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The 2022 Aims and Objectives Progress Topic


alantin
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Oh, I like that tool that @Lilac posted for estimating your vocabulary!

 

I also find it interesting to compare different assessment methods.  So in that spirit (although HSK is meant to test much more than your vocabulary!), Lilac's tool estimated my vocab at just over 10,000 words, and I got a 179 on the HSK 5 a few weeks ago.  I have specifically studied the HSK words, though, so that probably artificially inflates my score there. 

 

Still, maybe that's a useful quick comparison point for people wondering where they might fit on the HSK scale but who don't want to take it.  It took me about 20 minutes to take that vocab assessment vs. a couple hours and ~$70 for the HSK. 

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Wow, this thread really is inspiring.

 

For context, I started learning chinese in second half of 2020. Built up a base with chineseforus, hellochinese, and taking extremely cheap 1:1 classes from a chinese student at the local university. Chinese is my 5th language, and having learnt 2 of those as an adult, started my journey with a fair bit of arrogance which I've now gotten over haha.

 

Summary of 2021:

1. Started reading Mandarin Companion and Chinese Breeze, finished MC Level 2 and mostly done with CB Level 2. Typically read each book 3x, first time just read, 2nd time read with accompanying slow audio, 3rd time with fast audio. Each time circle/note unknown/misidentified words or characters.

1a. finished duchinese beginner, elementary, intermediate, and upper intermediate short stories. Not interested in one-off content, barely read any.

2. Took 1 class a week on italki, plus some classes at the Confucius Institute as well, so 3-4h of classes / week.

3. Chatting with friends from Hellotalk/Conversation Exchange etc etc. 2-3h a week. Effectively 1/2 the time though, since the other half we're speaking English/French/other

 

Goals for 2022:

I'm a big reader (fiction only pretty much) and have decided to go all in with reading to build my vocabulary, with hoped for knock-on effects on my listening, speaking, and typing. Writing by hand is not the biggest priority, but do want to improve it slightly (from the very few characters I can write by memory to at least 100 or so).

1. Finish Chinese Breeze level 2, 3, and 4. (again, read each book 3x as above). Level 2 should be finished in January, maybe even before the new year since I'm off right now.

2. Start and finish Rainbow Bridge level 2 and 3 (at least 4 books/level - this depends on how many I can source easily online - am looking exclusively for paper backs and not ebooks).

3. Continue taking 1 class a week with prof. teacher on italki ($18/hr), take 1 class every two weeks with community teacher ($6.5/hr), take classes at Confucius Institute (30h/semester)

4. Read duchinese Advanced and try Master level stories.

5. Increase number of hours with exchange partners - 4h total i.e. 2h effectively/week. Ideally find Chinese friends and not have to sped time teaching English/other languages.

6. Finish Outliers Chinese Characters masterclass - I bought it on the sale, let's see how good it is.

7. Focus on grammar a bit as well. Not too sure how to accomplish this, hopefully the teachers can help.

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I fit my studies around work in a similar fashion, but as my work is directly related to Chinese, it does fit in well to the schedule. I use my lunch break to do an hour or reviews, then I stay for an hour after work to read news/books with no disturbances. I then do Cantonese shadowing after dinner, then more reading in bed. I mainly  use habit hub and other don't break the chain techniques to keep myself motivated (as always, shout out to @imron)

 

@PerpetualChange Reading in translation is a fantastic way to get acquainted, anything by Gladys Yang or more recently Julia Lovell is great in my opinion. I'll let you know later in the year where my reading of these earlier novels leads me

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On 12/27/2021 at 2:16 PM, PerpetualChange said:

I'd really like to explore the idea of studying Classical Chinese.

 

I think that's a long-term goal for me, as well! I purchased "Classical Chinese: A Functional Approach" by Kai Li, which had good Amazon reviews. It's written for Chinese readers, in traditional characters (there's some English, but the answer key for the translations is all in modern Mandarin). So it also means I'll have to learn traditional characters. Much to my disappointment, the simplified character edition became available after I had already purchased the traditional one. Oh, well! I guess I'll get the authentic experience of reading old Chinese with old characters. But much like the four great classics (I have Dream of the Red Chamber on my bookshelf), it's a "maybe someday in the distant future" kind of goal. Maybe something I'll never get to at all.

 

On 12/27/2021 at 2:16 PM, PerpetualChange said:

Weirdly, the better my reading gets, the less of a challenge listening is


I've found that to be the case, too. So many times, a speaker says something rather fancy (like a not-too-common chengyu) and I understand it, only because I saw it in a book first. 
 

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On 12/27/2021 at 9:38 PM, Jan Finster said:

This is an impressive goal/dedication from both of you!!! Knowing (Alantin) / assuming (Woodford) that you are not students anymore (with unlimited free time), how do you guys manage to squeeze that much time into your daily routine (aka "life")? (20-25 hours per week is "half a job" (!)) 😵 Do you guys ever sleep? 😉 I am honestly curious and aside from time, where do you take the mental energy from? (Is this mostly all-weekend studying?) 


Haha, I could sleep more, but it's not related to my Chinese study. 😅 But I'm not really doing this at the cost of my mental health. Also calling it "study" at this point feels a little weird, since I do very little of anything that feels like a special effort to learn.

 

Writing and reading are the ones that actually consume mental energy at this point and reading is getting easier all the time. For the last month I've been reading one chapter each evening, which has taken me about one to two hours a day. It has been a bit of a time drain, but if I dial it down to one hour, I'll get plenty of time to put into writing. Also my reading speed is increases and I finally (after a year of struggling with it..) feel reading becoming more enjoyment than a struggle, so feel like I may finally have mental energy to move away from it to writing.

 

Speaking and Listening are something I've worked worked into my daily routine over the last two or three years and they truly are something that I just do and they don't consume mental energy. I drive to work and back in total about 50 minutes a day 5 times a week and take 30 to 60 minute walks daily with my dog so I take that time to listen. I sometimes also relax watching Chinese television shows or movies, which gives me extra listening practice.

 

The iTalki lessons are all free talk lessons talking about anything interesting and feel a lot more like chatting with friends than lessons. I like to take them just after work before driving home or before noon on weekends and I look forward to each one. I always feels like the time goes too fast and if anything I get mental energy from them. The only preparations I do related to them is recording the tutor's voice during the lessons and later running them through Wavepad to trim out the silences and adding them to the playlist on my phone for listening.

 

So it may seem like a lot, but the bulk of it is something I've just worked into my routine over time and I usually focus on one new thing and try work it into a habit. Once it's a natural part of my daily routine I'll move on to the next thing. Or if it doesn't click, I'll abandon it and move on to the next thing. I also think that pretty much anyone should be able to dedicate an hour or so a day to studying something if they really want to. When I began studying Chinese, I was studying my Master's degree while also working. My Thesis was driving me crazy and we had a tight schedule with a few courses. I was still able to study Chinese and it was actually a welcome escape from reality at the time. Though even then I actually worked it into my schedule, took a couple of Chinese classes at the local university and had them accepted as optional courses into the degree. Anyway, compared to that, I actually have a lot of free time in my hands right now and I also don't really understand how a student would have unlimited free time...

Not having kids may help too, but I don't think having them would stop me from studying either. My routine might just look a little different. I guess the big secret is just working it into your routine one thing at a time and letting time take care of the rest. Having a goal and an overall strategy is also important to keep you in the course and help you decide what's helpful and worth keeping, and what you should ditch as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

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On 12/28/2021 at 3:46 AM, alantin said:

Not having kids may help too, but I don't think having them would stop me from studying either. My routine might just look a little different. I guess the big secret is just working it into your routine one thing at a time and letting time take care of the rest. Having a goal and an overall strategy is also important to keep you in the course and help you decide what's helpful and worth keeping, and what you should ditch as soon as possible.

 

Heh, I wish. Having a kid really changed things for me. It's so stressful. I could probably squeak in as much study as I once did, but here's the thing - I don't want to, because I just get stressed out about it meeting the aggressive goals for myself. Having a young kid is already plenty stressful (especially during COVID times, I suppose) so it's really important that hobbies are things you can enjoy purely for themselves and not additional sources of stress. At least for now. @Woodfordseems to have mastered it, maybe it'll get better once my 18 month old is a little older and the parenting can be a little less active.  

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@Woodford, that's interesting. I was thinking about the "end game" this week too. But I don't think there needs to, or even can, be an end game. Learning a language shouldn't be viewed as a project that has a defined end and then it's done. Instead it's a continuing process that has a life of it's own whether you like it or not. It is always a part of you but If you use it, it gets improving and if you don't it gets declining. The endgame therefore is the same thing that has to be done from the beginning if you want to keep it. You work it into your life, so that it's something that you just do and use. Nothing more or nothing less.

This has pretty much happened to my English and Japanese. Both are a part of me, but I haven't put any effort into them for years. I use English a lot in work and in study so it won't decline. I use Japanese at home and with friends mainly to talk with people so my listening and speaking skills are really good, but my reading and especially my writing (other than short messages) sucks since I haven't done those in years.

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Spend 15 minutes a day:

  • Giving Glossika another try for Cantonese now that I have some of the basics down
  • Working through materials that have written (ie. Mandarin) characters, with spoken Cantonese audio. I find this approach very helpful for learning Cantonese based on the difference from Mandarin.
  • Finishing Cantonese Pimsleur Lessons 16-30 (when I drive to work, doing chores, etc)

Also schedule a tutoring session every 2nd week to go over questions that came up since last time.

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On 1/5/2022 at 11:02 AM, Moshen said:

One of my big concerns with a tutor/speaking partner would be finding someone I could talk to about things that interested me and not pure banalities. 

 

I think that's actually a really legitimate concern. For me, it's a really unpleasant experience when I'm having a one-on-one discussion with somebody, and we just stare at each other blankly, not knowing what else to say. I think the situation is somewhat better when I'm in a structured class, with discussion questions, homework, planned topics, etc. This person was labeled as a "professional" tutor rather than a "community" one, and he seemed really good at keeping the discussion alive. That's one of the reasons I chose him. At first, I was thinking about just having casual discussions, but now it looks like I'll be doing something more structured than that. My Chinese isn't really good enough yet to just have free-form discussions. So I'll gladly endure miscellaneous topics like "going to the doctor" or "driving a car." :) 

 

I personally know of an American-born Chinese friend who was learning Chinese as a "heritage" learner, and he has taken the whole series of Chinese courses at his university. His girlfriend is also Chinese, but she is actually from China and is a native Mandarin speaker (and so is his mother and grandfather, so he lives around three Mandarin speakers). He informed me, "The problem is that even when you can find somebody to practice Chinese with, there's nothing to talk about." So he hasn't taken his Mandarin learning any further.

I have that issue with English, too--my own native language! I have enormous difficulty with small talk: "How are you? Where are you from? Have you lived here long? Do you have family? Where do you work? What was your university major?" I play along, but it's really hard for me to engage on that level. It never feels authentic to me, but more like a set of mere formalities that are supposed to pave the way toward a real conversation. If, on the other hand, a person starts to talk to me about some specialized topic, like linguistics or philosophy, I can talk in great volumes, and we're both really happy. But then there are people with really lively personalities who can get me talking about any number of things. So I guess there's a component of mutual compatibility involved.

I figured this process will be an awkward, uphill climb, and I don't know where things will progress (if they do progress), but I guess I'll have to see!

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On 1/5/2022 at 7:33 PM, Woodford said:

I figured this process will be an awkward, uphill climb, and I don't know where things will progress (if they do progress), but I guess I'll have to see!

 

In my experience, I've had 209 iTalki lessons with about 30 tutors and professional teachers over the last two or three years, this depends completely on you and your tutor's "chemistry". Major portion of the teachers I've talked to have been great at finding things to talk about and really open to share their opinions about pretty much anything. I think I can only remember two, with whom we just couldn't seem to hit it off and the lesson felt quite awkward. Talking with most have been great and I've usually had multiple lessons with each. A few are real keepers and I've had regular lessons with them for one to two years already. It seems to pretty much follow the bell curve, which I think is only natural. I also believe it may have at least as much to do with personal chemistry as with the particular teacher's skill. Though both are important.

 

My point is, don't "fall for" one teacher too much right away. There is absolutely nothing wrong in trying to talk to multiple people and I would recommend to try to have at least three or four lessons with each before deciding if they are right for you. At that point you should be past introductions and awkward small talk and deep in more interesting topics. If not, I don't think there is anything wrong in looking for another teacher. They may be a great teacher, but they just may not click with you. Actually it is statistically quite unlikely that the first, or second, person you talk to, is the best teacher for you. Take your time, talk to different people, and if you don't click, it not your fault and usually not theirs either. It also may take time to get to the interesting discussions. One teacher had a real knack for striking up weird discussions from the first or second meeting that ended up being really fun. "What do you think love is?", "I've seen a UFO, what do you think about that?". She was quite extraordinary, but no-one else has felt very reserved either after a couple of meetings. Even when I asked someone about what they thought about the cultural revolution or Deng's actions during -89 (wasn't the second, third or even fourth meeting though...). Maybe the times I've felt the discussions haven't really hit off, the reserved one has more often been me..

 

I personally also mainly look for free form discussion about pretty much any subject so the main qualities I'm looking for in a tutor are lots of interests, and an open and curious personality. Teaching skills are secondary for me so I don't really mind if they are a tutor or a professional teacher. Though I've noticed that the professional teachers are more often good at matching the student's level and they usually make a conscious effort to do so. Community tutors may talk to you just like to any one, or if they dumb it down, I often find that they sometimes go too far with it, while professionals are more often good at it. Community tutors may be better if you want to get more "authentic" practice, since their speech may be closer to what you'll hear on the streets. They also usually won't try to give you homework or start suggesting following some book and doing exercises with them. I have my own system, so those usually don't work for me very well. On the contrary, when a professional teacher knows you and your learning style and methods well, they usually give extremely good suggestions. But some can be quite pushy with their materials in the beginning...

 

Also progress wise, I think speaking ability is as hard to come by as reading speed. It takes a lot of lessons to start seeing improvement, but each time I've asked a tutor if they've noticed any improvement over the previous year, they've pointed out lots of major improvements that I then notice too.

 

 

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I have that issue with English, too--my own native language! I have enormous difficulty with small talk: "How are you? Where are you from? Have you lived here long? Do you have family? Where do you work? What was your university major?" I play along, but it's really hard for me to engage on that level.

 

This is absolutely typical for introverts!  I would need to find someone with intellectual curiosity and depth of interests. 

 

I'm really interested in the divergent ways of thinking built into different languages, and it would be my dream to explore that in a language other than English.  For example, for Spanish I wanted to know why in several Colombian telenovelas I watched, politicians and lawyers were addressed as "doctor" or "doctora," and when I asked that question on a Spanish forum, no one else found this question interesting enough to engage with it in a meaningful way.  For Chinese, I had an interesting discussion with my husband (native Chinese speaker) this morning when I didn't understand the thinking underlying an apparently simple Chinese story about a father and son, but that was in English.  He doesn't have the patience to talk to me in Chinese, unfortunately... (Don't worry, he has many other great qualities.)

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On 1/5/2022 at 12:10 PM, alantin said:

Actually it is statistically quite unlikely that the first, or second, person you talk to, is the best teacher for you.

 

This is funny, because it reminds me of a Li Yongle video I saw on YouTube during my Chinese listening practice, where he spoke of a different topic (romance and dating) and said, if I remember correctly, that you shouldn't settle on a person until you've tried about 33% of the potential candidates, or at least one or two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pelPCK22W7k

 

On 1/5/2022 at 12:10 PM, alantin said:

Also progress wise, I think speaking ability is as hard to come by as reading speed. It takes a lot of lessons to start seeing improvement, but each time I've asked a tutor if they've noticed any improvement over the previous year, they've pointed out lots of major improvements that I then notice too.


That seems to be the story of my life so far. I never feel like I'm "improving" at anything, but in reality, I am. From week to week or month to month, there seems to be no change. I think the kind of change I feel is a "season to season" improvement--about 3 months at a time. But that's way too slow to feel on a daily basis.
 

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