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Friday

Are there Chinese speed readers?

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Friday

Some English speed readers read at great speeds by reading multiple lines at a time. Rather than reading from left to right across the words, they look at a part of the paragraph, such as the entire top half, and then the bottom half, and pull in all of the meaning, ignoring all of the useless parts. The words are seen almost simultaneously. This is highly dependent on the quality of the writing.

 

I see that the Chinese language has many fundamental differences between English. English words are wide. If you trace a line around them you will see they all have unique shapes which can make them identifiable even if one does not look at each letter. They have spaces between them. In contrast, Chinese words are all small with many details inside. They are all square shaped. And they have no spaces around them to indicate word boundaries. Given this, is there such a thing as a Chinese speed reader?

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roddy

How do they know which parts are useless and can be ignored without reading them? 

 

The Chinese term is 速读, and there is stuff out there if you want to have a look. 

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chocolatemilk

I do nothing like what you said above, reading paragraphs at a time but at least for English words after a while you know a words shape or a phrase's shape and therefore you can read as a block (blocking) and read much faster than trying to interpret one word a time;

 

And from anecdotal evidence from my learning experiences, there are definite shapes in the characters and characters are really not just squares.  The more I read, the better I am able to differentiate words, defining word boundaries, even on words that I don't know the meaning of.  

 

Context helps a bunch.  Knowing the likelihood of a word appearing and being prepared for it also increases one's reading speed and comprehension.  

 

So I would say, in both languages one can read very fast, normal left-right (or right left, top down for chinese) and some people read faster than others.  Practicing reading faster will help make you read faster although one can not forget about comprehension.  Reading faster means nothing if one forgets it all.

 

two:  There are some people that read "differently" than what most people do and they may read and comprehend very fast.  But, since their individuals processes are very different and would be hard for most people to learn it does no good to try and emulate them.  There are fast readers in every language.  Some of the fastest use alternate methods than what is considered normal and it works for them.  It may not work for everyone.  

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imron
But, since their individuals processes are very different and would be hard for most people to learn it does no good to try and emulate them

I'm not sure I agree with this.  There are plenty of techniques you can use to increase reading speed.  One great technique I came across not so long ago was to 'jump' your eye movement rather than 'scanning'.  It made a noticeable improvement to my reading speed which was already quite fast.

 

I think it's well worth for people to investigate different ways of reading because you might find that with very little effort you can make large gains in reading speed.  Many of the same techniques work for Chinese as well as they do for English.  The bigger problem is not the lack of spacing or anything, but rather vocabulary and or grammar.   Unknown words and sentence structure will cause huge slowdowns in reading speed.

 

For the OP, in general, you'll find that native Chinese speakers can read far more quickly than their English counterparts - but I think that's more a function of Chinese being relatively compact compared to English.  I once lent my Chinese copy of the Lord of the Rings to a high-school age student who finished it within three days!

 

It would take a lot of work to develop speed reading skills in Chinese (as mentioned above, this is mostly due to vocabulary), however there is still plenty that can be done to improve reading speed.  Often, learners' reading speed gets unintentionally fixed at the beginner/intermediate level, and stays there even as the learner reaches an advanced level. 

 

At that point, and with a bit of dedicated practice and drilling it's possible to make significant gains in reading speed.  I wrote up one way of doing that here.

 

It's probably not worth doing that until you have a reasonable vocabulary and good familiarity with Chinese sentence structures.

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roddy

"One great technique I came across not so long ago was to 'jump' your eye movement rather than 'scanning'.  It made a noticeable improvement to my reading speed which was already quite fast."

We all 'jump' rather than scan, even when 'scanning'. What happened to comprehension?

 

I'm automatically dubious of speed-reading claims - it's an area which produces more free email newsletters and $29.99 ebooks than hard evidence, and I tend to file it with get-rich-quick and get-thin-faster schemes. There are improvements you can make, but you can get all that by reading what Imron's written. 

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imron

Saccades are small jumps. I'm talking about large jumps - maybe only a 2-3 per line depending on the size of the line with a brief pause between each one.

I feel comprehension has stayed the same (it's still high).

What I found was that the jumping makes it far more difficult to vocalise/subvocalise words or even think about the sound of them, especially when you are jumping at a fixed speed and your eyes try to 'grab' as many words as possible around the focal point before the next jump. As you get more and more accustomed to the technique, you can increase the beat - that is have smaller pauses between each jump, and also increase the jump distance.

Yes, there are other methods that help you avoid subvocalising, but I found this one to be particularly effective.

This book describes the technique. No hocus pocus or gimmicks, and plenty of exercises to a) demonstrate the technique and b) practice using it. I'd recommend it to anyone looking to improve their reading speed.


Once you get used to it, it's also a much more relaxing way to read and produces less eye strain because your eyes are moving less/have time to relax between jumps.

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tysond

Ok, Chinese aside, I use a lot of these speed reading techniques in English.  Moving your eyes quickly across horizontal lines is quite effective.

Of course you will not really get the emotional impact of the text.  However, a lot of text is boring and has no emotional impact.

 

Like the above paragraph - the only words that really matter are "I use speed reading" "horizontal quite effective" "no emotional impact" "boring"

 

If there truly is new information or new ideas, my experience is that you will not be able to use this technique very well.

I find it great for company emails and run-of-the mill newspaper/magazine articles.  

Indeed for many texts, I often give a quick scan of a whole paragraph (1-2 seconds), determine it to be non-critical, and skip the entire thing.

 

However, as a counterexample, I recently read a very fascinating book called Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality in English.   (It's a fan-fiction).

I found I could not use speed reading techniques to read this book, because of the challenging logical arguments and unusual insights that drove the plot.\

 

I've actually used the original Harry Potter a few times to practice with foreign languages.  This fan-fic was in English so it's not a vocabulary or grammar or reading issue.

But if I speed read and skipped - I would end up lost.  I think the conventions of writing also protect readers from missing information - and strong readers can read quickly and skip a lot of information and still be helped out by these writing conventions.

 

 

How do they know which parts are useless and can be ignored without reading them? 

 

I believe you can do this by scanning.  You quickly look across the text for key words without bothering with the entire meaning.  You look at the next chunk of text to see if anything surprising has occurred as a result of the text you didn't read.  Then you can move on.

 

Of course you never really know.  Maybe the single clue in the entire novel as to the murderer's identity was hidden in that paragraph.  But due to the conventions of writing this will usually be caught in the next few paragraphs and you can go back and re-read, or it will be repeated later on.  Most writing contains massive redundancy.

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realmayo
"I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia."

:P

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somethingfunny

 

 

I once lent my Chinese copy of the Lord of the Rings to a high-school age student who finished it within three days!

 

My Chinese teacher told me that in college she borrowed her friends copy of 红楼梦 and read it in a weekend.  She said she would have finished it quicker but had to repeatedly consult her dictionary.  I wonder how much appreciation of the story/language you'll get reading at this speed?  On the contrary though, my understanding is that it's fairly well established that reading too slowly can also inhibit content retention.  Or maybe it's just that reading too slowly is just massively inefficient and you'd be better off just finding someone that knows the information and having them tell it to you.

 

One of the best tips I've come across are learning to not re-read sections you've already read because you're worried you might have missed something.  You're never going to get 100% retention and this kind of behaviour is both pointless and will slow you down massively.

 

Subvocalising is definitely the biggest barrier to a high reading speed and it always hacks me off when I catch myself doing it.

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imron
I wonder how much appreciation of the story/language you'll get reading at this speed?

As far as I could tell, the high-school student I lent it to had pretty good appreciation of the story.  I'm not about your Chinese teacher and 红楼梦, but at least with Lord of the Rings, a large part of the speed comes from the fact that the Chinese text is far more compact than the English.  The thickness of all three books combined for the Chinese version is approximately equivalent to one (!) of the books in English and yet delivers more or less the same information.

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somethingfunny

Hah! After finishing 活着 I was looking for a new book to read and saw somewhere that a while back you had recommended 平凡的世界, I was looking at it in a bookshop and noticed how damn long it was.  I wonder how many volumes they'd need if there was an English translation!

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imron

平凡的世界 will probably have some vocab overlap with 活着 because they're set in a similar time period. On the other hand if you're looking for a change of scene, if recommend maybe something like 圈子圈套.

As a side note, when you are reading a book, I'd really recommend choosing and purchasing your next book well before you finish the current book.

That way you'll be able to jump right in without breaking the reading habit.

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somethingfunny

I was looking for 圈子圈套 in the bookshop but couldn't find it.  I'm still not really sure how Chinese bookshops works, plus I made the mistake of going the day before yesterday.  I was walking round the centre of town and noticed there were quite a lot of people and thought to myself, "hmm, lots of people about, even for a weekend" and then realised that it was Thursday and there were lots of people because it was October 1st.  They've got a new fancy bookshop here and while it's quite nice 50% of the people are there to take photos and the other 50% are sat all over the place.  Honestly, people with $5000 camera equipment need to GTFO of the bookshop and give their money to me while they're doing it.  Professional camera equipment so they can take a few shots of 小胖胖 blocking the aisle and getting ice cream everywhere?  They've got a lotus pond here and there'll be literally 50 people all lined up with their cameras, stands, automatic clickers, stools, wearing photographer vests and all for what?  

 

Amateur photographer A: "Look at this nice shot of a flower I got on my Nikon Z999 Ultra Deluxe."

Amateur photographer B: "Sweet, look at this one I got just like it."

Average iPhone user: "I took the same picture on my phone."

Me: "Guys.  Internet."

 

Sorry, Chinese holidays bring out the worst in me.

 

Back to the original point - 平凡的世界 is good because the chapters are all really short and about the same length.  In 活着 you never knew when the next break was going to come and it would usually be a long way off.  In fact, with 平凡的世界 you could probably estimate the number of characters in each chapter (all of which would probably be roughly the same) and then time yourself to get a cpm count.  I might start doing that actually - I'm aiming for one chapter a day at the moment - and track your progress.   Hmmm.... *opens excel*

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imron

'm still not really sure how Chinese bookshops works

I always just ask a staff member to check the computer, and then they take me to the appropriate section.

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shm511

well... there is a special proverb called 一目十行 for such situation

If you are really really an expert of Chinese and you just have to look for important information from a text, I can consider myself as a speed reader of Chinese.

Yet I seriously don't suggest you to do the same thing for leisure reading or literature appreciation. Each Chinese character used should be studied and analysed carefully in such case.

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Shelley

aslo teher is the teorhy taht as lnog as the frsit and the lsat ltetres are in the rgiht pacle you can siltl raed it.

 

So maybe this explains what's going on when you skim, scan or other wise speed read, you read the entire word without needing to take time to "spell" it out.

 

The idea is if you can read the above you probably can speed read in English.

 

I have no evidence for any of this myself but there are lots of studies about it.

 

Here is one https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typoglycemia

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