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Can non-Asians read Chinese?


sthubbar
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Can non-Asians read Chinese?  

  1. 1. Can non-Asians read Chinese?

    • I can read most anything. I can read for relaxation. (4000+ characters)
      3
    • I can read anything I want, often using a dictionary. I seldom read for relaxation. (3000-4000)
      4
    • I get the general idea. Always are unknown characters/words. I don't read for relaxation. (2-3000)
      6
    • I can read special passages with a limited character selection. (1000-2000 characters)
      7
    • I am learning. (100 - 1000 characters)
      12
    • I can't recognize any significant number of characters. (0 - 100 characters)
      3


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An informal poll of the forum members to see what is our level of being able to read Chinese. I surmise that this is the most difficult task for non-Asians.

This poll is intended for those of us who have no growing up experiences with Asian languages. If you have previously studied, as an adult, Japanese no problem, please respond.

Sorry to our Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or other friends that grew up speaking any dialect of Chinese, Japanese or Korean. :)

What I mean by "relaxation" is that reading characters is equal to reading your mother tongue. So If I am presented with an item written in characters and my native language would I automatically go for the characters or for my native tongue? I assume that at the 4000+ level you automatically go for the characters because who knows if the translation is done correctly or not.

Another benchmark would be if you would prefer to read Chinese character websites or your native language character websites. I assume for the 4000+ level you mostly read or have no problem spending weeks or months on end only reading Chinese character websites. At the 3000-4000 level you can do it though maybe tiring after some time. At the 2000-3000 level it can be done just not for long periods because it becomes tiring quickly.

I hope that clarifies the categories.

BTW, I would say I'm at the top end of the "I'm still learning" category. Just about hitting 2000 characters.

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'Can non-Asians read Chinese?' Of course they can, if they learn it. On the other hand, there are plenty of Asians, from Afghanistan to the Phillipines, who cannot read a word of Chinese. Bit of a weird question, this.

Personally I can read for relaxation, but rarely do, as reading in Dutch or English is still easier and I can be quite lazy. But I can enjoy Chinese books when I do bring myself to reading them.

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From the opening post, I guess sthubbar wants to know how much Chinese we, Chinese language learners who don't have a background in Hanzi[/i'], can read.
Well yes, that's what I understood from the opening post too, but if that's what's meant the question might have been formulated it a lot better. More like you do here, for example.

And on the 4000 char limit: that's what they tell you, that Chinese are functionally literate if they know 4000 characters. And then when you actually get to around 2-3000 char and are starting to look forward to really reading the newspaper and all, you start to find out that even if you know the characters, you still often don't know the words they combine to, so that even if a Chinese, who already knows the words, may be literate with 4000 char, that doesn't mean that someone who learns Chinese as a second language can read without much trouble when they hit that level.

And once you do know most of the words, you still might get lost in grammar. But that's in fact a smaller problem, in my opinion.

And then when you get to the level that you can really read the newspaper, you find that there's nothing worthwhile in it :-)

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3000 characters (not 4000) should cover most characters used in newspapers. What's more important are words. You probably need to know 10,000 or more words to read newspapers comfortably.

Some numbers from the HSK test

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/11620-character-to-words-ratio&highlight=hsk

Character to words ratio

Your first 1000 words need 800 characters

Your first 3000 words need 1500 characters

Your first 5000 words need 2100 characters

Your first 8800 words need 2800 characters

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Your first 1000 words need 800 characters

Your first 3000 words need 1500 characters

Your first 5000 words need 2100 characters

Your first 8800 words need 2800 characters

I would more readily agree with this and I feel it's more accurate. I can read a newspaper quite fine (of course I have to look up a lot of words depending on the article) as well as many books I do quite fine on. And I do read for pleasure. I can read quite a number of articles or chapters in a book without getting lost and I do it for "pleasure" (non-stress, non-learning situation). But I still feel I lean more towards the general idea category and can't read ANYTHING. Just most daily life things.

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Well, I won't vote, since I am Asian :-) There are many Asians who do not use Hanzi / character types in their written language. I am Chinese by ancestry, born and raised in Indonesia, don't speak /read/write Chinese (am learning now). Indonesian language uses ABC (roman characters), just pronounced differently.

In terms of learning to read Chinese characters, I think I will have about as much difficulty as anyone who grow up in English environment only.

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I think the sampling of this could be skewed.

Most people come to the forums because they are trying to learn Chinese . Once Chinese is basically mastered they are unlikely to come to the forums as much. I think if you had a better sample it would produce better results.

'

Plus is reading the newspaper once in a while reading for fun?

Or does it have to be Sung dysnasty poetry?

How many people these days read english books often? (2 to 3 times a week?)

Just some thoughts,

have fun,

Simon:)

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I have to say that not all of the categories fit me that well. I still prefer to use a dictionary when I read, sometimes looking up just a word here and there, sometimes looking up a ton (and since I use Pleco, all the new words get thrown into vocab piles).

Also, even when my Chinese was less good, I still enjoyed trying to piece together what the text was trying to say, so I suppose that could count as "relaxation" .

For Chinese as Second Language learners, I think character recognition is not as good of a benchmark for literacy as the size of one's vocabulary, understanding of the writing styles, or background information. I'm just saying that because I once believed the myth that you just have to learn 2,500-3,000 characters to become fluent in reading. And while it is undeniable that knowing a lot of characters is essential for understanding a text, it does not guarantee that you will know what the characters combinations (words) mean.

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I agree with the above poster.

I've only studied Chinese for a year (only for some three months in China), and I don't master very many characters, but I still find it interesting and relaxing to read easier things, such as 《读者》. For me, it's relaxing because learning Chinese is my passion.

I think that 阅读 has a lot to do with skills other than mastering characters, especially when you're a learner. In my class, people know about the same number of characters, but some some just can't overlook the ones they do not know to focus on the ones they do know, and get ridiculously lost even when reading relatively simple things. We did newspaper reading some week ago, and people which I know know a lot more characters than I do didn't have a clue about what the article was trying to communicate. Thus, if you've been reading a lot in other languages, and would have a basic grasp about the logical structure of a piece of writing, you'll have an easier time learning to read in Chinese.

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Thus, if you've been reading a lot in other languages, and would have a basic grasp about the logical structure of a piece of writing, you'll have an easier time learning to read in Chinese.

Yes, if you are a good reader in other languages, you'll have a leg up in learning to read in Chinese.

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Yes, if you are a good reader in other languages, you'll have a leg up in learning to read in Chinese.

Not to mention your interest in reading. I love to just read and will read whatever I can get my hands on (of course if it's not quality I put it back down). But if someone really enjoys reading they will naturally do better at it in a second language environment.

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Thanks for all the replies. There are some great points made. I like the point about if you like to read then it makes it much easier. I must admit that I'm not super fond of reading, I'm more of a talker.

As a side effect of this poll, I decided to put up a challenge to try and find out once and for all how many characters we must learn to be able to "read" Chinese. You can see my 1000 CNY challenge here.

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cdn_in_bj: what a great question. It has taken me 6 months to learn 2000 characters. I am attending a small school in Beijing that has a unique method of rapidly teaching characters. They are sticklers for tones so if I pronounce a character with the right sound and wrong tone, that is as good as not knowing the character.

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