Mack's log: Mandarin, damn the torpedoes!

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Oct 15th 2020 - Mar 14th 2021: Five Month Update

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Sun Mar 14, 2021 9:37 pm

Oct 15th 2020 - March 14th 2021: Five Month Update

Current Course of Study
Now that the HelloChinese app is finished, my time is equally split between character study and active listening 'immersion'.

I've developed a good routine with characters. I'm working through Heisig's RTH Vol I at a pace of 20 characters/day, sometimes more, sometimes less, avg of 70min/day. I generally only spend 15-30min/day reviewing characters with Pleco, spaced throughout the day. I originally planned to start reading around the 500 character mark, but for now think I will keep focusing on building my character list. Maybe next month I'll start reading? Either with TCB articles, graded readers, or the Anki spoonfed deck.

My active listening 'immersion' is still quite unstructured. I try to get 30-60 minutes of active listening a day. Right now I'm going through Mandarin Corner's youtube channel. I'll often quickly read the English subtitles and then focus on listening. I know this isn't proper immersion, but I find that it greatly increases my comprehension and keeps me following along the conversation. I've tried a few Mandarin TV shows on Netflix. I've watched three episodes of Meteor Garden in proper immersion fashion, no Eng subtitles. I picked up the basics of the plot but there were some scenes that were just so strange I had to rewatch with Eng subtitles. While I can tell this is really good for my language learning, I just can't bring myself to watch anymore as it is truly awful. Sorry if I offend anyone here, FWIW I heard the Taiwan version and the original Japanese anime is better. Overall I'm really struggling to find immersion materials for mainland Mandarin that's not either campy or political or both. I think I need to stop restricting myself to materials that have Eng subtitles. Also, can't help but feel jealous of all the immersion materials Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese Mandarin learners have.. I did however watch an original Mandarin anime called Scissors Seven with Eng subtitles. I'm not too keen on anime but actually found it really enjoyable. I think I'll watch the Mandarin dub of Dragon Prince next. If anyone has any good mainland Mandarin TV shows or anime dubs please share! I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.

Quantitative Summary
Total unique pinyin word (拼音) exposure: 2230 (stopped recording on Feb 6th 2021)
Total character (汉字) exposure: 756
Total time of intensive study: 454 hr
Average time studying per day: 3 hr 3 min

Qualitative Summary (brackets = estimated proficiency)
Listening [>HSK3]
My perceived rate of progress is slowing but still noticing subtle improvements. Recognizing more words and short phrases. Instant recognition of very common words. Improved sound parsing. Beginnings of tonal recognition.

Speaking [>HSK2]
More vocabulary and slightly more complex grammar coming about, usually when I'm by myself. No real efforts yet to activate speaking yet.

Reading [拼音: HSK3 / 汉字: <HSK1]
None. Although I do read Pinyin when subtitles are available through my active immersion work. Still unable to read characters.

Writing [拼音: >HSK2 / 汉字: <HSK1]
None.

Cultural
Business etiquette and dinner table manners.

Personal Goals (list of ongoing and completed goals as of March 14th 2021)
Ongoing goals:
Read 500 HSK1-4 TCB articles: 235 / 500 / 500 articles
Heisig RSH Vol I: 756 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Study: 454 / 5000 / 5000 hours

Completed goals:
✓ HelloChinese Maincourse [14 Oct 2020 - 29 Nov 2020]
✓ HelloChinese Immersions [1 Dec 2020 - 6 March 2021]
4 x
Mandarin goals:
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1276 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 135 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 527 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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cjareck
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Re: Oct 15th 2020 - Mar 14th 2021: Five Month Update

Postby cjareck » Mon Mar 15, 2021 9:38 am

Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:If anyone has any good mainland Mandarin TV shows or anime dubs please share! I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.

Well, you mentioned that you don't want politics, but didn't say anything about war drama ;)
100 regiments offensive (II world war):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNGTipr2Zo0
My specal battalion (? I'm not sure about the tittle, maybe it is an assault battalion):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jjKsDQ ... o8IY-RrcsU
(I watchend about 15 out of 40 episodes so far)

Or perhaps something from China's history?
"Water Margin":
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... sBc51XE8Z5
(I watched only one or two episodes)

My comprehension is beow 10% so I could miss some connections to current politics :)
5 x
Please feel free to correct me in any language


Listening: 1+ (83% content, 90% linguistic)
Reading: 1 (83% content, 90% linguistic)


MSA DLI : 18 / 141ESKK : 8 / 40


Mandarin Assimil : 36 / 105

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Re: Oct 15th 2020 - Mar 14th 2021: Five Month Update

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Mon Mar 15, 2021 12:40 pm

Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:I think I'll watch the Mandarin dub of Dragon Prince next. If anyone has any good mainland Mandarin TV shows or anime dubs please share! I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.


Nothing specific, but this channel should have something for you:
YoYo English Channel

Tell us if you find any good ones!
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Ar an seastán oíche: Oileán an Órchiste
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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Oct 15th 2020 - Mar 14th 2021: Five Month Update

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Fri Mar 19, 2021 6:07 pm

cjareck wrote:
Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:If anyone has any good mainland Mandarin TV shows or anime dubs please share! I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.

Well, you mentioned that you don't want politics, but didn't say anything about war drama ;)
100 regiments offensive (II world war):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNGTipr2Zo0
My specal battalion (? I'm not sure about the tittle, maybe it is an assault battalion):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jjKsDQ ... o8IY-RrcsU
(I watchend about 15 out of 40 episodes so far)

Or perhaps something from China's history?
"Water Margin":
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=P ... sBc51XE8Z5
(I watched only one or two episodes)

My comprehension is beow 10% so I could miss some connections to current politics :)


These are excellent recommendations! 谢谢!

To clarify, I'm not opposed to material that discusses politics intelligently and fairly. It's media that has an agenda that I try to avoid. What you shared is fair game!

jeff_lindqvist wrote:
Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:I think I'll watch the Mandarin dub of Dragon Prince next. If anyone has any good mainland Mandarin TV shows or anime dubs please share! I'm starting to feel a little discouraged.


Nothing specific, but this channel should have something for you:
YoYo English Channel

Tell us if you find any good ones!


This is a new channel I had not known about. I'll take a look, thanks!

======

Small immersion update. I've picked the first TV show to watch without English subtitles, 我是老板 (I am a boss). I estimate my comprehension to be 30-40%. Despite not understanding much I'm still able to follow the plot: A likeable, goofy sort of family man loses his government job and needs to find ways to support his family. It's definitely grabbed my interest and often has me laughing out loud. Funnily enough it stars Jiang Wu, who I was surprised to learn is brothers with Jiang Wen, an actor I previously mentioned having watched some of his interviews. I like their work so I may use their filmography as a place to branch out from.
Last edited by Dr Mack Rettosy on Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
6 x
Mandarin goals:
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1276 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 135 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 527 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Re: Oct 15th 2020 - Mar 14th 2021: Five Month Update

Postby cjareck » Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:58 am

Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:These are excellent recommendations! 谢谢!

不客气!
I enjoy reading your log!
0 x
Please feel free to correct me in any language


Listening: 1+ (83% content, 90% linguistic)
Reading: 1 (83% content, 90% linguistic)


MSA DLI : 18 / 141ESKK : 8 / 40


Mandarin Assimil : 36 / 105

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Study plan update - spoonfed anki and immersion

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Thu Mar 25, 2021 7:53 pm

Alright, big post incoming. I have two study updates and a lot of thoughts to work through.

1) Using the Anki Chinese Spoonfed deck to begin character readings.
Reading is obviously a key activity in language learning, but more specific to Chinese, reading is also an important way to learn characters. Seeing characters in context aides memory and serves as a means for extensive exposure. Having just surpassed 1000 characters with RTH, now is perhaps a good time to start reading. I plan to do this with the Spoonfed Chinese Anki deck. I see several advantages with the Spoonfed deck. In no particularly order:
  • Scales in difficulty, starting with words whose pinyin I already know well.
  • Audio files, so after reading I'll be able to listen and start pairing sounds with characters.
  • Common characters already covered in the RTH books, unlike TCB news articles that have many proper nouns and names with unique characters.
  • Integrated SRS system and easy to review throughout the day.
  • Common expressions that will serve as a foundation for later output.
I highly doubt I'll complete all 8000 sentences, maybe a few thousand? Whatever it takes to get me past the beginner stage and onto graded readers. Then, after graded materials, I'll pair native materials with pre-study approaches (using sentence mining and character frequency lists), eventually getting to the point where I can passive learn.

2) Gathering thoughts on immersion, how to do it efficiently, and how to track it.
My thoughts on active immersion are heavily influenced by Stephen Krashen, AJATT, and MvJ's Refold. A priori, with everything I know about human development and cognition, the theory seems reasonable. And with all the success stories and anecdotes, there's no question it works. But in practice, immersion is tough. You must immerse with compelling material. This is key. If you wouldn't watch the material in your native language then forget about it. You must accept that it's going to take time. Hours and days and weeks and months before seeing improvement. Really, it's no different than traditional learning methods except you don't get that immediate feedback of having gotten something "right", like successfully translating a line of dialogue. It's just a slow, stochastic, unmeasurable approach, and relinquishing that sense of control and progress is hard.

It's been a little over a month since starting immersion, and while I have lingering doubts, I'm moving forward in the language. Currently I don't have a methodology, throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, trying different sources (movies, TV shows, podcasts, educational sources, vblogs) and different subtitle combinations (English, Hanzi, Pinyin, Hanzi+Pinyin, no subtitles). While English subtitles increase my comprehension, they prevent me from devoting 100% attention to Mandarin. Indeed, the English subtitles will soon have to go, so how to do this efficiently? I do most of my immersion on my iPhone or iPad, so unfortunately Learning with Netflix/Youtube add-ons aren't an option. I could pre-study with transcripts or sentence mining, but I'm not feeling motivated to put in this added effort. I suspect the best option is to improve my reading to a level that I can use subtitles to reinforce listening comprehension.

How to track immersion? People have taken different approaches to this. On one extreme, I could track every minute and every source with a pre-made spreadsheet, credit to Stevijs 3 for this. On the other side, I could free flow and just immerse with whatever, whenever, however. In practice, my approach seems to be somewhere in the middle. I'll continue to record total immersion time at the end of the week. This is easy to do because I simply add up the minutes to all the episodes I've watched and am left with a good estimate to time spent immersing. I'll also record a running tally of all the listening and reading materials I've immersed with. One big caveat to this is that the categories are not comparable. An eight season TV show =/= a 45 minute podcast. But that's what the time measurement component is for. Really, this is just for me to see what materials are working for immersion. I'm keeping an excel spreadsheet offline to more thoroughly record immersion materials, including titles and personal notes. Hopefully this will improve my engagement, develop taste, and explore Mandarin media.

Expect the future updates to appear somewhat like this:

Ongoing immersions:
[TV shows]: I'm a boss; 我是老板.
[Youtube blogs]: Mandarin Corner

Highlights:
[Movies] A Sun; 阳光普照. Solid movie, watched with Netflix and used Eng subtitles. This was my first exposure to Taiwanese Mandarin. Lots of differences so comprehension was quite low. I definitely have a natural affinity towards the sounds and expressions of mainland Mandarin, but my evolving opinion is that Taiwan has better media and thus easier to immerse with.

Completed immersions:
Listening
[Movies]: 2
[TV shows]:
[Youtube blogs]:
[Podcasts]:
[Anime]: 1

Reading
[TCB news articles]: 235*
[Graded readers]:
[Books]:

*Suspending my goal to read 500 TCB news articles. I think I achieved what I initially set out to do (get comfortable reading Pinyin). Of course, I'll continue to read TCB but won't press myself towards some arbitrary goal of 500 articles. So with that, I'm officially closing this goal as complete:

Read HSK1-4 TCB articles in pinyin: 235 / 235 / 235 articles; 1 Dec 2020 - 25 March 2021

In conclusion
I'll continue to focus a majority of my time on characters, 90-120 minutes/day. My new character exposure rate is decreasing as the Pleco review load increases, but I estimate I will finish Heisig's RTH Vol I in one to two months. Concurrently, I will begin reading the Anki Spoonfed sentences at 10/day. After completing Vol I, I'll take a break with RTH and focus on spoonfed and maybe pick up a graded reader. After improving reading I'll slowly start at Heisig's RTH Vol II. In the background I will continue to immerse with TV shows and movies, 30-60 minutes/day.
Last edited by Dr Mack Rettosy on Thu Mar 25, 2021 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
4 x
Mandarin goals:
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1276 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 135 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 527 / 5000 / 5000 hours

Sizen
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Re: Study plan update - spoonfed anki and immersion

Postby Sizen » Fri Mar 26, 2021 6:57 pm

Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:Highlights:
[Movies] A Sun; 阳光普照. Solid movie, watched with Netflix and used Eng subtitles. This was my first exposure to Taiwanese Mandarin. Lots of differences so comprehension was quite low. I definitely have a natural affinity towards the sounds and expressions of mainland Mandarin, but my evolving opinion is that Taiwan has better media and thus easier to immerse with.

That movie has been on my list for a while! I'm currently taking a class on Taiwanese identity in media and we've read a number of books and short stories and watched a good few movies as well. There's a lot of interesting media out of Taiwan, but one of the issues for Mandarin learners is that they can sometimes contain Hokkien, which actually had its own very successful cinema that has been mostly lost (only about 200 of the 1000+ films remain), as well as Hakka, indigenous Austronesian languages like Atayal and even Japanese (especially in films that deal with Taiwan's colonial past) on top of Mandarin, making their utility for learning only Mandarin a little low. That being said, I think this applies mostly to less mainstream films (except Hokkien which, for example, features prominently in the highest grossing Taiwanese domestic film of all time, Cape No. 7).

My Mandarin isn't very good, though, so I just watch with subtitles. :lol: In any case, I look forward to hearing about other Taiwanese media you might come across since I'm still pretty new to it as well.
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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: Study plan update - spoonfed anki and immersion

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Tue Mar 30, 2021 6:00 pm

Sizen wrote:
Dr Mack Rettosy wrote:Highlights:
[Movies] A Sun; 阳光普照. Solid movie, watched with Netflix and used Eng subtitles. This was my first exposure to Taiwanese Mandarin. Lots of differences so comprehension was quite low. I definitely have a natural affinity towards the sounds and expressions of mainland Mandarin, but my evolving opinion is that Taiwan has better media and thus easier to immerse with.

That movie has been on my list for a while! I'm currently taking a class on Taiwanese identity in media and we've read a number of books and short stories and watched a good few movies as well. There's a lot of interesting media out of Taiwan, but one of the issues for Mandarin learners is that they can sometimes contain Hokkien, which actually had its own very successful cinema that has been mostly lost (only about 200 of the 1000+ films remain), as well as Hakka, indigenous Austronesian languages like Atayal and even Japanese (especially in films that deal with Taiwan's colonial past) on top of Mandarin, making their utility for learning only Mandarin a little low. That being said, I think this applies mostly to less mainstream films (except Hokkien which, for example, features prominently in the highest grossing Taiwanese domestic film of all time, Cape No. 7).

My Mandarin isn't very good, though, so I just watch with subtitles. :lol: In any case, I look forward to hearing about other Taiwanese media you might come across since I'm still pretty new to it as well.


I hadn't realized Taiwanese media has so much diversity of dialect. Really appreciate you sharing that knowledge!

If you haven't already you should check out Luke Truman's youtube channel. He shares a compilation of Taiwanese media that he uses to immerse. Although his recommendations are probably more relevant for a learner rather than your academic purposes. In any case, I'll be sure to keep posting about my immersion choices. It's encouraging to know I'm not writing these thoughts into the void!

edit: Just now reading the first posts of your log and laughed out loud when I read this post of yours: "Happy to hear I'm not just speaking into the void." Guess I'm not the only one who wonders these things lol.
4 x
Mandarin goals:
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1276 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 135 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 527 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Re: HSK

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Wed Apr 07, 2021 3:08 pm

Details of the revised HSK have been released. An interpretation can be found here.

Building on my previous thoughts, I see this revision as a positive change because now the HSK more accurately reflects language proficiency.

The 2010-2020 HSK:
HSK1=<A1
HSK2=A1
HSK3=>A1
HSK4=A2
HSK5=B1
HSK6=B2
N/A=C1-C2

The new 2021 HSK:
HSKB1=A1
HSKB2=A2
HSKB3=B1
HSKB4=>B1
HSKB5=B2
HSKB6=>B2
HSKB7-9=C1-C2

Where the 2010-2020 HSK doubled at each level, the new HSK scales linearly. The result is higher requirements for earlier levels (which upsets some beginner learners) but smaller gaps in later stages like the notorious HSK5-6 gap. There is also the introduction of three new advanced levels, HSKB7-9, that are meant for professionals whom are expected to specialize in certain domains of the language. This addition is nice because it eliminates the false hope that reaching HSK6 means fluency. My understanding is that a large gap still exists between HSK6 and native materials, so hopefully this new testing system will allow professional teachers, institutions, and private education to start making resources to address the needs of advanced learners.

For me, it's a wash. I have no need or interest in taking the HSK test, at least in the foreseeable future.
5 x
Mandarin goals:
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1276 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 135 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 527 / 5000 / 5000 hours

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Dr Mack Rettosy
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Oct 14th 2020 – April 13th 2021: Six Month Update

Postby Dr Mack Rettosy » Tue Apr 13, 2021 8:56 pm

Oct 14th 2020 – April 13th 2021: Six Month Update

Six months. Quite a milestone! Before you know it I'll be counting in years.

Current Course of Study
I'm nearing the end of Heisig’s RTSH Vol I, with only 150 characters to go. I've read a lot of people rush through the end but I don't feel a hurry. I kind of enjoy making the stories. Also, I don't want to have a huge flashcard load to contend with. Once I finish I'll continue to do reviews and reference back whenever I forget the mnemonic device. Meanwhile, I'll increase my spoonfed deck from 10 to 20 new sentences per day. As I encounter the RTH characters in context of words and sentences, I'll disable the single character flashcard from Pleco. I anticipate my Pleco review load will dwindle very quickly, which is good, because juggling two SRS systems seems like a bad idea. Longer outlook, when spoonfed becomes boring I'll move to graded readers, and even longer outlook eventually get back to RTSH Vol II.

Immersion. It is amazing how efficient immersion is. A few months ago I was studying HelloChinese 'immersion' lessons, which were essentially one minute 6-8 sentence Chinese dialogues, with nine minute English podcasts describing grammar rules and vocabulary. When immersing with native content I'll encounter 150-300 sentences in the same 10 minute time span. Immersion is king. I'm lucky to have come across this early on but still I think about all those months with HC. I suppose it served it's purpose as a stepping stone. The other thing immersion does is increase your tolerance for ambiguity. It's the combined effect of listening, reading subtitles, body language, story context, AND a little fill-in-the-blanks from the brain that almost give the illusion you understand what's going on, and often you do to a certain degree.

Immersion
Ongoing immersions:
[TV shows]: I'm a boss; 我是老板.
[Youtube blogs]: Mandarin Corner
[Movie]: Set Off; 即日启程

Highlights:
[TV shows]: I'm a boss; 我是老板. I’m really beginning to enjoy this show. It's a relief to have found good immersion material.

Quantitative Summary
Total unique pinyin word (拼音) exposure: ~2500 (stopped recording on Feb 6th 2021)
Total character (汉字) exposure: 1342
Total time of intensive study: 537 hr
Average time studying per day: 2 hr 57 min

six_month_update.png
six_month_update.png (26.78 KiB) Viewed 35 times


Here's some data for the quantitative folk. You can see I've just been chugging along the past six months, using different approaches to bridge more advanced materials. I've been pretty consistent across the six months, peaking in January, but with a downward trend in recent months as work has gotten more busy. Right now I shoot for 2-3 hours a day.

Qualitative Summary (brackets = estimated proficiency in HSK v3.0 See previous post for details of this change. Note: old entries used HSKv2.0 which is significantly different and will not be comparable. HSK Band 2 = HSKB2)
Listening [HSKB2]
My listening is at a strange spot. I think my vocabulary has atrophied slightly since stopping HelloChinese and reading TCB. But at the same time, through immersion, my sound parsing is improving and a core set of vocabulary is beginning to crystalize.

Speaking [HSKB1]
Continue to have spontaneous conversations with myself. Actually, the spoonfed anki deck is helping a lot with speaking because many of the sentences are useful in basic conversations. I should note that I have disabled the ENG > CHI direction cards because I want to use it as a reading resource. But I do speak out loud reading flashcards and then shadow the audio files.

Reading [<HSKB1]
Reading the spoonfed deck is in full swing and it's happening quicker than I anticipated. There are so many interesting quirks to reading a logographic script. I'd like to expand on this in the future.

Writing [<HSKB1]
None.

Cultural
Continue to pick up stuff from Mandarin Corner and also the TV show I'm A Boss.

Personal Goals
Ongoing goals:
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 167 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1342 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Study: 537 / 5000 / 5000 hours

Completed goals:
✓ HelloChinese Maincourse [14 Oct 2020 - 29 Nov 2020]
✓ HelloChinese Immersions [1 Dec 2020 - 6 March 2021]
✓ Read ~250 HSK1-3 TCB articles in pinyin [1 Dec 2020 - 25 March 2021]
6 x
Mandarin goals:
Heisig RSH Vol I: 1276 / 1500 / 1500 汉字
Anki Spoonfed Chinese: 135 / 8017 / 8000 sentences
Study: 527 / 5000 / 5000 hours


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