Came back from China early December... spent most of the month trying to figure my next study goals, daily practice.
Top desires: Improve the usability of my Mandarin, and finally develop habits in Cantonesee.
Before leaving I had worked through New Practical Chinese Reader 4, and was looking forward to volume five. But at the end of NPCR4 it said I had learned 1200 characters, and I didn't feel that I had.
So what I'm doing is going back to NPCR3 and working through it, page by page, looking up every definition that gives me doubt, reading each phrase aloud until it sounds natural and can support variations... checking every tone, checking every stroke order... working through the dictionary entries, comparing similar words, reading everything aloud until I can repeat it. Very very slow work... has taken me a week of vacation time to go through the first chapter, two to four hours a day. But I'm learning lots, lots, lots.
Before I had read the textbooks trying to learn how the language works... emphasizing reading, listening, getting the gist. Now I'm trying to use the language, emphasizing speech production and writing it out. Before I knew of various characters... now I'm trying to really know them.
I look forward to getting to volume five... someday. ;)
For Cantonese, I'm using recordings from The Third Ear during housework... repeating it a couple of times a week during vacation, but likely only on Sundays during the regular year. I like this series because it allows for adequate spoken repeats. After I get through many repetitions of their second and third CDs I'll go back to some Cantonese cassettes, reading while listening, trying to anticipate with speech. Also recording the local Hong Kong news hour and listening to it daily while working on the computer... background material, with occasional intense attention to the characters in captioning.
I'm not learning new characters right now... more about really locking in the ones I've already studied. But I still want to continue in this area. Haven't really been using my pocket flashcards, or electronic flashcards as I had each evening. Still need to figure out the new regime here.
For travel, my PRC visa is good through October, but I miss Taiwan, Singapore too. Starting to research a trip from Beijing, to Tianjin, Qingdao and Shandong, Mt. Tai and the Grand Canal, the rivers and lakes down to Shanghai... "Outlaws of the Marsh" territory. Not sure yet of details.
Main goals: Improve my Mandarin so that I have a solid beginner's level and can progress to intermediate... learn enough Cantonese that I can start to use it next time I'm in Hong Kong. Those are my top priorities.