Chinese Summer Challenge Update

You can read the first article here.

After an ambitious six weeks of studying Chinese, my studies have gradually fallen off, and I am finding it harder to keep up with my reviews. I think I have several Hundred Anki reviews built up, and over a thousand in Skritter. In this Blog post I want to discuss the techniques I’ll use to get back on track. I figure my two main problems are running out of complementary materials, and getting overly ambitious, followed by immediately taking several days off. To get back on track I will catch up on all of my reviews, revaluate my goals, and restructure my study time so that I can meet my goals in the most efficient way possible.

After working through HSK 1, 2, and 3 Vocabulary in Skritter and moving on to HSK 4, I started learning words I’ve never seen before. Learning individual words on their own without context has made it really difficult to retain anything. Ideally all of my educational sources will work together to create a strong neural network. So that when I am trying to remember how to write a word on Skritter, a connection is made to a sentence I memorized from Anki, and to a conversation I had on Hello Talk where I used that word. It has been shown that the more memories you have related to one memory, the more likely you are to remember it. The Spoonfed Chinese Anki deck on its own does a great job of doing this, by gradually introducing new vocabulary, while reusing old vocabulary in new sentences.

Right before I started falling behind, I started upping my study goals. I was learning 60 new sentences a day on Anki and as many words as that on Skritter. This caused two problems. I started to feel burned out, and when I took a few days off my reviews built up very quickly because of all of the new material I had undertaken. As I got further behind, I started to feel more discouraged and less motivated to spend time studying.

To make my task more manageable I plan on catching up with all my reviews by the end of July, this gives me 12 days from the time I started writing this. This means I simply need to divide the amount of reviews I have by 12 and commit myself to shaving off one twelfth of my total reviews each day before I start adding new material.

Now, I need to restructure my goals. Although I would love to continue to use Spoonfed Chinese on Anki as my primary resource, it wouldn’t be helpful to my overall goal of passing the HSK 4 in November. I would like to return to the Spoonfed Chinese after my test so I will plan on keeping up with my reviews, I just won’t add any new words. I will continue to use Skritter to build my HSK vocabulary, but I will need to find new HSK 4 material to compliment what I am learning in Skritter.

I have two new resources, an SRS app called Memrise and the HSK 4 course book. The thing that is special about Memrise is that it uses user generated mnemonic devices to help you remember new words, every time you miss a word it reintroduces the mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices are really powerful and are used regularly by successful polyglots. The course book is pretty standard, it slowly introduces new words, with example sentences and an audio CD. I will use this in combination with help from my Instructor Dr. Hexian Xue. Having a native level speaker as an instructor, mentor, or tutor is vital. That is where we can help, The UI Confucius Institute offers University classes at all levels and entry level community classes in Moscow and Boise. We also offer Taiji, Chinese martial arts classes, and cultural classes. To learn more follow us on Facebook! We still have space in our fall classes, contact us or sign up through vandal web today!

I want to continue to use Hello Talk. Every single blog and book by successful polyglots I have read this summer, have one thing in common. They all heavily emphasize the importance of speaking the Language you want to learn as frequently as possible from the very beginning.

I will continue to use The Pimsluer audio series, I really like the convenience of the audio format. Pimsluer, takes up no time from my other goals as I listen to the tapes on long drives and when I’m walking my dogs in the evening. If you don’t like the Pimsluer series, ChinesePod is popular audio alternative.

I will no longer watch Chinese movies for the purpose of studying, there is simply not enough comprehensible input at my level to make movies useful. This term Comprehensible Input is an important one. It means that the material you are using to learn is understandable, but every word is not. Finding this sweet spot, is the most effective way to learn.

Update: I’ve almost caught up on all my reviews, breaking my reviews into small chunks made the whole thing a lot more manageable and has helped me become motivated again! Habits build slowly, but break down easily. Inevitably life happens, and good habits fall off. In that case I recommend coming up with a plan that makes your work load manageable, and ease yourself back into it. No language is learned in a days, months, or years, languages are learned over many hours built up through diligent and consistent work.



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