Okay, I have thought long and hard about this and after looking things up on the internet and talking to several people I have decided to make a major commitment: On July 21st, I am going to take the HSK 5.
For those of you not learning Chinese, let me explain. There is an official government test to determine your level called the HSK. There are 6 levels total, but basically the first 3 are worthless. They are very easy and the results have no meaning on anything.
But level 4 is where is gets interesting. Level 4 is the minimum required if you are a foreigner who wants to study with chinese students in a chinese university. It basically means fluency.
I think I could pass level 4 right now with very little preparation, but I want a challenge, and that’s why I’m going for level 5. According to the official test website:
Test takers who are able to pass the HSK (Level V) can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, enjoy Chinese films and plays and give a full-length speech in Chinese.
Of course I can’t do that (except maybe the speech, if the topic is easy) so that’s why this thing is a total daunting challenge for me. There is a vocabulary of 5,000 words and grammar patterns to learn as well. Mind you I said words, not characters. Most words are at least 2 characters, if not more. And I need to be able to read them and write them.
How am I preparing?
First I’ll keep up the talking that I’ve been doing a lot recently. Speaking is actually NOT part of the test, but I’ll try to use proper grammar and sentence structure just to drill it into my thick brain. I’m also reviewing all the vocab. About 100 words a day for review, but less obviously for the new ones. I’m just writing, writing, writing.
And since the results will “prove” I can watch a TV show or movie unaided I have decided to watch an episode of a Chinese TV show everyday without english subtitles. I’ve chosen 爱情公寓, which means Love Apartment and has been described as the Chinese Friends. It’s pretty cheesy, but I’m getting the main idea and even some of the jokes so I’m happy (though I’m missing about half of them right now.) It can get a little hard to concentrate (as each episode is 45 minutes) but I just remind myself I’m watching TV so I just suck it up.
I’m starting to sweat already. I know I have 4 months to prepare, and my schedule it lighter this semester so I have more free time, but still, it’s hard! And I am actually one of the world’s worst test takers. Even playing a video game with a time limit makes me nervous, much less a test.
Earlier today I told my friend, a Japanese teacher, about it. He has been here longer than me, and can’t speak English so he’s painfully aware of my slow progress over the years (when I first got here I couldn’t even speak to him, now we can talk easily, but his Chinese is superb and I think he makes sure to use easy words with me.) I told him my goal, HSK 5 and he replied, “But I think you can do 6 no problem.” He is clearly overestimating my ability as 5 is going to be a huge challenge, but I could have kissed him I was happy he had that kind of faith in me.
So I might fail, spectacularly, and please don’t laugh too hard when I do. But I wanted to challenge myself with Chinese this semester and while there are many things I could have gone with, I chose the most annoying thing to do. I also wanted to declare it loud and proud and publicly so I don’t pussy out. Ultimately, nothing will happen if I fail. It’s not required for my job or anything, but it’s my pride dammit. I’m even delaying my summer travels for a few weeks to take this test, so you know I’m treating it quite seriously.
Have you taken the HSK? Have any tips for me?!