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Rufus

Independent study confirms the readability of the Mandarin Companion series

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Rufus

One the coolest things that has happened to us yet: a research paper was written analyzing the readability of a select set of graded reader series, including Mandarin Companion. I know many of you would be interested in this and I wanted to share! A link to the original study here and here is a link to our blog post summarizing the findings of the paper. 

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mikelove

Interesting, though I'm not sure I'd agree with his focus on lexical difficulty as the key to ease of reading - nowadays with popup dictionaries the disruption from looking up unknown words is quite low and our own anecdotal evidence at least suggests that people are comfortable with texts a good bit above their vocabulary level if they've got a popup dictionary to help them.

 

Also, in defense of the Sinolingua series: the most interesting thing about them to me is that they're adapted from actual contemporary Chinese writings rather than commissioned specifically for a graded reader. There are certainly benefits to each approach, but it's not unreasonable that the vocabulary level would be higher with something abridged from native-speaker-level writing - it's harder to replace a word in an existing text without losing something of its essence.

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mlescano

I'll add my two cents:

 

I enjoyed reading the Mandarin Companion series, the Chinese Breeze ones, and now I'm starting to enjoy the Sinolingua series. Still, neither of them is as "readable" for me as native materials... of a subject very familiar to me. Strange but true. Actually, I did use a text analyzer (Chinese Word Extractor) on a huge corpus on this subject, and systematically learned the most frequent words with Pleco's SRS. Thus, I can now comfortably read about this subject, but struggle with everything else.

 

Now, if we switch from "readable" to "enjoyable"... Of course I prefer graded readers, especially when I don't know where the story is going. Well, if you create Star Wars-themed graded readers, I would not mind already knowing where the story is going!

 

Now, the study uses cool graphs based on HSK word lists... But I never saw any actual comprehension tests with humans. Without real world experiments, we won't know if the theory pans out.

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DavyJonesLocker

A problem with graded readers is that the authors and editors always have good intentions to write a complete sel of levels but inevitably write one or two and then the enthusiasm seems to dissipate. I read both Mandarin Companion and Chinese Breeze series but level is too low. There are plenty of graded readers at beginner level but  far less ones at intermediate and above and especially in Eformat. 

 

A lot of Chinese breeze books seem to be written for a 12yo schoolgirl and its hard to keep the interest up. The mandarin Companion series is excellent and stories are genuinely interesting. The really have identified a  real need by chinese learners,  that is write a book that is genuinely interesting and appealing to all . However I think they would be better served writing one at every level first rather than completing a lower level fully  before and moving on. Its been more than a year i think since the last level 2 book. 

 

PLECO's new addition of graded readers is an excellent addition to their app. The inclusion of pinyin above every line in the hardcopy was a very poor decision by the editors imho

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imron
1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I think they would be better served writing one at every level first rather than completing a lower level fully  before and moving on

By this, you mean that *you* would be better served if they did that :mrgreen: The sharp drop off in learners between beginner, intermediate and advanced probably means that as a company they are better served catering to the larger market first to help subsidize development of later materials.

 

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see more content aimed at intermediate and advanced learners but I understand that the financial incentives don't necessarily work towards that.

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mikelove

This is very true, sadly - we’ve certainly seen more interest in our lower-level stuff, and of course that affects development / licensing of new materials too.

 

On the other hand, advanced users are generally also willing to pay more for things - I’m not quite sure what the graded reader equivalent of the 汉语大词典 is, but if it existed I’m fairly sure we could sell a bunch of them :-)

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Rufus

 

On 12/19/2017 at 11:11 PM, mikelove said:

Interesting, though I'm not sure I'd agree with his focus on lexical difficulty as the key to ease of reading - nowadays with popup dictionaries the disruption from looking up unknown words is quite low and our own anecdotal evidence at least suggests that people are comfortable with texts a good bit above their vocabulary level if they've got a popup dictionary to help them.

 

I think lexical difficulty is the crux of the matter. Studies into extensive reading have shown that reading speed is a key indicator of fluency. Popup dictionaries inline with text are fantastic, and I use the Pleco clip reader all the time, but sometimes it can be a "crippling crutch" for students that slows down their learning when in reality they could progress faster by reading material that is closer to their level. If a learner has to rely too heavily on reading assists, comprehension still suffers and reading is slower even if the looking-up of characters is quicker than before. What can happen is that due to the pop-up dictionaries, they are still trying to understand it in English as opposed to understanding it in the language it is written in. Unfortunately, this can reinforce existing bad habits. 

 

I think in-line pop-up dictionaries have their place, and for the student who has no access to materials low enough for their level, they are an excellent bridge, but I caution learners from relying too much on them. Reading at your level is the most ideal situation when possible. 

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imron
42 minutes ago, Rufus said:

but I caution learners from relying too much on them. Reading at your level is the most ideal situation when possible. 

 

I agree with this 100% and it informed several of the design decisions in Chinese Text Analyser.

 

 

 

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studychinese
On 12/20/2017 at 10:25 AM, DavyJonesLocker said:

The inclusion of pinyin above every line in the hardcopy was a very poor decision by the editors imho

 

Is that the sinolingua books?

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