I wrote before about how I’m terrified of starting my MA next fall. My Chinese isn’t good enough yet, on any front, to be successful in a real graduate class. Naturally, all of my goals for the coming year (and more specifically for the first 9 months or so before the fall semester starts) revolve around getting me ready.

I mentioned recently that I want to read a novel per month in addition to the reading I’m doing in my field. The idea is to increase my comfort with reading Chinese, ideally with progressively more difficult books. I’m still planning on doing that, but it’s going to take a back seat to books more specifically relevant to my field. That is, if I don’t finish a novel each month, but I’m successful as far as preparing for my MA, I’ll be happy. At worst I should still be able to get in a novel every two months.

I’m still doing the TV and movie thing. I’m not doing it as intensively as I thought I might, because I think I’ve found my Pareto sweet spot with this. Rather than going through a 15-minute chunk of a movie or TV show every day and drilling the sentences from it (which altogether takes a significant amount of time), I go through a chunk or two every week and then just passively listen while occasionally shadowing over a period of several days. I end up essentially memorizing each chunk anyway. This also frees up more time for extensive watching. I’ve found that as insane as the variety shows like 康熙來了 and 大學生了沒 are, they’re really excellent as far as natural, unscripted speech and (mostly pop-)cultural knowledge. I’ve learned a lot by doing these two things, and it doesn’t take up as much of my day as before. I’m pretty happy with the way my speech is improving just from doing this and speaking in Chinese more throughout the day.

So, onto the meat. I’ve been poring over undergraduate course syllabi recently in the three basic areas of my field (文字學, 聲韻學, and 訓詁學) and speaking to other graduate students about them, and I’ve picked out a few books for each subject (as well as 國學 and history) that seem to be most recommended, bought them, and put them on my shelf to read. I figured the other students starting their MAs at the same time I do will at least have read these books or similar ones (most will have BAs in Chinese too), so it’s my attempt at catching up as much as I can.

These are the books I will have read by mid-September, when the fall term starts:



I’ll also be working through a book called 《商周古文字讀本》 by 劉翔 et al. It’s very much like any 文言文 reader you might find, except the selections are all from Shang and Zhou dynasty oracle bone and bronze inscriptions. Every selection has a rubbing or other image of the inscription, along with the text transcribed into modern traditional characters, and copious annotations.

There’s also a book called 怎樣學系《說文解字》 that I might pick up, along with a few 說文-related reference books. I need to get some practice with some actual research methodology, rather than just reading about it.



If I have time, I’ll also read 《聲韻學》 by 竺家寧, but that’s a fairly hefty tome at nearly 700 pages. There’s also an 《音韻學教程》 by 唐作藩 that I’d like to read if I can find a copy. But the three books listed above have priority.



I don’t know so much about this subject yet, so this list may grow. Hopefully not, because I’ve already set myself up for enough reading.



That last book is secondary to the 《商周古文字讀本》 mentioned above, but I still hope to finish it before starting my MA. One unit per month should be doable. I’d like to read more 文言文 (particularly post-Han, as my reading list is heavily weighted toward 先秦兩漢) if I have time, but again, that’s secondary. At the least, I’ll be bringing some with me on my trip to the US next summer.



Yeah, those last two are popular history, not scholarly, but I’m OK with that considering everything else I have on deck. Looks like they’re used in some undergrad classes anyway.

We’re looking at around 5000 pages over the next 9 months, just related to my field, not counting any other reading I may do. And that’s just for now. I’m sure the list will grow to an unmanageable size, but I’ll just have to do the best I can.

Oh yeah, and I’m studying Japanese now too. This only takes up maybe 30 minutes of my day. I got fed up with how slow the Assimil recordings are, and couldn’t find a reasonable textbook in English because they all tend to assume you’re terrified of 漢字 and introduce them very slowly, so I found one published for Taiwanese people instead. It’s called 《大家學標準日本語》 by 出口仁, and it seems just fine so far. At the very least, it presents all the sentences the way Japanese people would write them, kanji and all, and the MP3 recordings are clear and at a reasonable speed. I’m still finding my pace with this book, so I’m not making any concrete goals yet.

As I mentioned before, I’m also working on writing with a tutor. For now, I’m preparing my applications for grad school and scholarships, but once I’m done with that I’ll be working on the sort of writing I’ll need to do for my classes.

Here’s an idea of what a day may look like for me:

Reading 《文字學概要》: 1 hour
Reading 《基礎音韻學》: 1 hour
Reading 《商周古文字讀本》: 1 hour
Watching TV shows and movies: 1 hour (on the bus, doesn’t count)
Studying 1 lesson from 《大家學標準日本語》: 30 minutes
Working through movie subtitles: 30 minutes (only on some days)
Writing: 30-60 minutes

So that’s 4-5 hours per day of study, plus an hour of TV/movies on the bus. Not all that bad, right?

I’ll set specific goals for January when I post my December goals update.