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xuefang

From intermediate to advanced level

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xuefang

I would like to get advice and start discussion about how to get from intermediate to advanced level in Chinese.

For me it feels like that getting to the intermediate stage is not that hard, but getting to advanced (then to fluency) is the hard part. I constantly feel that I'm not improving or progress to slowly. I'm doing a Chinese as a foreign language undergraduate degree so I'm a full-time Chinese language student. Still it doesn't seem to be enough.

I found some interesting information online about how to get through the plateau and get to the advanced level. (Some of my own comments in italics.)

Dave at Chinese Hacks: Progressing from intermediate to advanced Chinese

  • Continue on and make it through
  • Whatever it is that interests you, learn that (Have limited time for this because of my degree, but all the extra studying I try to keep as interesting as possible)
  • Spend a few hours per week or once a day if you have time, reading and listening to online news reports (This I still haven't done, because don't find it that interesting, but I should still do it.)
  • You need to pick the right teacher for each level of learning (Can't really choose my teachers.)

Jack C. Richards: Moving Beyong the Plateau

In this article Jack goes over the problems that many upper-intermediate students have:

  • There is a gap between receptive and productive competence.
  • Fluency may have progressed at the expense of complexity.
  • Learners have a limited vocabulary range.
  • Language production may be adequate but often lacks the
    characteristics of natural speech.
  • There are persistent, fossilized language errors.

> I think I have all the problems he listed on this article!

Alexander Arguelles:

(Youtube)

In this video Alexander answers to a quetions on how to get from 2000/3000 words to 7000 words (from Assimil to extensive reading skills). Here are some techniques to try:

  • further textbook work (I do still have 综合 class!)
  • Other grammatical work (I have 现代汉语虚词 course at the uni)
  • primers and readers
  • bilingual texts and trasnlations
  • immersion stay (Just living in China doesn't really help anymore.)
  • dictionary work (Olle at Hacking Chinese have written about this too: Memorising dictionaries to boost reading ability)
  • specific vocabulary work (Skritter!)
  • extensive reading (This is what I'm trying to do by reading five novels in 2012.)

My own biggest problem

Besides having all the problems on Alexander's list, I think my weakest part right now is spoken Chinese. When I read a book I understand certain vocabulary, but when speaking all that vocab seem to disappear. I still haven't figured out the best way to improve my spoken Chinese a bit faster.

So what I'm after then?

This looks like that I'm after a check list and after completing that list I'd be fluent. (If you happen to have that kind of list, please share!) But what I hope to discuss is to hear from advanced and fluent members and hear how they got from intermediate to advanced. I would also like to hear from fellow intermediate-plateau learners what are you doing in order to get to the next level.

What did you do to reach fluency in Chinese? Or what are you planning to do/doing right now?

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gato

What kind of practice are you doing in listening,speaking, and reading? And how many hours per week?

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imron
This looks like that I'm after a check list and after completing that list I'd be fluent. (If you happen to have that kind of list, please share!)

As luck would have it, I do have such a list :D

Pick the area you are weak in, and drill it until you are not weak in that area. Then move on to the next weakest area and repeat. It's boring, but it works.

For the speaking drills linked to in the above post, it's important as well that you are actually memorising the dialogue, rather than just reading from a transcript. The more you practice, the more you'll find phrasings that you have remembered popping up naturally in your normal speech. It might also be useful to use dialogues from something like 锵锵三人行 rather than the PSC recordings, because the stuff from 锵锵 will be actual conversation. They also have transcripts, and if you'd prefer to be mimicking female voices rather than males, they also regularly have female guests (one of whom also has her own show - although the transcripts for that show don't appear to exist for more recent episodes).

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xuefang

@gato

I don't have a listening course at the moment, but I have other courses about 20 hours per week where I ofcourse listen to the teachers teaching in Chinese. Besides this I watch few episodes of Chinese TV every week and occasionally a bit Beijing story radio.

For speaking I have a course at the uni, but there's not much speaking happening there. I got more practice at 中国国情 course which is mostly discussion, but there no one corrects me. Besides that I try to improve my pronunciation with listening and repeating stories (Graded Chinese Reader 2 with mp3). I also speak Chinese everyday at home with my bf, but that's not enough anymore (Mandarin isn't his native language).

And reading I got from reading 综合, 现代汉语, 对外汉语教学导论 textbooks (latter two are meant for Chinese students). I also have a goal to read five Chinese novels this year and try to read atleast few times per week before going to sleep.

So I can manage in most situations in Chinese that come to my way, but it's not that fluent, pretty or grammatically correct.

@imron

I will surely go over your check list! I've been recently thinking that Chinese people actually know how to learn their own language and all that memorising isn't maybe that bad after all.

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skylee
I think my weakest part right now is spoken Chinese.

Same here (I mean Mandarin) as I seldom have the chance to speak it. And when I do, the tones come out wrong, or I don't know how to pronounce what I want to say. And one more thing, I think some people are better with the spoken language, and some are just not as good, regardless of the language.

This is probably not helpful. But don't lose heart. 加油. :)

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gato

Speaking: It seems that you could benefit from some 1-on-1 help on speaking?

How about trying to find an online teacher at italk?

http://www.italki.co...99999-0-0-1.htm

Or a language exchange partner at

http://www.livemocha.com/

Reading: It seems that you are reading mostly from textbooks. I'd encourage you to diversify your reading material. I found magazines to be a good source of reading material. They provide a diversity of topics. The writing is usually a little better than the average newspaper article.

Try 南方人物 (interviews with famous people from various sectors), and 南方周刊 (a weekly current events magazine). Both are probably fine for your level.

http://www.nfpeople.com/

http://www.nbweekly.com/

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laurenth

@imron

The site you mention in your "Speaking" article does not seem to work (www.yskoucai.com). Maybe the drills your suggest would work equally well with any textbook + CD? Or does the mp3s of that site have something special that makes them particularly well-suited for improving speaking skill? (the "koucai" part in the URL?)

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imron

The recordings linked to in that post were just the standard practice recordings for the 普通话水平测试. It shouldn't be too hard to find them with a web search (I'll try and update the links shortly). I used them because at the time they were a good source of native recording + transcript. Any other recordings you can find that have transcripts will work just as well (see links to 锵锵三人行 above), and if your 听力 is up for it you don't necessarily need the transcript either (it just makes the memorisation process easier, especially if you encounter any unknown words).

The key is being able to recite sentences and paragraphs from memory at the same speed and intonation as a native speaker, and doing it regularly enough so that what feels artificial at first will start to become more and more natural and then gradually make its way into your normal speech patterns.

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xuefang

@skylee It's comforting to know I'm not the only one :) I'm not that talkative person in Finnish or English, so it should be natural that I'm not talkative in Chinese either, but it doesn't really help my spoken skills.

@gato A tutor would be great to have to help me with speaking and pronunciation. The problem is time and money. I can't afford to pay at the moment or use my time to teach someone Finnish or English in return. I think I have to get back to this when the situation is different and allows me to have a tutor. I used to have a tutor before and it was very useful. Or maybe I could try if the Chinese students studying 对外汉语教学 would like to practice with me for free.

You are right, besides textbooks I only read one novel at the time in Chinese and no other native material. Imron's method included reading newspapers and I think I should make time for that.

@Imron I found the daily news podcasts by ABC Radio Australia (if you meant these), but didn't find the transcripts.

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gato

You could try to looking for a language exchange partner on italki. Doing an exchange online would help save some traveling time. For language exchange to work well, you'd have to come up with a plan for what you want to focus on in your half of the exchange and make that clear to your partner.

http://www.italki.co...-200-0--0-1.htm

Language Partners: Chinese (Mandarin) Speakers

I prefer magazines to newspapers because the articles tend to more in-depth and interesting.

EDIT: Just saw your recent video at http://sarajaaksola.com/saras-mandarin-monday-introducing-my-schedule-in-chinese-video-clip/

I think you need to work more on your pronunciation. Try imron's method of recording yourself and repeating the same text until you get clear improvement.

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xuefang

@gato I've recently made the painful notice that I didn't pay enough attention to the pronunciation at the beginning. And then I was happily in the state when native speakers understood me and I though everything is fine. But then came the realisation that I have a lof of work to do and started The Imron Method today. If there's some more detailed feedback you would like to give me about my pronunciation, it's highly appreciated.

I saw

yesterday and was amazed by his Chinese pronunciation, sounds like a native accent!

EDIT: I'm trying a method that combines The Imron Method and shadowing. I will listen to the original sentence many times, listen and repeat. But I will also try shadowing with the same sentence, listening and recording at the same time, then listening the original and mine at the same time. I hear that I don't say it correctly, but it's hard to spot the mistakes and what to do in order to get it sound better.

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gato

How about supplementing the Imron Method by finding a language exchange partner or teacher and spending a half hour or so on just reading a single paragraph of text out loud and getting the pronunciation (and rhythm) right?

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roddy

If you're staying in one place for the next year or so and could afford it, hunt down anyone who teaches students preparing for the 普通话水平测试 - try the local 教育学院 or similar - and pay them to tutor you.

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xuefang

@gato That was exactly what I used to do with my tutor a year ago when I had one.

As soon as my financial situation allows me to I'll find someone to tutor me. It shouldn't be hard to find a student, because here at SYSU we have lot of Chinese students that want to become teachers.

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imron
@Imron I found the daily news podcasts by ABC Radio Australia (if you meant these), but didn't find the transcripts.

Grrr, that's the problem with the Internet, everyone's always changing their links. A quick visit to the main page shows they've updated the entire site and It looks like the transcripts no longer exist. In any case, anything with a transcript will work just as well, and I would now recommend 锵锵三人行 over ABC Radio Australia anyway, as it is a more interesting show. Incidentally, that clip you show of Julien Gaudfroy is from 锵锵三人行 :D

If there's some more detailed feedback you would like to give me about my pronunciation, it's highly appreciated.

Post a sample of your pronunciation here, and you'll have a bunch of people lining up to give you open and honest feedback on all your mistakes :D

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xuefang

@imron Thanks for reminding me of that topic, I just posted my sample!

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jkhsu

I just gave you some comments on your pronunciation so check it out.

Another suggestion: To improve your speaking abilities (not related to pronunciation), you might want to practice summarizing what you've read. Read a paragraph and then close the book and summarize what you've just read in Chinese (by speaking out loud). For the next level, read a paragraph in English (or in any other non-Chinese language) then summarize it in Chinese. I'd start with simple readings first. Eventually, you'll train your brain to be composing in Chinese.

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roddy

Students will be cheap and easy to find. But don't underestimate the value of someone who has years of fixing pronunciation problems. Someone who can listen to you say something and actually tell you where your tongue was, and where it should have been, or rather than just saying 'your first tones aren't quite right' can tell you that they're at the right level but dropping off at the end.

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xuefang

@jkhsu Thank you for the suggestion, that's something no one have suggested before. Great idea!

@roddy You are right. Just because someone is a native speaker doesn't mean that they can teach their language. I'm taking a 现代汉语 course at the moment and we just finished the phonetics part, so in theory I should know hot to pronounce things, but it doesn't mean that I can actually do it.

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