Lately, I have been strengthening my neural connections, and it feels good. I'd like to tell you what I've been up to lately.
To start with, I'll tell you what I haven't been doing lately, just to get it out of the way. I haven't been studying for my Oracle test. You know, that book in Japanese that I was reading which is specifically for preparing for a certain test. I have not been reading it. My motivation kind of dropped when I got the feeling that even though I was reading it and understanding it, none of the information was really sticking in any way that made me feel like I was learning something. I do plan to pick that book back up again, but I have not set any schedule.
Now for what I have been doing. I think I mentioned before, I have been writing out lessons from Assimil Chinese with Ease. Every day, I do one lesson and I write out the dialog 3 times in a row. Then I write out the Exercise sentences and the Complete The Sentences sentences. This has been, I think, really good practice and is really reinforcing the Chinese characters. The good thing about doing it with Assimil is that it has the pinyin of each word right below them in the dialog sentences and the Exercises. What's good about that is the fact that I can just read the pinyin and then write the sentence out it Chinese characters. So I'm writing them out from memory, which is a little bit harder than if I had just finished reading the sentence in Chinese. This way, I know if I am remembering them or not. As long as I have them in my head for a short term, I know that over time they will become very well fixed long-term connections. So I'm not worrying about the few characters that are in one lesson but don't appear again for such a long time that I have forgotten how to write them later. I believe that eventually they will show up enough that I won't have a problem writing them.
I also feel that it really helps to write the characters out because it forces you to pay much closer attention to the character. In turn, this will increase my character recognition (reading ability) to a very high level. Just reviewing lessons without writing them out will often allow you to read words that are still weak because your brain can remember the sentences in the lesson and therefore you can read the words. So I think writing is the way to go!
I am also writing the Chinese words and sentences from my HSK 1級 book. Just one time each for each lesson and only doing one lesson (UNIT) a day. There are 14 units in the book and I started from unit 4 because the first 3 were just about pronunciation. Today I finished unit 10, so you can see I will be done pretty soon. There is one mock test at the end of the book. I think I will do the mock test the day after I finish the last unit. I might also use the CD to listen to the Chinese and write out the words and sentences again. All of the vocabulary and sentences are recorded on the CD, so the audio can be used for transcription practice. The book has all pinyin in red and comes with a red clear plastic sheet so you can hide the pinyin and practice reading the Chinese.
But I am thinking about buying some other books for transcription/writing practice. I plan on keeping up this daily writing practice every day this year, and hopefully a lot longer.
The last thing I have been doing is writing out Japanese. At first I was using a book which has lots of full sentences for each Kanji. However, Japanese is full of hiragana and some katakana, which I don't need to practice. So for the amount of writing I was doing, only about 25% of the characters were Kanji. So then I decided to switch to a reference book called Kanji in Context. This reference book basically has a list of vocabulary for each Kanji. So now I am writing each of those words once. While I am writing each listed word only once, I am writing the same Kanji many times because the Kanji entry is in each word. Sometimes the same word shows up in the next Kanji entry. I do write it again because of course, now the target Kanji is different. By using this book, I am able to cover more Kanji in one day. It starts from basic Kanji and moves toward advanced Kanji. By the time I finish the book, I will have gone through about 1947 Kanji characters and over 9000 vocabulary items. Considering that I am doing 2 pages of the book per day and the last entry is on page 277, I should be able to get through this book in 6 months. I would also like to keep up with the Japanese Kanji writing practice every day for a long time. It is much better than doing nothing!