#clearthelist February 2019: Chinese App Reviews and Teaching Welsh in Edinburgh

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Welcome to the January edition of my #clearthelist goal tracking post. Clear The List is a support and accountability blog group sharing monthly language learning goals, hosted by my friends Lindsay and Shannon.

I have now been tracking my goals using Clear the List for 9 months. It’s a fun process - a little cumbersome at times to write check-in posts but always worth it for the accountability.

Ever since I created the Language Habit Toolkit I have been aware of how important it is to build a review process into your language learning routine. When you step back regularly and write down what you did, it’s easier to feel accomplished and understand that any lapses are temporary.

What Happened in January 2019?

After so much travel in December (retreat and Christmas), my intention was to have a month of routine, perhaps even a little rest. Now at the end of the month, I do feel a little more calm. But I’m also wondering where January has gone!

The month was focused on planning my year and working on the first project, which is launching a fabulous German course for beginners and “false beginners”. I worked on this course for 7 months last year and can’t wait to open it up for my 2019 German learners.

If you want a free preview, hop on here and register your email address.

On the blog, I shared the 9 Best Websites for German Beginners

Presenting my talk in Edinburgh. Thanks Maureen Millward for the picture.

Presenting my talk in Edinburgh. Thanks Maureen Millward for the picture.

This month, I also started work on Women in Language 2019 by contacting over 40 potential speakers. And ended with a trip to Edinburgh to present a lightning talk at Polyglot Pub Edinburgh. More about that in the Welsh section…

The Fluent Show

The Fluent Show was super efficient this month, I recorded 3 awesome interviews, 2 solo shows and ran a survey of over 150 listeners. Listen out for the next solo episode where I’ll share results and plans.

My favourite episode of January was Ask a Linguist, where we got to meet our linguist podcast heroes from Talk the Talk in Australia!

Language Goals and Progress

Let’s start with Mandarin Chinese for this one! Last month, I came out of the Chinese prep phase and decided that yes, I do want to learn this language a little bit.

Studying Chinese

I have been playing around with a bunch of apps. In my mind this isn't really "language learning" in my usual style yet. I feel like “proper learning” will start for real when I get a notebook, set goals and start saying things to people.

Without repetition and a notebook, I only retain 20% of what I see and practice. So I guess this is high level dabbling, and I’m not finding myself particularly rushed to move forward. I spoke no Chinese for 35 years of my life, and now I’m ok if it takes 6 months to start.

Patience is a secret language learning weapon.

Reviewing Chinese Language Learning Apps

Here are my insights on the Chinese language learning apps I've tried so far:

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  • Memrise @memrise is fantastic for teaching the kinds of phrases you'll want to say. The videos with locals are wonderful, and this grammar screen you see here is a delight. Memrise seems to understand where I'm at as a learner. Only downside: I'm not finding it helpful for character study.

  • Drops @languagedrops is fantastic for learning lots of vocab, getting the hand of characters, and hearing clear pronunciation. It's got the best character/pinyin system for me. I’ve been enjoying the #90dayswithdrops challenge.

  • Duolingo @duolingo is good at building up each lesson, and has an interesting way of introducing new words. I'm not finding it as enjoyable as the others. The lessons feel too short. That owl is cute, though.

  • Lingodeer @lingodeerapp is the most comprehensive and I can see myself using this as a study guide. The stories at the end of each chapter are awesome, though I feel thrown in at the deep end with the characters now and then.

Welsh Language Goals

In Welsh, I usually set goals in 4 areas: listening, speaking, reading and writing. In January I hit a special extra milestone by teaching a few words in Welsh to others. Wow!

You can download my notes and recommendations from the talk by signing up at www.fluentlanguage.co.uk/welshtoolkit


January was listening month and I tried my best to get more practice in. I listened to Nicky and Lara on Mynd am beint gyda. LOVE the casual feel!

I also listened to the radio a few times, but it didn’t stick. My radio time is the morning, and I’m just not into Radio Cymru’s breakfast shows. If you know any better ones, give me a shout.

Finally, I did listen to the Say Something in Welsh listening practices and parallel.cymru’s spoken news.

I don’t think I’m suddenly twice as good at understanding spoken language, but this listening focus has been a great reason for me to look for new and different audio sources. I’m more surrounded by Welsh audio, and that’s automatically going to add more of it into my routine. Neis!


I had no goals, but I did read quite a bit anyway. Encouraging!


My goal was to advertise for a new Welsh language partner locally, and I can report success! I put a post into a local residents’ group on Facebook. You know the one: “what’s that noise on Jackson street?”…but lucky for me, one out of the many people who read posts in the group referred me to Welsh speaker Jane.

Now I have someone to meet for coffee on a regular basis, and I’ve felt exhausted, excited and abuzz after speaking to her. I can make myself understood on any topic we’ve covered, and her talking speed is definitely adding to that listening practice.

In addition, I completed Say Something in Welsh Level 2, Challenge 22.


I did have a goal here, which was to write 6 pages using writing prompts. Goal achieved…but I’m not sure how enjoyable I found the topics so far. I prefer writing messages to friends in Welsh, and luckily I do this 3-4 times a week now.

Contact Goal

Every month, I log my “daily contact” with the Welsh language using the Streaks app. January was excellent with 20 days of contact. It’s a habit!

If you’re interested in a printable tracking system for your own language routine, have a look at the Language Habit Toolkit.

Goals For February 2019

Exciting times! I think it’s time to set goals in Chinese.

My Welsh level is comfortable and I’m feeling secure enough to share some attention. I will not set listening, speaking, reading and writing goals in two languages for the same month. That seems like overkill.

Chinese Language Goals

While I get used to easing off on Welsh, my February goals in Chinese are simple:

  1. Start a Chinese study notebook so I can play with sentences and practice a few characters
  2. Spend 3 hours studying Chinese in total
  3. Get a textbook or two out of the library to test drive them

Welsh Language Goals

I’ve been enjoying the structure of having specific goals, and for February I’ll still pick on specific areas out of listening, speaking, reading and writing.

Since I have set up a successful Welsh habit and made lots of friends who speak the language, it’s now fairly regular for me to read and write Welsh in texts and books. Yay!!

Listening is a weakness of mine. I can understand 60-100% of the spoken language now depending on dialect and speed, but I want to feel more comfortable. I’ll aim for 5 days of Welsh audio contact every week, using one of these sources probably:

  • Parallel.cymru Newyddion
  • Radio Cymru
  • Mynd am Beint Gyda
  • Spotify Welsh Music
  • Say Something in Welsh

Speaking is obviously a key to success at this stage. I want to chat with friends or meet my tutor at least 3 times, and I’ll work on Say Something in Welsh too.

I’d love to make a few videos in Welsh but am struggling for time this month.

Other goals:

  • Book a place on another Welsh residential course, this time at the higher level. What could go wrong!
  • Say Something in Welsh! I realised today that I’m 3 challenges away from FINISHING Level 2. I can do it!

WOW so there we have it - a big catch-up on my language learning goals and live documentation of how I’m starting to learn Chinese. It’s arguably my 9th foreign language to be studied in some level of seriousness.

What Are Your Language Goals?

It’s time for a new year - are you studying a new language?

If you have ambitions in German, don’t forget to visit www.german2019.com where my free course is launching next month.

How was your January? Leave a comment below and share how you got on.