Since stopping going to Mandarin classes I’ve become quite lazy when it comes to writing in Chinese. That’s when listening to one of the many podcasts that I listen to every week the following quote jumped out from episode 57 of Triangulation:
If you want kids to be good writers, then they need to be writing about 2500 words per week
The quote was in reference to data mining algorithm that could be used to mark students essays.
I think the reason this stood out so much is that it put a figure on the amount of writing that one might have to do to become a good writer, rather than saying something non-specific like ‘to become a good writer you need to write more’. Having a definitive goal to work for makes it feel more attainable. Just like if you want to get fit you shouldn’t say ‘I’m going to exercise more’, but instead say something more specific like ‘I’m going to go to the gym twice a week’.
You still might be saying to yourself ‘2500 words is still too many’, and for those who aren’t in full time language study is most likely is.
How much is enough for you?
If we continue with the logic that having a specific goal to work to makes it more easy to accept and attain, then all you need to do is decide how much you want to improve and how fast. Obviously the more you write the better you’ll become, but if 2500 words is too much, then break it up into sets of 500 word essays. If 5 essays is too many, then write three. There’s no doubt that if you wrote a few 500 word essays every week your Chinese would greatly improve within just a matter of weeks/months. The best thing to do is set a goal, see how you fair, then tweak as necessary.
Something else of note that was mentioned was that ‘there’s no point in writing if you’re not going to get any feedback‘. Very true – how will you be able to improve if you don’t know what mistakes you are making. This is where your Chinese teacher comes in handy, or if you’re not taking Chinese classes then get your language exchange partner to help you review your writing. Failing either of those, have a native speaker skim over it, or at the very least a friend who is at a higher level than you. The main objective is to get some form of constructive criticism that you can take away and improve on for your next piece.
How much do you write?
What do you think is enough writing per week/month to keep your Chinese up to scratch? Or do you not bother with writing and prefer to focus on speech and other areas of study?