Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Printed Notebooks!

Given how bad my handwriting is, regardless of in English or not, it may be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I enjoy writing things down. I even have a love for fountain pens. By the way, a fancy pen does not guarantee fancy handwriting!

As part of my journey through learning Chinese, I’ve enjoyed incorporating putting pen (or pencil) to paper. Currently, and for the past year and a half, I’ve been working through the Mandarin Blueprint Method for learning Chinese. This course is made to teach you characters and words. It’s not required to write characters, but it’s recommended. In fact, I’ve heard even native speakers don’t write much, since most interactions are online or electronic. Sure, it is easier to type characters, but I found that differentiating similar characters when typing was getting harder and harder as I learned more characters.

I also find the muscle memory of writing characters helps me remember their structure. It also takes a little longer, so I’m required to focus a little more attention and therefore am more likely to remember it.

For a long time, I wrote in a wide-ruled composition book. The problem with writing in a lined notebook was that my characters often had odd proportions. So, I started looking for paper I could print out to write characters on. There are two main types of paper with guides, mi zi ge (米字格) and tian zi ge (田字格), where the respective guide lines in the boxes you write in look like the character 米or 田.

I found most of the paper I was able to print out had boxes that were too large, had lines that were too dark, or some other thing I wanted to improve. So, I pulled up Excel and made my own paper. I tried many different versions of the paper until I settled on a style I liked. After using this style quite a bit, I had loose practice paper all over the place. I really wished I had this paper in a notebook. All of the notebooks I found had boxes that were too big and most were larger than I wanted. I take my practice paper with me everywhere in my purse, so I can work on my reviews whenever I have a free minute.

So, I ended up self publishing some notebooks on Amazon in the way I like them. I’m really thrilled with how they turned out. By using Amazon, they are printed on demand whenever you order them. I do get a little over a dollar for each one sold, but I assume I’ll be my own main customer!

My first proof copy arrived in October of 2022. I was thrilled to see how well it turned out. However, I was unsure how it would hold up long-term, being thrown in my purse all the time, tossed around the house as I moved from desk to couch to bed. In the end, it held up really well.

I made the notebooks with 88 pages, given the auspiciousness of that number in Chinese culture. In March of 2023, I finally filled up my proof notebook. It had withstood several months of abuse and held up much better than I expected.

Now, I’m on to my first non-proof notebook. This one is, I think, very nice looking. I’m excited to start using it. The quality seems to be the same as the proof notebook, so I’m optimistic that it will also hold up well over time.

Like the red dragon book, there is a title page where you can write information about the book. Then, there are 88 pages of tian zi ge guides to help you write characters nicely. I’ve heard that these types of guides are used in other languages and writing systems, so I think they would work well for those, too.

Tian zi ge page in the notebook

If you’d like to try one of the notebooks, you are welcome to order one from Amazon. The links are below for the designs currently available. Also, if you have a specific design or color you’d like to see, let me know. I’ll consider adding it. I have a couple more in the works that I will add a little later.

Cherry Blossoms

Purple Flow

Red Dragon

My Wild Idea: Language School

I had been mulling over the idea for a while. My Chinese was approaching intermediate level, where basic Chinese is too easy, but native Chi...