Studying Chinese

Becoming fluent in Chinese: January Goal Check-In

I am almost too embarrassed to do this check-in for my goals, but perhaps after this humiliation I’m going to do better job in February. So let’s see how I did with my goals in January!


15 episodes of American TV and 8 episodes of Chinese TV (challenge started in the middle of the month). This looks like a big failure, but I promise you that I will get it even before Saturday.(I would blame this TV series.)


I published two Sara’s Mandarin Monday blog posts in Chinese which is according to the plan. Thank you everyone for giving me such a great feedback!


I did start my first book of the year (one of five), but have only read two pages. First I used a method where I checked almost every new word with the dictionary, but realized it’s not going to work. I need reading to be enjoyable in order to finish those five books this year. So I let my self to use any method I want (meaning sometimes checking the dictionary, sometimes not) if I just read the books and enjoy it.


The goal is to use Skritter everyday for 15 minutes. I have noticed that it’s really hard to keep up when I’m on a holiday. And will be even harden when my friend soon comes to visit me for two weeks. Here at the stats:

  • Days Studied: 14/31 (<- failure can be seen here)
  • Hours Studied: 7,5
  • Minutes Per Day: 14

To-do list for February

  • Keep the Chinese/American TV balance every week
  • Continue the good work with Sara’s Mandarin Monday
  • Read at least 100 pages of my current book
  • Do my best to make Skitter a daily habit when the new semester begins on 20th
  • Figure out a goal for spoken Chinese


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  • Jack

    Good on you Sara! I am glad you started to watch more TV! But why watch American TV? I mean are they in English? Or are they in Chinese (or subtitled?)

    Also, do you have find it difficult to read newspaper or magazine? I am thinking you might have easier time to start reading newspaper or magazines since they are written in the most easy to understand (remember a lot of people don’t have good education in China) Chinese. They usually don’t use difficult or rarely use idioms if at all. Where as adult books especially women’s romantic fiction use a lot of it, and I remember even I found it difficult to read with Junior high level Chinese. Maybe its a different mindset (I was a 13 year old boy reading my mother’s book out of curiosity) but I found 散文 especially hard to read because I had difficulties following protagonist’s “心境” (mindset). Or maybe it was badly written or maybe it was just me due to my lack of ‘life experience’ at the time(I was 13!) but that surely was the last time I pick up an adult chinese romantic novel. (I am generally a non-fiction and biography reader) :D

    I think newspaper would be a good choice – because its the whole world in paper form! Everything happening in the world, its there. The most commonly used phrases, vocabulary, even idiom. Once you become fluent in reading the news items, move on to read the more difficult editorials and commentaries! Plus, they also often have a section that include serial fictions in newspaper (a bit what Charles Dickens did with serial/episodic fiction). If you have absolutely no difficulty reading the newspaper, then start with the magazines, which is more substantial and indepth.

    But I don’t mean to say to not read novels, because novels are a different type of writing that will benefit your learning, but I just think its too early to start reading adult romantic novels. Maybe you can start with “junior adult” (AKA “TEEN”) novels which is written in much easier to understand manner than the adult novels.

    As for speaking – you really need to socialize to be able to improve on that aspect, watching TV may help your listening, comprehension, and prounciation, but its a “one directional” tool that won’t help you to speak, because speaking requires to think how to construct the sentence on the spot. So two-way interaction is essential. Judging by your writing I think you are ready to venture out, to make more friends and join some clubs!

    Sara Reply:

    Yes, I watch American TV shows in English. Why? I just happen to like watching them.

    From newspaper I can usually understand the basic meaning, what the article or piece of news is about, but there’s still a lot I don’t understand. I think we will have a newspaper reading course at university this semester or the next. Having a goal related to reading newspapers would be a great idea, I have to think about that when I find out my courses for new semester and how busy I will be.

    Our teacher said that usually romantic novels are the easiest kind of novels to understand, that’s why I chose a romantic novel as my first and second Chinese book. Later on I hope to read more different kind on literature but for now romantic novels seems like a good place to start.

    For my spoken Chinese I absolutely have to find more ways to speak with native speakers. I speak Chinese with my classmates and always with my boyriend, but that’s of course not enough. I really hope to find good ways to improve my spoken Chinese this year and it includes making friends. I will report later on how I’m doing and perhaps make a more clearer goal for that.

  • Shu

    How about adding one proverb a week? That will help you with understanding Chinese culture and make your speaking more concise and classic:)

    Sara Reply:

    I’m so glad my readers have great recommendations for me as new goals! :) I think I’m not taking new goals for the rest of my holiday, but will reconsider when the new semester begins. I already know great resources for 成语 so that wouldn’t be a problem.

  • Maria

    Wow, what a blog! I’ve been browsing through the past posts for a couple of hours, so much interesting to read! Three years ago I was studying chinese in Pietarsaari, but it was just a 6 weeks intensive course and no possibility to follow it up. But the interest is still very much alive and I devour anything I can get over concerning the language, the country and the culture. So reading your blog is truly inspiring! Thanks a lot and keep up the good work!

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you Maria for leaving this comment, I’m always a bit surprised to find out someone is liking my blog that must. I’ve been really busy this past week, but hope to get more time to blog soon!

  • Diederik

    Keep up the good work! 加油!

    I liked your Chinese posts, very recognizable for me.
    Btw, I started using Weibo not so long ago, as a Chinese practice tool. Maybe an idea for you? Since the posts are all short, I think it might be easier to practise reading, than a whole book. Which will take a lot of discipline.

    Sara Reply:

    How can I find your weibo? I actually have it too, even though I don’t use it so often. You can find mine here:

  • Jack

    Sara, got a language question to ask you and your Chinese readers – Do they say “你家给我吗” or “你嫁给我吗” in Mainland China? I am not entirely sure because I was educated in traditional Chinese instead of simplified Chinese. So I am not sure if they simplified “嫁” to “家”. I was actually reading this wonderful blog about marriage proposal in China ( when I came across that. Maybe you could offer some expertise. I am doubting myself because I thought Ember has firm grasp of Chinese judging from her blogs (or she could made a mistake)….

    Sara Reply:

    I think it should be 你嫁给我吗. Perhaps he/she just made a typo when writing that blog post.

  • Reid

    Hey, what is the book you are going to read? Good luck with the next months!

    Sara Reply:

    Hi! I’m reading 失恋33天. It’s a bit more difficult than my first book, but I hope to get through it. I’m only on the page 9 at the moment, but my goal is to get page 100 at the end of this month.