Up and Back and Right on Track

'Remember to pace yourself!'
‘Remember to pace yourself!’

Studying every. single. day.

Since my last post, inspired by Nick in Denmark and a colleague of mine who is on a 155-day Duolingo streak and is acing her Spanish class as a result, I have tried to establish what Duolingo calls a streak – that is, I have tried to study my Anki flash cards every single day.

This is a bit of a change for me.  But I have to say that it works.  At the moment I’m on a 73-day steak.  I’m learning 15 new phrases each day, as well as revising the phrases that I have already learnt.

It works out at about 150 cards per day, and I’m consistently getting 90% of the answers right.  When I was trying to average 70 new words per week, and not studying on weekends, I was averaging about 80%.  Last year, when I tried learning 100 new words at a time, I had a 60% success rate.

It’s more fun when you’re getting most of the answers right, and by taking it one day at a time, I don’t get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.

Furthermore, in the last 10 weeks I’ve learnt more vocabulary than I did last year.  I’ve finished memorising my Chinese phrasebook (more about that in another post), and have moved on to  the FSI Standard Chinese course – I’ve almost completed four units.

我的第一个中文的博客文章 / My first blog post in Chinese / Mi primer entrada en chino

(English translation below)
(En español abajo)




This is my first blog post in Chinese.

I have been studying Chinese for a year.
I memorized a phrasebook.
Every day I learnt 10 phrases.

My name is Deng Baorui (that’s my Chinese name).
I’m from Sydney, Australia.
My first language is English.
I also studied French and Spanish.

I only know some Chinese characters.

Este es mi primer blog post en chino.
Estoy estudiando chino por un año.
He memorizado un libro de frases.
Todas las dias he aprendado 10 frases.

Me llamo Deng Baorui (ese es mi nombre chino).
Vivo en Sydney, Australia.
Mi primer idioma es inglés.
Yo he estudiado francés y español tambien.

No conozco muchos caracteres chinos.





Sui generis and words that start with “uni”

Following on from yesterday’s post, I was reading an article in WA Today and came across the Latin phrase sui generis.

Literally, this means “of its own kind; unique”.  It was being used in a legal sense, so it means “when a special and unique interpretation of a case or authority is found to be necessary”. (Wikipedia).

sui = of itself

generis comes from genus = kind or type

“Unique” itself comes from Latin and means “the only one of its kind”.

Uni is a Latin prefix (letters added (or fixed) to the beginning of a word to change its meaning) that means “one”.

Other words that start with uni include;

unicellular – consisting of one cell

unicorn – one horn

unicycle – one wheel

uniform – one form, the same

unify – to make or become one

unilateral – from or to one side

union – two or more things joined into one

unison – literally “one sound”, unison means being together in harmony at the same time.


unite – to join together or combine into one.

unity – oneness, being one.

universe – the whole of creation, from the Latin universus which means “combined into one.”


Learning Chinese – One Year In



When I started memorizing my Spanish phrasebook, I picked an arbitrary number of phrases to learn each day – 10.  This seemed achievable to me, with the added benefit of being able to quickly calculate and track my progress.

This seemed to work well for me for the first three months, then I took a month or so off, then learnt 50-100 words per day for two weeks, before spending a week and a half revising my deck without learning any new words.

The problem with learning a lot of words or phrases quickly with Anki is that the number of cards to review also adds up very quickly, and before you know it you have to revise two or three hundred cards per day, with occasional spikes of five hundred cards in one day.  I call this problem The Wrath of Anki, and I’ve posted about it before here and here.

In his book Fast, Easy Way to Learn a Language Bill Handley states that in his opinion it is more effective to learn lots of words quickly and poorly rather a small amount of words slowly but surely.

I thought I’d try the Quickly and Poorly method with Chinese.  So I’d learn 100 new phrases in one session, then revise and revise until I had the number of cards I had to review down to a manageable level, then learn 100 more. Continue reading

Use your language skills to make the world a better place

This lengthy article in the Guardian provides some interesting food for thought about languages used on the internet.


My first thoughts on reading it are:

(1) Learning another language can dramatically open up the amount of information available to you.

(2) If you speak another language, writing Wikipedia articles in it can help fill in some of the knowledge gaps that exist in other languages.



05 Recommended phrasebooks


I heartily recommend the iSpeak and All in One series by Alex Chapin, published by McGraw Hill.

Like all good phrasebooks, they contain extremely useful, practical phrases and vocabulary, but these books (actually CDs with about 1500 mp3 files on them) also have an audio recording of each phrase in the target language, which is then repeated in English twice, then finally repeated in the target language again.

Continue reading