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Teach Yourself Chinese - The Hard Way

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imron

How are you sourcing these words and how are you then learning them?

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Moshen
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What they say is that the VAK theory has no basis in science.  This is not the same. 

That's a valid point.  But people tend to leap from "it has no basis in science" to "there is no basis for even discussing the topic now."

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Zbigniew
1 hour ago, imron said:

How are you sourcing these words and how are you then learning them?

I'm meeting them in texts, typically newspapers and magazines. I do sometimes take time out to compare similar and therefore confusable characters, and this is often a help on subsequent encounters, at least for a while. The main problem is that there are so many similar characters to differentiate and I'm often torn between breaking off from reading a text to do character analysis and just getting on with the text. If I always did the first I'd never get through anything but the shortest text in a short enough time for me not to lose interest in it.

 

There are only so many mnemonics I can think of to help me remember characters more efficiently. Some characters, regardless of how confusable they are, stubbornly refuse to have a recallable sound and meaning. They do eventually become familiar but the labour of remembering these stubborn ones can be totally disproportionate to what's required for that other category of characters: those that I seem to remember permanently almost from the first encounter.

 

It may just be that my memory is generally terrible compared to what it was when I was younger, and without enormous labour there is a limit to how many different combinations of a relatively small number of familiar building blocks I can be expected to reliably differentiate. If I'd applied myself in earnest to reading Chinese from a young age I certainly wouldn't have the problems with reading I have now, but other languages crowded out the Chinese back then. There's certainly space left for more Chinese; the question is how much of it is going to stick. The bleak answer is a lot less than probably would have done years ago.

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imron
5 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

The main problem is that there are so many similar characters to differentiate and I'm often torn between breaking off from reading a text to do character analysis and just getting on with the text.

To me, this indicates you are trying to read too far above your level.

 

5 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

There are only so many mnemonics I can think of to help me remember characters more efficiently.

Mnemonics might help you recall individual characters in isolation, but I am of the opinion that they make it more difficult for actual reading because while you're in the middle of trying to parse and understand a sentence you're filling your head full of things unrelated to the actual meaning of that sentence.  You are also introducing an intermediary step where instead of going from character-on-page -> recognition your mind has to go character-on-page -> unrelated story about that character -> recognition.

 

A better approach is to read something more appropriate to your level and understand what you are reading and build connections and meaning based on the context.  If you are not being overwhelmed by new words, then when you encounter a new word and look it up you'll be able to associate it to the meaning of what was happening in that sentence.  You can also do things like implanting false memories of you remembering a word.  For example when you encounter a new word, you can imagine yourself reading something else in the future and coming across that word and not remembering what it meant, and then imagine yourself suddenly remembering the meaning with a very clear 'oh that's right it means this' feeling.  Next time you encounter that word, you'll have the false memory of you remembering that word and it will help trigger recall.

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Lu
13 hours ago, imron said:

Mnemonics might help you recall individual characters in isolation, but I am of the opinion that they make it more difficult for actual reading because while you're in the middle of trying to parse and understand a sentence you're filling your head full of things unrelated to the actual meaning of that sentence.  You are also introducing an intermediary step where instead of going from character-on-page -> recognition your mind has to go character-on-page -> unrelated story about that character -> recognition.

While this is true, mnemonics can be useful even if they slow you down a little. You're reading a text and see a character you kind of recognise but not quite. You can now look it up in a dictionary; gloss over it and keep reading; pick a different text because this one is too difficult for now; or recall it with a mnemonic. I'd say that that last option allows you to keep reading, with less time than you would need to look it up in a dictionary, and next time you encounter this character it has become a little easier to remember, because you've seen and recognised it before.

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imron
11 minutes ago, Lu said:

I'd say that that last option allows you to keep reading

This works if the number of new characters per paragraph or page is low.  If there is a high percentage of unknown characters it introduces interference.  I would also argue that there are more effective ways to use visualisation to achieve the same result without the interference (see above about creating false memories).

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Zbigniew
16 hours ago, imron said:

To me, this indicates you are trying to read too far above your level.

 

Thanks for your advice!

 

I'm sure I've been reading above my level for years, part of the reason being that I've never had a Chinese lesson in my life and only ever used one elementary course book, which I followed religiously to the end and then moved on to real texts without looking at another course book ever again. There simply weren't intermediate readers available back in the eighties, or at least not that I could find for sensible money. Can you suggest any intermediate reading texts that might make life a bit easier for me until I gain better reading fluency?

 

I've probably painted a bleaker picture of my position than I might have. I've made a bit of an effort this last year and read on average around an hour a day of unadapted Chinese. I've obviously made some progress; it's just that the progress seems very slow in the light of my expectations (to pick up virtually any lengthy news article and not have to look up more than one or two characters), which are perhaps unreasonable.

 

Practising conversation in contrast has not really been a problem as I've lived with native speakers for many years now. Mind you I've probably been speaking above my level for many years too, though my shortcomings in conversation cause me less pain than my shortcomings in literacy, and probably always will however much effort I put into improving the latter.

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imron

It's a bit difficult to know what to recommend without knowing your level (intermediate is far too loose a term that changes definition depending on who uses it), so I'd look at graded readers/newspapers like Mandarin Companion and The Chairman's Bao.  Especially the latter as it gives you a large range of grades to choose from.

 

I'd also recommend my own Chinese Text Analyser for helping identify suitable content.  There's a big difference in vocab between say a novel by 金庸 and a novel by 余华, but if you are deciding between two books, it's difficult to know beforehand just how big that difference might be and which book would be the most appropriate.  CTA can help with that.

 

14 minutes ago, Zbigniew said:

it's just that the progress seems very slow in the light of my expectations

This is why choosing content at the appropriate level is so important.  It will make you feel like 'yes! I'm reading Chinese', which is a huge confidence boost and at the same time you'll be picking up new vocabulary that will make it easier to read more advanced content.  It's much better than trying to slog through something with too many new words, which can leave you feeling constantly defeated.

 

See also this post of mine where I discuss my own experience doing this.

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Lu
15 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

my expectations (to pick up virtually any lengthy news article and not have to look up more than one or two characters), which are perhaps unreasonable.

That is not an unreasonable expectation, provided that you focus on articles on one specific topic, because of vocabulary. If you're interested in Ming dynasty porcelain, read a lot about it and learn the relevant vocab, you will soon(ish) be able to read an article on that topic without looking up much. But if you then pick up an article about environmental policy, you're lost again. (Same as Imron says about Jin Yong and Yu Hua, basically.) And newspaper articles will remain difficult for a long time, simply because they inherently always throw in new terms.

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roddy
15 hours ago, Zbigniew said:

my shortcomings in conversation cause me less pain than my shortcomings in literacy

It's not us that suffer from our shortcomings in conversation, thankfully. It's our poor interlocutors.

 

If you haven't seen it, @character has an extensive list of graded readers, which might be useful. 

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陳德聰

I’ve merged your two threads because I don’t think it is helpful to start a new thread per blog post when you already have a thread about your blog.

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歐博思

Chinese-forums.com isn't listed in the 'useful resources' section 🤯

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dtcamero
On 5/23/2018 at 1:18 AM, Moshen said:
Quote

What they say is that the VAK theory has no basis in science.  This is not the same. 

That's a valid point.  But people tend to leap from "it has no basis in science" to "there is no basis for even discussing the topic now."

 

this is an important point. i would rephrase it as: 

just because something has no basis in science does not mean it isn't true...

and if it has been "discredited" in neuroscience that doesn't mean it isn't practically useful as framework for understanding learning.

 

speaking as someone who has worked as a teacher, has ten years of academic experience on paper and as many years self-study experience, i find the VAK model incredibly useful.

I personally am a visual learner... i also work in the visual arts and think visually before thoughts turn into language, so in retrospect it is obvious that i would be. 

aural information is almost useless to me and always has been.

this way of thinking about learning has made my learning and working process much more efficient.

 

for example, if i were watching a newscast about economics, the floating graphs and charts are much more useful for my understanding than listening to the announcer:

 

as an aside, science (including neuroscience) is first of all a process and not a body of knowledge.

moreover what we know about the world, the universe, and the brain is vastly outnumbered by that which is unknown.

the inability of scientific processes to explain something that seems true in the brain is by no means equivalent to disproval.

as a civilization we are really just feeling around in the dark in so many areas, and the scientific community is very reticent  about acknowledging this unequivocal reality.

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imron
3 hours ago, dtcamero said:

as an aside, science (including neuroscience) is first of all a process and not a body of knowledge.

Not to mention science is currently right in the grip of a reproducibility crisis.

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Flickserve
On 5/17/2018 at 12:11 PM, RjMaan said:

I was voting towards the traditional classroom environment because it provides an effective communication between students and teachers

 

A traditional classroom is a convenient transmission method to many students at one time. Let's say greater than 20 students to teacher. 

 

Whether it is an effective means of students receiving and processing information is another entirely different issue. 

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