Friday, October 24, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 30

I did it!  I am 1/3 of the way through my 90 day challenge.  I had only one or two days that I missed due to how  busy October has been, but I caught up easily and am back on track!

After 30 days, how do I feel about this challenge?  I feel both encouraged and discouraged.  I figured that this would not be easy and I was right.  Here are a list of things that I have found to be discouraging & encouraging over the last month:


  • It's hard to stay motivated.
  • Learning new vocabulary is a long process with not many immediate results.
  • My ability to come up with sentences on my own is severely lacking.  I'm not sure if this is because of my lack of a full vocabulary, or if I am just trying too hard to get it perfect, therefore causing nothing to flow out.
  • I don't feel like I have really grown by leaps and bounds as I thought I would in this time.
  • I was hoping that by this point I might be able to have a basic conversation with a native speaker with a reasonable level of confidence, but I don't think that I have reached that point yet either.

  • I have learned quite a few new words.
  • Pimsleur has been a consistently helpful tool.  I don't think it will take me near as far as I would like to go, but it has been a good constant study friend to me.
  • Memrise is probably one of the easiest ways to learn new vocabulary and the spaced repetition that it provides is wonderful.  It's a fun way to learn, that's for sure.
  • I am understanding more words when I hear them in movies or when I see them on everything from jars of food to Chinese literature.  I still have a long way to go, but it is nice to recognize things here and there.
  • My children have learned more Mandarin as a result of my 90 day challenge.  It is fun to think that they could be so much further than I am if they keep it up in years to come.  Ah, to have a mind like a child!
  • People think it's very cool that I am learning Mandarin.  That's a fun aspect of this whole thing as well.

So what now?  Tomorrow I am going to start up Pimsleur's Mandarin II and do that for the next 30 days.  I'm also making my way slowly through the HSK set on Memrise.  I am in the HSK 3 vocabulary right now and so I am going a bit slower, given all the new words.  I would like to add something else to my practicing, but I don't know what that could be considering my time constraints.   Maybe I will try to utilize iTalki more.  If anyone reads this and has ideas of how I can get over some of the hurdles I mentioned above, let me know.  

If anything, I am happy that I have done what I set out to do and don't plan on stopping any time soon.  Here is to the next 30 days!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 15

I haven't written anything or posted any videos for a few days, but rest assured, I have been practicing!  

I am still doing Pimsleur everyday for 30 minutes and have reached Unit 15!  It is hard to believe that I have been consistent for two whole weeks.  Even when I was studying Mandarin at the university last year I wasn't this intentional with learning the language.  What I enjoy about Pimsleur is that it is a slow build, but it's not totally boring either.  In most audio courses that I have listened to, it is strictly vocabulary drilling and phrases.  Pimsleur seems to do it all at once in a very natural way.  I had read that you should listen to Pimsleur or other courses when you are not doing anything else.  In other words, no driving or distracting activities of any kind.  At first I didn't think much of that, but I actually agree with it wholeheartedly now.  It is very difficult to learn a language in a passive way, at least it has been for me.  I really have to concentrate to have it sink in, and if I zone out or get distracted I may miss something and become confused before I know it.

Anyway, I like Pimsleur a lot so far.

Memrise is also going really well right now and I have stuck to that every day as well.  The more words I learn the longer each session is, but I am definitely making some progress.  I just completed HSK 2 vocabulary today in fact!  151 words planted in my mind.

This brings me to 348 words (and some phrases) stored in my memory somewhere.  Memrise tells me that they are in my long term memory, but we'll just have to see about that.

I can honestly say that I think I have a good program going on here and am looking forward to the end result.  If it's even possible, I think it would be great to have finished Pimsleur Mandarin I, II & III by Christmas and to have about 2000-3000 words or more stored in my memory by then as well.  I am also going to make more of an effort over the next few weeks to have more conversations in Mandarin so that I actually use what I am learning!  I will try to post more videos as time allows.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 10

Another good day!

Pimsleur was good too!  I'm feeling good about this language learning thing!

Friday, October 3, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 9

I am still going strong!

After a rough few days of language learning, today was a good day.  I did Pimsleur Lesson 9 and really enjoyed it.  I am really liking the spaced repetition that Pimsleur does, and while some words are difficult to make out at times, for the most part it is a very well done product.

I am also really glad that I changed from 500 Characters in Memrise to the HSK course.  It is so much more gratifying and I really feel like I am attaining more of what I want.  In just a day or two I have already completed the HSK 1 vocabulary, which I was very familiar with.  The one problem is that I learning all of this vocabulary in Traditional and now I am learning it all over again in Simplified.  They aren't too different so far, but there is enough of a difference to throw me off sometimes.  It feels good to plow through a whole unit though!

Finally, I started having conversations with some people on iTalki yesterday and have been writing in Chinese back and forth.  I have no idea what they are writing some times but Pleco has saved my life more than once so far.  I even had a 40 minute conversation with a guy in China that was mostly in English, but we said a few thing in Chinese as well.  Good times.

Here is the video summary of the day.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 7 & 8

It has been a very busy couple days which means that Chinese learning had to lose some priority.  I still did Pimsleur yesterday, but that was it.  Not Memrise.  This was actually a good thing because I think that the 500 Characters course I was doing was not really coming through for me.  I discovered an HSK course instead that gives me full words instead of single characters, which is much more beneficial for my level.  It's more enjoyable and less tedious.

Language learning is a real challenge, and doing it every day is, as Steve Kaufman puts it, an endurance run.  Think "marathon".  I suppose that at this point I have been learning Mandarin Chinese off and on for about two years.  In my language journey I have hit many walls, and sadly I can't remember getting over some of those walls in the time I have spent on this language.  I still feel that I have to think really hard to form sentences and so I am wondering if Pimsleur will help give me some confidence there.  Ultimately, I just want to be able to look back at these 90 days and see some real change.  Real growth.

Here's hoping!