Clear the List | A Monthly Goal Setting Linkup Eurolinguiste

Hey all! Welcome to our #clearthelist linkup (formerly known as Maximize Your Month).

For those of you just joining us, #clearthelist is a goal-sharing link up that I co-host with a team of amazing travel and language bloggers. If you haven’t met them already, they are Lindsay of Lindsay Does Languages, Esther of Local Adventurer, and Mariah of Food, Booze & Baggage.

We’d absolutely love for you to a part of our community. You can join us by adding a link to your own goal post below.

So let’s get started, sharing our goals and motivating one another to #clearthelist!

Please feel free to tag your posts or photos with either #clearthelist on your favorite social media channels!

Last Month’s Highlights on Instagram


Last Month’s Blog Highlights

I had such an incredible birthday month with a last minute trip to Beijing, China. I arrived on the morning of my birthday and spent the next five days exploring the city, immersing myself in the Chinese language, and eating so, so much food. I’ll share posts of my adventures soon, but until then, here are my most popular posts from the month of September:

My Maximize Your Month Language Learning Strategies & Goals

Last Month’s Goals

  • Finish up HSK 3 Memrise Deck. I am close enough that I’ll call it done. Plus, I’ve also nearly finished HSK for so I’m quite a bit ahead there. I’m now working through Mandarin word frequency lists to further round out my vocabulary and doing lots and lots of watering.
  • Do at least one real language update video. I did a video where I sang in French, but I’m not sure if I’d count it as a language update video.
  • Finish reviewing my previous Memrise Decks so I can add at least one new one. Sort of… The sudden trip to China with almost no access to internet kind of set me back a week.
  • Work through some of the new resources I’m excited about. I started to do this! I have a huge stack of new books that I’ve been working my way through. Finishing every book I own is on my Thirty by 30 goal list and I made pretty good headway this month with all the time I spent on airplanes.

This Month’s Goals

  • Start the HSK 4 tests. I still haven’t really arrived at the point I would have liked with HSK 3, but I need to keep moving forward. Last month, I went back and did some of the lower level tests I didn’t pass the first (or second) time around and on one I scored 100%, so I know my work is paying off even if it doesn’t really look like it when I look at it on a day-to-day basis. I’ll get there!
  • Finish one new Memrise Deck and keep up to date on the old ones. I’m undecided if I’ll start the HSK 5 deck or continue to work through frequency word decks. Maybe I’ll do both, but I’m only going to set a goal of finishing one.
  • Do a real language update video. Because really still haven’t done this.
  • Keep working through my new resources. Because I really want to share them with you!

My Language Learning Strategies and Updates

Here are some of the changes I’ve made to my language learning methods from previous months:

I went to China to get the full language immersion experience. One of the questions I’m often asked when people find out I’m studying Chinese is, “Have you ever been to China?” I can now finally say “Yes!” 

I had such a great time in China. The people in Beijing were really kind and it was fun getting to speak with them. Watching their faces light up when they found out I could speak Chinese was a wonderful experience and I had the chance to meet some incredible people.

You really get to experience places so much more when you speak the local language, and I had the chance to chat with people I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise by learning Mandarin. And that’s really kind of the point, isn’t it?

Language is all about communicating with others and on this trip, I really had the chance to get to do this.

One of my friends came down from Northern China to meet me and help me get around. It was nice having her there and she really encouraged me to initiate conversations that I would have otherwise shied away from. She also helped me navigate my way around food menus safely (I have food allergies and even though I learned the characters for the things I’m allergic to, you can never be too sure).

Resources I Used This Month

A quick recap on the materials I am using.

What I’m Using to Learn Mandarin:

What I’m Using to Brush Up/Improve My French:

  • Immersion (we speak franglais at home)
  • Reading books written by French authors
  • Listening to French radio/podcasts
  • FluentU

What I am Using to Learn Russian:

The Biggest Lesson I Am Taking Away from This Month

Language immersion abroad isn’t that different from the language immersion environment you can create at home if you work hard enough.

Plus, it’s a whole lot cheaper.

I traveled more than 20 hours on a plane to get to China to find out that the “immersion” environment was only slightly more intense than what I was already doing at home. The only real advantage true language immersion had was that it was more hours per day than what I can do at home before English or French find their way in.

In China, people still attempted to speak to me in English unless I insisted on using Chinese (I was able to get the receptionist to check me into my hotel only in Chinese, but the receptionist who checked me out of the hotel kept on with English).

More people also wanted to speak English with me (rather than Chinese) in China because they likely don’t have the opportunity to practice that often. In the US, those who are native Chinese speakers here use English every day, so it’s a nice break for them to use Chinese with me. In my experience, Chinese speakers abroad have been less likely to insist on speaking in English with me than those I met in China.

At the same time, however, there were still quite a few people who did not speak English, and so it really forced me to find ways to communicate. In an environment (like the US), where I know my friends also speak English, it’s easy to revert back to it when I’m not sure how to say something or when I’m trying to maintain the flow of the conversation. In China, that often wasn’t possible. I just had to keep talking until the other person understood me.

And a bonus takeaway!

When you’re working on listening comprehension, really make a point of listening to as many different speakers, of both genders, as possible. They really aren’t kidding when they say the accents in China vary immensely (and the same is true of other languages – not everyone speaks the standard dialect).

There were some people I understood without any problem, but others I didn’t understand at all (sorry to the kind woman who was stuck under the alcove with me in the rain).

By teaching yourself to listen to and understand different voices, you’ll better prepare yourself for real life environments. Not everyone speaks as clearly and articulately as the recordings that accompany your course book! Prepare yourself.

PS. Our new album First Class is now available on Amazon (and it’s been #1 in several categories for several weeks in a row)!  

I'm a language lover, traveler and musician sharing my adventures and language learning tips over at Eurolinguiste. Join me on Facebook for daily language learning and travel tips!

  • Beijing has SO much fabulous food!! When my sister and I were there {what seems like ages ago now!}, we spent a huge amount of time eating. They all wanted to speak English with us, also – which I was okay with, since my Mandarin might as well be nonexistent.

    I really, really loved your tips on how to learn a language where the writing system is different – and am so glad you’ve been sharing how you’re learning Russian. I’m working on learning it myself, but Cyrillic kicks my butt.

    • Cyrillic can be tough, have you downloaded the Russian alphabet worksheet I created? I keep it pinned to the wall above my desk so that whenever I zone it, my eyes are drawn to it and I review without thinking about it. It also helps because it’s one page a quick reference sheet.

  • Your point on accents in different countries is SO true. I always struggled with my French accent while in school (I double-majored in French and in History). Then I lived in France for two years. My second year I hit a pretty solid fluency, to the point that French people didn’t know where I was from. Depending on who I talked to, Parisians thought I was from Switzerland or the South of France. Turns out my French accent sounded like I was from the southern part of France that borders Spain… but American schools mostly just teach the Parisian accent. Since my accent wasn’t Parisian, it was “wrong” in class. While teaching in Niort, I met several locals and internationals through Couchsurfing. While chatting with one of them, who knew I was American, she asked if I’d studied in Toulouse, because my accent was from that region. Suddenly everything made sense to me!

    I still have no idea how I got that accent. Maybe my high school French teacher had that accent, and I just couldn’t change it.

    • Wow! That’s really interesting! Thank you for sharing your story. I think accents can be a funny thing. I’ve been told I have a Chinese accent when I speak Russian and a French accent when I speak German, but an English accent when I speak Italian (as opposed to American).

  • Happy belated Birthday!! What a great birthday trip. Sounds like it was fun and educational, that is awesome you got to try out your skills in China. Great point about the accents. Best of luck on your October goals.

    • Thank you! It was pretty awesome. Good luck with your goals this month, too!

  • I’m so glad you got to go to China! I’ve been a few times now and it’s one of my favourite places to go – and I’ve found that aside from Shanghai, outside of Beijing, it’s definitely easier to speak Chinese all of the time.

    Also this: “They really aren’t kidding when they say the accents in China vary immensely (and the same is true of other languages – not everyone speaks the standard dialect).” It’s so true! I went to Chengdu the summer before last and it took me a long time to get even a little bit used to the accent. It’s the same for me with Austrian German, too. I think it can be really difficult to learn an accent if you’re not able to go to the place where they use that one, though. But still – really good point.

    • Thank you, Charlotte! I am so glad I got to go to China and I already can’t wait to go back. I’ll definitely have to explore a little bit more outside the big cities so that I have a better chance of using Chinese. Thanks for the tip!

      Yeah, accents can definitely be a challenge. Even in Beijing, I heard so many different accents. I had a really hard time understanding some of the people that I met.

  • I had no idea you went to China until after it happened I think! Will you be sharing more about it on the blog? Hope so! 😀

    • I definitely will! Still catching up from while I was away and preparing for our next trip at the end of this month! But hopefully I will have a few things up soon.

  • Really interesting read your thoughts and experiences on language immersion. I’ve noticed the same thing that it’s almost harder to get people in other countries to speak in their language — most are just as eager to practice English!

    • I know! I was actually really surprised by this. I had experienced this in Paris, but for some reason I thought that was the exception. But there, I could blend in somewhat and it usually isn’t until I open my mouth and they hear my accent that I give myself away. In China, I often didn’t even get the chance to try Chinese out before English was made the “language of choice”. The only time I really got to speak Chinese was when 1) the person I was talking to didn’t speak English at all or 2) the person didn’t speak English well and they were relieved they could just use Chinese with me. You could actually see their expression change to “oh thank heavens she speaks Chinese”. Other people were really insistent on using English, though.

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