Saturday, October 31, 2009

(Not) learning to read Chinese - 'Black October'

If you have been paying attention, you would have noticed no updates from me on how many characters I learned lately. And there is a reason for this ...

This is an update on my experiment to learn to read Chinese. You can also read my original post on this topic, or check out all other posts on my experiment. After a bit of research I settled on Heisig's "Remembering the Simplified Hanzi" method - which is progressing really well.

October has been crazy work-wise. This included separate business trips to both India & Singapore. Leading up the trips there was a lot of preparation to do, and then after the trips there was, uhm, a lot of follow-up work to do. So I spent pretty much no time learning new hanzi - and my official total is still at 1000.

October hasn't be a total waste though ... I've been revising the first 1000 characters through flashcards (although only about 5-10 minutes a day). 

And I suppose there is a lesson here - that if something is 'available' and 'easy', then you'll do it. Anki flaschards are always loaded in the background, and if I need a quick break, or I dial into a dull conference call, then I can flash through a few quick cards.

But enough is enough! I'm missing the excitement of when I was learning 25+ new characters a day. I'm missing the urge to reach for my well-thumbed Heisig when I pop out for a quick lunch. And I want to get through the 1500 well before year-end.

So this weekend, I'm back on the wagon. I promise.  

(And if you're still thinking about trying Heisig, you can download - yes, legally - the first 108 characters here, and by Monday morning you could be 108 characters closer to fluency. If you're up for the challenge, drop us a note below, and then leave another comment when you've got through those 108. Go for it!)


  1. Thank God! Lolz I was starting to miss you Greg :D I hope work is fine after this whole October-mess ^^


  2. Hey Kara - great to hear from you. No, stress levels will continue to mount until year-end ... that's when it eases off. The difference is now I've decided that although work was my *reason* for not climbing into the last 500 hanzi, I will no longer let it be my *excuse*!

    How are you enjoying being Teacher's Assistant? Does it sometimes help your own learning to explain stuff to someone else?

  3. I feel like I have been struggling recently.

    Need to get back into the swing of it.

  4. Hey Charlie. Keep going - remember, you don't have to finish the entire book next week. Just keep going steadily through it.

    What's the struggle? Is recall not as good as you would like? Is the motivation just taking a dip? Work getting in the way?

    Good luck!

  5. Wow Greg, I know this is random but I was going through old comments and realized you responded back. Sorry!

    Unfortunately I don't have that job anymore because I had to sacrifice those 90 minutes for one period of Math and another for tutoring (long story, they skipped me into a higher math class, and they can't switch me out, so now I have to finish to graduate) but I do miss the kids and all :)

    My school wanted to be my sponsor in sending me to Beijing University for free but I declined. I don't feel like evaluating, but I think it's just better if I stay here, get my degree, and then go to China. I don't want to go to China and have no back-up whatsoever, you know? (Speaking of which I did get accepted into a few universities over here :))

    How's the Chinese going otherwise? :D I've been watching some Chinese drama without subs and doing really good so I'm just trying. I keep a little notebook with me marking down any new characters I see/ hear and then write them x amount of times each - old habits never die - but I think you should do it :) Also, do you have an English-Chinese dictionary? I don't, but it sure does help out!


  6. Kara, you sound like you're doing great. Drama without subs? That's definitely progress!

    I am pleased you're clear on your goal about getting the degree first, and then worrying about studying in China. It's not like you have to achieve everything by next Wednesday :-)

    I have a paper dictionary, but most of the time I'm using MDBG - it's quick, and I can copy and paste. Jia you!