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baihua

Writing strategy

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baihua

Ive decided I should try and write short articles on a more regular basis. Ive found there are quite a few supportive people on italki to help me along, but I often can't decide what is effective in terms of my development. These are the questions I'm mulling over;

1. Should I be directly translating from something I write in English? Translating directly from English is hard, so I tend to avoid this and instead use the minimal language I know in order to cobble something clumsily together. Both have their own advantages and drawbacks.

2. Should I be emphasising words I'm likely to use on a regular basis, or the words that are correct in the context of the article?

3. How much should I be relying on dictionaries to guide the piece along? I try to avoid this in order to develop and foster my own vocabulary, but I tend to find the end products words, and their context is someway off.

Anyone have any pointers?

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Shelley

Are you writing by hand using characters or typing using pinyin?

 

I would write about things you know (yes I know its cliche) but what I mean is write about your day at work,or your day off, or what you would like to have done on your day off if it hadn't been raining, or your dream holiday.

 

It all depends on what you want to use your writing for, if you are hoping to write scholarly articles about technical or learned topics, then you need to practice that.

 

1) Unless you want to become a translator I don't think translating things is a very useful exercise, partly because as you say it is difficult and that is not encouraging to continue with and it modes you in to the language used in the article you are translating.

 

2) I think you should be using vocabulary and grammar that you want to practise, but don't get stuck in a rut, try using different ways of saying the same thing, this is a good general rule for writing anyway, so you don't end up with everything being "great" or "horrible". And yes of course they need to be appropriate for the context, but using language you know. You can look up the odd word to make it make sense (see point 3

 

3) I would consult a dictionary to confirm usage, spelling (pinyin) and grammar, after you have made a stab at what you think it might be. If you have to continually look up things in the dictionary that too becomes tedious and discouraging., but use it the same way you might if you were writing an article in English.

 

You indicate your level as beginner, think about what you did at school when you had to write essays for English. The "what I did for my holidays" essay was good practice and maybe made you use some new words and forms.

 

Remember at beginner level you won't be writing any master pieces :) but it should be fun to do and as long as it is correct and readable you can only get better.

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Silent

I guess the answers depends on your level and purpose and how you will review the text.

 

1) absolutely no unless you have a decent level and really want to translate. Translating, even many simple texts has many complexities.

 

2) Not really sure what you mean by emphasising, but I'ld say no. What you might do is use words/grammar that are relatively new to you in order to help engrain them in your system.  

 

3) in principle as little as possible. but not at every price. What I mean with this is that in principle you should write based on what you know. But you will need to verify words you're not sure about. Often you won't know subject specific key words and should look these up. 

 

I differ from Shelley about what you should write. I think at a lower level there is no issue in writing about your day or plans. It has the big advantage that you learn vocabulary that is relevant for you. The trap in it is that you are likely to keep writing about the same subjects and at some point this is likely to be limiting. I think a better approach might be to pick a random subject or event and write about your views about it. In principle the more random the subject the better, So you might for example pick the lead story from your favorite (news) website.

 

No matter how you pick your subjects it is likely you're developing your own 'standard' approaches and phrases. If you notice you do so try to avoid that standard approach. E.g. to express my views I tend to default to 我觉得。。。, after noticing I tried to avoid it and replace it. E.g use 我的看法是。。。 or 我同意故事的看法因为。。。。There are many ways to express the same idea and for learning it's better to vary then to stick to what has proven to work.. 

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baihua

Thanks for the responses.

 

The 初级 tag line is to signify I'm a beginner in the sense of the scope of the Chinese language. Maybe I should change it, but I just don't feel putting the last exam I passed under my profile is helpful signify my Chinese level. I'm still quite confused as to what the exams mean in terms of your actual compentency. I have been writing on and off since preping for HSK level 5 a few months ago, so I'm a few steps on from that writing task for that particular exam, but I think my learning in retrospect has been far too orientated towards individual character recongition and that now doesn't aid me greatly in the here and now. In Chinese I could probably write a hundred words and it be semi-intelligible, albeit with amble mistakes in there in terms of word selection and grammar, but I'm happy that in most mundane cases I needn't provide the English all the time, but in general I'm keen to improve all aspects of my writing.

 

@shelley

 

I'm typing at the minute, but at some point I should start doing handwriting.

I could try translating the odd sentence, but it's not massively what I want to do from the outset. Translating strikes me as something that could attract a lot of hair-splitting, which I don't think is fun.

In terms of this;

try using different ways of saying the same thing

 

this is an excellent idea. And if I'm not mistaken is a task set by HSK 6.

At the minute I'm using my own vocab intially, then reaching for the dictionary for specialist words and disputed word selection, before dumping it in google translate to spot obvious mistakes.

 

@querido

From what you wrote previously I got that you were talking about evolving stories with more and more details. I like this and could adapt this into a particular exercise, because this would be quite important in terms of assessing my understanding of word order and word selection.

 

@Silent

What do I mean by “emphasising words I'm likely to use on a regular basis”? There is a dichotomy of on the one hand in saying "the weather is good/bad/fine" to other extreme of using the kind of words I would possibly use in English, but I feel I'm seldom likely to retain or use in Chinese just so I can nail it on a particular passage.

 

 

I think a better approach might be to pick a random subject or event and write about your views about it.

 

I'm really interested in doing this kind of thing, but I think I'm just a few steps away from being able to carry it off successively. I've had conversations where Chinese people have asked me, or I have brought up little facets of British history, politics or culture and its something I would want to expand on. The intention is there but not the initial skill level.

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Shelley
before dumping it in google translate to spot obvious mistakes.

 

Are you that confident with Google's abilities? I find it can sometimes make some simple but confusing mistakes.

 

Why not put it into Pleco reader and see what happens.

 

Or take part in the Beginners Writing group, http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51450-beginner-writing-group/

 

It covers HSK 1-3 (you need to stick to this) but it might suit you to start with and get you into good writing habits. And at least it would be a start and you have the expertise of Xuefang to help with problems and to make corrections. Give it a look.

 

As to the subject to write about, when I said write what you know about, you can expand on this, my best Chinese teacher used to say that for the purposes of practice it doesn't have to be 100% true, it just needs make sense and be good chinese. But if you base it on something you know it gives you a starting point, the first sentence is always the hardest, so just start :)

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querido

To baihua:

Thanks. I'm currently studying graded readers. I haven't tried it but graded writing could follow right behind and along with that. If one has any competence it would be a great proof! You'd need someone to check it.

That Beginner's Writing Group mentioned by Shelley, using HSK 1-3 as the word list, sounds great too!

 

To Shelley:

"it doesn't have to be 100% true, it just needs make sense and be good chinese"

Yes. When with my teacher, upon learning a new word I can stick it into a sentence that need not be true but which proves that I understand the word and gives me exercise saying it too. And while skimming over a list of words and thinking of ways to combine them, sentences and stories suggest themselves, too.

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Silent

 

 

I have been writing on and off since preping for HSK level 5 a few months ago, so I'm a few steps on from that writing task for that particular exam, 

 

 

 

I'm really interested in doing this kind of thing, but I think I'm just a few steps away from being able to carry it off successively. I've had conversations where Chinese people have asked me, or I have brought up little facets of British history, politics or culture and its something I would want to expand on. The intention is there but not the initial skill level.

 

I think you should have a little more confidence in yourself. I've never done an official test, but my teacher estimates my level at roughly c1 which i think is generous, but I'm certainly approaching (though I still make many very basic errors too). So our levels shouldn't be too far off.

 

Every lesson my teacher has two short stories I write a short story about. Often just a dozen sentences or so. Though subjects are somewhat limited in subjects (food/drink, Dutch culture, Chinese culture, travel, funny news items) and the details/nuances are not what I would use in Dutch or English in general it works quite well. You should however try not to think in English but in Chinese otherwise you're likely to start translating and doesn't work well. You should also try to let go of details and nuances (for me extremely hard) and try to stick to short sentences. Sometimes I'm amazed on what I get across even if it's not correct Chinese. Sometimes I think it's clear and obvious and proud of what I produced only to find that my teacher has no clue about what I mean. I think you should just start doing it. 

 

About the google translation, I'm wiith Shelley. I think it's not very usefull. Though it results in a delay, I think you're better off getting revies from a person. E.g. through lang8.com

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