狡兔三窟 or jiǎ tù sān kū means a rabbit should have three holes to hide from the enemy. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
I am going to explore the need to diversify your portfolio. Learning Chinese is an investment and I have invested a lot of time and money in Chinese. It all started in 1996. I bought my first Chinese learning book ‘méthode 90 pour débutant’ (Chinese for beginners). It is a slightly difficult book for true beginners in spite of that it is a comprehensive course with 6 CDs for 45 euro. In 2008, I bought four more books that cost approximately 150 pounds sterling at Foyles in London and Today I am subscribed to Chinese 101. Money wise, I have spent exactly £350 on Chinese learning ‘potions and creams’. I am more than happy with these books and my greatest wish for 2012 is to finish using every single book. Doing so should give me the level to take HSK1 or attempt HSK 2 in the near future. Doing so will also give me a strong sense of self satisfaction. I want to take charge of my learning experience, I want to finish what I started, no more loose ends!
Now why have I suddenly become an accountant?
Well I am back in Lagos, Nigeria and that is where all my precious language books are. I have done the sorting out and I have five books: One reader, one character writing and remembering book, one full course (dialogues in Pinyin, Hanzi and audio), one conversation course (dialogues in Pinyin only and audio) and an online Chinese course (dialogue in pinyin, hanzi and audio). As you can see I have a book for reading, a book for writing, a full course (comprehension, speaking, listening, translating), a book for listening and speaking, and an online course that provides cultural insight and is catered to learners with no knowledge of Chinese. When the full course methode 90 gets too hard, I know it is time to switch back to the online course and build a foundation before going back to méthode 90. Switching back and forth while working on the Hanzi means I am progressing slowly and I am doing so in all four aspects of Chinese (reading, writing, listening, understanding) as for speaking that is another matter. Switching also keeps boredom at bay.
I mentioned the monetary aspect of my investment in Chinese, now I am going to talk about time. I have been studying and thinking about Chinese in a consistent manner since December 2011 but because my studying phases have been somewhat erratic, I cannot quantify the number of true hours spent learning Chinese.
In my week 8 Chinese diary entry, I started monitoring the time spent on Chinese and I reduced it to one hour per day plus an extra hour on the Hanzi and other Chinese related activities. The grand total is approximately 10 hours of Chinese per week. With what I have in mind for myself, this is not enough 😦 As for listening to Chinese, I do so passively on a daily basis. Sometimes 20 minutes and at other times I do so for four hours.
Hanzi is one of the only ways to quantify your progress, but it could lead to your undoing, I think it is important to strike a balance, anyway those of you learning every character by rote and those of you embarking on this approach will understand.
I have learnt 148 out of the 800 basic characters. I can recognise, read and write them from memory and I know many words but I know less than half of the required vocab for HSK 1.