It’s that time again. And again, I didn’t really make any goals for last month. It was a fairly chaotic month for me, but things have slowed down now, I’ve finished my last term at the MTC, and I can really start to grind. So I’m going to talk about that instead. This post will be about what I plan on doing going forward.
I’m going to divide it into Speaking/Listening, Reading, Writing, and MA Preparation. I’m combining speaking and listening because they’re pretty much being covered by the same activity.
I’m going to be watching a lot of TV shows and movies going forward. I’ve been doing two tracks with this: intensive and extensive. With extensive watching, I essentially just try to understand as much as I can without pausing too much for lookups. Just relaxed, easy TV watching, not worrying about every word I don’t understand.
The intensive track, on the other hand, is tough work. I print out the subtitles (I haven’t been able to find subs for everything, which limits what I can do this with) and work my way through them, highlighting and defining unknown words. That occasionally includes stuff in 台語. I ask my Taiwanese friends about anything I don’t understand (and since right now I’m watching a fairly coarse movie, it has made for some really funny conversations). After going through a section of the subtitles, I’ll listen to that section of the movie/show repetitively until I understand every word being said. This is perfect for the long commute to and from 師大 everyday. I review yesterday’s chunk of audio on the way to school, and the freshly-learned chunk on the way home.
Every morning, I also select sentences from the audio track to practice (chorusing: highlight in Audacity, shift+space to play on repeat, speak simultaneously until I can say it in unison with the native speaker). This is great for developing pronunciation and intonation, as it allows you to compare yourself with a native speaker in real time, and since it’s from media rather than a person sitting in front of you, there’s no interference from the native speaker being self-conscious about their pronunciation because “you’re learning, so I should speak as clearly and correctly as possible.” With this, I don’t actually aim for perfection (which is very time-consuming), I just want to be close. I also cut out a lot of sentences to put on my phone, so I can practice repeating them on the go. In this part of the process, I pay close attention to how everything is worded, especially if I think I would have said it differently. I also try to select sentences that contain useful new words, and have learned a good deal of vocabulary in the process.
This has all proven to be very effective so far. I’m already starting to become a bit more sure of myself when speaking Chinese, likely due to the large amount of repetition I’m getting with these sentences. One of my Taiwanese friends, out of nowhere, said that she noticed my speech was sounding more natural and wanted to know what I’ve been doing (so she could apply it for English). That’s anecdotal of course, but I do feel like this has the potential to be very effective.
I’m starting a new project here. Inspired by several posts by imron at chinese-forums.com, I’m setting a goal to read one novel per month at least, in addition to the other reading I’m doing. So while I’m carrying The Independent Reader around with me, I only touch that book if I’ve gotten my novel quota in for the day. I’m currently reading 《流星·蝴蝶·劍》（上）by 古龍, and I will probably read the second volume (下) in January. I’ll be working on making a list of books to read next year. My only requirement is that they be interesting and originally written in Chinese. No translations. Although I’m tempted to make an exception for 1Q84.
I’m using SRS again in conjunction with this, but only adding a limited number of words per day rather than trying to learn every single new word that comes up. I deleted all my old decks, hoping that since I’m starting fresh it will be less boring.
Like I mentioned, I’m also using The Independent Reader, but it’s very much secondary.
If I’m going to do an MA here in Taiwan, my writing needs to improve a lot. To that end, I’m doing a little writing every week to go over with a tutor. Most of it will either be for the research plan I have to include with my application or academic writing related to my field, but I will do some other writing too.
This one big category really includes two things: reading in my field, and 文言文. Right now I’m using 《文字學概要》 by 裘錫圭 for the former (it will likely take some time to get through this), and 《古代漢語教程》 by 周光慶 et al for the latter (same deal, hoping for one unit per month). I have a whole list of other books that I want to read before starting the MA, but first I’m going fairly slowly and deliberately in order to get a firm grounding in the basics of the field.
In other, but related, news, I’ve been told that it’s exceptionally difficult for a foreigner to get into a Chinese department in Taiwan, so I’m also applying to history departments. The idea there is to take both 文字學 courses and history courses, and apply the philological skills I develop in the former to help me in my research on early Chinese history. I really like the way the history programs are set up at both 師大 and 台大, so I’d be very happy going that route. Anyway, I need to brush up on my early Chinese history, so I’ll add some of that in there soonish.
So that’s the deal right now. I have a lot of time right now to devote to this, so I’m going to hit it as hard as I can. I’ll have even more time starting in February, because one of my tutoring jobs (which takes up 6 hours per week) ends then. Learning Chinese is essentially my job right now. I won’t be taking on any more students, but I will take on the occasional translation job (which pays much better and actually helps my Chinese). December’s goals are:
Finish 《古代漢語教程》 Unit 1
Do 3-4 TV episodes, or an equivalent amount of movies intensively
Get a solid start on my research plan
Finish 4-5 chapters of《 文字學概要》
Watch TV and read as much as possible, speak as much Chinese as possible
Oh, and my goal for Japanese: through Assimil Lesson 24(?)
That’s all, folks!