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Chinese proficiency report 2

Since the first report I have studied Chinese for two weeks. Before I tell you about how things are going, I am going to explain a little bit about how the course here works. As I said last time, it seems to be quite similar to my education in Sweden, with the important exception that everything is in Chinese, including grammar most of the time. Sure, sometimes the teacher resorts to English when everything else fails, but this is not very often.

For those of you who have not studied Chinese in Sweden with me and therefore do not know what it means that the two courses are similar, it basically means that we spend the lessons reading texts, discussing texts and explaining or asking questions about grammar related to the various chapters of the book. Conversations usually focus on topics mentioned in the book, but soon drift to completely unrelated subjects. So far, we have been revising the first five chapters (or rather, they have been revising, since I had never heard of the book when I came to Taiwan, most things are new to me). From now on, the pace will slow down since the texts and vocabulary will be new to everybody.

The book is very good compared to the books we used in Sweden (Short-Term Spoken Chinese Threshold and Elementary), mostly because the authors have avoided the ghastly mistakes made by the authors of my old books. Also, the English is as good as it gets, so no phony, complicated explanations of grammar that simply do not make any sense. Also, examples are provided for each new word, which is a great help.

Class normally begins at 18:30 and ends 21:30, which is both good and bad. It is good because it means that it is possible to do a lot of things during the day which would be more inconvenient during the evening or night (such as practicing or shopping). The bad thing is that most people are free only in the evening, so meeting them might be tricky sometimes.

Apart from that, I have been studying rather ambitiously on my own. My goal is to be able to catch up as soon as possible, meaning that I want to cover the two books preceding the one we are currently using. I am now finished with the first book, but since the second will be much more demanding, I reckon it will take at least another month until I am completely up-to-date. This means that I will know all the characters and have a general grasp of the grammar, but of course, it will require much more practice than one month to be able to use it. As it stands, I spend approximately ten hours daily studying Chinese, which for the moment feels great. I have not yet experimented enough with learning characters to be able to say something definite, bu I have devised a decent revision schedule; which looks like this:

So far, this seems to be working fairly well. I try to study a chapter for the first time before I go to bed. This takes roughly two hours (each green square). Then, the following morning directly after I wake up, I do an initial writing test (blue squares), meaning that I see how each character is pronounced and then I try to remember how to write it. This might take roughly an hour depending on what chapter it is. I then try to review the characters during the day just by looking at them (I have lists of the om my cell phone). Then, the next day, I do pinyin recall (yellow squares), which means that I see the characters and then write how they are pronounced. Such a check only takes about twenty minutes.

I have yet to figure out what do do in the long run, but considering the results for chapters one, two and three, it seems to be working pretty well. Progress is indicated by a percentage of completely correct answers. I also have a separate category containing characters I have written or remembered incorrectly from the third blue square and onward, because if I fail three times in a row, I feel that character needs special attention.

I have spoken much more Chinese during any of these two weeks than during my first, which perhaps is no wonder. I have so far found three people to do language exchange with, meaning that I teach them English and they teach me Chinese. Since I enjoy teaching English, this is a fairly good deal. It is very interesting to teach on a one-on-one basis with talented and motivated students. However, language exchange is something rather important, and, therefore, I think I will devote a separate post for that later. Let me instead sum up things for you:

Speaking: Last time, I said that speaking was a comparatively small problem. I was wrong. Speaking has been really hard, but I have done my best over these two weeks. I have felt frustration and despair during this time. However, yesterday, I spent five hours talking with one of my language exchange friends, and even though we of course spoke English as well, it still felt like a qualitative leap from earlier such occasions. Of course, I have a very long way to go, but I have at least begun to gather momentum.

Listening: Listening is much better now. I understand almost everything said in class, and if I do not, I do at least understand the general meaning of what is being said. I still have problems with out-of-context phrases (like somebody saying something to me in the street or in a restaurant), but if I sit down face to face with someone who speaks slowly, I am okay. It is not a qualitative leap compared to last time, but I can feel progress.

Writing: When I wrote the first report, my studying had no real structure. With a genuine idea of what I want (catch-up) and with a notion of how to achieve that, I feel that I have learnt very much. Learning characters takes a lot of time, but diligent and structured studying will take me there.

Reading: As with the other parts of this report, I am also much more optimistic about reading. Yesterday, sitting on the bus going home from the city, I realised that I can read a fair amount of signs, advertisements and so on. It felt great. Reading is like writing, but easier, so I hope to be able to increase my reading ability quickly. I have not yet begun to shift focus to literature exterior to our course books, but I will as soon as I have caught up.

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  1. Svante’s avatar

    Du är ambitiös hest.


  2. Xhakhal’s avatar

    kines hest. hoppla!


  3. Jason’s avatar

    Hey, so what’s this new book you are using that is so much better than the books from before (which i am just finishing “Theshold ?“)?


  4. Olle Linge’s avatar

    Jason: It’s called Practical Audio-Visual Chinese and I’m currently using the third volume, even though I have also acquired the first two. It is traditional Chinese, however, so depending on you situation the books’ usefulness might vary. I’ll review the third volume when we have completed it.


  5. Jason’s avatar

    Ah, i see. Yeah I’m on the mainland, so that wouldn’t be as helpful for me. I don’t really need to learn traditional characters, though I am really jealous of taiwanese or hong kong educated foreigners/asians when at KTV! Well, good to know there are some good resources out there, at least in Taiwan :)

    btw you probably have already found this but http://lazymammal.com/chinese/traditional/ has a flash-based vocab quiz with the vocabulary from your books (if i’m understanding it correctly). Not the best site ever but simple enough….