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sthubbar

Native Chinese speakers, how many characters do you know?

Native Chinese speakers: How many characters do you know?  

2 members have voted

  1. 1. Native Chinese speakers: How many characters do you know?

    • 6000+ I am very well educated. :)
      0
    • 5000-6000 I am well educated.
      0
    • 4000-5000 I was taught this many in school and haven't learned many more.
      0
    • Less than 4000. The statistics say I only need 3500 so I stopped learning after that.
      1
    • I am not native Chinese, and just want to see the results when I view this thread.
      18


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sthubbar

While on this path of finding out how many characters are necessary. Native Chinese speakers, meaning educated in an all Chinese environment, please answer this poll as to your best guess how many characters you know.

You can try this test, or this software or this test if you have no idea.

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ChineseSpeaker

I don't think it makes sense to have such a poll.

Just as native English speaker can use very few English words to express almost all his complex ideas, very few commonly Characters are enough for native Chinese Speaker to communicate with each other in his daily life.

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sthubbar

Chinesespeaker, I'm not sure I understand. My, native Chinese, roomates each know 5000+ Hanzi. From my understanding of your post, you would think that most native Chinese speakers would rank themselves at the less than 4000 or maybe 4000-5000 level. Are you a native Chinese speaker?

BTW, the point of the poll is to get some real-live living human beings to respond here, not some computer generated statistics. :wink:

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muyongshi
I don't think it makes sense to have such a poll.

It makes perfect sense in terms of the other topics being discussed right now. Here, here and here.

The point of the poll is legitimate in trying to find a comparison between foreigners and Chinese in terms of character recognition and fluency. It would be nice if you would vote and help those of us out that want to know...

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ChineseSpeaker

I am a native Chinese speaker, I was born in China mainland, and have been living in China mainland for almost 30 years.

I have been studying English for almost 20 years. I know 5000 English words as I passed the CET-6 test and received a very outstanding score in the test which requires a command of over 5000 English words. But last year I visited USA, I still felt difficult to communicate with native English speakers who know even less English words than me. The essence of the difficulty is not how many of the English words you know but how well you know the usage of the words.

Another example is the example of my Korean friend. She majored Chinese in a Korean University before she come to China to learn Chinese. She could learn enough Chinese characters in the department of her university, however she couldn't learn enough usage of Chinese characters or words.

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gougou
native English speakers who know even less English words than me.
Less than 5000? How old were they? Two? Three?

While estimates for active vocabulary diverge largely, I have yet to see one that is in the 4-digits.

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sthubbar

Chinesespeaker, I'm a little bit, well maybe a lot, of a geek. :D There is a saying "necessary, but not sufficient." What this means is that I believe that it is required to know 4000+ Hanzi to be able to "read" Chinese even though this knowledge, by itself, will not allow one to read Chinese. There are other things, that you correctly mentioned, that are also necessary. I'm just interested right not on focusing on one of the conditions, that beginners and foreigners often ask about, and seeing if we can come up with an accurate answer to that condition.

How many characters would you estimate you know?

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muyongshi
that beginners and foreigners often ask about

I always thought it was the Chinese people asking us how many we knew....

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gato

You should be aware that many of the characters above the 3500 mark on the frequent character lists are used only in classical Chinese (including chengyu's). You will rarely encounter these characters if you are reading modern Chinese, for the same reason that many words used by Shakespeare or Hawthorne do not appear in today's newspapers or magazine.

I am a native Chinese who attended up to 6th grade in China and then grew up and lived many years in the U.S. My spoken Chinese vocabulary was much larger than my reading vocabulary when I started re-learning my Chinese about three years ago. At the beginning, I went through the most frequently used characters list and tried to review 100 not-yet-memorized characters every day. I would spend about three hours a day doing this rote memorization review, divided between morning and just before sleep. Most of the characters I was reviewing I already knew orally, but was still unsure of them in the written form.

Given where I started, after one year of intensive self-study, I was able to know for reading purposes about 2400 characters (based on the frequency list) and could comfortably read most materials, including newspapers and books (with some dictionary lookup). After that point, I focused mostly on reading, learning specialized vocabulary in my field, and on formal written grammar and usage.

I tested myself about a year ago with the Character Test program written by smalldog and found that I knew about 3200 (unfortunately the program site is down right now). At that time I could already comfortably read Chinese newspapers and magazines. I asked some of my former students at a Chinese university to take the test, and they reported that they knew anywhere from 5000 to 7000 characters.

Today I probably still only know about 3500 characters. I still don't know that many chengyu's, and I am still working through the Chinese high school classical Chinese text. Yet I can read newspapers and magazines without using a dictionary. There are occasional characters or words that I don't recognize, maybe up to 4 or 5 in a page of text, but at that level, I don't feel the need to use the dictionary unless I am reading something for study purposes. Literary novels, on the other hand, are at a higher level than newspapers/magazines -- particularly pre-1940s novels, which use a lot more classical Chinese vocabulary.

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ChineseSpeaker

This will be my last post on this thread.

Gougou, I am sorry for my mistake, what I had wanted to say is "what they daily used is far less than 5000 words". I really didn't have any melicious purpose by giving this example.

sthubbar, I read many Chinese books and was well educated, I estimate I know 4000-5000 chinese Hanzi.

For foreign Chinese learners, our gorvernment HSK test requires the examinee to know at most 2904 hanzi(800 commonly used) and around 8000 (including hanzi and words) hanzi and words. You can use the word quiz function of this tool to test how many Chinese hanzi and words you know

By the way, I did think Chinese learners should focus your efforts on the usage of Hanzi instead of the volume of Hanzi

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david1978
The essence of the difficulty is not how many of the English words you know but how well you know the usage of the words.

I completely agree with this point. In another thread someone mentioned learning characters at a pace of 30 per day which comes out to over 10,000 a year! :roll: Nonsense. I've spoken to Ph.Ds in Chinese on this issue who all seemed to say absorbing an average of 500 or so characters a year, including their pronunciation and proper usage, is respectable. I'd definitely raise an eyebrow at any system that promises to teach you hundreds of new characters every month.

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sthubbar

david1978, I think you might want to rethink that 500 characters per year figure. As I mention here, at that rate it would take 8 years to learn to read Chinese.

I personally know a friend that came to China with absolutely zero exposure to Chinese either oral or written and he self taught himself to read, and speak, including 4000+ characters in one year.

I have learned 2000 characters in the past 6 months and will most likely learn another 2000 by the end of the year. From that point on I will probably pretty much stop learning characters and feverishly increase my vocabulary.

BTW, I guess native Chinese speakers are too shy to admit how many characters they know. I guess they either think 1) It would be bragging to admit they know 6000+ characters or 2) I would be embarrassing to admit they now less than 4000. :mrgreen:

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JimmySeal

Looks like your Ph. D friends were setting the bar pretty low, david1978. :tong

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david1978
I have learned 2000 characters in the past 6 months and will most likely learn another 2000 by the end of the year.

Now these 2000 characters that you've learned, can you honestly say you've mastered their usage and pronunciation, or you just memorized 2000 "pictures"? I don't think it's reasonable to claim to learn thousands of units of information in such a short span of time. Not to mention that the average educated Chinese person has only mastered the usage of about 10,000 characters in the span of their lifetime. Again, something smells rotten in the state of Denmark...er, China.

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david1978
Looks like your Ph. D friends were setting the bar pretty low, david1978.

I don't think so. I think you're just flat lying.

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muyongshi
Now these 2000 characters that you've learned, can you honestly say you've mastered their usage and pronunciation, or you just memorized 2000 "pictures"?

I'm curious if you can write them as well. Can you? Because I think that would show a difference between memorizing and learning them (the characters themselves not necessarily the meaning) as well as correct stroke order, etc. Just curious.

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sthubbar

I was going to wait until later to respond and then I saw this:

Looks like your Ph. D friends were setting the bar pretty low, david1978.

I don't think so. I think you're just flat lying.

david1978, I think maybe the lack of 4th of July fireworks or maybe too many fireworks has temporarily fried your brain. I have read your previous posts and have seen nothing that would lead me to believe that you would come right out and indirectly call me a liar.

I am not lying and I doubt that JimmySeal is lying. We are bothing using an SRS (spaced repetition system) which is a powerful way to remember things if you aren't familiar with it. If we were to stop review what we have learned we would rapidly forget much of it, but as long as we continue reviewing we will only forget a small percentage, probably 10% - 20%. So, at anytime if I have 2200 items in my system, there is probably 200 of them that I have forgotten, but that means that there are 2000 that at that moment I know.

muyongshi - I am not learning to write them. My goal is to be able to read, not write. What use is writing? Everything I will do will be on the computer or my cell phone using pinyin. BTW, dirty little secret, the native Chinese don't know how to write many of them either.

As another aside, I always study with a native Chinese speaker at my side. Every single one of my college educated native Chinese speakers has, at one time or another, been unable to recognize a character that I am studying, or they will recognize it incorrectly. Characters are a humongous burden that even the native speakers struggle with, despite what I'm sure some native speakers might boast about their abilities.

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david1978

Sthubbar, I did not call you a liar. I said I am doubtful about how substantive and comprehensive your learning is. If Jimmy claims, as he did, that he can learn 30 new characters a day, everyday, which amounts to over 10,000 characters per year, then I think that's either a flat lie or a delusion. Anyway, I see that tune has changed from 30 to 10. Maybe it will be 5 by this evening?

BTW, why don't you post some information on this SRS system. I want to know more.

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sthubbar

The granddaddy of all SRSes is Supermemo. You can do a search here or go to www.supermemo.com. The owner of that company really likes to write. There is tons of great information on that site.

I believe JimmySeal mentioned he is using Anki. I have programmed PlecoDict to act as an SRS. This is also the same method that Pimsleur uses.

IMHO, there is no debate about the validity of an SRS. The only debate is over small details. For example, there is really no debate that the world is round. The only debate is that someone might say it bulges in the middle so it's not technically round or the poles are flat or some knit picking type of stuff.

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