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leosmith

systematic isolated character study

Do you think systematic isolated character study will make one literate faster?  

  1. 1. Do you think systematic isolated character study will make one literate faster?

    • yes
      11
    • no
      16
    • I don't know
      7


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rob07

After working through a couple of beginners level books (which got me to about 800 characters), I felt that if I read one more passage in which the inherent superiority of Chinese culture dawned on a couple of ignorant foreign friends, I would tear off my own head and eat it.

So I stopped learning for a while but eventually bit the bullet and rote memorised the remaining characters on the 2000 list so I could go straight to reading worthwhile material. I was learning Chinese in order to read novels so I wasn't that interested in learning how to express myself grammatically. Once I had learnt the 2000, because I was missing the grammatical/contextual base, I still found reading hard so I needed to go back to the textbooks to read the passages and example sentences. Because I knew all the characters I was then able to skim through another four levels of textbook in a couple of months. By that point I was ready to start reading novels. My first was 一座城池 by 韩寒.

I don't know if that was a particularly efficient way to learn, but it seems to have worked OK. I voted yes, because if I had had to spend any longer with the textbooks, I doubt I would have survived.

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werdnerd

For me I would definitely say yes. But perhaps that is just my engineering sort of temperament. For myself though, learning characters when I started learning Chinese was not particularly efficient. It was more enjoyable to learn pinyin first and then when I became conversational to start learning characters.

I applied the same systematic approach to learning both pinyin and then characters... learning syllable/radicals and then building up and learning more complex characters. In addition, applying memory association techniques as well even made words sink in more quickly. Of course this must be combined with conversation/reading appropriate to your level. It is never good in isolation.

Like Imcgraw, I come from an engineering background, so maybe it is in our nature. Also similarly, I've worked on a website to make this easier for myself. Originally I used sites like www.zhongwen.com for memory associations combined with my own implimentation of the Leitner card system as implimented by the Mnemosyne and Anki apps, but in the end, i found it more effective to have these combined together in one location.

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renzhe
I think that the "lack of reading material" at an appropriate level doesn't apply after about one year of study, if you are willing to invest in a decent handwriting recognition dictionary. There are 45 books of Doraemon (not to mention a spin off series). With the aid of the pen-input dictionary, you can quickly get to a stage where you could understand and enjoy the stories without it (if you had to).

I've stocked up on Doraemon. I love it! :mrgreen:

Don't need a dictionary at all, so it's some easy reading from time to time to keep my reading skill fresh. Thanks for the tip.

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yersi

In my experience, isolated character study (as in looking up a character in the dictionary, learning all the different definitions and pronunciations) is useless except for classical Chinese

Rote memorization of words, however, is an absolute necessity. I found the best way is to learn the characters through words, not the other way around.

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lilongyue

I voted no because in modern Chinese most words are made up a two characters. A fact often bandied around foreigners learning Chinese is how learning "X" number of characters is required to read a newspaper, etc. What usually isn't mentioned is that besides needing to know all those characters, one needs to know what that character means in combination with hundreds of other characters, as meaning can and does change. If you look at it this way, learning 2,000 characters, which seems overwhelming at first, is quickly dwarfed by learning an actual vocabulary whose number is something like 2,000 to the power of 5 or 6, taking into account all the words that contain a character. I personally would find it more informative to include numbers of words needed to read a Chinese newspaper, for example, as well as number of characters.

Before I started studying Chinese in school, when I was just studying by myself, I found the fact that each character has a meaning really confusing. There are many characters with the same meaning, but not all are used to make a word that has that meaning, Some are also more "literary" in nature, not used in 口语, some are rarely used or not used at all anymore, other characters having taken over the job.

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imron
is quickly dwarfed by learning an actual vocabulary whose number is something like 2,000 to the power of 5 or 6

I agree with what you say about learning words, however I have a slight problem with your maths! 2,000 to the power of 5 is: 32,000,000,000,000,000, and 2,000 to the power of 6 is 64,000,000,000,000,000,000. :help I think we can all be thankful that there aren't this many words in the Chinese language :mrgreen:

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renzhe
If you look at it this way, learning 2,000 characters, which seems overwhelming at first, is quickly dwarfed by learning an actual vocabulary whose number is something like 2,000 to the power of 5 or 6, taking into account all the words that contain a character. I personally would find it more informative to include numbers of words needed to read a Chinese newspaper, for example, as well as number of characters.

The HSK Advanced test (an extremely challenging test to say the least) uses about 3000 characters and 10,000 words, so the relationship between words and characters is not as extreme as you say. If you pass the HSK with grade 11, you should be able to comfortable read most papers.

Besides, some people find word study infinitely easier than character study -- once you know the characters. If you know the meaning of the characters involved, it is often (though not always, not by a long shot) easy to remember the meaning of the word.

The "Know xxxx characters to read yyy" thing only works for native speakers who are fluent in the language. Obviously characters alone will get you nowhere, and nobody is advocating NOT learning words.

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lilongyue
I have a slight problem with your maths! 2,000 to the power of 5 is: 32,000,000,000,000,000, and 2,000 to the power of 6 is 64,000,000,000,000,000,000.

It's hyperbole, dear Watson!

the relationship between words and characters is not as extreme as you say

I find a tripling (and then a bit more) of characters to words a rather large ratio, but I guess that's just me.

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renzhe

I think everyone agrees that many beginners get hung up on "how many characters till I can read so-and-so" and misunderstand the concept of 词.

But learning thousands of words is the same in any language. 10,000 words to read a book is not a big deal -- you have to learn that for Spanish, Greek, Russian, or any other language, at least that order of magnitude.

The main difference is that you can learn the Roman, Greek or Cyrillic alphabet in about 1 hour, and the rest goes into learning words and you can learn the Chinese writing system in about 5 years and the rest goes into learning words.

Which is why people learn characters by rote.

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