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Chinese proficiency report 7

It’s been roughly five months since my last proficiency report (click here to go to my Studying Chinese page), mostly because nothing much happened with my Chinese during the three months I spent in Sweden (I did learn some vocabulary, but I also forgot a lot). Now, however, I’ve been back for more than six weeks, which isn’t enough to affect my language ability in a very significant manner, but still enough to write a post about it. This time I don’t have much of general interest to say, so I’ll jump straight to the evaluation.

Speaking: I keep changing which area I think is my weakest and right now I’m quite convinced it’s speaking. I don’t have as many opportunities to speak for longer periods with native speakers as I would like to, but I’ll try to increase the time as much as I possibly can during this semester. However, I do think that speaking has improved a great deal since May. I can speak in a fairly fluent manner about subjects I’m familiar with, but I still encounter fairly basic situations I find very difficult. I almost never fail to get my meaning across, though.

Also, I have spent time and energy to sort out correct Chinese pronunciation. We have a course with that name, which started with a short test to see roughly in what areas we needed to improve, and, not surprisingly, I only have some slight problems with the tones (I’m quite sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I plan to post a specific article about it soon). I have also told all my teachers to correct me as soon as I make any of these mistakes. Anyway, I now know exactly what problems I have (there are two) and I know what I should do about it. There will still be some time before I can take this theory and put it into practice, but if I’m careful and speak/read slowly, I don’t make the same mistakes I once did. My quest for perfect pronunciation has taken a big leap forward.

Listening: Last time I said that “listening is the problem”, a statement I no longer consider to be true. I spend many, many hours every week listening to Chinese and I can understand almost everything that’s being said in class, even though it’s probably harder that what I did earlier. Of course, people speaking with strong dialects is still a problem for me, but that’s true for English and Swedish as well, so I’m not that worried about not understanding random sentences said to me in the supermarket. I won’t have to focus extra on listening; I’ll hopefully get what I need through going to class and speaking with friends.

Writing: I haven’t spent much time writing Chinese, but since vocabulary increases all the time, so does writing ability. I have also read quite a lot, which should give me a better feeling about grammar and word usage. I’m still convinced that reading a lot is the right way to go for improving writing, but of course I also need to practice. Right now, though, I have too many things I want to write in other languages to let me focus on writing articles in Chinese, except for what’s required in our courses (those texts are published on my Chinese blog as usual).

Reading: I think reading is the area in which I have made the most progress over the past five months. I’ve gradually grown used to reading texts which were never meant for foreigners and I’m also learning lots of characters, which increases the likelihood that I might be able to guess the meaning of a word even though I haven’t studied it. I’m still far from my goal of being able to read the average novel or newspaper article, but I’m getting there and the goal is not as distant as it once felt. Speaking of vocabulary, I now have around 6400 word in my database, meaning 1000 new words, a lot less than normal due to the summer break. I both should and want to increase the tempo, mainly through studying Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 5 on the side.

A quick check revealed that I know slightly more than 2000 individual characters out of the 3000 most common ones, which seems roughly in line with earlier results (2000 and 1800 respectively). However, I’m amazed that there are so many characters among the 3000 most common, that I still haven’t even seen once. I think I’ve been learning lots of words, but not that many characters, perhaps. It should be mentioned that I don’t count a character if I only know how to write it and/or use it in a word, I only count it if I know what it means.

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