I have been very busy recently, learning and developing new programming skills and knowledge, also landing a new job that I will be starting in March. I am still learning Chinese but have not had much time to blog or think too much about the process.
My third anniversary of learning Chinese is imminent (fellow language learner Keith gave me a timely reminder in a recent comment), I have lots to write about and want to do a full analysis of my progress and findings, under the current circumstances it may be a little late though. I also blog in other areas, for example web-based stuff at chris-on-the-web.blogspot.com
One thing I wanted to clear was the importance to me of using Google.cn for examining lexical chunks. Although primarily written language the Chinese version of Google provides a wonderful resource for examining and testing language. I use it so much that it is hard to provide examples (if that makes sense). On one Chinese social website a long time ago I had written that learning Chinese was my favorite hobby like so： 学中文是我的最喜欢的爱好。 Ｉused 喜欢 that has a similar meaning to like. A Chinese friend told me I should have used 最大的爱好 the 大 here means makes it more like saying "biggest hobby" in English. I didn't know I could say it this way but it is easy to confirm a search for my original "最喜欢的爱好" on google.cn yields 21,700 hits which a least tells me the my attempt was valid. A search for "最大的爱好" yields 628,000 hits which tells me that for this useage at least this is likely to be the more natural version. Even better when looking up phrases you get more valuable knowledge from the search result summaries, little snippets you can read "东北男人最大的爱好是什么？什么样的性格？_百度知道" in English "Northeastern men's favorite hobby is what, has what type of nature, Baidu knows".
Sometimes when I am in a more attentive listening mode of watching or listening to Chinese I have google.cn open in a browser window. Did that person say 我怕高 did they mean "I am afraid of heights" I guess so, google.cn confirms it with 719 hits, that may not seem a lot but the nature of the hits indicates this is a good phrase in spoken Chinese.
If you create a new phrase from the words you know, but aren't confident or think you may be translating too literally from your mother tongue you can always look for similar on Google.