Longish post this time (it was meant to be short), covering how far I’ve come on the various projects that I’ve been working on over the last year or so…
So… I finished reading my second full-length Chinese novel while I was flying back to the UK. From start to finish, I think it took about twenty days, although it was interrupted by some entirely unrelated work on Mandarin which meant that I finished it much slower than necessary.
Anyway, although my Chinese reading speed is now pretty fast, there’s still a lot of room for improvement (compared to my English reading speed, for example), and that’s something I intend to work on in the future.
New characters often go straight into Anki, and I’ve reached the stage now where it takes virtually no effort to learn them.
I guess I understand most of what’s being said if I concentrate now; I think the biggest improvement here is being able to understand weird accents from mainlanders. Sometimes I can understand novel words from context, sometimes not.
The game of Cantonese will be won though, I think, after another year or so of intensive listening to podcasts, watching TV shows and talking to people.
I can now hold a conversation in Mandarin and achieve basic communication, although I have a helluva hard time listening to what people are saying. I’d like to work on the Mandarin more but I’ve not got round to finding interesting material to study with.
I’ve done quite a lot more with the French recently, because it seems like total R&R compared to Asian languages, what with the vast number of cognates it shares with English. Plus, it’s a way of chalking up something I love to do (playing computer games) as being educational.
I’ve been playing through Phoenix Wright, Pokemon, Golden Sun and Animal Crossing on my DS, whilst occasionally looking through Le Monde for articles on American politics (something I have a weird fetish for). Sometimes I understand entire sections of text; sometimes it’s all a mystery.
Occasionally I add stuff to Anki, but usually only for words that have no resemblance to anything in English, because it’s way too much hard work to put in the accents.
These have totally fallen by the wayside, save for a wind band that I do every Friday. I think I wrote a while ago that I was planning on doing grade 8 in one of them sometime soon, but that’s sadly going to have to be relegated to the far distant future.
You may be able to tell from the number of projects listed above that I’ve bitten off rather more than I can chew. And so, I’m about to streamline it all…
The next three months are going to be taken up with French, in the style of Magnificent Matt. It’ll be a case of “mostly French, most of the time” – as in, 80% of the time I have to spend on such language learning projects.
The goal is to get to intermediate fluency so that I can communicate reasonably well with other French speakers and understand most/all off what they’re saying. Also, I figure it’ll make playing French Nintendo games have a much higher ROI if I can consistently understand the majority of what’s going on*.
Thereafter, it’ll be a return to blitzing Cantonese the oral language, together with a smattering of extra reading – the emphasis is totally going to be on speaking and listening. As noted, this process is expected, all in all, to take another year, before reaching the unquestionably native-level standard I’m aiming for.
Finally, Mandarin will steal the spotlight. I’m unsure of how wise this is, or how long it’ll take, but I’m planning to convert/extend my knowledge of reading Chinese from using Cantonese readings to Mandarin ones. This will go hand-in-hand with a massive push in listening to Mandarin, too, with the intended culmination of being able to speak, read and write at a native level.
Thereafter, (and should only be two or three years down the line), I’m going to call a halt to the language learning, except possibly for improving the French further and certainly for maintaining the English, Cantonese and Mandarin at their native levels…
…thereby leaving open the way for a return to the music! Just gotta be patient in the meantime, I guess.
* If you don’t understand much, you can’t learn much without heavy reliance on a dictionary; if you understand most things, new items can be picked up easily from context.