2022 so far

This year has been really fluctuating for me in terms of my language learning goals and methods. I started the year fully focused on Mandarin Chinese, hoping to move to China by the end of the year. However, as the days went by and I realised that China won’t be opening any time soon my motivation kinda dropped.

I also got really absorbed in dancing and it was hard to juggle both hobbies and dedicate same attention to both, so by summer I was already slacking, but still trying to have a Mandarin class at least once a week.

Then we went to Korea in September and completely stopped with Mandarin lessons for a good few months. Original plan was to stay in Korea for a month, but after a week I already started looking for a language course because I felt I should be working on the language while I was there. I did find a pretty good language school called Winter Korean and started classes there on the next day, 3 hours a day. Original goal was to brush up on Korean which I haven’t studied since 2016 (OMG, 6 long years), and see how fast I can improve in a short time, and seeing my fast progress I’ve decided to stay for one more month and continue with 3 hours of Korean classes a day. However, I again forgot that language learning is a marathon and not a race, and when by the end of 2 months I still wasn’t satisfied with my level I had noone else to blame except myself. The school was also pretty laid-back, there was not so much homework (because noone except me was doing it) and there were no tests.

I did make good progress but it still wasn’t nowhere near where I wanted to be. Now that I’m back home I decided to try something new: instead of just self-studying grammar and vocab, I’ve found a new italki teacher and booked TOPIK preparation classes with her with main focus on writing. TOPIK is Korean equivalent of IELTS. It is the ultimate test for Korean learners that get graded levels 1-6, and getting past level 3 is already a feat. TOPIK language is very academic, the vocab is advanced, I’ve tried solving some past exam papers this week and they almost brought me to tears as it was so out of the comfort zone of easy Sogang books which we used at Winter Korean. I’m trying not to lose motivation and keep telling myself that with time these complicated grammar points and words will start making sense, I just have to keep on pushing.

To be honest, I don’t even have an intention of applying to TOPIK exam right now, because they only do these exams twice a year – in spring and autumn and I’m usually travelling in those times. The only goal why I decided to study for it is to challenge myself and grow as a language learner. In the beginning I was just concentrating on spoken language, saying who needs the academic language, who needs complicated writing when the main point is understanding people. But right now I’d like to try something new, because I feel that I stopped progressing and was kinda stuck in my old ways of just stringing simple sententences together and being able to only communicate daily life, not being able to have a conversation on deeper topics. I find it hard to write 600 words on a topic such as “my thoughts on whether economic freedom leads to happiness” and the main reason for that is because writing was never my focus. Until now.

At the same time, as I finally settled in the routine of being home and self-studying this week, I started dabbling in Chinese again and tomorrow is the first class after a loooong time. I spent at least an hour today watching Shuoshuochinese, Yoyochinese and even read a story on Duchinese and it felt good. Hope it continues this way and I can keep growing in all directions πŸ™‚

Long time no see

One of my coping mechanisms with anxiety and uncertainty is studying.

These past few weeks I’ve been really diligent, gotta pat myself on the head for that.

I finally got help with my written Slovenian because I kept making the same mistakes even after 12 years of using it daily. There are so many things that I didn’t know since I just learned naturally, it’s actually quite interesting! I like my teacher, she’s from Ukraine and cancelled our lessons twice due to bombings, I really hope that she will survive this invasion…

Found 2 nice new Mandarin teachers on italki, booked a 10-lesson package with one of them and study with both of them once a week, so twice a week. They both use structured learning, one uses textbook and another uses pdfs with expressions. In the past such methods used to bore me to death, but now my level is already so high that I feel it’s actually important to revise the basics and learn small things like measure words for dishes and how to say “one chopstick” instead of “pair of chopsticks”. Let’s see for how long this will last before I get bored again. To be honest, probably I got bored of just free talking because at some point I started feeling like our level was not improving and we were just using same sentences and vocab all the time – we also were so overwhelmed with all the new words that even with the help of Memrise it was really hard to remember all of them. We’d have a free talking sesh where our teacher would send us all the new words and then we just wouldn’t have time to learn them and make same mistakes the next time we spoke. It is still hard and vocab still remains one of our biggest challenges, but hey, slowly but surely. We also continue studying characters and grammar with Yoyochinese, it’s going much slower than planned due to hubby resisting them, but he’s slowly getting the hang of it. I’ve never felt prouder.

I also bought a Korean “course” from Instagram, which is actually just a set of exercises that gets checked with feedback. It’s not very difficult, but it made me revise some basics and it felt good to actually think of Korean conjugations and google the rules again. So when I got an email from TTMIK with 50% discount I caved in and paid for it. It’s just a third of the price I paid for Glossika which I’m not even using, so I figured even if I learn just a couple courses there it will still be a good investment.

Today I did a placement test and placed in the highest level. To be honest, the last 2 questions I was lacking vocab and was merely guessing, going by my gut, but I got all of them right!

I started a course on Long Sentences today and it felt sooo good to see Hyunwoo again, he’s like a long-time friend, who I haven’t seen since 2017, the year, when I stopped learning Korean.

I just hope to keep going, in these turbulent times the languages really help me stay focused and not collapse into an emotional mess.

Also I think I’m getting motivated by the prospect of resuming our travels soon. My friend from Slovenia moved to Japan today, as soon as they opened the borders to foreigners. She has been plannning this move together with her husband for ages, they both were learning Japanese and preparing for it, and then the pandemic happened. So as soon as it was possible – they flew in. We didn’t even get to meet to say bye. Almost at the same time Korea opened its borders, from 1st April it will be possible to go there without quarantine. Now it’s only China that remains closed, but I hope that China too will open up at some point. All these changes push me to study more, to be ready for our next adventures πŸ™‚

My fav Chinese dramas

  1. Nothing but Thirty
  2. Twenty Not Confused
  3. Fighting Youth
  4. Ode to Joy
  5. To Dear Myself
  6. The rational life

I started watching C-dramas only to get more listening practice, but it turned out that not only were they good for listening, they were actually interesting to watch. I ranked them, which means that Nothing but Thirty is my favourite one.

I love that in these dramas there are usually life lessons and “moral of the story”, that touch on life work balance, relationships with parents, siblings, feminism and of course the question – do you need to get married just because “it’s time to”?

After watching all of these there has been a void, and we’re still waiting for more ” the ‘she’ era” series.


Lindie, Shunchan

Today I hopped on a livestream with Lindie Botes and got to hear her speak so many different languages at the same time, it was super inspiring as usual πŸ™‚ I even got a chance to tell her that I really love her channel and that I literally freaked out when I saw that she subscribed to my blog. Lindie, if you’re reading this – you made my day!

To be honest, I had a break from active language learning in June and I wasn’t updating this blog much, but now I feel ready to be back in the game. This week I had two important encounters – first one with an owner of a bingsu cafe here in Ljubljana, and second with a Chinese lady yesterday in Maribor. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I only practiced languages via devices, be it Skype. Zoom or Clubhouse. This week was the first time I got to speak Chinese with a real life person, and more than 2 years since my last Korean encounter, so it was super exciting to have a real life conversation πŸ™‚ I was so proud that I could speak to both of them without freezing or lagging much, and seeing their amazed reaction was especially satisfying.

I feel like my motivation to learn these two languages is now finally back, luckily the Indonesian course has now come to an end and so I have more mental resources to dedicate to them. I finished Indonesian course with a clear understanding of how I don’t wan’t to study – the traditional way of learning is just soo not for me.

Also, Shunchan just released a new video talking about Engish education in Japan and I found myself agreeing with everything he said. You can’t sign up to any class and except to learn the language by the end of it, you have to put in the extra work yourself. It is surprising that a lot of people don’t have such mindset and just expect to learn the language by passively showing to language classes few times a week and doing their homework. It doesn’t work that way πŸ™‚

Chinese upd

I think that from today on I’m going to stop revising my HSKK wordlist. I’ve been revising it for 70 days and I think I can recognize most of the words in context. To be honest, these 427 words are from HSK 3 and HSK 4 word lists, and I added them because I read somewhere that the HSKK Intermediate exam uses words from these lists, even though some of them are pretty obscure and rarely used in daily speech. And this is the main reason why I think just understanding them passively is enough and so there’s no need to spend more time on learning and revising them til I can actively reproduce them in conversation.

I have finally found a course for Chinese characters that I actually like – surprisingly, it was all the time right there at YoyoChinese website, I just haven’t seen it before because I was not interested in learning 汉字, but now, as I get more and more into them, I spent time looking and googling various options and just couldn’t find a comprehensive video course that taught characters using assosiations and mnemonics. And then I saw YoyoChinese and realised that it was exactly what I needed, so I purchased the course and have been studying with it for the past week πŸ™‚ I also purchased 3 of their comic books, they already arrived and I really like them! I don’t understand quite a lot, but hope to improve soon. I’m also using Duchinese to practice reading, so now I feel like I’m fully equipped and I can’t complain about lacking resources anymore. I set myself a deadline until end of summer to read these books without help of a dictionary, let’s see how it goes πŸ™‚

I passed HSKK Intermediate!

Even though it’s just 4 points above the pass score I’m still extremely happy that I managed to get to this level all within one year πŸ™‚

Now I’m thinking to retake the exam again in June and hopefully improve my score πŸ™‚

HSKK Intermediate test experience

HSK Speaking Test(HSKK) | θ‹±ε›½ζ±‰θ―­θ€ƒθ―•ε§”ε‘˜δΌš

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ The exam is on 13th March, so I have to work really hard on the preparation until then.