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biyalan

Thoughts on starting up again?

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biyalan

I was wondering if anyone had thoughts on starting active study after a period of "hiatus". In particular, I'm looking for strategies for resuming study when you already have a strong intermediate foundation. I don't want to study in a way that's boring and wastes time by going back to square one, but I also don't want to jump into the deep end and get discouraged/drown. 

 

For some specifics about my situation: I've been studying Chinese for a decently long time, but at this point it's been 4ish months since I've been actively studying and 2.5ish years since I've had any formal instruction. I have Anki decks going back some 8 years, all of my old textbooks, and of course access to lots of native language material via the internet/my university library. My primary goal right now is to get up to a decent reading level for native materials (and even scholarly texts yikes), with listening, speaking, and writing all being sort of second tier but still important. At peak competency, I could make my way through some Lu Xun and some other early 20th century authors and hold a decent conversation about what I'd read (somewhere part way through Chinese Literature and Society for anyone familiar with the textbooks from Princeton Press). I'd say that I'm decent with grammar and that getting a sufficiently large vocabulary has been my stumbling block (shocker, I know). 

 

I'm stuck with a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma - start reviewing old vocabulary to prepare myself to read again, or jump into reading in order to refresh my vocabulary? My anki decks have (unsurprisingly) accrued an enormous number of reviews, but I don't know that it's a good idea to delete and start over again, since some of the vocabulary I really do know quite well still. All of my decks are set to both recognize and recall, which made sense when I was using them to prepare for class, but is sort of a high bar to clear when jumping in after a long time away. 

 

I'm sure this is a pretty common situation, so feel free to point me to existing threads - I poked around but couldn't find anything. Any and all thoughts/advice/commiseration are appreciated!

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Shelley

Having thought about it for awhile, I think I would start where I left off. I would just look things up I had forgotten, practice a bit more to start with, so an intensive first 2 weeks maybe, depends on how it goes, you may find it all floods back and after a week you are back in the swing of it or it might take longer, but eventually I think you would start moving forward with new material.

 

I'd say just start,  considering what you say you could do, I think you will surprise yourself.

 

 

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li3wei1

I'd agree with Shelley. I had a hiatus of more like 10 years, more even, and when I got back into it a lot came flooding back. Pick up anything, start reading. If it's too hard, look for something easier. If it's too easy, save it for when you're tired. If it's just right, keep going, and you'll find yourself improving rapidly.

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Publius

I agree with imron. Just delete them. SRS is a tool. Don't be a slave to a tool. Unless you're an android, deleting a digital file won't affect your memory. You can and should start wherever you want and rebuild your vocabulary.

If you're really uncomfortable with deleting your old decks, you can reset them by exporting and importing them back, keep them separate from your new decks, and slowly go through them. But I suspect you'll find it unnecessary.

Two and half years is just a bump in a long journey. Given your previous level, I don't think vocabulary is an inhibitive factor. You've already entered the virtuous circle. Just start reading, everything will come back. In fact, your oldest cards probably have an interval longer than 2.5 years.

Early 20th century texts can be difficult even for native speakers. Maybe you can find some contemporary writers whose styles are more accessible. If that's still too hard, use graded readers to warm up a bit.

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Luxi

I agree with everybody here. Going back will only bore and discourage you, pick up your Chinese where you left it and push ahead.   

 

Your 'hiatus' is actually small. Getting back may be slow at first, but most of the knowledge is still in your brain, you just have to reactivate it. Eventually it will come back at speed. All languages seem to vanish from memory when one stops practising and being exposed to them for some time. Even one's mother tongue can become almost forgotten:

This is what happens when you stop speaking your native language

 

I studied Chinese for about 16 years, intensively for part of that period though never full time. I'd reached a lower advanced level in reading and writing, while speaking and listening comprehension lagged behind for insufficient field practise. Then I dropped everything for about 14 years. When I started again, it seemed I had lost everything except the grammar. Of a few thousand words and characters I was able to read and write, only a few were left. Funnily, I often remembered the pronunciation of the characters but not their meaning. It was shocking.

 

Eventually, quite a bit came back after 4 years work. I jumped at the deep end and took up reading native material on-line, shamelessly using pop-up dictionaries --- the Chrome & Firefox app Zhongwen allows you to save lists of the characters you look up, I made selected lists and studied them in Pleco, for some time also in Skritter. Reading on-line eased much frustration and made things a lot faster and more interesting for me. Also took up listening, I first used Slow Chinese and iMandarin Chinese, later mainly Ximalaya FM and audio books. Watching movies and TV series helped too and was enjoyable. Something that helped me a lot was taking up subtitling: it was painfully slow at first, but persistence paid off within a few months. 

 

The Chinese that came back is not the same as before the 'gap'. Listening comprehension from TV and radio is better than earlier (then I understood people but not much on TV or radio). I still need to use dictionaries when reading, and even without dictionaries my reading speed is much slower than it used to be - I have plenty of work yet to do there. Speaking is rusty but since my main interest for now is reading, I haven't put much effort on speaking yet, to my relief, Chinese people can still understand me. The saddest loss for me is handwriting,  I was able to write reasonably well and fast before, but it seems much of it relied on body memory - I still have some essays from my courses with surprisingly few corrections, but I can't even read them! At lest now I can type: IME wasn't generally available before the hiatus, I'd never been able to use it but now it has probably consigned handwriting to oblivion for me.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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DavyJonesLocker

I've had more restarts with Chinese than I care to remember! I have a different view from the ones above to some extent. I think you just need to start at a low level see how you get on, and  jump up the level if you think it's too easy. 

 

It doesn't require  a great deal of time. If you look at many text books, the passages are usually fairly short.  Originally you might have studied a chapter in a few days, this time you can read the book in a day easily. It may be a bit boring but you are exposing yourself to a bit size bits of vocabulary and text.

 

As for anki, I don't delete decks I just suspend all cards and slowly unsuspend them in groups of 200 or so. This way you haven't lost your reviewing history.

 

Deleting decks can often be refreshing but can mean a huge amount of reviews. Also if you have original decks amounting to 6000 cards or more, that's a lot of unnecessary work adding them back it.

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Shelley
1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

that's a lot of unnecessary work adding them back it.

Which is why Pleco (paid version with dictionary as suggested by imron)is so much easier to use, add with a touch of a button.

 

Pleco allows you to make as many categories as you like, I find this very useful, I make a new category for each lesson and then I can concentrate on the vocab for the new lesson but also review old vocab when I feel the need. You could have a new category for each book.

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imron
1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

Deleting decks can often be refreshing but can mean a huge amount of reviews

On the contrary, it significantly reduces reviews, plus it keeps reviews limited to relevant vocab. 

 

1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

that's a lot of unnecessary work adding them back it.

If you use paid Pleco it's effectively zero work to add them back.

 

Quote

and slowly unsuspend them in groups of 200 or so.  This way you haven't lost your reviewing history.

Reviewing history is overrated.  Of that 200, how many would be relevant to what you are currently reading?  Probably not a high percentage if they are just random cards from a random deck.  It is a much more effective use of time to learn 200 words relevant to what you are currently reading than 200 words from a bunch of different places.

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zander1

I agree with all of the replies here - every time I’ve taken a hiatus the initial restarting has been horrible but I always manage to get back into it within a few weeks or so.

 

Like others have recommended I would start new Anki/pleco decks, however I tend not to delete my old ones as I have lots of flashcard sentences with native audio (made with my teachers) which I still find useful to put into my new decks when relearning something. 

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biyalan

Thanks for all of the advice and encouragement everyone! Starting up a reading habit was definitely my goal but you've all convinced me to just jump in.

 

For those suggested Pleco - what are the advantages of paying for a dictionary? I've found the free dictionaries useful for general lookings things up so far - can you just use the free dictionaries with the SRS add-on? I don't mind spending the money if I'm really convinced it's worth it but generally I try to make it work with free stuff. 

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Shelley
48 minutes ago, biyalan said:

what are the advantages of paying for a dictionary

I think it all depends on the vocab you are studying, for my first few years I just used the free ones but as I progressed I needed a more comprehensive dictionary. I now have the NWP English to Chinese one and the Outlier simplified and traditional dictionary because I really enjoy learning the etymology of characters.

 

My advice is to buy the basic package, use the free dictionaries for a while, then as you progress you will learn which of the other dictionaries is suitable for you. You can always add things later. You may want to add the OCR etc. You of course will need a smart phone or tablet. Pleco is available for Android, or iOS only. Have a look at their web page for more info. You can even try the free version but remember its not "real Pleco".  http://www.pleco.com/

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DavyJonesLocker
6 hours ago, imron said:

On the contrary, it significantly reduces reviews, plus it keeps reviews limited to relevant vocab. 

 

I can't see how! you lose all the history. If you want to get back to the point you were at at one stage, that is, everything you knew before, this will ae a huge amount of reviews. For example HSK1 will all have to be reviewed which is highly unlikely required \.

6 hours ago, imron said:

If you use paid Pleco it's effectively zero work to add them back.

 

 

7 hours ago, Shelley said:

Which is why Pleco (paid version with dictionary as suggested by imron)is so much easier to use, add with a touch of a button.

 

 

Does deleting decks I assume means you lose all your review history. I only use ANKi as they were set up long before ANKI. I know PLECO is very fast at this however typing in say 6000 characters/words and adding them in to various deck still requires a significant amount of time. Also you face other issues such as 

(a) are you including all words?

(b) text you have read or reading will be very stot start to add these words back in.

(c) custom created decks, cross referencing etc  will be lost

 

i have deleted decks many times but I came to the conclusion  that suspending decks and /or cards is a superior method in my view, as there are plenty of advantages over full deleting but no disadvantage from what I can see.

6 hours ago, imron said:

Reviewing history is overrated.  Of that 200, how many would be relevant to what you are currently reading?  Probably not a high percentage if they are just random cards from a random deck.  It is a much more effective use of time to learn 200 words relevant to what you are currently reading than 200 words from a bunch of different places.

 

What I mean is you can unsuspend cards or  decks that are relevant to what you are reviewing. I agree with you in that there is no point in randomly adding in words that maybe low frequency or not related to what you are reviewing.  During my last "reset" I suspended everything, (7000 cards I think), added in HSK5 over a few days as those are fairly high frequent words. Many simple ones still weren't due for review. I reread NPCR vol 4 and added in all cards with that TAG (= NPCR4)

 

I also take the view that if I learnt a word before I would like to be able to recall that word as I feel the hard work has been put in and it seems a waste to no longer review that word . Some words  I wouldn't do review, for example all the capitals and provinces of China (which I knew at one point!) Things like this can be reviewed when it comes up in conversation.

 

Finally I think the OP should try a few methods and see what works, and importantly what he or she enjoys doing. Then  take it from there. It's never one size fits all!

 

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imron
6 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

you lose all the history.

History is irrelevant.  No one is learning Chinese to admire their flashcard history.  All that matters is whether you can understand the word when you encounter it in context.  If yes, keep going.  If no, the word requires further study.

 

6 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

this will ae a huge amount of reviews.

Most of your 'reviews' should come from reading the word in context.  For all but recently added words, if you are reading enough, you'll be 'reviewing' many of the words in your deck through reading before you see them again in a flashcard review.  This is another reason why 'flashcard history' is not really that important - it's only accurate if all you are doing is flashcard reviews.

 

6 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

and adding them in to various deck still requires a significant amount of time.

It doesn't.  If you are reading and you come across an word you don't know you need to look up the word in the dictionary (whether it's in your deck or not).  As soon as you've looked it up, adding it to your deck is a tap of a button.  It's zero effort over whatever work you were already doing, and Pleco automatically adds it to any relevant decks, plus you can change the presentation of those decks (front and back cards) at any time (also with not much more than a few taps).

 

7 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

are you including all words?

No.  As mentioned previously, you should add a limited number of new words per day.  This is managed by making sure to choose reading content appropriate to your level.

 

7 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

text you have read or reading will be very stot start to add these words back in.

See above about choosing content at the right level.

 

7 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

custom created decks, cross referencing etc  will be lost

This is true.  And with Pleco the amount of information cards can hold is also limited compared to Anki.  The idea however is to reduce time spent creating and maintaining decks - which is busy work that doesn't necessarily advance your skills.  In my opinion it's more effective to go with simpler decks and spend the time saved on other study.

 

6 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

added in HSK5 over a few days as those are fairly high frequent words

Not really.  The HSK aims to cover a broad range of vocabulary from a broad range of topics, genres and mediums.  Whatever you are trying to read at a given moment in time will typically be limited a small (or single) set of topics, genres and mediums.  What this means is that at HSK5 and above a large number of words will be from topics, genres and mediums that are not relevant to what you are currently reading and you'll see a greater improvement in reading comprehension by adding words relevant to what you are reading than by adding HSK5 words.

 

7 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

it seems a waste to no longer review that word

This is where reading comes in!  If you are reading enough, then either you'll review that word through reading soon enough or the word is not relevant to you (by definition, because you haven't come across it in reading) and so it is a waste to review that word when you could be reviewing a more relevant word instead.

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imron
11 hours ago, biyalan said:

For those suggested Pleco - what are the advantages of paying for a dictionary?

Better quality examples, better quality translations and a higher number of words.  Also it means you can get the Guifan C-C dictionary.  Yes there's the MOE C-C dictionary for free, but I think the Guifan is better because it has many notes comparing and explaining differences between similar words.

 

As mentioned above, I would recommend at least the ABC C-E dictionary, and if you are at the point of using a C-C dictionary, then also the Guifan.

 

Which free dictionaries are you using?

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Luxi
17 hours ago, biyalan said:

For those suggested Pleco - what are the advantages of paying for a dictionary?

 

Pleco is not only a dictionary. It's much more than that. 

Anyway, if you have an iOS or Android device or both, you can install the basic Pleco for free, it already offers more than standard free dictionaries and it has no adds, spyware or expiry date. You can then try it and find out what the pay options do and whether you want any or not. Have a look at the Pleco website .

 

 

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Lu

I'm not of the 'periodically delete your Anki deck' school myself, but in this case I would recommend deleting your old Anki deck. As you say, you'll have an intimidating amount of reviews built up that you'd have to power through before you can start learning new words again. And as Imron says, the words from that deck that you don't know well but do need, will come up again, and you can just add them to your fresh new deck.

 

As to where to get started: if you were using a particular method, perhaps start by a quick review of the last few chapters of that, to get yourself up to speed again and get into a learning mode. With reading, perhaps start with a short text of the kind you'd like to read, just to get an idea of how you're doing. If it's too difficult, put it aside for now and pick up something easier first. If it's just right, read more of that.

 

Good luck, and come back here when you need help or pointers!

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biyalan
10 hours ago, imron said:

Which free dictionaries are you using?

 

I've just been using whatever the default free C-E Pleco dictionary is - it's been working for me okay so far, though it's good to know that there are options with more extensive example sentences and information about the differences between similar words, as that's something that always trips me up. I also use MBDG when I'm on my computer instead of my phone. 

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imron

Here's a post from a few months back showing why the Guifan is so great.  Its entries are full of little 注意 notes explaining pronunciation and usage gotchas.

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happy_hyaena

+1 to paying for better dictionaries. I first paid for the SRS flaschard function, but then eventually bought the professional bundle after seeing what my friend had. I literally use Pleco every day, sometimes opening it up 20 times in one day; so paying $80 or $100 or whatever the price is these days is so worth it.

 

My biggest struggle when using the free version was that it was often not clear if a word was a verb, adjective, adverb or even a noun. Some words really actually fall under several of those categories. Learning how to use a word correctly, and trying to understand the difference between the word itself and a close synonym, either requires someone to explain things to you or a good dictionary with example sentences ready. Paid Pleco allows you to find a word and read a combination of entries from several dictionaries.

 

Also, Free Pleco works OK when doing Chinese->English look ups, but is very bad in the opposite direction. Paid Pleco provides you with a lot more tools to do English->Chinese look up.

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