I'm getting confused with some words that seem to mean about the same thing: 很, 挺, 好, 非常. These words seem to basically mean "very," and are used before adjectives generally, but I don't understand the intricacies between them.
These words are commonly used, especially in spoken in Mandarin, and so this is a great question to try to tackle. In short, these adverbs do mean "very," but the intricacies lie in the degree of emphasis. I'll start with an overview. As you have probably picked up on already, 很 is an incredibly useful and common word, and tends to be the generic word for "very." This word can be used across any situation, about any topic. The meaning of 挺 is closer to "kind of; quite; not bad," and so it is used when something could be better, but isn't a big issue. 好 has an array of different meanings, one of which, as you've mentioned, is "very." 好 as "very" is not too formal, and so is more useful in casual conversations, often as exclamations (e.g., 好冷, 好大, 好厉害). Lastly, 非常 can be used just like 很 , but tends to have more emphasis placed on it. So, it often means more of an emphatic "really."
I've decided to major in Psychology, a subject I love, but I am concerned about the future of the field as a whole. I understand that there are two primary areas of the psychology profession, research and clinical, but I don't know which I would rather pursue. Will my degree be useful, regardless of which direction I go? Are there certain classes I should definitely take to maximize my chances of going either route? Also, is it even a smart choice to major in a field that has such a great divide?
These are questions that psychologists all over are grappling with themselves and are critically important as a young to-be-psychologist. Unfortunately, there is not a clear answer, as we don't know how the field will unfold. It is not as well-established or clean-cut as fields such as biology or astronomy, and psychology uniquely has connection and application to vast subject matters, from neuroscience to flow states, transgender education to infant interaction. While this is a wonderful trait of the field, it inevitably finds itself disjointed and not clearly defined in many ways. So, as you've mentioned, psychology has the two main camps of research and clinical psychology. These interact in very important ways, as research tends to inform clinical approaches, and clinical experiences give direction to research, but the gap between the two is growing larger and, with the advancement of neuroscience technology, it seems that the field will split more and more, eventually to the creation of two separate fields. This being said, majoring in psychology is not an issue. Regardless of which direction you wish to go, if you realize this by the end of your undergraduate, furthering your education with a masters or doctorate would be necessary to build a career in psychology. With regards to which classes to take, there are some core classes in psychology that every psychologist has taken or should take, no matter which eventual direction. These are cognitive, social, abnormal, and research methods. In the end, the concerns you have are unique to this field and are important to consider. As long as you are okay with a field that has movement, some instability, and is changing with the times, then it is a good choice. It may feel unnerving, but a field like this allows for great innovation.
There are so many components of learning a new language. Besides developing speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills, mastery of English requires an understanding of culture, too. There are cultural cues for how to speak, intonation, formality of speech, etc., which is all quite overwhelming. As an intermediate student of English as a Second Language, I'm wondering what the best way to focus my energy is. Is it on speaking skills, because this is such a tangible skill in English-speaking countries? Is it mastering grammar patterns? Is it better to dive into practicing, regardless of whether or not my grammar is correct? Or, at my level now, should I start to shift my focus to learning more about the cultural side of English?
These are very understandable concerns and questions when learning English as a second language. Balancing the complex process of learning English between the various components can be difficult, and there really is no one right answer: it varies based on the resources available, the priorities of the individual, and the strengths/weaknesses of the individual. Assuming you wish to develop a well-rounded, practical knowledge of English, and as an intermediate learner, you might benefit from delving into more real-world interactions with English. For example, watching a T.V. series, listening to podcasts, reading younger-level books, and listening to English songs. These are great ways to supplement the learning process in the classroom and provide greater insight into the cultural components of learning English. This, of course, cannot replace learning in the classroom, as drilling, practicing, review, and systematically learning the language is the backbone. Aside from these external resources, begin to notice in your studies which areas you feel you need to work on. While it is always fun to keep practicing what comes easiest to us, addressing the weaker points will really take you further. So, take note of which areas (speaking, reading, writing, or listening) you feel less confident with, and give those extra time. It is okay to be speaking-heavy, for instance, in your studies for a while, if it helps you fill in some holes. Over time, these more focused periods will even out and eventually become well-rounded strengths in English.