February Language Learning Strategies

We’ve arrived towards the end of month two of 2015 and so it’s time for me to share my language update and language learning strategies post.

For those of you new to my blog, I am currently studying Mandarin Chinese and Croatian. I plan to take the HSK test this December and so I am preparing for that test using a variety of methods. Even though I am studying two languages, my focus is on Mandarin.

If you would like to compare this post to last month, you can read my January Language Learning Strategies here.

My February Language Learning Strategies

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

  • Fewer lessons 🙁
  • Not a single chat with a native speaker
  • Forcing myself to use it every chance IRL
  • Creating scripts for short videos on Instagram
  • Practice tests and scores
  • More Assimil
  • #IGLC hosted by Lindsay Does Languages
  • Participation in the Memrise Language Challenge
  • No music, movies and games  🙁
  • Accepting that finding time to study language is harder some days more than others

Fewer Lessons

I had every intention of either increasing or maintaining the number of monthly lessons I completed this month, but fate has seen to it happening otherwise. My teacher traveled during this month and came down with a cold, cancelling lessons at the last minute a few times, leaving me unable to make other plans. I did manage to take lessons with another instructor on one of these occasions, but my schedule was tight this month and I wasn’t able to schedule lessons at a different time in most cases.

I take lessons through iTalki.

Not a single chat with native speakers

Once again, this task just wasn’t in the cards for me. My schedule didn’t leave me with enough free time.

Forcing myself to use the language more often

Because I was not able to plan as many chats and lessons as I would have liked, I had to get a bit inventive with using Mandarin as often as possible. Much to M’s annoyance, I would say things to him in Mandarin and then immediately self-translate it into French or English after just so I could get the practice in. I also improvised short monologues while I exercised, using even shorter versions of them for the IGLC hosted by Lindsay Dow.

Creating scripts for short videos or Lang-8

I decided to continue participating in the Instagram Language Challenge hosted by Lindsay Does Languages. Rather than post photos with new words, however, I sought to incorporate the new words into a short script and post a video. You can check out my progress here.

Practice Tests

My goal is to arrive at a new level (according to HSK testing) in Mandarin every three months. That means that I need to pass the practice tests for each level by the end of March. I have yet to get a passing score (my best was five points shy). I have also noticed that my scores bounce around from somewhere between 150-175 and as time goes by, that doesn’t change (so either I’m studying wrong or I’m plateauing). I am hoping that by the end of next month I arrive at passing every version of the test with flying colors. I still have A LOT of work to do. I am using this series of books and I also picked up a vocab book for about $2 used on Amazon (I know there are lists online for free, but I study more effective with physical texts).

I do really well with reading comprehension. Not so much on listening.

More Assimil

I’ve made it a goal to finish my Chinois sans Peine (English Version here) in the next month or so. In an effort to do this, I’ve been trying to complete one lesson per day. Tome 2, I’m coming for you.


Lindsay Does Languages is hosting an awesome Instagram language challenge. The goal is to learn new vocabulary in the language that you’re studying with a daily prompt. It’s a great little community and I’ve had a lot of fun participating these last two months. Since I opted to script short videos this month, it’s a bit more time consuming for me than it was in January (especially since I’m doing it for two languages). I’ll have to see what I do next month.

Participation in the Memrise Language Challenge

Memrise now offers you the ability to set goals for your various courses and I think it’s a fantastic new feature. For both the HSK course and the First 500 Words in Mandarin course I’ve set goals that I am trying to meet on a daily basis. Because this month has been so hectic for me, Memrise has been a great way to keep up my language studies because I can complete lessons when  I have five minute breaks (or when I’m sitting around at rehearsal for an hour and don’t have anything else with me).

Music, Movies and Games

Nope. Just nope.

The Biggest Lesson I Am Taking Away from This Month

Time is Your Most Valuable Resource

It really is. It irks me that I have so much less time to pursue language learning when work gets really busy (not that I’m complaining about having work and getting to do music because I love it). But the truth is, I can’t continually burn the candle at both ends. I paid for that by getting really sick (and not getting better despite antibiotics) because I was trying to do too much. Even with a decent amount of sleep I was mentally and physically just worn down. Something had to give and that was time I spent on learning languages.

So don’t forget to listen to your body! Don’t push yourself too hard or you’ll risk burnout. If you brain is telling you “that’s enough”, then pay attention!

Time is your most valuable resource and if you push yourself to the brink, you’ll end up losing more of it than you would if you gave yourself a break every once in a while.

My Goals for Next Month

Next month my goals are:

  • Reincorporate FluentU, chats with native speakers and at least music/movies into my study schedule
  • More lessons!
  • New surprise resource (announcement soon)
  • Pass all of my practice tests
  • Finish HSK 1 Memrise Course

So that’s it for me this month. If you’re learning a language, what are your goals? I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

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