So it’s been a week since I said I’d do a goals update “tomorrow”. Oh well.

Taiwan Today: finish Chapter 14 (whole book)

Not quite. I’m starting Chapter 13 tomorrow, so I should finish 14 next week. No big deal.

Fuller: Finish Lesson 27

Nope. Finished Lesson 24, and I’m going to do a different book (see below) first before I go any further in Fuller.

PAVC: Through Book IV Chapter 4

Done. Won’t be continuing with this book (see below).

Apply to ICLP (??)

Started my statement of purpose, so that counts for something I guess.

Finish The Emperor of China

Not even close. Losing interest in the face of all the other stuff I’m doing.


Oh well. I’m still really happy with my progress, and I was able to skip further than I had hoped. However, the class I’m in is a real challenge. For example, though there are only 27 vocabulary words in chapter 1 of Mini Radio Plays (my textbook this term), there were an additional 33 words in the chapter that were new to me.

On top of that there seem to be a ton of words that my classmates know that either I don’t know or they just don’t come to the front of my mind very quickly. They all studied a lot further than I did, since I skipped in. Some of them got into Far East Book 3, so they’re literally a full term ahead of me as far as that goes. So I’m constantly checking my dictionary when I hear them say new words, and most of the new words get added in.

On top of that I’m using a 文言文 book that was really intended to people with a higher ability in modern Chinese than I have, since the whole book is in Chinese, including definitions and explanations. So there is a lot of new vocabulary for me there too (over 60 words just from the definitions, not counting the actual vocab, which goes into a separate 文言文 deck). And I’m studying from 20 Lectures on Chinese Culture, so there’s some (but not tons) of new vocab there too. I’m not sure I’ll continue with that book, but more on that later.

So all in all, after three days of class I’ve added over 250 words to Pleco. That’s a lot, man. And I haven’t even picked up Harry Potter this week because I’m trying to get used to this term before I add that back in. But I think I’ve found a good way of doing this. It requires some will, but I think it will work well. Here are the basics:

You’re essentially putting in as much vocab as you can on Monday (everything I know I’ll be learning for the week), then reviewing it every day throughout the week. No SRS, just straight flipping through the cards until you get them all right. Here are some key settings for Pleco’s flashcard module:

Card Selection->System->Random
Scoring->Scoring System->None
Commands->Repeat incorrect ON, Loop ON, Shuffle ON
Max number of cards ALL
Test type Self-graded

Having no scoring while you’re in the cramming phase allows the cards to be “like new” when you finally do put them in SRS, but you’ll already know the word, so the SRS can take over and put it into your long-term memory. So you can review them as many times as you want during the cramming phase and their score won’t change.

Throughout the week, of course, I add more vocabulary, but it just gets thrown in with the rest because I’m not anal enough to make the system any more complicated than it already is.

Then on Saturday, after having reviewed the whole cram “deck” every day from Monday through Friday, you can move the cards into an SRS deck. I actually do have a “Cram” deck that I keep random new vocabulary cards in until I’m ready to move them into my regular deck called “Random SRS”. But I also have a lot of textbook categories, where the vocab comes from specific books and is organized by chapter. If that’s the case, then I select whichever chapter I’m cramming in the “Card Categories” menu, and then on Saturday I un-check it and then re-check it under the “SRS” testing profile.

I think I’m being fairly unclear here. Let me know if so, and I’ll try to do a better job in another post. Anyway, by Saturday I have no problem with remembering the word’s meaning and pronunciation, and then the SRS takes care of the rest. The hardest part is making myself do 250+ cards every day for 5 days straight on top of the SRS reviews (which I’m admittedly slacking on).

I’ve been doing this for a few months now (refining as I go along), and I have to say it’s working quite well. I’ve learned well over 1000 words per month on average. Now that’s not to say I can immediately call to mind all of those words when needed. This is mainly a recognition-focused deck. After enough review, the words will be there when I need them, but in the meantime my passive vocabulary is much larger than my active, as I believe it should be. You can, of course, adapt the system for production, but production cards are both mentally and temporally draining, and I find conversation to be a better way of helping with that.

Anyway, I’ve gotten away from the original topic (going back to change the post title…). Goals. March’s goals were originally thus:

1) Literary Chinese for Advanced Beginners: Lesson 4
2) 20 Lectures on Chinese Culture: Lesson 6
3) Learning Chinese with Newspaper I: Lesson 3
4) Chinese Customs and Traditions: 1-2 chapters per week

Native material to use every week:

1) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: read some daily
2) 國語日報: a few articles per week
3) Ranma 1/2 (亂馬1/2): for fun, not much learning going on here anymore
4) Chinese TV Shows


1) Don’t quit French
2) Apply to ICLP

The bar for my French goal is pretty low. I’m OK with that for now.

That last one has been a goal for three months now. If I don’t apply this month it will be too late, and that’s not OK. I’m actually considering doing my MA here in Taiwan (but that’s for another post), and I’ve been advised by many people that if I want to do that I should attend ICLP’s academic year program at all costs. Fortunately I think I’ll be able to save enough money by then to afford it with minimal strain, so I just need to apply.

The trick is finding a suitable person for my third recommendation letter. My professors have mostly forgotten about me, and those who know me don’t know anything about what I’m doing now (my major was film music). I’ve had two teachers so far, and my current (third) teacher will not have known me long enough by the due date to really write a decent letter. My previous bosses have all been morons. No, seriously, I wouldn’t trust them to write a coherent sentence, much less this. I could tell you some stories.

Anyway, I mentioned I might not continue with 20 Lectures. Last month I said the same thing, but then I picked it back up recently. As a language text, it’s well-intentioned enough I guess, but at this point it just isn’t much of a challenge and I’d rather watch paint dry than make my way through this KMT pamphlet of a textbook. The vocabulary will be useful though, which is my one hesitation. This is a really easy book to acquire some basic academic vocabulary from. The last chapter isn’t any more difficult than the first, which is not the case with any other books I have. It’s like the whole book was written at the exact same level, just as a collection of essays on different topics. No progression at all in difficulty. So I may just make it a side project to read through a chapter or two every week just for the purpose of picking up some vocabulary. Or maybe not. The vocab in this book, after all, is just 九牛一毛 in the long run.

In it’s place, I’m not sure what to use. I’d like to think I can finally use Thought and Society. I really think I can, but it will certainly be a struggle. One thing is for sure though, it will make my life easier as far as getting through my 文言文 book, because that book was specifically written for people who have taken Thought and Society already. I’ll be considering this over the weekend.

I’ve also already tossed out Chinese Customs and Traditions. Not literally, because it’s a decent book, but figuratively because I don’t want to feel obligated to read it. It’s also, like 20 lectures, not much of a challenge, and only useful for vocab really. I have every intention of flying through it when I have some time, but not working through it meticulously like I’m doing with Mini Radio Plays, 進階文言文讀本, Newspaper I, and whatever else I pick (Thought and Society?).

About Newspaper I, apparently I was wrong that after Mini Radio Plays you have to take PAVC 5 before taking Newspaper I. My teacher told me today that we’d start Newspaper I once we finish Mini Radio Plays in May. She said we could pick PAVC 5 if we wanted to, but she thought Newspaper I was a better choice. So this summer it looks like Newspaper I or another Level 6 course will be what I’m taking. I may or may not continue with the book this term in that case, since I won’t likely be able to skip again next term and options are limited at Level 6 and above. Though there is an “Advanced Listening” class that sounds like it may be worthwhile.

So that means I should be able to take Thought and Society in the Fall. Even though I’m studying it on my own either this semester or next, I’d like to also have it in class so I can focus on learning to use the vocabulary rather than just being able to read it. After that, who knows. I’ll wait until then to make further plans as far as class goes.

I’m really busy with all the studying plus having finally picked up some tutoring work new friends to hang out with and speak English with in exchange for the occasional 紅包 (I’m on a student visa). So I probably won’t be updating this blog very often for now. Things will calm down, I’m sure. Of course I may just continue using the blog as stress relief or a platform to organize my scattered thoughts on things (hence my long, rambling posts).