Studying Chinese

Becoming fluent in Chinese: March Goal Check-In

It’s time for my monthly Mandarin goals check-in!


13 episodes of Chinese TV and 24 episodes of American TV. A big fail! I finished with 幸福三颗星 and found a new series I enjoy called 夫妻那些事, but I still haven’t managed to get hooked on it as well as to my American TV favourites.

I think that the best part of watching those English language series is to get a small break to my other so full of Chinese life. I will continue to let myself to have those breaks, but I also want to get the numbers more even.

Besides watching TV I’ve also started to occasionally listen to the radio. Beijing Story Radio is excellent listening material because it’s mainly talk and there isn’t any visual clues.

I don’t have a listening course at the university this semester, but because all of my courses are in Chinese, I get to listen to a lot of Chinese daily. It’s a new challenge to listen to a lesson about Chinese history in Chinese.


I published two blog posts in Chinese this month: 吃惯中国菜吗? and 最近怎么样?

At the university I have a writing course where we learn to write opinion essays.


I have to finally admit that my book (失恋33天) is too difficult for me at the moment, there haven’t been any progress this month. I’m going to the book store during this short holiday and try to find a book with a similar level to 单身公主 (which I read last year). I will try 失恋33天 again later this year.


I’m not skrittering daily but recently I’ve been skrittering more than last month. I used Skritter for 8 days this month, total of 2,3 hours.


I had a presentation about my travels in China at my spoken Chinese course. Unfortunately our teacher doesn’t really give us feedback and the course in whole isn’t has helpful to me as I would like to. Luckily I chose a selective course 中国国情 (China’s current situation) and there are plenty of opportunities to speak. We can give small presentations about different topics and have discussions.


All in all this month didn’t go as well as I planned. I’ve been feeling very busy with my courses, but still haven’t been as hardworking as I should be. I have a feeling all the time that I’m not improving as fast as I should.

Goals for April:

  • Find a new Chinese book that fits my level and start reading regularly
  • Shoot more short video clips of myself speaking Mandarin


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  • Mike

    Don’t feel bad if you’re not making your goals. The fact is that you’re still studying and you’re still learning! Doing something is better than nothing and learning a little is better than not learning at all.

    I’m in the process of boosting my own Chinese studies and it can be a pain getting the system going. I’ve been using Skritter frequently but not necessarily for extended periods of time (from 5m up to 30m per session). I plan to keep this fairly loose going forward as forcing myself to use Skritter will likely result in not using it at all.

    Keep up the hard work Sara!



    Sara Reply:

    Thank you for your comment Mike!

    I agree with you that it usually isn’t the best way to force you to learn, the results aren’t usually that good. I have a lot of compulsory homework because of my studies, so all the extra learning should be enjoyable. I guess sometimes I’m just comparing myself to other learners and even though it’s a good boost for my motivation to learn more, sometimes it feels like I’m never progressing fast enough.

    Few months ago I thought my Chinese is pretty good, but now I think I don’t know nothing at all. Learning Chinese is a long road.


  • Jack

    Hi Sara, I think you are making very good progress. So don’t feel down. Just as long as you have goal, and keep at it, you will succeed.

    I have series of book I think I can suggest you to read. When my family first immigrated oversea, My uncle gave me the book “春秋战国五百年” (“500 years of Spring Autumn and Warring Era”) as present. I have to say its the best gift my uncle had given me! Even though the books were written for the primary school students (I only graduated primary school when my family moved oversea), its very very easy to read, and best of all, its a condensed version of the most famous part of Chinese history which are usually taught in high school. It let me reconnect with my root, and provide insight into Chinese culture while I was growing up oversea. It was published by a Taiwanese publisher, so I am not sure if they have them in Mainland China, but ask around, maybe they have reprints there in simplified Chinese.

    It is also probably essential for you to read as you are also taking Chinese history class (which I am pretty sure you will have huge difficulties as its very foreign to you, as I had with European history back in the days when I was in high school)

    Other books I think you may find interesting to read – look for “Young Adult” section of the library or bookstore. Those books are targeted towards teenagers, may be very suitable for your language level. Also, I think you may like comic books! There are a lot of romantic comic books (manga) for girls (my cousin is one of them who still read them even though she is in her early 30s!) – which with pictures, and short conversational Chinese, should be pleasurable to read for your break! So, look for “少女漫画” (girl comic) or “少女爱情漫画” (Romantic comic for girls) if you want something different…a lighter reading ;) (As matter of fact, if you type those words in google, you can find sites that let you read those comics for free!!)


    Sara Reply:

    Thank you so much for these book and comics recommendations!

    There are so many important people and events in the Chinese history, that it’s hard to follow the course and remember all of it. I definitely have to do some extra reading by myself in order to get a ok grade from the course. Also maybe watching some history documents could help too?


    Jack Reply:

    I think you definitely need to read a concise version of Spring Autumn period history. “史记” is the exact title and I am sure you can find a version for young adult/teenager. Its probably the MOST IMPORTANT BOOK any sinophile/or anyone studying Chinese need to read because it sets the foundation of Chinese culture with many of the essential idioms, concepts, and ideas came from that period. (e.g Confucius, Laozi, Sun Tzu… etc). Its actually very fun read, I still read that book “春秋战国五百年” which is basically the concise version of “史记” written for teenagers.

    I am not sure about watching movies or TV series – because a lot of idioms will probably be lost to the translation to screen. So find those books! Its not very hard or heavy reading if you find the version for teenagers or children. I read the whole series in 1 sitting (probably about 8 hours?).


    Sara Reply:

    I’ll put that to my list of books I should read! There are so many great books out there and so little time. I already have a few books waiting on my bookshelf.


  • Orachat

    Hi Sara!

    About reading, is 单身公主相亲记 is the book you read? I would like to practice reading but hard to find the not- difficult book to read.
    Would you mind give me the exact name in chinese of this book so I can search and order online.
    Thanks much ;-)



    Sara Reply:

    Hi Orachat,

    That was my first Chinese book I read. The exact name is 单身公主相亲记 and the author is 迷茶. My second book is as easy as the first one, but it’s a translation. Lucy in the Sky (公关辣妹的恋爱札记) by Paige Toon.

    I think both are good for a first Chinese novel.


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