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Jamie

How many characters do YOU know?

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Jamie

With all of the talk lately about how many characters there actually are, I think we should start a topic on how many you actually know. 100-500? 500 - 1,000? 3,000? More than 5,000? How functional do you feel (reading newspapers, shopping, writing e-mails...) at your current level? Yeah, I know that they say you can read 95% of a newspaper with 3,000 words, but what do YOU say?

(If you know both simplified and traditional, how many of each?)

I'm currently between 500 - 1,000, and can pick out characters when reading, but obviously feel very un-functional around a lot of written Chinese without a dictionary.

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林彪

I think I can recognize maybe 1200 and write 800. When I read stuff in Chinese I can recognize maybe 30-40% of the characters. It's enough to usually get a general gist of what's being said, but not enough to really be able to read newspapers and the like.

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geek_frappa

that's a good question. how do you find out how many characters you know?

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林彪

You could look through your textbook and see how many you've studied, and the percentage of those you can usually recall.

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Jamie
how do you find out how many characters you know?

I guess it depends on if you've kept any records or use a study book. I keep an online log because I didn't want to have to go back through my study books and manually count. :D

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林彪
geek_frappa wrote:

that's a good question. how do you find out how many characters you know?

http://members.tripod.com/luckyboyb/chars.html

that's a page I made some years ago, you can take a look and see how many you know. I know maybe 80-90%.

Wow, you know 80-90% of those? That's pretty good.

I picked a line at random and found I could recognize 7 of them, with writing ability for 6 of those, pronouncing ability for 5, and knowledge of the meanings for 3. So I guess I know about 20-30% of those.

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trooper

I tried the clavis sinica test and got a score of around 2100 characters. In theory I should recognise over 90% of the characters in typical newspaper articles. Does this mean I can read freely without problems? Not so!

Understanding say a newspaper article isn't just a matter of recognising characters. Recognising words is what really determines whether you understand a piece of writing or not.

If I read a given article, there will be many multi-character words I that I won't understand even though I know the meaning of each constituent character. I can guess the meaning of the word from just its component characters, but this often doesn't work. The best way is to guess from the context as well. But to do this effectively, you need to understand the meaning nearly all of the words that surround the one you're trying to guess at.

To understand the details in an article, as opposed to merely understanding the gist, you'd probably need to know more than 90+% of the vocabulary it uses, not just 90+% of the characters.

In short, my advice is: concentrate on building up your vocabulary as much as you can! Chinese has a humungous vocabulary so you really need to keep at it.

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Nephand

Well...let me see... 23! Heh, I've recently started picking up the hanzi so I'm not crazy advanced... or crazy intermediate really :)

It helps starting with the most popular as it's a much stronger feeling of progression when you can see familiar characters even amongst the most confusing looking texts.

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smithsgj

Trooper's right. You have to learn the characters, and you have to know the ways they combine to form words... also you have to figure out where the boundaries between the words are -- no mean feat!

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bathrobe

How important is this?

And what does it mean to 'know' a character?

I don't know how many characters I know. Maybe 2,000. Maybe 3,000.

On the other hand, I can read Chinese newspaper articles without too much effort. That is, I can get the meaning without a lot of trouble. But don't ask me to read out loud -- there'll be a lot of 'I think this is how it's pronounced, but I'm not sure'. And certainly don't bother asking me to write. Now that I use a computer, I've almost forgotten how to write half my characters!

So I wonder whether this 'number of characters' thing is an important or even a realistic question.

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roddy

I agree very much with what bathrobe says about reading newspapers. I can get through huge chucks of text with very little trouble, but discuss it afterwords? No chance.

I'd guess I'm also in the 2-3,000 range (newspaper reading and then some) but again, it's vocab, not characters, that you need.

I think there's another topic on this from some time ago, back when the board was young - if you have a look round the last couple of pages you might find it . . .

Roddy

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Jamie

Trooper, you bring up an excellent point.

Bathrobe, by 'know' I mean 'comprehend'. I brought this up:

1) out of a simple curiosity to see what levels different people are at

2) (and more importantly) to see if there is a correlation between how many characters (or compound characters) one knows and how much one understands written text. What it comes down to is that an extensive knowledge of characters doesn't necessarily represent comprehension of written text.

So that said, do those who have strong speaking skills feel that they have an easier understanding of written text??

(This is the link to the previous topic: http://www.chinese-forums.com/viewtopic.php?t=8. Sorry Roddy, I hadn't read all the way back to the first page!)

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smithsgj

But there are characters that I comprehend from the context, but can't write and can't pronounce. Can write and can't pronounce. Can pronounce but can't write. Could make a guess at pronunciation. Sort of comprehend, can pronounce and write easily. Get the meaning of what seems to be a word, without having a clue about one of the characters. And whatever other permutations are left.

It's easy if you've been studying Chinese for 3 weeks and have mastered the reading writing and pronunciation of twelve characters. But if you've been exposed to Chinese from a variety of sources for several years, which may or may not include a period of formal textbook learning, there is no meaningful way to quantify the characters you know (or comprehend, even).

> So that said, do those who have strong speaking skills feel that they have an easier understanding of written text??

Mandarin is different from other languages. The writing system (and the difference in written and spoken styles, which is itself a product of the writing system) is a very indirect representation of the spoken language. This means that it is much harder to reinforce reading skills, say, through speaking practice, as you would do with French or Spanish: you can't just pick up something from a conversation and add it to your reading repertoire.

So Jamie there is a weaker correlation between strong speaking skills and reading comprehension than there is in languages written alphabetically.

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thepokergod

I can write about 400 and read about twice that. But as roddy says vocab is much more important. I could certainly read a fair chunk of newspaper out load but not have a clue what it means.

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skylee
But there are characters that I comprehend from the context, but can't write and can't pronounce. Can write and can't pronounce. Can pronounce but can't write. Could make a guess at pronunciation. Sort of comprehend, can pronounce and write easily. Get the meaning of what seems to be a word, without having a clue about one of the characters. And whatever other permutations are left.

Ha, same here. :lol:

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