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DrWatson

(NPPLC) 2013 文言文 Beginner Study Group Proposal

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DrWatson

Greetings Fellow Chinese Language Enthusiasts,

I have never studied 文言文 before, and I currently don't have the means or facilities to enroll in a course for 文言文. After more than a year, nothing seems to be popping up on Coursea either! :) Nonetheless, I have always wanted to learn some basics, even if I never gain much skill in 文言文. While I could happily study on my own, I thought it might be interesting to try to put a study group together. Perhaps I just miss that collegial atmosphere from the university days...but it is always more interesting to discuss things in groups larger than one person.

Textbook/Material suggestion:

A New Practical Primer of Literary Chinese by Paul Rouzer. (ISBN-10: 067402270X, ISBN-13: 978-0674022706) About USD 26.00 on the Amazon, probably cheaper when purchased used.

I picked up the book for very little, and it appears to be rather self-contained, which I very much like. Each character introduced in a chapter has the Mandarin/Japanese/Korean pronunciation (good for typing, quick dictionary lookup), as well as the meanings and sometimes some explanatory text that adds context. Following the character break downs, there is a commentary section to go over grammatical issues or additional information that help in deciphering the original text. I finished lesson one thus far and though it was only three proverbs, the feeling of accomplishment was still strong.

The reason I proposed this text over some of the free online resources such as University of Virginia's Chinese Text Initiative is that the book is aimed at beginners and builds the foundation for moving onto more complex texts on one's own. Perhaps 2014 could be the year of the Tang Poem Study Group?

Next Steps:

If there is any interest in this idea, then we can further discuss logistics (sub-forum? Google group?) and what not. While the group would be targeting beginners/novices, all would certainly be welcome to participate.

So, any thoughts? Bad idea? Tried and done before and doomed to failure from the start? Mildly interesting? Very Interesting? Just please don't throw a shoe!

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Takeshi

Cool; count me in!

Thanks for introducing this book; it seems pretty good, and is better suited for self-study than like Fuller. I'm impressed it also has the kanbun readings, which is nice to have for me.

It would definitely be nice to have a bit of discussion atmosphere and all. I suppose we can all go through the lessons together, discuss our translations/interpretations of the text and all?

I just finished the first lesson; it's pretty simple though, not sure what much there is to discuss about this. The second and third verses are quite straightforward, but I will admit I'm not quite sure what 知命者不怨天知己者不怨人 means. I mean, I know the literal meaning from the words, but I can't really see the sense or the connection between the two lines so well.

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takuto20

I am very interested! I bought that same book last year and have not even opened it yet, so this study group could be the motivation I need. May I suggest setting up a Google+ community? They've got great features.

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Mindmaxd

知命者不怨天,知己者不怨人 People who knows his fate will not complain the god,People who knows himself will not complain other people don't understand you.The other half of this sentence is 怨天者无志,怨人者穷,The people who always complains god have no ambition,People who always complains other people will be poor.

The whole sentence told us if you want to be success don't waste your time to complain,think more of yourself and your life and then do something to change the bad situation.

Something like this.:P

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DrWatson

@Takeshi:

Thanks for introducing this book; it seems pretty good, and is better suited for self-study than like Fuller. I'm impressed it also has the kanbun readings, which is nice to have for me.

Definitely a cool feature, and one of my primary reasons for selecting the book is the self-study aspect. Should this group not take off for whatever reason, at least it is a text that one can work through at one's own pace. I can attest that with the information in lesson one, I was able to make a translation of the three proverbs, as well as complete the three practice exercises. I am sure their are fancier and more comprehensive texts, but at the price point and the self-study nature of the next, I think this text is well-suited for the non-academic learning in the non-university setting. At the least, it should set the stage for further rigorous study at a later point.

It would definitely be nice to have a bit of discussion atmosphere and all. I suppose we can all go through the lessons together, discuss our translations/interpretations of the text and all?

My overall idea was to go over the main text and answer questions, try to clear up ambiguities, and make sure the text is understood. Of course half the challenge is translating the Chinese into English that makes sense. One thing I appreciate about the text is that the author leaves the translation rather open-ended. Other areas of focus would be on grammatical patterns and expressions, and any sort of relevant historical or cultural knowledge necessary to further understand the text. I don't about anyone else, but I took Latin in secondary school and though most of the work was Latin->English, going from English->Latin very much reinforced my understanding of grammar and structure, and it also allowed me to practice using the vocabulary. I think sharing our attempts at the practice exercises could also be fun and even insight into the black art of C->E translation.

I just finished the first lesson; it's pretty simple though, not sure what much there is to discuss about this. The second and third verses are quite straightforward, but I will admit I'm not quite sure what 知命者不怨天知己者不怨人 means. I mean, I know the literal meaning from the words, but I can't really see the sense or the connection between the two lines so well.

So yes, lesson one is very simple, but in my opinion there were at least three major grammatical points raised in the lesson that serve as a basis for passages to come. By the time we get to lesson six, I suspect things will become more challenging. I'm a fan of a slow pace in the beginning, especially in a group environment because it gives the group time to ramp up and adjust to the pace. I'd be curious though what type of pace would be preferred for the group.

知命者不怨天,知己者不怨人。

I translated this as "One who knows fate does not regret the heavens; one who knows himself does not regret others." The challenge for me was trying to find a suitable meaning for 怨...still not sure I found the right word yet either. I am still not sure if "regret" is the best wording in English, but I think the meaning is still extractable. Mindmaxd also offers much more context that is helpful for understanding the text. Since the author extracted that line from a larger text, I agree that is is hard to connect the dots to fully understand the proverb.

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DrWatson

Some proposed logistics:

  • One lesson per week, and out of respect for the culture, we'd take off the week of 農曆新年 (Spring Festival), 清明節 (Tomb Sweeping Day), and 中秋節 (Mid-Autumn festival). If the group finds the lessons more challenging as we progress, we could move to a biweekly schedule for the lessons to allow for more time for analysis and discussion.
  • Utilize some sort of partitioning or sub-division so that those who wish to move ahead can do so without dominating the group (see below). Perhaps a thread per lesson (but then the thread gets overcrowded)? Or some newer form of content management would suffice?
  • Threads in this forum vs. google groups vs. sub-forum? What would be the best way to host our project? lang-8.com has lots of interesting editing features, so we could create a study group at lang-8 and utilize its tools for editing/correcting our translations. We might also be able to add non Chinese-forums.com members that way as well.
  • Create an index of useful tools: online dictionaries and resources, paper dictionaries, etc.
  • Perhaps we could vote on the best translation for each lesson. The winner would then be the next lesson's 主持人 and then lead discussion for the next lesson in the case that there are not many questions from the study group? Perhaps this is a silly idea???

Previous online group study experience:

I was once a part of a Japanese literature reading group. The group was diverse, consisting of people working full time and caring for families to students at 10-hour-per-week language schools with a focus on language acquisition and study. Essentially, people reading as a hobby, and people with the ability to focus full-time on the reading topics. Things started out well, but the group lasted just a month before falling apart due to both technological and people reasons.

On the people side, the language students always wanted to move way ahead of the group, often were five to ten chapters ahead. Understandably, as they had moved on, they were not interested in participating in the discussions the primary group was facing. Perhaps the initial chapters were too easy, or perhaps they just became engrossed in the story. Understandable, but this race to move forward affected the whole group. Also, the language students seemed to be competing with each other on who could read ahead first and who understood the most. This competition between each other meant that they pulled further and further away from the core group.

On the technology side, we were using google groups, and the volume of questions from those reading ahead dominated such that the regular group was drowned out in the end. As a result, upon logging into the group, you'd see lots of questions on chapters not yet covered by the main group. Slow and surely, regular group members dropped out due to the overwhelming volume of email and lack of relevance to their current point. Many of us trying to follow the schedule found that when we posted questions, we did not get responses because our questions were quickly made old by the flood of questions from the readers moving ahead. In the end, only the two language students were participating in the group, and even that did not work out well.

To remedy this, we need to think carefully about what technology solutions will meet our needs and how we want to approach the project.

Nonetheless....

Just some thoughts, please feel free to criticize or propose other ideas!!!

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Mindmaxd

怨means 抱怨(complain) here,like 怨天尤人,blame everyone and everything but oneself。

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navaburo

I would recommend a sub-forum for the group with a sub-sub-forum for each lesson, plus one for general discussion. This structure would (1) be easy to follow and (2) allow simultaneous discussion of different lessons, allowing people to go ahead if they desire.

I just ordered the book. Excited!

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DrWatson

@navaburo:

Nice, does that imply we have a third group member???

I will try to get in contact with the forum moderator and see what our options are.

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navaburo

Watson,

I'll at least try the first few lessons. If it goes well I can find the time for it. I won't have the book for another week though.

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xuexiansheng

I'm doing a course right now in 文言文, I'd love an opportunity to learn from another book. Count me in!

Threads in this forum vs. google groups vs. sub-forum? What would be the best way to host our project? lang-8.com has lots of interesting editing features, so we could create a study group at lang-8 and utilize its tools for editing/correcting our translations. We might also be able to add non Chinese-forums.com members that way as well.

I've just started using Lang-8. It does have a good editing feature, but others may be a better judge of how well you can form group projects. I'd be up for trying it. (I would try Google+, too, but have never used it.)

@DrWatson #6

Good advice for keeping the group going. Maybe we can just link people who want to join to that cautionary tale of a study group dissolving. I'm a 'study for fun' guy, so no threat of me doing run away studying.

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DrWatson

@Navaburo,

No worries, we'll get started in 2013 to give people time to get a copy of the book and allow me some time to work out logistics.

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DrWatson

li3wei1, xuexiansheng:

Welcome, we're glad to have your participation!

To all:

I've spoken with a forum moderator regarding subforums and they would prefer that we just post in this forum. However, they offered to allow two of us to be forum moderators so that we can keep everything in order. If you all do not mind, I will volunteer to be one of the moderators. We would need another moderator who could help out as well. Would anyone else like to volunteer? Or should we vote on both moderators instead?

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navaburo

This forum is fine. We shouldn't have too much volume. I'd recommend a single thread per lesson. That way it is easy to get notifications just for the appropriate discussions, even if someone is behind or goes ahead.

I just got the book. (天啊 Amazon is fast). Well-written if brief intro. Enjoyed the first lesson. Looking forward to tackling the later lessons. I like how the pacing will get us through in about a year. I think that timing is ideal for long-term learning.

I don't have huge ambitions for reading 文言文 or 古文 texts; I'm mainly looking to boost my understanding of Mandarin novels (especially those written in a more literary style) and to get some historical context. (Like how learning Latin can help your English). But maybe I'll get hooked, as some others in the forum clearly are. :).

Anyhow, how does the following schedule look?

EDIT: This schedule is now totally defunct. The pace turned out to be too fast, so we are just going ahead at whatever pace suits us. Anyone is free to join in at any time, on any lesson, so the schedule is not so important.

Lesson Date

1 Dec 31, 2012

2 Jan 7, 2013

3 Jan 14, 2013

4 Jan 21, 2013

5 Jan 28, 2013

6 Feb 4, 2013

7 Feb 11, 2013

空(春节) Feb 18, 2013

8 Feb 25, 2013

9 Mar 4, 2013

空(清明节) Mar 11, 2013

10 Mar 18, 2013

11 Mar 25, 2013

12 Apr 1, 2013

13 Apr 8, 2013

14 Apr 15, 2013

15 Apr 22, 2013

16 Apr 29, 2013

17 May 6, 2013

18 May 13, 2013

19 May 20, 2013

20 May 27, 2013

21 Jun 3, 2013

22 Jun 10, 2013

23 Jun 17, 2013

24 Jun 24, 2013

25 Jul 1, 2013

26 Jul 8, 2013

27 Jul 15, 2013

28 Jul 22, 2013

29 Jul 29, 2013

30 Aug 5, 2013

31 Aug 12, 2013

32 Aug 19, 2013

空(中秋节) Aug 26, 2013

33 Sep 2, 2013

34 Sep 9, 2013

35 Sep 16, 2013

36 Sep 23, 2013

37 Sep 30, 2013

38 Oct 7, 2013

39 Oct 14, 2013

40 Oct 21, 2013

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xuexiansheng

That looks like a good schedule. I nominate DrWatson and navaburo as moderators!

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Kobo-Daishi

For those who can't wait or are too cheap to get the book, there's an online version here:

http://literarych.wordpress.com/

The guy who runs the site is a Cantonese separatist (based in Hong Kong(?)), so he's included Cantonese Romanization.

I think he's also uploaded it to the Scribd web site. Scribd is kind of like YouTube for books. They charge you to download copies of books, but, I think you can read them free online. It's all a bit dodgy.

Just like Google Books (when they were scanning all the books they had no right to until they were sued by the world’s publishers), and YouTube (ditto with the videos. Another Google product.).

Which is no different from what Megaupload does, but, they were just more blatant about it and didn’t have the muscle of Google and the okay of the US authorities.

Anything can be posted and they don't remove them until they get a notice of copyright. In other words, dodgy.

It beats waiting for an inter-library loan.

Kobo.

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DrWatson

@navaburo:

That schedule looks good to me. If everyone that is interested has the textbook then I think that schedule is perfect. I'm with you, not sure where I'll go at the completion of this book, but hopefully along the way we'll find some interesting things in these selected readings. If anything it is like you said, some "latin" to help with understanding modern language.

@kobo:

Wish the real text had also had Cantonese readings, I would have liked to have had both. Good link though for someone who is unable to easily obtain the text and will require time for it to ship.

@all:

I'll submit navaburo and myself as the moderators for now. Of course we can change this down to road if something comes up or if we need more help.

In the next day or so I'm going to come up with some very simple guidelines, such as a marker to add to a title so that it is easy to attribute the thread to our group.

Finally, I suspect the first few lessons might be slow, but please everyone give it a chance. When we get to more complicated readings, there should be some very interesting discussion and interpretation.

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xuexiansheng

I picked up the book from the local Univ. library. It looks like a great book and is should be well suited to our study group. I especially like the practice sentences where the author has you 'compose' english=>classical. That is one skill that may not be as practical, but is excellent for cementing the classical structures. Looking forward to getting started!

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