I will use this page to post regularly updated graphs about my Mandarin language acquisition project.

The first graph shows the number of hours of viewing for myself and my daughter, Camila Daya. I have updated this graph through December 24, 2014.


The second graph reflects an estimate of the percentage of meaning I am comprehending when watching a new video for the first time. This estimate was initially extremely subjective and mostly for fun, but in the most recent assessment I attempted to be more objective and believe it is a useful tool to measure my progress. The estimated comprehension is projected alongside the percentage of the 1,200 hours (from my hypothesis) that I have already viewed.


When updating for the month of March 2014, I felt like I was still close to 1% comprehension. I definitely understood several new words and expressions as compared to a month ago. However, unlike words like “ni,” “wo,” and “hao,” which I learned the first month, these new words are not said with great frequency, and therefore may not have added a full percentage point to my comprehension.

To indicate that I have made real progress and do understand more, but since am not confident that this has made a significant difference in my percentage of speech comprehended, I simply upped the estimated comprehension in March to 1.1%.

At the April 17 and June 17 mark, I reassessed my comprehension. I watched segments of a Chinese soap opera that I had never seen before. I didn’t really understand any sentences, but I estimated that I understand at least 1 out of every 50 words in April and 1 out of every 40 words in June. So, tentatively, I estimated that, at 7.5% of my total viewing time, I understood 2.5% of the Mandarin in a random soap opera.

I reassessed my comprehension at the end of September by the same method. The language is certainly becoming more familiar, and I seem to understand close to 5% of words that I hear. Just to clarify, this includes a lot of repeated words: it does not mean I understand 5% of the total vocabulary used in the drama, but that out of every 20 words that are uttered, 1 of them is a word I understand (that includes a lot of “wo’s”, for example). I still understand what is going on mostly by the images, but the quantity of words I understand has now just begun to add real meaning to what I am watching. For example, by understanding numbers, at one point in the drama I knew that a character was reciting a list of points, which was at all not clear from the visuals. My wild estimate at this point–and trying not to be overconfident–is that I’m understanding about 4% of what I hear.

I made a new assessment on November 17, 2014, using another episode of the same soap opera. As compared to the last time, I noted that I understood a few new words. However, I also seemed to hear the words I learned a long time ago much more often. I’m guessing this is do to gradual oral/neurological adaptation to the language. Including all the repeated “wo’s,” “ni’s” “hao’s,” “pu’s” and so forth, it seems I am understanding more than 1 in 20 words. So my wild estimate is now at 6%.

On January 8, 2015, at the 240-hour mark (20% of my experiment), I assessed my comprehension again, more carefully. I now estimate that I understand 8% of words that are spoken in a typical soap opera (including repeats).

8 thoughts on “Graphs

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