One Month Progress Report: Chinese is still Impossible (but I am failing upward)

I am one month in, so it is time for a look back on the progress, or lack thereof, that I’ve made in my Chinese studies. I’ve nearly met some of my goals. Others were completely missed or outright abandoned. Others still are new, added a couple weeks into my program. Needless to say,  The Plan no longer is, and I ought to update the My Method page.

Cool website/resource I found this month: zhtoolkit: tools for studying Chinese. His post on the Anki “Myth” is relevant to me and hopefully interesting to you.

ABCs (Hanzi) – Click this link to visit my the section of my original post about this goal. Pass. Grade: A.

Due to my poor arithmetic in my post The Plan, I had a monthly goal of learning 1400 characters at a pace of 50 per day. In fact, 50 per day would result in learning 1500 characters a month (of course). Thus, in 33 days I have come quite close to matching this goal:

 days = 33 Daily Goal Actual Daily Monthly Goal Actual Monthly Three Month Goal
Characters Learned 50 44 1400 1450 3000

At around 1500 characters, I will start learning 25 characters per day to reduce the load until I have finished all 3,000 of the characters in Heisig. At that point, I will maintain my flashcard deck and only sparingly add cards to it.

I don’t think I will continue to learn 25 characters per day. Since Beginning Chinese Reader has only 400, nearly all of which I know, and since I am only on lesson 23/48, learning more characters would be a poor idea at this point in time. Getting through 1500 means I know 1000 of the most common characters (which make up 90% of the characters encountered in written Chinese) plus another 500 of the most common 3000 characters. For now, this is enough. That said, I’m not making the decision to put a hold on character learning for the reason that 1500 is enough or beacuse I don’t need more right now. I’m doing it because my flashcard deck is demanding too much of my time.

Although I have taken to heart reader Dev’s advice on “pushing [flashcards] out as far as possible as quick as possible” to help prune “weak mnemonics and get proficient characters into long term memory (>14),” my daily reviews show no sign of quickly decreasing in size. They have stabilized at around 350, thankfully.

Anki's "Forecast" is a bit deceptive -- I will link to a fantastic article on that later! 700 reviews a day and nearly 10,000 cumulative is way too much.
Anki’s “Forecast” is a bit deceptive — I will link to a fantastic article on that later! 700 reviews a day and nearly 10,000 cumulative is way too much.
I can live with 45 minutes of review per day. I cannot live with 80 - 90 minutes of flashcards in total. Hell.
I can live with 45 minutes of review per day. I cannot live with 80 – 90 minutes of flashcards in total. Hell.
I'm predicting a bimodal distribution very shortly. Two massive hellish humps that I will occasionally have to endure.
A bimodal distribution with two massive hellish humps that I will occasionally have to endure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankfully, cards are beginning to mature. My number of correct answers remains very high -- if I altered the intervals a bit, I could probably decrease my review time at the expensive of my accuracy. Not sure if it's worth it.
Thankfully, cards are beginning to mature. My number of correct answers remains very high — if I altered the intervals a bit, I could probably decrease my review time at the expensive of my accuracy. Not sure if it’s worth it.
Here is my RSH deck for comparison. It has an average interval of 27 days and only around 20 - 30 are due per day.
Here is my RSH deck for comparison. It has an average interval of 27 days and only around 20 – 30 are due per day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Month 2 Plan: For now, I rest and recharge. It’s going to be difficult to restrain myself from learning any new characters for awhile, but I think it will be for the best. Maybe I’ll learn 5 – 10 new characters per day :). In any case, my original goal was 3000 in 3 months. I might still achieve that.

Grammar. Fail. Grade: D-

The Chinese Grammar Wiki was supposed to be my bible. It wasn’t. I started using Claudia Ross’ Modern Mandarin Chinese + Workbook instead. I was supposed to do 5 grammar points on the wiki per day. Obviously, I didn’t. Instead, I wanted to finish the first 17 Chapters in her text on the foundations of Chinese grammar. I made it up to chapter 11 and got sidetracked. I still learned a fair amount. It’s enabled me to be comfortable with DeFrancis’ grammar explanations, so this was a fail but not an egregious one.

Month 2 Plan: Review the chapters I’ve learned and finally get through those last 7. And I will continue to use it as a reference of course.

Reading. Pass. Grade: C-.

Daily Goal: 1 chapter of DeFrancis per day and maybe 1 chapter of Integrated Chinese every 2 days

Monthly Goal: Complete Beginning Chinese Reader Part 1, finish Integrated Chinese Level 1 Part 1 & 2

I am at lesson 24 of 33 in DeFrancis’ Beginning Chinese Reader, which means I’m averaged about 3/4 of one lesson per days. However, I am happy with my progress. If I were to go any faster, I would be completely lost — to see how lost I am now, take a look at some of the asinine questions I have been asking in a thread over at Chinese Forums. The first 7 – 8 lesson were laughably easy and required little to no extensive reading reading. Lessons 8 – 12 introduced reading passages and started including 20 – 30 new words per lesson. Lesson 13 – 17/18 involved a lot more reading, a lot more words, and a lot of unfamiliar grammar to me. The last set of lessons, 19 – 24, have been the most difficult but also the most enjoyable. From start to finish, I probably invest 2 – 3 hours in each lesson. It takes a long time to learn 40 new words a lesson, get used to new grammar patterns, and recognize characters in multiple contexts. I also find it quite fatiguing reading Chinese for an extended period of time. However, there have been times when I’ve read a couple pages in a row without having to stop and look up a word, mull over a sentence once or twice, or place a dot next to a passage that I need to re-read again in the future, and when that happens it’s almost magical.

I read one lesson of Integrated Chinese and then threw it in the rubbish bin (not really). I think I will go through IC once I am finishd BCR. Instead of IC, I have been reading John DeFrancis’ all-pinyin Beginner Chinese text, which complements his Beginning Chinese Reader. He outlines which BCR lessons to take after which BC lesson. I have completed lesson 14 in BC, which would put me midway through IC if I were sticking to that series.

Month 2 Plan: Finish BCR 1 (another 8 lessons). Get 10 lessons into BCR 2. Do 5 lessons of BC and go back and shadow + review all earlier lessons using the audio for the texts.

Listening, Speaking, Accent Formation. Mercy Pass. D-. 

Daily Goal: 50 Glossika Sentences, 2 Chinesepod lessons

Monthly Goal: Finish Glossika Part 1

I made it through all of Glossika Fluency 1. However, I did not do the GMS for most of the sentences. Rather, I have done the GSRs, so my speaking, accent formation, and even listening skills haven’t receive a huge boost. That said, based on my analysis of Glossika Fluency 1 – 3, Fluency 1 has at least 1000 unique words, so I have no doubt expanded my passive vocabularly substantially.

I barely listened to 2 Chinesepod lessons in TOTAL. I haven’t had the time or energy.

Month 2 Plan: Zerg Rush the Fluency 1 GMS over a period of 10 days. I know these sentences, but I need to start working on my speaking and active recall. Then, start 20 new GMS sentences a day from Fluency 2. No more Chinesepod for now. I can’t be bothered with it.

Time Commitment

90 minutes a day on flashcards.

120 – 180 minutes on reading.

30 – 60 minutes on Glossika (but while walking the dog, driving, etc.)

In total, I’m probably averaging 4 – 5 hours a day of Chinese. I should have more to show for it, but I think my progress has been OK. I’m reading somewhat interesting things in BCR. I understand 1000 Chinese sentences. I know 1500 of the 3000 most common characters. My overall goal for this month is to spend less time on flashcards and more time on actual Chinese. I don’t know if I will be able to stick to that because, as I said in an earlier post, flashcards are a dead easy trap.

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