4,000+ hours of Russian and 400+ of Mandarin: A Very Late 2 Year Update

I am (to put it mildly) against Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Skip my blog if you feel like getting into an argument with me about it--I am just going to ignore you.

I encourage you to donate to organizations supporting the people affected by the war. DirectRelief is providing medical aid to both refugees and people still in Ukraine. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is focused on providing access to basic needs in the medium and long-term for those affected.


    Intro

    Hi! I’m Attenius (or 啊天ъ), a native English speaker from the US learning Russian and Mandarin. It's been a while since my 2 years of Russian immersion learning post was supposed to go out and I was supposed to switch to Mandarin as my primary focus, but a cool opportunity came up, so I decided to shift my plans back a bit.

    I switched to immersion methods around July 2020. I'm roughly following the plans and advice given at https://refold.la. If you're not familiar with me or Refold, you might be interested in earlier posts (they're not all as outrageously long as this one):

    I've also copied my summary of the Refold methodology below.

    Refold

    About a month into my pandemic studies, I kept seeing Matt vs. Japan in my YouTube recommendations while watching Russian With Max's videos. “Who’s this self-important weeb who thinks he knows so much about language learning?” was a frequent thought I had. After watching a few of his videos, I found that a lot of his points made sense, and I began to follow Refold, a guide to learning languages through consuming media which Matt co-created.

    You can read more on the Refold website at https://refold.la, but two core assumptions of the methodology (based on the theories of the linguist Stephen Krashen) are:

    • Subconsciously acquiring a language is different from consciously learning it—knowing the mechanics of swimming is helpful, but not enough for you to be able to swim well. 
    • Language is acquired through comprehensible inputreading or listening to language that is slightly above our level. Corollary: grammar study, speaking, and writing do not contribute directly to language acquisition.

    The core methods of Refold are:

    • Stage 1. First, learn the sounds, writing system, and basic vocabulary (500-1,500 words) of your target language (TL). Skim through some basic grammar. Start consuming content in your TL, even if you feel like you can only catch the occasional word.
    • Stage 2. Fully immerse in the language—listen to and read as much content by native speakers of the TL as possible. Look up grammar and vocab when you feel like it. The easier the content is, the more comprehensible input there will be to learn from, but enjoyment takes priority.
      • Use Anki to supplement immersion with sentence mining—when you find a sentence in your immersion with only one unknown word or grammar concept, make a card for it with the text or audio on the front and a (preferably TL) definition of the unknown word on the back. This helps keep your memory of that word or concept alive long enough for you to acquire it in your immersion.
    • Stage 3. Once you have almost perfect comprehension of a particular domain of content (e.g. slice-of-live TV shows), work on outputting (writing and speaking) by immersing in everyday conversation and choosing one native speaker as your language parent. Write small amounts each week and immerse in your parent’s content until you can understand them with ease, then copy their style of speaking. As you output, you'll notice gaps in your knowledge to target with further immersion.
    • Stage 4. Once you’re comfortable outputting, master other domains.

    Numbers

    Russian

    I count passive listening time (listening while exercising, cooking, etc.) as 1/ 3 time.

    After wavering and backfilling estimated times several times late in this period, I finally decided to stop tracking my Russian immersion time sometime in August, when I started pivoting towards Chinese.

    If you include a somewhat generous estimate of my time before I started immersion learning and the first 6 months after that before I started tracking, I should be at over 4,000 hours spent on stuff related to Russian. That's a pretty big number, but I still feel like I have a long way to go, and that a lot of my time could have been spent better. Some general feelings on what I think may have led to better results follow.
    My 2 semesters of college language classes were an extremely inefficient use of time. Based on my experience with Chinese now I feel like I could have gotten the same amount of use out of a few weeks of vocab flashcards in Anki, skimming grammar, and reading/watching easy stuff. This also applies to my intermittent Duolingo usage between college and when I found Matt's channel. I can't just say none of that stuff mattered, because I did start immersion learning with some vocab and grammar background that I kept alive through the years, but I always hate including it in my numbers. 
     

    I actually think there's value to comprehensible input-type listening content, graded readers, and children's cartoons now. I think I was wrong to disregard it entirely in favor of only stuff for native adults, although I would still encourage people to use both from the beginning and not be afraid to drop the training wheels sooner rather than later. I can't say I would have done things entirely differently, since, when I first started immersion learning, I already had a vocabulary of several hundred words (so I don't feel like I really needed graded readers), and I mostly just wanted an excuse to watch anime and read light novel translations while getting something useful out of it. I might have swapped out forcing myself through all of Кухня [Kitchen, a Russian sitcom] pretty early on with more content like Russian With Max, a YouTuber/podcaster who makes comprehensible videos. 
     

    Although I've improved a ton recently, I still struggle a lot with word stress when I speak. Because neither Migaku's dictionary addon for Anki and nor Google Translate included stress (which is a big shame), I didn't even put it on my sentence cards for a very long time. The dictionary app I use for reading now (ABBYY) doesn't show it in the pop-up window either, and I've also just focused a lot on reading throughout my journey. I think it might've been worth adding stress marks to more of my books and paying more attention to stress when looking up words (as I do now with GoldenDict). 
     

    I think I've shadowed/chorused a lot more than most learners, and I think I started shadowing around the right time, but I think it would probably be worth doing even more. I feel like it really forces me to pay more attention to what I'm listening to during and immediately right after. I also find that when I'm speaking, the sound patterns that I've drilled the most come out without much mental effort, but those I haven't require a lot of focus that I would rather dedicate to thinking of what to say. 
     
    I think I should have spent more time outputting once I started and made it a more frequent and regular activity. I don't think the output-input feedback loop has been tight enough, and I've also kinda come to associate outputting with arduous, emotionally-draining mental marathons, rather than just thinking of it as a thing I do. 
     
    Lastly, I feel like I'm missing a lot of everyday words and phrases in my active vocabulary--my input was just not skewed enough in that direction. While I can fumble my way through these interactions, I don't always know the exact phrases people use to ask stuff like to pass the salt or whether somebody wants to sit in the front seat.
     
    All that aside, I've mostly optimized for fun and that kept me going and got me great results, so it's hard to complain too much.

    Mandarin

    Again, passive listening is counted as 1/3. I didn't  bother with splitting out subtitled listening ("Mixed" here) with Russian as it made up such a tiny fraction of what I watched in that language (and I'm not really a fan of reading along with audiobooks), but Chinese has a ton of subbed content, so I decided to track it here. 

    I also didn't track grammar study/phonetics at all with Russian even though I probably have a couple dozen hours of it that wasn't also in the language itself. Some of it is rolled into the "Pre-January 2022 Estimate" column there, since that includes my time in traditional classes. There's probably another 2-3 hours of explicit Chinese grammar/phonetics study rolled into the "Pre-March 2022 Estimate" here.

    Events

    Getting over the beginner's hump in Chinese

    From around mid-March to around mid-June I was splitting my time around 50/50 between Mandarin and Russian. I know it's less efficient, but I wasn't ready to go all-in on Chinese yet, as I had a cool opportunity coming up at an indefinite time to use Russian--the chance to live with a native speaker! I also feel that the beginning stages of learning a language can be the most grueling, so I felt a little better taking things  gradually. Despite that, I've also found it's a time when stuff that's ordinarily cringe or boring in languages you understand well is most entertaining--I've actually had a lot of fun watching stuff like Peppa Pig or stupid
    cringey vtuber shorts. It's kinda like being a kid again.
     
    As a fan of arbitrary goals and reading, I decided to read all of the Mandarin Companion and Rainbow Bridge graded readers series straight through (I skipped the 150-word level of Rainbow Bridge since I finished MC first). The only bad things I can say about Mandarin Companion are that it's fairly pricey and there's just not enough of it! Some of the books were duller than others, but overall I think they did a fantastic job of creating material that's both comprehensible and compelling.

    5,000,000 words read from books in Russian

    As I mentioned in my last post in April, I had a goal of hitting 5 million words read total from books in Russian before my 2-year Refoldiversary (around July 7), starting from around 3.6 million. And I did it! 

    Trying to do this on top of getting started with Chinese was not very easy, even for someone who has a relatively large amount of free time and a fairly obsessive personality like me. Until I hit the goal I did very little Russian listening outside my daily walk, while driving, or going to sleep. There were several weekends where combining both languages I read for more than 6 hours in a day, which for me is a crazy high amount that I've only managed once or twice before in the last couple years.

    While I'm proud of the achievement, I do feel like it burned me out a bit on reading in Russian. Some books I chose just because they were easy, and when I finished the challenge I was totally burned out for a few weeks. I still feel burned out on novels, and I've only been able to get myself to read for any serious amount of time with manga translations or nonfiction.

    Moving in with a Russian

    One of my closest friends (who I'll call Alex here) is an ethnic Russian from Kazakhstan who immigrated to the US that I met in high school. He lives in another state now, and we hadn't seen each other since the start of the pandemic, so he invited me to come stay at his house. As the date became clearer and I completed my reading challenge, in preparation I switched over to mostly listening in Russian and doing less than an hour of Chinese a day (usually just a couple new Anki cards, an episode of a cartoon, and 10 minutes of reading manhua). I also got back into shadowing/chorusing.

    When I arrived, we drank and chatted until early in the morning, and I had what was certainly my most philosophical conversation in Russian. I also noticed that Alex's Russian had taken on some pretty heavy American qualities, such as pronouncing the "стр" cluster in "странно" as the "str" in "strange", although he still had native-like flow, grammar, and listening ability. Generally while I was there without encouragement from me (which eventually I ran out of) or the presence of other Russian speakers, he preferred to use English the majority of the time, which makes sense given that he's lived in the US for more than half his life.

    I also got to speak with several other Russian speakers in the 6 weeks I stayed with him, such as Alex's mom, who I also had a hard time keeping in Russian even though I felt I made it pretty clear I understood her. She did, at least, seem very impressed and excited, and I could not spend much time around her without getting compliments on my ability and my accent. I also helped Alex move his stuff out of his old apartment, and a Belarusian immigrant and a 2nd-generation Belarusian immigrant Alex knew were there to help. We spoke Russian almost the entire time, and it felt really cool to use the language to get something done.

    The person I spoke in Russian with the most while there was Alex's girlfriend (who I'll call Maria), a refugee from Ukraine. She did know some English and could read pretty well, however her speaking and listening seemed to be much more limited than my Russian, which led to us using almost exclusively Russian when I was with her (either that or she was just being kind enough to let me practice with her). While I of course had stumbles and mistakes, I had almost no trouble understanding her or being an active participant in conversations with her and Alex together, and we were able to navigate plans and and household occurrences without any particular strain. 

    Maria and I chatted about a pretty wide range of topics--shows, food, our jobs, traveling, how Chinese characters work, our language learning techniques, and of course a little bit about the war, although I tried to stay away from the subject. She was in Kyiv at the start of the invasion, and she had a video of rockets (or something equally flying and fiery) falling on the other side of the city and pictures from her time staying in a bomb shelter. She eventually left via Poland to come live with her friend in the US. I guess all I can say is meeting someone living through this crisis in person and being able to understand their story untranslated unsurprisingly added even more weight to the events in my mind, and I hope people will continue to support Ukraine and not forget that this is still happening.

    In general, I was really struck by just how much easier it is to understand people that are in the same room with you. Beyond not being able to understand quiet speech not directed at me, throughout the 6 weeks I was there there were only about 4 occasions that really stuck out to me:

    • My first time speaking with Alex's mom in Russian she asked which road I took to get there, and I misunderstood her as asking what the road was like (similar constructions in Russian). I worry this might have been why she used so much English with me.
    • Maria asked if I liked to ходить [walk] while we were hiking (check out the great view of the forest we had in the picture above), and since AFAIK Russian doesn't really have a verb used the same way as hiking is used in English in this context (long walks in nature), I didn't understand if the question was about hiking or walking in general. I went with the latter and she seemed satisfied with my response.
    • Alex played some games with his friends from Kazakhstan in Discord, broadcasting the sound over his computer speakers with me in the room. He understood them just fine, but I struggled to understand 70%, which for me was already a familiar experience--headphones and good microphones and connections make things much easier.
    • I watched several episodes of Бригада [Brigada]and 17 мгновений весны [17 Moments of Spring] with Alex on his TV speakers, and the shows being in almost completely unfamiliar domains combined with the echoey room we were in sent me back to 50%-understanding land, which I thought I'd left far behind me. At some point I asked him to explain what was going on, but I had been lost for several episodes and hadn't managed to pick up most of the characters' names, so I didn't understand the explanations either. He did at least admit that he sometimes had trouble understanding the characters as well.

    There were also about 3 occasions where I didn't know the name of a food item, and during one conversation I mentioned that my father was traveling with his sisters, who were interpreted as my own sisters for several minutes by the people I was speaking with.

    Despite the relative ease I felt understanding people and everyone's frequent compliments, I did feel a lot of negative emotion about my Russian a lot of the time I was there. I was frustrated that I wasn't able to really express my own personality with my limited ability, I was constantly anxious about my mistakes, and I regretted not making activities like speaking, corrected reading, and chorusing bigger and more regular things before the trip. 

    All of this can be solved by further practice of course, and my time there was a net positive as a life experience and learning opportunity. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.

    Plans and goals

    Learning Mandarin

    I'm planning to focus on Mandarin as much as I can up to the point where I can comfortably understand at least some genres of audiobooks and podcasts for natives, as for me those seem like the easiest ways to maintain a language forever--just throw something genuinely entertaining on while you're grocery shopping or whatever. At that point I think I'll feel open to doing another big push in Russian. A substage of this goal is getting to where I can read some kinds of novels relatively comfortably, as reading is my favorite language learning activity.

    I'm a lot more familiar with the process now, and I feel a lot more comfortable and efficient in my approach. I focused more heavily on phonetics early on than I did with Russian and put off grammar for the most part until recently, and now I'm just lightly skimming it for 5-10 minutes/day on the Chinese Grammar Wiki. I'm shoving new words into my brain as fast as I can with Anki (in proportion with how much time I can immerse), doing a little bit of comprehensible input-style stuff like the Teatime Chinese podcast or kids' shows each day, and consuming a lot of stuff that's entertaining for me, like donghua (Chinese anime), anime dubs, manhua (comics), streams, and let's plays.

    I'm already feeling pretty good about my progress. Reading manhua with lookups from Hanping OCR is super enjoyable already, I've seen myself go from "this language is totally gibberish" to being able to follow most of Peppa Pig and Teatime Chinese without subs and "donghua is only like half gibberish", and learning new words and characters just keeps getting easier.

    As for hitting that reading substage, I have a series of Japanese light novels that I already know I like and aren't fully translated into Russian but are in Chinese, and I've been targeting a lot of my effort towards specifically understanding the first couple volumes in that series. Since my problems with repetitive strain injuries make some sentence mining and lookup workflows difficult, I've been looking at other ways to get my comprehension going. I messed around with Chinese Text Analyzer  to create some custom Anki decks and my own Python scripts to create a custom frequency dictionary for Pleco and filter this 5000 word HSK Anki deck for only words that show up at least twice in the first two volumes (and sort them by frequency). I've been trying to immerse in related domains in easier materials like manhua and donghua as well.

    I know about 1,500 words and need to know about 3,500 words (unique and specific to this book, not just in general) to have 98% coverage of the first 20k words of the first volume, so if I push hard and stay focused on this domain, I think this winter I'll be able to start on an enjoyable (albeit still lookup-heavy) experience with the series. And I know if I can just hit this checkpoint, Chinese should be a smooth ride up until the output phase.

    Maintaining Russian

    I check Russian social media every morning and there's tons of stuff I still want to watch and read, so I'm not super worried about maintaining Russian. I want to stay at well under an hour a day most days, but I do plan to stay with Alex again relatively soon and I do really enjoy the time around New Year's in Russian, so I will probably indulge in a couple weeks of Russian-focused time this winter.

    Russian - Stuff I consumed

    For those who haven't seen it, I keep a list of my favorite resources and content here:

    https://atteniusll.blogspot.com/2021/12/my-favorite-resources-and-content-for.html

    Russian - Listening


    From March to June my listening took place mostly while exercising or running errands since I was learning Chinese and trying to hit my 5 million word reading goal at the same time. I tried to keep up with the weekly movie club for a while, but I really just struggle to enjoy most movies--there's not that many I want to watch, and I don't really feel like I have the attention span for them. I did quite like Возвращение [Vozvraschenie, the Return], a kinda depressing art-ish film about two boys' estranged father suddenly reappearing to take them on a mysterious camping trip. I watched it in highschool with English subtitles with a friend who was really into Russian stuff at that time, so it was cool to understand it in the original language many years later.
     
    I felt like I finally had a breakthrough with audiobooks in this period. Before I could only understand nonfiction stuff like Atomic Habits without strain, and now I was able to listen to several LitRPGs, a genre of novels with in-setting systems that work similar to roleplaying video games which is massively popular in the Russosphere, as well as some other low-brow fantasy with similar ease. I still think classic fiction or tougher fantasy books would kick my ass, but I've got more than enough material to keep me going now. 
     
    When I found out when I was heading to visit Alex and I finished my 5 million goal, I hard switched to listening, and I ended up getting back into anime for a while. Spy x Family and the 3rd season of Kaguya-sama: Love is War were standout hits for me, and I ended up reading some of the manga for both. I also started a rewatch of Ranking of Kings since I never finished it, and I noticed that I needed way less energy to understand it now, including for episodes I hadn't seen before. It felt nice to see that I can still move the comprehension needle a noticeable amount over a couple months even this late in the language-learning game.


    It's pretty rare for me to get into a Russian-language show, but I finally found one that blew me away at the recommendation of a streamer I follow. Шекер [Sheker, "sugar" in Kazakh] is a crime webdrama from Kazakhstan, and it portrayed the lives of 20-somethings in Kazakhstan in a fairly believable way with modern and natural language, and I found it both a great source to learn from and a very compelling story.
     
    I of course watched a ton of YouTube, including a lot of news, political commentary, and I also started getting a little more into science and technology stuff. I quite like Ирина Якутенко's [Irina Yakutenko] channel now. She goes into a fair amount of detail on some big science news and concepts, especially stuff related to motivational psychology and the pandemic. As usual I also consumed a fair amount of streams and gaming content, including a playthrough of one route of the RPG Omori, which has to be a top 5 game of all time for me now. It was extremely moving.

    Russian - Reading

     
    I read a ton of stuff in the push to 5,000,000 words, including tons and tons of easy garbage to pad my word count and entertaining garbage to keep myself from giving up. My biggest regret-read was a translation of the Japanese webnovel Bofuri: I Don't Want to Get Hurt, so I'll Max Out My Defense. Over the ~230,000 words in the translation I think I came across fewer than 100 unknown words, which meant I could read it very fast, but in comparison with the anime version it was extremely dull, and I feel like I mostly powered through it to avoid putting another "💀 Dropped" on my reading tracker. I read several other novels translated from Japanese that I enjoyed more, but eventually I caught up on all the series I was interested in and decided to pivot more towards native content.
     
    I started reading a bunch of stuff from the self-publishing site Author.Today, where I found some of my favorite trash fiction. The one I enjoyed most was Mine Infinity - Рейд [Raid], which is about 5 grown men who lost their jobs becoming professional players in a VRMMORPG. The writing style was super entertaining for me, and of course I felt a lot of nostalgia for my own time playing MMOs. I'm looking forward to reading the other two volumes in the series, but at the moment there's no way for foreigners to buy anything on the site.
     
    I went through my second novella/short story by Dostoevsky with some other members of the Refold Russian Discord server, Белые Ночи [White Nights], and while I'm still not in love with Dostoevsky's writing style, I think I liked it quite a bit more than Игрок [The Gambler]. It's also still quite satisfying to be able to read a 19th-century author with 99% words known. However, not long after that I took a shot at Gogol's Вечера на хуторе близ Диканьки [Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka], and was sufficiently humbled by the experience. I would really like to try it again, but I think I would need to go through some easier works by Gogol or other authors who use fewer rural southernisms/Ukrainianisms to work my way up to it.


    I finally finished my two "white whales": the Slavic fantasy book Волкодав [Wolfhound], which was pretty good the whole way through, and the classic novella about life in a GULag camp, Один День Ивана Денисовича [One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich]. Even though it was one of my favorite books when I read it in English, I didn't enjoy it that much this time around. I didn't feel like reading it again in Russian added much, and there was a ton of old camp and military vocab in it that I didn't understand and wasn't that interested in learning.

    I took a crack at Мастер и Маргарита [Master and Margarita], many people 's favorite Russian novel ever, including my old college Russian professor. While it wasn't out of my reach in terms of challenge, I unfortunately really just didn't find it that entertaining. I think I might not have enough historical background or I just need to improve my level before I give it another try.

    I did find what may be my own favorite novel ever, Vita Nostra, which despite having a title in Latin is in fact written originally in Russian. I had the urge to read something set in a magical school, and I stumbled across this in a recommendation thread. Other than involving a school and the supernatural, it is completely unlike Harry Potter--it's dark, weird, psychological, and philosophical, all that on top of taking place in a very believable small-town Russian/Ukrainian college environment, which made it an excellent source for everyday vocab. I had a daily time limit/goal for how much I wanted to read in Russian each day during the push to 5,000,000, and I repeatedly broke it just because I had to know what would happen next. I'm honestly surprised I don't really see it on "top X works of post-Soviet Russian literature" lists, although maybe it's because it's classified as fantasy (which it only sort of is). At least it quite deservedly won FantLab.ru's (a popular catalogue of scifi and fantasy literature) first award when it came out.

    After hitting my word goal I pivoted mostly towards nonfiction, and among my favorites was Славянские Мифы [Slavic Myths] by Aleksandra Barkova, which was a super entertaining (and I hope accurate) overview of what little is known about the beliefs of Eastern Slavs before the coming of Christianity and what survived during the dual-faith period. It also got me interested in reading fairytales and also the works of Vladimir Propp, a 20th-century folklorist, although I haven't managed to finish either of the books by him that I've started, as they're quite academic and dense.
     

    Russian - Anki

    I've mined about 6,900 cards myself and did a 3,000-card premade deck, putting me pretty close to Khatzumoto's fabled 10,000. At the moment I'm taking a break from adding new cards, and once I'm settled I'm planning to just do 2 new cards a day. I don't ever want to get totally out of the habit of learning words in Russian, and if I crack open a book from a tough author like Gogol I have no trouble finding cool words I still want to learn on nearly every page.

    Mandarin - Stuff I consumed

    Mandarin - Listening


    I tried to keep a healthy mix of stuff that's easy and stuff that's entertaining. I started out with some comprehensible input channels on YouTube, and I felt You Can Chinese was the best structured for absolute beginners, although it's not exactly entertaining and I don't think learning colors like purple and orange is that useful as part of your first few hundred words. I watched (and continue to watch) at least a little bit of children's cartoons each day. Peppa Pig is by far the easiest and it's very convenient to access since it's on YouTube, but Bluey and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic were way more entertaining while still allowing me to understand the occasional whole phrase early on.
     

    Since I'm an absolute dweeb, I created a spreadsheet from the Refold Mandarin Discord server's recommendations (now moved to a prettier Notion site) where I listed out and organized all the donghua/anime/cartoons/shows I wanted to watch into tiers, where the lowest tier is stuff that meets some combination of these criteria:
    • Entertaining at low comprehension
    • I don't care that much about not understanding (because it sucks or I'm willing to watch it again)
    • Easy 
    I'm working my way through everything on the lowest tier before moving on to the next one. I find dividing things into little subgoals and challenges like this gives me some useful structure, so that I'm not just spending all my time deliberating on what to watch.

     
    Of the donghua that I've watched so far, 今天开始做明星 [Super Star] has been the most entertaining. It's about a female idol whose brother dresses up as her to take her place while she goes on vacation and how he regains confidence in himself as a performer. The art is pretty nice and it was funny even at very low comprehension. When I'm not listening to Teatime Chinese (which I highly recommend to all beginners) I've been using condensed audio from it for passive immersion, and I've been making some sentence cards from it using the Migaku Browser Extension. I also quite liked 实验品家庭 [Frankenstein Family], and while 蓝漠的花 [Lan Mo's Flower] wasn't the most compelling thing I've ever seen, it was probably the easiest.


    I've mentioned before that I'm a fan of streamers, let's players, and vtubers, so I've been wrapping up my immersion days with them. There is a separate Chinese vtuber who branched off the popular Japanese vtuber Kizuna AI nicknamed 爱哥 [Aige, Love Bro], and she has a ton of subtitled videos on YouTube that I've found pretty entertaining, and besides her I've enjoyed a lot of the shorts posted by the vtuber group A-Soul. I've also just been watching playthroughs of games by random people on Bilibili, but so far I haven't found most Chinese streamers as entertaining as Russian-speaking streamers. It seems like big Russian let's players and streamers tend to organize their content better, and reading out all the dialogue in text-heavy games seems more common among Russian speakers. My perception will probably change as I get better at the language and get more familiar with the platforms.

    Mandarin - Reading

     

    As I wrote above, I decided to read all of Mandarin Companion and then Rainbow Bridge, two popular graded reader series which you can buy and read through the dictionary app Pleco. Mandarin Companion is probably the pinnacle of what graded readers can be. I did like that Rainbow Bridge used original Chinese folk tales, but the difficulty curve was just way too bumpy in comparison with Mandarin Companion.
     
    After all that, I swore off graded readers for good, and I focused mainly on reading manhua on Tachiyomi using Hanping OCR on my Android tablet for lookups, with occasional attempts to read easy Japanese light novel translations with the help of Pleco.

    The only series I've finished so far is SQ: Begin With Your Name!, AKA 她们的故事 [Tamen de Gushi, Their Story], one of the most popular manhua among foreigners. It's a school romcom between two girls which is very cute and absolutely hilarious, especially the interactions between one of the main characters and her best friend. I found the difficulty pretty manageable (using Hanping for lookups and having already read it a while back in Russian) and the vocab pretty relevant to real life, so I think it would make a great starting point for learners looking to get into manhua.

    Thanks

    Огромное спасибо and 多谢 [huge thanks] to my friends and the Refold Discord server communities for chatting with me, enduring my complaints, humoring my questions, and correcting my mistakes!

    If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or hit me up on the Refold Discord. I'm usually tired after I write these, so it might be a bit before I get back to you.

    Lastly I would just like to mention that Blogger kind of sucks, and I'm looking to move off of it. I don't really recommend anyone else use it, either. I think my next update will be at 1,000 hours of Mandarin, so maybe in January if I go really hard and nothing comes up. See you then!

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