Episode 176 Struggling to Recall What You Learn? Focus Is Key.

176. Struggling to Recall What You Learn? Focus Is Key

Podcast Duration: 00:44:23

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The Mandarin Blueprint Podcast focuses primarily on The Mandarin Blueprint Method online curriculum. Creators Luke Neale & Phil Crimmins answer questions and comments, discuss topics related to China and Mandarin learning, and have special guests.

176. Struggling to Recall What You Learn? Focus is Key.

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4:55 Comments & Emails

Soren Korsbaek by Community

大家好!It’s now been two years since I embarked on the journey of learning Mandarin. I wrote the attached one year review in April last year and now after a second year an additional follow-up feels natural 🙂

Firstly – Where am I? I just finished lvl 76 of the advanced course which gives me 2450 characters under my belt. I am easily capable of casually chatting away in Mandarin via text, relatively confident in speaking shorter sentences about my daily life and so forth. That’s not to say my pronunciation is great but hey, if natives can understand you, it can’t be too bad!

The highlight of my studies so far: I have a language exchange partner in Sichuan who’s teaching middle school students who sent me a series of questions in Mandarin on behalf of her students I’ve responded to in a five minute long video purely in Mandarin. Obviously not without mistakes, but the feedback I received was that they understood it all. Something I’d have considered completely inconceivable at this stage last year. Very rewarding and feels like a big accomplishment when at the Intermediate plateau where you don’t feel your progress the same way you do early in the course.

When I mention I’ve studied for two years (or less including recent times), I’m met with what appears to be genuine surprise which is a great compliment to receive for all the hours put in. Reading my review from last year however, there’s definitely some areas of concern that persist an additional year into my studies. Listening remains tough as I can’t always identify what’s pronounced, particularly accurately identifying mid-sentence tones in spoken Mandarin is quite a challenge.  I’m occasionally tempted to mark characters as correct where the only thing I get wrong is the tone but in the interest of avoiding bad habits I’m not doing this. To be perfectly honest I am a bit concerned and disappointed my listening isn’t better than it is considering the amount of exposure I’ve had in the last two years and remembering illogical compound-words remains an issue.

As a non-native speaker, I think the course gets increasingly difficult the further you progress as the characters and keywords become increasingly obscure. Sometimes the meaning of the character isn’t too complex but the character-review is made harder by having the layer of an English word I’ve never heard of before to learn/remember as well. So far, I’ve only added sentences up to around character 1600 and I’ve considered catching up with the sentences whilst taking a break from adding characters as, in their nature, the return of investment becomes less the further you get into the course. Seeing the characters in example sentences is super useful! I think the above is just something to keep in mind for non-native speakers on the course and it’s certainly not a big issue.

Since starting the Intermediate Course I’ve felt it’d be useful to have the translations still and my view on this hasn’t changed especially for the more obscure ones with plenty of tricky compound words. When doing the sentences in the course, I mostly focus on the word it’s designed for me to learn while saving time in looking up the compounds words I don’t remember. I don’t consider this an issue as it gives me more time to exposure to Mandarin on Netflix Lingq (with translations right at your fingertip) and so I prefer not to be too strict with marking the sentences when doing my daily reviews.

Lastly, it’s incredible what the human brains is capable of! I often understand stuff I don’t feel like I should be able to understand as I cannot recall encountering the specific phrase/word previously. Anyway, if anyone’s still reading, thanks for making it this far and remember the struggle is part of the journey! I’d love to hear how everyone’s getting on with the course and thanks a lot to those of you who share recommendations, etc. 🙂 I am currently watching “The Prince of Tennis” on Netflix, as a big tennis fan I’m loving the tennis-related vocabulary! 我很喜欢网球!加油!


Daniel Edwards by Email

I have probably benefited more in 2 weeks of following your course than in a year of trying to learn through audio-only courses + textbooks. I’ve had two weeks of school holidays, which is why I’ve managed to get to level 3 in less than 2 weeks. It’s very exciting to be able to actually WRITE approx 120 characters from memory (previously I had decided I wouldn’t even try to learn to write the characters, as I thought it wouldn’t help that much with speaking, listening and reading)! You’ve taken ‘gamification’ to dizzying heights. Amazing! Good educators strive to create that mythical ‘Can’t Fail Environment’ for the students. You’ve come as close as I’ve ever seen. Thanks for the huge boost in motivation.

Thanks and kind regards,



Christopher on YOU DID IT!!!

Finished the Pronunciation Mastery course for the second time about two years after the first time. In 2020, Mandarin Blueprint had less content, but I signed up for a lifetime subscription in a sale later in the year. Little did I know, how much content there would be released and there is still more to come!

I also highly recommend the Habit Building Course. I had already read Atomic Habits, but I think it is good to see how that can be adapted to learning Chinese, and it has also helped me to start a good exercise habit too. I would additionally recommend Jim Kwik’s Limitless, which I also found an enjoyable read regarding your own potential.

As I sit here in the sunshine of Yangshuo, Guilin in April 2022, I am happy with my progress so far, and am enjoying Intermediate level content, with the bonus of being praised a lot for my beautiful characters, and enjoying writing to an elementary school standard too. I can tackle reading some HSK 5 level content with ease, and am understanding more and more in my daily life in China.

Practicing writing characters using the flashcards from Mandarin Blueprint has even got me a free coffee or too from some Chinese cafe shop owners as a foreigner sitting in a cafe showing interest in that area is a rarity.

For people about to start the Hanzi Movie Method, I really recommend following the process strictly. Though I am satisfied with my progress, and have completed the Intermediate course, there has been times that I raced through the levels and didn’t strictly follow the actual visualization for every character. Some of this was due to a health issue, meaning I couldn’t visualize some things in my mind’s eye as I could at the very beginning. This has ended up with me having some characters I need to revisit, as I accidentally ended up doing rote memorization for the characters, be it with spaced repetition. It has still increased my progress, and level, but maybe more at the 80% instead of 90% to 95% . Some of the characters I remember most are the ones with the more fun movies. I also could have done more shadowing of the fantastic graded readers now available in the future courses, and need to really follow the advice to immerse myself in the sentences available. I feel then my progress would have been even faster!

Thanks to Luke and Phil for delivering and continuing to deliver excellent content, and as I spend more time focusing on my Chinese in 2022, I am excited to see where I will be in January 2023, and will be consuming the upcoming courses released over the coming year.


Darci on Navigating Phase 5 Level Reviews

It still shocks me (and my friends) just how much I have learned so far. I could not possibly have learned anywhere near this many characters (1,000+) without relying on and having faith in the power of the Mandarin Blueprint Method. To me this accomplishment is nothing short of stunning. So, I’ve just noticed there are no longer the english translations in the Intermediate levels! Yikes!! – the training wheels are off!! Well, steady as she goes!!


Dave on 和 in Context

Hi guys,

I find that when I’m reviewing the sentences in traverse.link, I will listen to the recordings and practice until I can say each sentence with correct tones and at the same pace as the native speakers.
I know being able to say each sentence accurately isn’t the goal, but it feels like too good of an opportunity to practice my pronunciation as well as develop some muscle memory for my vocal muscles.

Am I harming my progress or just slowing it down?



Jaimee K on The “Living Links Logic” of Chinese Word Learning – Part 2

I know this was just to show how this stuff works, but I naturally made my own connections for two of the words and thought I’d share

yi3jing1 sounds very much like ‘aging’ to me. It feels like an easy association to make with ‘already’, “I’ve already hit all the important age milestones” sort of thing

gao1xing4 sounds like gushing, which feels accurately how ‘elated’ people act in tv shows. They’re usually gushing over the thing that made them so happy, like an engagement or new job


Kairi Shikari on Level 58 Review

Now the real work begins for me. I have been focusing on characters, now it’s time to look for interesting content to consume so that I can learn the words. I am wondering whether to keep going forward with the next course and keep learning more characters, or stop here and try and really learn what I’ve accumulated so far. I know a lot of characters at this point but certainly not many of the compound words that go with them.


Andy Williams on 试试 in Context

What is the difference between 时 and 的时候 for the meaning “when”? Is 时 just an abbreviation? Thanks, Andy