HSK: 漢語水平考試

你好!

Better late than never:

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A number of months ago I studied and studied until I was ready to take the HSK (Hanyu shuiping kaoshi/漢語水平考試, that is ‘Mandarin Chinese level test) level four. (四級)

Honestly, I’m not particularly good at Chinese. I have no natural talent at languages. I have however been constantly writing and rewriting characters over the last several years.

I didn’t take the level three, but the way to study is to memorize 600 vocabulary words from that test, and then 600 more level four. By the way, I’m obviously better at using pinyin feature to learn 漢字, which means I type Latin letters — English alphabet basically — on computers and phones. I can’t actually write all those characters from scratch, but I can definitely recognize them for reading. It’s like even in English I’m a bad speller but thank goodness for technology.

By the way my computer is stuck on Traditional script 繁體字. That’s okay.

I’d estimate I know 1800 to 2000 characters by heart? And still many thousands more to learn…

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So I met with my tutor once a week, and she set up the test at Shenzhen University 深大. I took practice tests many times over. The test portions consist of listening, reading, and writing. Putting sentences in order is among the hardest parts, and I improved the most on listening.. I think I average about a solid 80-something percent B.

Somehow my reading is not half-bad for a foreigner, if I do say so myself, yet I still struggle with spoken Chinese. I need to get out there more.

Anyway, it’s been months and now I got the certificate in the mail. I can hang it on my wall and put on a resume. See how that works out for me in the future.

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Perhaps next year the HSK 5–

 

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Interview with a Chinese Learner

Interview With a Chinese Learner: Ray Hecht

Originally posted at EazyChinese.com
http://eazychinese.com/interview-chinese-learner-2

Hey everyone, how’s it going? Today I’m coming at you with another interview. Today’s victim is Chinese learner Ray Hecht. He”s been living in Mainland China for years, and has a lot of interesting things to say on his blog about China, dating in China and learning Chinese. Plus he shares some pretty sweet art and poetry as well, so hop on over to his site and check out his writing! Being a fellow comic geek, I can relate to a lot of what he has to say!

Now on to the interview.

Q: What Made you decide to learn Chinese?

I was first interested in Asian culture by way of Japanese manga and anime, being a long-time comic geek in my youthful days (and still a geek in my older days). As I got older I became more interested in film, and after watching many classic Kurosawa I came upon Cantonese films of Wong Kar-wai in my teenage years. Eventually this led to watching the film Farewell my Concubine, directed by Chen Kaige, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. In addition to watching the 90s films of Chinese 5th generation filmmaker Zhang Yimou, I became fascinated by China. However, I studied Japanese in college. Learning kanji did give me me a head start in learning hanzi, although the languages are quite different. I never did end up moving to Japan, just visiting a few times (learning some of the language did help). I later got an opportunity to move to Shenzhen and I fully embraced it. Currently, Mandarin is the only other language besides English I speak with any fluency, though I always have more to learn.

Q:How long have you been a student of Chinese, and how long did it take you to become conversational?

I’ve been studying for six years, and in the first year I learned ‘survival Chinese.’ I’ve been getting better at being more conversational in the last 3 years I suppose, but on having deep conversations I know I still have ways to go. The problem is that most conversations are the same: “Where are you from?”, “Are you married?” “How many years have you been in China?” etc.

Q:What was your biggest challenge learning Chinese? And what came easiest to you?

My biggest challenge at first was definitely the tones. Then, the characters although I am always making progress even though it takes years. When it comes to characters, just be patient but make a little progress all the time. In speaking, the grammar of Chinese is easier and I was able to formulate simple sentences quite fast (even if not pronouncing it correctly). “I like…” “I’m from…” and that sort of thing.

Q:What advice would you give to our readers who are just embarking on their journey with Chinese?

I suppose the best advice is to be fully immersive, go to China — or Taiwan, or Singapore — and start speaking. If you are in a big city in China, be careful not to be in the bubble that is the expat scene in which you rarely even speak Mandarin. Push yourself to practice those phrases you studied in real-life, it’s the only way!

Q:Do you have a favorite Chinese phrase? If so, what is it and why?

Well, 多少錢 duoshaoqian (“How much money?”) would be the phrase I say the most often, in going out shopping everyday. Some vocabulary words are fun, when Chinese can be so literal. Technological words such as 電腦 diannao (electric brain: computer) and 電影 dianying (electric shadow: movie) and many more.

Q:What’s your one biggest “hack” for learning Chinese?

One trick is to not stress about tones too much, and just try wait you’re best until one day it becomes effortless. You can still communicate, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. With pronunciation, one can imitate another more advanced learner of Mandarin instead of imitating native speakers. After all, any fluent learner was once a beginner and can offer great advice.

Thanks for taking the time to share with us Ray! I hope everyone will learn from Ray’s experiences, and move forward in their own studies. I especially agree with his point on getting out there and SPEAKING. So what are you still doing here? Get out there and practice your Chinese!

Dating in China – Emma, online

SAM_1371Not directly related to post below, but when I went to Taipei later that year. The mood seems to apply somehow

Spring of 2012. Upon returning to Shenzhen, I was in a bit of a dry spell. Or rather, continuing a bit of a dry spell. Life was going well enough, I was productive and working out often and biking and writing and generally getting used to my newly familiar setting. Self-growth, nicely, for the most part. But I guess I was out of practice in one regard. It happens.

Various rejections. In person and online. Whatever. Finally, I decided to take some dreaded pickup advice. Ach, that whole thing. Off and on I must admit I’ve been into that. Not something I need consider these days, but at the time I figured why not…

I went on POF and made a new profile. I took a blurry picture of myself in goggles and a funny hat – a bit apprehensive that anyone might recognize me – and proceeded to create the most ridiculous profile possible. The kind of thing you can’t even mock, a total caricature of an entitled prick who thinks he’s some gift to women and is totally arrogant about it. All intentions put out there. It is total bullshit, and I’d have no need to do this thing nowadays, but it was the time to rack up experience. What can I say?

“Run away,” I wrote. “If you know what’s good for you.”

That’s called disqualification, or some such shit.

Wouldn’t you know it? The damn thing actually worked.

Thing was, I was funny. Nobodytook it seriously, they just enjoyed the crass humor because was something different than the usual horde of desperate lonely men on dating sites.

First, I met a nice girl named Emma. I peaked her interest; we chatted for a while.

I do like communicating by email. I am in control of my thoughts, no awkward pauses, and I can edit accordingly before hitting send. People usually get my sense of humor, although I sometimes can get myself in trouble. Naturally, the emails then upgraded to phone texting. Which is a medium I am also well experienced in though not my preference.

Everybody has their own preferred method of communication. Some people like long phone conversations. Some, a dying breed, write actual letters. I guess even my breed’s long emails is slowly becoming endangered. Most everybody is cool with just texting these days, for sure.

After texting upgraded to talks, we made plans. She bussed over to my neighborhood. Upon meeting in person, I immediately had to give up the facade and just act my usual dumb self.

She’s cute, I though. She was short. She wasn’t a knockout, but she had a certain style about her I could appreciate. I took her to a little whole-in-the-wall pub, escalated and so on, made out a bit.

She was a Chinese English teacher. That is, she’s a Chinese person who works as an English teacher. Hence, her English was rather good. We had good conversations. I liked talking to her.

My dateable standards definitely preclude fluent speakers of English only. Though I’m studying Mandarin as much as I can, to go on dates and make a human connection I need to have real conversation.

I don’t get that breed of expats who fuck girls they can’t even talk to, but those are a muddy breed indeed.

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Studying for the HSK

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Taxi drivers are easily impressed. Servers less so. But no matter how many times I hear “Your Chinese is so good!” I know it’s not true. In fact, it loses meaning the more I hear it.

I’ve been in China almost six years. I bought textbooks upon textbooks, I rote-wrote thousands of characters, begged my friends to help me study, listened to all the free ChinesePod podcasts I could get my digital hands on, emptied out my flashcards, and read three whole children’s books. But I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately. Really, my Chinese should be better by now.

Shoulda listened to that advice years ago to ditch all my expat friends and only hang out with Chinese. Me and my English-bubble lifestyle~

(If I do say so myself, I still think my writing is not bad for a foreigner. I’ve been told my handwriting is like a child’s, but that’s still better than most foreigner’s even the ones who are totally fluent and literate. This is because I studied Japanese in high school and college and at least I got that headstart, although besides kanji the languages are quite different. One day I’ll blog about survival-Japanese while wandering Tokyo…)

I have no natural ability at language—just as I have no natural ability at writing. Simply gotta work hard at it, long as it takes. Can’t blame it on my Anglosphere background either; my overachieving younger sister speaks four languages totally fluently. You’d think I’d have the language gene but I don’t. And I didn’t study Chinese young, the first of it was reading a phrasebook on the plane ride over to learn pinyin basics. I moved here when I was 26, mostly a fully-formed grownup (mostly but not completely), isn’t that relatively old in learning-new-languages age?

So, for years I’ve been able to go shopping and order what I like to eat from menus and travel by myself and ask for directions and yell at taxi drivers and tell kids to be quiet and introduce myself, and of course ask where the toilet is. It’s no longer enough.

I need more. I need something that validates I learned something in my years abroad. I need something to put on my resume. I need a piece of paper.

I have since given in and been seeing a qualified Mandarin tutor for the past few months, and I plan on taking the HSK 4 test later this year. That’s ‘Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi ‘ 汉语水平考试, (四级). No pinyin, lots of listening, lots of grammar, writing, etc. I got the proper books, I meet my teacher once a week at KFC and I do my homework and now onwards and upwards. The reading is easiest. In speaking, I feel my tones are mostly okay—more or less intuitive at this stage—but I need to form longer sentences. More vocabulary. Remembering stroke order without and how to write without looking at my phone. Counters. Idioms. Again, grammar grammar grammar. The passive form 被/把 particularly confounds me. SO MUCH TO LEARN.

Wish me luck and 加油!

 

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And finally, some handwriting