Kevin's Study Log

Mon Aug 7th

Another day, another 200+ reviews! Every traditional character I’ve ever added I have already gone through the lessons for, adding up to 3.7k total characters so far. However, I have finished nearly 1k of them, and continue to make great progress!

I’ve been studying and immersing in Chinese pretty intense for the past two years, but I’ve been wanting to dial it down so I have more time to work on HanziHero and make videos and blog posts to help others with learning Chinese. So instead of filling every spare minute with immersion, I’ve recently flipped it on its head so that I have scheduled periods of time for reading or watching Chinese media, and letting the rest of my time be dedicated towards something else for once! :laughing:

It’s great having more time to do other things, but it means I need to be more intentional about my immersion time in order to continue to slowly progress and stave off any regression. Hence why I’ve started a study log, to keep me aware of what exactly it is I’m doing for my Chinese! :bulb:

Right now I’m reading through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (中文版) in the evenings or when I am on the metro here in Taipei. Currently on Chapter 8!

After doing a palace drama and a bunch of Taiwanese dramas, I’m back to watching anime for listening immersion. Currently watching the first season of the ever-popular 咒術迴戰 (Jujutsu Kaisen). I think I watched the English edition of it some time before I moved to Taipei, but I’ve forgotten it. The second season is currently airing, but unfortunately the Mandarin dub won’t be out till around a month after it finishes airing, in my experience. For those that have a Taiwan VPN, it is available here. I’m currently on episode 4.

For me, it’s about 140-150 reviews per day. I am now finishing Level 14 so: 400+ characters. I started with 20 items per lesson, then gradually brought them down to 10 after finishing most of the words, and now reviews are very manageable. I am OK with ~ 1500 simplified characters from my previous Chinese learning efforts, and that makes it relatively smooth to go through the Traditional course. My weaknesses are listening and speaking, hence a media consumption is a main focus.

On the way to work, I listen to an HSK course dialogue or a podcast. BTW, I quite appreciate “TeaTime Chinese” podcast: the host speaks slowly, and with a limited number of unknown words. “Slow Chinese” is also pretty good (Archive | 慢速中文 Slow Chinese).

Recently, I started using Duolingo (don’t judge me) following a recommendation from a friend, as a very relaxed way to go over the basics again. After I took a test, it placed me at a level I was pretty comfortable with. Lots of gems earned! chests opened! with occasional surprises during the production stage (“how could I forget that?” etc). It’s been two weeks, and quite fun, actually. Not sure if I would’ve liked the process if I started using it when I was an absolute beginner.

If there is time in the evening, I read either Jeff Pepper’s Monkey King books or, lately, having been overwhelmed with the repeatable antics of the immortal monkey, Harry Potter (Book 1, Chapter 3+). I read HP on Kindle, and I find Kindle’s dictionary quite helpful.

The “Three-Body Problem” Tencent TV series on Youtube is well-made and apparently it is following the book closely. It starts a little slow but now the pace is accelerating (I am on Episode 23 now). A detective sci-fi, with a plot that originates during the Cultural Revolution, but the main action takes place in 2008. For the language learning aspect, the Language Reactor works very well but I can’t say I use it all the time. Often, I just like watching it for the story.

Yeah, I think Duolingo does gamification pretty great. We hope to add some of those elements to HanziHero soon to make it more fun. At least it’s in our bottomless backlog somewhere :laughing:

I also recommend Chinese Learn Online for listening. The podcast is free, one only needs to pay for the transcripts.

If you already use Pleco (and paid for one of the main bundles), their built-in reader is pretty great. I mainly use it because access to all of the dictionaries is too valuable. But besides the extra dictionaries, Kindle is way smoother.

I’ve been watching the only Chinese-language sitcom I know in existence. I often envy English-learners at having so many sitcoms to choose from, as I think they are the best for learning any language. Mainly because they are non-stop dialogue that is extremely colloquial.

I’ve watched the first 2 seasons like twice now. It’s really quite good.

Only downside is that the grandma solely speaks Taiwanese, so I have to read the subtitles if I want to understand what is going on. Many movies or TV shows from Taiwan are like this, which has unfortunately made me associate the Taiwanese language in media with a feeling of frustration or annoyance. Not because the language itself, but because it gets between me and Mandarin.

I’ll learn it one day perhaps - but certainly not now.
As I tell my Taiwanese friends: 學中文夠難吧!

A stupid question: given Hokkien’s 70-82%
home use in Taiwan, when people say Taiwanese, they would mean Hokkien?

Yeah… With 4 tones in Mandarin and 8 tones in Hokkien, one looks a bit easier than the other.

Yep! Here it is usually referred to 台語 Taiwanese Language. However it can also be referred to as 閩南語 Southern Min language/dialect. If I recall correctly, referring to it as 台語 is actually a little bit contentious as Taiwan has a bunch of other dialects (like 家客語 Hakka language) and so using the moniker “Taiwanese language” can be seen as elevating the language above these others.

The hardest part about it, in my opinion, is that it does not really have a stable written form that is well-known by native speakers of it. It is like Cantonese in this regard. So subtitles will be in Standard Mandarin even if what is spoken is Taiwanese.

I’ve been leaning on YouTube more heavily recently for my studying. I try to find things I do in English and replace them with Chinese equivalents. For example, I’ve been wasting time thinking about buying an iPad Mini that I certainly don’t need and watching review videos or whatever, but then I realized I can do the same in Chinese.

Since I almost always watch TV or talk shows, I was surprised I was able to understand 99% of this without any subtitles! Usually it takes a while for me to “ramp up” when going into new categories of content (because they have different vocabulary that I may not have encountered).

So I’ve been watching random tech reviews.

I tried looking for “video game reviews” or any sort of “video essay” material, but there isn’t as much as in English. English learners are truly spoiled for resources!

I’ve also been watching a Pikmin Let’s Play.

I’m glad I’m finally at a level that I don’t need subtitles as much anymore for looking up words I don’t know. It opens up way more content for me to watch.

Lastly, I tried watching Genshin Impact Let’s Plays because I know the game has Chinese audio. After all, it is a game from China! But all of the Taiwanese YouTubers use the Japanese dub which is kinda retarded. They aren’t using it to practice Japanese - they all don’t know Japanese and use Chinese text/subtitles - but merely because it is “more anime”. :roll_eyes:

LOL that’s typical, lots of english speakers also play with JP VO even though it’s not even the original one. :roll_eyes:
I’m playing their other game now, Honkai Star Rail, with Chinese VO! (not that I understand much)

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So many people play this one in Japanese that I had no idea it was by the same Chinese company. Now I know… :rofl:

Out if interest, how much do you understand when the grandma is speaking? I looked this up and saw a few answers and some people are saying it’s a dialect, while others are saying it’s a completely different language and completely unintelligible to a mandarin speaker and then yet another group which said the difference was like comparing French to English (In which case I’d be able to pick up on a few french words, so I wouldn’t say “completely unintelligible”) so I’m a bit confused :slight_smile:

Or is it one of those cases, given it’s a sitcom, the grandma is throwing in the odd word for comical effect to reflect her origin and age and is maybe the sentance as a whole which is more confusing? perhaps a bit like if we had a sitcom and there was an italian or a german character who used their native lingo intermixed with english - which I’m sure native speakers would understand fine but maybe non native would have issues with (?)

Good question! I understand very little, if any at all.

like comparing French to English

I think that is a fair comparison. I’ll be able to pick up some words that sound quite similar between the two. And similarly, it is much easier to parse when written down, just like how we can better understand the shared Latin words between French and English when written down.

Most of these different Sinitic languages in Chinese are referred to as 方言 literally “place language”, which is usually mistranslated as “dialect”. That’s why most people in the west think that the various types of Chinese languages (e.g., Mandarin, Taiwanese, Cantonese, and so on) are dialects when in reality they are completely different languages that are not mutually intelligible.

I recall that I first started having interest towards “Chinese” because I watched some films by Wong Kar-Wai. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that his films use Cantonese, not Mandarin, and that they were completely different languages. :exploding_head:

throwing in the odd word

Nope, she speaks entirely in Taiwanese. So it would be like a US sitcom where the grandma speaks entirely in Italian. Haha

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I found some anime “video essays” for anime and video games that I’ve been going through.

I think these are an excellent listening resource. I don’t know why I didn’t spent more time on YouTube earlier for immersion, but now I practically don’t watch any TV shows at all. Most videos on YouTube are extremely dense in terms of what is spoken, regardless of language, while the more “award-worthy” dramas usually have ample amount of drawn out voice-less shots and so on. So YouTube is much better for immersing.

I find it to be about 35-65 in terms of Taiwanese vs Mainland accent for the content I’ve been looking for on YouTube. I obviously prefer the former (since I live in Taiwan, and want to be more familiar with the lexicon here), but being exposed to different accents is great for expanding my listening skills anyway.

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Thanks, super helpful.

That wasn’t your initial reason or motivation for you learning originally was it? Or more like a seed was planted and you didn’t realise. would be pretty gutting it you realised halfway through your studies :wink:

Now the question, if I learn Mandarin to fluency, am I going to be able to understand those old Jackie Chan movies :smiley: (jk, though it might be a fun thing to aim for as a sort of self test) I think most were Hong Kong anyway right, which would mean Cantonese I guess

Haha yeah, I mean I can’t think of any euro country that would do this complete split aproach in film or TV, I guess maybe in Germany they could probably get away with mixing English and German, interesting stuff

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My wife’s grandma also speaks only Taiwanese, but my wife herself barely does because she grew up in an area where they spoke Hakka and not Taiwanese :sweat_smile:

From what I saw, I think a good comparison would be the difference among Latin languages (French, Spanish, Italian…).

Where I live (Barcelona) it can happen to have TV shows in Catalan and one character speaking Spanish or the other way around, I think that would be quite similar.

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Interesting. How do they communicate with each other? hand gestures or something? :slight_smile:

Ah, didn’t know that. I did read that some latin american countires who get mainland Spanish shows on their TV, where there could be some pretty comical words or phrases which are completely innocent in spain but not their end.

It’s been a while, been too busy with HanziHero and making videos!

I’ve been listening to a bunch of podcasts recently. Mainly 呱吉. Usually when walking around, but also when running.

Besides that, I’ve been watching a bunch of history videos on YouTube. That and Japanese travel videos. The former for interest, the latter because I like travel videos and most Taiwanese mainly travel in Japan. There is a lack of domestic travel videos here, which I guess is to be expected. One thing that is kind of funny is that like >50% of every travel video is always about food, which I really could not care less about. Oh well.

I’ve also started (re-)watching a pretty great anime series 棋魂, which is about a kid who gets partly possessed by an ancient Go player and then slowly becomes a Go champion himself.

I previously stopped watching much anime because it was “easier” than watching drama for listening comprehension. But I’ve reached a point where Chinese media is no longer a means towards that end. That is, I can understand everything well enough, so there is no need to only focus on difficult things - it is more important to just enjoy it so it remains a daily part of my life.

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Still mainly listening to podcasts for listening.

I got sick of reading on my small iPhone SE screen, and there is a bug in Pleco that would forget my progress and reset to the beginning of the chapter. So I switched over to reading on my Kindle Paperwhite and it has been sort of revolutionary.

The main reason to use Pleco was the built-in dictionary pop-up. Kindle has this as well, but its Chinese dictionary sucks. So I built my own based on the dictionary provided by the Ministry of Education in Taiwan. This was the one I used within Pleco anyway, since it is the practically the only dictionary in existence that uses 國語 pronunciation.

Here’s how it looks in action:

Pretty cool! I think I may try making another dictionary that uses the cross-straits database, as that one contains more modern words that MOE sometimes omits. (note to self: that data is located here)

Oh, and I’m mainly reading 小書痴的下剋上 The Ascendance of a Bookworm. I picked it because it is extraordinary long and is pretty smooth to read. I figure I should focus more on quantity for the time being before diving into proper literary works like those by 金庸 Jin Yong or 張愛玲 Eileen Chang

Started reading some 張愛玲. I started with some of her short stories, and now I’m reading 半生緣 as that was the most recommended on on PTT.

Besides that I’ve set up a TV next to my laptop and play anime in the background while working or doing other stuff, which has been a great help. I found a pretty great Mandarin dub of Gintama which I’ve never seen before, so I’ve been going through all 200+ episodes of that. Also will watch some dubbed One Piece every now and then.

I’m actually seriously considering getting a Blu-Ray player so I can buy some Mandarin-dubbed anime Blu-Rays here in Taiwan, but will hold off till I run out of the stuff I can find online for free. Also because it seems weird to buy Blu-Rays just for Mandarin-dub, though to be honest I’m pretty unrepentant about watching Mandarin dubs, and for the better-done ones actually prefer the dub. :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course, there are really bad ones, like the one for Legends of the Galactic Heros that I was so excited to find, only to realize that Reinhardt is voiced by the worst voice actor in Taiwan. Oh well.

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I’ve hit some inflection point in the past weeks which has made me re-contextualize my study habits and routine.

Before I was mainly doing stuff for the sake of improving my Mandarin. Like reading manga. This alone was sufficient because the challenge of Mandarin made anything sufficiently interesting. However, now that manga no longer poses a large enough challenge, I realized recently that I don’t actually like manga that much. I never read any manga in English because it never interested me. I had a similar realization when I was watching a bunch of YouTube months ago only to realize that Taiwanese YouTube isn’t really that different than English YouTube, and I didn’t really like watching English YouTube much to begin with.

So instead, the aim is less “what can I do to improve Mandarin” and more “what can I do - that I would do in English anyway - that incidentally uses Mandarin”. This seems obvious when written out.

For me what I’ve been settling into is some combination of the following where I try to replace idle English habits with Chinese ones:

  • Reading random Wikipedia articles (replace with Chinese Wikipedia)
  • Reading discussion forums (replace with PTT, some DCard)
  • Looking into new games which I never play anyway (read or the relevant PTT sections)
  • Literature (read 張愛玲,金庸)

In reality I was already doing much of the above already (to a lesser degree), but the key development is dropping things that I wouldn’t do in my native tongue anyway because I wasn’t that personally interested in them. Like manga or watching random people on YouTube.

The other habits of watching anime or TV series I long ago replaced with just watching Chinese equivalents.

Anyway, besides that I’ve decided I’m going to watch the entirety of Mandarin-dubbed One Piece without subtitles, because why not, which I’ve slowly been working through. At episode 200, and it’ll take me a couple months to finish.

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