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Chinese proficiency report 5

I have now studied almost two months at Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages here in Gaoxiong, and it’s time for my regular Chinese proficiency report. I think this is an opportune moment to do this, because I’m trying to change my studying strategy a little bit and it would be nice to evaluate what I have now so as to be able to make some comparisons later. Not much of interest has happened, but I seem to have survived my kamikaze attack on Chinese, rendering it something of a misnomer. I have passed the tests so far with quite a good margin, so I’m not that worried about the future. Let me continue with the evaluation itself.

Speaking: As I said last time, I haven’t experienced any great leap forward for speaking. This might be a bit incorrect, because the change of environment meant that the average level in my class became about twice a high. This means that perhaps my speaking has improved a lot, but I simply don’t feel that way. The situation is roughly the same as before. I can discuss most subjects I want to discuss, but I still lack a lot of key vocabulary. I have some fluency when it comes to everyday conversations or topics I have discussed before.

Listening: My listening ability has improved a lot, mostly because of the fact that the requirements have sky-rocketed the past two months. In the beginning, I thought it difficult to understand what was said in class, but now I can participate a lot more because I can follow the discussions more easily. Still, this listening ability is for fairly complicated Chinese and for people I know; I still find it almost impossible to understand even simply phrases if said out of context or as the opening of a conversation with someone on the street. After the initial confusion, I’m usually okay, though.

Writing: I have increased my efforts to learn to write Chinese (write as in compose text using a computer, not writing by hand), partly because of homework, but also because I enjoy it. I keep posting a few articles now and then on my Chinese blog. I feel that I have improved a lot in this area and that is quite easy to see if one looks at the earlier texts and compares them to the recent ones. The biggest difference is not in correctness, but in the subject matter discussed. I recently wrote an article about my reactions to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and even though I know I make mistakes, I can still get my meaning across.

Reading: By far, this area is the one in which I have made the greatest progress. Having text books that are much too difficult guarantees that I spend a lot of time learning to read and pronounce new characters, which indirectly also leads to improved listening ability. To compare some figures, my database now contains about 4400 words (compared to 3400 on February 25th). That’s roughly 20 new words daily! Of course, I’ve learnt much more than that, because the database only contains words I study formally (text books, mostly). I also did a quick check in my dictionary over the 3000 most common Chinese characters to see how many I knew, and some statistical extrapolation tells me that the answer is roughl 2100/3000. Needless to say, I do know characters outside the 3000 most common ones, but this is probably a fair approximation anyway.

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