HSKK Intermediate test experience

HSK Speaking Test(HSKK) | 英国汉语考试委员会

So yesterday was the day of the test! To be honest, I was studying so much vocab during the past few weeks that I felt like my brain could not take any new words any longer, so the day before the test and actual day of the test I took it really easy and revised very little.

On Skype sessions with our tutors I’ve noticed that being tired really affected how I was speaking, so I gave preference to rest over knowledge.

On the day of the exam my husband wanted to cook meat for me, but I asked him not to because I thought that meat can make me sleepy. The exam was on Saturday at 16:30, so during the day I mostly chilled, we also went for a short bike ride, it was nice to get some fresh air and sun outside.

I had vegan spinach ravioli for lunch, getting my dose of slow carbs and proteins. One hour before the exam I brewed some strong Earl Grey tea and started sipping on it. Twenty minutes before the exam I had one chocolate to boost my alertness. Then the exam started.

Since it was a “Home-edition” I was doing it by myself, with my phone logged in on a Zoom call so that it could be seen what I was doing. I could have potentially written some notes and hid them somewhere where it could not be seen on camera but I was a good girl and didn’t prepare anything.

The first section was repeating sentences after the audio, I felt that it was harder than some mock tests, but maybe it felt this way because I was more nervous than usual. In any case, I tried my best.

Second and third sections were where I was supposed to describe 2 images and answer to 2 questions, 2 minutes per each section, all together 8 minutes of non-stop talking. I had 10 minutes to prepare, and there was a box on my computer to take notes, BUT it was only in hanzi (chinese characters) and so I could not take any actual notes because my focus all this time was on learning vocab via romanized pinyin system only. I wrote some words there just to outline what I was going to talk about, but when I started talking I didn’t even look at those notes and went complete freestyle.

The first image was of a woman at her desktop, so I told her story, that she works in Huawei, where the pressure is very high and I hope that she gets some rest soon, because work burnout is very bad. I also mentioned 996 work culture in China and said that it’s not very healthy.

Second image was of a little girls at the ballet class. I told the story of a little girl who doesn’t like to dance but has to learn it because her mom forces her to. Then I switched to my own experience and said that I wished I learned dancing when I was young because now I’m really into Douyin and TikTok and I wish I started learning earlier so I would be a better dancer now.

Then came the questions. The first one was about cell phones – “Imagine your life without mobile phone, would you be able to survive?” I started talking that in the past I used cell phone all the time because I was constantly on business trips, but now because of the pandemic we’re mostly stuck at home so I started using my laptop more than my phone. However, I still use my phone for Douyin and TikTok a lot and I really enjoy these programs, since they help me learn Chinese and get to know other cultures.

I’m still not sure if I got the second question right, I hope I did. I think it went something like “A lot of people want to travel the world, so they give up their job in order to travel. What’s your take on this?” I started to say that a lot of people fantasize travel lifestyle, but actually it’s very hard to travel non-stop, in the past I lived the life of constant travels and it was a lot of pressure, I constantly felt tired and anxious. So I think that travelling is fine, but it should be moderately, since too much of it can make us unhappy. Then I continued to say that because of the pandemic I was able to study Chinese and get to know Chinese culture and Chinese geography, so now I have a list of places in China where I want to go after the pandemic ends. To be honest I’m not 100% satisfied with my answer, it could’ve been better structured and I felt like I was lacking some important vocab, but at this point I was talking non-stop for 6 minutes.

After the test I felt like a huge burden fell off my shoulders! Now I can finally get back to my normal lifestyle and stop concentrating all my efforts on the exam 🙂

HSKK preparation

Wow, my Memrise score reached 14 million points, that’s crazy!

Recently I’ve created an HSKK Intermediate Prep course with the words from HSK3 and HSK4 that I still haven’t memorised in order to prepare to HSKK. In one week I’m at about 70 words. But to be honest, when I was doing mock tests this weekend, I still met some words that were not in these word lists, so I guess I will just have to hope for the best. This is the beauty of oral test – there’s no set of rules or word list that you need to learn in order to be ready for it.

Yesterday I practiced a mock exam by myself, I think it was ok, especially because the last 2 questions were easy to understand. I hope to get questions like this on the actual exam 🙂 I also realised that I like doing HSKK mock exams, because they are quite short, just 23 minutes, and they force me to try my best to speak without mistakes and in the best possible way, and I can really feel which words I’m lacking to fully express what I want to say. During my language exchanges I just blurt what I want to say, without caring too much about the grammar, my main goal is to break the language barrier, but with HSKK you need structure, grammar points, vocabulary. So I’m glad that I decided to sign up for this test, I can already feel a big difference. Sometimes I get scared of the difficulty and worry that maybe I will fail. But then I tell myself that maybe it will be ok to fail because the exam fee is not that high, there’s another exam in 3 months (in June), and preparing for the exam is really motivating and pushing me to study harder, so maybe that’s a good thing if I fail and have to practice for 3 months more 🙂

I also noticed that I concentrate better when I study by myself, I signed up for HSKK exam just by myself, my husband hasn’t, so he’s not preparing for it as hard as me. That said, he’s already learning the HSK3 and HSK4 word lists with me, so it seems like he also wants to pass it at some point in future 🙂

This week is going to be a little tough, I’ve scheduled 5 hours of Skype calls with 4 different Chinese tutors throughout the week, let’s see how I’ll hold up 🙂 On top of that, I decided to not completely stop with Korean language exchange, but just reduce it from 4 x 1-hour calls to 4 x 30 minute calls. A lot of calls this week 🙂 The exam is on 13th March, so I have to work really hard on the preparation until then.

I’ve signed up for HSKK!

After 38 days of every day revision with Memrise, I feel like I’m finally all caught up with Unit 1 and can now move onto revision of Unit 2 🙂

Last week I was pretty good with Korean – I had 2 language exchange calls, wrote a small text in my notebook, and got through Unit 1 of this book, revised 8 grammar patterns and did a test at the end of the unit, which was very hard, but I got just 2 questions wrong (out of 12), so I feel pretty good about it!

However, yesterday I did 2 crazy things which I was not planning to do – I signed for HSKK, the oral Chinese speaking test, intermediate level. I checked mock tests and they seemed quite manageable, however, as I started reading more about the test I got a little bit more intimated, but I don’t wanna turn back, I want to have a go! Even if I fail, there’s another one in June and the test fee is only 20 euros (unlike English certificates, which can cost from 200 to 300 euros). So now I have to go through the HSK 3 and HSK 4 vocab, as well as schedule some practice sessions. Fun, fun fun!

I think I mentioned here a few times that my Chinesepod subscription ended last week and I was not planning on renewing it in order to save money. However, yesterday I got a newsletter from Du Chinese with a very good discount thanks to Chinese New Year, so I couldn’t resist and bought a one year subscription 🙂 Du Chinese is a website mostly for learning how to read Chinese characters, and even though one year ago I kept saying that reading characters is not for me, I feel like I can finally start working on it. Actually, I really want to learn to read and write in Chinese and I hope that with DuChinese I will be able to get a little closer to that goal.

So… how many languages do you speak?

There is no more confusing question that this one for anyone who is multi-lingual.

The thing is, I speak freely and fluently just 3 languages – English, Russian and Slovene. I don’t have to think what I want to say in these languages, the words come to my mind naturally and I can feel super relaxed while conversing in these languages.

Then come the rest of the languages in which I can speak, but with more difficulty – Italian, Spanish, Korean, and recently Chinese. To be honest, I keep mixing Italian and Spanish, so in order to get myself in the “flow” of either of these I need to speak for like one hour straight and then the fluency comes back to me, I get in the “flow” and stop thinking which word should I use – “fare” or “hacer” and so on. Korean and Chinese – well, they are extremely difficult languages, and I often feel difficulty expressing myself on some topics even after weeks and months of studying – some things are easier, some things are harder. I can speak them, I can easily hold conversation about myself, my life, general topics, but I’m definitely not fluent.

I also leave Indonesian out – I only finished A1 and know just some super basic stuff, so I can’t even say I can speak it, because what I can do for now in this language is super limited.

And then there are passive languages – like Serbo-Croatian. I was exposed to it quite a lot through my dad, who speaks it well, so I understand almost everything, I can read subtitles if we’re watching a movie in a language I don’t know. But I can’t speak it. It is not an active language for me, it is a passive one.

So how do I answer to the question – “so, how many languages do you speak?” Do I say 3 because these are my most fluent ones? Do I say 7? Or do I say 8 and include Serbo-Croatian (which I can’t really speak?)

And this is why I always get confused what would be the best reply when I get this question 🙂

Indonesian streak

Yesterday was the final exam for A1 Indonesian course by Indonesian embassy. It was quite challenging, so I’m curious to see my results. The last task was especially challenging – we had to describe the picture using words given below, and we had to use a total of 90 words. While it was challenging it was also fun at the same time, because I got to be creative 🙂

So today is the first day I’m not going to complete my streak, which is 50 days now, from the day that we had our first mid-semester test.

At the same time, my Howtostudykorean streak at Memrise is steadily increasing and is already at 23 days. I’m happy that today I managed to lower “Classic Review” words to just 79, when I just started again there were over 400 of them. At first, it seemed like it will take me ages to get through them, but here I am 🙂

I’m also glad that A1 Indonesian course is over, I’m not sure yet whether there will be A2 and if yes when it will start, so for now I will hopefully be able to dedicate more time to Korean and Mandarin, studying 3 languages at the same time is definitely not my forte, so let’s see if I’ll be able to do it with 2 🙂

How I learned Korean

I was learning back in 2015, so probably since then a lot of new resources have appeared, but here is my way and my way only. Here is the list of my main resources and I will go into each one in detail:

  1. Tengugo app for Hangeul alphabet
  2. Howtostudykorean website
  3. Memrise SRS
  4. Koreanclass101 classes and especially dialogues
  5. Korean Grammar in Use books
  6. Korean Cyber University Youtube channel
  7. Language exchange apps (HelloTalk, italki)
  8. Motivational Youtube channels and podcasts (Motivate Korean)
Continue reading “How I learned Korean”