Studying Chinese

Trying to grade my Chinese

One of my favourite blogs Confused LaoWai wrote about his Chinese proficiency according to Lingomi’s PRG scorecard for Mandarin Chinese. Looks like Neil is doing very well! Even though my Chinese isn’t quite there yet and it’s hard to rate one’s own progress, I wanted to try too.

Writing Characters

I have learned about 500 characters with Skritter now, but maybe have forgotten something and haven’t added something I already know. Maybe my writing by hand is somewhere between level 3 (250 characters) and level 4 (500). With computer I think my level is 4.

Reading Characters

I have read Graded Chinese Reader 1 with 2000 characters and started book 2 with 3000 characters. There are words that I don’t know and I have to check new words from the margins, but I can get the overall meaning. So maybe level 5 with 1200 characters is the closest one.

Chinese Vocabulary

This one is also really hard to estimate, but I guess that level 5 with 1500 words is the closest one. Getting this far with grading my self, I have to say it is difficult! I feel like I am giving my self too good marks, but on the other hand I don’t want to underestimate myself either.

Chinese Grammar

How is it even possible to grade? I guess I am intermediate 1 or 2 (level 3 or 4), but I don’t really know what those levels mean. Last November at old HSK Elementary-Intermediate exam I got 49 points (out of 100) from grammar section.

Spoken Chinese

Maybe level 4 with “can get around and do daily things” describes my spoken Chinese quite well. When talking with my Chinese boyfriend I’m probably already at level 5 (“can begin to express complex ideas and thoughts”), but he have learned to understand me very well.

Chinese Listening

Steven at Lingomi has lots of questions marks in his listening scorecard (for levels from 4 to 7). Level 3 says “has a good grasp of tones and tonal differences” and level 8 “fluent listening”. I can enjoy easy Chinese movies (我知女人心) and dating TV shows (称心如意 and 我们约会吧). I don’t understand  everything they say but I get the basic idea and like watching them. Should that be level 4 or 5?


I don’t really have any idea did I just grade my self fairly or was I too strickt or probably too kind. Maybe I should ask my teacher to grade me? Or maybe my HSK results can tell more about my skills: Listening 52, Grammar 49, Reading 42 and Characters 51. Notice that it was old version of HSK that I took last November and I got Elementary B (level 4). Right now I am waiting for the results from my last Sunday’s HSK (also old one).



  • Katherine

    Your handwriting is really good! I see Korean on there, though, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think you’re studying hanja!

    For grading, I think it’s best if you grade yourself AND your teacher. You, knowing what you’re currently capable of, and your teacher knowing what you still need to work on.

    How was the HSK?

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks! Our textbooks are for English and Korean speakers so they have both languages. I have heard that learning to write Korean is easy, but I’m not sure is it true or not. So it’s called hanja, good to know!

    I agree, best to grade yourself and also ask a teachers opinion!

    HSK was ok, but it’s really hard to say how I did. I remember two listening questions where I understood the listening part, but didn’t understand any of the multiple choises. Also one text in the reading part was so difficult that I really didn’t understand what it was about. First I thought it’s about a fish, but then the fish was in a tree, so maybe it was about something else :) I also forgot how to write shu from shufu (舒服的舒). Well, the results will come in a month!

  • Dorah H

    Wow your writing is GORGEOUS, is it always that neat???

    Sara Reply:

    Oh, Thank you Dorah! I don’t think it’s that good, but when I concentrate the characters are ok and for some reason teachers like to compliment my writing.

  • Steven

    @sara: Getting feedback from a teacher would definitely be useful, too. Perhaps they could help clear up the muddiness of listening and grammar scores.

    Pretty goods scores by the way.

    @Katherine: the vast majority of south Korean students study Chinese characters in middle school. The characters are traditional, and they usually learn around 500 or so. It helps them when they start studying Chinese because they aren’t as afraid of characters as someone completely new to Chinese is.

    Sara Reply:

    Thanks Steven! I think I will ask my teachers to grade me fairly, because I’m worried they give too good marks too easily.

  • Confused LaoWai

    I would just like to chime in with the others here as well. You’ve got excellent handwriting!

    Thanks for mentioning me as well.

    Sara Reply:

    Sure I had to mention, because the idea was completely from you dear Confused Laowai!

  • Zacky

    your handwriting is absolutely amazing, and moreover, the meaning of sentence is so cute, those characters remind my childhood, honestly, I think my Chinese handwriting was even worse than yours when I started learning how to write them. :p

    I put lots of efforts to improve my handwriting when I was little, but still, they look horrible, later on, from my observation, I realized if I wrote all those words slightly slanting-following the slash(/)direction, all those characters would look more neatly and artistically when they are in sentences. :D

    I found this rules cannot only apply on Chinese, also it’s applicable to other languages and even for Arabic numbers. Look at the English word “always” beside those Korean symbols,just talking it as an example,I think its handwriting style is quite cool. Well, you, now as a Chinese beginner, remember, you don’t have to write Chinese characters like those “big Chinese calligraphers”, that needs a lot of practice and imitation, also, for many ordinary Chinese, if you write like that,many of us cannot even understand what they write. screw those crazy calligraphers,hahaha

    btw, were you late for the school again, and you got punished by writing some self-criticism? Stupid communist rules, ain’t they, don’t let them frustrates you if you’re asked to write self-criticism again, anyway, keep trying, I got several Korean friends their HSK like level 10 or 11.

    not sure Chinese or Korean is easier to learn for western learners, it all depends on individual. Telling you the truth, if you’re extremely enthusiastic about learning a new language, nothing can be your obstacle. Trying to learn with your enthusiasm, I know Chinese characters are hard for westerners, just thinking the other way around, for Chinese, English or other western languages are also difficult for them too if they learn it as second language.
    Finally, hoping you continuously have the great dream here.

    I wish I was a foreigner living A dream in China too :D

    Sara Reply:

    Thank you Zacky. I have this special notebook that I use practicing to write more beautiful characters. It has poems and I copy them through a thin paper. It’s meant for Chinese students, but is useful to us laowai’s too. Maybe I’ll try writing in italics.

    What made you think that I’ve been late for class and have to write self-criticism? I’m not always on time, but we also don’t have to write any criticism if we are late. Only if we ask for leave then we need to write few sentences on a paper to explain the reason to skip class.

    Zacky Reply:

    I saw the words you wrote on the paper, that sentence means you’re late, and I thought there must have some reasons for you to write them :D
    glad to know your school isn’t that strict about punctuality compared to mine, I’d say my teachers here are just too strict and old school, they will take students grade off if they are late, and not to mention skipping classes or meetings, also, those teachers can tell if students just made up some stupid reasons to skip classes, then these students will be invited to teacher’s office to “have some cups of tea” plus their parents will be noticed too.
    I somehow feel I am like in an army camp or some sorts of place prison here…. XD…lol

    Sara Reply:

    Oh, I understand :) Those words were just straight from our textbook. Your school seems very strict. I agree that it’s not good to be late and it might disturb the others. But in the university everyone is an adult and should know the best way to study. But of course the situation is different in different countries and perhaps Finnish universities are an exception with their freedom for students. Just all students should remember that with freedom comes also the responsibility.

  • Karina

    Hi! I just found your amazing blog and I think I will spend lot of time by reading your posts! lol
    Are u studying in the Guangzhou Uni in the Daxuecheng?

    Sara Reply:

    So nice to hear that you enjoy my blog Karina, it really means a lot to me. Yes, right now I’m an exchange student at Guangzhou Uni at the Daxuecheng, University Town. But starting from next September I’ll hopefully start a BA at Sun Yat Sen University at Haizhu.

  • Karina

    That’s nice. I’m also live in daxuecheng but not in guangda. but sometimes I like to shop and have dinner there.. Maybe we can meet there next time!

    Sara Reply:

    It would be really nice to meet Karina! I’ll be back on 10th of June I think and will stay at daxuecheng atleast the whole June. If I don’t run away sooner ;)

  • Brandon Owens

    Hi Sara – you mention using Skritter – would you recommend it to everyone to use? Or how would you rate it compared with other methods / websites? I’m considering something like that to speed up character recall but not sure what service to use. Can reply or drop me an email, thanks!

    Sara Reply:

    Hi Brandon! I would totally recommend Skritter to everyone. It’s a great tool and I haven’t found anything that could replace it. You can learn more about Skritter and what I think about it from my older post: Why I use Skritter to learn to write Chinese and why you should too. If you have any other questions please feel free to ask, I’d love to help!