2018-03-25

Chinese Status Update March 2018


Wow, has it really been over a year since I last posted?! No worries, I'm settled for a while, and I plan to start posting again. I know, I know, promise, promises. Anyways I have started back on my studies at the beginning of February. For the time being I am staying put in Taiwan, and of course learning more Mandarin would be a great help.

So in February, once we got a bit settled I went about trying to evaluate my skills. Some things had atrophied, while others had improved. I found that since I had not been studying actively my reading comprehension had suffered, but too much. My writing, had suffered a lot. The first couple of lessons I spent a lot of time looking up how to write terms, as well as being reprimanded on my bad stroke order by my new tutor. My listening has continued to improve, and based on how people respond to talking to me I think my accent has gotten a bit better. I wasn't worried about my speaking ability because I have used it quite a bit while traveling. Outside the big four, the parts that I saw atrophy was, some lesser used grammar, and occasionally I am jumbling the order of a sentence. I think this may be a side effect of learning Japanese over the last year. Whether it is or not, I plan to step up and correct it.

After this self assessment I decided it was time to figure out some goals, and get some materials to help me push in that direction. Here follows my goals for the year.

2018 Goals:

  • Study from start to finish the Chinese In Motion two book series. 
  • Attempt to pass a high level TOCFL test in November.
  • Increase my reading speed to a level where I can follow your average TV subtitles.

So this Chinese in Motion series is extremely interesting to me. It was published by the same company that did the Integrated Chinese books. So far the IC books have been my favorite for learning Chinese. I should finish the series in June.

I like the book's topic matter. For example a deeper dive on cooking, and health. I also like a lot of the new words. With each chapter I feel like I can express myself in a more nuanced way as well as understand more nuanced speech.

Here is some numbers related to the two books.
  • Lesson Count: 24
    • It includes 8 sections with 3 lessons per section. 
  • Terms Taught: 1320 roughly.
    • They introduce around 55 terms per lesson. Many of these terms are new to me.
  • Grammar Points: 192 roughly
    • They introduce about eight grammar points per lesson. Some are very useful and I plan to add them to things I speak or write. Some are mainland specific, or of limited use to me. I am happy to learn them, but not too worried if I am unable to use them in my speech at will. 
The TOCFL is the Taiwan equivalent to the HSK. From what I have read, it sounds much harder than the HSK, but I have not taken it myself. I would love to pass the highest level in November, but there is a good chance that I won't be ready by then. If not I will attempt the second highest level, and use it as a benchmark. 

My choice in textbooks is not well suited for this goal, but I find this textbook much more enjoyable than the PAVC ones. I have only tried to map the first couple lessons but less than half of the word list matched the vocabulary given by the TOCFL test organizers. Also the book is in simplified, not traditional. I am not worried. June onward is the time I start focusing on this goal. I figure, once I finish the Chinese in Motion books I should have a better handle on the direction I should take to prepare for the test. 

For the TOCFL, I haven't gathered all the information I need about it yet. I may not even know enough to test either of the higher levels yet. What I can tell you is there is just under 8,000 terms in it. I am estimating that as of right now I probably need to learn around three thousand. For the related grammar I have no idea, but I will cross that road when I come to it. 

My last goal I think will come partially naturally. The more I read and write, and the more vocabulary I know, the easier it should be to read faster. I think to make it across the finish line I am going to need to practice some drills on how to read faster, and how much can I remember glancing at text for a short period of time. I will probably enjoy a bit of karaoke as part of the practice.

I am excited to see where this will take me. We'll see how it goes. I'll give another update in the Summer.