Home > Journal > Performance Review & Progress Report, 2014

Performance Review & Progress Report, 2014

In 2009, I started my current stage of language learning by choosing to study Japanese. Before that, I consider myself as having been just like most other people. These “Performance Review” posts try to better show I’m nothing special and you can do this too.

Previous posts: 2013. 2009-2012. 2009.

Hello, 5 year mark! 5 years since started Japanese and began learning various languages. Here’s a quick look at all the languages I touched on and their statuses compared to last year. That’s what this post will cover, and in the listed order. This is not a look back at the past 5 years.

Main efforts

  • Mandarin – Notable improvement.
  • Korean – Notable improvement.
  • Japanese – Slight loss.
  • French – Some improvement
  • Spanish – Extremely slight improvement

Lesser efforts

  • Vietnamese – Slight improvement.
  • Shanghainese – Continued, slow advancement.
  • Southern Min (Taiwanese / Hokkien) – Continued, slow advancement.
  • Thai – Little change, both positive and negative.
  • Arabic – Slight Loss.

(the following languages will not be covered in this post since there’s not much to say.)

  • Hindi – No change, maintained.
  • Cantonese – No change, maintained.

Not targeted

  • Hmong – Still ignored
  • Yoruba – Still ignored.
  • Swahili & Zulu – Still ignored.
  • Russian & Greek – Slight loss.
  • Morse Code  – Some loss.

Improved Languages

Mandarin Chinese

Primary Learning Method: Texting, Chinese interfaces, Speaking when possible.

Status: Improved: Rating myself using CEFR: Solid B1, almost B2 if it wasn’t for lacking vocabulary and still some problems in listening comprehension.

How am I doing?

Well, after 4 years, I really do feel I can “speak” Chinese and am comfortable speaking the language, and I had it proved on my recent trip to Vietnam, Korea, and Taiwan.

In Korea, I actually used a lot of Chinese. At the airport, one of the first things I had already decided on doing was renting a phone. This is fairly important and there were long lines so I wasn’t going to waste people’s time by struggling with Korean, so I began in English. However, when I realized the person serving me spoke Chinese when she responded to a Chinese customer, I spoke to her in Chinese. She was easy-going and we decided to try going through the whole process in Chinese! I managed just fine; the rental agreement, charges, policies – I worked it all out in Chinese, though I probably got lucky since it was all relatively simple and did not require any advanced vocabulary.

Afterwards, I actually met many Koreans whose Mandarin was better than their English. Mandarin became a language I practiced everyday in Seoul.

LESSON OF THE DAY: Learn Mandarin for your stay in Korea?????

In Taiwan, I had no reason to speak English. Furthermore, I gave myself a challenge to speak in the Taiwanese variant and accent of Mandarin. It was easier than I thought, though in retrospect I could have done better had I remembered a few other things. I went on a tour where all the other tourists were Chinese, bringing up the fortunate situation where I requested for what was officially an English-language tour to be done in Chinese instead. Very good experience.

Then I met a good friend I made through a language exchange app called HelloTalk. We hung out all day, from 11am to 11pm. 11am to 5pm we only spoke in Chinese. Then I turned it around and we spoke all English for her benefit.

What’s next?

Not much new other than keeping up what I’m doing and try to do more in Chinese. Keep texting my friends in Chinese, keep speaking up in Chinese if I meet any Chinese people, use it in Chinese restaurants, practice Standard and Taiwanese variants of Mandarin depending on who I’m speaking to, change more interfaces to Chinese, try to watch more Chinese TV and movies, etc.

Korean

Primary Learning Method: Talk to Me in Korean (TTMiK) lessons, texting friends.

Status: Much improvement. Probably a high A1

How am I doing?

As my trip to Korea approached, I more heavily reviewed my TTMiK lessons, from early lessons and continuing as far as I could go before my trip, mainly listening for anything I had forgotten and noting down any vocabulary I wanted to review or learn. I was not getting speaking practice but I tried repeating out loud when possible (at least mentally) and making sure I wrote more Korean with my friends (texting). I knew it still wouldn’t be much and I was mainly trying to refresh and cram a little bit before getting to Korea and getting my speaking practice there.

I tried speaking English as little as possible, using it only when I was too stuck with Korean or needed to work faster – I was there to travel and meet people, and I was not putting language practice ahead of that. Then I had a tour of Seoul that ended up being a private tour since I was the only one who booked for that day! My tour guide agreed to speak Korean for all the non-tour-info conversations. She did better than that though; she would still tell me things in Korean even when she was talking about the places we were visiting. It was great practice.

In Taiwan, the hostels I stayed in were full of Koreans. I met a few of them and spoke a lot of Korean with them. I was still forced to change to English or Mandarin for some things, but I did my best to keep things in Korean as much as possible.

The great news is, I felt that my level in Korean is quite like the level of Chinese that I had when I went on my first trip to China. In both cases, I had been tackling the languages seriously for about 2 years. I can thus feel relatively confident that in another 2 years, I’ll be speaking Korean pretty confidently, just as I just wrote above regarding Mandarin! I’m hoping and excited that it will really turn out that way.

What’s Next?

I intend to continue following the lessons at Talk to Me in Korean, and texting more, especially now that I’ve made a few more Korean friends. I’ll try to speak to them in Korean as well and maybe I’ll visit my nearby Korean restaurants more often.


Japanese

Primary Learning Method: Not much; listening to music, Word of the Day apps, anime, some texting.

Status: Dropped a bit, most notably in speaking. Now stagnant but stable; still a low A2 or most likely a high A1

How am I doing?

My Japanese continued to be pushed back since Korean took over the #2 priority spot in preparation for my trip to Korea. I tried to remind myself of things mentally either randomly or when facing something similar in Korean, reviewed my podcasts and dialogs sometimes, and spoke and wrote it with friends when possible, though relatively rare. However, it was happening a little more often than before since I did make a few friends through the HelloTalk app, so I have some Japanese language partners again.

At a language learners meet up by Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months, I practiced some Japanese with a Japanese woman attending. It was pretty slow and stubborn to come out, with my mind wanting to speak Mandarin or Korean instead – an understandable issue since I had just returned from my trip to Vietnam, Korea, and Taiwan just a week prior. However, I did refresh as well as learn a few new words.

What’s Next?

Ok, maybe finally I can place Japanese in my #2 if not #1 spot of focus. I do enough in Chinese that I don’t need to put conscious effort into practicing it, so I could place Japanese in first place now. I want to apply for the JET program again and if I don’t get in, I still want to travel to Japan next year, so it’s finally Japanese’s turn – no excuses!

Lesser Efforts

French

Primary Learning Method: Word of the Day app, French conversation meet ups, some texting.

Status: Hopefully stable now, but still at risk. Likely a high A1 but may appear to be a low A2 from lack of speaking practice.

How am I doing?

French saw a nice boost this year as I’ve begun attending French conversation meet ups – they’re doing great things for my French! The story of my first meet up is here, and basically what happened is that after 4 years of not practicing French, my French was understandably slow when I was greeted and asked basic questions like where I lived and how long I’ve studied French. I was replying as slow as a 1st-semester student (no offense to 1st-semester students, that’s a normal stage of learning!), but the dinner was all in French, so after 2 hours, I was on-par with them, speaking just as fast as they were, discussing education, travel, and world cultures.

Despite that, a brief meeting with French people on a spring break trip was almost total a failure, because despite leaving that meeting speaking almost as fluidly as I did 4 years ago, I did not get to go to another one afterwards, so I hadn’t practiced again for at least 2 months. Just like what would happen in real life with real-life objects, other languages were worked on instead, and leaving French untouched meant it got pushed back in storage.

Then I went to a language learner’s meet up by Benny Lewis in DC, and the experience was in between. Again, at first I was quite slow, but I was with a group of people for maybe an hour who all had French as a common foreign language, so we spoke French for maybe 20 minutes. My French got a little faster after continuing to speak and hear it for 10 minutes or so.

What’s next?

Still not thinking about it much, and I simply plan to continue attending the French meet ups in my area. That should be enough. I still need to stabilize my Japanese efforts before doing more with French.

Spanish

Primary Learning Method: Paying attention to myself and others!

Status: Slowly improving.

How am I doing?

I’m watching out for and correcting mistakes and looking up words I need to know. I’m paying more attention and watching out for words, phrases, idioms, and the like that I hear my parents say but maybe I don’t really say myself. I searched YouTube for the X-men cartoon episodes of the Days of Future Past storyline (just to see what the new movie was based on), and I found them dubbed in Spanish, so I watched those. I actually picked up a couple of words from that!

VietnameseFlag of Southern Vietnam. Click for info.

Primary Learning Method: Mental review

Status: Stable.

How am I doing?

Basically I’m still reminding myself of the words and phrases and going over them in my head. If I visit the house of Vietnamese friends, I use what I can with their families. On my trip to Vietnam, I spent *all* my time with close friends I hadn’t seen in a while, so speaking Vietnamese was not something I wanted to do with them, but if anything came up, or I had a question, I would ask and learn / practice. When I went to their places for dinner, I used what I could with their families. Finally, the taxi drivers I had spoke virtually no English so I spoke as much Vietnamese I could, checking whatever limited Vietnamese resources I had on my phone (I forgot to look for and download offline dictionaries for my phone before my trip!!). Surprisingly, I managed to have a couple very basic, limited conversations through the help of body language and context, and one taxi driver asked me to read Vietnamese so he could correct my pronunciation, and I managed to indicate I wanted to know how to read the time and so he taught me by reading different times out and having me read them back.

What’s next?

Will try to learn more, ask my friends more, write it more. However, I’m still not really putting much focus on it. I’ll try to maintain it at least.

The Newer / Recent Languages

Last year, as I said in my previous Performance Review, I started a few more languages in a limited way.

Shanghainese and Taiwanese / Hokkien

Last year I began to pick these up as a little experiment to learn 2 languages literally at the same time, advancing them equally. I’m actually keeping what little I know stable! Learning like a couple words a month, but as I’ve said before, I do run into or know Chinese who speak these languages, so I’ll exchange a few words and phrases when possible. Both in Seoul and Taipei I met Shanghainese and in Taiwan I met some (including a friend) who speak Taiwanese so I practiced and learned a couple of things.

What’s Next?
Glossika has released a Taiwanese package! And Shanghinese is upcoming! And so are custom dual-language packages! I’m still exchanging emails to see how we could make one for me, using Mandarin as a source language. I always recommend and tend to exclusively promote free learning resources, but I’ve followed Mike Campbell of Glossika for a few years and I agree with and support his ideas and methods, so I expect I would support his products – they’re relatively cheap anyway – no more than $80 for a full 3-level package? Wow. So I’ll buy one or two, will review it, and will let you guys know what I think.

Thai

I try look at any Thai script I run into to make sure I recognize the vowels I should know. I made a Thai friend and learned to say thank you. That’s about all that’s happened. :)

What’s Next?

Not focusing on it. Just retain the 3 phrases or so that I know, and don’t forget those vowels!

Arabic

Haven’t really practiced it much; I’m forgetting the script.

What’s Next?

I’m just keeping it mind. One day I’ll make myself look over the script again. I’ll try to review the script and finish learning it, and review the numbers since I still remember most of the words, but forgot which is which!

Conclusion

Interesting ups and downs, but Mandarin continues improving, allowing me a comfortable, Mandarin-only time in Taiwan, and my Korean was usable enough in Korea for getting around and making friends. Japanese has seen loss but still maintained over all, so I’m happy for that and am ready to bring up more serious attention to it. I look forward to more French conversation meetups; there are 3 I could go to every month. I also look forward to trying out a Glossika product and advancing my Shanghainese and Taiwanese by using Mandarin. We’ll see how it goes! Look out for my next Performance Review, coming summer 2015!

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