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victorhart

Learning Mandarin by watching videos

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roddy

Could you maybe post a link to a video and tell us what you've understood. Or just give us a list of the vocab you know. 

 

I admire the persistence. 

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Demonic_Duck

Edit: largely irrelevant now.

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victorhart

Silent, I may be underestimating, but not by that much. I detail how I came to this estimate and reflect more deeply on it 10 words in English one would theoretically be able to understand over 20% of words in TV shows and movies! (Demonic_duck just posted word corpus data for Chinese. He may be right about my missing out on basic function words, because I haven't learned any articles or prepositions!). However, there seems to be an upward, accelerating trend. After 120 hours (I'm now at 240), I estimated I was understanding fewer than 3% of word occurrences. 

 

If the diminishing word frequency factor predominates, and assuming I have already eaten most of the "low-hanging fruit," then I won't get very far in my 1,200 hours (and may even quit before then). On the other hand, if my theory about the brain storing and gradually processing sounds more efficiently is true and the acceleration continues, I may surpass even my preliminary expectations. I expect what will actually happen is something in between and that by the end of my experiment I'll be understanding close to 50% of word occurrences. Only time will tell.  

 

roddy just asked for more details on my self-test. I watched from about minute 3:10 (dialogue starts) to 18:10 of the soap opera A Tale of Two Cities (双城生活:第31集). Here's the link I used. I counted only my first viewing, without pausing at all. I had never seen this episode, only watched other episodes of this soap opera about 3 other times, for periods of 10-15 minutes for the same testing purpose, and otherwise never watch soap operas at all.

 

I estimated that approximately 943 words were spoken, but really that's just a rough guess. I definitely understood about 29 unique words and, counting repetitions, 76 word occurrences.

 

Here is the list of words I'm confident I understood in the video segment. I haven't studied pinyin or characters, so I will use my own spontaneous phonetic transcription of the words and (though I like to avoid translations), a simplistic translation of each term, just so you know what I'm talking about

 

ni = you

shema = what

zo = go 

la = here or generic ending

wo = I

kan = look

huy = can or for future action

ta men = they

fey = fly

wo men = we

lai = come

hao = ok, great

ee = 1

r = 2

haize = child

mei = not

mama = mom
baba = dad
yao = there is
kwai = fast
de bu chee = I'm sorry

shi = is

ba = daddy

chi = understand (wo chi ta = I understand)

Beijing (yes, I counted this, because I would NEVER have been able to understand it in context a year ago)

feng = let go

dui = correct

ke she = but

shey = who

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victorhart

Demonic_Duck, I hope my list at least partially fulfills what you were asking. When I finish my experiment, my idea is to involve recognized specialists who are native or very advanced speakers to test me and document it carefully (perhaps with video recording and in a controlled environment). In the meantime, I haven't thought of any way to be tested that would not be very time consuming and distract me from my regular learning process.

 

By the way, the above list is mostly in order of first identified occurrence of each term, so it may be possible to check my accuracy.

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Demonic_Duck

Interesting list. You're right about most of them, but there's one mistake in there which is a little scary...

 

chi = understand (wo chi ta = I understand)

 

:shock:

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Lu

Duck, I think he means 我知道. Still wrong (confusing dào and tā; not realising dào is part of the word, not another word), but not scary.

Victor, I'd advise you to learn pinyin. It's not that hard and it will be very helpful in your studies. But I seem to remember that advice has been given before. Other than that, my hat's off to you for keeping going with this and for picking up a little Chinese.

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roddy

I appreciate that this is, for you, an experiment, and I'm not going to try and dissuade you from it. However I am going to try and dissuade everyone else from replicating it: 

 

What are you doing

10:50

I'll miss her

With these, you can fly, fly high

 

These are very simple sentences, from the first two minutes after 3:10 in that video, that I would expect someone who'd put the same amount of time in, but studied more efficiently, to understand. There's not a lot of talking in those two minutes, just those four bits are a good proportion of what's said. There's also very simple stuff - the verb 'to have', 'to do' - that are missed. 

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Lu

After all, with just 10 words in English one would theoretically be able to understand over 20% of words in TV shows and movies!

And 0% of the content, since those words are probably the, a, an, in, and, I, you, of, do, have etc. The same happens with Chinese, and I think your vocabulary is illustrating this.

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roddy

Actually, a much more interesting questions - how's your six (seven now?) year old daughter doing? She should be streets ahead of you...

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Silent

 

I think if I were reading this and it was not my experiment, like all of you I would think 8% was really low - a sign the method was not working. After all, with just 10 words in English one would theoretically be able to understand over 20% of words in TV shows and movies!

Maybe I was a bit quick with my remark of a handful, but still it's not too many. I think a flaw in this reasoning is that people don't learn vocabulary in a frequency order. The easier words to learn are probably objects and verbs. Specially if you learn by just watching movies it's these objects and verbs that are most likely presented as comprehensible input, not the structural particles that are used to build more complex structures and are very high frequency. So basically in the beginning  you should measure against the frequent objects and verbs in the frequency list to get a more realistic estimate of vocabulary size.

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Bad Cao Cao

"chi = understand (wo chi ta = I understand)"

 

So, you got me to watch it, just to see what the heck was up with that wo chi ta thing... 现在我知道了

 

One thing that struck me was that your understanding of the meaning was close, even if the understanding of the pronunciation was a little off.  I was reminded a little of a quote from Gaudfroy - "It's just a matter of time, at the beginning you'll be tired of not knowing the meaning of things, but that will force you to develop hearing abilities and a great feeling for the language. And you'll think naturally in the language because you have no choice." 

 

My only quibble when someone does something "radical" with learning mandarin, is not so much with what they are doing, but more so with the constant self-promotion, across 20 different forums, seeking some sort of attention.

 

Just put your head down, get on with it, report back when you have learned a thing or two. 

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pancake

My only quibble when someone does something "radical" with learning mandarin, is not so much with what they are doing, but more so with the constant self-promotion, across 20 different forums, seeking some sort of attention.

 

Just put your head down, get on with it, report back when you have learned a thing or two.

I think that's a bit unfair. Having put in 240 hours, I think he is well entitled to post about this. I think victorhart's approach is very refreshing actually; he says he is going to do this for 1200 hours, he is carefully documenting the progress and (most importantly) he does not make any outrageous claims about what he thinks he will accomplish with this approach. Compared to the the 3-months-to-fluency guy, it's a breath of fresh air.

 

victorhart's approach is, incidentally, the way I tried to learn Chinese initially. I got nowhere fast using this method, but I really do think that the basic premise is sound so I am rooting for him to succeed.

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Silent

 

I really do think that the basic premise is sound so I am rooting for him to succeed.

In my opinion the only sound approach is a diverse approach. Too much of one and the same thing will be inefficient. So I disagree it's a sound approach in learning a language. I suspect the approach is very good, if used in conjunction with other tools and habits.

 

Obviously the only successful approach is to keep up the effort. If that means only watching movies fair enough. A big advantage of watching movies is that it doesn't feel like putting in real work. If you like watching movies, soaps etc it may be a very good basis for study but for optimum results you should supplement it with other study habits. E.g. just a little srs would probably boost initial progress hugely. Also rewinding/looping certain scenes and phrases to work out what really is going on instead of just letting it pass helps progress but makes the experience less fun.

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Demonic_Duck
I think that's a bit unfair. Having put in 240 hours, I think he is well entitled to post about this. I think victorhart's approach is very refreshing actually; he says he is going to do this for 1200 hours, he is carefully documenting the progress and (most importantly) he does not make any outrageous claims about what he thinks he will accomplish with this approach. Compared to the the 3-months-to-fluency guy, it's a breath of fresh air.

 

Benny's approach: tries something which has been done many times before and proven to work, starts with unrealistic expectations, fails to fulfil them but still attains a decent level, claims that this level is equivalent to the expectations he failed to meet.

 

Results:

  • Intermediate level spoken Mandarin and listening comprehension after 3 months full-time immersion, including lessons, which is probably about what you'd expect from a decently experienced learner.
  • Probably turning a decent profit on book sales etc.
  • 名誉扫地 on chinese-forums.com.

Victor's approach: tries something a bit more novel, starts with unrealistic expectations, (probably) fails to fulfil them but doesn't make any overblown claims about progress made.

 

Results:

  • Based on current progress, beginner level Mandarin listening comprehension after 1,200 hours.
  • Educational bonding experience with daughter.
  • Providing another interesting topic for us to argue about on chinese-forums.com.

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gato

Based on current progress, beginner level Mandarin listening comprehension after 1,200 hours.

That's 100 days at 12 hours per day!

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Demonic_Duck

Whoah, yeah, when you put it like that that's a lot.

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Lu

So basically, Victor has by now put in about twice as many hours as Benny had at the end of his three months...

But although I think his method is not the best, I agree with Pancake that he's going about it well. It's an experiment and he's approaching it as such. He's open to suggestions, he doesn't make wild claims and he's honestly testing the claims he's making. I for one am glad he came back to let us know how it was going.

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Demonic_Duck

That was my prediction (assuming rate of progress continues at a similar pace), 1,200 hours is the stated goal.

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victorhart

I appreciate all the replies.

 

 I got nowhere fast using this method, but I really do think that the basic premise is sound so I am rooting for him to succeed.

 

Pancake, thank you! It's wonderful to have someone rooting for me! Thanks to you, Lu, Demonic_Duck, and others for recognizing the meticulous and sincere approach I am trying to take to the project.

 

 the constant self-promotion, across 20 different forums, seeking some sort of attention

 

Bad Cao Cao, of course I want a little attention, who doesn't want a little love and attention? But I am honestly trying to contribute positively to the two forums (not 20, please point me to the others) I regularly participate in. I have personally gained a lot from participating, and I know my content suggestions, namely Qiao Hu, Boonie Bears, and my Chinese films table, have helped at least a few people. On the other forum, it also helped inspire a sort of a different experiment that is really interesting and a bit of a counterpoint to mine. I think that kind of engagement and give-and-take contributes to understanding of the language acquisition process.

 

In my opinion the only sound approach is a diverse approach. Too much of one and the same thing will be inefficient. So I disagree it's a sound approach in learning a language. I suspect the approach is very good, if used in conjunction with other tools and habits.

 

I actually mostly agree with you. The best methods tackle language acquisition on different levels. I do not claim or believe my Mandarin-learning method is the most efficient. However, I wouldn't say it is fundamentally unsound. At least, I would give it more time. 240 hours is very little for a language like Mandarin. It's about 5% of what FSI students take to reach ILR 3, or professional working proficiency.

 

More importantly, I entirely agree with your statement that the approach is very good if used in conjunction with other tools and habits. The reason I'm doing it in isolation is better test the utility of using authentic video at a zero beginner.

 

Based on current progress, beginner level Mandarin listening comprehension after 1,200 hours.

 

If you're right--and I grant you may be--then my 2nd and 3rd hypotheses will be refuted. I will be somewhat disappointed. My expectation was (and still is, to some extent) to reach an intermediate level of comprehension.

 

 So basically, Victor has by now put in about twice as many hours as Benny had at the end of his three months...

 

Did Benny truly put in just 120 hours and reach an intermediate level of speaking in Mandarin? That seems suspect to me, but if so it is truly impressive.

 

Actually, a much more interesting questions - how's your six (seven now?) year old daughter doing? She should be streets ahead of you...

 

She turned seven in November. For better or worse, since mid August, she's only put in 20 hours of viewing. Also, she cannot watch more than 2 minutes of Qiao Hu without getting bored to death and I suspect when we watch subtitled movies she largely tunes out the audio (it's actually been really good for her reading in English, which is great since all her schooling is in Portuguese). So it's really just Boonie Bears once or twice a week. Alas, she is not learning Mandarin. But I still think the exposure is beneficial, and we have a good time watching the ursine duo and talking about language acquisition.

 

. . . 

 

In conclusion, while I acknowledge my method is not ideal and my results at this early stage are quite unimpressive, I would like to raise one more point. I'm all for highly efficient methods that bring fast results, especially for motivation's sake. But what really matters to me in language acquisition is the long term, and my eventual goal in any language is near native mastery.

 

That's no excuse for wasting time, obviously! But some methods can produce apparently fast results in the beginning, yet present obstacles to mastery later on. I've seen this with a lot of Brazilian students of English, who have large vocabularies after many years of study, but deeply ingrained bad habits of pronunciation and mental translation, which results in atrocious grammar. These habits constitute almost insurmountable barriers to mastery. My hope is that 1,200 hours of listening will not only get me to an intermediate level of comprehension, but provide a solid foundation for future studies.

 

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Lu

Did Benny truly put in just 120 hours and reach an intermediate level of speaking in Mandarin? That seems suspect to me, but if so it is truly impressive.

I now realise I misread Duck's post on the 1200 hours. That's not the time you have put in, it's the total time you're going to put in. Benny studied for three months, so let's say 100 days times 6 hours a day makes 600 hours. (This is a very rough estimate of course.) That would mean that so far, you've spent about half as much time on it as he has. That's not really a useful thing to compare, so please just ignore my remark.

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