Jump to content
Chinese-Forums
  • Sign Up

Vocabulary... how?


TCcookie

Recommended Posts

Hello all. I'm kind of frustrated at the moment. I have awesome grammar books and (I think) a pretty decent method of learning grammar. However, I really struggle with vocabulary, not with learning it--I have a pretty good memory--but with finding it.

When I was learning Spanish, I learned a lot of vocabulary simply from reading, but it seems that with Chinese, at least with the level I'm at, I have to already know words to be able to read them, so that strategy doesn't work. I can learn some words from listening, but I always feel obligated to learn to write and it slows me down. What are some strategies you all have used in the past to gain a bigger vocabulary? How do you integrate reading and vocabulary? In all languages, there is a difference between "written" and "spoken" vocabularies, but in Chinese this seems like it's particularly accute.

Thanks in advance for your ideas; I can't wait to hear them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am Chinese so my point of view may be different. But do you have a dictionary? Or do you use on-line ones? It seems that some of the questions you have asked could be easily solved with a dictionary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, I don't know if this will help because I don't know the *name* of the program other than that it's from the Oxford dictionary people --- but, this guy in my Chinese conversation class had a computer program on his cell phone (more like a pda, with a pen) where he could draw the character, press enter, and it looked it up for him. So, if he was reading and didn't know the character he would use the pen and draw it, enter and in < 2 seconds have the pinyin+definition. It always worked.

I'm still trying to figure out how to get it for my laptop. Would be extremely convenient - I have the same problem as you: I am very good at memorizing and learn by reading, but french was a lot easier because there were no characters!

If I figure it out I'll post again...

Amanda

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Without wanting to take the vocab-learning off-topic, it sounds like the PDA program is Plecodict fromPleco and the nearest you could get for a laptop (I think) is Wenlin. There are topics about both if you search, or you could start a new topic in Textbooks and Resources if you can't find what you want to know.

More on topic - I think you have to accept that your spoken / listening vocab is always going to be ahead of your reading / writing vocab. If you don't, you'll constantly be putting time into keeping your writing up with your speaking, and in Chinese that's going to be a massive drag on your progress, and consequently your motivation. This is especially true at lower levels where you should be undergoing a pretty rapid accumulation of active vocabulary.

I would say there are 2 types of learners who can read / write everything they can speak / understand in listening. One type is moving slowly, determined to be able to write every character in every word they know. Fair enough if that's what you want to do, but it's not a choice we would all make.

The second type have stopped acquiring much new vocab, either because they've learnt it all, or they've reached a plateau for some other reason, and their writing has had time to catch up (assuming the actually study writing at all)

So for my money, the best thing to do is stick with the materials and resources you find interesting, and when you come across new vocab, make a note of the item (character, pinyin, meaning) but in your review of vocab, only worry about recognition of the character. Learning to write can legitimately move at a much slower pace, and also focus on more 'written' vocabulary items.

One of these days I should try taking my own advice . . .

Roddy

Link to comment
Share on other sites

newsinchinese.com is now back online. I recommend it for learning new vocab. There's something to be said for looking up characters in a paper dictionary (because it gives you a great deal of motivation to never have to look it up again), but if your memory is that good, use this generously provided resource.

For anyone learning traditional characters, I recommend the zhongwen.com dictionary, specifically the print version which can be purchased at amazon. I was actually learning simplified, but my text book at the time I used it also had traditional characters, and I found the dictionary so useful I was willing to go back and forth between characters to use it and it's 6 indices. The geneological charts also made quite a difference in my early attempts to become familiar with the characters in general. After a little practice, I got to be quite a little speed demon with that before I was spoiled with Plecodict.

One of the features I really wish Pleco had (yeah, I know, off-topic) was the post-character position lookup. If you look up any character, the entry contains every incarnation of it as the first of a multi character entry, AND it also references to every instance of it as the second character.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think it depends a lot on your level. I, for example, am still at a (disappointingly) low level, so most of my vocabulary I take from books that give you not only the grammar, but a corresponding text as well (which can be either the rather boring lessons about foreigners going to China and the length of 长江, or now moving into annotated short stories and that kind of stuff...

Having worked through a set of two German books, I have acquired a bit more than 1500 characters, plus some others on the way, so for a big percentage of new words, dictionary lookup goes quite fast in fact (even when working with an old-fashioned paper dictionary.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am scarred to learn new vocabulary. Because often times it is hard to learn the connotative and not denotative meanings. I hate that. You know what a word is defined as, but don't really know it connotative implications. Like with 高潮.(hehe) So I want to find a way to master both denotative and connotative meanings, and believe me, if that is possible, one's vocabulary would grow exponentially (maybe x to the 1.2:lol: )

nipponman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the features I really wish Pleco had (yeah' date=' I know, off-topic) was the post-character position lookup. If you look up any character, the entry contains every incarnation of it as the first of a multi character entry, AND it also references to every instance of it as the second character.[/quote']

Off-topic reply: try entering $ then the character. That seems to do what you want.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am scarred to learn new vocabulary. Because often times it is hard to learn the connotative and not denotative meanings. I hate that. You know what a word is defined as' date=' but don't really know it connotative implications. Like with 高潮.(hehe) So I want to find a way to master both denotative and connotative meanings, and believe me, if that is possible, one's vocabulary would grow exponentially (maybe x to the 1.2:lol: )

nipponman[/quote']

Shouldn't you be able to get the connotations by reading a lot? If you learn new words through reading it would seem that the context would help grasp the connotation. Of course, one's level of proficiency with the language could also be a major factor, but that even seems to be a matter of experience. I would guess that the more you read the better you will understand new vocabulary, and old ones as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shouldn't you be able to get the connotations by reading a lot? If you learn new words through reading it would seem that the context would help grasp the connotation. Of course, one's level of proficiency with the language could also be a major factor, but that even seems to be a matter of experience. I would guess that the more you read the better you will understand new vocabulary, and old ones as well.

That's a good point, but you must understand, if you aren't a native, the connotations can't be easily picked up. For example, the difference between 忽然 and 突然. I have no clue what the difference is. Nor do I understand the difference between: 向來,一向, 老 (although, 老 is more colloquial) and 總(是) my grammar book just lists them all as meaning "always, in the past up till' the present." Though they do say that 一向 is usually used in the negative. But I looked it up in the dictionary, and it said, "always." So reading is definitely a good way to get the meaning, but if you don't understand what your reading you obviously won't get the connotation. That's why it is simpler to have like a connotation dictionary or something, that would help.

nipponman

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the Dictionary I have, the definitions are:

向來 - always, all along

向来不发火。 - He never gets into a temper

向来如此 - It has always been so.

一向 - This one has two definitions, but didn't give examples:

1) earlier on; lately

2) consistently; all along

Hope this helps a little?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry, I forgot to mention the following characters...

忽然 - suddenly, all of a sudden - these are translated as you see here. You are expecting something to suddenly happen, so you are not going to be very surprised when the action begins.

But if something happens that you are not expecting to happen, and you're really caught off guard, then you use 突然 which translates as sudden, abrupt, unexpected. Examples:

突然停止 - suddenly stop, stop short

突然哭起来 - burst into tears

突然袭击 - launch a surprise attack

Link to comment
Share on other sites

That's a good point' date=' but you must understand, if you aren't a native, the connotations can't be easily picked up. For example, the difference between 忽然 and 突然. I have no clue what the difference is. Nor do I understand the difference between: 向來,一向, 老 (although, 老 is more colloquial) and 總(是) my grammar book just lists them all as meaning "always, in the past up till' the present." Though they do say that 一向 is usually used in the negative. But I looked it up in the dictionary, and it said, "always." So reading is definitely a good way to get the meaning, but if you don't understand what your reading you obviously won't get the connotation. That's why it is simpler to have like a connotation dictionary or something, that would help.

nipponman[/quote']

I think if you have an actual dictionary rather than a Chinese-English glossary you'll gain a lot more insight into how words are used and what connotations they may have. Of course, it should be used in tandem with lots of reading, not as a replacement.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

啊呀! It's my very first post to this forum.

With European languages, a great way to learn new vocabulary and phrases is to Google or other web search on the vocabulary. Inevitably, many of the hits will be the communications of native speakers whose contexts can be studied. When I'm working on foreign language correspondances, I often check vocabulary/pharse usage this way.

With Chinese characters, there may not yet be as many corresponding hits. A Chinese language Bible may be on line but its text will be pre-modern Chinese writing. (It might not always be colloquial.)

I just now tried it on the phrase "好幾個." Both the search engines of Yahoo!' and Google support Big5 and Unicode just fine. Lots of hits. For example:

確保糧食安全應處理好幾個關係, 梁雨祥.

or

鐵線蓮從種子到小苗要好幾個月的時間,繁殖很不容易,時間也漫長,扦插是很玄的,不過

可以試著壓條,你可以試一試呵呵

With Mozilla Firefox, the "find next" utility seems to work quite well.

Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...

You can use the same dictionary method of picking up vocabulary/phrases for chinese as you would other languages.

In the case of chinese, my advice is to use online chinese dictionaries. Most printed dictionaries are sadly lacking in terms of modern slang, jargons etc. The only tricky bit is it does requires a certain level of character knowledge

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Is there a way to discern if there are any subtle differences or regional differences between two words that may appear to be synonyms?

For example, I blissfully went through spring quarter learning that the word for "mouth" was 口。 A couple of days ago, my 中文 word on the back of a fortune cookie message gave me the word 嘴。Ok, so it's based on the same radical. This is just one example.

I'm a newbie and it shows...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Usually common radicals and ideograms give an idea on the pronunciation of characters. As for discerning meaning of words, one has to built up a decent knowledge of characters, words, and most importantly a feel for the language in order to guess the meaning of words correctly.

On synonyms, yes there are plenty of them in chinese to drive me crazy, in the same way that English can drive chinese speakers crazy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On synonyms, yes there are plenty of them in chinese to drive me crazy, in the same way that English can drive chinese speakers crazy.

That makes us even, I reckon. :)

I started wondering what was going on when the same initial, final, and tone were used for "he" and "she", which may make it difficult at times for a listener to discern the person's gender in spoken situations, but then I realized that we have a ton of soundalike words in English also (to, too, two), which was my "aha" moment of the day.

I like to point out that changing a word from "where" to "there" is but a tone change away. So is the phrase "hot soup". Must be my inner geek coming out.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...