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新墨西哥人

strategies for reading graded readers

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新墨西哥人

I started reading The Secret Garden last week. While my vocabulary in theory is 700+ characters, I'm still having a hard time because I dont know many multi-char words. For example 从来 was a new word for me even though I know the characters.

 

My strategy at the moment is to create a new Skritter list with these word combos so I can study and review them. And I probably will use Quizlet as well - I love Scatter! However I think this means muddling through slowly, adding words, studying them a bit, then re-reading each chapter more quickly to enjoy and feel more reading "flow."

 

I do have one other question - do you recommend reading the story aloud to oneself? Or just read "in my head"? Or perhaps both. Or don't worry about it... For all I know I silently mouth the words anyway - I'll have to pay attention next time I pick up the book.

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realmayo

Yep, as you've discovered you can't do much if you don't know words! Lots of people would say the number of words (some of which are of course only one character long), rather than the number of characters, is what your vocabulary really is. But yes, if you muddle through a chapter and learn the words as you meet them, and then re-read, you'll reinforce those newly learned words and you'll get the benefit of the "flow". Sounds like you should learn a lot that way.

 

I don't think it's a problem if you don't read out aloud. If you don't think your pronunciation is accurate, then reading out loud might reinforce some pronunciation errors. But if you reckon your pronunciation is okay, it can't hurt doing both. My problem when I read a text out loud is that I concentrate too much on each character's pronunciation and don't pay any attention to the meaning, and although I might have read it out loud accurately, I end up not having understood it at all.

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新墨西哥人

I should read silently - my pronunciation and general rhythm of speech needs work.

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新墨西哥人

And it looks like I know about 400 words, maybe this year I can double that!

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realmayo

If you already know 700 characters that's an excellent foundation to go on and learn at least another 400 multi-character words this year!

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Yorin

I like to read aloud to myself. It helps to train my mouth to do exacly what my brain wants it to do. When reading Chinese with a certain speed, from time to time I'll catch myself accidently producing a wrong tone, although my brain knows exactly what tone that syllable should be.

Usually on first reading of such a text, I'll just mark any new words, interesting combinations of words, unfamiliar grammatical constructions or otherwise remarkable sentences with a pencil, but keep on reading, as long as I still have a general idea what the sentence is about. I think keeping the reading flow even on first reading of an unknown text is a good excercise. I'll usually read one chapter and then go back and do my research on the words and sentences I've marked within that chapter. After finishing the entire book in this manner (usually takes me a few evenings for a "Chinese Breeze" sized book), I'll then reread everything in one session (again, aloud... usually takes me about 2 hours for such a book, with some breaks to keep myself from loosing my voice).

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Touchstone57

I've had the same experience yourself. I knew over a 1000 characters before I actually started reading them, but I didn't know a lot of the character combinations. 

 

A lot of graded readers will come with vocabulary lists in the back, so it is good to study these using SRS software. In addition, there will be lots of words you come across that you don't know, even if you know the characters. For these I did a 'skim' through the book, I underlined all the words and patterns I didn't know and compiled them into a list. Once you really know these words and have learned them, you can do a 'proper' read of the book, which goes very smoothly if you know the required vocabulary.

 

In my experience it is better to do this, as if you stop every time you come across a new word it won't make the experience very enjoyable. If you stay at one level, say 300 words, it gets much easier with each book and takes less time. 

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Demonic_Duck
Yep, as you've discovered you can't do much if you don't know words! Lots of people would say the number of words (some of which are of course only one character long), rather than the number of characters, is what your vocabulary really is.

In one sense I agree with this - after all, isn't that the typical definition of vocabulary? The number of word-types that you know and can use?

 

However, when you're talking about passive vocabulary (especially for reading, to a much lesser extent for listening), knowing individual characters can often go a long way. For example, though you may never guess the meaning of 从来 from the constituent characters, take a look at this title and subtitle of an article I read recently:

 

从仙人掌中提取止痛药

一种仙人掌提取物可能只需注射一次,就能终结顽固性疼痛。

 

When I first read this, the only character I didn't know was 顽. However, I also didn't know the words 仙人掌、提取、提取物 and I wasn't familiar with the construction 只需.

 

只需 is obvious as long as you know 只需要. 仙人掌 wouldn't be immediately obvious if it weren't for the fact that the article was accompanied by pictures of cacti. 提取 and 提取物 can reasonably and correctly be deduced as "extract" (verb and noun forms). As a result, the only word I had to look up was 顽固性 (intractable).

 

So I would argue that character knowledge actually goes quite a long way, as long as it's backed up by a decently solid vocabulary of words.

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roddy

It'd be surprising if you aren't reading silently to some extent, even if subconsciously

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Elizabeth_rb

Sigh!  I'd love to get my hands on some of these readers, but it's a question of being able to afford them... :(   If only they had such things in the public library!

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Yorin

 

Sigh!  I'd love to get my hands on some of these readers, but it's a question of being able to afford them... :(   If only they had such things in the public library!

 

Come on, you've got so many books on your shelf already! :P Surely you can afford a few of these readers if you really want to. They're not that expensive.

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Elizabeth_rb

I suppose that, as individual books, they're OK, price-wise, but when you consider that many of them are far too easy for me and that I'd be through with them in about an hour or less (very much less if there was pinyin cluttering up the view), they then become quite pricey.  £5, £8 etc is a lot of money per hour...  Esp. for someone who is the unwaged dependent of a funded PhD student!!

 

You're right about my shelves though and there are several books on there that have good extensive and intensive reading material in them.  I'm trying to 'read them up' - honest!

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imron
If only they had such things in the public library!

Ask your friendly local librarian if they take requests.  Many do.

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Elizabeth_rb

Yes, mine does too.  There's a function on the website to request items.  However, to have even the smallest chance of your item being bought, (only one I requested was ever bought - and I nearly fainted!!) it has to be something that would lend well.  Chinese is still classed as a 'lesser learned language', none of the language texts I've ever requested, even FIGS ones have been bought.  Added to that the fact that the Council is still deliberating on whether or not to close about half the library branches owing to low funds and you can see why I'm not confident.... :(

 

However....  Someone gave me an Amazon voucher and so I bought a couple of readers.... :D

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Rufus

Hey New Mexico 人, sorry I'm a bit late to this party, but great questions! 

 

First, the good news: The WORD lists (not just the character lists) have already been uploaded to Skritter (listed under Mandarin Companion you can have and official Mandarin Companion version. It's also sorted by frequency. 

 

As for reading out loud, this very aspect has been researched with no real conclusive empirical evidence. However, here is what the experts recommend. They suggest that you don't read out loud because reading out loud slows you down and delays the development of your reading speed. Why is reading speed so important? The faster you are able to read AND comprehend the text shows that your brain has learned to automatically recognize and process the language, just in the way that you are reading this sentence and immediately understanding and comprehending it without any real thought. This is where you want to get with ANY language you are studying. The better your brain is at automatically processing the language, the faster you can read and the more you read at a steady rate, the better your brain becomes at processing the language. 

 

So my general recommendation is; no, don't read out loud. However, the tones in Chinese pose a greater need to practice speaking. I am not aware of any research that has been done on this, but based on Yorin's comments above it seems that it can be useful. Another option is to work on developing your tonal-pairs which are the building blocks of correct tones in normal speech. John Pasden's blog SinoSplice has good information about these (http://www.sinosplice.com/learn-chinese/tone-pair-drills).

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roddy

New Mexico, how did you get on with the Secret Garden?

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kikosun

i usually read silently (in my head), and i think it works well. I agree with rufus you read faster that way, and its enough to make sure you comprehend what you are reading 

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hedwards

I'm personally working hard to break myself of the habit of subvocalizing. Reading out loud is not a good idea in situations like this. It's mainly useful for choral reading or in cases where the teacher needs to assess how well you're pronouncing things from a controlled text.

 

Anyways, what I'm personally doing with my reading is that I've used imron's text analyzer to slurp up all the vocab from my book and import it into Anki. From there I'm working on the vocabulary. I found that in the first page I didn't know about 70 of the words, but just last week I got to the point where I can just about read the entire first page without looking up words. In fact, I got so caught up with the reading that I was late for the class I was supposed to help with. :)

 

I'm doing my first sweep of mainly just recognizing the words. My next sweep will require that I type the words into Anki. And my last sweep will involve just identifying the character to the meaning without the pinyin. I suspect that this will go more quickly as I'll know the meaning of the words and in many cases the pronunciation of the word is hinted in the character.

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imron

My next sweep will require that I type the words into Anki

If you are using Chinese Text Analyser you should be able to export a file that can be directly imported in to Anki, no typing needed.

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