While this title sounds like clickbait, there are no life hacks, I spend 40+ hours per week studying: after work, before work, and even during my lunchtime. If your long-term goal for the study is reading, you can be inspired by my case. Please follow my timeline below, and I will tell you how I did it.
# Learning focus on reading
My plan from the start was to read the novels in the original language, not communicate, that is why my learning process was heavily focused on reading, some listening, and almost completely ignored speaking. While I do not suggest this road for everyone, if you know what you are doing, like me, you can start reading native content quicker than you may have thought.
1. **July 2021**. I started studying by ordering the “**New Practical Chinese reader**” textbook and workbook and little by little, spending at least a couple of hours a day on paper textbooks I worked through every exercise in it. Because I was not following any other courses, materials that can provide me with well-rounded grammar + exercises were what I needed as the first step in my journey. I didn’t skip a day through the whole year, not when I was on vacation, not when I was not feeling well, each day means each day. I completed 4 NPCR books and switched to the **Boya** Intermediate and Advanced books, which I am still using right now.
2. **September 2021**. After several months approximately after finishing New Practical Chinese Reader 3 (which probably correlates with HSK 3), I started to add additional materials to my studies such as graded readers and easy native novels in parallel with working my way through NPCR 4 books.
3. **October 2021**. After 4 months of studies, I joined the studying community in [discord](https://discord.gg/nctfKwnC) and that was a breakthrough in my studies. Setting weekly goals, and exchanging ideas with fellow learners, if it was not for the community I wouldn’t be able to walk all this way by myself. I picked up a lot of ideas and the best resources there.
4. **November 2021**. Fellow learners were reading books, and I was so impatient to read that just after 5 months of studies I joined the reading club and started to read together [撒野 by 巫哲](https://www.jjwxc.net/oneauthor.php?authorid=570049) which I still think is one of the easiest non-graded not-children books I have seen, but it is very long, and it took me 2 months to finish it. There are a lot of books written by this author and as far as I know, the complexity is approximately the same. Of course, after 5 months of studying even if it is 40 hours per week it is impossible to read native content easily, I was using reading software with pop-up dictionaries which I relied heavily upon. I needed to check several words per sentence with the dictionary, and then I often still needed to translate the whole sentence using Google/Baidu translate to double-check if what I understood is right. At this point I was using **Readibu** with a premium subscription, it allows converting any text on a webpage to easy to read format, underlining phrases, checking images related to selected words or phrases, and doing quizzes for words I check meaning a lot. I highly recommend it as the first tool to help to read.
5. **December 2021.** When reading **撒野** my vocabulary continued to expand and what worked especially well is to continue studying using textbooks and seeing the same characters on paper and on screen in a real native novel. At this point, I was not using any SRS to study words at that point because it felt like a chore, while I knew that it is effective I just tried to rely on the repetitive structure of NPCR lessons and readibu quizzes. Spending probably around 200 hours on **撒野** helped me build reading stamina, before it, I tried to read children’s books, and I was not able to read them for a long time because it was boring, and I was falling asleep while reading the story I was invested in helping me to read for several hours a day.
6. **January 2022 – February 2022.** I continued reading along with discord reading clubs, discussing books, and asking to provide help with comprehension. At this point, I turned off underlining phrases in Readibu and selected a smaller font size to provide an additional challenge. I finished 2 more books in a high-school setting, which I think is the easiest to start native novels’ reading journey. During this time. I also read some manhua using OCR on PC.
7. **March 2022.** While still continuing doing a lesson of NPCR per week I really wanted to start reading novels in more complex settings and I tried a short crime novel in a modern setting [坏小孩 by 紫金陈](https://www.qimao.com/shuku/157540/), and found it very easy to read at that point. I still needed to rely on pop-up dictionaries a lot, but my reading speed increased, and I was able to finish it in a week!
8. **April 2022.** I was ready to do a big complexity jump and started to read the horror infinite flow novel [无限练习生 by 妄鸦](http://www.jjwxc.net/onebook.php?novelid=4665570). Infinite flow novels are complex because they have several settings inside one novel, and this novel had a lot of unique characters that I needed 2 months to finish it. Because of the complexity jump, I decided to try new ways to read and switched from Readibu to Pleco Reader. Pleco Reader allows using more dictionaries and I have a lot of paid dictionaries there, and it allows adding flashcards to SRS. At this point I started using SRS, but not for single words, but for idioms (成语) and interesting phrases I wanted to remember. Almost all cards I have in my deck have some emotional attachment because I added them from the book I read, which allows me to remember them easily. Additionally, having cards not with single characters, but phrases, help me to remember characters relying upon other characters in phrase.
9. **June 2022.** I started to worry about my reading speed because even if I knew all the characters in the sentence it still takes a lot of time to finish the chapter, one of the ways to increase reading speed is to use AI voices and read along with TTS. While AI voices in Pleco reader are not that good, they are passable, and I started to turn TTS at first at 70% of the speed, gradually increasing it to 100% for more easy novels. That was another breakthrough in both reading speed and comprehension because AI spells words to me, I don’t need to worry about tone police when reading and the book I am reading right now I should be able to finish at least three times faster than without TTS. Another honorable TTS mention is Microsoft Edge’s built-in TTS. There are a lot of native apps that allow TTS with higher quality AI voices, I am excited to use them soon when I will need to rely on a pop-up dictionary less in the nearest future.
10. **July 2022.** I have so many books to read, and I am excited about the journey ahead. Of course, I won’t stop using textbooks to get a more well-rounded approach to studying.
# Some of the tools I used and like
[Readibu: parsed text with phrases underlining and pop-up dictionary](https://preview.redd.it/uvds42aao0891.png?width=1080&format=png&auto=webp&s=90cb371a404a068e3fe10805450a9a8a7f02efe6)
* Pleco Outlier dictionary:
[Pleco Outlier Dictionary shows components and explain the origin of characters which makes them much easier to remember](https://preview.redd.it/ggp8eg2gt0891.png?width=677&format=png&auto=webp&s=a774fe894b0bd084ae857b04d5897bf05d5da4b6)
* Pleco web reader:
[Pleco web reader (iOS): allows using a pop-up dictionary and TTS for any website.](https://preview.redd.it/1rwme6gno0891.png?width=929&format=png&auto=webp&s=398d399d77c31c20b06ac35c05d1df94ab4753de)
* Toggl track:
[Time tracking and reporting based on tags, so I know how much time I spend on reading, textbooks, or writing, and measure how my speed improved.](https://preview.redd.it/g0wnja95p0891.png?width=669&format=png&auto=webp&s=bdec6b246b63cd20e4b4c64866fdbfbf28f64ce5)
[Very nice tool to keep track of things in databases. It is very satisfying to see it gradually filling up with books I’ve finished and keep track of \”to be read\” list.](https://preview.redd.it/m4w66utqp0891.png?width=971&format=png&auto=webp&s=30df162c1daeca43e505ed31fc8bd90313158085)