both of details and useful words/phrases) and then use those notes when writing my essay. From now on I want to attempt to commit as many of the details and new vocab to memory as I can, and then just write the essay without referring to any notes. I also want to get into the habit of trying to describe a movie (in writing or to a friend) the day after watching it, trying to remember character names, plot points, places etc.



I did do some of the essay-related stuff I described here in the first half of the year, but it fell off after that. My "Chinese memory" ability did improve overall though, just as a result of continuing to consume lots of Chinese media, increasing my familiarity with the vocab thus improving retention.



3.Improve my pronunciation - I plan to start making videos in the next couple of years, and that is enough motivation to get improve my pronunciation. It's already pretty decent now and I can't remember the last time I was misunderstood due to a pronunciation issue, but it's definitely still far form native 北方人 level. I will devote an hour to recording my voice once per week and making adjustments as necessary.





4. Improve listening ability and cultural knowledge - I've recently switched from mostly watching TV dramas to watching movies and online videos. As my listening ability improves, I find myself becoming much more picky in terms of what I'm willing to watch, and most TV dramas are just not up to standard. I've been watching a lot of 80s and 90s Hong Kong movies recently (Mandarin versions), which are not only more fun to watch and much shorter, they also fill in some gaps in what I call my "Chinese cultural knowledge", as these were movies that Chinese people my age grew up watching. This is often underestimated I think, and it gives me an extra topic of conversation to chat about (or at least not be completely lost if the conversation moves on to these things). Imagine a Chinese English speaker who has never watch Terminator 2, Alien, Jurassic Park etc and you can understand what I'm aiming at.


I've watched a lot of classic Hong Kong films over the past year, which I think has filled a cultural gap in my understanding of Chinese (as a 80后). Whenever I come across what looks like a cultural reference while watching a TV show etc, I'll almost always do a baidu search and look into it. I'm actually quite please with my progress here.



5. Improve reading speed and comprehension - I've been reading 财经 pretty regularly over the past year, but can never finish an issue before the next one comes out. This will be my goal for 2020. If I continue reading and learning vocab I'm confident of achieving this. In addition, I plan to read two series of books, 平凡的世界 and 圈子圈套. I completely ignored novels in 2019 in favour of news and non-fiction after a heavy novel-focused 2018, but I'm ready to jump back into it now. 10 pages a day should do it (plus I have audio versions of both books, so I can improve my listening ability too). Unlike my 财经 and other non-fiction reading, my aim is primarily to improve speed, with minimal stopping to look up new vocab (which hopefully won't be too much anyway). 10 pages per day should do it.


Unfortunately, 财经 stopped being sold where I was in China after the pandemic hit (even once things reopened, my usual newsagent stopped stocking it). I miss it, it was a good challenge for my reading skills, as well as being an interesting insight into China. I hope I can find a place that sells it in London, once we come out of lockdown. I couldn't get into the mood for reading novels for most of the year, but I finally started earlier this month (I can't explain the change of heart). I pretty much only look up vocab when I'm very curious or when it's absolutely necessary for understanding. For all else unknown vocab I just think "oh, that's some kind of flower that I don't need to memorise right now" and read on. 



6. Pass the HSK 6 - I've never taken any level of HSK before, but my teacher thinks my current level would be enough to get a passing mark, so I hope I can pass without issue at the end of 2020. I'm a bit weird in that I think doing too much specific HSK practice is kind of cheating, and I want to be able to pass "naturally". That said, I did take a couple of months worth of HSK 6 classes at the end of 2018, so I am already familiar with the types of questions they ask. I might even go for the HSKK exam too, if I'm feeling confident. Hopefully all of the above will be sufficient preparation. 


Covid pretty much put a stop to that plan. It's not a hugely important thing to me right now tbh, so I might not even bother with it next year.



7. Watch the news every day - I actually need some help with this one. I got into the habit of watching the news from 9-10pm on regular TV every day earlier in 2019, but I got fed up with the format (lots of footage of the President visiting some country with bands playing etc). Can anyone recommend a place where I can find short and concise news bulletins, so that I can pick stories I'm interested in at my own leisure? (rather the having to sit through boring ceremonies)


This is another area I did ok in. In China I was mostly watching the official news. I was pretty glued to it in Feb and March, as the whole covid situation was affecting my life in a drastic way and western media wasn't reporting too much, apart from the odd bat meme. I got really bored of the constant covid news around June (although the constant repetition did wonders for my medical-based vocab), and didn't get back into the news until I returned to the UK in September. Since then I've been watching various independent news sources on Youtube pretty much daily and feel my "news Chinese" has improved a lot.




Non-Chinese goals:


1. Play classical guitar for at least 15 minutes per day - I always feel much more relaxed afterwards and always see a slight improvement, so there's no legitimate reason not to.



While covid messed up my year in many ways, I can't deny its contribution in helping me keep up a consistent guitar practice routine. I pretty much practice every day over the past year, sometimes for 15 minutes, usually no more than 30 (my hand starts aching after that, although it's getting easier). I've gone from a being a person who owned a guitar and could pluck a few strings that somewhat sounded like a tune, to a terrible guitarist who can play quite a few songs off by heart - badly. That represents pretty good progress!



2. Restrict unfocused internet usage and unhealthy eating to one day a week - I've done this at various times throughout 2019 and always see a improvement in my life from doing so (I feel I have more time and less fat), but always eventually give in to temptation. I'm determined to stick to a healthy information and food diet this year.


It's been a rollercoaster year for my weight. The first month was good, doing lots of exercise (snowboarding) and eating quite healthy, but once covid hit, well... Being stuck inside with all the restaurants close, I decided to learn to cook some Dongbei food, which also involved plenty of eating. Eating being an only pleasure during those lockdown days, I overindulged a bit, and got up to 94kg in weight. I've turned things around since then, especially after getting back home, and a combination of healthier eating, fasting and exercise got my weight down to 78kg just before my usual Christmas gorging. 


As for the internet usage, I did improve this a little, but had much more time on my hands than usual anyway, so I don't think this is such a big deal. I have shifted a lot of my unfocussed youtube usage to Chinese language stuff, so I think that isn't so bad.



3. See how much Japanese I can learn in a week - I find myself playing Japanese games and consuming Japanese media more and more and it seems a shame to let all that listening practice go to waste. After finally (somewhat) nearing the end of my formal Chinese studies the last thing I want to do is embark on a new multi-year Asian language journey, so this will be just a fun challenge to see how much of the basic language I can pick up in a week of intensive learning.


I never got around to playing many Japanese language games this year, so didn't bother with this challenge. I did start getting back into Thai though, after many years of not using it. It started when I got back to the UK and noticed that they had some decent Thai TV shows on there. I always had problems finding anything decent to watch after leaving Thailand, so my language ability was left to waste away, but surprisingly it all feels as though it's coming back again now that I'm using it again. 



I'll report in at the end of every month to keep myself on the straight and narrow. Good luck everyone!


I'm pretty sure that this is my first update since that initial post, so no monthly reporting from me! To be fair, monthly is an awkward time period - too long to become a habit, too short to be a tradition. I've been doing weekly updates on my fitness/weight loss progress on another forum and find that works quite well, so I'll go for weekly updates next year.


2020 post mortem over!

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1 hour ago, StChris said:

why I didn't do all the cool stuff he promised to do.

Sounds like you actually did do most of the stuff you planned.


1 hour ago, StChris said:

I did do a fair amount of writing


1 hour ago, StChris said:

I did do some of the essay-related stuff


1 hour ago, StChris said:

I've watched a lot of classic Hong Kong films


1 hour ago, StChris said:

started [reading novels] earlier this month


1 hour ago, StChris said:

[Watching the news] is another area I did ok in.


1 hour ago, StChris said:

a consistent guitar practice routine. I pretty much practice every day


1 hour ago, StChris said:

a combination of healthier eating, fasting and exercise got my weight down to 78kg

1 hour ago, StChris said:

As for the internet usage, I did improve this a little


1 hour ago, StChris said:

I did start getting back into Thai


I mean this is some impressive sticking to resolutions. You don't quite seem to believe it yourself, but look how it adds up. And this was not one small resolution, but about a dozen pretty big ones.


Any recommendations on Chinese-language Youtube channels suitable for aimless internetting? I waste too much time online as well, mostly on English-language sites, and it would be good if I at least did my pointless internet time-wasting in Chinese.

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on the age old question of whether or not to delete a deck that you have carefully crafted over months or years: Imron is right, deleting the deck frees up so much time for actual, practical study its really liberating. But saying goodbye to a deck where you know there is still about 10% or so you haven't properly mastered is difficult. So here's my strategy:


I first export the entire deck.


Then I filter for all cards that have an interval over a month (sometimes even just two weeks). Then select all and delete. 


You are now left with a small deck of the most unfamiliar cards, AND the peace of mind that if you screwed up you can always go back into that exported deck and get what you need back. 


...I've yet to go back and do this. After the cards are deleted it brings a good bit of clarity to how much you actually know without lazily relying on the srs to remind you of stuff you actually know but are marking yourself tough on 'just in case you don't really know it fully yet'.


TLDR: export a backup deck, filter and delete 90% of your deck(s)


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On 12/29/2019 at 4:38 PM, 大块头 said:

Other than my current goals to improve or maintain my reading, speaking, and listening skills, I would also like to develop my handwriting ability such that:

  • My penmanship is indistinguishable from that of a college-educated native speaker.
  • I can write about typical topics without having to constantly reference a dictionary.
  • My handwriting is neat and legible, but does not necessarily ascribe to any specific calligraphic standard of beauty.

To work towards achieving the goals listed above, I will spend 25 minutes a day performing the following tasks:

  1. Complete the exercises prescribed in《席殊3SFM实用硬笔字60小时训练》. I will keep a blog on Chinese-forums with my answers to the problems in this book, as there does not appear to be an answer key.
  2. Devise a mnemonic system for remembering how to write words. Rote memorization with Anki has worked OK for me in the past, but a minority of words has always tripped me up. I will come up with something similar to the Heisig approach, but applied to whole words instead of individual characters.
  3. Finish learning to write HSK 1-6 vocabulary.

Completing task 3 may take a couple years, but I hope to get a good start on it this year.


Task 1: After learning about the HSK 3.0 I immediately plopped the penmanship goal on the backburner so I could spend the time making an Anki deck for the proposed vocabulary list. I finished that project this month, finally using a domain I bought five years ago.


Task 2: I am nearly done creating Person-Action-Object mnemonics for each wubi character root. I have 161 so far.




Task 3: Didn't start, but I should be able to make good headway in 2021.

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On 12/31/2019 at 7:17 PM, Lu said:

Chinese-related goals:

- Read more popular Dutch books. If I want more Dutch people to read Chinese books, I need to get a clearer idea of what kind of books they (we) like. It will also be helpful when pitching books to publishers.

- Read more Chinese literature, both novels and short stories.

- Publish something Chinese literature in translation. I don't care what it is and who pays for it (the Chinese government, likely), but something. A book with a serious Dutch publisher would be best, but anything is good.


And in general:

- Take good care of myself and feel good & happy. Includes being outside every day, eating vegetables every day, regular exercise (rowing yay), finding fun things to do and doing them with people I like, getting into and out of bed in time.

I already posted a few months ago on how I have done pretty well on all these goals except the very first one, read more popular current Dutch fiction, and I'm happy to report that I am now filling that goal as well. I just started reading De avond is ongemak by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, translated by Michele Hutchinson as The Discomfort of Evening, which was a pretty massive hit last year and a possibly even bigger hit again this year when the English translation came out and won a Booker prize. Not sure yet how I like it, I only just started reading.

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On 12/22/2019 at 3:04 PM, lechuan said:


- Finish learning HSK4 Grammar Points

- Review HSK4 Vocab

- Read a lot of HSK4 level material

- Write HSK4 Computerized Test



- Be able to carry on a basic conversation by end of the year

- Finish Pimsleur Cantonese 1

- Finish "A shortcut to Cantonese" textbook.

- 15 minutes a day of Glossika


What I actually did:



1) Learned to read and pronounce Cantonese jyutping (and Yale) at a decent enough level so that Cantonese speakers say my pronunciation is starting to sound Cantonese (which is refreshing, I found a few friends who give honest feedback instead of saying that anything slightly understandable is wonderful).

2) Finished Pimsleur Cantonese 1 Lessons 1-12.

3) Did 15 minutes of Glossika total in the year. I decided to shelf this until after I finish Pimsleur

4) Finished going through half of the book "Learn to Speak Cantonese I: A Beginner's Guide to Mastering Conversational Cantonese"

5) Signed up for Cantonese tutoring lessons at italki. I discovered that having a weekly lesson at which I can ask questions gives me way more incentive to study during the week in order to find questions to ask. The tutor also prepares their own materials which go beyond what you'd find in a textbook.




For Mandarin, I also did some online tutoring lessons for an old Mandarin lesson package I had bought that was expiring this year. I actually made quite a bit of progress in short period of time cramming in 3 lessons a week before they expired. The value mainly came from the lesson prep, making me read a lot more and look up and use new words, so is a good takeaway for the future.


I gave up on trying for the HSK4, and instead decided to just learn what I need for what I am currently reading or watching. I watched a new drama that I really liked in Mandarin, Go Ahead. Will talk more about my plans for that in the 2021 Aims and Objectives thread.


Interestingly, learning Cantonese has helped maintain Mandarin because I tend to always be comparing with the Mandarin form, and reading written materials in both Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciation. It's also helping me to learn some new Mandarin vocab when I encounter a new word in Cantonese that I didn't know in Mandarin.

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