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Tadoku Reading Challenge 3 (May 2021) – introduction

Tadoku Reading Challenge 3 (May 2021) – introduction

At the start of the year I posted to say that I was planning on possibly taking part in a couple of Tadoku reading challenges in 2021. Today the third Tadoku challenge of the year starts, and I am thrilled to be cracking open another book in a non-native language.

In case you’re new to Tadoku let me explain the principal.

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{Review} Daily Chinese App

{Review} Daily Chinese App

I’m 35 days into the 100 days of Mandarin challenge. Here is my introductory post. It is a blast, and I’m looking forward to doing a 50-day review in a fortnight.

This review is of one of the apps which has made the largest impact on my Mandarin learning thus far. It also has not been reviewed by many other people, so I hope that this review will help Mandarin learners decide whether this app is for them (or not, as the case may be!).

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Posted by on April 22, 2021 in learning Mandarin

 

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Teaser Tuesday – 20/04/21

Teaser Tuesday – 20/04/21

This is Teaser Tuesday, a weekly Meme hosted by The Purple Booker. Anyone is welcome to join in! Just open the book at random and share 2 sentences from somewhere on that page.

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Posted by on April 20, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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{100 Days of Mandarin} Challenge – Introduction

{100 Days of Mandarin} Challenge – Introduction

At the start of 2021 I mentioned that one of the challenges I’d like to take part in this year was the 100 Days of Mandarin challenge.

In case you’re not familiar with the “100 Days of X” challenge, the goal is to spend 100 days doing at least 1 hour of X (aka. the habit you want to acquire/ thing you want to spend some quality time on). You then tweet about your progress using the hashtag #100DaysofX, and then find 2 other people who are taking part in the same challenge, and go and encourage them to keep chipping away at their 100 Days goal.
So quite similar to blogging apart from the spending an hour a day on it part (this is a reflection on me, not on the many phenomenal bloggers I’ve stumbled across on the bloggersphere).

Last year I started learning Mandarin, fell a tiny bit in love with it, and decided to shoot for that infamously nebulous goal of “becoming fluent” in it. Whilst I was fairly applied with my studies last year and breezed through the HSK1 and HSK2 exams in 6 months, this year I’ve been studying in dribs and drabs and my progress is at an all-time low. My language learning Bullet Journal is a little painful to look at, if I’m honest.

In addition to the tweets, I’m also going to post on days 1 and 100, and also do a weekly wrap-up of how studying has gone for the week as a whole. I’m hoping that this will make for pleasant re-reading at the end of the 100 days. Or if not pleasant then perhaps motivational…

If you’re taking part in a challenge, any challenge and want some moral support, then pop a comment down below and I’ll cheer you on/ go to your blog and cheer you on there.

Good luck to you all, may you achieve your goals for the day!

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2021 in Uncategorized

 

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Top 5 Achievements of 2020

Top 5 Achievements of 2020

If you’ve read any of my previous posts on here, you’ll know that I’ve neve been one to blow my own trumpet. However this year has at times felt like Groundhog Day. So for this year, and this year only I am going to be celebrating the 5 largest of 2020’s incredibly small achievements. Just to remind myself that even though it feels as though I’ve spent most of this year standing still, I have actually been moving forward. It may be that I’ve been moving at a glacial drip, but I have been moving nonetheless.

If you’re reading this and are proud of anything you’ve done this year then please share it in the comments below!

Top 5 Achievements of 2020

5) Got a nightly skincare routine
It might not sound like a big deal, but I’ve never managed to get into the swing of doing a massive nightly skincare routine. As a woman there’s a heck of a lot of pressure to follow multi-step routines the deliver incredibly soft and glowy skin (and cost an absolute bomb).

This year I got into doing an incredibly simple skincare routine every night before getting into bed. It’s literally just washing my face with soap and water, then applying some moisturiser and some lip-balm. I don’t start stressing about how much product I’m using or whether I’m doing this or that the right way. My face seems to have thanked me for this nightly routine by not looking utterly terrible every day. Thanks, face!

4) Learned how to code
I never thought that I would be able to learn how to code. And had I not got a place at a free bootcamp that taught JS, I would probably have continued to think that for the rest of my life.

This year I spent a few months learning how to code, and starting to job hunt… and then lockdown kicked in and everything fell apart. Somehow I’ve managed to make up for lost motivation and confusion at the world (and at React hooks, hallelujah!) and have managed to get some work in tech!

I’ve got a few plans of things to build in the next year and have started figuring out my first spare-time/ passion project. I’m incredibly excited about this, and cannot wait to share it with you guys!

3) Knitted a blanket using entrelac
Knitting is one of those creative things that I always mean to do but have gradually stopped doing over the years. Friends and family know that I can knit though, so I have built up a terrifyingly large stash of yarn that fills two 35 litre boxes and that scares me a bit to look at. Entrelac knitting is even more terrifying for me because it can be incredibly fiddly if you don’t do it the Norwegian way (and I haven’t yet worked out the Norwegian way) so every couple of stitches I have to turn my work around. As you can imagine, this gets very heavy very quickly, and my wrists were not happy with this.

After a couple of months of gentle knitting, I completed my first entrelac blanket, which used up 7 balls of yarn, and is so cosy that it’s become one of the cat’s favourite places to curl up and snooze on during the day.

2) Published a short story
OK so this sounds a little grander than it actually is. Back when lockdown started, the languages department at my old Alma Mater, the Open University, got in touch to say that they were going to compile and publish a book of short stories in foreign languages, in the vein of the Decameron.

I wrote a short story in French, Spanish, and English (my main languages), and was excited when it was accepted for publication. I had to do a couple of edits, and honestly it could do with a little more prodding, but overall I’m happy with it. It’s the first short story I’ve written in over a decade so it was lovely to discover that I could actually write semi-coherently, if not compellingly.

This buoyed me up so much that I drafted and started writing a story for NaNoWriMo 2020. I stalled at 25k, but it’s been good to go back and start editing what I wrote for it. It would be so lovely to get better at writing fiction.

1) Learned Mandarin
Hold your horses, I’m not saying that I’ve fully learned it in 12 months or anything intense like that!

Mandarin is one of those languages that seemed so daunting that I’d gone out of my way to avoid learning it because, like coding, I thought it was beyond me. I’m sure you’ve noticed a theme developing. So what shook this world view? Well back in June, I saw a post by a PhD researcher offering 8 weeks of free Mandarin classes in return for them doing some research. There was no pressure to actually learn any vocabulary, the classes were free, and taking part would help research on Alzheimer’s. Obviously I signed up in a heart-beat, and then proceeded to discover just how beautiful a language Mandarin is.

I loved it so much that I decided to sign up for a 12-week HSK 1 course in September. Sadly the pace was a little slower than I’d hoped, so at the end of October I signed up for the December HSK 2 exam to push myself a little harder. Then I thought “what the heck”, and signed up for the HSK 1 exam too.

On the 22nd December I got my marks back for both: 100% for HSK 1, and… 80.5% for HSK 2 (ouch). Clearly 8 weeks of casual learning wasn’t enough for me to ace a whole HSK level, even though it was one of the low ones that most people skip instead of taking. That said, it was fascinating to see how much Mandarin I could learn. As soon as I’m able to get 100% on mock HSK 2 tests I’m going to start learning the HSK 3 syllabus.


Farewell 2020, you’ve been an utterly surreal year, but you haven’t been wholly terrible you know.

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Top 5 books I read in 2020

Top 5 books I read in 2020

It’s Christmas Day, and for the first time in my life, I’m not at my parents’ home eating mince pies and playing the antediluvian board games we break out every Christmas period. The last 3 seasons have been very queer, and for once it’s a sort of “queer” that just doesn’t tickle my pickle.

Like most of the people I know, during lockdown I’ve bounced between bouts of listlessness where even getting out of bed to shower and brush my teeth has taken a Herculean effort, and periods where I’ve spent time luxuriating in doing things that I’ve never had time to do wholeheartedly before. (Think Chloe Ting workouts, learning how to code using JS, and knitting blankets). Strangely this year hasn’t really been one for reading. I’ve only read 69 books so far this year, of which one has been a textbook. I don’t think I’ve read this few books since 2017 when I only just squeezed in 63 books around my degree.

Top 5 Books I read in 2020

5) Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes
Greek Myths have never really spoken to me before: there’s a lot of war brides, and very bloody killings. In short it’s never been my jam. Natalie Haynes (who I’m going to very lazily describe as being to Greek mythology what Mary Beard is to Roman history) absolutely blasted my perceptions on women in Greek mythology by cutting through the twee retellings and translations from the Victorian era, and returning to the meat of the “original” Greek stories and plays.
My partner and I had a fantastic time as he read the whole darn book out loud to me while I knitted (over the course of several months, I should add. I’m not that cruel a taskmaster!).

4) The Killings at Badger’s Drift by Caroline Graham
If you’re looking at that title and thinking, “Huh, that title looks awfully familiar…” then you are clearly a cultured person who knows about Midsomer Murders. My wholly unbiased opinion is that it’s still one of the best TV crime series to have come out of this Sceptred Isle. I’ve watched all 21 series apart from the last 2 episodes because they’ve not yet released them in the UK, the cruel cruel people.
Well anyway. The Killings at Badger’s Drift is the first book in the series that inspired the Midsomer Murders TV show. How did it compare? Oh gosh it was beautiful. The TV series is full of chocolate box images of rural life in the South but the books have the sort of casual social observations and idioms tossed in there that makes the writing punchy, and the characters believable. Barnaby is so wonderfully understated that he reminds me of those tiny touches of colour that painters add to their paintings that you don’t really notice, but that lift the colours and transform them from flat to richly variegated.
I really hope to read the rest of the series over the next couple of years.

3) Owls Do Cry by Janet Frame
I came across this one by chance when I wanted to borrow a short audiobook from the library to kill a rainy evening. This was a rich reward! Owls Do Cry was incredibly poetic, and moving in a way that the middle section from To The Lighthouse is. Based on Frame’s time in mental health units, this book is full of the horror of her experiences wrapped up in lyrical text. I spent a good part of this book in tears in spite of the humour threaded through it.

2) My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I’m very late to this party. We’re going to pretend that I’m fashionably late, OK?
I was startled into gales of laughter by things that really would not have made me laugh had they not been written so punchily. The nuances of the main female characters made the dark humour and satire especially mordant.

1) The Spoken Mage series by Melanie Cellier.
First up, it’s set in a world where writing words literally creates magic. Secondly, the main character is a woman (OK, teenager but she’s female). Thirdly, the writing is so incredibly magical that I blazed through the first 4 books in the series (of 5) in 3 days. This is practically unheard of from me nowadays and really is the best testament to the quality of the stories. (And also a little bit to the amount of free time I have at the minute, but let’s not dwell on this too much).
Bonus points for touching on classism and having a few BAME characters that didn’t feel like token presences.

BONUS mention: HSK 1 Standard Course Book by Jiang Liping
Although this is a course book, and not my usual fare, it deserves a mention as it played a large part in my first steps on my Chinese learning journey. It’s the first time in an age that I’ve worked through a text book with so much pleasure, and that was in part due to this exceptional resource, and in part due to the amazing teachers I had at the CI.

So there you have it! Those were my top 6 books of 2020. If you celebrate Christmas, then Merry Christmas! If you don’t then please accept my best wishes to you and your loved ones at this dark time of year.

What were your favourite reads of 2020?

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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