It’s time for my monthly language learning strategies update! In April I took a bit of a break from Mandarin to work on Spanish for our trip to Barcelona, but I still made some time for Mandarin at the beginning of the month.
My May Goals // Weekly Wishes
Last Month’s Goals
- Get through some more of the “Watch Later” language videos in my Youtube queue. I added as many videos as I got through. The good news is that this means there is a never ending supply of language learning materials available on YouTube.
- 10K steps per day or 70k per week. Hahaha… No.
- Start taking the practice tests for HSK Book 2. Check. My scores are pretty consistent with the level one exams, so by June I’ll have some review to do.
- Finish the First 500 Words and start HSK Level 2 Memrise courses. It really bothers me I still didn’t get through the first 500 words course. I WILL FINISH IT! Because I ended up neglecting Mandarin in April, I had too much review to do before I could move on to new words. I did, however, start HSK Level 2 and have made decent progress there.
- Have a super awesome anniversary. We spent our anniversary in Barcelona seeing amazing sights and eating even more amazing food!
- Finish my Assimil Mandarin Tome 1. Done! Lesson 51, I’m coming for you.
- Continue to minimize. I’m actually a little bit ahead on this for once. I’ve stuck to the “get rid of one item per day” routine. I don’t actually get rid of an item everyday – sometimes I get rid of multiple items in a day and then don’t do anything for a few days. Either way, it works out to one thing per day. It’s incredible just how much stuff we have.
This Month’s Goals
My Language Learning Strategies and Updates
- Finish the practice tests in HSK Book 2. That way I can spend June reviewing the material and working on the things that I’m still struggling with.
- Finish the First 500 Words and get to 750/1286 words on HSK Level 2 on Memrise. I’ll need to get through 1,000 words to accomplish this. I have 500 more on First 500 words (there are actually 1,000 words because one needs to learn both the character and pinyin) and I’m around 250 on HSK Level 2.
- Find a new language exchange partner. I worked a bit harder at this several months back, but I haven’t seriously pursued this for some time. I think it’s time for a change.
- Start to work on a few of the new ideas I have. I have a lot of ideas for this space that I haven’t had time to get to, but I think I’m ready now.
- Start doing the IGLC again. I didn’t participate last month because I was traveling. This month I’m actually co-hosting, so no excuses!
Here are some of the changes I’ve made to my language learning methods from previous months:
- My handy dandy notebook
- No lessons
- Practice tests
- More Assimil
- Lots of Memrise & More Duolingo
- Growing Up Chinese
- Lots and lots of French
My Handy Dandy Notebook
I am a note taker. I carry a rather large notebook with me at all times and in this notebook I have all of the useful words and expressions I’ve collected in Mandarin over this past year. When I started I wrote each word in either English or French (depending on my mood), in pinyin and I included the character. My notes how evolved and so I only include the pinyin for characters that are new to me (or that haven’t yet stuck). It makes me work a bit harder when reviewing my notes and has helped me immensely. In the past, I relied on the pinyin transcriptions for each character and I wanted to remove that dependence, and so, I did. It’s amazing how much I’ve learned and when looking at my notes, it’s suddenly apparent. If you need some motivation when learning another script or writing system, use this note-taking method. It works.
I only took one lesson at the beginning of April. The time difference in Europe didn’t work out so that I could continue lessons with my teacher and I didn’t want to go through the process of finding another.
I started to work through the HSK 2 practice tests and I’ve been one point away from passing on every single one so far. It’s rather frustrating, but I know that I am not that far off so I just need to keep working towards it.
I really like the way that the Assimil lessons progress. I spent some time listening to the audio without my book in front of me to see how much I retained. When you listen to the listens from beginning to end (#1-50) you can hear just how the difficulty and speed progress. You can also get a good sense for where your listening comprehension is at and what you need to review.
Spending Time with Memrise
I spent quite a bit more time than usual on both Memrise and Duolingo to work on my Spanish before our trip to Spain. It’s been quite a while since I’ve last used Duolingo – they don’t have either Chinese nor Croatian – and even though the sentences are quite random, I really enjoy it.
Growing Up Chinese
I finished Growing Up Chinese this month. A lot of the material was a bit too advanced for me, but I was able to take away quite a bit regardless. I may revisit a few of the emissions in the future just to gauge my progress.
I listened to a ton of the podcasts I had saved before our trip for Spanish and Mandarin. I really like Coffee Break Spanish and I’ve been listening to Serge Melnyk’s podcast for Mandarin.
Lots and Lots of French
We spent the past month in France visiting family, friends and we also spent some time in the recording studio. That means I spent the past month in a 100% French language environment. The movies and television shows we watched were in French without subtitles. The conversations we had were in French (our family doesn’t speak English, but we spent some time teaching them through games). The trips we took were 100% in French. It was so incredible.
I had complained a short time ago that I felt like I was losing my French because I wasn’t using it as often as I had in the past and this past month was a great refresher for me. I also made sure to buy as many French language books as I could carry back home (no wonder I have to work so hard to minimize – ha!). This includes language learning material from French into my target language and books written by French authors (not translations). I really look forward to getting to my new reading material!
Since we’ve come back to the US, M and I have been using French more often. It’s kind of stuck with us. Hopefully, the change lasts.
Resources I Used This Month
So, a quick recap on the materials I am using.
What I’m Using to Learn Mandarin:
- iTalki Lessons – Honestly, this is the best investment I’ve made.
- HSK 2 Practice Tests
- Growing Up Chinese
- Antosch & Lin
- Various Podcasts
What I’m Using to Learn Spanish:
What I’m Using to Learn Croatian:
What I’m Using to Brush Up/Improve my French:
- Reading books written by French authors
The Biggest Lesson I Am Taking Away from This Month
I Cannot Imagine My Life Without Language Learning
I’m often asked why I learn so many languages and why I’ve selected those that I’m learning. I don’t always have a good answer. I chose Mandarin and Croatian because I wanted to learn them – I didn’t have a real reason for choosing them beyond that. And that’s okay. I love learning languages. I love the process and I love the result of my efforts. I cannot imagine spending my free time any other way. I may not be as quick or as efficient as other learners, but it is something that I enjoy doing and that is all that matters.
That’s it for me in May. What are your goals for this month?