So, on Sunday I reached the halfway point in my Challenge. If you read the last post, you probably saw that I was also part of italki’s February Language Challenge. First of all, I think it’s pretty awesome that I hit that 16 hour mark. Yay! However, keeping up conversation classes everyday wasn’t economically feasible and I was getting burnt out from doing transcription work. However, that did not mean I simply gave up on my Challenge. Instead, it meant I had to look for ways of spicing up my learning.
First, I thought long and hard about what my Chinese, in terms of my own personal goals, needed the most. It was actually pretty obvious from my stats. Can you guess?
You guessed it…Writing!
Basically the only writing I was really doing was on Skritter, and in all honesty, it doesn’t so much count as writing as practicing characters. Writing is, I think, one of the areas in language learning we tend to neglect the most. What’s interesting is that at higher levels such as high B2 and C1 in the CEFR, writing is one of the best ways of improving your use of the language, especially when it comes to the use of synonyms, linking words and general grammar.
My own experience in polishing my Spanish to full bilingualism was mostly through writing, wither academic or more casual. I can definitely say there is a big difference between my Spanish before studying a degree in Spanish and after. And although spoken and written language aren’t the same, practicing writing definitely helps speaking. I think a lot of people agree with me on this, but this is not to say you can’t improve your language to a high level through other means.
Improving your language skills through writing though, is a long slow process. It takes commitment and patience. But I was ready to up my game.
On italki I was lucky to find Freya, a teacher who offers a writing course. Let me just say, she’s pretty awesome and funny (grammar is more funny than you’d think). How does she help me study writing?
It’s pretty straightforward. She assigns a prompt and then I write a short text (+300 characters) and then in class we go over the text. With the corrections I then re-write it. Check it out:
I write it by hand because the HSK exams are by hand, but it’s also nice to see which characters you don’t know how to write. After this assignment it was clear that there were two points to review, so we spent two classes on reviewing the uses of 了 and the 3 “de” (的地得). This studying prompted me to study on my own and consult some of the reference books I have and don’t really use. There’s so much you can do with just one simple writing task!
A very important thing I’ve confirmed doing this challenge is that even though long term goals can be overwhelming, short term goals are more doable and help you avoid burning out. In this specific case, my long term goal is practicing Chinese every day for 100 days. At the beginning I was just repeating my previous study method, when I noticed I was slacking off I gave myself a more concrete task: transcription. Then, once I felt like I was getting tired of this I switched to writing and kind of passed the burden of how to structure writing practice to my teacher. I know that I can finish the last half of the challenge in this way. If I get tired of writing so much and studying grammar, I can switch it up and focus on reading a book.
What I stopped doing is multitasking. I no longer set simultaneous goals like I did before. I set a “focus goal” (listening now writing) then I choose the method (transcription now writing course) and I stick with it for as long as it feels comfortable. My progress is not fast, but the stats don’t lie:
With time I’ve increased my daily average from 40 at day 10 to 45 at day 30 and now 52 at day 50. Consistency really is key!