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The 90-day transcribing challenge: First complete month

mlescano

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Back in March, I started to transcribe as a listening exercise, but life happened, and I had to stop. Now I'm doing this again, this time with these rules:

 

1) I'm doing it for 2 hours every day:

  • For one hour, I work with slow, clearly spoken material (Slow Chinese)
  • For one hour I struggle with a Chinese TV drama (Great Marriage).

I might rethink this mix, but I stuck with it for the first month.

 

2) I use WorkAudioBook for Slow Chinese and Lingual Media Player for the drama. The drama has .srt subtitles and I prepare subtitles for Slow Chinese days before using each episode for this listening exercise. I only listen to one subtitle line at a time. Each line is 1-7 seconds long.

 

3) I can use anything to get the transcription done: Pleco, Google, Baidu, etc, but NOT voice recognition software or looking at the original transcript itself. That would be cheating.

 

4) I work with paper, mechanical pencil and an eraser in paper with 25 squares per line, with separations to write down corrections and omissions. This makes it easier to compute total characters and count errors/omissions.

 

5) After each session, I count total characters originally written and subtract double the errors. This is my score. When I reach 1,000 points in one day, I'll go out and celebrate in my favorite pizza restaurant.  I subtract errors twice because this way I force myself to try and strike a balance between speed and accuracy: I can't go too fast because my accuracy might fall below 50% and then I get negative scores; I can't linger for too long on difficult parts because then I won't be making more points in easier parts. There's only so much you can do with Pleco and Google when you just can't make out the exact sounds people are saying, so you have to choose when to move on. 

 

So far, I've seen progress. With both Slow Chinese and the drama, the proverbs, quotes and fixed expressions are the most difficult. Of course, the drama is way more difficult than Slow Chinese, so now I'm skipping the parts where several people are talking at the same time/quarreling/shouting/drunk/etc. I find that my handwriting is becoming faster, but sloppier. And I'm learning to understand both a slight Zhejiang accent (Slow Chinese) and Northern accent (Great Marriage), and how sounds are slurred together/omitted/whispered/etc.

 

I want to sit for the HSK in order to have a clear goal to work for, so I'm considering switching from transcribing Great Marriage to transcribing past recordings of the HSK listening section, to really get used to them. Of course, during the exam you won't have the luxury of replaying, but still, this might be a useful exercise and a break from all the quarreling found in a TV drama. To be honest, I find it disheartening that even pausing and repeating and using Pleco and all that stuff, I can only get around 70% of the drama dialogue right. It can feel like a chore, so I guess I'll take a stroll through the HSK forest and then come back to the TV drama when I have more vocabulary. What do you think?

 

I'm also attaching a sample of my handwriting. Above the line, it's the drama. Below the line, it's Slow Chinese.

 

To clarify, the "stopped" information doesn't reflect how much I transcribe in each session, because I sometimes keep watching/listening after finishing the transcribing session. It's just a bookmark.

 

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To be honest, I find it disheartening that even pausing and repeating and using Pleco and all that stuff, I can only get around 70% of the drama dialogue right

On the bright side, after one month of effort, your current high-score is more than double the score from the first day, and the scores look like they are slowly trending upwards - so it looks like it's working! (see this post for the 3 month progress report of someone doing a similar thing for listening rather than transcribing).

 

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so I guess I'll take a stroll through the HSK forest and then come back to the TV drama when I have more vocabulary. What do you think?

I think it's good to have a stroll through the HSK forest to see how it compares.  Large amounts of mostly comprehensible input will be much better for your skills than large amounts of incomprehensible input.  That being said, given that you are scoring very highly on 'Slow Chinese', you might find it more beneficial to swap out 'Slow Chinese' for HSK, rather than 'Great Marriage'.  You learn by pushing your boundaries, not by staying within them - the downside of this is that by constantly pushing your boundaries you'll always feel like you are not making any progress because you're always coming across stuff that you don't get on the first pass.  That's where keeping track of various metrics like you are doing comes in useful.

 

Also, the way to improve TV drama vocabulary is to watch more TV dramas.  If you stop with the drama, you might find you don't actually pick up the vocabulary required to make much of a dint in that 70% figure.  Due to incredibly long tail of Chinese vocabulary, and the completely different domains you might find that the increase in vocab you get from HSK recordings only gives a small improvement to understanding TV Drama (see here for my thoughts on that).

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15 hours ago, imron said:

(see here for my thoughts on that

 

Imron, I've just skimmed the site and there's a wealth of extremely useful, straight-to-the point and documented information on that site.  Based on the content, it seems it's a nicely formatted summary of some of the valuable information you've been scattering here for years. I can't see your name anywhere on the site though (I can't see any name, by the way).

 

I may have missed a post on this forum where "Chinese The Hard Way" is advertised. If there's none, there should definitely be. It's a gold mine.

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4 hours ago, laurenth said:

it seems it's a nicely formatted summary of some of the valuable information you've been scattering here for years

That plus more.  A number of the articles there are reworked versions of some of my posts here but there is new stuff also - plus I'll be adding to it as time goes by (I've got about 20 half-written or almost finished drafts in the pipeline).

 

4 hours ago, laurenth said:

I may have missed a post on this forum where "Chinese The Hard Way" is advertised

Nope, not really advertised yet, I'm still figuring out what I want to make of the site first and also want to get both a bit more content there *and* have a semi-regular schedule for putting new content up before I start doing that.  I only linked to it here because I had an article already finished that was relevant to this topic and figured it was easier to link rather than paraphrase the whole thing here.

 

4 hours ago, laurenth said:

I can't see your name anywhere on the site though (I can't see any name, by the way)

Partly by design - the content should ideally stand by itself.

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3 minutes ago, imron said:

Partly by design - the content should ideally stand by itself.

I'd still add a name somewhere, even if it's just in short credits at some hard-to-find small-print corner of the site. Not adding a name gives it an air of either mystery or dodgyness that is not really necessary. Plus, that way at least readers of these forums know the site is not someone plagiarising you.

 

And cool site, good to have all the advice in one place!

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On 9/5/2017 at 11:51 AM, imron said:

I think it's good to have a stroll through the HSK forest to see how it compares.  Large amounts of mostly comprehensible input will be much better for your skills than large amounts of incomprehensible input. 

 

Thanks a lot! I'm following your advice. Now I've replaced Slow Chinese with HSK 5 recordings. My source is currently an app called HSK5听力, the one with the panda in one corner. I ripped the audio by connecting my iPad to my Mac and using Quicktime to record the audio while hitting "continue" after each question on the ipad, and now I have it loaded as an mp3 in WorkAudioBook.  To check my writing after the transcription session, I again must go through each question in the app and activate the script. If anyone knows of any source of HSK 5-6 recordings in mp3 with the corresponding transcripts as either text or pdf, that would be fantastic, so I don't have to repeat this process.

 

EDIT: I found them here: https://www.digmandarin.com/hsk-practice-test

The others I've found don't include the audio scripts.

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13 hours ago, mlescano said:

Now I've replaced Slow Chinese with HSK 5 recordings

How do you find the difficulty compared to Slow Chinese?

 

13 hours ago, mlescano said:

If anyone knows of any source of HSK 5-6 recordings in mp3 with the corresponding transcripts as either text or pdf, that would be fantastic, so I don't have to repeat this process.

The Chairman's Bao?

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4 hours ago, imron said:

How do you find the difficulty compared to Slow Chinese?

 

The Chairman's Bao?

 

For me, and for this particular exercise (transcribing with pausing/repeating), difficulty seems pretty similar between Slow Chinese and HSK5. HSK5 recordings feel easier, but the numbers say otherwise: I make more mistakes while transcribing HSK5. I'm outside of China, so these recordings contain everyday language I just don't know. After a month I'll have more data and be able to compare them better. It took me a while to get used to the way Xinyu from Slow Chinese speaks, so I guess I'll also get used to the voices in the HSK recordings. I did try with an HSK6 recording yesterday, but it was just way. too. much. strain. for me.

 

Thanks for the TCB recommendation!

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1 hour ago, mlescano said:

it was just way. too. much. strain. for me.

Remember this thought. It will serve as an interesting marker of progress in a year's time. 

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I have nothing intelligent to add to this thread, just that I'm impressed with this project and am looking forward to hearing your progress!  Keep it up, you are doing something amazing that is going to pay off down the road!

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This is extremely impressive!! And a great idea I think I'll try myself. Also impressed that your script 安 is basically ...I remember reading that's how that kana evolved but totally didn't realize it can be written that way in Chinese text too.

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23 hours ago, Bao said:

This is extremely impressive!! And a great idea I think I'll try myself. Also impressed that your script 安 is basically ...I remember reading that's how that kana evolved but totally didn't realize it can be written that way in Chinese text too.

 

Hi, thanks! I'm also using Pleco for reading/writing practice of individual characters and words, and I use the ballpoint pen font in it. (FZYingBiXingShu, 方正硬笔行书). I try to imitate it, while at the same time following the advice found in this forum (blog "Can If I Want") about how to write cursive, plus checking with the imiwa? app when in doubt about stroke order, plus finding YouTube videos of handwriting when there's something I just can't figure out. I guess I'd better have my handwriting checked by natives at some point to make sure it's still legible.

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