2014-10-27

My Typical Study Schedule


What is your typical study schedule like? 

Traditional Chinese Food
I feel like us learners don't have enough examples of different study schedules. Either we sign up for a class and let them tell us what is best, or we buy some program, or book series and follow along with it's recommendations. I did a google search for "Chinese study schedule" and I was hoping to find a bunch of tabular schedules, but I didn't find much of that. I also, was hoping to find some sort of hard goals with these tables, but even less luck there. Being the nice guy that I am, I decided to share some of my previous schedules. I have ordered them by date. At first I started throwing them up there as I remembered them, but after I put up a few I started to notice some patterns. I'll talk more about my observations after the schedules. Also don't be scared away by the length of this article. It is mostly the lists.

Mizzou Beginner August 2012 - May 2013

Main Goal: Learn Chinese!
Hours Per Week: 15 - 20
  • Monday - Friday
    • Morning Coffee & Anki Deck
    • Instead of Lunch I spent an hour in Chinese Class.
    • 5-10 hours a week of Chinese Homework.
  • Tuesday & Thursday
    • Lab, practice listening and speaking.
  • Wednesday
  • Weekend
    • Usually 2 hours of homework.
This was an intense learning period. This is where I transitioned from that learner who starts and stops and starts again, never getting past a beginners level, to someone who made real measurable progress. We were doing a lesson every week, and if I remember right after every 2-3 lessons we would have a review week and big test. This period was intense since we were learning everything at once( read, write, speak, and listen), learning some grammar and devouring around 50 new terms per week. My goal was vague and open. I hadn't yet learned enough to really know what kind of goal was reasonable.

Taiwan Mandarin Institute July 2013 (Intense 4 week session)

Main Goal: Learn traditional characters, and practice understanding a southern accent.
Hours Per Week: 18 on the class, + ?? random daily interaction...
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday
    • 4 hours of class
  • Wednesday, Friday
    • 2 hours of class
    • 2 hours of homework
  • Weekend
    • Lots of time with my wife's family and no wife to interpret. :)
This was a lot of fun. I had reached a lower intermediate level before arriving. I could talk and be understood but didn't always understand the replies I got back. Everyday I made it a point to go out and buy something as well as try and go somewhere new or try something new. The lessons were interesting, and I think I gained a ton of passive vocabulary, and grammar, but since we were moving at break neck speeds It was entirely up to me to go back and review the grammar I had learned.


Mizzou Intermediate August 2013 - December 2013

Main Goal: Keep up with a normal speed conversation.
Hours Per Week: 8.5 - 14 + ?? passive listening...
  • Monday, Wednesday, & Friday
    • Morning Coffee & Anki Deck.
    • Listen to Chinese music while working.
    • Instead of Lunch I spent an hour in Chinese Class.
    • On my way to downtown I would stop at the Bubble Tea place and chat with the owners for 5 - 20 minutes about all kinds of things. 
    • 2 - 5 hours a week of Chinese Homework.
    • 1 - 3 hours a week on other Chinese learning resources.
  • Wednesday Night
    • Chinese Corner
  • Weekend
    • Usually an hour of homework.
After having the one lesson a week every week for two semesters in a row switching over to one lesson for every three weeks felt extremely slow. Our teacher use some of the extra time to explore some Chinese that wasn't covered in our textbook. We got some basic exposure to cheng yu. We also got to practice breaking down characters into their radicals and understanding some of the sound and meaning cues that can have. Because we were learning slow I felt like I should supplement my learning. One way I did this was by getting a second opinion on my Chinese level. I used the HSK for this. I prepared for, took, and passed the HSK 3 in November of 2013. Another way I did it was to review my old ChinesePod lessons and work through the Rosetta Stone software I had never bothered to finish. While working on that main goal it helped me realize I was usually getting tripped up understanding the conversation due to new vocabulary.

January 2014 - October 2014 ( Self designed and implemented) 

Main Goal: Understand >85% of a normal Conversation.
Hours Per Week: 13 - 16 + ?? passive listening...
  • Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday
    • 6:30 - Anki review.
    • 7:00 - Preview today's lesson or review the previous lesson.
    • 7:30 - iTalki lesson for an hour.
    • Work - Listen to Chinese music or news while working.
    • 17:00 - Casual conversation in Chinese with roommate/wife for 5ish minutes.
    • 18:00 - Dinner and a Chinese TV show. 非诚勿扰, 爸爸去哪儿, 中国好声音, and so on.
    • 21:30 - Reading some Chinese. Usually comics and don't look up new vocabulary.
  • Wednesday
    • 6:30 - Anki Review.
    • Work - Listen to Chinese music or news while working.
    • 7:00 - Casual conversation in Chinese with roommate/wife for 5-10 minutes.
    • 18:00 - Dinner and a Chinese TV show.
    • 21:30 - Reading some Chinese.
  • Saturday, & Sunday
    • Wake - Anki Review
    • Lunch, shopping, or some physical activity with Chinese speaking friends. 
In my iTalki lessons we went over the rest of the intermediate Integrated Chinese lessons. Then we started going over the PAVC books. So each lesson we cover is topic based. Between each lesson we go over a few Chinese short stories that are level appropriate. My Anki decks are a mix of the current words I am learning, and past words I am reviewing. It took me two tries to pass the HSK 4, but I managed it in August. This 85% in the main goal is based on my perception of what I understood.

November 2014 - January 2015 ( Planned)

Main Goal: Understand >85% of a normal Conversation.
Hours Per Week: 17ish
  • Monday, Tuesday, & Thursday
    • 6:30 - Anki review.
    • 7:00 - Preview lesson.
    • 7:30 - iTalki Lesson.
    • Work - Listen to more natural talk ( conversations, talk shows, drama's)
    • 18:00 - Dinner and a Chinese TV show.
    • 21:00 - Write something in Chinese.
    • 21:30 - Reading something.
  • Wednesday, Friday
    • 6:30 - Anki review.
    • 7:00 - Accent reduction.
    • Work - Listen to more natural talk ( conversations, talk shows, drama's).
    • Lunch - Go to a Chinese restaurant and order and maybe chat in Chinese.
    • 18:00 - Dinner and a Chinese TV show.
    • 19:00 - Work on Cousera courses in Chinese.
    • 21:00 - Write something in Chinese.2
    • 21:30 - Reading Ender's Game.
  • Saturday, Sunday
    • Wake - Anki Review.
    • Do a 50/50 language exchange over Skype.
    • Lunch, shopping, or some physical activity with Chinese speaking friends. 
In the coming months I am going to attempt to reduce my accent some, as well as try and keep in practice with my writing. The Coursera courses are presented by Chinese Universities and taught in Chinese. Since they are video's and text, I can spend as much time as I need learning the new words as they relate to the material. To do this I picked subjects I already know in English and enjoy working with. Yay! Free work related vocabulary.

Thoughts...

Some thing I noticed while doing this is that with each new schedule I have added some new or specialized independent study portion. I had other schedules that predate August 2012. They cover between 2004 and 2012. I intentionally left them out partially because I don't remember the details, but mostly because they were unsuccessful. If you fail, examine what went wrong and try again. 

Most of my learning has been topic based. Most of the topics have come from books aimed at college students. Due to this while I have a large vocabulary for a student it doesn't necessarily match up with an average Chinese person. This caused me issues when I took the HSK. I know a ton more words than required for each level I tested on, but the words required didn't match up with what I did know. Also a few months back I bought a frequency dictionary and I started thumbing through it. I made it to the 400's before hitting the first term I wasn't familiar with. I felt good about that, but as I got a bit farther out there were more and more terms, and sadly a lot of them weren't easily to learn nouns, or verbs. So while the topic based approach is nice, I am trying to figure out a way to create topics around these missing, high frequency words.

My hours seem to average between 10 - 20 a week. Usually on Holidays, and vacation I slack, but otherwise this is pretty accurate. I think iTalki is the website that I read 3 hours a week is considered the bare minimum you need to progress in a language. I dunno if that is true or not, but I try to put in at least 3 hours a week of learning from a professional teacher. With that three hours and my preview of the chapter we can usually knock out a chapter of the PAVC book every 4 lessons.

I could keep going but ya get the point. If your reading my blog and are learning a language I would love to know what your learning schedule looks like. Feel free to post it in the comments or if your too shy please e-mail me. developer /at/ peelle [dot] org without the spaces or the fancy stuff.

2014-10-09

Web Framework Size

The other week a coworker asked me "Why does our catalyst instance start at 150M of RAM per process? What is a catalyst Hello World's start size in memory?" 

I had just finished finding and fixing some memory issues we were having, so I was able to answer those two questions for him. That talk prompted me to wonder "What does an average web framework memory foot print look like? Is 10's of Megs or 100's of megs unreasonable?" I googled a bit but Google didn't like me that day and I couldn't find an answer that satisfied me. I did some totally scientific tests and I thought I should share my results in case someone else was wondering.

The Setup

Below are the results I got testing it on my Intel Core i5 2.8ghz 4 core with 8G of RAM running Ubuntu 14.04. If there was a quick start guide for the framework I followed it's directions. So whatever development server or command was recommended in the quick start guide to get a running server, is what I used. Below is an example.
>catalyst.pl hello_catalyst
>perl hello_catalyst/script/hello_catalyst_server.pl
>ps aux | grep hello
I copied down the RSS column. Then I load up http://localhost:### into my web browser and call the last command again. Then I copied down the RSS column again.

Results

ApplicationVersion Start SizeSize After Requesting / Note
Perl5.20.01840N/A
Catalyst5.900734943249800Most popular Perl MVC
Dancer22835631868A rewrite of Dancer 1.
Dancer12308824352Inspired by Sinatra
Mojolicious5.484672446792Modern replacement of CGI??
Ruby1.9.3p4844864N/A
SinatraV1.4.31796420120Lightweight
Rails44566859524Famous
Sizes are in kilobytes.
Yellow Dancer is Dancer v1, and Orange is Dancer v2.

Rambling

I picked these Perl frameworks because they are popular and my company might want to use them. I picked the Ruby ones because I was curious what a non Perl framework would weigh in at.  I didn't choose Ruby to pick on it, or exclude Python to hate on Python. This is a place of peace and love. If you happen to have done this kind of comparison for other frameworks, please post in the comments!

I did the size after request column because I noticed that some things were not getting loaded until first use. So while Catalyst had the largest start up size, after first use Rails was the largest, and Mojolicious had the smallest change in size.

These numbers might change some with a different configuration. My Perl version was compiled using Perl Brew, but my Ruby was from apt-get. Dancer 2 mentioned replacing defaults with XS versions to get more speed. I didn't do this, but I figure that could also change the memory foot print.

Conclusion

Seeing this reminded me of the olden days when I used to put .pl or .cgi scripts into the cgi-bin directory. Those individual pages that started, ran and stopped were so small compared to these applications we have now days.

In our case we have a fastcgi manager running X number of processes. Just by shaving a bit of start up size gives us a lot of memory back.

2014-10-01

Chinese Status Update Fall 2014


Welcome back. Glad everyone could make it. October is here, and I have gotten a lot done over the last couple of months. I figured it was time to update the blog. Lets see where I am at.

Goals Completed since my last status post:

Pass the HSK IV.
Visit Taiwan.
Beat the iTalki World Cup Challenge.
Learn more 成語.
Get some conversation partners.

I passed the HSK IV!! I posted my results on a Chinese learning forum I have started visiting. I did alright. I could have done better, and I will do better at some point in the future. One of my biggest faults is I try to do too much at once. I decided we could squeeze in a trip to Texas to visit my brother the days before, and that we could get up at 5 am and drive to Oklahoma from the Dallas area and I would be rested enough, and prepared.. Sometimes I do dumb things. 

We got to visit Taiwan the first half of September. I had a great time and some great experiences. The wife and I went back together this time. This time I wanted to be more involved in communication, which caused some friction. In all our previous trips together she would buy stuff I wanted for me, or translate for me. She was helping me out of love. This time, I wanted to use what I had learned, and learn from any mistakes I made on my own. We talked about it before the trip but, it was a hard habit for her to break. I also found I had a bad habit. Our usual method of communicating at home is English. When she would switch to English, I would switch with her instead of reminding her I wanted to communicate in Chinese. We both worked on breaking our habits, and are getting better at it. 

Some cool using my Chinese experiences I had while in Taiwan included:

  • Talking with an uncle about the religious, and emotional motivations behind the middle east terrorist groups. 
  • Seeing my wife friends that I have had infrequent encounters with over the last 12 years and who don't speak English, light up when they realized I understood them, and could respond. 
  • The hotel clerk and I lightly, teased my wife when she left me out of something. IMHO sharing a spontaneous joke with a stranger is pretty cool.
The other goals I have all talked about in the past. My iTalki teacher and I are steadily working through a book with 成语 and simplified versions of the stories that they originated from. I have marked this one off partly because I have learned about 20 now, and partly because this task will probably be one without a clear finish goal. As for the conversation partners, I have gotten a few online, but with my local friends talking with me more and more in Chinese this is getting easier.

Goals for the rest of the year:

iTalki October Challenge
Reduce my accent.
Read Ender's Game in Chinese.
Start writing regularly.
Work through PAVC 3.
Work through PAVC 4.


iTalki is having an October challenge. This one is smaller than the last but, otherwise similar. It is a 1 month challenge. I have already signed up and got my first 6 classes of October scheduled. While taking that I will continue to work through the PAVC books. 

Speaking of the PAVC books I only have 5 chapters left in book 3. I should have it done by the first week of November at the latest. I don't know if I will finish PAVC 4 by the end of the year. It is possible but I am not in a rush. These books have been interesting. What I learned and practiced in PAVC 3 before my trip directly helped my on that trip. 

I haven't posted much about my Ender's Game reading since the initial post. That project has taken a back burner most of the year, and seen little progress. Starting now, that changes. This also goes hand in hand with my writing project. I plan to start writing in some form to keep myself in practice. I am not sure if i am going to do private or public writings yet, but I am going to try and write a little something everyday.

Accent reduction is going to get some more attention. While I have been generally praised on my accent, there are some problem points I need to work on, as well as review the basics. I am going to practice Idahosa's flow stuff, pair testing like Wyner suggests for hard to hear sounds, and some tone drills. 

Thoughts...

Some of the things I am doing to learn are changing. In the next 6 months I plan try some different study methods, and focus on different aspects of Chinese. I read a book by Gabriel Wyner in September called Fluent Forever and it had some interesting idea's. Some of the things he said seem a little too good to be true. Rather than dismissing them, I am going to try them out and see how it goes. 

While I like the PAVC books and think they have their strong points. I also think their presentation of Grammar points can be bad. Specifically how they will go over the 12 minutely different ways of using X all at once. This is one place where I think the Integrated Chinese books excel. For this specific issue they have spread out the different uses over different chapters, with a quick recall note if it is needed. Since I already have the PAVC books I am going to finish them, but I am trying to attack the grammar in different ways.

Well there ya have it. More than you probably wanted to know. Wish me luck. I'll probably wait until January to post the next status update. In the mean time, I will review the book I mentioned, and keep you updated on everything else that is happening.