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I Hate Hanzi


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Whatever the number is, it's not of characters. Learn words. Memorizing thousands of characters and trying to read a Chinese newspaper is like* learning lots of syllables and then picking up an English novel.

*maybe.

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I actually counted them once from a list and it was about 2500 and since I know more characters now I assume that it's about 3000 for me. I can read newspaper but there are still many characters that I don't know but I agree with renzhe, the problem is more with my vocabulary not with the characters that I don't know.

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why rush into things, l enjoy the learning curve, its not linear thats for sure :mrgreen:

l just take onestep at the time and write hanzi l ca ndo all my life its very relaxing, for me write hanzi is fun as play ps2, guys and girls l'am not kidding, maybe lm little geek :help

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  • 10 months later...

LOL! Old thread revived. I wonder how the OP feels now.

I feel that Chinese characters are beautiful (if one practices 好書法).

Good study does not significantly involve rote learning.

Good study facilitates further learning.

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Seriously though, where are you in relation to when you wrote the post?

Hard to say. I'm sure I'm better than 2 years ago. Still uncomfortable reading Hanzi for anything productive or fun.

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Hard to say. I'm sure I'm better than 2 years ago. Still uncomfortable reading Hanzi for anything productive or fun.

I still remember that you started with nursery rhymes and how blissful that period was. Hehe.

What have you been doing in terms of studying reading? Do you use flashcards? I'm surprised that you can't read for fun yet after all your efforts. Maybe you are just naturally better with the oral than the written language and will have to put in more effort.

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I did my BA here in chinese and doing an MA in Int Politics here in China, all in chinese, the more I read in Chinese the easier it gets, so it is practice practice and practice, I enjoy using Chinese just as I like using Dutch English or German.

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What have you been doing in terms of studying reading?

Still pretty much the same. I have about 2500 sentences in Pleco that I review on a daily basis, takes about 1 hour. Then I read children's stories for the rest of the time and add new sentences when I encounter stuff I can't read.

I'm surprised that you can't read for fun yet after all your efforts.

I guess maybe I'm the only one who has such a hard time. I do admit that I have a huge mental block in that I truly hate this writing system, and that prevents me from adding on the additional "fun" time of improving my reading that I know everyone who can read does. For example, reading something for pleasure outside of my assigned study period is out of the question because I become completely frustrated after about 10 minutes.

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I have about 2500 sentences in Pleco that I review on a daily basis, takes about 1 hour. Then I read children's stories for the rest of the time and add new sentences when I encounter stuff I can't read.

Maybe the vocabulary in your sentences are too easy. Are they from nursery books? I don't think you are pushing yourself hard enough on the vocabulary front.

How about using flashcards of strictly words instead of sentences? The HSK vocab list would be a good starting point. It has 8000 or so basic words that you would need to read a newspaper? The cards are already made for you:

http://www.pleco.com/dictaddons.html

http://hskflashcards.com/download.php

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wushijiao
I do admit that I have a huge mental block in that I truly hate this writing system, and that prevents me from adding on the additional "fun" time of improving my reading that I know everyone who can read does. For example, reading something for pleasure outside of my assigned study period is out of the question because I become completely frustrated after about 10 minutes.

I think a learner’s attitude towards a language, its writing system, and the accompanying people, culture, history…etc, is probably one of the biggest factors in whether or not you will eventually succeed. To a large extent, one’s attitude towards a specific person, a group of people, a country, a language, or whatever, is malleable, and that attitude changes based on one’s own ability to control one’s feelings, and figure out how to increase empathy towards the object.

This reminds me a bit of one of Steve Kauffman’s podcasts/(rant) (you can watch the video of it here). Basically, he makes the point that successful language learners tend to like the language they are learning, they have empathy for the language and the people who speak it, and they can see themselves as a member of that language community (even if the members of that community never reciprocate and never view the learner as one of them). Personally, I think that this psychological aspect of learning a language is way more important than learning any sort of tips, techniques, methods…etc. If you don’t love the process of learning the language, how can you ever expect to put in the time it will take to become good at it?

Sthubbar, (not that it’s really any of my business), but it sounds like you have made really pretty impressive progress in terms of learning characters and doing review. It sounds like you also understand the things you need to do to improve more (exploring the language through leisure reading), and the only stumbling block left is a mental/emotional one, rather than one of technique or method. (Hopefully, that should be good news. I’d rather have a problem of attitude to deal with rather than one of intellect). I think, as you probably already know, once you figure out a way to get rid of any negative feeling towards the writing system, you’ll start to enjoy reading, and then you will get necessarily get better at reading. Once you like reading, you get “caught” in this virtuous circle of: you like reading, and therefore learn more words and gain experience with the language. As you learn more words, reading becomes easier and faster, thus facilitating more productive sessions of reading in similar amounts of time. The faster and easier you can read, the more you like reading…etc, repeat. (Again, take my 2 cents for what it’s worth, and feel free to ignore it!) :D

Of course, daily frustrations here and there are probably to be expected.

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Just be carefull with writing too much. Yesterday I got my arm cramped up from writing too much Hanzi, I woke up this morning and it's still cramped up... I'm still a beginner though, maybe I just push my pen too hard. -_-"

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Wushijiao is a true master and understands the issue exactly right.

I maintain that for the number of hours I have spent learning to read, almost nobody is at the same or better level than me. The problem is not my method of studying. The problem is that I only study with a tutor and do not add any additional hours, such as studying flashcards in the bathroom, or reading comics. It is those additional hours that allow others to appear to learn faster than me, when in reality they are just putting in more hours.

Unless I can figure out a way to be at least neutral towards this writing system, I see no other option than continue to trudge along like I am.

I guess the million dollar question for me is "How do I brainwash myself to like something I hate?"

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The problem is not my method of studying. The problem is that I only study with a tutor and do not add any additional hours, such as studying flashcards in the bathroom, or reading comics. It is those additional hours that allow others to appear to learn faster than me, when in reality they are just putting in more hours.

You don't study unless you are with your tutor? Hmm.... Sounds like a motivation problem then.

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It could also be a study material problem. I never found children's stories interesting enough to hold my attention for very long.

(Comics on the other hand were a different story, back in the day I bought a bunch of my favourite Tintin comics in Chinese, and ploughed my way though them).

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Scoobyqueen
It is those additional hours that allow others to appear to learn faster than me

They probably put in the hours because they are motivated to do so. Are you motivated?

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wushijiao
I guess the million dollar question for me is "How do I brainwash myself to like something I hate?"

This is a good question, and it’s the heart of the matter. :mrgreen:

I might suggest a few things to help you:

1) Come to terms with the reality that Chinese uses 漢字(汉字) and there is nothing you, or anyone else, can do about it, for better or for worse. Russians will keep on using Cyrillic. The English speaking world will continue to write in the roman alphabet, and with a spelling set that doesn’t match the phonetics. Hindi in India will keep on using Devanagari. China will continue to use characters. This sounds like common sense. But it might be worth really, deeply thinking about this for a few minutes- this is the reality, and it cannot be changed. I think the first step is to accept reality, without putting any judgment value on saying “this realty is good” or “this reality is bad”. It simply is.

2) Try to embrace, head on, the aspects of learning the writing system that frustrate you the most. I suspect that you don’t like, probably, A) the characters that have dual or multiple pronunciations (多音字), the fact that there is no spacing in words (making it difficult to know where a word ends)…etc. I think the biggest way to do a mental 180 on this, and turn the frustration into a sense of accomplishment, is to find a text that looks interesting to you, and then sit down with a plan to study for, say, 2-4 hours; don’t measure progress by how much you can understand. Try measuring progress by how many words you look up in a dictionary! For me, at one point, I used to wake up in the morning with a goal to look up at least 100 words by the end of the day. If I didn’t look up at least that many, I’d consider myself lazy, or a failure. What are the advantages to this mental attitude/goal? First, you no longer see “what you don’t know” in a negative light, and it becomes almost impossible to feel negative about yourself. Second, looking words up, especially if you do it by looking for the radical, can really help you get good at separating the radical/phonetic part, which is crucial. Third, you learn new vocabulary, which is, in my opinion, the number one factor in enabling a person to understand a new language. Fourth, for probably half the words you choose to look up, you might be able to make a semi-educated guess at what the word’s meaning is, by looking at one (or two) of its character components. Of your guesses, about half will probably be right, maybe half wrong. Over time, however, you will probably find that your guesses will get better and better. This can give you a sense of accomplishment. In sum, I really can’t overemphasize how important and useful dictionary work is. Using a dictionary will enable you to “explore” the language using your own tastes and interests as a guide, and not rely on a prepared text that somebody else thinks is interesting. In fact, if you do just 30 hours of dictionary work (roughly one hour a day of free reading per day, or about 7-8 hours per weekend, looking up as many words as you can, not reading for gist, but purposely trying to look up everything) I bet anything you’ll notice that you’ve made substantial gains in terms of vocabulary, reading speed, and what you can understand, and I bet your intuition about Chinese will have improved. Mentally speaking, whenever you make a guess about a word or a sentence’s meaning, and then looking it up and find that you were right, take a small moment to pause and feel proud of yourself and your accomplishments. So, stubbar, if you manage to do 30 hours or so of doing massive dictionary work (don’t even think of it as “reading” necessarily), I would bet anything that your attitude towards 汉字 and Chinese in general will improve, because your new feelings will be based on solid accomplishments that you are personally 100% confident that you have made. Also, by that point, you will know that you know how to learn by yourself and your own intuition, which will give you more confidence.

However, while I think that hardcore dictionary work is an extremely useful for the reasons mentioned above, it doesn’t have to be the standard way you read forever. Just as in basketball, at the beginning of the season, it’s useful to do certain drills (boxing out drills, passing drills, sprints…etc) and while these drills aren’t directly related to the actual game, they do make certain aspects of your game better. Sprinting drills (like dictionary work) isn’t all that fun, but beating your opponents because you are faster and quicker is fun! Of course, you can choose any analogy to sports or music or whatever, but drills do have a purpose. Daily goals targeting massive dictionary work are great for reversing attitude issues.

3) It might be good to choose more interesting things than kids stories. I‘d strongly recommend that you choose something you are personally interested in. I’ve said many times that I believe that novels are the best way to learn to read, once you’re at an intermediate or advanced intermediate stage. Why? 1) Authors repeat their core vocabulary again and again. 2) After a while, you basically understand the plot and the surrounding context makes understanding unfamiliar words and phrases to be much, much easier to guess compared to random newspaper articles or short stories. 3) You can get emotionally involved in a novel in a way that you can’t for a newspaper article or probably most short stories. 4) After finishing a novel, you’ll have a certain sense of confidence that almost no other language-related accomplishment can give you.

So, your first novel might take three or four months or maybe more, but that’s ok. It's probably three or four months better spent than just reading boring textbooks, random newspaper articles, or other things.

In general, Chinese is hard, characters are hard, and it takes a lot of time. Rather than looking at all the difficulties and problems with the system, try to focus on all of the progress you’ve already made. If you can already read 2,500 sentences, that means that the hard part of building a beginners/intermediate’s foundation is already pretty much done. It'd be a shame to not go on to the next stage (which is where the real fun and enjoyment and excitement from understanding real texts begins) just because you don’t like Hanzi!

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