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Chinese – Self Study Week 2

by Eric Kraus
Published: Last Updated on
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I’m two weeks into my Chinese study and have made a lot of progress. I’ve also gathered a lot of useful tips and some lessons learned over my studying during my first week.


For starters, I’ve landed on an objective goal for 2019. I want to pass (minimally) the HSK 1 and hopefully the HSK 2 exams by the end of the calendar year. The HSK Chinese Proficiency exams are given to non-native Chinese speakers to evaluate their depth of understanding of the language.

There are 6 levels to the HSK. Each test involves listening and reading comprehension as well as writing in the later levels. It is stated that after passing HSK 4, someone is fluent Chinese.

HSK 2 will require that I understand (and can use) 300+ words characters in common sentence structures. Words in the Chinese are often made up of more than one character, so 300 words might be somewhere in the neighborhood of 400-500 characters.

Lessons from last week

While the YouTube videos and apps were all helpful in the beginning, they lack the structure that I know I will need to be successful. What I mean by structure is explaining the foundation of the language so that I can grow from it later – not just memorize phrases. It’s sort of the opposite of “Learn Chinese in just 10 minutes”

It’s like someone that throws a ball against a wall every day. He will get better at throwing, but not necessarily great at the game.

So, I’ve made two of important changes.

  1. abandoned most of the apps that I have been using for “content”
  2. hired a Chinese tutor
  3. focus on listening, speaking and reading – but not writing

The new plan

After the first meeting with my tutor, we’ve come up with a plan to achieve my goals of passing the HSK 1 and HSK 2 exams. I’m optimistic. But it means most of the apps that I’ve been using will go out the door and we’re starting with the basics: Radicals.

From what I understand, Radicals are like indexers for Chinese characters. It’s how dictionaries are organized to find characters. It’s sort of like how in English, words are made up of letters. Chinese words are made up of Characters that are made up of combinations of Radicals. It’s way more complex than that, but for week 2…it’s good enough.

There are 214 Radicals and knowing the most common (or all) Radicals will make it easier to put them together to form the components of the Characters to build words/meaning.

Another thing I’m changing, addresses my fear that the lack-of immersion will be a limiter for me to pick up the language. After talking with the tutor I’m going to relax a bit and not worry so much about the immersion and just focus on learning the basics solid for now. That’s easy enough.

The last big change in strategy is related to writing characters. Just like native-English speakers, many Chinese communicate via technology instead of handwritten letters. So, I won’t be focusing too much on writing characters, but will definitely continue focus on character identification for reading purposes.

Mobile Apps

I’m not kicking all of the apps to the curb. In fact, I’m doubling down on a few…specifically Anki. I launch Anki at least 3-4 times per day now. It’s a critical tool for the memorization process for new vocabulary/characters.

I am still using Pleco, but when on my tablet/computer, I am using ArchChinese a bit more lately to help with the construction of different characters.

So, for the time being, I am stopping my usage of ChinesePod, YoYoChinese, LingoDeer, etc. etc.


I’m really excited to be on a solid curriculum for the language and looking forward to seeing some of the building blocks coming together. For measurement sake, I’ll do my best to track my progress of what I’m learning.

New Radical Characters Learned: 48
Other Vocab: 10
Total Characters: 98

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