Chinese proficiency report 15

This is a report detailing my progress towards the goals I specified in January 2012. This won’t be a traditional proficiency report, because it’s primarily an evaluation of the goals mentioned above rather than an assessment of my overall proficiency in Chinese. I will start with a chart summarising the data, then move on to commenting the different categories and finally round off with a brief discussion.

This is what I’ve achieved in February:


Number of hours spent practising various aspects of the Chinese language in February, 2012. The total number of hours is 259.5 which gives an average of 8 hours and 6 minutes per day, including two days in January. Remember that we’re talking about pure study time here; breaks, transportation and similar things don’t count.

Now, let’s have a look at the individual goals.

Listening

  • Continue aural immersion (mostly passive listening): Not too many problems here. I keep listening to the radio quite a lot and even though it’s natural that an increase in active listening means less passive listening, I still estimate that I listen several hours a day to new material. I also pick up occasional words and phrases from background listening.
  • Spend 300 hours actively working with listening material: I’ve spent around 33 hours actively practising listening. this is quite good, although it’s much less than the two hours/day necessary to reach the goal before the end of the summer (I would have needed 64 hours for that). I’ve mostly transcribed news-related programs and then reinforced the knowledge through careful listening afterwards. I’ve also tried reading along without a transcript, which is really hard but feels worthwhile.
  • Listen to, transcribe and check 5 hours of news broadcasts (mainly from RTI): This goal isn’t very good, because when I wrote it, I thought I would focus on short news items, not fairly long “special reports” (5-10 minutes). Transcribing takes an awful lot of time, but I do think it’s very good practise. I will change this goal to “listen to, transcribe and check five hours worth of formal Chinese”. I have only managed a puny 16 minutes so far.
  • Listen to one audio book: No progress, I plan to wait a few months.

Writing

  • Spend 300 hours actively working with writing of any kind: This is going fairly well, but not well enough. I’ve spent around 41 hours writing, which is much, much more than even before (but still less than the desired 64 hours). Most of what I’ve written can be found on my new Chinese blog, but those hours also include written preparations for class and so on, which probably won’t be published.
  • Spend 75 hours practising handwriting: This isn’t something I’ve spent much time doing, actually. I’ve done some practising with Anki, but most of the 9 hours come from trying to memorise 道德經. To reach my goal, I would have needed 16 hours.
  • Update twitter account daily in Chinese (everyday language): This goal has been largely neglected, mostly because I have failed to find enough people that can correct what I’m writing. If no-one corrects the tweets, it’s more or less useless. I’m not sure how to handle this properly yet.
  • Summarise everything I read in some way (reviews, analyses, chapter summaries): This is going okay. My main method is to mark anything of interest I’m reading and then go through that again afterwards, writing summaries based on what I’ve marked.
  • Translate both my theses into Chinese (~60 pages about phonology): I have no plans starting this task yet.

Reading

  • Spend 300 hours reading any material: I’ve spent 45.5 hours. I feel that I lack light-weight reading material.
  • Study 漢語語法: Not started.
  • Study 華語文教學規範與理論基礎: Finished, but not summarised.
  • Study 漢字說清楚: Not started.
  • Read 國音: Not started.
  • Read 中國文化史: Read 12 pages out of 300.
  • Read 孔子的部落格: Finished and reviewed.

Vocabulary

  • Read, understand and take notes from the Chinese Synonyms Usage Dictionary: 50/500 pages
  • Read, understand and take notes from 漢字說清楚: Not started.
  • Increase the number of characters I know to 5500: Learnt 400 characters, deck total: 4650.
  • Keep queues in Anki at zero: Learnt 900 words, deck total: 20299.

Meta and misc

  • Read, understand and take notes from The Handbook of Second Language AcquisitionNot started.
  • Read, understand and take notes from The Phonology of Standard Chinese: Read 170 pages out of 350.
  • Memorise and be able to handwrite 道德經 in classical Chinese: Sort of finished with chapters 1-20 (1/4).
  • Apply for master’s degree programs, along with associated scholarships (deadline: end of March): I’m working on it. So far, no serious problems have appeared.
  • Complete my thesis and graduate: This is probably my biggest failure so far. I have written some, but I thought I would be finished by now. I’ll make this priority two (after above-mentioned applications) for the coming weeks.
  • Take the TOCFL test again, even though I have passed it: Not relevant yet.
  • Build up a queue of at least 20 articles ready for publication on Hacking ChineseI have 10 very rough drafts, but I need to spend more time on this.
  • Write Hacking Chinese book: Not started, at least not outside my head.
  • Make monthly updated on my progress on the goals in this post: That’s what I’m doing now!

Summary and discussion

As you can see, I’ve spent roughly 8 hours/day, which is what I estimated I would and should spend. However, as you can also see, this is not enough to finish 1/7 of the tasks above (quite far from it actually). The reason for this is that when I estimated the numbers for the above-mentioned goals, I didn’t realise that the meta/misc category would take so  much time. If reading, writing and listening alone takes up 6.5 hours per day, it’s simply not realistic to finish the rest of the tasks in the remaining 1.5 hours (remember that this includes completing a thesis, applying for universities and a scholarship, writing around 50 articles for Hacking Chinese, writing an e-book, and so on).

I think that the current pace is possible to maintain, although eight hours/day is a lot more than it sounds. First, this is effective time we’re talking about, I don’t count breaks, transportation or anything that isn’t pure studying. Second, I include every single day, not skipping my birthday, a short trip to go skiing and so on. I guesstimate that I spend 10-12 hours/day, including things people normally include in studying.

As a result, I will decrease all numeric goals with 25%. This means that there are 3.5 hours/day for meta/misc, which should be enough. However, my main goal is to spend 8 hours/day on average, regardless what I’m studying. If I end up failing a number of goals in September, but still have accumulated  ~1700 hours of study time, I will be very satisfied indeed.

The biggest change I will make for the coming month is that I will spend more time doing fewer things. I should spend much more time with my thesis to get that out of the way. I should also finish and submit my applications. After that, I can start focusing on other things. Naturally, I can’t work with these two things eight hours a day, so I expect next week’s studying will be varied, just not as much as this month. I also expect the meta/misc category to take up more than 50% of the total time.

Overall, I’m very happy with how this has turned out. I actually do what I want to do and I feel that I’m moving forward at a decent pace again. Of course, the journey is very long, but that’s okay, because the landscape is so beautiful!