Chinese Language Learning – 18 months, >3million words!

There has been a slew of posts in this community lately showing that aggressive reading and study pays off, so I’d like to add my example as well!

3million words is about 10,000 pages (300 words per page)? I picked this goal as I read for European languages like French that 10k pages is about when reading got easy. Chinese is crazy hard, so I’m probably at 88-96% depending on the novel I’m reading, but hitting this goal has made my reading skills better. (I’ve read more than this, but this is just what’s been track in LingQ)

I work part time / semi-retired, so I have a lot of free time to devote to this. I don’t do any output like speaking or writing practice. Besides dabbling in other languages, I’ve basically been “immersing” like an AJATTer.

I started late Dec 2020 without really being exposed to Mandarin. The first six months I spend cramming hanzi and reading everything I could get my hands on HSK 1-4. (I hate grammar so I still haven’t read a textbook hahha, I do look up grammar points though)

Mid summer 2021 I got really impatient and starting sticking in native novels into LingQ. This was the best decision I made, except since I didn’t know what I was doing, I picked novels that were way above my skill level (if I would have known about Heavenly Path site then, I could have saved myself a lot of headaches!)

In the beginning I was just trying to read for a set amount every day, but it was exhausting. I “cheated” with reading a translation of a chapter the book before I’d read, and I used text to speech a lot.

I do a LOT of Anki (I’m up to about 180k reviews haha), at one point I was doing 50 cards a day, but that was taking me hours, so now I’m back down to about 15-25 so it gets done within 90 minutes max.

My advice:

* Read easier books!
* I started out with stuff above my level, but now I’m back to reading children’s books, translated novels (finished the first two HP books), reading along with the LCTS podcast transcripts, along with my overly difficult danmei.
* Cheat in the beginning!
* Read a translation (this is comparative reading) before, use text to speech, use programs like Pleco / LingQ or Readabu to easily look up words. This past week I’ve turned the pinyin on as an experiment since it increases my reading speed by a third (I engage with a lot of media without pinyin, so it isn’t a crutch.)
* Use the pomodoro method!
* I am used to binge reading in English for long stretches without needed a break, but this caused burnout and headaches. Now I try to set a timer, read for 25 minutes, and then do some body weight exercises and make a cup of tea. Then I either go back to what I was reading, or switch to something easier / harder.
* Have multiple things to read of different skill levels!
* I’ve always been in a habit of reading several books at a time, and this is great for language learning. Easier books can be boring, but more interesting stuff can be difficult, so it’s important to switch based on how good your brain is working on a given day.
* Do your SRS
* Pleco / Anki, getting to the point where you engage with native material takes a LOT of vocab (10-20k), SRS is painful and NOT FUN but it is very effective. Migaku browser extension is a really easy way to make cards from Cdramas. At this past month I stuck in two novels into Anki and used the Morphman add on to organize by +1 sentence cards.
* Recognize Burnout
* I’ve gone hard, and there are days (especially after I work) where my brain has melted. I always always do my SRS reviews (without adding new cards) and minimum reading goals, but then I usually just chill out and watch Cdramas until I feel better the next day.
* Accept confusion and ambiguity!
* The only way to get to 98% comprehension is to read a lot at 50,60,70,80,90% comprehension. It’s very hard at first, and you won’t get everything and lose the plot a bunch, but just keep going and eventually it gets clearer and faster.
* Remove distractions
* To do this, I’ve had to create lot of space in my life that was previously filled with other stuff. I no longer read the news, play video games, watch non Chinese TV (I watch shows with my husband with dual subtitles so we can both enjoy) and have drastically cut down on social media. I used to read a lot of books in English (usually >50-75 a year), and since I’ve started I’ve basically read 3. (I would like eventually get to the point where I can balance my reading, but not yet.)
* Set reading goals!
* This is the number one advice I have. In the spring, I noticed that LingQ tracks words read, and then I started having a minimum average of ~ 10k words a day (I find weekly goals are better than daily, since life can get in the way). This basically exploded my reading speed and comprehension over the next couple of months. Now that I’ve reached my 3m goal, I’m going to try to read 6m words by the end of the year.

It’s been really cool to see a lot of people get into reading native material so quickly! When I first started I had googled and was really disappointed when most people reported it took them 4-6 years to start reading novels, and there are now plenty of examples of people doing it within 6m-year.

View Reddit by Lokar13View Source


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