Inspired by the person who made a graph about their language learning journey measured by class hours, I thought it’d be fun to start a bit of a diary on here to keep track of my progress as well.
I started learning Mandarin as a self learner in a very goal oriented way, as I don’t believe classroom instruction to be a good way of learning a language. I’ve been studying Zen texts for about 9 years now off and on and I realized I wanted to be more serious about it. Since there are so many untranslated texts, Chinese is a bit of a requirement.
So a C2 in Mandarin is a matter of course requirement so I can actually get into the kind of Chinese the Zen texts were written in. C2 is not my goal but my stepping stone. It’s pretty ambitious.
So this Sunday, I will have been learning Chinese for 6 weeks.
In the first four weeks I went through the first Remembering the Hanzhi book by Heisig, using Anki to remember them. I started at 20 characters a day and soon ramped up to 60 characters a day culminating in a big cram session on a weekend cramming in the last 300 characters in two days. Reviews are now dying down again and I’m at less than 150 Anki cards a day to look at, which is very manageable.
When I’ve had some free time (next to my 60% job and my bachelor’s in Computer Science I’m doing) I’ve used Super Chinese to get the basics down. I’ve finished its HSK 2 courses and am now starting on the HSK 3 level. I don’t know if I could pass an actual HSK 2, but since that’s not my goal I don’t care too much.
Once I was done with the Heisig in the next two weeks I’ve been trying out various resources. I bought graded readers, which were a bit annoying because they only have simplified script and I’m learning traditional (I figured that’d be smart since Zen texts are my goal), but I can understand enough of them anyway to be able to get by.
I’ve used DuChinese and am now reading intermediate texts. I’ve just finished the third Three Kingdoms story. I really like this mode of learning. No Pinyin, but I’m having the voice read to me as I read through the texts so I get used to the pronunciation. I’ve had it read at 0.75 speed, which is about my limit of what I can enjoyably deal with.
I also found an App that has free audio books, including a great production of all the Harry Potter books. I used to listen to the Harry Potter audio books a lot back in the day to learn English. Now they might carry me to Chinese proficiency as well, which is great. While the level is too high for me to understand and so it’s on the backburner, it has great environmental audio queues (like a busy street with cars making sounds in the background) and different speakers for different characters, so from the context clues I can tell what is happening even if I don’t understand what’s being said, which is very encouraging. There’s also an AI generated text transcript to go along with the text, so if I were fast enough I could read along. I can’t wait to get to the level to comfortably listen to the audio books. Then I can just sink into consuming tons of media, which is how I learned English.
I feel like I got off to a good start. I’m now going through the second Heisig book at leisurely 10 characters a day, since I now know enough characters to read the texts at my level and it’s no longer super frustrating because I can’t read anything at all. Maybe I’ll pick up the pace again a bit later, but I’ll probably wait until exam season is over.