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Chinese proficiency report 4

Last time I thought it odd that a full two months had passed since the report before that, but the fact is that this time it’s been more than three months! I think a lot has happened in this time and if I want to keep any continuity whatsoever in these reports, I need to keep them reasonably updated. A new term has just started, but so far the new environment has had no chance to influence my Chinese (even though I’m sure it will soon enough). This seems like a good opportunity to shed light on my current Chinese ability.

There is not much to say in general about this, except that two months in class and one month on the road has improved various aspects of my Chinese (I wrote a separate article about travelling to learn languages). It was a well needed break and I now feel more motivated than ever to study diligently and learn as much as possible. Below, I refer to a number of methods and so forth, and I’ve elaborated on these before in series of articles starting with a text about attitude.

Speaking: I can feel no qualitative difference in my speaking ability compared to last time. Of course, that doesn’t mean that nothing has happened, but the feeling I have seems to be the same, and thus the change is quantitative. I can converse freely about a lot of subjects with reasonable comfort and fluency. Needless to say, I still make lots of mistakes and lack key vocabulary, but people understand what I mean, and with I usually get by with a little help from my friends.

Listening: At last, a quantum leap! During my vacation with my parents, I realised that I actually understood what normal people around me said, sometimes even when they speak with each other rather than with me. I still consider listening ability to be the most difficult part of learning Chinese, but I’m progressing. If it’s everyday conversation, I can understand what people say even if it’s spoken with accent and sometimes even if it’s fast. This feels very good to say the least! Hearing what somebody says without context is still out of the question, though.

Writing: I have now stayed with the same revision method I was thinking of when I wrote the previous report and it works very well. It doesn’t guarantee that I know all the vocabulary, but that isn’t the point. I’ve also started a new blog in Chinese to practise my writing, even though I’ve only written a few posts so far. In this manner, I hope to improve not only my ability to write characters, but also to compose longer and coherent texts.

Reading: The method I talked about last time, about not focusing on learning to write every character, but separating them into two categories (one for writing and one only for reading), seems to have payed off. I know a lot more words than three months ago, even though roughly 1400 of them I can only read and pronounce. My database contains roughly 3400 words in all (not individual characters, mind you) and it’s increasing rapidly. Before, I said that I could get the gist of stories, instructions and so forth only with luck, but today I think it’s fairly common that I get the general idea without using a dictionary. Reading is a gradual progression over many years, but I still hope to be able to read newspapers at the end of this semester.

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