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Reading a novel for a native speaker and the relation to speaking ability.


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Hi everyone,

Is there anyone here who has reached the level where he can read a Chinese novel for native speakers without the aid of a dictionary? (of course, not 100 percent).
I have a few questions to you please:
1. Can you please elaborate on the process you went through until you reached this level? I mean, how did you start reading books? How you used to accumulate new vocabulary, etc.
2. Do you find a direct connection between the ability of reading and the ability to speak? I mean the more you read  the better you speak?


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1. Here you go.


2. There's not a direct connection.  You should train what you want to learn.  There is an indirect connection in that vocab you learn might be relevant, however there is also the case that the vocab you learn might not be used often in speech.  On more than one occasion I've used vocab learned from novels in conversation and had someone tell me that that word is not really used in speech.  Another problem is that your internal reading voice might do things like drop tones or fudge certain pronunciations and this will carry over to your spoken language if you do significantly more reading than speaking (so lots of reading can have an adverse effect on your speaking if you are not careful). 


In short, read to improve your reading.  Speak to improve your speaking.  There might be some crossover between the two, but you'll never discover what that crossover is if you aren't doing both activities (see above about having people point out that the vocab I was using wasn't really used in spoken Mandarin).

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I think that the advice that if you want to improve your reading then read lots, if you want to improve your speaking then speak lots (according @imron and others) although glib sounding is true.


I think if you read lots then your vocabulary will improve but will it be useful vocabulary to you in everyday life? I suppose it depends on the books you read.


I do think there are people who have reached that level and read native level books as easily as if it was there mother tongue.


P.S.  Ah imron got there before me:)


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1. I just took Chinese classes for several years, picked up books once in a while but didn't finish any, until eventually in my fifth year I found a book that was at the right level and enough time and perseverance to read it. (It was 棋王 by 张系国.) I have since continued to learn new vocabulary haphazardly, and continued to read books, equally haphazardly. I can read novels almost without reaching for the dictionary. I don't really have a magic method for it I'm afraid. Reading Chinese is still a lot slower than reading Dutch or English, but it's enjoyable.


2. No.


ETA: Well, it's not entirely useless. Reading Chinese helps me remain in a Chinese mindset. But speaking Chinese is a lot better for my speaking than reading is and vice versa.

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I can read Chinese novels with ease, and though I do encounter plenty of words I don't know I can infer their meanings from context or the characters they are made up 90%+ of the time. 


What helped to learn reading

 1. Learned lots of characters at the beginning. Wrote most new characters and new words 5 times each to help me do this.  This enabled me to enroll in Language classes at Yunnan Normal at an intermediate level

2. The textbook for my intermediate level reading course at Yunnan Normal was entirely in Chinese, even the instructions for exercises and definitions in the glossary, so I was pushed to learn reading just in order to do my homework each day.

3. I bought a dated graded reading series from the bookstore in Wenhua Xiang, and spent plenty of time at the French cafe and Teresa's Pizza going through it (this was before Salvador's)

4. I slogged through articles in 读者 magazine, dictionary in hand. The variety of articles exposed me to lots of different vocabulary. 

5. I read several "novels" from a kids' series (3rd grade level?) about a boy named  马小跳, that was just the right level for me. 

6. I cut and paste novels such as 边城, 骆驼祥子,and 平凡的世界 into NJStar word processor and used the mouse over pop up definitions to make flash cards in SuperMemo (before smart phone flash card apps)


Does it correlate to speaking?

1. I agree with above posts that it improves your vocab which has a connection

2. I read the first volume of the 平凡的世界 trilogy along with an audio book recording - I feel like this was an enormous benefit to my speaking since it helped with rhythm, intonation, etc.  My speaking was a lot more fluent and natural after listening to/reading that book.

3. Until recently I usually read aloud. This has helped my intonation and accent tremendously. It does slow you down, though, so I rarely do it now unless I haven't spoken for awhile and I feel like my tones and accent are getting sloppy.  

4.  I disagree slightly with "train what you want to learn" in some of the above posts. I would contend that while reading is not the best help for speaking, listening is a huge help.  Probably listening to audio books is not as helpful as listening exposure through TV shows where people use 口语, since as imron mentioned above written and spoken vocabulary can be very different.  Listening helps you internalize the way native speakers speak and gives you confidence for your own speaking.  


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Yes, I think one benefit of reading a wide variety of texts including literature has been the improvement to my passive Chinese in conversation - I'll probably never deploy even a  fraction of the vocab or patterns I can recognise but at least I'm not thrown when they're used by my interlocutors.

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