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  1. I started studying Chinese as a hobby 4 years ago when I turned 30. As someone who lives in the US, is married and has a full time job completely unrelated to languages, I had always mentally toyed around with the idea of taking a "sabbatical" for a year and studying in China for a few months...although never in a serious way. Last December, I randomly decided to see if I could take advantage of the fact that covid was making a lot of Universities and programs rethink about having remote offerings, and found Tsinghua University's IUP program. I attended class from January through the end of May, and figured I'd write up a short review in case others might be interested. A few up-front things: This program seems targeted at grad students, particularly PhD students. I was potentially the oldest student (by a decent number of years). The program is neither targeted at nor suitable for beginners - it's really aiming at intermediate and above. To get information on the program, I had a WeChat call with someone entirely in Chinese. English resources are more limited. My background was pretty unusual/unique compared to the other students. I have entirely self studied as a hobby, never taken the HSK, and haven't taken any formal courses before. However, I have a PhD in an unrelated subject and am generally good at and enjoy studying - I have been able to have full conversations with non-English speakers starting from about ~2 years ago, read Chinese books for fun, and have continued to focus on improvement. You have to do a decent number of placement tests. There is both written (questions, fill in the blank, etc.) as well as a video component. They assess your speaking and reading ability. Based on your placement test and your particular needs, they recommend placement into a level of their program. You can use your own material if you prefer, or have a particular area of study. The course is expensive. The semester was divided into two sub-terms. Each subterm I was assigned 2 teachers, and focused on different material. The amount of work is significant - I took 2 hours of 1-1 classes per day, 5 days per week. After this, I had about 2 hours of homework per day. They were transparent about this up-front, and it is something I decided to commit to. For people who are full-time students, I believe that this amount of work is doubled. There were two 10-minute presentations that we had to give. Other types of homework depend on the student and teachers, but I wrote a ~600 word essay every week in addition to other classwork. Review of the Program: The teachers were excellent. I liked all 4 of them - they were engaged, willing to go out of their way to help, and seemed really dedicated to the students. The material is out of date and boring - they are using material from either the late 90s or early 2000s and seriously need an update. I believe the material is the same as when the program was based in Taiwan years ago. Due to the online format, you will NOT feel immersed. I knew this going into it, and committing to 4 hours of Chinese per day was already significantly more than what I had been doing. An online program will never compare with doing an in-person, in-country program. However, due to the point I'm at in my life, going to Chinese for this period of time is not a realistic option (and my wife almost killed me for the time commitment that this program cost me anyway 😉 ) There is no interaction with other students aside from the two presentations during the semester. I didn't meet a single other student - but I prefer this, since I'm not signing up for the program to talk to other students. Analysis of outcomes: It is hard to measure self improvement, but here is what I would say: My vocabulary improved substantially My listening ability improved substantially My essay/speech writing improved substantially It is hard for me to evaluate my speech improvement. I believe it improved a little bit. That's about it. Happy to answer any questions if you have any!
    18 points
  2. I left China in a big rush at the end of January 2019 when the Covid outbreak was just becoming known. Had to fly an indirect, stop-and-start path because of flight cancellations. Eventually managed to get back to Texas, my Stateside home. Had not lived here in any consistent manner for over a decade while exploring China and learning its language, history, culture and ways. Fell in love with the people, the cuisine, the tea. Thought I would probably live out the rest of my days there. Back in America, I initially maintained robust long-distance relationships, chatting regularly with Chinese friends who were still in country. We sent snapshots back and forth, did video chats. Gradually there became less to say, and we contacted each other less frequently, relying more on written messages. The connecting ties became stretched and began to feel somewhat strained. The messages became shorter. Locally I have spoken Chinese sporadically with staff at Chinese restaurants. Once or twice, when visiting in larger Texas cities, I've had a foot massage and conversed with the technicians. Watched the occasional Chinese movie. Read some Chinese-language news stories online. Did not read start reading Chinese novels. Never did that, even in China during my "Chinese language prime." Would have been smart to sign up for on-line tutoring and really step up my reading. But I got busy with resuming my western life and dropped the ball on keeping up my Chinese. My personal language proficiency was slow in coming, hard won. I was not a "natural" blessed with huge talent. Had to work hard. But my Chinese has been distressingly fast in disappearing. Now after nearly two years, it is ragged and rusty. In another year it will mostly be gone. My Chinese was not self-taught. I was blessed with excellent face-to-face teachers, and I invested maximum effort in learning from them. Plus, I used the language fearlessly with native friends and when out and about in the streets, gradually smoothing out the rough spots by the process of making lots of mistakes and benefitting from immediate and spontaneous native-speaker corrections. I've tried to think analytically about the areas of proficiency that have decayed the most rapidly. Far and away, where I now fall short the worst is in using the right tones. I just get them wrong in conversation. This obscures what I'm trying to say and requires that I repeat and sometimes rephrase. I often must "finger-write" the character on the palm of my hand. Instead of being fluent, I am butchering the language. I still tend to surprise Mandarin-speaking Chinese Americans by using colloquial Chinese pretty well. They can tell that I have not just learned in a classroom or from a textbook. But the tones are decaying faster than the rest of the package. If I quiz myself about what tones are involved in such and such a word or phrase, then listen to a native speaker on YouTube or some such saying the same passage, it is obvious that my tones are frequently off, significantly off. When learning Chinese, starting about 2006 in Beijing, I made the tones an integral part of any acquired new word. I didn't know the word until I also knew its tones. I realized early on that the tone wasn't just something that could be "tacked-on" later. I didn't make the mistake of thinking I would learn to read and write the words now and go back later and master their tones. So, it surprises me somewhat now to see that the tones are vanishing so fast. Perhaps part of the reason is that I have always had a pretty good ear. I could appreciate how the tones and the phrasing of native speech should sound. I did lots of child-like imitation of the native speakers in my life. Shameless and unquestioning "monkey-see-monkey-do." And I was surrounded by Chinese 24/7, avoiding most contact with English-speaking foreigners. I am posting this personal observation just to report the phenomenon, not trying to draw any deep linguistic conclusions. Was simply reflecting and thinking about it this morning. I wonder if this is the way in which Chinese language proficiency usually dies. Anyone else had experience in that area? What is the first thing to go when you stop playing a musical instrument after years of piano or violin lessons?
    14 points
  3. I've been waiting for the past two years to go and see a Broadway performance in Shanghai after seeing Matilda but COVID has rendered that impossible. I decided to try out a Chinese production of Tennessee William's "A Streetcar Named Desire" at 上海话剧艺术中心 yesterday. First of all, the whole production was amazing. The performances for Stanley and Blanche were something else entirely and I've already purchased tickets to the Chinese production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." On the language side of things, though, I was stoked to walk out of the theater having understood nearly all of the performance! There were roughly three moments where I really just didn't understand a few sentences, one of which was a joke that got quite the laugh. Beyond that, though, it was all smooth sailing, even picking up on some new puns added during the translation to Chinese. I'm not sure when I crossed the line to being able to understand Chinese at this level (native speed, good enunciation, lots of colloquialisms, no subtitles/live, non-ideal listening environment with distracting secondary noises) but I'm elated that I have. This was a good boost as I've spent nearly all of my reading time this summer reading books in English despite originally having a goal of adding a lot of advanced vocabulary. Additionally, this was also a moment where I realized this is another way I can study the language in a rewarding way. I'll be purchasing the translation of "Death of a Salesman" to study the language in advance. Aiming for as close to 100% comprehension as I can get. I'll look for some quality Chinese dramas if the experiment with "Death of a Salesman" goes well. Are there any listening comprehension milestones that other's have passed? Did it just kind of sneak up on you or could you see yourself getting closer and closer to it?
    14 points
  4. I hired a calligrapher and created an animated Anki flashcard deck for learning cursive Chinese. It's available for purchase here. Like my HSK 3.0 vocabulary deck (which financed this project), I will be donating 30% of all proceeds to UNICEF.
    12 points
  5. I'm currently back in Texas because of the travel restrictions surrounding this Covid mess. Friends sometimes ask why in the world I ever liked living in a place such as Kunming. Lately, by means of reply, I've given several of them links to these picture stories about Tanhua Temple 昙花寺, one of my favorite easy places. It's a bit clumsy to reach by public transportation, no bus goes right to the door,. So I usually ride my bike. Only 15 or 20 minutes from my Kunming apartment. This quiet place hasn't made it onto the "tourist circuit," and I don't even find it mentioned in most English-language guidebooks. Admission is cheap. It's never crowded. When I started digging around in the forum archives for links to my write-ups of this peaceful place, I discovered I had posted about it three times, roughly a year apart. Not surprising, since I love to go there. Thought I would share these illustrated articles with you today, realizing that quite a few of today's members are new. Hope you enjoy a short look. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55348-a-minor-kunming-park-昙花寺公园/ -- Nov, 2017 https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57023-burning-some-incense-烧佛香/?tab=comments#comment-442020 -- Aug, 2018 https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59293-a-walk-in-the-park/ -- Nov, 2019
    12 points
  6. I could have hardly imagined the day, but 1200 pages later, I'm finally finishing the Three Body trilogy (Chinese edition) by Liu Cixin. I suppose it's been satisfying to read a critically acclaimed series in its original language, to feel each book getting progressively easier to read, and to grapple with ambitious, abstract scientific/philosophical ideas in a language that is foreign to me. By now, one would think I'm getting tired of Sci-Fi (and I am), but using the aid of the Chinese Text Analyzer tool, I've ranked the remainder of my library from easy to difficult (in terms of the percentage of unknown vocabulary). The next book is, therefore, "Cat Country" by Lao She (another space travel book), bound into a single volume with "Xiao Po's Birthday." I know a lot of people on this site have read Cat Country and think highly of it. I'm looking forward to it! I understand that even though the vocabulary is simple, the writing style might be a bit old and hard to follow.
    12 points
  7. Some Taiwanese podcasts specifically for Chinese learners (roughly ordered by difficulty): Inspire Mandarin https://inspiremandarin.com transcripts: no very beginner friendly Learn Taiwanese Mandarin https://lear-taiwanese-mandarin.webnode.tw/ transcripts: yes beginner friendly The Taiwanese Way https://www.thetaiwaneseway.com/ transcripts: yes Talk Taiwanese Mandarin with Abby https://talktaiwanesemandarin.com/ transcripts: yes Mandarin with Miss Lin https://www.patreon.com/MandarinWithMissLin transcripts: yes (paid, via patreon) 還可中文 Haike Mandarin https://haikemandarintw.blogspot.com/ transcripts: yes
    11 points
  8. Fairly early on, I stopped using firm goals such as Pass HSK 3 or learn 2000 words as my targets. I felt like they were too rigid, and although good as signposts, didn't really correlate that strongly to actual progression. Instead I started to use experiences, such as "being able to use chinese to order a coffee at coffee shop" , "first time able to only use Chinese with a language partner' or "first time giving presentation at work in mandarin" etc etc. In terms of how I study now, I've been at a fairly high level for a while now, having been working in a Chinese language office for last 2 years in Mandarin (having studied for 8). I can speak with confidence on all general topics, and so now to progress I just zone in on more detailed areas. For example last year I have been watching and learning in depth about the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" and all the vocab for that. How does it feel to be at a functional level? Honestly it feels great. It's the most amazing rock of mental health and satisfaction in life. To me (who only studied as a secondary thing, never my actual major) it is a shining becon of inner- happiness that noone can ever take away from me. Furthermore I have the most amazing interactions with people. The warmth and love I get and give to Chinese people here in the UK when I chat with them in their mother tongue is so rewarding. Like, if i start speaking Mandarin, you instantly see peoples barriers go down. Its genuinely the best thing Ive ever done with my life.
    11 points
  9. I can speak from a certain degree of personal experience, because I made the transition from graded readers to native-level novels about 1.5 years ago (I felt that graded readers stopped feeling profitable after the 2500 level). 活着 is a really great choice for a first book, and I think that with your level of vocabulary, you're in a good place for it. Granted, it's still going to be a grind. I had an HSK6 vocabulary when I read it, and I still had to look up about 750 words. I've read 8 different books so far, and they've averaged about 1200 new/unknown words for each book (although that number is falling off a cliff, because I'm encountering less and less new words). Using Pleco's clipboard reader (so I could quickly look up words with a touch of the screen and add them to my SRS flashcards) proved absolutely vital. Kudos to any of those old-school learners out there who managed to pull it off without any such tools. I've found that the most important thing to do (which, unfortunately, I didn't do) is to get a feel for the difficulty of a given book. You can analyze it with CTA, and you can also sample a few pages to get a "feel" for it. For me, anyway, it's never been a matter of vocabulary, because I can always look up words I don't know. Rather, I've found that some authors use really obscure, ambiguous, and/or literary sentence structures or phrases. Too often I would think, "Well, I know all the words here, but I can't make heads or tails of the sentences! I haven't even been tracking with the last 3 paragraphs!" Ultimately, I forced myself to slog through a few really hard books, when I really should have just set them aside and saved them for later. I know people often look for easy and/or good reads in these forums, so here's been my experience thus far, for what it's worth: 1. "To Live" by Yu Hua (really great for a first book) 2. "We Three" by Yang Jiang (crushingly difficult and quite a traumatic experience, though quite short) 3. "Three Body Problem" by Liu Cixin (a massive amount of vocabulary to learn--2000 new words--but it reads smoothly and has an English translation) 4. "Life" by Lu Yao (really smooth and enjoyable to read, like Yu Hua's book) 5. "Secrets of the Namiya General Store" (解忧杂货店) by Keigo Higashino (a popular Chinese translation of a Japanese book; another relatively smooth and fun read) 6. "Decoded" by Mai Jia (I thought I was getting the hang of reading since the Higashino novel, but this overwhelming book nearly did me in). 7. "Golden Age" by Wang Xiaobo (rumored to be an easy book, but I had an extremely difficult time with it and found the language quite opaque) 8. "Three Body Problem 2" by Liu Cixin (really easy and enjoyable by this point; I began to feel like things were taking off) I think I have passed the "peak" difficulty with contemporary Chinese, and it generally just gets easier from here, but in order to know for sure, I just need to continue. I haven't fully "arrived" yet. I wish you the best on your journey!
    11 points
  10. I have been following the goals for 2021 thread with fascination, though I didn’t get to the band wagon properly then. This time no-one seems to have set up a thread for goals for 2022 yet so here goes. My overall goal for 2021 was to begin reading books and begin to have meaningful conversations with my tutors all in Chinese. I largely attained those goals, but this time I wanted to make more detailed plans for 2022 so I can properly reflect on them later. Also, my goals are basically about keeping doing what has worked for me so far, though I want to make a little bit better commitment to writing in the future. I have planned different allotment of daily study time for each of the four activities (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) with their respective expected results. 1. Reading The goal for 2022 is to read 60 minutes a day, finish the first five books of the Wheel of Time and reach the average reading speed of 190cpm. This is basically what I've been doing over the last two months so this shouldn't be a problem. 2. Listening Listening is the easiest of all the goals for me to attain. I'm planning on keeping listening to my recordings of my chats with tutors and anything else I find interesting while commuting and taking walks for at least 60 minutes a day. I'm not sure about what kinds of results I should expect in a year. Also, my listening comprehension is already quite good, but I still can't fully understand random videos or podcasts. The main problem being the vocabulary, not parsing what I hear. So, I'll consider this a success if a year from now I can follow and enjoy an audiobook on a familiar topic, that I haven’t read or listened before. 3. Speaking Living outside of China, this is currently the most difficult one for me to get in larger quantities. I'll continue taking on average about 4 free chat sessions with iTalki tutors each week. I think four hours a week is a good compromise where I can afford them and I can also see real improvement over time. Each session will give me on average about 25 minutes of talking time and it also provides about the same amount of active listening practice. They are also the perfect opportunity for me to activate the passive vocabulary I accumulate from the input activities. I can now have these sessions completely in Chinese (a year ago I was struggling to switch over to Chinese from talking 80% in English myself) but I'm still at a loss of words with unfamiliar topics and I’m bad at explaining around the words I don't know, so I often must look up words or ask how to say an English word in Chinese. I expect to be able to reduce thinking time while speaking and to stop using English altogether. Also, I expect to see further improvement in my pronunciation. I'm fortunate to have two tutors who are quite strict at correcting pronunciation, and they tell me I've improved a lot over the last year, though it is difficult for me to notice myself. 4. Writing When I say "writing" I specifically mean "write with a pen by hand on paper". I found a good way to practice this by repurposing the vocabulary in context anki deck by Mandarin Blueprint to the purpose. The one I'm currently using has about 7000 sentences, 5000 most common words, and 1600 most common characters, ordered so that the cards gradually introduce new characters and words in context while repeating the old ones over and over. The original purpose is to cloze out a word in a sentence and then see if you know it or not, but since each card has audio, I tweaked it so that anki reads the sentence for me and I write it on paper only looking at the text if I run into a character I don’t know how to write. I'm not very strict about grading the cards since there is a lot of repetition in them even if I only always clicked "Good" on each card". I had good success with this type of practice earlier this year, but I got busy and stopped doing it. Now I'm going to commit to doing this for 20 minutes every day and I expect a year from now to be able to write about 5000 most common words and 1600 most frequent characters from memory. Having a passable handwriting wouldn't be bad either, so on the side I'll continue to practice with the handwriting practice sheets by 大块头. I also chat often with a few Chinese people on WeChat, but I'm often lazy and write to them in English. I've noticed that if I do that, they'll usually type me back in English, even though they know that I can understand anything they text to me in Chinese. So, I have also made a resolution to type everything to them in Chinese from now on. That should give me a hefty amount of additional Typing time, but I'm not going to plan for it. I’m going to try to estimate and keep a record of. Altogether these activities should give me about 1025 hours of Chinese study time over 2022 of which about 36% (365 hours) should be reading, 44% (452 hours) listening, 8% (87 hours) speaking and 12% (122 hours) writing). That is 80% input activities and 20% output activities. The writing section is the only new routine I need to establish, though I tried it for about a month already this year, and the listening part is the easiest to go over quota. It is all something I've done already and, while I don't mind any extra, I’m still going to make my best to hit each sub quota to keep the four skills in a balance. What are everyone else’s goals for 2022? 🙂
    10 points
  11. I've hit a new milestone in my reading! My study habit entails learning all of the words in a book on a chapter-by-chapter basis, and reading the chapters as I go. When I started with my first book (The Witches, by Roald Dahl), I was doing about one chapter per week. Now I'm on my fifth book (The Giver, by Lois Lowry) and for the first time since I started at the beginning of the year, I was able to cover two chapters in a single day! This is SO exciting for me. Slowly but surely, the frequency of unknown vocab is shrinking...I am definitely looking forward to the day when I am able to just lose myself in books. Eventually the day will come when a day's vocabulary quota (30 words) will cover five or six chapters...and this week's milestone was a huge step in that direction. What milestones have y'all reached (or are looking forward to)?
    10 points
  12. From the outstanding multi-media publication RADII ("an independent platform of artists, writers and creators dedicated to sharing vibrant stories from the rarely explored sides of new China"): 100 films that may help to better understand China. The list is split into 10 categories: Pre-War, Mao Years, Opening Up, Indie and Arthouse, Documentaries, Wuxia, Popcorn, China Today, Bad Movies, Animation. Where available, there are links to the individual films. The You Tube links I tried were working but unfortunately some links are region-dependent or no longer available. Be prepared to be disappointed. Even with unavoidable disappointments, this is a valuable list, and a real treasure-trove for China's pre-War films (anyone for melodrama?)
    10 points
  13. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/60490-test-users-for-online-class-system-wanted-free-classes/?tab=comments#comment-475544 After seeing the above, I tried out LTL’s system for online classes. I contacted Andreas for some free trial lessons. I have read his previous postings on the forum with interest (especially the home stay and Chengde) but never taken any lessons with LTL. My background prior to classes: 1. First started with online classes with an online school 2. Moved on to italki with most classes under community tutors and not following any structure 3. Long hiatus of taking paid lessons 4. Experimenting with language exchange and self study 5. Long breaks of no study 6. Speak Cantonese to good intermediate level 7. Recognising all characters HSK 4 is a bit difficult though the majority are recognisable. Never taken a HSK exam After discussion with Andreas, we decided to try out the HSK 3 lessons. We agreed it would be OK to ‘step down’ given my lack of a structured class in the past and lack of objective assessment of level of Chinese. Registration and password creation was pretty painless. I used an IPad Pro to register and somehow I managed to setup the faceID recognition that helps me login. Organisation Lesson for Introduction, HSK1, HSK2, HSK3 are available. Higher levels are coming later. These lower levels are small group classes to a maximum of 6 persons. You select the level you want and a small selection of suggested lessons at the appropriate level appears. You also get a summary of the lessons you have had before and a simple barchart of your progress in terms of lessons taken - it’s a simple thing but very helpful to be able to eyeball the lessons taken and whether you have repeated any lessons (come back to that later), When you go into booking classes, you see how they’ve setup. I don’t know how other schools setup their group online classes but once I worked out how they arrange classes, to me it looks good. There are multiple group classes available for selection during the day. For my Beijing time zone, there were even classes at 4am - logical if your target market is Europe. Over the 24 hour period, there’s a selection from 12 lessons throughout the day. If you decide 24 hours beforehand about taking a lesson, the available classes are reduced. I presume that no other students have booked that class (it’s still a new platform) and that some of classes have been cancelled to free up the teachers. If you want to book a class the next day, then it’s more than likely the class already has another participant. If you book 72h in advance, the lesson will still go ahead even if you are the sole participant. I had two lessons by myself with the teacher and that would be very cost effective. One lesson was with a student in Germany. Their system is relatively intuitive and straightforward to pick certain days to book a lesson(s) - e.g. every Saturday and preferred time slots. Then you can see what classes are available to chose from. Once you get used to it, it’s very efficient. Before you confirm a lesson, each choice has the lesson materials available so you can see if the lesson contents matches to what you want to learn or review. Overall, I liked the system. There was quirk where I thought I was selecting certain day but it was the reverse and I removed that day from my selection list. The lessons have the names of the teachers so I suppose if you have a preference for a teacher , then you could follow that teacher. I haven’t taken enough lessons to evaluate that fully. The lessons are also roughly classified into topics - practice, grammar, vocabulary. If there’s a particular lesson you want to take, instead of searching day by day for the next occurrence of that lesson, you to select it and then you can see every single day that particular lesson is held with its time slot in the next few months. Besides the learning materials, there are links to LTL’s own blogs. After your lesson, you can give an evaluation for each lesson. Unfortunately I missed evaluating one of the classes. You can easily see what lessons you have had in the past except for the one I just took - that particular one hasn’t appeared on the system which is a bit strange. One disadvantage is it’s difficult to cancel a lesson at short notice because you are the only person in a class. This should be less of a problem if a few students have signed up. Lesson experience As mentioned previously, I didn’t really know my level as I tend to learn by trying to experiment with sentences and learn by talking to people. That’s why my output is quite haphazard trying to sometimes translate from English or Cantonese style into Mandarin sentences. For two of the lessons, I was on my own. Thank you to those teachers for giving the lesson to only one student! The benefit was I had full attention and go through the lesson at my own pace. One lesson had someone from Germany. That’s the first ever time I had taken an online class with another person and it was useful to compare myself with another learner as I really don’t know how far I have come in the journey compared to some peers, especially with regards to HSK. To be honest, there’s quite a lot of material in the lesson. We went straight into it without messing around with nice introductions and small talk. I went through the lesson fairly quickly as I am familiar with the vocabulary. That let me focus better on grammar points. I thought my performance dropped for the lesson that had two of us - we took turns in answering and I would drift out of focus when it wasn’t my turn. Even on my own and moving rapidly through the material, that filled up the whole hour so I wonder how much material they can cover if there were four people in a class. As a caveat, at the end of the class, we went through the homework exercises as well so I must have got through the learning materials pretty quickly. The teachers were experienced and engaging. If the lesson is in the evening, my connection definitely was worse needing to switch to voice only over Zoom. That’s something I also noticed in the past a few years ago when doing my italki lessons where just voice would be difficult. At least my lessons now had clear voice communication and only video affected. The teachers didn’t spend much time correcting my pronunciation or tones. This was where my joint lesson became useful because I could observe another learner and she definitely required a lot more attention than me on pronunciation. Despite that, she managed to get through the material pretty well and I thought the teacher struck a good balance of letting her try and helping out. Looks like all that time I put in shadowing sentences on my own has helped a lot. One of the teachers said I should be at HSK 4 level but I was happy enough at these HSK 3 level classes as I could fully focus on the finer details grammar points without having to worry about problems with too much new vocabulary, pronunciation errors, unfamiliar characters etc. This fine tuning will help my delivery and fluidity of Chinese. On a learning satisfaction level, I would give a 5/5 because although I’m not learning new vocabulary, I am learning to use what I already know better. At this level, some of the teaching was done using English - not an issue for a group class. I could have handled more explanations using Chinese but each teacher was different and had never met me before. It’s reasonable to expect they would take a safer option. I am not sure if it’s a style of Chinese teaching but they don’t give much feedback on your performance in class. It is definitely a skill to provide constructive feedback that can encourage a student rather than discourage them so perhaps it’s a safer option to avoid it. Thinking back to the past, now I realise it’s rare to get any feedback for Chinese classes except “你的中文很好” which I automatically take no notice of. Summary It’s good. A lot of thought has gone into the design of the booking system and layout. For a new system built from scratch, it’s been done very well. The weakness of my review is that I haven’t tried other learning platforms from other schools making inter school comparisons difficult. I also only took the HSK3 level classes. I am not sure how other people react to having different teachers for different lessons - with the limited number of lessons so far, it’s a bit like University where a lecturer might come in for only certain classes. For any learner of Chinese and looking for online small group classes, I would definitely recommend them trying out LTL. They make it easy to choose times for lessons across the world, hence the description “Flexi class”.
    9 points
  14. Update: I took a 2 months break from Chinese, but now I finally finished all HSK 3 lessons (approx. 1500). It is by far the biggest section of TCB. I had completed about 25% of them already in 2020. The audio per lesson is about 2 min, so there are ~3000 minutes (50 hours) of listening. Here the statistics (known word count relative to HSK 2.0 (2010-2021)): Words: Total 261.963 Known 179.557 Percent Known 68,54% Unknown 82.406 Percent Unknown 31,46% Unique 10.712 Known 2.468 Percent Known 23,04% Unknown 8.244 Percent Unknown 76,96% Characters: Unique 2.785 Here the statistics for all lessons HSK 1-3 all combined: Total words 382.650 Unique words 11.759 Unique characters 2.930 I noticed I am picking up more when I watch Chinese TV dramas and even though I only read about 30-40% of the texts of the lessons, my reading speed and character recognition also improved significantly. OK, let's tackle HSK 4 lessons
    9 points
  15. I'm subscribed to about a dozen different Chinese YouTube channels, but my favorite, by far, is 李永乐老师. His content is extremely interesting and top-notch, and rather than simply build the subtitles directly into the video, he uses YouTube subtitles. That means that I can use the "Zhongwen Popup Chinese Dictionary" browser extension to hover my mouse over the subtitle text and get a quick translation of any words I don't know. Most other Chinese channels that I've seen don't really have that feature. That also means that when I want to practice without the subtitles, I can turn them off. It's perfect for learning.
    9 points
  16. I've achieved a big milestone recently. Up until the last few months my significant other(a native) would never speak mandarin with me. When I first started, I pushed it but she wouldn't budge. I let it go and decided not to push it anymore. Still had her mother to speak Chinese with. As I've improved, expanded my vocabulary, grammar etc, I casually - even accidentally would slip in some mandarin and she kind of naturally started replying in mandarin. It has happened quite naturally. Lately she's even been starting conversations with me in Chinese sometimes. Also, if she says something in English to me that I want to hear in Chinese or that is well within my understanding, I say "再说一遍“, she's a good sport about it and says it again in Chinese. Other than that, I'm still not pushing it. I also don't bother her with grammar questions and the like. Right now I suppose it's 25 percent Chinese 75 English, but a huge change from zero. I'm sure as I continue to improve my skills the percentage will shift further.
    9 points
  17. Hi All, Today I decided to start a personal website so that I could document some of the tips and tricks I have picked up over the past few years learning Chinese. I thought I would also share them here in case they are useful to anyone. Here is the first one: The Unexpected Skill You Need to Learn Chinese Over the course of my six years of Chinese studies, there is one skill that has most contributed to: (1) speeding up my overall language development, (2) making study more enjoyable, and (3) improving my real-world Chinese abilities. That skill is handling ambiguity. What do I mean by this? Let me try to explain with a story. When I first started learning Chinese, I would learn in a controlled environment familiar to many language learners—where I could force 100% comprehension of the material. For example, while reading a dialogue, I would stop reading to look up any word I didn’t know. While listening to a podcast, I would rewind it and re-listen to any section I hadn’t understood, until I could completely comprehend it. I made it a habit to understand everything, and, as a perfectionist, this seemed intuitively like the best way to study. Eventually though, these methods led to serious issues with my real-world comprehension. For example, when I tried to listen to HSK dialogues roughly at my level, my brain would “lock up” whenever I encountered an unknown word, and I would just focus intensely on that word and miss any content that came after. In a twenty-word dialogue, this could cause my comprehension to drop to < 50%, when it could have been as high as 95% had I just skipped over the word. This made it nearly impossible for me to understand Chinese in the real world. Ultimately, I convinced myself that I did not need to understand every word of the content to catch the basic meaning, and that I needed to actively ignore what I couldn’t immediately understand to focus on what I could. Specifically, I was able to train my way past this problem by (1) reading extensively without looking up unknown words, (2) listening extensively without rewinding; just focusing on what I could understand. These methods taught me to quickly infer meaning where I could, and skip over content where I couldn’t. As a result, I was suddenly able to make more sense of communications I couldn’t completely understand (most of them, as a learner), which is an invaluable skill when using Chinese in the real world. I recommend you try it out! Note: If you have any tips of your own, please add them below. Also, if you have any feedback, I would love to hear it, either here or directly on the post. My goal with this is to help create a smoother path for new learners, so they don't repeat the same mistakes I made in the past. Here is the link to the website, in case anyone is curious. I hope to post weekly (or so) articles from here on out. https://www.selfstudymandarin.com Thanks!
    8 points
  18. This weekend, for the first time since I started learning Chinese 2.5 years ago, I felt that reading Chinese is actually fun 😃 Today alone, I have read ~12000 characters covering about 45 TCB HSK 4 lessons. This may sound trivial to you guys, but it is the most I have ever read in a "day" (without any form of exhaustion). According to CTA the texts were at a 97.5% comprehension level. It took me about 4 hours (with some interruptions (emails, playing chess online, etc)). Somehow, this weekend something "clicked" and I somehow recognised characters much better than before. I believe a very important aspect of it is study intensity. I know many people believe in the "don't break the chain" philosophy and small steps will add up. However, for me, whenever I did some really intensive studying (>30 hours per week), I made the most progress. I have always struggled with character recognition and I never tried to learn them separately (Heisig, Tuttle). As you know, I love TCB, but one of its downsides is that "even" the "HSK 1" lessons cover around ~1400 unique characters (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/50831-the-chairmans-bao/?do=findComment&comment=478385). This can be quite much and I have voiced my frustration over characters before (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/13726-i-hate-hanzi/?do=findComment&comment=471032). Currently I am at TCB HSK4, which cumulatively has more than 3000 unique characters in the lessons I have read so far. Because of the intensive studying this week, I re-encountered lots of characters several times and therefore I managed to recognise characters much better. I wondered before, if learning vocabulary gets easier, once you are able to recognise 3000 or so characters (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59489-learning-vocabulary-after-knowing-3000-4000-characters/). I believe it does. For instance, I was able to identify each of the following individual characters and their meaning: 吸收 阳光 发电. From that I was able to work the meaning of the phrase even though I did not previously "know" that 吸收 together means "to absorb" and 发电 means "to generate energy". So, from the above my starting speed is around 50-60 words/min, which is pretty lame, but to me it really felt like I was flying over the words 😊
    8 points
  19. Followed some of the journeys of folk on here and it's definitely influenced my plans for 2022. 1) Loved Jan's posts about listening to ECB extensively., so I'm going to unapologetically copy and have this as my number one priority. Listening, a real weakness of mine. 2)Not as much emphasis on learning characters. Again, based on some of the wisdom on here. I think I have a decent grasp on the rules etc and can pick this up again later. 3) Travel to China? Very probably wont happen, I'm guessing. Who knows what the future holds, but 2022 looks very unlikely. Really want to spend some time around the Kunming area and immerse myself in the language now I'm likely to have more free time but might have to wait. 5) Still got my eye on a Chinese Diaspora course at Massey University. Might give thsi a go in Semester 2 in June if I have the time. 6)....keep logging on to this site. 7) Learn how to count as I missed out number 4). OK, not funny. Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!
    8 points
  20. Hi! I just want to share with you guys a list I'm using for my personal study. I downloaded subtitles from 61 dramas available on Netflix that seemed watchable (I omitted those in the horror, crime and fantasy genres) and used SegmentAnt + AntConc to find the most common words across different dramas. In this document you'll find all words that appear in at least 6 different dramas. That is, those that appear in at least 10% of the dramas in my database. Here's how I'm using this to study: -I deleted all of my existing Pleco's flashcards, including the default HSK cards -I then imported this list to Pleco as flashcards -While I'm watching a show, I follow along the script in Pleco document reader. You can download the subtitles as text using LLN or GlotDojo and then save as TXT so you can open them in Pleco reader. -When I stumble upon a word that is on my list, it will show a dotted square around the "add card" button. This way I know I've found a word I want to learn. -I write down the word, by hand, in my vocabulary notebook. -I then add the word to LLN's word list so I can later download Anki flashcards. -After watching, I review the words in my Notebook. -Later that day or the same day, I review the Anki flashcards. Note: Some of the words in this list are not in Pleco's free dictionaries. If Pleco does not find a word in a dictionary, it will obviously not be identified as a word in your flashcard database when you use Pleco reader. So the more dictionaries you have, the better this works. Another note: The list is ordered by Contextual Diversity, not by Frequency. Here you can find a scientific paper that will explain why Contextual Diversity is a better predictor than Frequency of whether a native speaker knows a word or not: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16984300/ I'm actually creating my own Spanish course for complete beginners, and the word list I'm using is also based on Contextual Diversity across different Spanish language TV shows. You can find the course I'm creating on my YouTube channel, Spanish Input. Chinese Netflix 10 percent words.ods
    8 points
  21. So, here is my reality check after 12 months: As some of you know, I have changed my goals to that of listening to all TCB lessons. I did this very intensively for about 3-4 months and completed HSK 1-3 on TCB and I am half-way through with HSK4 (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/50831-the-chairmans-bao/?do=findComment&comment=482025). Somewhere in summer 2021 I lost my Chinese focus due to relationship problems and I became massively interested in taking my English to the next level after reading Christopher Hitchens and feeling humiliated as to how many English words I (still) did not know. So, I have been inhaling several English books from authors such as Bertrand Russell, Theodore Dalrymple, Josef Conrad, etc and collected tons of new words and interesting expressions. I also started to read more books on psychology and philosophy (Rollo May, Nietzsche, Jung, etc). To my surprise, I found them quite accessible and it made me wonder if studying Chinese has made me smarter (?) Maybe, compared to Chinese, everything else becomes pretty trivial and a low-effort exercise (!?) So, since summer, Chinese has been on the back burner. I still passively listen to the old TCB audios for 0.5-1 hour per day, but I am currently at a crawling pace in my "TCB marathon". Nevertheless, it was a sucessful year: I am writing this sitting jet-laged and sleepless in a hotel bed at 4 a.m. Just 30 minutes ago I switched on the TV and to my surprise I understood remarkably much from the CCTV channel 4 news. I could pretty much always tell what they were talking about and very many expressions were familiar from TCB. I am far from understanding everything, but complete unterstanding no longer seems out of reach [this is after studying Chinese for ~2.5 years]. As for 2022: I will continue my TCB audio marathon and I will try to read more. My reading skills are lagging behind my listening. Reading still feels like a chore. Of course, I know what I would have to do: read and re-read easier material, such as TCB HSK 3 articles. I hope I will eventually cross the skill threshold where reading finally becomes fun and I can pick up new expressions on the fly as I do with English books.
    8 points
  22. He likes you. Whether he wants to date you may be another question, though. He may be hesitant to date someone from another culture: will it be difficult to adjust your various expectations, what will his parents think, how will you get along with his family, etc etc. Or he may be hesitant to date someone from another country: will he have to stay in yours, far away from his family and everything he feels at home in, will you move to his, and how would that work... (This is all assuming he is Chinese from China, staying in a different country.) Perhaps ask yourself these questions as well. You don't have to have ready-made answers, but give them some serious consideration. If you decide it's too difficult, just enjoy the little crush for what it is and let it brighten your workday and his. If you decide it's worth trying, perhaps ask him for coffee sometime, something really, really low-key, to build a friendship first. And are you bringing him small gifts and things to eat as well? He will read that as you liking him.
    8 points
  23. I have some advice! After reading your posts in this thread, I think your biggest problem is trying to read/listen/consume material that is too far above your current level. It's fine to do this if you want, but it will slow you down in terms of achieving your goals. I like to think of this phenomenon as the "race to advanced" which is quite common among Chinese learners, and something I suffered from as well at one point in my learning and it held me back until I got over it and started consuming things that I thought were too "easy". You mention wanting to acquire a massive vocabulary before going back to TV, and wanting a large vocabulary to help your reading comprehension, however you also mention that In which case vocabulary is almost certainly not the limiting factor in understanding - whether written material or listening. You could double your vocabulary and maybe all it would do is raise that 98% figure to 99%. That represents such a minute improvement in understanding (99 words out of 100, instead of 98 words out of 100) that it would be a colossal waste of effort to focus on vocabulary, especially when you already admit it comes at the expense of other activities. I suspect however that this 98% figure is not as accurate as you might think, namely because: Which to me indicates you are regularly looking up words to check, and relying on Pleco for pronunciation and meaning of words that you already "know", and that misleads you in to thinking you have such high comprehension. I put "know" in quotes because confidence in knowing a word is just as important as knowing the meaning and the pronunciation (see here for an expansion on this idea), and if you are clicking on a word you don't know it. This gets to what Insectosaurus was talking about with physical books being so useful, and I agree on that. It forces you to confront how well you actually know the words in the text and it can't be masked by popup dictionaries because looking up a word requires more conscious effort. I also agree with Insectosaurus that Pleco is still super useful even with physical books and I use it all the time too (here is my setup if you're interested). Coupled with your decision to drop flashcards, you'll just be exacerbating the problem by using a popover dictionary, because you'll end up not spending time on the words you almost but don't quite know. And you're not spending time on them because there are too many new words and it's mentally draining to review them all. And you have too many new words because the reading material you are choosing is too far above your current level. And that's the root of the problem. You can fix the problem by choosing easier material. If you choose material that doesn't require you to check so much, that in turn will increase your reading speed, which will allow you to get through more material and also consolidate the words and grammar patterns you already know. If you have a month to spend on hard-core study, I'd recommend doing something like what Jan Finster did here. Find a source of easy to understand material and start going through it. It will boost your reading and your listening skills significantly and flow through in to all the other areas you mention you want to improve. You need to consolidate the 12,000 words you already know, not add more to them. Definitely do not do something like this: That will just compound the problem - more new words, making it mentally draining to read and mentally draining to review. In the time it takes to read 1 difficult book, you could probably read 2 or 3 simpler books, and the latter will be vastly more useful for your goals than the former. You mention that But you don't have to give up reading them. You just need to wait a little bit longer until you can read them without it being so mentally taxing. Keep it all simple, and in 10-20 books time, things like 三体3 will be simple too, and you'll be able to read it (and books like it) without it being mentally draining and without it having so many new words and so many complicated sentences. Also do not do this: Review is super important for consolidating everything that you've learned. What I'd suggest instead of ditching flashcards is doing a much better job at curating your flashcards. This includes limiting what you add (you can still look up words, just don't add them to flashcards) and then also nuking your deck when it gets too large (for me, I define "too large" as taking more than 30 mins to review). Choosing easier material also means you don't have so many new words to deal with but still plenty enough to be learning from. Even if you went through HSK level1 material from TCB like Jan did, I guess you'd still find plenty of new words. With your current strategy, I expect you'll still be doing lots of lookups. Yes, you'll be better off than you would be if you'd skipped those words, but not better off than you would be if you'd chosen easier material that didn't require you to lookup or skip so many new words. This is because you aren't training what you want to learn. From what I can tell, you want to to be able to read without external aid, and to do that you need to train reading without external aids. If the content you are reading contains too many words that you are not sure about, and you need the external aid, then you need to drop down a level or two until you find the right balance and then work back up from there. As mentioned above, with a vocab of 12,000 words, vocab is likely no longer your biggest problem. Spending a bit of time focusing on reading speed could really pay off, especially as your reading speed is quite low, meaning it will be easy to get initial gains (see below for ideas on how to boost this). Active listening will always cause a lot of mental fatigue until you have spent enough time training it that your brain is no longer fatigued by it. Improving your vocab will help somewhat, but at 12,000 words, probably not as much as you hope. Once again a better strategy is to choose more suitable material. Definitely read more things like 活着 and less like 死神永生. If you do that, then before too long 死神永生 will be as simple as 活着. Trying to do it the other way around will take longer. The downside is sentence structure and vocabulary that is not found so much in regular Chinese. I like reading translated works, but I'd also recommend native material over translated material for your first dozen or so books. The translated books will still be there waiting once your Chinese level has improved. Some more thoughts based on comments from other posters. In my experience, it is better to spend more time on extensive reading. It'll be faster and more enjoyable, plus you'll be revising and consolidating your existing knowledge while also picking up a manageable amount of new vocabulary and grammer. This means you'll quickly reach the point where things that would have been intensive reading are now extensive reading also. The same will not happen if you put too much focus on intensive reading first. This is poor maths, because it is total characters, not unique characters. Divide by 10 for a rough approximation of unique characters, so it would probably be around 2,000 new characters/month and 60 new characters a day - still far too much in my opinion but nowhere near as crazy as the numbers you mentioned. Yep. I've not heard of Paul Nation before, but based on what you guys have written in this thread I suspect I would agree with a lot of what he says. "Deliberate noticing" is something I do when I come across a word I don't know, or almost know. When I look it up, I always spend time deliberating noticing the word - especially if it's something I almost knew, I'll spend the time time noticing what it was that I didn't know properly so that I will be able to know it properly the next time. I agree with this. The brain will take the shortest easiest path for doing something, and if you're constantly looking up words with a popup dictionary, it will decide it doesn't need to spend the time to learn them properly because you'll just be able to look them up quickly again when you need to. Adding in friction makes the brain put in more effort to remember things. Yes! Me. It works really well. Yes it does transfer - and you should constantly mix it up with new material to validate this. Definitely easy gains you are missing out on.
    8 points
  24. The reading marathon continues, and I just finished 草原动物园. I bought it randomly, without knowing what to expect. It's actually one of my favorite books thus far! It's a pretty interesting (fictional) story of an Anglican missionary from the United States who was sent to Inner Mongolia in the early 1900s, after the Boxer Uprising. He wanted a way to capture people's attention, and contemplated introducing Chinese people to this new invention of "film" by building a movie theater. However, the empress in Beijing passed away, and her personal zoo, filled with sick and starving animals and having fallen into disrepair, was being auctioned off. The missionary decides to adopt some animals for himself (an elephant, two zebras, a lion, a parrot, two baboons, and snake). He then takes an impossible trek to Inner Mongolia to build a zoo. His organization is infuriated, because they wanted him to build a church, not a zoo. The plot is a bit clever and funny in its design. Along the way, he confronts adventure, dangers, eccentric characters, and the religiously pluralistic society of Buddhists, Shamans, and Daoists, some of whom help him along. What was really refreshing is that I could actually understand almost all of this book--the previous two books I read were sometimes really unclear. The only downside is that sometimes, in these sorts of books, a character will see magical/fantastic/mystical things, and it isn't clear whether they're actually seeing them in real life, or if they're dreaming it, or imagining it, etc. Sometimes, an author leaves that intentionally vague, leaving you asking yourself, "Did that really happen, or not?" Well, since Chinese is only my second language, and I'm clumsy with it, those sorts of storytelling conventions can throw me off a bit. Along the way, I learned just under 300 new words. I'm now moving to Book #15: 皮囊 by 蔡崇达. I think it's a non-fictional memoir written by a person who grew up in poverty and has become rich and famous in China. It's a nice change of genre, and it looks like an easy and breezy read.
    8 points
  25. Nah I don't think there's any nefarious plan behind it, I think the primary aim is what they claim it is — reducing the social problems associated with cram culture. Possibly reducing foreign influence in education is seen as a desirable side effect, but I don't think it's the main aim. From that perspective (and despite having previously taught at a for-profit training school myself), I actually think they have the right idea. Kids should be allowed to have a childhood, not forced into the rat race before they can tie their own shoelaces. And kids from poorer backgrounds shouldn't be forced to shoulder additional disadvantages by not having the same access to extracurricular classes as their more privileged peers. Naturally the transition will be a little bumpy and there'll be cases of overreach. The CCP isn't exactly known for using a nutcracker to crack a nut if there's a sledgehammer within arm's reach. But IMO the overall direction is a positive development.
    8 points
  26. I’m not an expert because I’m still around HSK 5 level and decided not to follow the HSK route anymore. I felt unmotivated after I finished HSK 4 because I couldn’t string simple sentences, couldn’t understand most of TV shows, podcast and unable to read native materials. My listening and reading have improved a lot in the last year and my speaking even though still awful but compared to where I was in 2019 has improved a little. I personally think apps and textbooks start to get redundant around this level because you want to be exposed to as much native materials (or close to) as possible as there are so many words, phrases and sentence patterns that are not covered by HSK but used so much in everyday lives. For my listening, I just listened to a lot of materials. I used Chinesepod, so I would listen to 2-3 Chinesepod lessons a day especially their upper intermediate lessons because they speak almost entirely in Chinese for 15 minutes a lesson, but I mixed it up with Intermediate lessons if they get too difficult. Any lessons that I find hard, I’d listen while looking at the transcript and re-listen the lessons multiple times. Sometimes I would listen to one lesson twice in a day then move on to next lesson but go back to it in a couple of days, I just rotate them so I don’t get bored listening to the same thing back to back. The more I listen especially after looking at the transcript the more I understand. You can also do this with any podcast made for learners, Chinese Colloquialised is a good one, Talk Taiwanese Mandarin Podcast is another one I listen to. Now I listen to quite a bit of regular podcasts made for native speaker and I would say I normally understand around 85-90% of what they’re saying depending on the topic. Youtube is also a good listening exercise as they’re normally short and there are a lot of materials you can go through. For reading I started reading some comics intended for native speaker. The first couple of comics were rough, I didn’t understand a lot but then it gets better, with comics it’s good if you stick with a series because then there will be a lot of vocabulary repetitions. I mix these up with reading lots of graded reader materials Mandarin Companion, Du Chinese, even ones that I thought was slightly below my level, they still help to train my comprehension ability and solidify my knowledge. So far now in term of native materials I have read about 10 comics intended for adult readers (the reason why I specify adult here is because I have read a couple of comics intended for kids like Doraemon, Ironfist Chinmi, and they are a lot easier so they feel more like graded reader materials to me), 1 short story Lu Xun’s Diary of A Madman, 1 romance novel 蜜汁燉魷魚 and currently reading my second novel To Live by Yu Hua half way through. Now reading comics is fairly easy for me so it actually becomes my reward instead of struggle. My speaking is still rubbish, because I don’t practice as much as the above but I started to have 2 hours semi private lessons every week with a teacher now to improve. I still think it would be lagging behind my listening, reading and writing because I’m only exposed to such limited amount of time interacting in Chinese. In short you just have to do what you want to be good at as much as possible especially using native contents, because apps and textbooks are normally too rigid and limited.
    8 points
  27. I think this type of advice is helpful if and only if you've already learned the Chinese grammar patterns in question. Some relevant patterns here: Degree complement Expressing "even" with "lian" and "dou" Expressing "about to happen" with "le"
    8 points
  28. Well first of all, everyone has their own learning preferences, so what works for one learner might not be good for another. I know some people will disagree, but I found it unhelpful to try and learn radicals first, or at least learning them on their own. They don't have consistent "translations" and knowing what they're called in Chinese isn't helpful unless maybe you're advanced. You can't actually use many of them on their own. I found that I became familiar with them over time... some of them are very common (part 2, part 3) and they are easy to recognise just through seeing them all the time in characters. When you come across a new character which has a component or radical that you already know, that will often give a clue to the meaning or pronunciation, or both. Since 80% of characters are phonetic-semantic compounds, this covers a lot of vocabulary. What I've found most useful is exploring the combination of components in each new character. (As with the Outlier Linguistics explanations in their Pleco dictionary; Tofulearn also has this kind of information too). If you study a structured syllabus like HSK then vocab will be introduced in a way that builds on characters you already know. Most Chinese words have 2 characters, and again if you already know one of them it will help you to remember the meaning of the word. I am fussy about software tools and I've changed around quite a bit. When I started off I was using Skritter and learning to write all the characters, but I found that was just too slow for the progress I wanted to make. I decided I wouldn't focus on learning to write, even though I noticed some benefits, such as muscle-memory helping with recalling a character. Instead I only type now, which is pretty much the same as in my mother language (my handwriting is terrible, because I hardly ever use a pen any more). Then I started using memrise.com (website rather than app, which at that time was very clunky). I liked the HSK vocab lists on there because most of the words have native-speaker audio, and the vocab is broken into manageable chunks, at least up to HSK 3. But I found that the higher-level user-generated lists have a lot of errors, so stopped using memrise and switched to the StickyStudy app (iOS only). StickyStudy is much better designed, and also has native audio for most words. I found native audio really important for helping me to remember tones. I can usually "hear" the audio in my head when I'm remembering how to say it. (Sometimes I "see" the pinyin with tone marks in my "mind's eye" too.) My teacher told me not to worry too much about tones to begin with, and I found that helpful... after a while, hearing correct pronunciation, a lot of the tones just "come" naturally. One general problem is that when you get to HSK 4 and higher you have a lot of new words to learn, so they need breaking up into sensible sections. I ended up making my own HSK 4 lists for StickyStudy organised by chapter in the standard textbook. At this level and above you really need to be learning the vocabulary for a chapter before you start working on it. (In the HSK 5 book each chapter has 35-50 new words, and there are 36 chapters!) Currently I've got decks for the first 15 HSK 5 textbook chapters as well, because that's where I'm up to. I will probably change again at some point, but at present my workflow is like this, using Pleco and StickyStudy side-by-side on my iPad in split-screen mode: Study the deck for the textbook chapter that's coming up next. If there's a character I'm not sure about, I copy it to the clipboard and go to Pleco to see it in the clipboard reader, then look it up. Scroll down and hopefully there's an Outlier explanation of sound and meaning components. Continue studying the deck. Whenever I realise I am mixing up 2 characters that look quite similar (外 and 处 are a recent example) I make a note of them so I can review them later. I hardly ever make use of mnemonics because I find them too slow. I probably only use them for characters I get confused (as above), or for characters where there is no phonetic component. I also keep notes of all the words my teacher has typed in our Skype classes, although I don't make an extra effort to learn them. Plus I have a "master" text file with all new words I'd looked up, for example when writing homework, or preparing to chat about a certain topic in a lesson. HSK 1-3 is 600 words of vocab and after that things increase rapidly — HSK 4 adds 600 new words, and HSK 5 after that adds another 1300 new words on top of those. My study habits changed after HSK 3, and like I said earlier I found it essential to learn the vocab before starting each new textbook chapter. There are many approaches and many useful software packages, and everyone has their own preferences. I would suggest trying things out to find out what works best for you, and don't struggle with one approach that doesn't suit you just because someone else recommended it or it was written on a blog. You will probably change your tools and approach as you go along anyway. btw "millions", really...? What's the rush? Enjoy the journey, there's a lot of interesting scenery along the way!
    8 points
  29. This one is a bit of a complex case. I actually had to revisit a lot of the research on these characters to answer this question (and to make sure I hadn't made any mistakes in the dictionary entries), and I'm going to end up rewriting some of the dictionary entries for 尚 and 堂 just to make them more clear. These were actually some of the very first entries we wrote, 6 years ago or so. Short story: 堂 is 尚 (sound) + 土 (meaning). The fact that 尚's original meaning had to do with halls doesn't automatically make it a semantic component, because it had lost that meaning by the time 尚+土=堂 was created, so the person who created 尚+土=堂 could only have been using 尚 for its sound. Now for the long answer. Look at this diagram while you read the rest of the explanation, because it's a bit convoluted: Originally (early Western Zhou), 堂 was written 冂. It was just a depiction of a large hall. It sometimes had two vertical lines above it, as a decorative mark, especially when it showed up as a component of other characters. This can be seen as a branch of evolution of 堂, and this branch pretty much ended here. We'll pick 堂 back up in a moment. 尚 was created by adding a 口 underneath and two horizontal lines above 冂. It meant "to go up into a hall" (上堂). So, 冂 (堂) is actually a semantic component of 尚, and the mouth and lines served to distinguish it from 冂 (堂). However, when 尚 was used as a component, the 口 was often omitted. By the Warring States period, 尚 sometimes appeared with a third mark (a vertical line) above the 冂, which is the origin of the modern form. Another character (again, we're back in the early Western Zhou) was created by adding a foot underneath 冂. Later, two horizontal lines were also added to the top of this by the same process as for 尚, creating [尚+止] (but with no 口). Scholars transcribe this as 尚 over 止, but there's no unicode support for this character so I can't type it. Later in the Western Zhou period, a new form of 堂 was created by adding 京 to [尚+止]. 京 was a depiction of a building, while [尚+止] was used as a sound component. Note that this isn't a continuation of the previous form of 堂. This is a new form, and also a very short-lived one. Later, during the Warring States period, yet another reformation of 堂 occurred: rather than 京 ("building" semantic component) plus [尚+止] (sound component), it became common to write the character as 尚+土, as it's written today. The Warring States was a very turbulent period of character evolution, and most new character formations during this time were 形聲字 (one semantic component, one sound component). The important thing to note is that by this time (late Warring States, around 700 years after the 冂 form appears), 尚 no longer retained its sense of "to go up into a hall." It just meant "above; high; lofty; to go up; to exalt" and so on. So the people who created this new version of 堂 were highly unlikely to be thinking of the original meaning, or even aware of it. In their minds, they were using 尚 purely for its sound. Note: this analysis is largely informed by 陳劍's 2008 paper,〈金文字詞零釋(四則)〉 which can be found here. Fair warning: it's dense reading. Keep in mind that most characters are 1 meaning component and 1 sound component, and most sound components don't carry any semantic value. A character like this is basically signaling to the reader, "the word whose meaning has to do with X (the semantic component), and which sounds like Y (the sound component)." So it's not that "earth alone becomes hall," but that "earth" (semantic) plus [zh/ch/sh/d/t]ang (sound) equals "táng, which means hall." As for how 土 has anything to do with a hall, stamped earth was a common building material, as it says in our entry.
    8 points
  30. “A chord is like a family.” A video where I teach beginner jazz harmony in Chinese. https://youtu.be/qrq5dHundbc
    8 points
  31. @Jan Finster Must say I find that a really odd approach, but each to their own. None of the words is obscure and rural life might not be what interests you but it's hardly a niche aspect of the culture.
    8 points
  32. To be honest, it isn’t really sustainable for me to continue this way forever! I get up at about 6 AM, before my kids wake up, and I spend 60-90 minutes reading and/or watching a Chinese YouTube video. Then I go to work around 8:30 (I work partly from home, so sometimes there’s no commute). Combining my lunch and break times together, I can get around 45-60 minutes of additional study in. I like to go through my SRS cards while walking—it’s a great routine! Then in the evening, I eat dinner, do a few basic things, play with my kids, etc. Then I have 7:30 to 10:30 basically free, and I spend up to 30-60 minutes wrapping up my Chinese practice and the remaining time studying part-time (one course at a time) as a graduate student. If there are other big tasks that require my sustained attention, I do them on the weekend. In other words, I’m shaving years off my life expectancy! I don’t know how it is that I haven’t already lost my mind.
    7 points
  33. I suppose that now I'm in the middle of my 5th year of serious Chinese study (20-25 hours a week since Fall 2017). I studied very casually the year before that (maybe 3-5 hours a week) by auditing a college course from Fall 2016 to Spring 2017. So that provides context for where I am now! I tend to read 60-90 minutes a day (I've read maybe 40 graded readers, followed by 19 native-level books), review SRS flashcards 45 minutes a day (getting very close to 20,000 vocabulary flashcards), and actively listen to YouTube videos around 45 minutes a day. Reading Goals I want to keep up mostly the same pace I've been going, at least until this Summer. I'm in this odd halfway zone, where I feel like reading is getting a lot easier, but I still have some work to do. The easy/moderate native-level novels are feeling quite good, but the higher, more complex, more literary stuff tends to give me some trouble still. But of course--I've only been reading novels for 2.5 years, so what else would I expect? This year, I want to ramp up the difficulty and read some of the harder stuff (as judged by CTA's unknown vocabulary count): --"A Muslim's Funeral" by Huo Da --"Life and Death are Wearing Me Out" by Mo Yan --"A Fortress Besieged" by Qian Zhongshu As a "bonus" if I feel extra ambitious: --"Wolf Totem" by Jiang Rong --"White Deer Plain" by Chen Zhongshi And somewhere in there, I want to read Lu Yao's "Ordinary World," all three volumes. I think his writing style is much easier (so it might not do much to stretch my skills), but I've heard it's a very good book. And having read his other book, "Life," I believe it. All the above books are total behemoths and require a very large time investment to read. Up to this point, I've limited myself to 300-page books, on average. I hope that after this next big push, my reading skills will feel more confident. I'd like to get to the place where although I'm far from perfect, I do have a general competence in reading modern Chinese literature. Listening Goals I've had a pretty workable system, where I practice listening to Chinese videos with subtitles. Progress is slow and frustrating, but it's happening. I just need to stick with it on a daily basis. I deleted my English language podcasts a week or two ago, leaving me with only my Chinese ones (I'm having major withdrawal symptoms from the English ones!). The frustrating thing is that I can understand large chunks of the Chinese podcasts, but never enough to really engage with the content. I don't know if it will happen this year, but I'd really love to turn a corner on my listening skills and actually...well...understand stuff. Not just chunks of content, but long stretches. Without subtitles or repeat listening or other such aids. So this year, I'd like to just keep up the active listening for at least 30 minutes a day, using podcasts for passive listening. Writing and Speaking Goals This will hopefully be accomplished by sessions with iTalki tutors. At this point, I'll be stepping out of my comfort zone significantly. Quite frankly, I was procrastinating in getting to this step. To ease myself into it, I'll be doing an English and Chinese "exchange" discussion with a Chinese friend, starting next week. I've seen a few tutors on iTalki that seem really promising. With the many hours I've already invested in this language throughout the years, I don't want to stop short of speaking and writing. When people ask, "You study Chinese? Oh, can you speak it yet?" I don't want to have to keep answering, "No." I want to use the language and go places with it, starting with the large community of Chinese people already living around me. A week or two ago, I got into a conversation with a very lonely Shanghai man in his 70s or 80s who doesn't know any English and is living in the USA with his daughter and son-in-law. He seemed extremely happy to have somebody to talk to, but because of his accent (his original language with Shanghainese, not Mandarin) and the noise in the room, I could barely understand anything. It just felt really bad to disappoint him. Maybe if I keep practicing, I'll be good enough to engage with him someday! This year, I'll be happy if I've started an iTalki routine at all. If I'm having 3 sessions or 3-5 hours a week, that will be really awesome. I think this year could shape up to be an adventure, if I allow it to.
    7 points
  34. Well it's been a very long time since I've posted an update, so here goes. Just finished up the first semester of 4th year, one more to go which starts at the beginning of March. Should be graduating in July. We are still in Cambodia, for obvious reasons. I feel like my Chinese has gone downhill, simply because online classes just aren't the same as actually being there, and the environment here is nothing like as helpful for learning as being in China. Some classes were a complete waste of time. Learning about world literature in Chinese is interesting to a degree, but something I will probably never do again, and so I feel my time could have been used much more productively. With 30+ students in a class, the time to talk was minimal, and the exams were somewhat of a joke. It's always nice to get good grades, but far better when you feel like you actually had to work hard to get them, and the exams were a challenge. Currently writing my thesis on 《三体:地球往事》,which has been incredibly interesting and enjoyable. We have until June to finish the whole thing, and it's supposed to be around 10,000 characters (which really isn't many for a 'thesis'). I've written 13,500 so far and just sent it off to my tutor a couple of days ago. He said there are no major issues, just a couple of sections are a bit too short (comparatively), so I will go back and edit those. Feels pretty good to have the bulk of it done a few months early, and will certainly make the final semester far easier. I feel a lot more confident with my Chinese now, even though it has fallen behind somewhat, and when I think back to starting first year, the improvement has been vast. Certain tones are still a big struggle for me, especially when speaking fast. The 4th tone + 1st tone combination really trips me up! It's going to be great to graduate, but really for me the point was never the degree, rather I want to be able to converse fluently in Chinese, and continue to build on that in the future. I will give a full report when I graduate, but if I had to go back I would still choose to do the degree, as the benefits have outweighed the struggles and frustrations. At this point I highly doubt we will be getting back before graduation, and with having to redo visas for the whole family, quarantine, pay for flights, find a place to live again, I am actually quite relieved about that. Would love to go back to China, but not just for a few weeks before graduation. As I say, a more in depth review will come in a few months when I am finished, but just wanted people to know I am still here and still trying my best to study hard!
    7 points
  35. So I've decided to start learning a bit more Cantonese. So far I'm just using Pimsluer, and I'm about halfway through the series (only 30 episodes total). I have a much better sense for how words are pronounced now, where if I am talking to people on tandem I can often catch the gist of what they're saying as long as they keep it in short and simple sentences. I may look at some more formal materials after that which get into the Cantonese approach to written Chinese because I am actually really enjoying this process of learning Chinese from a different entry point. There are not very many though, because even in Hong Kong most people do not seem to view Cantonese as worthy of formal study. I had been looking for a third language to learn beyond the beginner level for a while and since Cantonese is so close to Mandarin that some people do not even consider it a separate language that makes it a pretty comfortable lift. In all honesty I feel like I have just installed an expansion pack into my Chinese journey rather than started a completely new language. In terms of applicability, that's an interesting one. Mandarin Chinese really has no applicability in my daily life. But when I go to restaurants and the Asian markets they are always speaking Cantonese. Sometimes I use Mandarin with these people but It's always kind of an awkward fit as they are always quick to remind me that they don't speak much Guoyu. So now I can just speak Cantonese with these people instead. So in an odd way I totally acknowledge that Mandarin is far more useful but it turns out that Cantonese maybe is more useful and satisfying in my current situation anyway.
    7 points
  36. I'm quickly coming up on that time when I reflect on this previous year and look forward to the next one! This year's goal was to read books, approach 20,000 vocabulary flashcards, and improve my listening skills. Since the beginning of the year, I've increased the amount of books I've read from 8 to 18. Admittedly, I've always been chasing a magic number: How many books do I have to read until I feel like a much more fluid, comfortable reader? I have to say that reading still doesn't really feel comfortable. I'm improving, and I have a lot of great moments, but there's still more work to do. I started the year with 15,000 vocabulary flashcards (which I review via SRS every day). Now, I'm approaching 19,500. Again, as with the number of books, I've been chasing after a "magic number." Laughably, there was a time when I thought that the 5,000 HSK words would be "enough." Now I'm discovering the sheer immensity of the Chinese language. I run into new words all the time, even as I approach 20K acquired flashcards. Granted, whereas I used to encounter 1000-2000 new words in any given 300-page book, I now only encounter 300-500, or even less. I still don't feel like I can fully ignore the dictionary when I read, but I am getting close. At some point, I'd love to encounter new words so infrequently that I can say, "I don't know what this word means, and I don't care to look it up. I'll just keep reading." Like a native reader would do, really. Last summer, I had the privilege of binging on Chinese YouTube videos and drilling them over and over. Since then, I have tried to maintain a listening habit of around 20-30 minutes a day. I'm convinced my listening skills have improved, but it just doesn't feel that way. My growth is never really felt. I guess that's how physical growth works, too. As a child, you don't feel yourself grow, but you can look back on old pictures and say, "Wow, I was a lot shorter 2 years ago!" Can I say in confidence that I can listen to Chinese and understand it? Ehhh...not really. Not without qualification, anyway. It's still tough. If I'm listening to slow and/or simple stuff, I can totally understand it. Otherwise, my comprehension fades in and out. For some reason, the motivation is still here, and I might as well take advantage of it. I have no immediate plans to go to China, and no practical use for the language. Improvement is really slow and no longer comes in quick spurts. The learning process can be endless, grueling, and sometimes really dull. But for some odd reason, I really enjoy it, and I think practice will pay off in the long term. This coming year should be a big one, especially if I incorporate more speaking practice.
    7 points
  37. I'm hosting a read-along of 活着 in December on my Instagram (@lang.dreams). Maybe some of you are interested to join? I hope the little self-promo is ok (it's completely free, I just want to provide some value to the community). To make things easier for everyone participating, I created Anki vocabulary decks, with the help of @imron's CTA, to study beforehand and while reading. I've created four different lists, each list is a stand-alone aimed at learners at different HSK levels (post-HSK3, post-HSK4, post-HSK5 & post-HSK 6). Each list contains the 450 most frequent unknown words, the learning queue is ordered by the first occurrence in the text. So for example, if you have finished HSK 4, then pick the post-HSK4 list. It contains the 450 most common unknown words that fall in the scope of HSK5, HSK 6 and non-HSK words. Download links for the Anki decks (it links to the Anki shared-decks page): 活着挑战 after HSK 3 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge 活着挑战 after HSK 4 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge 活着挑战 after HSK 5 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge 活着挑战 after HSK 6 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge One little disclaimer, you might have to delete some cards since they are auto-generated, so some easy or nonsense words have made their way into the non-HSK portion.
    7 points
  38. Hi all, I'd like to introduce you to the Laowai's Unofficial Chengyu Guide, a searchable online database that includes not only the translation of the story behind Chinese idioms (if applicable), but also usage examples, English-language equivalents, origin details, and more. I currently have about 110 entries, and I add a few entries each week. I've included some screenshots for 人山人海 (rénshānrénhǎi),马马虎虎 (mǎmahūhu),凤毛麟角 (fèngmáolínjiǎo),and 沧海桑田 (cānghǎisāngtián) entries below. If you check out the website, know that you can enter characters, accented or unaccented pinyin, and English into the search bar (see the full usage guide here.) I hope people find this guide useful! -- I'm always open to constructive feedback, and also I'm taking requests if you'd like me to make an entry for a specific chengyu. You can reach out here or email me at [email protected]
    7 points
  39. I continue to spend around 20 minutes a day doing active listening, and 90 minutes a day reading Chinese novels and collecting new SRS vocabulary flashcards. When I began last January, I said I would be happy if I reach 17,500 flashcards, but now I have over 18,500. I use a very simple SRS algorithm (in Pleco) that doubles the delay from 1 day to 2, 4, 8, 16 days, etc., every time I get a word correct. My strongest cards are delayed to 512 days. Likewise, when I get a word wrong, it cuts the delay in half. I guess I could have programmed it to be "smarter," but this system has worked very, very well, with an astounding accuracy (when I fail to remember a word while reading a book, I often see that word promptly come up for review in my SRS test--it knew I was about to forget the word). Right now, my review is about 200 words each day, taking about 40 minutes (so my study routine is roughly 2.5-3 hours). I think vocabulary acquisition will slow down, because I'm encountering less and less new words, and I would have to do a LOT of reading to maintain my customary pace of 15-20 new words a day. I am attempting an all-out effort over the coming months to perfect my reading skills as much as possible, so I'm finishing books at a much faster rate (I'm on my 15th book). Of course, each subsequent book brings about a lesser and lesser improvement to my skills. Borrowing from my own observations and those of other people in these forums, it seems like after 8-12 books, one can say, "I can read (just not very confidently)." After 20-25 books, one can say, "I can read fairly well, with some obstacles." After about 50 books, you're really starting to fly. By early 2022 (i.e., a few short months), I plan to be past the 20 book mark. I want to get to 50, but because that's such a long-term effort, I want to relax a bit and not burn myself out trying to get there. It will be a good time to start integrating other tasks into my study routine, having a better balance with listening, speaking, and perhaps even writing. To be honest, because I'm such an introvert, I have emphasized reading skills the most so far. But as that skill plateaus, I really need to start speaking Chinese more often, and perhaps seeing whether I can find someone to correct my writing/grammar. I have a friend from Tianjin who's willing to do a language exchange every week or so. Beyond that, I'll probably have to resort to iTalki or some similar platform, which I know isn't always an instant success, because you need to find someone who is personally compatible with you and does a good job. I think it will be the hardest part of my journey, but I just need to do it, likely starting next year.
    7 points
  40. You're definitely right to think there's a problem here. Personally I think the best way to learn vocabulary is a combination of (A) flashcards (or rote learning) and (B) seeing the words for real (e.g. in books you're reading). But if you're having to limit your reading just to keep up with your flashcards, then you will be limiting the potential encounters (re-encounters) with these words in real life. And you will be limiting the development of the faster reading speed and stronger language skills that should happen automatically to your brain when you read Chinese texts at the right level of difficulty. I would make two suggestions. First, instead of trying to learn all the unknown words in a book, just learn the most important. By most important, I mean words that come up frequently in modern Chinese, and also words that come up frequently in the book that you're reading. One problem with native material is that it will include lots of words that you won't see again for years and years, so the value of memorising those words at this point is questionable (unless you plan on repeatedly re-reading the book in the future). Second, if 15 words a day is a realistic daily limit, then absolutely keep to that. But don't stop reading just because you've got a backlog of words. Keep on reading regardless. If words are important, you'll see them again soon, so don't worry, it's not like you've missed your one chance to ever learn them. Five thousand words per year probably isn't at all bad, I reckon? And the more you read, the better you'll become at guessing or working out the meaning of unknown words, and that will improve your vocabulary. I use Imron's Chinese Text Analyser to analyse a book before I start reading it: it tells me all the words I don't know, and I then choose a certain number of those words that I want to learn before I start reading - I make the selection based on a combination of how often they occur in the book, and how frequently they occur in Chinese in general. During this time, I'll be reading another book, so basically I'm reading one book and at the same time learning some of the vocabulary for the next book I'm going to read. But even here I've fallen into your trap before: of delaying reading a book because I haven't learned the vocabulary (yet). It's a dangerous trap!
    7 points
  41. [Take the following with a big pinch of salt] In theory at every level of Chinese government there is a parallel split between the 党 and政, between the Party (党) and the ‘State’ (政). The Party decides policy and the State executes it. The 党 operates through committees, headed by a Secretary. The 政 operates though jobs that sound more familiar in English translation, such as Premier, Governor, Mayor. Although in theory they operate in parallel, in practice the holder of the top 党 job is senior to the holder of the top 政 job of the same level. For example Chairman of the party versus Premier of the country. And so on, all the way down. In the word 党政, the 党 comes before the 政. So at each level of government it’s the party committee that’s key. And the secretary of that committee is the main guy. But it’s not a completely clean break between 党 and 政: whoever has the top 政 job will typically also hold the number two job (e.g. deputy-secretary) in the 党 committee, where he is subordinate only to the secretary of that committee. Administrative levels The rough sequence below National level is Provincial -> Municipal -> County -> Township. Provincial: 省 Municipal: 市 County: 县 Township: 乡 (I guess then it’s 村?) And the principles generally apply throughout: the various committees (委) are 省委、市委、县委、乡委. Those committees’ secretaries (书记) are 省委书记、市委书记、县委书记、乡委书记. On the ‘政-side’ the top jobs all have a 长, so: 省长 (Governor)、市长 (‘Mayor’)、县长、乡长. Municipalities: 地级市 (shortened to 市) I had lots of trouble working out what a municipality is! And this is where most of the action in《秘书长》takes place. Official Chinese sources seem to translate 地级市 as “municipality”. The most accurate translation, word-for-word, of 地级市 is “regional-level municipality”. English-language sources like Wikipedia call them prefectures or prefecture-level municipalities. A 地级市 is a region “地” and its main city “市” that have been brought together to form an administrative entity. There are 293 of them: most cities you can think of in China (but not Beijing or Shanghai) are likely to be the city in a 地级市. They seem to take the name of their main city. So when you say “I’m just driving into Suzhou now” you’re probably referring to the city called Suzhou. But there is also a municipality called Suzhou, and it’s made up of both the city Suzhou and the surrounding area. So most of a Chinese municipality could in fact be very rural. A municipality is split into counties (县) and/or districts (区). They are below the municipality in the leadership hierarchy. Government/control of a municipality The Party runs the municipality though the Party committee. Municipality is 市 Committee is 委员会 Municipal Party Committee is 市委员会, i.e. 市 + 委员会. But it’s usually abbreviated to 市委. So: 市委 shì-wěi n. municipal Party committee The committee is headed by a secretary. Secretary is 书记. So: 市委书记 is the municipal Party secretary, i.e. the most important person in the municipality. On the ‘政-side’ in a municipality, the highest position is the 长 of the 市, so: 市长 shìzhǎng n. mayor. By convention whoever is 市长 will simultaneously be deputy secretary of the municipality Party committee too (there may be more than one deputy secretary though). 市委副书记 = 市委 (municipality+committee) + 副 (deputy) + 书记 (secretary). Committees These committees are themselves run by their “standing committees” where the real decisions are taken. I’m not sure if people distinguish much between the two in real life: obviously the secretary of the overall committee is also secretary of the standing committee too, etc etc. The ‘standing’ basically means permanent (as opposed to a committee that’s set up to organise one particular thing and later disbands). (常务gets translated in dictionaries as “day-to-day business; routine”, but here the 常perhaps comes from 常设 chángshè attr. standing; permanent.) They seem to have around 10 to 12 members. 常务委员会 chángwù wěiyuánhuì n. standing committee 常委会 chángwěihuì = the standard abbreviation for standing committee 常委 cháng-wěi = n. member of standing committee So, a municipal committee standing committee member would be a 市委常委
    7 points
  42. It seems to me that one of the main goals of HSK 5 and 6 is to equip you with vocabulary, or at least familiarise you with a lot of words, so just push through. Remember that important vocabulary will be repeated in later chapters too. Be careful of the trap of thinking that you have to master everything chapter 1 before moving on to chapter 2. I can't remember HSK 5 that clearly but I'm pretty sure that besides the "required" vocab, the exams includes a lot of "guess from context or just ignore" words, as does HSK 6. In your exercise book you can just look these up these unglossed words when you need to, then move on. If they are repeated in later chapters you can consider "learning" them, unless you've already learnt them just by seeing them in multiple contexts. I'm beyond HSK 6 level and am constantly staggered by the sheer number of words you need to learn to understand a language at a reasonable level (I think this might be even more so with Chinese). I would suggest adjusting your expectations to "learners can begin to read Chinese newspapers and magazines with assistance, watch Chinese films with difficulty, scrambling to recognise a few words in the subtitles to help them hold on to the plot, spending the first twenty five minutes wondering what the hell 心诚 means, only to realise near the end that it's part of the name of one of the characters." Jokes aside, in my opinion, to even begin to read newspapers, or comfortably consume any native content really, you need to be able to do HSK 5 fairly easily, and be well on your way to being familiar with the HSK 6 vocab, along with having the reading skills needed to do the exam to any acceptable level. Not to throw cold water on things (is that even an English idiom?), but native content is definitely harder than any language learner hopes. That's not to say you shouldn't be going for it. Just don't be fooled by the promises of HSK 5, even though I think it's a pretty good milestone in Chinese. As a side note, if you do want to consume native content, TV shows are the place to start. You get time to get used to the actors ways of speaking and the general vocab being used in the show. I think movies are mostly a waste of time for a language learner, and newspapers can be left until much later unless you are particularly interested in that. 家有儿女 is a great way to start. I watched 100 episodes before HSK 5 and don't regret it.
    7 points
  43. I appreciate this post, because my summer has been spent almost entirely on listening practice (90-120 minutes a day). I've read a ton of testimonies on this site about reading success, for instance, and it seems like most people follow a similar course. Once they start reading native-level novels, they feel "good" about their reading after 8-12 books. However, there are less success stories about listening comprehension--maybe because it's a more difficult skill to precisely benchmark, and also because many people either don't attempt it or give up on attempting it. My listening skills have been lagging, simply because it doesn't feel as good to practice listening. Whenever I would try listening to something (even lower-level material), it would go in one ear and out the other. My brain couldn't get traction. I only understood a word here or a word there, and it felt fruitless. When reading, on the other hand, the words on the page would be kind to me. They would sit still and give me plenty of time to comprehend them! Over the past four years, I have casually listened to Chinese podcasts--while mowing the lawn, driving in my car, going for a walk, engaging in repetitive tasks at work, etc. And it has indeed gotten me to an intermediate level. What used to be totally incomprehensible is now manageable. And I think it's due to, in large part, the interplay between reading and listening. I would understand many things while listening, simply because I encountered and grasped the language in a book first. But I've been meaning to get over this hump of intermediate learning. I need to just sit down, focus all my attention, and consume tons of audio content. To be honest, I don't know what to expect, or how good I'll be after the summer. June-August isn't a lot of time (Chinese study takes years, of course, not months), but I'm hoping for a little boost. Maybe someday, my listening will improve to the point where I can derive more benefit from passive listening--i.e., much like when I listen to English podcasts in the background while doing something else, I can (somewhat) understand Chinese podcasts playing in the background. Then I can reserve that more active/deliberate time for other things, like reading Chinese novels or speaking with a tutor. So these days, I grab whatever looks interesting on YouTube and make a playlist out of it. For each video, I try it first without subtitles, then again with subtitles (looking up unknown words and making Pleco flashcards out of them), then again without subtitles. The next day, I listen to it with subtitles, then again without. On day three, I listen to it once, without subtitles. I think it's slowly paying off! I'll try to evaluate my progress by the end of Summer, and then go back to focusing more on books.
    7 points
  44. Just a quick update: I am still doing the listening marathon with TCB and I am now at "HSK 3". Been quite busy lately, but managed to listen actively for about 1-1.5 hours per day and maybe the same amount passively (during exercise, cooking, etc). It is quite obvious that the so called "HSK 3" level of TCB is bigger step to take than the HSK 1 and 2 levels. In previous levels I could basically just listen and did not really have to read the text (unless there were specific words I did not know). Now with the HSK 3 level, I often have to read the text at some point to fully understand the content. The good thing about this, yes, I am getting somewhat faster at reading. There are about 1500 lessons in this level and I am about 1/3 done (533 lessons). The statistics for these 533 lessons so far are (known word count relative to HSK 2.0 (2010-2021)): Words: Total 126.577 Known 86.400 Percent Known 68,26% Unknown 40.177 Percent Unknown 31,74% Unique 7.120 Known 1.923 Percent Known 27,01% Unknown 5.197 Percent Unknown 72,99% Characters: Unique 2.280 As you can see, the total unique word count is already higher than the whole HSK 1-6 system. So, for everyone turning up their nose at TCB-HSK.3, it is quite clear that "HSK 3" at TCB has nothing to do with "the" HSK system. It is just the third level at CB. I am still feeling the progress, but I will probably want to stay another 1-3 months at this level to fully absorb it. Will keep you posted.
    7 points
  45. On my listening marathon, I just finished all lessons of TCB HSK 2 (~975). Since April 4th (I estimate) I listened actively for around 100 hours. Each lesson is around 1:30 min and I listened to almost every lesson at least 2-5 times. I did very little reading and no speaking. So, with the HSK 1 lessons I listened to in March, this amounts to approximately 200 hours of TCB listening since early March and around 2000 lessons total. There were several things I noticed: I become more "certain" of tones. So, there is less wondering if e.g. 圣诞 is 2 fourth tones or something else. Even though I did zero speaking during this month (apart from 2x 10 minutes or so of shadowing, or so), I come up with Chinese expressions in my head spontaneously. For instance I see a passion fruit in the super market and in my mind I go 百香果 (I did zero Anki or other flashcarding during this time) I do less translation in my head as I "just" understand things more. Even for words I knew, I learnt lots of new combinations. For instance, I knew the words "也" and "叫", but I did not know you could use them together as in 也叫 (a.k.a. (also known as), etc. Even though I (should) know most of the HSK 1-5 words, the genius of TCB is that they do not stick rigidly to the levels. As you can see below all HSK 2 lessons combined have approximately 4000 unique words. Since they are spread out over approximately 1000 lessons, it does not feel like "studying" at all. In case anyone is interested, here are the CTA stats ("known/unknown" is relative to HSK 2010-2021 vocabulary) TCB HSK 2: Total 76.603 Known 56.591 Percent Known 73,88% Unknown 20.012 Percent Unknown 26,12% Unique 3.974 Known 1.143 Percent Known 28,76% Unknown 2.831 Percent Unknown 71,24% Characters: Total 109.911 Unique 1.776 Here are the combined stats from all HSK 1+2 lessons (see post above) ("known/unknown" is relative to HSK 2010-2021 vocabulary): Total 120.687 Known 89.483 Percent Known 74,14% Unknown 31.204 Percent Unknown 25,86% Unique 4.767 Known 1.254 Percent Known 26,31% Unknown 3.513 Percent Unknown 73,69% Characters: Total 171.097 Unique 1.990 Starting TCB HSK 3 listening marathon tomorrow.
    7 points
  46. The former domain hanban.org is now being redirected to http://www.chinese.cn/page/#/pcpage/mainpage in line with the general re-branding that's going on. Hanban is now "Center for Language Education and Cooperation", and who knows what's happening to Confucius Institutes after the disastrous last couple of years in terms of PR. I emailed all the CI centres in the UK (because I happened to have their email addresses) to ask them about what's happening, and here is the first response, from Lancaster.
    7 points
  47. Not Chinese but Japanese. And no harm done. But nevertheless... It was many years ago. I was a university student and an old Japanese professor visited our department. Since I was the only one who could speak a bit japanese I was asked to help him connect his computer to the university network. It was a very specific pre windows japanese laptop, and after hours of trying and it getting late and us being the last two remaining people in the building I suggested to give it a break and try again tomorow. The nice elderly gentleman agreed and with really heartbreakingly optimistic smile addded in Japanese "And for sure: tomorrow we will have Seikō". And that was the point where I, well, panicked a little bit, since I had learned all important words and I knew for sure seikō 性交 means "sex". Putting on a poker face, some polite but hasty sayonaras and leaving the building was a matter of seconds. Later at home after consulting the dictionary I found, there's a homonym seikō 成功 which means "success". And that's what we had the next day.
    7 points
  48. As I said in my previous post, I want to set a general direction at the beginning of the year, and then tweak things on a weekly/monthly basis. I feel that introducing a single little positive change each week is the best way to go. Although it seems small, it's almost like compound interest in the way that it all adds up over time. This is what I did in January: Re-establishing positive habits that fell by the wayside during a lazy Christmas break: - back to fasting every other day and daily exercise. I still haven't gotten below my pre-Xmas weight (crazy how far you can slip back with just 2 weeks of stuffing your face), but I'm close. - back to reading 15-30 minutes of Chinese books a day before bed New habits established during January (gradually, not all at once): 1. Restricted reading or watching the news to a single day per week. I think many people are reconsidering their relationship with social media and the 24 hour news cycle these days, and I'm no different. I now spend just one single morning a week (Sat or Sun) catching up on the news, and that's it. There were so many times, especially in the first week, where my fingers would just instinctively begin typing in some social media or news site, so it was tough, but it's already gotten much easier and I feel much better for it. 2. Restricted logging on to Youtube to every other day. Although my Youtube watching now consists of around 50% Chinese language channels, it can still be an unfocused distraction. 3. Started creating flashcard decks in Pleco again. I've got a little lazy last year, not really looking up new words. I guess that's a good sign in a way, that I've been able to just enjoy reading/listening to Chinese without having to be constantly looking up vocab. However, although the volume of Chinese I'm being exposed to is probably enough to lead to plenty of passive learning of vocab, I think drilling some new words is still useful. Looking at my January deck, I only have 140 cards, so I haven't gone crazy with it yet (started halfway through the month). I do a test every day. Now on to goals for February: New habits I want to start in February: 1. Do at least 15 minutes of computer programming per day. I don't know why, but I just couldn't get back into coding last month. I was enjoying myself in December (you don't willingly start learning assembly language if you don't like coding!), but I seem to have some weird mental block. I used the "only 15 minutes a day" trick last year when I was struggling with getting into guitar practice and regular exercise (15 minutes is such a short amount of time that you have no excuse for not doing it, but once you actually start doing it for 15 minutes, you normally end up doing it for longer anyway), and hopefully it'll help me get over my coding-related procrastination this month. 2. Increase daily Chinese book reading to an hour per day. 3. Write Chinese for at least 15 minutes a day (another weird mental block I need to overcome) 4. Learn to cook at least one new dish per week. 5. Cut sugar out of my diet (I really do have an addiction!). I'm going to give up sugar for Lent, so this'll start on the 17th.
    7 points
  49. I'm a little late to the party, but here's mine. In some ways, 2021 looks like being a very depressing year for me. I'm back in the UK, living with my parents, no job, and not much chance of any of that changing due to the constant covid lockdowns. But on the bright side, it's not often in life that you get to be "free" like this, with 24 hours a day to arrange exactly as you please. I have a decent amount of savings and am getting enough unemployment benefit from the government not to have to use any of it, so I don't have any financial stresses. I even get on well with my family, so it's actually quite nice being back home again after so many years. Last year wasn't too bad for me, despite everything, and 2021 could end up being a great year, so long as I use all this free time wisely. I could even see my future self in 2025, burdened with all kinds of familial and professional obligations, looking back on this period with a huge amount of nostalgia. The big question is, what would I need to do this year in order for it to be worth looking back on with fondness, rather than as a wasted year? Main (and very general) goals for 2021: 1. Improve my Chinese (no surprise there!) 2. Become a competent computer programmer 3. Get in good physical shape 4. Become a very mediocre classical guitar player (an improvement from being an awful guitar player) Rather than set specific goals or set up detailed routines for the whole year, going by my experience of previous years I think it's better to do that on a weekly or monthly basis instead. Fist I want ot take stock of where I am at the moment: Chinese: While I could be wrong, I really feel that I am well past the dreaded "intermediate plateau". Looking back at my posts on here, I can now see that I was in that position back in 2017. That year, I meticulously worked my way through both a TV show and a novel, noting every unknown piece of vocab and posting it on here. Being a long distance travelling cyclist, I would describe that period as akin to pedalling up a steep mountain road - lots of effort expended for seemingly very little progress. Continuing with that analogy, Now I feel that I'm on a gently descending slope, hopefully all the way to my final destination. Although I'm not living in China anymore, I'd say that I'm still engaged with Chinese in one way or another around 3-6 hours per day, whether that be watching various Chinese language youtube channels, reading books, watching movies etc. None of that really feels like "studying" anymore, even though I always come across new words and phrases whatever I watch or read. I used to feel exhausted after engaging with native materials, but I haven't felt like that in a long time. That said, while I could now just take my feet off the pedals and slowly glide along, I'll still reach my destination much more quickly if I keep peddling instead. I think regularly improving my writing would be the best way to do that. Computer Programming: I learnt some python, HTML and CSS around 3 years back, but stopped so that I could focus on Chinese. With my Chinese finally reaching a level I was pretty satisfied with, plus with me having more time on my hands due to the covid lockdowns, I got back into at in the later half of 2020. I wrote a few games in python, and ended the year by learning some C, C++ and Z80 assembly language. I also watched all the Harvard online introduction to computer science lectures (among others). Although I ended the year strong, for some reason I haven't been able to get back into the swing of things since I took a break over Christmas. I need to fix that ASAP. Health and Exercise: I got pretty fat during lockdown, lost a lot in the last three months of the year, then put a lot of it back on over Christmas! I'm back into my pre-Christmas routine (fasting every other day, plus a mixture of pilates, yoga, running and body-weight workouts on a daily basis), and things feel back on track. I hope to reach my ideal bodyweight/waist size by Easter, and then will relax on the fasting a little and focus on building muscle rather than losing fat. Guitar: I set myself a target of 15 minutes of practice per day last year, and I managed that. It was the first time since buying the guitar many years ago that I actually got in consistent daily practice. I'm still at a very basic level though, so want to increase the time I spend practicing to at least 1 hour a day. I'll continue with the classical pieces, and hopefully add some flamenco in later in the year.
    7 points
  50. That explanation for 王 is correct. It was an axe blade, a symbol of power. The explanation for 主 (a candle) is an old one, which comes from the Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字. Unfortunately it's not correct. 主 was originally a depiction of a memorial tablet used for sacrifices to the dead. That meaning (memorial tablet for sacrifices) was extended to mean "god of a locale", then further extended to "leader", "ruler", then "prominent", etc. The two characters are entirely unrelated, despite their surface-level resemblance in the modern script. I try not to plug our stuff too hard here, but you can look up character etymologies like this in our dictionary for Pleco.
    7 points
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