It’s been quite a year. Some hightlights: finished my philosophy degree, started a masters in international relations, started a new job with an English teaching company, and moved into a more permanent apartment. All was more or less in that order. What I also did was take and pass (yay!) the HSK 4, it was mostly so that I wouldn’t lose the work I had done during the summer with my chinese language partner.
What I basically did to study for the HSK 4 was try to keep up my Skritter pile, watch some videos whenever I had the time on Youku, chat with friends on HelloTalk and take some simulation tests. One of the good things that happened by taking the HSK4 was realizing that I need to work more on my writing skills, they suck. Which brings me to this year’s plans.
One of the things that my work teaching English has really got me thinking is how to structure my Chinese studies. The thing is, in one year I will finish my masters and then be looking for a job, hopefully with a Taiwanese, Chinese, or Hong Kong embassy/company and that means having a good level of Chinese. I’ve had this blog on the low burner for a while not knowing when I’d really get into it again or how to give it my personal style so I’d be motivated to post more. Then, I got this e-mail from Sensible Chinese, which is a Chinese learning website with lots of great resources and courses, offering a great discount on their Learning Pack. What drew me to it were the reference grammar sheets, the offer was pretty awesome so I went ahead and bought the whole pack (the reference sheets were amazing btw). After going through all the contents I realized that there’s so much out there now for people starting out on Chinese. But what about those that have gone through the whole newbie stage and want to keep improving? You know, intermediate level.
Thus, this will pretty much now be a blog about how to get your Chinese from “Hi, I’m from…” and “where are you from?” to being able to have more interesting conversations. I’m going to have a post per week because now it will be part of my Chinese “study cloud”. Before I explain that, this November I had a visitor! One of my close friends from University, with whom I shared my passion for Chinese actually came to visit. He went on to actually study Chinese Literature and lived in China for 3 years and does a lot of translation work. One of the other things that I would like to do is have him do guest posts and maybe some video posts.
Back to the “study cloud”. It’s basically, thinking about all the resources I have at the moment and like/would like to use to study Chinese and I writing them down and circling them in “clouds”. For now I have an HSK 5 book a friend of mine got me from China, this blog, HelloTalk, Podcasts, Skritter, lang8, Diary, Chinese Through Poetry book, and Youku. Then, by each circle, or cloud, I write down how I want to use it and how often. For example, Skritter is a daily thing, while the Podcast is one per week. The idea is to always have something you can do, whether you have 5 min or 1 hour, and that you have resources that cover all of language learning aspects. Notice that for speaking I only have HelloTalk, so that would be one of the areas to find other resources. There’s also a lot more resources than aspects so that you don’t get bored and keep your learning dynamic. If you’re curious about my Chinese study resources, here they are:
Youku: I like to watch movies and work at the same time, not the English teaching work, but an internet job. I put on a movie on Youku, try to follow as best as I can and write down the words, phrases and expressions that I liked, the great thing about Chinese movies, series, and videos is that they almost always have subtitles. That also means you should be doing your listening with other things aside from these.
Podcasts: I used to use a lot of ChinesePod, but now that I read this article and this one on FluentU I want to go with a native podcast. I just started with 狗熊有话说 and it’s pretty cool, love the northern accent and it’s just a nice podcast about tech and language learning. I’m not sure what level I would put him, I understand about 85%, but then again I do a lot of listening practice.
Skritter: Unless you chat away all the time you should just use this, or any other flashcard platform/app with Spaced Repetition software.
HelloTalk: I like that it’s on my phone and there are tons of people using it. Finding a language partner is super easy, and of course, Chinese people go crazy when they see you write in Chinese. You can say something like 你喜欢看电影吗？and they’ll think they can just chat away like you’re a native, which means that it can be challenging.
Lang8: This is a great writing resource because you get great feedback.
Diary: A good way to express yourself in another language. Then, if you ever have doubts on how to say something you can always go on Lang8, a forum or ask a friend on HelloTalk.
HelloTalk: Reading chats counts as reading, right?
HSK5 Prep-Book: It’s a book all in Chinese that supposed to prepare you for the HSK5. I have only done one of the chapters so I’ll wait a bit before reviewing it.
Chinese Through Poetry: I’m a sucker for Chinese Poetry. This is a beautiful book, go click on the link and see for yourself.
Youku: Reading subtitles.
HelloTalk: Sometimes your language partner will want to send you voice messages. You should try it, too.
Podcast: I put this as part of speaking since a lot of podcasts focus on the speaking aspect of the language and the native ones, well, they are speaking.
As long as you set concrete and realistic goals for yourself all kind of resources will be useful. I find that having a lot of them available on my mobile gadgets helps. I can always just listen to a podcast or do more Skritter for 3 minutes. It’s making “not having time” not be a possible excuse.
Lots of plans for next year! We’ll see how it goes.