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147. What Does Your Study Schedule Look Like?

Podcast Duration: 00:58:40

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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.

147. What Does Your Study Schedule Look Like?

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0:38 Comments & Emails

Gavia Arctica by Community

Hi all!

This is long… I´m just “thinking out loud” here, trying to make bit of a study schedule for myself. I have no “reason” or “goal” for learning Chinese other than having fun with it. Sometimes it means that I am not very methodical in what I am doing to learn. It´s OK to have fun, but having a clear study program and sticking to it would make learning more efficient. 

Since I found Mandarin Blueprint about a year ago I now finally have a clear path to follow, THANK YOU for that! MB definitely is my “Chinese learning home” , but I also venture “out” every now and then to practise writing, speaking, listening outside the course. Not having a timeline or a goal keeps things relaxed but sometimes it also means that I´m always bit frustrated, wanting to do more and more, but don´t have the time for it and then may then spend a whole weekend studying and get far too tired. 

Sometimes I also still get too excited about some particular thing like watching some series (way over comprehensible level), listening to music, practising speaking or writing above my level and may take too long breaks from advancing with the course.

So I´m looking for some sort of balance here, a minimum to do every day but also a maximum to control my tendency to overdo things and burn myself out. I don´t want that to happen with Chinese.

So… this is my plan for a study schedule for the next… let´s say 3 months to begin with. 

– I will NOT pick up the phone for Anki as soon as I wake up, I will start with some physical exercise and start studying only when I have plenty of fresh oxygen in my brain
– Use 10-30min after morning excercise to: 
– 100% CONCENTRATED REVIEW (for example: newest characters and sentences) OR
– Shadowing sentences OR
– Phone call with HelloTalk friend OR
– Writing a bit on HelloTalk OR
– Reviewing previous HelloTalk conversations
– NO more HT on weekdays besides this morning moment!
– Listen to MB sentences / stories while making breakfast and getting ready for work
– Review Anki (and Skritter for my pre-MB characters, preferably during the morning/early afternoon) in any little breaks I have during the day
– Learn THREE new characters with their words and sentences at night (or at my lunch break if there´s time)
– Write by hand the characters and words to be reviewed from previous levels (I know, not absolutely necessary, just seems to be a calming thing to do in the evening, I have moved the “older” reviews into separate decks for this moment)
– Every now and then write by hand some complete sentences from earlier levels where I know all the characters in the sentences already.
– When life happens it is OK to skip the new characters one or two days a week, but preferably do at least one per day

– I am allowed to spend more time on HelloTalk, it is a great source of motivation since it is the only place for me to have contact with real Chinese people, I am in a totally non-Chinese environment here
– All the weekday stuff STILL needs to get done on weekends as well, no more Mondays where pending ANKI reviews have piled up for two days! 
– If I have time I am allowed to do 6 new characters per day on the weekend. No more!
– If there is time – generally isn´t because the rest of my life needs some attention as well… read an easy reader, watch something Chinese (movies, series), it doesn’t necessarily have to be “studying”, OK to do it just for entertainment, getting used to hearing the language 

– Work on correcting my pre-MB bad habits in how I review: I need to get used to doing my best to really recall and visualise my movies, especially right at the point when I´m first learning the character. I need to pause and THINK a bit before saying “oh, I can´t remember this”. Now that I have movies for my characters I may still sometimes feel like that but if I just try to go to that place where the movie was filmed… it all DOES come back! Doing that is SO much more effective than just hitting enter to see this forgotten character once again.
– Work for one whole level like this, then take a 3-5 day break in order to:
– Reduce the daily review load that tends to build up and may take too much time to keep this doable in the long term
– Take some extra time for listening practise (mostly the 家有儿女series, but really concentrating on listening, repeating the same episode to understand what´s going on, not watching it just for entertainment) 
– Read an easy reader 
– Speak a bit more
– … or not… it´s OK to do reviews only, a few days in between levels
– Just feel GOOD about my Chinese and proud of having completed one more level!

Not a fast pace, but with all the rest of my life this is actually quite a lot, possibly more than I can handle. But I´ll try and see, adjust as necessary. I do need a program to stick to. Now I have told you all, so I have to do it, thanks for listening!

What does your study program look like?


Keith Travis on What’s New in Phase 5? 故事!

A few very exciting realizations happened to this point; I’ll save those for a few moments.

Although I had not emphasized myself yet towards mastering any one of the Phase 4 opinions, dialogues, or passages, I did take the time to read and listen to each. I wrote a few down. I practiced one which I had written with pinyin as notes below each line of Hanzi. It began to turn out well aftr a few tries, yet after having noticed some comments to the effect of perhaps giving them in the area of 20 to 50 practices before committing to a send-off, I decided to pursue Phase 5 vocab. It’s nice to get the Anki Decks started. I like that each Phase’s vocab and sentences can be pursued in chunks independently from each other. I made it through all of the Phase 4 sentences at least once each yet subsequent reinforcement is….I’m lagging a bit some days.

But the vocab! I was able to use the Phase 5 vocab flashcard deck to initiate and prompt my starting a Hanzi Movie Method scene in a single day. Perhaps 3 settings and no more than 3 hours…this without having looked onto the website a single time. However, the following day, (today) my retention was surprisingly low…perhaps bordering 50%. But – gosh – that’s 50% of 106 new characters and about 265 new words total. Today – day 2 of Phase 5 – I comfortably wrote out each character from the website onto my ever expanding set of notes. These make for nice at-a-glance reviews of entire levels from a single page. I am so hungry to continue batch-processing the Intermediate vocab in the coming week or two. It’s a bit addictive. My sentences still lag behind in Phase 4 reinforcement a bit but Anki let’s me add some Phase 5 sentences aside from that so I can at least stay closer to upon the leading edge of integrating more recent vocab.

Okay, now for the aforementioned exciting realizations.

1) I listened to a Youtube video in which a native Chinese host is interviewing a native English speaker who has spent 10 years studying Mandarin. There were subtitles in both Hanzi and English. The native English speaker was doing most of the talking – and in Mandarin – and he was fairly fast! And yet despite this, I was…amazed to see that I recognized well more than 80% of the Hanzi. Entire sentences were coming up 100%. I wasn’t able to translate at that speed, but I was able to recognize closer to 95%-98% of the characters used. Even if these characters or his speech were largely determined by high frequency and simplicity, the sheer fact that I was recognizing that much that quickly relative to a native English speaker with 10 years of practice meant a lot to me! The host’s speech likewise turned out in extrememly recognizable Hanzi: definitely better than 80%. Although my aural and visual translation speeds aren’t there yet, I can clearly see that I already have a tremendous foundation.

2) The emails sent from Mandarin Blueprint after the completion of each level. I had been sort of skimming or skipping most of these in my batch-processing. I read through a few of them this evening, starting with the messages capping the completion of levels 35 and 36 at the end of this Phase, (since I had written all of the characters and am on Day 2 of Anki). Bam! Although the example sentences used to elaborate on the pointers given in the emails are not as complicated seeming as the Anki sentences, I was able to read and understand these sentences almost as fast as the English setting up the context for what they were to be elaborating. It shows me the difference between reading ‘practice sentences out-of-the-blue’ on Anki and reading in context with relatively few surprises. These end-of-level grammar or idiom lessons are a fantastic bonus: highly digestible and politely reaffirming.

3) The Google Translate microphone will consistently and accurately detect and translate the 80% speed levels of the native spoken dialogues, opinions, and so on. It will not pick up much slower than that. If I practice, it is fairly sensitive to ending and translating sound from the microphone with any awkward pauses in my speech attempts. This is fantastic! Obviously, as it consistently and accurately picks up sound from the recordings of Native speech, it makes for a relatively good gauge of my own attempts as well as providing a bit of ‘natural impetus’ for me to develop a smooth enough cadence to not trigger it to end recording.

4) Dreams and Warping of English. Towards the end of a second months of consistent daily practice, a bit of Mandarin language processing is definitely showing up in my dreams as…whatever it is that dreams are doing. It is mostly gibberish, yet it is there. I have been noticing that my English has as well become a bit modified as inadvertent emulations of my own still vague coming-to-grips with Mandarin grammar: both in my speech as well as in writing. In general, I’m doing what I can to be less rigid in pushing for an adamant grip upon every word: trying to be a bit more welcoming of accepting understanding or comprehension in whatever form and howsoever it emerges. I’m…craving a bit of grammar if I’m honest. When I review the Mandarin Blueprint grammar lessons after-the-fact of having practiced sentences and reinforced with flashcards for at least a few days, they DO come across as a highly digestible hindsight sorts of confirmations of vague emerging mental twitches and intuitions, as do the end-of-level emails. Still, before too long I am just going to cave in and spend a few days beginning an investment towards a purview of the 500+ points of grammar and idiom said to relevant by HSK level through to level 6.

5) Nope…perhaps just the previous 4 awesome realizations will do for now.

Moving ahead, I expect I’ll continue to target writing out all of the remaining material in the form of intermediate vocab and the longer passages from Phases 4 and 5. There are…5,720 Mandarin Blueprint practice sentences. I’m trying to let that sink in… I’m a bit – happily – dependent for the time being on the efficacy of the OCLO selections.

Finally, a note on ‘literacy in 2 to 3 months’ relative to a (my) 3+ hour/day for the previous 2 months. For context: (taken from online) “Children usually go to grade 1 at the age of 6 or 7 in China. According to “全日制义务教育语文课程标准”, the character number that children should learn is: Grade 1 to Grade 2: can read 1600 characters, and write 800 characters; Grade 3 to Grade 4: can read 2500 characters, and write 2000 characters;” I’m uncertain how if or how much difference there is between that standardized ideal and the common reality. However, on the face of things: Have I achieved ‘literacy’? Within my sphere of vocabulary…yes. mostly: little to no caveat.

I can usually correctly visually read sentences directly to my understanding smoothly and without much difficulty: sometimes faster and sometimes much slower than 80% native speed. I cannot – however – pronounce sentences aloud nearly as well as I can ‘mentate’ their pronunciations in my ‘inner voice’. Attempting to speak aloud with the same efficacy as in my inner voice seems to take up more brainpower bandwidth than I would have expected. I can – however – ‘shadow pronounce’ most short-to-medium length sentences with ease although this can be with or without actual comprehension: depending on the sentence.

I’d suggest that I’ve developed a literacy loosely comparable with a grade 1 seven-year old Chinese student. I’ve listened to children reading some graded reading materials on LingQ…this does not seem like an unreasonable comparison. However, I understand now that I can realistically expect – with a similar degree of application – across the next 2 months, (months 3 and 4 for me), that I will by that time have solidly picked up all of the vocabulary through to the end of the intermediate level and and have had 2 solid months of…’sentence grinding’ in addition to whatever level of practice I develop with the 49 passages of Phase 4 and the 8 longer graded reading selections from Phase 5 with the intermediate sections unlocked.

My real hope in that timeframe is simply to begin perceiving some substantial transitions from literacy to fluency as – I should expect – greater degrees of spontaneous speech habit emerge.



Rebecca Wheble on Level 57 Complete

Well, I’m done and it’s kind of hard to believe. MB’s been such a big part of my daily routine for nearly two years. I’m going to miss it. I kind of feel like a baby bird jumping out of the nest and hoping my wings will support me. One thing is for sure, this is the best character learning method out there. Thanks guys.


Linn Bjerkseth on Level 20 & Phase 3 Complete!

I really appreciate how the phases and levels are set up, it gives you the opportunity to pause once in a while and give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far. Beginning with sentences in phase 3 was so much fun. After being focused on learning words in phase 1 and 2, it took a little while to get my mind out of the literal translation mode, but when the sentences got longer, my word-for-word approach clearly was not very effective. Translating word for word and then trying to rearrange all the words into a sentence, I would more often than not miss some aspect of the intended meaning. But if I just read the whole thing through quickly, it would all make sense somehow. Well, most of the time at least! Before I started this course I had zero prior experience trying to learn mandarin or even being exposed to the language, so I take every sentence that I now understand as a victory, and the ones that still are a bit above my level of comprehension; no big deal.

As this is my first comment here, I also need to say thank you Luke and Phil, for all the hours and hours spent making such an amazing course. I would be quite embarrassed to have to admit how many languages I’ve started to learn, only to give up on after a few weeks or months. With the Mandarin Blueprint method however, I have made it this far and I am still having fun, and I have a clear path ahead of me to follow. I always wanted to learn mandarin, but I thought it would be too hard, so I never even gave it a try until this year, and now, with your method, the goal of fluency doesn’t even seem that far fetched anymore! My mind is blown. Phase 4, here we go!


Melanie on Casting Call G- 2/55

Wow! Thank you for this fast, personal, and thorough reply! The videos I referred to are in the “How to Choose Scenes” link under the lesson about final -an. That then links to How to Choose Actors, and on and on…many videos and explanations. I will trust you and just keep going. I really appreciate your answer. Great customer service!


Anne Giles on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 明白 – 说明 – 明年

I’m pausing to marvel at the care, thought, and expertise that must have gone into deciding to teach us these characters in this order: 月>用>胖>朋>明. And now we get these words – to understand, to explain, to have a bright next year – 明白 – 说明 – 明年. Beautiful! Extraordinary! Thank you!


Dunya Ellegoda on Pick a Prop for 丨- Gandalf’s Staff!

Using props is fun! I feel like Chinese is fun. Thank you for that.


Rebecca Wheble on Vocab Unlocked from 炎

冰淇淋 bīngjīlín – isn’t 淇 qí?

冰激凌 bīngjilíng
冰淇淋 bīngqílín


Chris Lewis on 其他 in Context

食物 sounds like ‘Sure Woo’ (me) and what better way to my heart than with a massive plate of chocolate (FOOD)!

口味 sounds like GO AWAY, I’m not interested in your disgustingly-TASTING food!

I also resonate with what Chad says. A part of me wants to complete the course too, however, I love getting distracted with learning new words (like above)that we haven’t learned yet. I’ll deconstruct new characters, create objects and then add them to my flashcards in a new category. When I first started learning Chinese, I thought I could be conversationally fluent in two years. I reassessed that goal and made it 3-5 years, then came across MB and the rest is history. I have my whole life to learn this language. I’ve developed patience and now with school finished (I’m a teacher) and lockdown in Malaysia and nowhere to go, I’m going to play a bit of catch up, while also being kind to myself.


Julie Hentschel Lund on 女人 in Context

Is there a big difference between 觉得 and 认为? It seems like they’re close synonyms, but could you say that 觉得 is more connected to personal feelings/thoughts whereas 认为 is more formal in a way?

46:12 Vocab Living Links

This section covers “Living Link” mnemonic techniques to remember Chinese words of two or more characters. Here’s a video explaining the theory behind it.

Robert on Vocab Unlocked from 哪: 哪个 – 哪儿

My Mnemonic is that I remember that there is a “Yi” (One) hidden in the “which” to change Nǎ into Nǎ-Yi-ge = Něi-ge.


Julie Hentschel Lund on Vocab Unlocked from 要: 快要 – 主要 -想要 – 要是

Living link for 想要: If you’ve watched the tv-show Lucifer, he always asks “What do you desire the most?”


Korneel Snauwaert on Vocab Unlocked from 书: 看书 – 书包

看书 – “Can’t you” read?


Julie Hentschel Lund on Vocab Unlocked from 没: 没什么 – 没关系 – 从来没

从来没 The “never have I ever” game

55:53 Movies! 

This blog post explains the theory behind Movie Scenes and learning characters.

Will Raley on Make a Movie 副

副 fù Secondary (Vice-, second in command)
1. Fry (Futurama) at -Ø’s Garden
2. The giant Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (畐) comes to bully Fry into being his SECONDARY villain in crime
3. Fry gets his Broad Sword (刂) and tames The giant Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
4. The giant Ghostbusters Stay Puft Marshmallow Man is now Fry’s SECONDARY (副) worker


Will Raley on Make a Movie 幅

幅 fú Width (the distance across something from one side to the other)
1. Futurama Fry at -Ø’s Kitchen
2. The Ghostbuster’s Stay Puft Marshmallow man (畐) challenges Fry to measure his WIDTH despite how high he is
3. South Park’s Towlie (巾) is there with Fry and Fry at least knows the WIDTH of Towlie
4. Fry stretches Towlie all the way across the WIDTH of the Marshmallow man to measure the WIDTH (幅)
5.Poor Towlie can’t stop complaining