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Chinese proficiency report 18

I have now striven for the goals I set up in January for almost five months. Even though I intended to study according to those goals until September, two things have made me change my mind:

  1. I don’t feel like keeping track of how much I study in such detail
  2. There is no way I will accomplish all the goals, some winnowing is needed

I will revise the goals and limit them to things that I can actually accomplish before the summer is over. If I don’t revise the goals, I run the risk of missing some goals that I deem more important than others. Because to be honest, even if I can improve my individual character knowledge from 4675 to over 5000 by spending a dozen hours or so, there are other things which are more important.

What I have done

Goals are dynamic, living creatures that need to adapt or face extinction. This is one of the major insights I’ve had into goal management over the years. No system is perfect and each system needs to either change or collapse. Sticking to goals that are no longer valid or relevant isn’t only stubborn, it’s stupid as well. I haven’t reached all the goals I set for myself, but I’ll show you briefly what those goals helped me achieve from February to the beginning of June:

  • Vocabulary work: 157 hours (~1.3 hour per day)
  • Writing practice: 128 hours (~1.1 hour per day)
  • Hand-writing: 20 hours
  • Reading: 93 hours (~0.8 hours per day)
  • Listening: 193 hours (~1.6 hours per day)
  • Other studying: 151 hours (~1.3 hours per day)
  • Hacking Chinese: 178 hours (~1.5 hours per day)
  • Learning 道德經: 18 hours
  • Administration: 62 hours (~0.5 hours per day)
  • Total: 1000 hours (~8.4 hours per day)

One thousand hours in little more than four months can’t be considered a failure. Sure, I spent time with other things than I thought I would and i haven’t completed even half the goals I specified, but I have still studied and learnt a lot. Note also that some aspects of learning haven’t been included, such as speaking and background listening. Anyway, the point here was to show that even if I now will abandon most of the goals, I don’t want to give people the impression that I consider these goals to be failures. They have served their purpose and it’s time to move on.

New goals to be achieved before September

This list of goals is much more limited and contains several items I consider very important (or essential) if I’m going to survive a master’s program taught entirely in Chinese. Therefore, these goals aren’t just guidelines, some of them are indeed necessary. I need to spend time with Hacking Chinese now if I intend to be able to post articles even if I have no time to write new articles during by first semester, for instance – 未雨綢繆. The goals are as follows:

  • Spend 60 hours practising handwriting (I need this, badly)
  • Spend 120 hours reading any material (for speed and vocabulary)
  • Memorize 道經 (that’s the first half of 道德經)
  • Study 漢語語法 (a comprehensive grammar handbook, mainly for vocabulary and reading practice)
  • Study The Handbook of Second Language Acquisition (I need a broader base)
  • Write 27 articles for Hacking Chinese (these will last until Christmas or thereabout)
  • Write some kind of Hacking Chinese book (type yet undetermined)

Why count time for the first two goals? Because I don’t write anything by hand if I don’t force myself to. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that I don’t do it. Counting how much time I have spent and see the accumulated hours rising (I use poker chips to represent hours) is good for motivation. I read even if not prompted, but much less than two hours per day. Note that this goal overlaps with the grammar reading.

Hacking Chinese means quite a lot to me and I don’t want the project to die simply because my mind is otherwise occupied. My plan is to write enough articles to allow me to last until January next year. Of course, I don’t think I will be so busy that I can’t write anything at all, but I don’t want to feel the pressure to have to write articles. The same goes for the book , which is okay to write now when I have time, but might be trickier to write later.

That’s about it, really, time to get started!

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  1. Sara K.’s avatar

    I in a way have the opposite problem … it’s much easier to get myself to read Chinese than to listen to Chinese. While there are practical reasons for this, it’s mainly because it is easier to find things I’m motivated to read in Chinese than listen to in Chinese. That said, there are times when what I’m listening to is motivating me more than what I’m reading, but usually the motivation factor is tipped in favor of reading.