Quick update as I’m wrapping up my 2nd week of formal Chinese study.

Technology

I drastically narrowed the mobile apps I’m using to the following:
-Pleco – dictionary, stroke order, Live OCR add-on
-Translator app: Google Translate or Microsoft Translate
Anki – spaced repetition, flash cards

If you don’t have a tutor or course book, I would highly recommend both first. YouTube and “Learn Chinese” mobile apps are fun and entertaining, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed quickly without a lot of structure. I’m finding it more valuable to master the basics than to expand widely without understanding the foundations.

Words and Characters

I had originally set out a goal to learn 300 words for the HSK1 exam. More complex words are often 2 or more characters, so it’s reasonable to estimate this goal would be 500 or so characters.

I’m a few weeks in to studying and Anki tells me I already know 230 characters. This blew my mind. This also doesn’t include all the combinations of characters for numbers, months, days of week, etc.

I don’t think I’ll have any problem hitting my original goal. Measuring the number of words or characters is a fun fact, but in reality doesn’t really directly map to one’s ability to use words correctly in sentences. So, I’ll continue to monitor, but definitely no longer targeting a specific number goal. It could be 1000 by the end of the year.

Listening first

Per advice from my tutor (this is why you get a tutor), I have shifted my primary effort from word/character recognition learning first to building listening/speaking muscle memory first. For example, I had previously been approaching learning by mastering words by character recognition and then using those individual words to make sentences. For this reason, my reading/writing Chinese skill are actually pretty good. But when it comes to speaking, this tactical approach has been slowing me down.

Instead, I’m now working from the other way first: listening for “chunks” of sounds that are common phrases and learning to say those together well.

It’s important to do both, but starting bottom up has been more difficult for me for speaking skills, so this change has helped a lot.

Practice Practice Practice

I’ve been practicing speaking a lot by myself (early mornings and late nights) and listening to audio recordings that came work my coursework. But to get some more natural listening skills, I joined a local Chinese Language Study Group that meets weekly.

The group consists of varying degrees of fluency. Most people have been studying over a year, so I am by far a newbie. My vocab is massively limited compared to them, but everyone has been great about talking down to my level. It’s also good practice for hearing chucks of sentences you do recognize and trying to infer the remaining context.

Summary

All in all, making great progress. I am planning to make a video of myself soon, reading and speaking so I can measure progress. I can’t believe it’s only been 2-3 weeks of studying and can’t imagine what the next 4 weeks will bring! 再见!