Setting Language Goals

Annyeong Haseyo!

Hi, everyone, and welcome to my blog! My name is Jia Li (my Chinese name), and I am a native English speaker and avid language learner.

Not only am I a language learner, I’m a language enthusiast.  I absolutely adore languages and have an obsession with foreign cultures! I currently speak English of course, Mandarin Chinese at an Intermediate B2 Level, and Korean at an absolute beginner, or A1, level.

Another thing about me? I’m fifteen years old.

Which means, I’m still in school.  I will be going into my sophomore year of high school this Fall, which is in exactly one month and eight days.  Summer is coming to an end, and I am not where I’d like to be with my language goals and achievements.

With that being considered, I decided to start this blog.

Each day, I will post what I’ve done by 10:30 P.M. Central Time Zone.  This is to hold me accountable for the goals I set, which I will explain and lay out in just a few minutes.

I will also provide you all with tips on how you can learn languages on your own, as an adult or a teenager, and how you can overcome the obstacles that you will face along the way.

And what exactly gives me the honor and privilege of writing to you about how this thing called language learning is done?

Good question.  I’ve been learning Mandarin Chinese since the age of ten, meaning I have had nearly six years of experience learning a foreign language, on my own, as a teen and adolescent with absolutely no previous bilingual background.  I am now at an Intermediate B2 Level in proficiency, which is considered fluent by most (even Benny Lewis).

And I achieved this all on my own, having no teacher for three of those five years.

Now, I can hold hour-long conversations and keep the flow going, as well as listen and comprehend what the native speaker is saying to me.   I also was allowed to substitute my two years of foreign language (which was going to be Spanish) in high school for three years of dual credit Chinese, one of which I have already completed.

However, I don’t want to just stop at B2.  I want to go further until I reach what I consider fluency.

So, I have created this blog to hold me accountable for my “Fluent in a Month” project.

Basically, I am going to take my language learning journey month-by-month and according to my needs, strengths, and weaknesses of my different projects, will study to reach the fluency goals I’ve been striving for.

Now, without further ado, here are my language learning goals for Month 1 (July 12, 2017 to August 12, 2017).

Goals!

Chinese

  • I’m going to study for 3 hours MINIMUM each day
  • I’m going to have at least 2 professional Chinese lessons with my italki teachers a week
  • I’m going to journal once a week in ONLY Chinese and upload it to the blog

Korean

  • I’m going to study for 2 hours MINIMUM each day
  • I’m going to have at least 1 professional Korean lesson with one of my italki teachers a week

Resources!

Chinese

  • Yoyo Chinese
  • Italki
  • Memrise
  • New Practical Chinese Reader 3
  • Slow Chinese Podcast

Korean

  • “Essential Korean” by Living Language
  • Italki
  • Memrise
  • “Korean Verb Conjugation” by TTMIK
  • TTMIK Podcast

Back to Me!

I hope you all greatly enjoy seeing my document my experience as a language learner, old and new.  You can find any or all of my posts regarding my projects, progress, and daily blog post updates in the categories titled “Korean Project 2017” for Korean and “Chinese Project 2017” for Mandarin.

Thank you!
Jia Li

 

 

 

Learning Chinese Characters

Hey guys,

First of all, I’m sorry that I haven’t been keeping you all updated with my challenges.  A lot of stuff is happening in my life — I just found out that I’m going to have surgery to have my gaul bladder removed and I spent all day in the hospital Monday.

However, I am still very active when it comes to studying and I didn’t let life’s incidents get in the way.

After meeting with one of my italki teachers, Yueming, I found that I am a lot more illiterate in Chinese than I thought I was.  I can speak fine, I can understand perfectly, my pronunciation is practically native, but I just. can’t. read.

Although I can read about 2,000 characters, there are so many more that are used in the daily lives of Chinese people that I can’t.  And compared to a native Chinese speaker, my reading vocabulary of 2,000 characters is extremely tiny.

Plus, the new textbook I got is in complete Chinese, hardly any English, and absolutely no Pinyin in the lessons, including the dialogue.  As I went through the lesson I struggled to read sentences fully, and almost always had to stop and ask, “what’s this character?” even if it was a word I had learned to say years ago.

So, Yueming suggested that I go back and learn the characters I should’ve learned a long time ago.  So I purchased a beginner book, New Practical Chinese Reader 2, and have been going through all the lessons and learning the characters of all the vocabulary words.  Although the words aren’t anything new, the characters are.

So, why is being literate in Chinese so important? Why is it so hard? And how can we possibly make it a bit easier?

1. Reading is important because it advances your learning capabilities.

This is the first thing I found out over the course of a week.  I used to go by pinyin solely, and turns out, it really hurt me.  What I discovered when I opened up that new, advanced textbook for the first time and stared at all of those unfamiliar characters was that pinyin will only take you so far.

You eventually need to learn how to read in Chinese, just like in any language.  Although it is extremely difficult since there’s no alphabet, tons of radicals, and characters with twenty something strokes, it is a must when the goal is to become fluent.

2. Reading is important because it allows you to enjoy the Chinese language even more.

Another thing that brought me to this realization this week was when my best friend, Wendy, who is a native Chinese speaker from the small town of Leshan, and I had a conversation about poetry.  She asked me if I liked Chinese poetry, (which I do) and then asked if I preferred ancient or modern.

I, being the history lover and language enthusiast I am, of course replied with ancient.  I then went on to ask her if she had any recommendations of beautiful ancient poetry.  In return, she sent me some poems.

However, they were all written in simplified characters.

I sighed to myself as once again I was extremely frustrated at myself because of my limitations.  There was absolutely no sign of pinyin on the paper, and I shouldn’t have expected there to be.

3. Reading is important because it’s a part of the language.

This is so obvious, yet so many of us easily look over it! Reading is a part of any language, and it is vital that we learn it along with the grammar, vocabulary, and sounds equally.

I realized that I can’t call myself fluent without having knowledge in this important aspect of the language I claim to speak almost natively.  None of us can, and it plays a role in the language we can’t ever erase no matter how hard we try to downgrade it.


So, how can we go about actually learning Chinese characters?

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve Google searched how to study Chinese characters effectively.  But the truth is, it’s something we all have to learn ourselves.  No one else’s tricks will work just as good on us as our own.  Learning isn’t a skill that can be studied, it’s a process, and I believe Chinese characters is, too.

Learning characters is a process.

We can’t rush this process, no matter how hard we try.  All we can do is figure out how we learn and then follow through with what suits us best.

I’ve taken several character courses over the past six years, but gave up because I’d skip a day or two and think I wouldn’t be able to remember any of the characters I learned anyways.  But, that’s not true, and we can’t have that kind of mindset when learning a language as difficult as Mandarin.

Make flashcards, hand write them out, use them in sentences, draw them on your hands, arms, or legs, read them out loud as you look at them, use spaced repetition, study in segments, post them on your furniture.

Those are several methods that have worked for various people.  Not all of them will work for you, and not all of them you will prefer.  However, learn the way you learn.


I hope this blog post has been the slightest bit helpful! I know it isn’t much, but it’s just a collection of things I have learned through my personal experiences throughout this week.  Continue learning and have fun!

加油!
Jia Li 嘉莉

11 Benefits and Advantages of Foreign Language Learning

Hey guys! Today I’d like to talk about something I have a ton of opinions on, most probably unpopular, but haven’t gotten to write about.

So, I’d like to take a moment to consider and think about the benefits and advantages of being bilingual — or trilingual — or a polyglot.

I’m sure you’ve read plenty of articles on this topic, and those articles probably consisted of things such as “having another language increases your job opportunities,” “it leads to more romantic options,” and “you can show off to your friends and family.”  While all of those benefits are true and I do agree with them, I feel there are plenty more out there that are never talked about and if so, are extremely underrated.

So, without further ado, here are my favorite benefits and advantages of, as well as reasons to start, learning a foreign language.

1. You Can Reconnect with Your Heritage

If you’re from another ethnicity, whether it be 100% full blooded or a little slither you found from Ancestry.com, learning the language your ancestors speak is an exciting journey to connecting with your heritage.

For me, my father is 50% Venezuelan and my mom is 50% German, meaning I am Venezuelan-American-German.  A mouthful, but it’s true.  I’m 50% American, 25% Venezuelan, and 25% German (although I have inherited what seems to be literally none of the German genes and all of the Venezuelan).

So for me, my heritage languages are English, Spanish, and German.  Although I don’t speak any German and only a little bit of Spanish, I’d like to learn Spanish fluently some day to simply reconnect with my Latina heritage…and be able to understand my relatives who speak incredibly poor English.

2. You Have an Excuse to be on Your Phone 24/7

My phone is a complete study tool.  I have Snapchat and Facbeook and those are about the only things under the category ‘Entertainment’ on my iPhone.  However, I also have many other things that would normally be considered ‘entertainment’ that I consider ‘study tools’…

Youtube, Drama Fever, Skype, WeChat, Pinterest, Muscial.ly, etc.

When my parents ask me why I’ve been on my phone all day, I simply say “I’ve been studying Chinese and Korean like crazy,” when most people would have to say “I’ve been watching 10 hours of kpop and Korean dramas” without lying.

My Pinterest boards are filled with fun language learning tips, colorful verb conjugation charts, and beautiful big cities that would normally be under the category “Dream Vacation” but for me is under “College.”

Drama Fever for most people is a fun app that allows them to watch foreign soap operas with subtitles.  For me, it’s an app that allows me to watch foreign soap operas while practicing my listening comprehension.

Skype and WeChat are normally used to talk with your best friends who probably live only a few miles away from you.  For me, they’re used to practice texting and speaking Chinese and Korean with two of my best friends on the other side of the world!

3. You Can Say You’re Social

I am a natural introvert–or at least, I was–so when someone tells me I’m shy and too quiet, I can say “no, I actually talk a LOT to people on the other side of the world!”

Language is a social thing…you probably already knew that.  I know three of them, which means I’m three times more social than you are 🙂

4. You See Things From a Different Perspective

This can be a completely awesome thing, but also a really annoying thing, but we can talk about that a different day!

After having studied two Asian languages and dabbling in a few others for the past six years, it’s only natural that I’ve begun seeing things…well…like an Asian.

There are many, many, MANY cultural differences between America and China.  For people who only speak English, they tend to see things out of the American eyes they were given (no pun intended).  Whereas Asians on the other hand see a lot of things completely opposite.

Just a few examples:

America:  If you’re a parent who sends their kid to a private school, home schools, or even a boarding school you are seen as strict, overprotective and often hear the phrase, “let him/her be a child!”

China: If you’re a parent who sends their kid to a private school, boarding school, or home schools, you are seen as an amazing parent who rightly places their kid at the top of their priority list and would do anything for their future, education and happiness.

America: If you’re a kid who goes to a private school, boarding school, or is home schooled (I should know because I was home schooled for nine years and now go to a private Christian school), people feel sorry for you because you have to follow strict rules and wear button up shirts, jeans, or uniforms everyday.

China: If you’re a kid who goes to a private school, boarding school, or is home schooled you’re seen as a wealthy kid who has extremely rich parents and treasures you with all their might, plus you have an insanely bright future ahead of you that is filled with tons of job opportunities and the best of the best college, which is usually international.

Since I’m bilingual, speaking both American English and Chinese, I naturally see things from both perspectives, which has lead to tons of people calling me “wise beyond my years,” “mature,” “humble,” “unique,” “interesting” and “fun to be around.”

5. You Can Be Multiple People

You might have not been able to name yourself when you were born, but you sure can name yourself when you learn another language!

In English, my name is Brooke.  In Chinese, my name is Jia Li (pronounced jya-lee).  In Korean, my name is Yo Ra.

Therefore, when speaking English I’m Brooke; when speaking Mandarin I’m Jia Li; and when speaking Korean I’m Yo Ra.

When someone asks me what my name is in Chinese or if I’m meeting someone online from China for the first time, I always introduce myself as Jia Li.  Not only do I love that name because of how beautiful it sounds, I love the story behind it!

My Chinese teacher gave me the name Jia Li, which means ‘beautiful woman,’ after I had been studying for 4 years.

My best friend who speaks Korean also gave me the name Yo Ra because she says it suits me.

6. Learning One Language Makes the Second 10x Easier

You’re brain already knows that it’s done it before, so when you’re on your way to becoming trilingual, things will generally become smoother.

Also, you’ve made mistakes when learning the first and discovered what really works for you, so when learning the second you would know what to avoid and what to use again, resulting in faster progress.

7. There are NO Limits to What You Can Do!

Or at least that’s how it feels for me.  Reaching B2 level fluency in Mandarin has been thus far the biggest achievement of my life ever, and I am certainly the most proud of it.

When I began understanding every conversation I had with a native speaker, speaking easily in the language, being able to communicate what I want to say correctly, and dreaming in the language I felt like I was invincible and there was nothing beyond what I can do.  And let me tell you, all of those moments were some of the most exciting moments of my life that I will never forget (getting to that later).

You can go places, think in different ways, dream new dreams, make new friends, try new things, be brave enough to do what everyone else deems impossible, etc. etc.

8. Your Imagination is 100000x More Interesting

Although this is one of the silliest ones, it is also one of the BIGGEST benefits of learning a language, too!

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reenacted scenes from my favorite Korean dramas in the shower, or my favorite scenes from Chinese movies when home alone.  I also can’t count how many times I’ve had conversations with my K-pop bias in my head, in Korean, or imagined what it would be like to meet face-to-face and party with my best friends in China in Chinese.

And countless other things.  But all in all, trust me, your imagination gets crazier, more interesting, and more exciting.

9. Speaking in Another Tongue is Extremely Satisfying

As dumb as it sounds, I absolutely love talking to myself in Chinese because of the way my tongue moves and the way it feels coming out of my mouth.  It’s insanely satisfying! And if not speaking out loud, I’m constantly having conversations with myself through whispers.

Before I reached Intermediate fluency and didn’t have much vocab, I would ramble different words that sounded like Mandarin and very well could be Chinese words, just to see how it would feel when I’m finally fluent and because I liked the way it felt to speak that way.

10. It Takes Longer for You to Get Old

Studies have shown that being bilingual prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, and can add up to five years to your lifespan.  It also improves your memory and makes it last longer.

Sound impossible? Well, it’s logical actually.

When you’re bilingual, your brain is more active than normal because it’s used to thinking in two languages, going back and forth, seeing things from multiple perspectives and having learned thousands of vocabulary words before.

So, instead of buying all that chemical-filled anti-aging stuff, just learn a second language.

11. Learning Other Things Naturally Becomes 10x More Fun

I never enjoyed science, algebra or English class until I started studying foreign languages.

Why? Because when I study Chinese and Korean, I found so many ways to make it fun and enjoyable, so now studying other things comes naturally and isn’t a big deal at all.

As much as I hate to admit it, I’m guilty of pushing off memorizing a list of 62 of the elements on the Periodic Table to the night before the chemistry final because I know that it’ll only take me thirty minutes to learn all 62 of them.

And it did, and I made a 100% on the final and a 99% average in the class.

Now that my brain is so used to learning so many words, structures, patterns, facts, etc., learning other things is so much easier and I’m proud to say that I’m a straight A high school student thanks to my experience in learning languages.


Well, that’s my top 11 reasons why everyone should learn another language and the benefits of doing so.  I’m sure most of you can agree that you’ve likely never heard them before or if so, that they are clearly underrated.

So, to spread the word, please like and share so that everyone else can see how fun learning actually is!

Day #3 (Korean) – Thursday, July 14

Thursday, July 14, 2017

Annyeong Haseyo

Hi guys! Today was a very busy, Korean studying-filled day and I’m super excited to report to everyone.  So, why talk? Let’s jump right into it…

Korean
Goal: Study for at least 2 hours a day

  • To start off the day I logged onto Rocket Korean and reviewed Module 1 Lessons 8 and 9 intensively through the online flashcard decks I created.  I also finished all the Lesson 9 exercises.
  • After reviewing the previous lessons, I moved onto Module 1 Lesson 10.  I made a new flashcard deck on Rocket Languages for the lesson and studied lightly.  I also completed all of the Lesson 10 exercises.
  • Next, I introduced 2 new Korean verbs to my vocabulary and flashcard decks: 자다 (to sleep) and 하다 (to do), taken from my Korean Verbs book by TTMIK.
  • After studying so hard, I eventually earned my Korean Guru badge on Rocket Korean AND placed 9th on the leader board for ALL languages!

So, did I meet my goal?

Yes, by an extra hour! I spent a total of 3 hours studying Korean today, which leads to a grand total of 7 hours of study time so far!

Day #2 (Chinese) – Wednesday, July 13

Wednesday, July 13, 2017

Ni Hao

Welcome back! I’m so sorry for the late update, as I completely forgot to post last night amidst my busy schedule.  However, here I am now, and fortunately I logged my study hours so I can still report to you all!

Chinese
Goal: Study for at least 3 hours a day

  • To start out the day, I had another Skype call with my italki teacher Yueming.  We had an hour long lesson and she taught me new words, phrases, characters and sentence structures from the textbook New Practical Chinese Reader 3, which I have downloaded on my phone.
  • After my call, I studied and reviewed the words I learned as well as old ones.  I went through flashcard decks and reviewed for about an hour.
  • My day unfortunately was cut to a short, so I didn’t have time to do anything else.

So, did I meet my goal?

No, so sadly!!! I almost made it, having logged 2 study hours, but at least it’s better than zero.  That just means more motivation for the rest of the week 🙂

Thank you for keeping up with me and sorry for the late update! Zaijian!

Day #2 (Korean) – Wednesday, July 13

Wednesday, July 13, 2017

Annyeong Haseyo

My apologies for not posting yesterday! I got so busy and the blog slipped my mind.  But luckily, I did log my hours of study time, therefore I can still update you on how I did yesterday.

Korean
Goal: Study for at least 2 hours a day

  • On Wednesday, I went to my parents’ office for the day and did close to nothing but study.  I logged onto Rocket Korean and reviewed my Module 1 Lesson 8 flashcards first thing.
  • After reviewing Lesson 8 I moved onto Lesson 9, completing the lesson and then making a new set of flashcards online.  I studied the flashcards lightly but not too intensely like I had when reviewing Lesson 8.
  • I then reviewed my verb conjugation flashcards, practicing with 가다 (to go) and 사다 (to buy).

So, did I meet my goal?

Yes! I spent 2 full hours, maybe even a little more, studying Korean yesterday and am super proud.

Thanks for keeping up with me and again, I apologize for the late update!

Day #1 (Korean) – Tuesday, July 11

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Annyeong Haseyo!

Hi guys! So today was Day 1 of my Korean challenge, as well as my Chinese challenge.  Basically, I’m seeing how much of each language I can learn in just one month, taking my projects a month at a time.  For more details check out the About page as well as here.

So, how did I do on Day 1? Let’s find out.

Korean
Goal: Study for at least 2 hours a day

  • I started out my Korean studies in the evening, reviewing my previous Rocket Korean lessons that I had started and finished, but sadly didn’t really keep up with, a few months ago for about 30 minutes.
  • Afterwards, I completed 1 new lesson of my Rocket Korean course, which included completing the Interactive Audio Lesson, Rocket Review, “Hear It! Say It”, “Write It!” and “Know It!” challenges, flashcards, and the lesson quiz.  All of that took me about a good hour or so.
  • I then decided I’d dabble in my verb conjugation book by Talk To Me in Korean. I spent about 30 minutes practicing conjugation using the verb “가다” (to go).

So, did I meet my goal?

Yes, by a thread! It was late and I’m super tired right now but it was all worth it because I successfully completed Day 1 of the challenge.  Now, let’s see if I can pull through another day tomorrow, hopefully finishing up a bit earlier.

Thanks everyone for reading this and I wish you a good evening!

Want to see how I did on Day 1 of my Chinese challenge?

Click here to find out.

Day #1 (Chinese) – Tuesday, July 11

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ni Hao!

Hey guys! Sorry this post is coming out a little late, I ran behind schedule more than I usually do today.  Regardless, here I am, ready to report to you as to how my first day of the challenge has gone.

First of all, I made a very straightforward, strict, yet beautiful schedule for myself last night in preparation for today so I knew how exactly what to do the next morning and could be assured that I’m using my time wisely.

 

All in all, I stuck to my schedule (for Chinese at least) extremely well.  Now, here’s exactly what I did today:

Chinese
Goal: 
Study for at least 3 hours a day

  • I had a professional one-on-one lesson with my Italki teacher this morning at 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM, which lasted for 1 hour.  She taught me many new sentence structures, corrected my grammar, and gave me more vocabulary, and challenged me to use what I learned in my own sentences, translations, etc. right after she taught them to me.  It was a great and productive lesson without a single dull moment.
  • At 3:30 when I got home from working, I did thirty minutes of Chinese homework. This includes self study, flashcards, completing any assignments from classes, etc.
  • I watched 1 episode of “Slow Chinese” Podcast around 4:30, and studied it and listened to it for about 20 minutes.
  • At 6:00 or so, I logged onto YoyoChinese.com and completed a new lesson in the Intermediate Conversational course.  I am currently halfway through at nearly Lesson 25.

So, did I meet my goal?

Yes! I spent a little over 3 hours today studying Chinese and I am so proud.  I feel extremely accomplished right now and can’t believe the day went so according to planned.

Want to see how I did on Day 1 of my Korean challenge?

Click here to find out.