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Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 9:55 pm
by Godryka
Hello everyone! I’ve been a lurker here for a long time. I'd always felt that it would benefit me to maintain a „public” language log. It adds a layer of accountability, even if it is easy to disappear from the Internet.

A bit on my language history:

I’m a native speaker of Polish.

I started learning English in the 7th grade. At first, I didn’t put any actual effort into studying it. In grade 9 I bought the 6th Harry Potter book in the original after it had just come out because I thought I could read it before the Polish translation comes out. It turned out to be way too hard. I couldn’t even understand the gist of the first chapter. In grade 10 I started watching a lot of East Asian tv, mostly dramas and some anime. My reading comprehension improved quite a bit because I watched these shows with English subtitles. What made the single biggest difference in my English comprehension was working with an SRS for acquiring vocabulary. For 1.5 years in high school, I used a software called Profesor Henry almost every single day, for about 0.5h to 1h each time. It worked amazingly. Sometime before graduating high school, I stopped using SRS, but at that point, my English was already at an upper-intermediate level and progressed naturally through regular consumption of native media. Then, 3 years ago, I moved to Canada, and have continued to improve without any conscious effort. At this point, reading is definitely my strongest skill (I rarely encounter anything I don’t understand), followed by listening, followed by speaking, with writing being my weakest.

Then there is French. I started learning it in high school, but was never really serious about it, and dropped it completely upon graduating. However, I married a native French speaker, and now I have a stronger motivation to learn this language. My lovely in-laws (both native French speakers) have both made efforts to speak to me in English during the past few years, and I really want to be able to speak in French with them. Also, where I live, French is a great asset at work. So over a year ago, I embarked on the French journey again, and have been progressing extremely slowly since. I have made a resolution to speed up my progress this year. Currently, I estimate my level to be around A2.

Now onto my most important foreign language, and a recurring theme in my life - Chinese. I started learning Chinese (Mandarin) 8 years ago. 2018/19 (fall to summer) is my 9th year. I find it quite embarrassing that I have so little to show for it. To be fair, I had completely stopped studying Chinese for about 2 years when I first came to Canada, so the actual number of years I’ve studied it is closer to 6. Still embarrassing. Chinese Studies was actually my major at the university in Poland. During uni, I was awarded a scholarship to study Mandarin for a year in China. Then got another scholarship to study in Taiwan for two years. In Taiwan, I studied a different subject, not Chinese itself, and most of my classes were taught in English. Even in those classes that were taught in Chinese, we used textbooks in English. During my time in Taiwan, I had some Taiwanese friends and got pretty fluent at chatting about basic stuff. I did not actively study Chinese though.
After Taiwan, I moved to Canada and had not touched Chinese until late 2017. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with different study methods: some SRS (Skritter), watching Chinese shows, going to language exchanges, reading with LWT, and some others. I had not developed any habits that stuck though, until late fall 2018 (so this is most definitely still work in progress). My current level is probably between B1 and B2 (depending on the type of skill). My listening comprehension is the strongest. Probably at high B2. To give you a better idea, I passed HSK 5 in 2012, and since then my skills have improved (especially in the past year), although not in a major way. I suppose HSK 5 is probably the equivalent of a low B1, so I estimate my current level to be at low B2.

To complete the list of all languages I ever touched, I also attended German classes in school for 6 years (grade 4 to 9), but don’t remember one word of it now (in my late 20s).

And lastly, Japanese. I was obsessed with Japan in middle school and started learning Japanese in high school with my best friend, who shared my obsession. We didn’t get very far, but I remember our passion with a lot of nostalgia. At university, I took a semester of Japanese, but that class only reviewed the material I already knew from my self-taught sessions. Then I never studied Japanese again, and can’t really say if I ever will.

I will continue later with my current study plan, etc.

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Sun Jan 20, 2019 10:57 pm
by zjones
Welcome Godryka! I'm looking forward to following your progress in your log. I am always happy to meet another person who is learning French. :D

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Mon Jan 21, 2019 2:49 am
by Godryka
Here is what I currently do to make progress in my languages:


* Currently reading Harry Potter 1. This seems to be a common first book for language learners. I already know the plot (though I never reread this particular book since I read it in 2001), plus I love Harry Potter, so it keeps me engaged! I can’t believe that I never completed a book in Chinese. I am not even finding it too difficult. The first two-three chapters were a bit of a challenge due to the introduction of some HP-specific vocabulary, but now, reading chapter six, I am not experiencing any major difficulties at all. Perhaps two-three unknown words on each page, and even so, most of the time I can figure out what they mean from context/radicals. The biggest obstacle is not comprehension, but speed. Since I used to read nothing in Chinese, besides an occasional article here and there, I guess my brain is not proficient at processing characters at high speed. I will just keep labouring, and hope it will become easier in time!

* Mainly Skritter, which is an SRS app. It’s mostly character writing practice, but I also put some new words in there, so it works for learning new words/learning character recognition.
* some Clozemaster, very little though
* some Duolingo - just for fun. I tested out of the whole tree, meaning I passed all the checkpoints, and have started after the last checkpoint. This is really just for fun, and for having a sense of completion, I guess.

* I started a few different series on Netflix, and finally settled on Meteor Garden (the new version from the Mainland). I watch those with Chinese subtitles. I tried going without, but I lose too much comprehension, so for now I guess that watching with subtitles is better than getting discouraged and not doing it at all. I am currently watching episode 7. Since November, I’ve been trying to incorporate watching Chinese tv shows into my warm-ups at the gym, and into my breakfast time on non-gym days. That means about 20 mins of tv every day.
* ChineseClass101 - I tried this on Youtube, and only did a couple minutes, but I think I’ll be back. The particular video that I’ve started is this: ... L&index=97. This video takes a format of a language test, where you have to answer questions based on pictures and audio. I wouldn’t be able to do this for any longer than 20 minutes at a time, because it is quite taxing, but I think I could use the challenge to activate some focused listening skills.
* Chinese through stories - in October and November, I listened a bit to this podcast, and I really enjoyed it. I have to incorporate it more into my current routine.


* In terms of reading, I have just started on it today. I had started previously a few times, but always got discouraged, because reading with little comprehension is frankly boring. But I know that it would benefit me immensely. I am learning new vocabulary on a regular basis, and that process could be strengthened if I encountered those same new words in native materials. So, today I restarted Le Petit Prince, currently on chapter 5.

* My main source of vocabulary these days is Profesor Pierre, which is an SRS CD from the same series as Profesor Henry - the program I mentioned in my first post. I can’t believe how good this ancient SRS program is (ancient in terms of language learning materials - 2006)! I like the interface, the game-like approach, and the fact that the French is translated into Polish (not into English). I do have to use an old, loud laptop to run it though because my current laptop doesn’t have a CD player ;)
* Duolingo - I feel like the tree challenges me :) I don’t have to finish it actually, but the 5 minutes per day that I take to do it (not all days though, I forget sometimes) feel more like fun than labour.

* I tried to watch stuff with French audio and French subtitles, but I didn’t get anywhere with that. There is too much I don't understand. For now, I have been watching a French series called Le Bureau des Légendes with English subtitles. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. I’ve been enjoying this series so much that I would hate to lose any of the content :)

I’ve been slowly working my way through a grammar workbook called Les 500 Exercices de Grammaire A2. Currently on chapter 3 out of 20.

zjones wrote:Welcome Godryka! I'm looking forward to following your progress in your log. I am always happy to meet another person who is learning French. :D

Thanks, zjones! I am following both your 2019 logs with interest, and I'm very inspired by your rapid progress in French :)

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Tue Jan 22, 2019 4:53 am
by Godryka
Somehow, until three weeks ago, it had not occurred to me to measure time spent on certain language activities, as opposed to just checking activities off my list. A few weeks ago I saw one of the members here do it in his log. I think this is ingenious (no matter how simple), and actually makes me feel accountable. I know that not all activities are created equal (I do feel a bit guilty about putting down watching French tv with English subtitles as study time), but this is still better than the tracking system I used before. So this is what I’m going to be doing until further notice.

January 1-6, 2019

tv without subtitles 3h 32min
Skritter 1h 12min
tv with zh subs 1h 8 min
reading 37 min
Duolingo 8 min
Clozemaster 8 min
Total: 6h 45 min

tv with eng subs 7h 4 min
Profesor Pierre 40 min
Duolingo 6 min
Total: 7h 50 min

January 7-13, 2019

reading 2h 23 min
tv with zh subs 1h 35 min
Skritter 1h 16 min
Duolingo 13 min
Chinese through stores 3 min
Total: 5h 30min

tv with eng subs 2h 39 min
Profesor Pierre 39 min
Duolingo 25 min
Total: 4h 43min

January 14-20, 2019

reading 3h 41 min
Skritter 1h 41 min
tv with zh subs 58 min
Duolingo 12 min
Clozemaster 10 min
ChineseClass101 6 min
Total: 6h 48 min

Profesor Pierre 1h 56 min
tv with eng subs 53 min
Duolingo 35 min
reading 25 min
Grammar book A2 16 min
Total: 4h 5 min

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Wed Jan 30, 2019 2:18 am
by Godryka
January 21-27, 2019

tv with zh subs 3h 23 min ------- (currently ep 10 of Meteor Garden)
reading 2h 48 min ------- (currently ch 10 of Harry Potter Tome 1)
Skritter 2h 7 min
Chinese through Stories 36 min
Du Chinese app 30 min
conversation in Chinese 30 min
Duolingo 13 min
Youtube vlog 13 min
Clozemaster 5 min
Total: 10h 25 min

tv with eng subs 2h 39 min
Profesor Pierre 1h 25 min
tv with no subtitles (cartoon) 1h ------- (2x ep 1 of Totally Spice, ep 1 of Princesse Sarah)
reading 41 min ------- (currently ch 10 of Le Petit Prince)
A2 grammar book 34 min ------- (ch 3 - almost finished)
Français avec Pierre podcast 22 min
Duolingo 20 min
conversation in French 10 min
Total: 7h 11 min

I am quite happy about the number of hours I put in last week. This must have been the best week I ever had for Chinese. I averaged at almost 1.5h of Chinese every day.

I am at 52% of Harry Potter Tome 1 in Chinese. It's going very well. This is the first book ever that I am reading in Chinese, and it's already looking like my reading speed has slightly increased.

Looking at my time log, I can clearly see what I should spend more time on, and what I could drop, if I wanted to maximize my efficiency.
For Chinese, the only inefficient element, in my opinion, is Duolingo. It really doesn’t teach me anything. I have yet to encounter a word or a structure I didn’t know before. But I so want to finish the tree, just the thought of it makes me happy ;)
For French, eventually, I would like to adjust a whole lot of things in how my study is allocated. I need to do more grammar study, more conversation (my husband is a native speaker of French, so theoretically I have access to French conversation for several hours a day, but adjusting habits is hard), and watch more tv with no subtitles, or with French subtitles. In turn, I could probably completely drop watching tv with English subtitles. However, I am not worried, because I am still moving in a good direction with how I allocate my study time. I still do many inefficient things, but that’s life, and I don’t want to connect French in my mind to only work and no play.

In connection to the above, I have been very hard on myself these past few years in regards to language learning. I am coming to a conclusion now that this has been in fact the biggest obstacle in my language learning. The fact that I was (/am) so anxious, and constantly beat myself up for what I did or didn’t do to learn languages in the past is precisely what prevented me from learning efficiently in the present. I have been so concerned that I am not at the level of Chinese/French that the number of years I’ve studied them would suggest, that I often feel this overwhelming anxiety that is so real it sometimes prevents me from using my knowledge in real life situations. For example, this week, I met with my friend, a fellow learner of Chinese, for a little bit of conversation practice. Due to the amount of reading I did, and tv I've watched for the past few weeks, I feel like my Chinese has never been more „activated". My comprehension and active recall of vocabulary have literally never been better. My friend and I started our conversation and the first 15 minutes were a breeze - I was able to say everything I wanted to say in the exact way I wanted to say it. After 15 minutes though came the moment that made me feel anxious - my friend said something I didn’t understand, which triggered the thought in me that I should be understanding that at this stage. Subsequently, I blanked and stumbled over my words for the rest of the conversation. Now, were I less hard on myself, I would have interpreted the situation differently. I don’t have any obligation to speak and understand any foreign language. My life doesn’t depend on speaking and understanding Chinese. Whatever I do learn, no matter how slowly, I should consider an achievement, not a matter of course. I should really make it my priority to appreciate my efforts and my current state of knowledge more.

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:44 am
by Godryka
January 28 - February 3, 2019

reading 5h 31 min ------- (currently finishing ch 12 of Harry Potter Tome 1)
Skritter 2h 13 min
conversation in Chinese 1h
tv with zh subs 48 min ------- (currently ep 11 of Meteor Garden)
Duolingo 19 min
podcast: 一个人听 16 min
podcast: Chinese through Stories 12 min
Total: 10h 19 min

Profesor Pierre 1h 57 min
tv with eng subs 1h 43 min
podcast: Français avec Pierre 1h 30 min
A2 grammar book 41 min ——— (currently ch 4)
reading 31 min ------- (currently ch 11 of Le Petit Prince)
conversation in French 30 min
tv with no subtitles (cartoon) 20 min ------- (ep 2 of Princesse Sarah)
audiobook 9 min
Clozemaster 7 min
Duolingo 6 min
Total: 7h 34 min

This weekend I let myself read in English and Polish, which is something I don’t do much of these days. I like the language learning flow I’m currently in, but I have to be realistic that it is probably not sustainable long-term. I counted the total number of hours I’ve studied Chinese and French in January, and it is 36h 29 min for Chinese, and 25h 40 min for French. That’s 62h 9 min. Minus 13h 15 min if I don’t count watching Le Bureau de Légendes with English subtitles as studying French :D Considering that I have a full-time job, have to cook, buy groceries, socialise, spend time with my husband, exercise, etc., I am left with very little time for anything else. I have not read any news last month besides headlines of the newspapers that lie around the gym. I try to skim through them between sets :lol: I am in awe of those people who have kids and still manage do all those things that I do and stay informed about world events. :)

In Polish, I’ve picked up War and Peace again. I read Tome 1 in late 2017, and then got distracted by other books (and let's be honest - by watching tv instead of reading). Some time ago I picked it up starting where I left off - at the beginning of Tome 2. It’s going by a bit faster this time around, and the reason is that I don’t have to consult annotations to understand most of the parts where the characters speak in French! That is some tangible evidence that I did make progress in French during the past year. I could understand almost none of the French passages last time.
I wonder if the English translation of War and Peace also includes untranslated French passages, or have they been translated into English right in the body of the book? And what if you read War and Peace in French? I suppose you would only know from annotations when the characters speak French, and when they speak Russian?

In other language news, I’ve been trying to develop a habit of listening to podcasts while walking to the bus stop. While on the bus, I usually read, but I can't do that while I walk. I do spend quite a bit of time walking to and from the bus stop, probably an average of 40 to 50 minutes per day. In French, I've been listening to Français avec Pierre. I like Pierre, he is quite a jolly person. I follow most of what he says with ease, but I do get a bit lost when he talks about grammar. Which he does most of the time. It’s like I understand the individual words that he says, but I can’t make sense of the grammar that he’s talking about. I guess grammar is a bit hard to visualize when you cannot see the examples „on paper".

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 6:39 pm
by Godryka
Late update…

February 4-10, 2019

reading 4h 37 min
Skritter 2h 6 min
tv with zh subs 1h 28 min
podcast: Chinese through Stories 51 min
conversation in Chinese 25 min
Memrise (HSK6) 10 min
Duolingo 9 min
podcast: 一个人听 6 min
Total: 9h 52 min

tv with eng subs 1h 46 min
tv with no subtitles (cartoon) 1h 45 min ------- (ep 3 of Princesse Sarah, ep 2 of Totally Spice and ep 2 and 3 of Dragon Ball Super)
Profesor Pierre 1h 30 min
A2 grammar book 40 min
podcast: Français avec Pierre 33 min
conversation in French 11 min
Duolingo 10 min
Total: 6h 35 min

February 11-17, 2019

tv with zh subs 4h 53 min ------- (currently ep 12 of Meteor Garden and ep 6 of My Lucky Star)
reading 2h 37 min ------- (finished Harry Potter Tome 1, currently ch 5 of 追踪小绿人)
Skritter 2h 6 min
Youtube (vlogs) 33 min
podcast: 健身女神张 14 min
Duolingo 4 min
Du Chinese 4 min
Total: 10h 31 min

tv with eng subs 3h 32 min
tv with no subtitles (cartoon) 2h 40 min ------- (ep 1 of Dragon Ball Kai, and ep 4-9 of Dragon Ball Super
Assimil French w/ Ease 2h 36 min ------- (ch 1-18)
reading 46 min ------- (ch 17 of Le Petit Prince)
A2 grammar book 45 min ------- (still ch 4)
Youtube (vlogs) 15 min
Kwiziq 15 min
Duolingo 10 min
writing 10 min
conversation in French 10 min
Total: 11h 19min

Chinese update:

The most exciting thing that happened in my language learning recently is finishing my first full book in Chinese - Harry Potter Tome 1! Yoohoo! Reading it was much less hard than I anticipated. Around halfway through I purchased a kindle dictionary Chinese (traditional) -> English which was quite helpful. I estimate that it increased my overall comprehension to around 99%, whereas without the dictionary, my comprehension was at about 90% (rough estimate).

Before continuing with HP Tome 2, I decided to read something that was written originally in Chinese. To set myself up for success, I started reading a book I received as a gift from my Chinese Canadian friend. Her mother brought a bunch of books from China for her brother, who grew up not being able to read much Chinese, but apparently, he isn’t so keen on reading them, so the books were lying around unread. The reason I thought choosing that book was setting myself up for success was that it is a book specifically written for elementary school kids. The title 追踪小绿人 could be translated into: “Tracing little green men”, which I understood to mean the mythical creatures that live in forests (called „skrzat” in Polish, or a kinder version of „goblin” in English). From the title, I inferred that the bar for the level of language would be set pretty low, but oh how mistaken I was. So far this book has been more difficult than Harry Potter. Not by far, but still, kind of shocked me for not being easier. Could Harry Potter have been relatively easy because I knew the plot, and I don’t know the plot of Little green men? Or it is because HP is a translation, perhaps a bad one, with little variation in vocabulary?

I’ve been doing more Skritter recently. I want to squeeze as much as possible out of my subscription. The current subscription will end in September, and I’m not sure I will renew it. It's quite expensive. I love Skritter though and I think in the end it is worth the money. As of right now, I have studied with Skritter for 101 hours during 403 days. I learned 1629 characters, and 2002 words. I rarely add my own words, I use lists from various textbooks. Right now I am working my way through the vocab from the Taiwanese textbook Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 4, currently adding vocab from Lesson 8/14. I remove words I already know, unless I only know how to read them, but not write them. Having spent 100 hours practising character writing in the last 2 years, I can say that the act of writing characters, recalling radicals, etc. has become more automated than ever for me. My average vocabulary acquisition speed is less than 5 words per day, which seems low, but that's due to the fact that for some time (for 5 or 6 months) during the past 2 years, I wasn’t adding any new vocabulary, just doing reviews. I just wasn’t motivated during that time and only did the bare minimum.

French update:

This past week, I watched only Dragon Ball cartoons, and did not touch Princesse Sarah or Totally Spice. I find the latter two a bit too difficult for my level. I can watch them, sure, but I cannot do so with full concentration, because there is just so much I don’t understand. I will continue watching both from time to time with the help of my husband, who very kindly repeats in slow motion what the characters say, or explains in French what they said, using plain words (kind of like a French to French dictionary). But I can’t take 20 minutes out of his day every day to watch cartoons, so I will continue watching Dragon Ball as my main source of low-level French input. DB is quite repetitive, so watching it gets way easier with every episode, and I still improve my listening comprehension.

Within the last two weeks, there was also a change in my podcast time (the walking part of my commute) - I discovered the Sinica podcast. It’s a podcast very much like a radio show, in which each week the host talks (unfortunately, in English) about China-related news/general China things/trends. For example, last week, the episode discussed the US-China trade relations (it was released on the day of the US-China Business Council), whereas the week before, the host invited a former Ambassador of Canada to China, and his counterpart from Mexico, and discussed their experience. I am loving it so much that I’ve been listening to old and new episodes during my commute, completely neglecting Français avec Pierre. I am now almost caught up with all the old episodes of Sinica I wanted to watch, so I will be able to return to my normal routine this workweek.

Also, this weekend I decided to try Assimil French with Ease, to see if I would like it (Assimil is probably the most praised resource around here), and hoping for some grammar input outside of the excruciatingly boring A2 workbook I’ve been planning to work on more often and failing to do so. I breezed through lessons 1-18 with ease that I honestly did not anticipate, despite the title of the book. The dialogues are hilarious and they allow me to identify gaps in my knowledge quite nicely. However, so far it is not clear to me whether I will be able to use Assimil instead of a regular grammar book.

English update:

I am starting to identify the need to work on my tenses. I use "had been”, "has been”, „were”, „was”, „did” etc. quite randomly at times, or worse, I follow my instinct, which has been know to be wrong :) One of these days I need to sit down and finally find out what the actual rules are :lol:

Another point of reflection on my English: recently I did a test on, which is supposed to estimate the size of your English vocabulary. My result was around 16 000 words. According to that website, the median vocabulary size of a native-English-speaking 28-year-old (who takes vocabulary tests for fun) is around 26 000 words, so I have a long way to go. I consoled myself that for a foreigner, my vocabulary size is not bad, but then I had the awful idea of asking my husband (native French speaker) to fill out the test, and his result was over 27 000 words, AND he was able to accurately explain in plain words what each of the words I have never even seen meant.
I guess there is a straightforward solution to my problem and that's READING MORE (using Thesaurus more often would help too).

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:41 pm
by StringerBell
Godryka wrote:English update:

I am starting to identify the need to work on my tenses. I use "had been”, "has been”, „were”, „was”, „did” etc. quite randomly at times, or worse, I follow my instinct, which has been know to be wrong :) One of these days I need to sit down and finally find out what the actual rules are :lol:


As a native English speaker, I have no idea what the rules are, :oops: I just go with what sounds right. I bet your instinct is much better than you are giving yourself credit for!

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Mon Feb 18, 2019 8:08 pm
by Brun Ugle
It’s no surprise that your husband has a good vocabulary in English if he’s a native French speaker. I read that about 29% of English words came from French and another 29% from Latin, so that would give him a huge advantage over a native Polish speaker. It seems like you have a pretty good vocabulary for a non-native speaker and your writing in this log is excellent.

Re: Godryka's Log (Chinese, French)

Posted: Tue Feb 19, 2019 1:34 am
by Godryka
StringerBell wrote:As a native English speaker, I have no idea what the rules are, :oops: I just go with what sounds right. I bet your instinct is much better than you are giving yourself credit for!

My instinct for English is not terrible, but I trip myself up much more often in spontaneous speech than I do in writing. Part of it is the anxiety which one often experiences when giving any sort of spontaneous "performance" (such as speaking to another person ;)). When I'm nervous, my instinct is often inaccurate. So I hypothesize that if I knew grammar rules better, I could rely on them during the times my instinct is affected by my anxiety.

On the other hand, I would trust my instinct over the learned grammar rules any day in Polish :) So I see what you mean.

Brun Ugle wrote:It’s no surprise that your husband has a good vocabulary in English if he’s a native French speaker. I read that about 29% of English words came from French and another 29% from Latin, so that would give him a huge advantage over a native Polish speaker. It seems like you have a pretty good vocabulary for a non-native speaker and your writing in this log is excellent.

I agree with you that he had an inherent advantage as a French speaker. And on top of that, coming from Québec, he had more exposure to English throughout his life than I did.

Thank you for the encouragement! Part of the reason for starting this log was to force myself to practice writing more than just routine work emails in English.