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许三观卖血记 余华


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As mentioned in the 2012 objectives thread I intend to read my first native adult level book. I've chosen 许三观卖血记 from 余华. The main reason is it's by far the easiest book I managed to find so far:)

When only number of characters and vocabulary are considered 许三观卖血记 is of a comparable level as 活着。Number of characters 1903 versus 1899 and vocabulary 4243 versus 4425 different words. On my first analysis however I had a comprehension rate of about 84.2% for 许三观卖血记 versus only 78% for 活着. As I've not diverted that much from the HSK list it looks like 许三观卖血记 has a more basic vocabulary. (I made no proper analysis of that). Add to the mix that 许三观卖血记 is about 30% longer. Longer may be a disadvantage as a first book, but makes that repetition is much higher which is good for learning.

As said, when I discovered the book I had a comprehension rate of about 84.2% based on words studied (=not perfectly known). As a preparation for reading the book I added the quick wins in the vocabulary list to Anki and sample read a few random pages and added some vocabulary of those to Anki too. The pages I read felt a lot easier than 活着 in my earlier attempt a few months back. It also was easier then Alice in Wonderland despite the vocabulary of Alice being quite a bit smaller and a childrensbook.

The preparations together with vocabulary of the other study activities I lifted the theoretical comprehension rate to about 88%. As I need a pop-up dictionary and a fair bit of rereading going will be slow but it should be doable. I aim at a minimum of 1 page a day and a bit extra in the weekends so I finish it before april when I study Chinese seriously for a year.

For those interested to join I'll add the complete vocabulary list.

If someone knows where to get an audiobook for this please let me know.

(all mentioned numbers are approximations based as the copy I downloaded and the tools used are not perfect:))

许三观卖血记_余华.xls

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Wow, I commend you on your preperation for a book.

I'd have to disagree with your approach to literature though. You seem to be treating it like it's some sort of life or death situation where if any mistake whatsoever is made, people will die!

Of course, in reality this isn't the case. Your goal of one page a day is much too low of what you should be aiming for. Just pick up the book and start reading! If you don't understand a word that keeps showing up, look it up. Read until your eyes bleed, take a break, and continue where you left off.

Treat it the same way you treated reading books for the first time as a child. Your English seems to be at a very high level, so I'm guessing that it's your first language.

If you spend all of your time preparing and analyzing, when are you going to actually read?

It's like the tortoise and the hare; the hare was so preoccupied with cheating and trying to delay the tortoise than actually finish the race.

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I think this xls file is great, and it actually encouraged me to pick it up and "race" you to the end.

I am not sure about the subject matter, as it seems to be outside of my usual reading.

I just finished the first chapter, and it was interesting to say the least :)

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This book was actually very different from what I imagined it would be. I thought it was going to be a tale focused mainly around the selling of blood and the tragedy of what happens to the people involved with that, however it ended up instead being a story about a guy's life, and how he would sell his blood every few years when he found he was in need of some cash, with very little blood-selling related tragedy involved. In fact, the blood selling only has a minor role in the entire novel compared to the other events in his life, although it's still important from the perspective of how it drives and shapes the personality of the main character.

I did enjoy reading it though, and would agree that it's a good book for people starting out with native-level literature.

I'd have to disagree with your approach to literature though.

I disagree with your disagreement :D

Probably more so for Chinese compared to other languages, when choosing reading material, I've found it's important to choose something at the right level otherwise it will have a serious effect on your motivation and enjoyment, which in turn will affect how long you continue with the activity.

Speaking from personal experience, if you just "pick something up and start reading", there's a good chance that you'll put it down again quite quickly once you tire from the strain of reading something too far above your level.

Likewise, when you're first starting to get in to literature, reading 'til your eyes bleed, having a rest, and then starting again will likely lead to burnout, followed by giving up before too long. What you want to do instead is develop a reading habit by setting yourself a manageable reading goal that you can accomplish every day over a prolonged period of time, regardless of what else is going on in your life, and something you can complete even if you are finding a section of the book not very interesting.

The OP sounds like he has a good understanding of what is a comfortable amount of reading for him, and bear in mind that his goal is stated as a minimum, if he finds that he is enjoying the reading and finding it not too much of a strain, and there are no other external issues placing a demand on his time, then quite probably that amount will increase. Likewise, as the OP's reading improves he'll find himself naturally increasing this amount to match newer comfort levels.

Personally, I think spending a bit of time to pick something at the right level, and setting yourself a pace that you know you can meet day-in, day-out, is a very good approach to beginning Chinese literature. To bring it back to the main lesson from the story of the hare and the tortoise, "slow and steady wins the race".

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Of course, in reality this isn't the case. Your goal of one page a day is much too low of what you should be aiming for. Just pick up the book and start reading! If you don't understand a word that keeps showing up, look it up. Read until your eyes bleed, take a break, and continue where you left off.

Your approach is good for 'easy' material, for extensive reading, not when comprehension is well below 90%. When loosing that much information I see no point in reading any more. It becomes boring and I doubt there will be much of a learning effect. I ' rush' through with easy material where I studied nearly all the vocabulary and I've 'only' to deal with a few really unknown words, the different meanings of words and grammar issue's and even then I may reread parts.

This book is surely not extensive reading for me. It's intensive reading, it's study.

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1 page a day is a good amount to start with. You'll soon find that you can read more and more as it gets easier. Don't be afraid to read more if you notice that it's within reach, you will be surprised at your progress.

Areckx did give you one good piece of advice, not to worry TOO much about understanding every little thing, as long as you have a good grasp of the story. The first book is a hard read, but it should be enjoyable, after all.

加油 !

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Actually, almost anything by Yu Hua is good for learners, in my opinion.

Why is that? Because they use simple words? Or because his writing is close to the standard? Or because they reflect the "reality"? I don't understand why people on this forum like his books so much.

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I think it's because his books are fairly simple and use are relatively simple vocabulary, with easy to understand plots. It can be very difficult to find books that fit, level-wise, or that aren't so specific to certain Chinese issues that they seem inaccessible.

Of course, as one gets more advanced in their reading skills, they hopefully could/should expand to other authors/genres. In that vein, I'd highly recommend a Sinica podcast about current Chinese literature:

http://popupchinese.com/lessons/sinica/chinese-literature

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Thanks very much for the link Wushijiao. 郭精明 the Simon Cowell of Chinese literature LOL.

Yes, for the first book or two the simple language is the most important thing, which accounts for a lot of 余华's popularity with learners. Although, to be fair to the guy he was named in Wushijiao's link as being in the top 4 established modern Chinese novelists; obviously that sort of thing is always going to be debatable but he must have more than simple language going for him.

For beginners, I would also recommend the famous Hong Kong novelist 亦舒, her books are based around everyday dialogue which means that many (maybe even most) of her paragraphs are only a couple of sentences long or less.

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Hey Rob07...just for clarification, I really enjoyed Yu Hua's work too, and feel he is a significant literary figure! However, it's worth recognizing (as I'm sure you know) that there are many other authors out there, and so his books might be seen just as a first step. His books are also somewhat controversial, especially the later ones...

Thanks for the recommendation on亦舒 !

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A short update on my progress.

I made good progress last week. Just finished chapter 9 which means I've finished nearly a quarter of the book and well ahead of schedule. This thanks to a bit of traveling and consequently had some bus/train time to fill. But at the cost of my listening practice. So, I'll have to see how I'll progress next week.

So far it was easier going then expected. I went through it relatively smoothly with a fairly high comprehension rate. Though I surely missed out on some parts, other parts of the story paint very vivid images. Some parts I rely heavily on my pop-up dictionary. I notice that I tend to overuse the pop-up dictionary. I also tend to use it for words I really know and just as a confirmation if I doubt. I'm not yet sure whether/how much I should fight this. It makes reading more smooth and enjoyable. As suchs its good however it's at the cost of the learning experience as I put in less effort to really read/understand the text directly. For now I won't fight it too much and see how things go.

The story itself is very straightforward. It's so far not really about selling blood as well about (family)live in some village. Some of the conversations come across as simplistic and/or artificial to me. But maybe that's to paint the spirit of that time and intelectual level of the people. In some aspects I really recognise things from my youth and the stories from my (grand)parents. Though set on another continent, it feels close to home. Very interesting!

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Some of the conversations come across as simplistic and/or artificial to me. But maybe that's to paint the spirit of that time and intelectual level of the people.

I picked up this book from the library and started reading it a couple of days ago too. My interpretation is that the characters aren't really intended as "real people", but as caricatures. Of course, other people may have different interpretations. :)

Quite surprisingly, I'm finding the book hilarious and a real page turner. The author is a comedic genius.

Language-wise, it's a lot easier to read than 平凡的世界 that was recommended in another thread (tried that one first). Overall, I'd say it's a good "first real book" to read.

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I read this book during my winter break as well as 十个词汇里的中国.。All in all, I think it is a great book to make your first one, the language is simple enough that it is easy to follow the story pretty easily, yet at the same time interesting enough that you don't lose focus while reading it. I'd say that the striking resemblence to the Jerry Springer show within the first few chapters has as much an impact on your reading ahead of schedule as does having been traveling etc.

Keep up the good work.

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So I finished reading this book yesterday. It was a good and straightforward read despite my admittedly very average Chinese language skills. Highly recommended reading! :P

If I had known what the book was actually about before, I would probably have read it much earlier. As has been mentioned upthread, this book is less about selling blood and more about depicting the life of a man and his family during a very turbulent time in Chinese history (including the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the Down to the Countryside Movement). In fact, the basic setup reminds me a lot of 活着 by the same author (I haven't tackled that book yet, but did watch the movie maybe three times or so!), so if you liked that one at all I think this one should be a hit.

Oh, and I cried quite a few times while reading this book, which could make it awkward if you read in a public place, such as a coffee shop!

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