Leap from Elementary to Intermediate

January 22, 2014, 07:26 PM posted in General Discussion

Hi everyone,

I just made the leap from elementary lessons (after doing about 400 of them) to intermediate lessons. 

Some background on where I was before this leap: I had been studying for about 12 weeks, fairly intensively. I was able to recognize around 1,000 hanzi. I was texting primatively to friends and penpals in Chinese, and finally even having simple conversations with my teacher and friends. I also felt at this point that elementary lessons were too easy; I usually completely understood the lesson, or understood after learning 1-2 new words, without looking at the script. 

However, now that I've made the leap to Intermediate lessons, I definitely feel that I'm more "in-over-my-head" than I was when I started Elementary lessons. I can barely understand anything. If I read all of the script and learn the words beforehand, my understanding level improves. I do understand about 80% of what the Chinese co-presenter says (they usually don't use vocab that's too difficult). After the stuff is dissected, I can often understand more. But I feel that I may need to change my study strategy. I want to make sure I get the most out of the material. I already watched about 20 Intermediate lessons and didn't progress much.

Does anyone have any ideas?



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January 22, 2014, 07:12 PM

Well you may be being too optimistic about how long this journey takes.  Difficult to imagine how you could recognise 1000 hanzi in 12 weeks for example.

This is what John says about the journey to fluency http://www.sinosplice.com/life/archives/2012/06/29/how-long-does-it-take-to-get-fluent-in-chinese

Much has been said over the years on these boards about the transition from elementary to intermediate.  Here is just one thread http://chinesepod.com/community/conversations/post/10662

In my humble opinion you must just hang in there and enjoy the learning experience ....  Best of luck

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January 22, 2014, 11:23 PM

In addition to the thoughts posted on the thread Mikeinewshot posted, I'd suggest that when you said you studied intensively the past 12 weeks, continue with that.  Not sure how you'd quantify intensively, but maybe putting 1 hour of dedicated study per elementary lesson would be one metric. For the jump to intermediate, you'd have to go to 2 hours of dedicated study per intermediate lesson.

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January 23, 2014, 12:21 AM

I think you have to focus more intensely on individual lessons and spend more time on them as you get higher in difficulty. When i first started doing intermediate, i spent at least two weeks focusing on one or two lessons. each day for at least an hour or so i would focus on these lessons. I listened to the dialogues over and over again until i internalized the dialogues and could recite parts from heart. i also listened to the shows for each lesson times several times. Then i would finish them off by doing the reviews and learn to recite the review sentence in a natural speed.


i think doing that kind of leg work thoughs slow will help you learn the material more deeply and will help you improve int the long run. After a year or so I could see the improvement as i could pick up the material faster and could hear clearly what was being said by the chinese hosts.

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January 23, 2014, 12:31 AM

Thanks for your thoughts, everybody.

In response to mikeinewshot, that wasn't meant to be a crazy claim. Of course it takes a long time, but I guess it depends on what your individual goals are. I think anybody could do it in the time I spent; I have been studying at least 30 hours per week during that time. I cannot write by hand but I definitely can recognize over a thousand hanzi; they each have varying levels of learnedness of course. I would say if given a test I could score an 80-90. The encouragement is really appreciated; you're right, the best thing to do is to keep studying alot! 

It seems like I was able to speed through elementary in part because of all of the other work I was doing throughout the week that was supporting my lessons. Now that the funnel is opening and I am exposing myself to more normal language, it may not be so easy.

So I will try adjusting my study strategy and focusing on spending more time on one lesson. And I will rely more on the tools available before the lesson begins so that I can learn the material more deeply. 

Thanks everyone!

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January 25, 2014, 03:33 PM

Just as a follow up, if anyone is seeing this. I'm having some success by following this method:

  1. Choosing lessons without too much new vocabulary (I can come back later when my 词汇 is more 大) .
  2. Looking at the new vocabulary list first, and briefly learning the new words (just for about 5 minutes).
  3. In my own unique case, since I know a fair amount of 汉字 for a student at this level, I will then read the dialogue, only looking up the words (hover-cheating) when I need to.
  4. Then I will speak the sentences and listen to them being spoken in the sentence-level playback feature. I consider any differences in pronunciation but no longer place emphasis on that in my studying. 
  5. Finally, I'll listen to the lesson. I can understand most of the Chinese banter, and if I don't usually the English speaking co-host's remarks will clarify the meaning. 

The key here is that I can no longer hit "play", and listen with my eyes closed as I did in Elementary--only occasionally cheating when necessary. It's harder now. 

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I'm glad you found something that works for you. What you describe looks like a "bottom up" approach that is very traditional. (Preview new vocabulary, then move on to the dialog). But just for fun, why not try listening to the dialog first, (dialog only, not the host discussion). Even if you feel you don't understand a thing, it will only take 1 ~ 2 minutes of your time. Just think of it as a preview, don't even bother trying to "think" about what you are hearing.