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markpete

useful to have a list of "easy" (eg concrete nouns) vocab to study first?

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markpete

tl;dr -- Finding "easier" words to study is better?

 

Hi, all.  Curious what people think of this idea:  

 

When acquiring vocabulary, I spend a lot of time learning how to use a particular word, including in which contexts it can be used, whether it takes an object or not, what the ‘tone’ of the word is (e.g. formal vs. informal), and so on.  But some words are much easier to understand and to start using with confidence. Strawberry / 草莓 is an example.  Once I know that 草莓 translates as strawberry and vice versa, the usage is so similar to English that I don’t have any questions about when and how to use it.  As a result, I can add this new word to my vocabulary much more easily and quickly than other ones.  It’s also a pretty common word, so adding this word probably contributes to my overall fluency as much as an equally common but more difficult to acquire word would.  Therefore, spending relatively more time on such words early in one’s study could boost efficiency in language acquisition.  So…

 

It would be useful to have a list of “1:1 words”, pairs of words that are almost always translated into each other when translating between the two languages.  草莓 and strawberry might be such a pair, while table / 桌子 would not be part of such a pair, since it is often translated into English as table and often translated as desk.  The advantage of having such a list, and particularly of having a list of common concrete nouns that fit this criterion, is that they will be the most easily learned.  A list of the 2000 most common (i.e. most useful) concrete nouns (which are very easily understandable and used in similar ways between languages) that fit this criterion (and so can be learned without any required context) could provide a quick, very time-efficient boost to a student’s fluency in the target language. 

 

One could get such a list by taking an open-source text-formatted dictionary of the target language, filtering by part of speech, then feeding the result into an online translation tool to pick ones where the translations going each way match each other.  Ordering by frequency of occurrence (using frequency data from other studies) would allow you to establish a cutoff and shrink the size the of list, which could then be filtered by hand to identify concrete nouns.  Finally, having a bilingually fluent person filter them as a final check would give you a vetted list of the easiest common words to learn, which could be presented as a resource to students.

 

Worthwhile?

 

Cheers, 

   Mark

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abcdefg

Early on in learning Chinese, I went to the bookstore (here in Kunming) and bought children's picture books. I remember one for vegetables and one for fruits, one for animals and so on. Diligent parents often use these to help their young kids when they first become verbal.

 

I also recall making small "sticky notes" with the names of the items in my dorm room. Used Hanzi. Bed, chair, table, toilet, light switch and so on.

 

I realize you are trying to craft a pedagogical tool to help others. I was only trying to help myself.

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imron
Worthwhile?

You could try it with a smaller sample size to test it out - say 100 instead of 2,000.   Actually, I doubt you'd be able to get 2,000 'common' ones given your criteria of words that have a direct 1:1 mapping.

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li3wei1

I suspect, based on nothing at all, that usefulness in this sense will have an inverse correlation with commonness. 'Strawberry' has only one meaning, so we only use it to talk about strawberries. 'Table' has many, so we use it more frequently. And perhaps, the reason we choose 'table' to talk about water tables, tabling motions, and just about anything with a flat horizontal surface, is because it's a commonly-encountered thing. Everyone's got a table; strawberries appear briefly in the summer.

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Shelley

There is a school of thought that we all speak our own personal "dialect" You say table and I think of of a simple flat top supported by 4 legs. You might be thinking of a highly ornate 6 legged table.

 

This is excluding the examples li3wei1 used to show tables aren't even always flat tops with legs.They are all tables but we aren't actually talking about the exactly same thing.

 

I realise this is splitting hairs but it does show that we can't be certain we are all taking about the same things all the time.

 

If there is a picture of a cup of coffee and someone says what is this called? do they mean the cup? the coffee? the handle? the fact it is hot?

 

This ambiguity is somewhat addressed in chinese by usually having two characters to describe something.

 

I would learn what you need and what you come across, if you feel you may be misunderstood, find out the exact term used for desk and table and stick with it.

 

I think you would be in danger of excluding useful nouns by confining yourself to a subset on a list. I think frequency of use is a better subset to start with.

 

 

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vellocet

Hey, 草莓 also means hickey.  :mrgreen:  You can use it the whole year 'round!

 

I think it's a great idea.  Chinese for beginners is so frustratingly organized and teaches you so much useless garbage, or difficult-to-use words.  Chinese is hard enough already without awful pedagogy blocking the way.  

 

Honestly it would just be nice to have a canonical list of unambiguous words.  SO many words in Chinese don't map 1:1 with English equivalents.  Unfortunately I doubt anyone will pick up this project and if anyone does it it'll have to be you.  The good news is you'll probably learn a lot by compiling the list.  

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querido

"and so can be learned without any required context"

 

I think that's a bad road to be on.

 

*****

Aside, for anyone interested (caveat - I'm probably the worst long-term student in this forum):

My flashcards for remembering words have a whole sentence with a  "[...]" where the word should go (see Chinese Text Analyser). In most cases the sentence requires the meaning that must go there, so I never see the meaning in English (it is not shown on the back of the card but I can click Edit to see it). Notice that *I must understand the sentence for this to work.*

In many cases the sentence is not enough to determine the meaning of the word, and I'll tell you my solution to this: All of these sentences come from whole stories (graded readers), and I can remember the word because I remember the story. An example (which I will give in English): "The sisters owned two identical [...] colored cars.". That sentence is not enough, but I remember the story, and I remember that they were red. Notice that *I must understand the story for this to work.* And I must retain some familiarity with it (a large chunk of language). It's a higher-level approach than context-free atomic word cards. I no longer care about Dr. What'sHisName's theory or algorithm, at all.

So, my flashcarding time is Chinese-only (though the back does show the Romanization). I think this is worth a lot!

*****

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abcdefg

Agree with Querido. I now learn Chinese almost entirely in context; almost entirely in larger chunks. I still look up unfamiliar words, but retain them for review in phrases or sentences.

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markpete

Thanks, all.  All good thoughts!  Given the lack of unanimous enthusiasm, I'll put this on the back burner for now, but may end up exploring it a bit more later for my own use.

Cheers, 

   Mark

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Flickserve

Actually, I don't think it is a bad idea if it doesn't use up much time to remember the words.

 

Of course you won't know if these words are useful to your own situation. I have some common words which I find really hard to remember.   Actually, I find most words are really hard to remember 

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Yadang

I also think it would be a good idea... alternatively, maybe instead of the dictionary 1:1 mapping thing, you could just study words from sources which you know will probably only contain such words, like lists of vegetables, menus, etc... There might be some things that slip through which have another meaning, but you'd maybe be able to pick the exceptions up in daily life?

 

On 1/8/2017 at 11:19 AM, querido said:

In most cases the sentence requires the meaning that must go there, so I never see the meaning in English (it is not shown on the back of the card but I can click Edit to see it). Notice that *I must understand the sentence for this to work.*

I do this as well, only I have the English def on the back but in a "hint" field... so I must click on it in order for it to show... The only problem is I get a bit excessive with clicking when I don't need to...

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roddy

I think the 1:1 mapping thing is a red herring. Think about 1:1 mapping at your level. There's no need to worry about learning 東西, thing, because of the higher-level 'East-west' meaning. In fact, it's counter-productive. Learn the uses appropriate to your level, and it'll all come together in the end. Yes, there's a potential for confusion and mistakes when you think you know what a word means, but actually there's a different meaning you aren't aware of, but frankly you're learning Chinese so there's going to be a tonne of confusion and mistakes regardless. 

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