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Gharial

Dictionary look-up skills: a crash course!

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Gharial

Edit: This thread might've been better titled as something like "How to improve your long-term Chinese dictionary look-up speed and skills", or indeed "The Essentials of Handwriting If Not Stroke-Counting: What the Dictionaries Don't Tell You" lol. At the very least, it will hopefully help newbies make more informed and thus better dictionary purchases!

 

The following gifs present a (more or less complete) crash course in mastering dictionary look-up skills (simplified ~ ) and all that that entails (strokes, counting strokes, radicals and their most frequent positions, residues, subarrangements of characters in indexes, etc). This course is designed to lead into my 'Guide to Simplified Radicals' (although I posted that back in February! http://www.chinese-f...ified-radicals/ ), which also consists of a set of gifs. Among a few other things, I've removed explicit guidance on certain stroke orders, and on how to write with a brush, from these crash course gifs (I hope however that there is still enough implicit guidance contained within 'em).

Any comments are very welcome!

NB: A revised version of page 1 has been added, to incorporate suggestions made by various members in the thread below. (This revised page originally didn't appear until post #30 on page 2 of this thread, but it will obviously be much more useful now placed here at the start of page 1!).

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jkhsu

Since you asked for comments: Who is your primary intended audience for this? I've spent years using a book dictionary and this crash course confuses me. If your primary audience are beginner Chinese students, then I'd suggest having a very simple explanation of how to use a dictionary.

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roddy

This looks about fourteen times more complicated than it needs to be.

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Gharial

Thanks for the reply, jkhsu. The intended audience is adults who intend to (or would like to) study the equivalent of at least a year or two at university-ish level, which involves tackling Chinese characters.

I guess when you say it's confusing, you mean simply that it provides more than is absolutely required or usually provided (rather than that anything is actually so unclear or incorrect - but please tell me if so!), or that it presents a radical system that is quite different to whatever ones you are presumably familiar with, and I take your point that absolute beginners could do with having a very simple explanation explicitly given at least in passing. (Which would you suggest I now insert near the beginning of the crash course, the paltry instructions from the CCD3*, or something more along the lines of the following? "You look up the radical first, e.g. three-dot water, then the residual number of strokes, e.g. the five strokes of eye, and BAM! you're effortlessly looking up each and every Chinese character now, no more tears at all!". But seriously, I think it's all too easy to forget exactly what's involved in becoming conversant with let alone at all expert in Chinese dictionary conventions, and my pedagogical instinct is always to provide more rather than less, given that a fair bit of the material produced for learning Chinese is inadequate and of little use for ongoing, serious reference purposes).

Now I'm not saying that every point I've raised in the crash course if not the radical guide is so very valuable and can't instead be simply picked up along the "hard way", but I hope I'm right in assuming that there is at least some demand for generally more detailed rather than less detailed resources. (I mean, I can imagine somebody using a so-so dictionary like the CCD3 and sooner or later wondering if there is actually any rhyme or reason to its index's apparent jumble of characters beyond the radical and residual stroke-count sorting, that might make locating particular characters a bit faster. Anyone who reads my crash course, or at least pokes their nose into something like the original ABC C-E Dictionary's appendices, will soon realize that there isn't any rhyme or reason in the CCD3, and that it is therefore a somewhat inferior product that could be bettered, and is shortchanging its customers. (To give but one example of the use of my materials: educating people so that they can make more informed purchases!)).

*"Use pages 3-4 [i.e. the radical chart - Gharial] to identify the radical. Note the number preceding it. Then, in the index on pages 5-42, use this number to find all the characters appearing in this dictionary which contain the radical. Characters are ordered according to the number of strokes. The pinyin given will lead you to the correct entry."

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Gharial

Thanks for the exact figure, Roddy. (It's good to be able to put one's finger on stuff like that :lol: ). I would say it (Chinese writing, if not my course) is simply complex rather than (unnecessarily) complicated, and I think too many so-called resources gloss over or somehow underestimate and fail to answer the range of questions that learners may in fact have. But I suppose I can/will accept that these latest gifs are possibly a bit OTT...though can the same be said of the 5-page radical guide I posted in February? (Which, I was imagining, would strike some people as being far too detailed to easily consume without some sort of introduction such as these latest 9 "crash course" gifs try to provide! :conf8):) ).

Anyway, thanks for the feedback, though I'd obviously be a lot more interested in hearing the views of relative beginners to Chinese than from veterans who've "been there, done it all" already. (Here's to hoping a few such newbies reply at some point and say something like "That wasn't too much at all, in fact, it was just what I needed! Thanks!" LOL :P:wink: ).

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Gharial

Actually jkhsu, I've just remembered that I do indeed provide a pretty clear and straightforward example of character look-up: see the third crash course gif, paragraph 2. But as I also explain on that page, knowing a bit more than "all that" (i.e. about initial stroke-types also) will really help one increase one's look-up speed (certainly, in dictionaries where there may be little or no adequate explanation provided, or, as is the case with the Lexus-produced indexes in the Langenscheidt/Berlitz and CCD3 dictionaries, no actual character subarrangement/third-sort system to explain!).

Anyway, perhaps I should call this a course in SPEED look-up techniques or something, rather than in just somewhat plodding, absolute-need-to-know-only, conventional relatively well-known-already stuff? Then there'd be no excuses for people having nosebleeds at the thought of reading more than one page. :P:D:wink:8)

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imron
I've just remembered that I do indeed provide a pretty clear and straightforward example of character look-up: see the third crash course gif, paragraph 2
And there's your problem. How many people will give up after page one because they were expecting a crash course but it takes 3 pages just to get to a straightforward example? Plus, even for that example, you don't provide the full example for a single character. If I was writing this, at the very beginning I would do a complete example for a single character, that very quickly and briefly went through the basic steps required when looking up most characters (probably with pictures and highlighting relevant parts of the character involved):
  1. Identify radical
  2. Count radical strokes
  3. Find radical in index
  4. Count remaining strokes in character
  5. Find character in the index under the radical, and get page number/pinyin
  6. Lookup page number/pinyin to get the character

I would keep each of these sections as brief as possible and not go into detail about stroke types, stroke orders and so on, and would focus purely on a single character - no diversions into other characters/radicals or talking about exceptions/gotchas for tricky characters. This would serve purely as an introduction to give people an idea about the general steps required. At this point, people can stop reading if they like, having learnt a little bit about how dictionary lookup works in a Chinese dictionary. Following that, I would have separate sections that went into greater depth for each of the steps, providing the meat for people who wanted it.

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roddy
I'd obviously be a lot more interested in hearing the views of relative beginners to Chinese

The very small subset of beginners who would not use some form of handwriting input to copy the character, and who do not have a dictionary with a clearer explanation, and who would not just Google 'how to use a Chinese dictionary', would be scared off by the word 'graphetic'.

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Gharial

Many thanks for the reply, Imron (yours are always amongst the most considered and helpful on the forums). I'll certainly think about rewriting the course in line with what you (and previous posters) have recommended, even though I wonder if that will introduce a certain ("unavoidable") repetitiousness along with almost a "putting off" of unfortunate but ultimately unavoidable detail (in definitions, examples, exercises etc, for any student keen to get onto that meaty nourishing fare as opposed to possibly only barely surviving on limited eked-out meagre rations).

Anyway, I rather liked the residues plural that I presented (following the definitions of strokes, radicals etc) for what they implied (namely, that identifying [residue-]initial stroke-type blocks is actually a quite pressing matter, for anyone hoping to swiftly become efficient at searching especially paper dictionaries), and why provide only a single "full" example of a residue when you can provide 28 (that is, in real life, a radical + residue unfortunately never swims out of the blur of characters to appear and stand clear and alone for the user (unless they're always using powerful electronic or online dictionaries with handwriting input, and already have fairly neat and correct handwriting)). Plus I'm not sure quite where in the crash course gifs I started describing 'exceptions/gotchas for tricky characters', I was simply trying to point out and make the reader aware of the visual details in what they'll see (whether in my course or in a dictionary for real).

Lastly:

How many people will give up after page one because they were expecting a crash course but it takes 3 pages just to get to a straightforward example?

Hmm, I thought my course was the dictionary definition of 'crash course' (Chambers 21st Century: 6 as adj concentrated or intensive, so as to produce results in minimum time • a crash diet http://www.chambersh...urse&title=21st ). But I suppose it could also be a crash in the sense of 'car crash'. :help:lol:

Ah well. Back to the drawing board it seems. (I'm awarding myself a B+ :D ).

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Gharial
I'd obviously be a lot more interested in hearing the views of relative beginners to Chinese

The very small subset of beginners who would not use some form of handwriting input to copy the character, and who do not have a dictionary with a clearer explanation, and who would not just Google 'how to use a Chinese dictionary', would be scared off by the word 'graphetic'.

Leaving aside the wider course, what word or phrasing would you suggest I use other than 'graphetic', Roddy? 'Graphic'? (That didn't seem as suitable for some reason). Please completely rewrite everything for me so it includes no hard words, and send me my share of the royalties once you top the Chinese learning bestseller charts. :mrgreen::P

But seriously, anyone who can read English should('ve) be(en) able to follow the connection between the "need to look up unfamiliar characters by graphetic means" and the definition that rapidly followed: "which will require becoming familiar with the type and number of STROKES used to compose them". :nono:lol::wink::)

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LanguageBarrier

Hello Gharial

This has been very interesting and I appreciate your efforts to explain such a complicated

language.

In the mean time I will work through what you have provided along with the contributions from the other

forum members in anticipation of Version 2.

Your Mission Gharial should you choose to take it!!!

Revise / Simplify / Edit / and summarise the attached document to produce "Crash Course Elite" !

I did wonder if you could have an appendix with pictures of the discussed characters in larger font size

so there detail is clearly visible.

I was going to convert it to pdf but have just left it in Word 2003.

I look forward to the completed revised version Gharial.

Thanks Again

Note For Anyone Following This Topic

Please Don't Copy and Paste This Document Within The Forum So There Is Only One Master Copy Available.

Refer Here By Link

Click Link

Guide To Simplified Radicals Forum Topic

Crash Course.doc

Guide To Simplified Radicals.doc

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Gharial

Heh, glad you have taken a look at the course and are finding it interesting at least, LanguageBarrier! And despite all my rather shameful (though I hope good-natured enough) passive-aggressive flip-flopping between acknowleding the advice that's been given, but then still "extolling" the virtues of the course as it currently is, I will stop being so intransigent and lazy, and really will endeavour to rewrite it at some point (if only so you don't have to forever go around with a "document" consisting of copy 'n' pastes of Imron's post followed by my gifs LOL - way to twist my perfectionist arm! :P ).

It may take a while for me to get around to it however, as this crash course stuff is actually just a relatively minor introductory part of a bigger project (a dictionary of the 'phonetic' components of Chinese characters), and I still have to finish the other introductory part (on the pronunciation of Mandarin and the conventions of the Pinyin alphabet), and of course the dictionary (which could take years!). So this "crash course", which is ultimately about conventional dictionaries, will thus be sandwiched between stuff on Pinyin pronunciation and a somewhat unconventional dictionary (more nosebleeds ahoy! :D ). I say unconventional because it takes what people know about conventional dictionaries, and then discards as much as it builds upon that - there are more efficient ways to do the "same" things.

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LanguageBarrier

Hello Gharial

When you have sorted all your chinese learning commitments, you will be needing a crash course in English ha ha!!

I don't think you should be so hard on yourself, it was good of you to help me.

Remember when you get around to it, use KISS theory where possible when introducing beginners.

I look forward to reading your other posts.

:D

post-45472-0-41330100-1319155720_thumb.jpg

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Gharial
I did wonder if you could have an appendix with pictures of the discussed characters in larger font size

so their detail is clearly visible.

Here you go, LanguageBarrier. :wink:Appendix - Characters for Crash Course.doc

I haven't added tones or umlauts to the Pinyin, but it should be easy enough to refer back to the gifs for that.

If you want to know more about the radical-characters on the last page (i.e. page 4) of this Appendix/page 9 of the crash course gifs, as ever refer to the 'Guide to Simplified Radicals' thread and gifs linked to in post #1 above.

Oh, and nice cartoon, by the way! :)

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LanguageBarrier

Hello Gharial

Glad you like the aquired cartoon..... not by me (text only) :P

Thanks for directing me to "Guide to Simplified Radicals"

Ah.... retribution ..... the punishment!

Although I mentioned KISS Theory the reality it's an entirely different thing for sure.

This is one mean ....... !!!!%$*&

How did I get here from requesting the interpretation of two characters?

:help

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Gharial

Yup, by commencing the study of Chinese in apparent earnest, you've entered a superworld of pain! :twisted::lol::wink::D

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LanguageBarrier

Hello Gharial

To Quote Imron

A straightforward example? Plus, even for that example, you don't provide the full example for a single character.

Can you post Two Full examples here that you consider very useful to the beginner (helped you as a beginner)

to get him / her started.

:help

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Gharial

For anyone still interested, I've been practising writing lovely clear examples of radical + remaining stroke searches: http://www.chinese-f...post__p__262920

Edit: I see you've requested some FULL examples, LanguageBarrier. I trust this latest link provides 'em! :wink: And after trying to locate the two characters in question in the MDBG index (even with all the pointers and links I've provided), I think you'll be much better able to appreciate exactly why I've waxed so lyrical about the POCD and similar indexing so much, and tried to provide a detailed explanation of it in the crash course!

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