How long did it take you to learn Mandarin HSK 1?

Just interested to hear your experiences! Personally, I'm learning on average 15 new words every week. With nearly 400 words in the HSK level 1 list, I should complete the course in about 33 weeks, or 8 months. Before I started this HSK course, I had used some mp3 'listen and repeat' type course (Pimsleur) and looked at a few Mandarin/Pinyin books a bit. I've never attended any classes, pretty much self-taught. How did you get on/ are you getting on with the course? Did you use other methods? Attend any classes? etc

Posted by MarkBurgess 8/19/12, last update 8/25/12 (1 year ago)
  • I started 3 weeks ago and i've actually reached the 200 words goal. I had no actual knowledge of Chinese before joining this site.

    This number is biased because it's summer and i have plenty of time to dedicate, so i can afford spending 20 min in the morning and 20 min in the evening to water all the words and 10 minutes to learn from 5 to 15 new words a day.

    I don't think i will be able to keep the pace when the summer will be over but doing the math, probably i will be done with HSK 1 in a month or so.

    Posted by chobeat 8/19/12 (1 year ago)
  • Thats awesome! My memory is like a sieve:) I could step up a little more from 15 words a week I'm sure, but I trying to be sure to remember all I learn.

    I think its helpful, in fact important to speak what you learn in daily use, with Mandarin speakers if possible, to help with pronunciation. Hence my questions about 'other methods'.

    There seem to be a not a few people on Memrise who are much more advanced in Mandarin. Any other comments on what is useful for building a good foundation in the language?

    Thanks for your reply chobeat, all the best with your learning, Mark

    Posted by MarkBurgess 8/20/12 (1 year ago)
  • I have been using the method of much and infrequently, as opposed to the,snacking method employed by some, I have found this beneficial as I do not feel under any pressure to learn but cultivate a hunger for learning, resulting in an occasional binge of knowledge.. working so far.....

    Posted by chortle 8/20/12 (1 year ago)
  • Pimsleur is OK but it will only teach you about 300 words over the course for 45 hours. It also teaches you extremely slow and standard mandarin. It's not a bad starting point, but it won't take you very far.

    I would recommend you get a textbook (integrated chinese, new practical chinese reader, etc.) as well as a subscription to one of the chinese podcasts (chiensepod, popupchinese, CLO, etc.) and start working through those in conjunction with each other. I would also try to abandon learning everything perfectly if I were you. I learn 25 "words" a day (it's really more like 10 - 15 since I am actually learning new characters or sometimes the words are composed of old characters that I already know), and I expect to forget 10 - 15% over the next week. It doesn't matter because most of those will be transformed into long term memory after a month. Others I will be unable to recall later or may completely blank on. That's OK too. Those will be in the minority. I find my progress is much faster and smoother if I do not worry too much about perfection. In fact, the more forward momentum you build up, the easier it is to learn more, and it is rewarding being able to actually start reading a bit. I am now at the piont where some of the words I learn on memrise are totally new to me, and when I encounter them on a podcast or a textbook they are easier to remember...

    At your pace, you will be stuck in the beginner phase for a very long time (years). In fact, you aren't actually learning 15 words a week if you are going by memrise's count. Most of what you've learned in HSK1 will be characters and radicals, which aren't really words. HSK1 is more like 150 actual words.

    When you are a bit more comfortable with the language, I strongly suggest you try learning 5, 10, 15 words a day on memrise. If you get integrated chinese, you can use the course for the first text I set up: www.memrise.com/set/10037566/integrated-chinese-level-1-part-1-vocabulary-all-c/.

    Posted by Big_Kahuna 8/20/12 (1 year ago)
  • @Big-Kahuna Your second paragraph is good advice. Personally, I have stepped up the pace on HSK1 now, after completing the Conversational Chinese course. I agree that if only learning 15 'words' on HSK per week, and nothing else, then one would be a beginner for years. Thankfully, I do use other methods as well, I didn't make that clear. I consider myself a casual learner. I have 2 other courses on the go on Memrise, maybe dedicating yourself to one at a time is best? I don't know, its all good..

    Regarding Pimsleur, it is actually useful for learning some sentence structure. Learning Chinese is not just about learning words, is it. Good to plug away with Pimsleur, you can use the conversational sentences together with the new words learnt on Memrise to make your own sentences. However, as I've read in a different thread, few continue it to completion. Someone close to me is nearly done with all 90 lessons...

    Posted by MarkBurgess 8/25/12 (1 year ago)
  • I completed Pimsleur. It is a great introduction to the language, but it isn't much more than that. It doesn't explain any of the grammar (as you already know), and the grammar and words it uses are very formal if not outdated. At the end of the course, you will be ablel to fluently say a handful of phrases, but your listening comprehension will be zilch since you will be used to Pimsleur's slow perfectly pronounced speech and your vocabulary will be between 300 - 450 words (which is about what you would learn from part one of an introductory textbook).

    I hope my initial response wasn't too negative. We all have different learning goals. Mine have changed drastically, and I was giving you advice based on my past experiences. When I started, I had no interest in learning how to read. I was purely focused on speaking. I also was focused on mastering every word, phrase, and concept I came across. Looking back, I wish I would've started learning characters from the beginning, and I wish I would've been more willing to do things imperfectly because doing so would've drastically sped up my progress in all areas of my studies. Over the past couple of months, I have learned 2000 "words" on memrise (more like 1100), many of these are now words I had not learned before... and when I encounter these words on a podcast or in a textbook or in a film, I immediately remember them and often understand phrases I had never encounterd before. Having a growing passive vocabulary makes everything so much easier.

    As for the number of courses... I tend to stick to one at a time, but there's no need to. I see you have 4 courses at the moment, all in Mandarin. As long as you are learning new words that interest you, I am sure what you learn will be useful.

    Posted by Big_Kahuna 8/25/12 (1 year ago)
  • Hey thanks Big_Kahuna, I appreciate the feedback from a much more advanced Mandarin learner/speaker. My view of learning Mandarin is open to ideas. For the last few days, I have been sowing 20 new seeds a day in HSK1, instead of the 15 a week, and getting on just fine. I've heard many of these new words spoken, also seen them in PinYin in the literature I have. (Most of the literature I have is Chinese characters with PinYin, and its tooo easy to focus only on PinYin - be careful!)

    You are so right about Pimsleur's slow perfectly pronounced speech! It does, (in my opinion) in a ironic way, hinder listening comprehension. It is too 'correct' (I can remember a Chinese friend calling my pronunciation "totally standard"("!) What did he mean? I realized it was my spoken Chinese was 'textbook'. Easy for others to understand, however, I always have struggled to listen to others and understand. Wo3 ting1bu4dong3! - Hear not understand. I hope that will improve as I converse with more Chinese people with various accents.

    Thanks again for the feedback, I understand you are being helpful.

    For anyone else reading, I'll quote from your last post; "Having a growing passive vocabulary makes everything so much easier." How very true - and thankyou Memrise for helping! Peace out

    Posted by MarkBurgess 8/25/12 (1 year ago)

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