Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
laurenth

Betting everything on reading, out of frustration with the rest

Recommended Posts

Publius

@mkmyers45

Already available on JD!

Screenshot_2019-06-03-22-26-17-572_com.jingdong_app_mall.thumb.png.8ecd56f68fd45ca460005be1f1140a0f.pngScreenshot_2019-06-03-22-27-02-208_com.jingdong_app_mall.thumb.png.4dc877f2f22b635e00a4708afc59c0ff.png

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

murrayjames

Some thoughts for the OP.

 

One of the great joys of learning Chinese is speaking in Chinese with Chinese-speaking people face-to-face. If face-to-face communication with Chinese people interests you, then it is too soon to give up on speaking and listening.

 

Your listening comprehension skills persistently lag behind your reading comprehension skills. This is discouraging. But perhaps your understanding and command of Mandarin is weak, generally. In which case, welcome to the club. Many of us here listen and speak and read and write at a level far below where we think we should be, given the amount of time and effort we've invested in this dastardly tricky language. Like you, I and many other people here are in our second decade of Chinese study and still kinda suck. Moser is right: Chinese is damn hard.

 

The good news is that all four language skills—including listening and speaking—get better with practice. Be encouraged!

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
murrayjames

An additional thought, prompted by @anonymoose’s and your mentions of Sisyphus above.

 

Learning is indeed a Sisyphean task, because it is repetitive and endless. There is always more to learn. Like Sisyphus, when we roll our linguistic boulders up the steep hill we accomplish something. The job is never finished, but real work is done. The boulder was down; now it is up. We didn’t know a thing before; now we know it. The number of boulders is uncountable and interminable. Yet there is a sense of achievement in getting the boulder up the hill at all.

 

Learning teaches us, in part, what we do not know. Learning results in new knowledge and new awareness of ignorance. Since there is always more to learn, and since learning implies awareness of one’s finitude, learning is a logically and psychologically futile activity, as the Greeks and as Solomon and Sartre correctly perceived. Learning, like life itself, is vaporous.

 

And yet, our hapless attempts at mastering verbal Chinese are no less futile in an ultimate sense than all the other Sisyphean stuff we do every day. So.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
mkmyers45
On 6/3/2019 at 10:23 PM, Publius said:

Already available on JD!

 

Thanks

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dawei3
7 hours ago, murrayjames said:

One of the great joys of learning Chinese is speaking in Chinese with Chinese-speaking people face-to-face.

I'll add that speaking to good friends via wechat is also a great joy.  To me, it's still fascinating when I can manage a conversation in Chinese and I find I can do so with more & more topics.  They also enjoy having me be closer to their language/culture.  I also enjoy listening to verbal wechats they leave me.  If it's one I can't fully understand, I'll listen to it again & again.  Because it's from a friend, it's quite fun (and I let them know how many times I listened to their messages and they laugh).  

 

DavyJonesLocker mentioned this novelty has declined for him, so I expect my ability/progress is less than his, so when I make progress, I notice.  For me, one of the top motivators for my continued learning are the interactions with both long-term friends and new people I cross paths with.  As Murryjames notes, it is endless, because it's a pleasure, I'm glad it is.  I sometimes wonder at what age will my language learning ability plateau.  My goal is what the Linguist John McWhorter has said (whom I've quoted many times), i.e., to enter a fascinating culture and communicate more fully with other humans.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rufus
On 6/1/2019 at 2:28 AM, laurenth said:

I read 124 characters in 1 min.

Why are you so interested in my reading speed?

Hey @laurenth, sorry for the late response on this, I was in the middle of travelling back to China. 

 

There is a lot of good advice people have offered here. Reading speed is one of the most significant indicators of fluency. If you think about it, it makes sense, plus it's backed up by a lot of research. Case in point, if you even had the chance to go peek into an elementary school near you (assuming you are in an English speaking country), you'd find that in the elementary education, they are focusing on 1) reading speed and 2) reading accuracy. If you can tackle these two things and continue to progress, then this is a strong indicator of fluency. 

 

Your reading speed is decent, not bad at all. I would suggest that you may want to try and focus on reading even more extensively. Work on increasing the speed of recognition of the characters you already know. See if you can increase your reading speed to a standard 150, then 175, and so on. This is just one step that should help with your progress.

 

But fundamentally, it's deeper than this. You obviously have a great knowledge of Chinese. You are able to read many things and know lots of characters and words. What you are discussing is the lack of proficiency in Chinese. This quote below is directly from a high school Chinese teacher who was dealing with students who had this exact problem. 

lack-intermediate-proficiency-in-Chinese.jpg

 

I would suggest at this stage, you shift focus from trying to acquire lots of new words and instead focus on opportunities to use what you know. If you don't have anyone to talk to, you can write, and literature can be an awesome basis for writing. Here are some ideas:

  • Write a summary about the book you are reading.
  • Re-write the ending of a story you read.
  • Write a new chapter for a story you read.
  • Write a side story based on a character in the book. 
  • Keep a blog in Chinese. 

There are lots of other things you can do, but find a way to use the language you have and focus on building proficiency in what you already know as opposed to learning new words you're not going to be sure how to use. And I promise if you do find ways to use your Chinese, you'll end up learning lots of new words along the way, the difference being that this time you'll be picking up things that re relevant to what you are doing or discussing and therefore more likely to stick. I'm glad that you enjoyed the Mandarin Companion readers! Of course, I'm inclined to suggest you read all of them! Find other things that are easy to read. Honestly, I even like Diary of a Wimpy Kid 《小屁孩日记》in Chinese, easy to read and funny.  

 

Anyway, I hope that helps. I think perhaps just a shift in strategy will help you get to where you want to go. Keep it up!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Rufus
On 6/3/2019 at 5:45 PM, Publius said:

《义务教育常用词表(草案)》 was just published. Compiled by the Ministry of Education, it contains 15114 words. That's the number of words you're expected to know after 9 years of formal education.

By my estimation, HSK 6 vocabulary (5000 words, 2663 characters) is around the level of native 4-5th graders. So of course there is a gap.

For graded reader publishers, HSK 5-6 is simply too advanced and not profitable.

Hey @Publius just wanted to address a few things to help, in what my opinion, would be propagating some misinformation that could create unrealistic expectations among many of the learners here. 

 

Most native speakers of any language will typically have a vocabulary of 9-10k words. I know what the ministry of education released is this number, but that doesn't mean that every student learned all of those. We frequently use much fewer words in our every day conversations. This isn't that big of a deal, just wanted to help people not to create unrealistic expectations that they need to know 15k words to speak Chinese. 

 

But you are right that the market for HSK 5-6 graded reader materials is quite small in comparison to lower level materials and therefore less profitable. It takes a lot of work to make a book that is leveled properly and uses the right vocab for someone studying at that level. 

 

On 6/3/2019 at 5:45 PM, Publius said:

For native content publishers, 2000 characters is the minimal. Below that, you're illiterate and should be reading picture books.

 

I just want to suggest that knowing less than 2000 characters does not mean you are illiterate and that reading picture books, especially for 2nd language learners of Chinese, is the appropriate alternative. Even in Chinese, there are a lot of books that are written for younger readers in the 2nd and 3rd grades where at that stage they will have learned roughly 700-1500 characters (depending at what point in the year). A good example is 《非常小子马鸣加》.  And of course, for 2nd language learners, there are a lot of graded materials out there. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DavyJonesLocker
22 minutes ago, Rufus said:

But you are right that the market for HSK 5-6 graded reader materials is quite small in comparison to lower level materials and therefore less profitable. It takes a lot of work to make a book that is leveled properly and uses the right vocab for someone studying at that level. 

 

 

I don't quite  agree with this. 

 

I think the market is decent for hsk 5 and 6 given the subject come ups quite regularly. There is practically no market offering so analysing the market is just guess work.   Also I think writers over think graded readers. They try to embed in some srs style system into the books which in my view is pointless.

 

 You can't control how the reader will read the book. He or she might pause for week, read 2 pages, stop , read half the book in morning 2 weeks later. When the book is finished you can forget every single new word unless you contine reviewing them via anki or other reading material. Even at a 300 word level this is possible if you already passed HSK5

I think the research is flawed on graded readers. We all hear about how useful they are (and I agree with that) but they there are only beginning, lower  level readers so where is this data set to analyise the effectiveness?

 

As regards the work load if as reader is at HSK5 to 6 there is no need to handhold. One just needs exposure . I am HSK5 I'd say yet any native easy style run of the mill novel I can understand at a 90 % level. It's just the shear amount of unknown words that are the problem. If a grader reader keep it to 5000 it would be much more fluid 

 

 I think it would be far better to just take a western novel book that is already in translated (and the choice is endless! ) and just simplify  the more complex sentences and words. no need to over think it . switch out adjectives , adverbs , idioms to simpler ones. Heck even a find and replace would get you a long way. Not ideal but it's better than having nothing at all or a story so dull and isolated from everyday life like the grader reset series. The advantage of a western translated book is you are avoiding the usual cringy propaganda BS that comes with Chinese teaching material for foreigners. 

 

Also I don't agree at all with this concept of trying to increase reading speed. I think that one should just come naturally. I never remember once anyone every suggesting to do this in English when I was in school. I had two Chinese teachers who keep trying this and it was pointless. All I did was pronounced the hanzi but if you asked me what the lesson was about I had no clue. Actually I sacked both those teachers and the 3rd I went at own pace and from then then on it was slow but steady progress. 

 

 

Expecting many to disagree with me 😎

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Wurstmann
1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

Also I don't agree at all with this concept of trying to increase reading speed. I think that one should just come naturally. I never remember once anyone every suggesting to do this in English when I was in school. I had two Chinese teachers who keep trying this and it was pointless. All I did was pronounced the hanzi but if you asked me what the lesson was about I had no clue. Actually I sacked both those teachers and the 3rd I went at own pace and from then then on it was slow but steady progress. 

I agree. Maybe if you want to get really fast you have to do some targeted practice. I just did some speed tests on the internet and got around 400-450 words per minute for English, which I think is quite okay for a second language. If you read enough your speed will naturally increase.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Publius
On 6/10/2019 at 1:58 PM, Rufus said:

what my opinion, would be propagating some misinformation that could create unrealistic expectations among many of the learners here

What's creating unrealistic expectations is Hanban's claim that HSK's six levels directly correspond to CEFR A1-C2. If that is true, then after passing HSK 4, you should be able to read some easy novels. That's a sharp contrast to reality.

 

On 6/10/2019 at 1:58 PM, Rufus said:

Most native speakers of any language will typically have a vocabulary of 9-10k words.

I doubt that. 9-10k is about right for the active vocabulary. But our passive vocabulary is typically several times larger.

On 6/10/2019 at 1:58 PM, Rufus said:

We frequently use much fewer words in our every day conversations.

Exactly. That's why studies show strong correlation between reading habit and vocabulary size. Some words you just can't learn from everyday conversations.

 

On 6/10/2019 at 1:58 PM, Rufus said:

I just want to suggest that knowing less than 2000 characters does not mean you are illiterate

Well, call it semi-literate then.

Quote

1953年11月24日,政务院扫除文盲工作委员会发出《关于扫盲标准、扫盲毕业考试等暂行办法的通知》。《通知》规定,扫盲标准为:干部和工人,一般可订为认识2000个常用字,能阅读通俗书报,能写二、三百字的应用短文;农民一般订为能识1000个常用字,大体上能阅读通俗书报,能写常用的便条、收据;城市劳动人民一般订为能识1500个常用字,读、写标准参照工人、农民的标准。各省、市可根据具体情况,灵活掌握。根据群众要求,县扫盲工作委员会或教育科可给考试及格者发扫盲毕业证书。

(http://www.china.com.cn/aboutchina/txt/2009-11/23/content_18935178.htm)

 

On 6/10/2019 at 1:58 PM, Rufus said:

and that reading picture books, especially for 2nd language learners of Chinese, is the appropriate alternative.

The problem is, adult learners can't stand picture books. They want something more sophisticated to match their adult intelligence and adult emotions. But that's a tall order, given their limited vocabulary.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moshen
Quote

The problem is, adult learners can't stand picture books. They want something more sophisticated to match their adult intelligence and adult emotions. But that's a tall order, given their limited vocabulary.

 

In Spanish, I made the leap from just learning words and grammar to consuming material for natives by using two bridge resources:

 

1)A video story series called "Destinos" that was specifically designed for language learners.  It had many episodes, stretching out the story line in an engaging manner that got harder as the series progressed.  This enabled me to go on to telenovelas, which are exciting TV dramas of 80-120 episodes (infinitely better than American soap operas, in my opinion), for native speakers, which I still watch (and by and large understand) with Spanish-language closed captions on.  These definitely engage "adult emotions"!  They also familiarize you with many accents and everyday vocabulary, not to mention outlier concepts like blackmail and kidnapping.  I've watched contemporary and historical telenovelas set in various countries, including Spain, Mexico and Chile, which each have different cultural, historical, linguistic and social background.

 

2)A podcast called "News in Slow Spanish," which I could listen to and understand while walking.  Completely in Spanish, it has a somewhat simplified vocabulary and a leisurely pace, and this served as a bridge to being able to read and listen to news in Spanish.  The fact that you're already familiar with the content in English helps to figure out the words in Spanish that you don't know, in context, naturally as the narration proceeds.  This resource appeals to my "adult intelligence."  I still have trouble understanding the Spanish-language news on Telemundo or Univision, though, because their newscasters talk so fast and have a different accent than what I learned from in this podcast.  (Note:  the same company runs "News in Slow ___" podcasts in French, Italian and German.  I strongly recommend them!)

 

I haven't yet found resources in Chinese that are as useful to me as the above two.

 

Right now I am making great progress through daily sessions with "The Chairman's Bao."  I can easily read and enjoy their level 3 and 4 articles and work my way slowly through the level 5 ones.  I like the fact that I'm learning contemporary vocabulary having to do with topics like technology, the environment and culture.  However, the company rigorously avoids anything to do with politics or international controversy, so there will be a big hole in my knowledge of the language and I won't necessarily be able to go on to read native-level newspaper articles, which I aspire to.

 

As for listening in Chinese, I haven't found anything simple enough for me to listen to and understand while walking.  Or engaging enough if it's in both Chinese and English.  The audio (and video) podcasts for Chinese learners I've tried are usually chatty in what to me is an idiotic and totally uninteresting fashion.  They don't appeal to my "adult intelligence." 

 

I've gone into such detail because 1)maybe it will spark some good suggestions for me for my Chinese learning journey and 2)I know that a number of product developers read this forum and maybe it will spark ideas for them!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
7 hours ago, Rufus said:

I just want to suggest that knowing less than 2000 characters does not mean you are illiterate

The government defines literacy for urban residents at knowing at least 2,000 characters, and for rural residents knowing at least 1,500 (source: item7 here).  Below that are varying degrees of semi-literacy and illiteracy.

 

5 hours ago, Wurstmann said:

and got around 400-450 words per minute for English, which I think is quite okay for a second language

FYI, this higher than the average reading speed of most native English speakers, so yes, it is "quite okay".

 

6 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I had two Chinese teachers who keep trying this and it was pointless. All I did was pronounced the hanzi but if you asked me what the lesson was about I had no clue.

Blindly increasing reading speed without maintaining the same rate of comprehension is pointless.  Increasing reading speed while maintaining the same rate of comprehension is incredibly valuable.  It sounds like your teachers were doing the former.  Don't let it prevent you from doing the latter.

 

This is why I say it's important to only practice improving your reading speed on texts you already know and are familiar with.  You shouldn't be doing it for things that you don't have a clue about.  One of the biggest reasons for a drop in reading speed is hitting an unknown word or character.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
DavyJonesLocker
On 6/10/2019 at 9:40 PM, imron said:

 

This is why I say it's important to only practice improving your reading speed on texts you already know and are familiar with.  You shouldn't be doing it for things that you don't have a clue about.  One of the biggest reasons for a drop in reading speed is hitting an unknown word or character.

 

Missed you reply Imron. I'm glad you said that. I quite like to reread through pretty easy texts which I am very comfortable with. I might have read then several times before but I find its much easier to see  grammar patterns (due to the natural  increase in speed) and get s fuller understanding of  the some  words that you already knew but  when reading in  context they somehow  just didn't "click" on the first or second reading. (if that makes sense). E.g you have always seen it as an adverb but this time it's an adjective.

 

Also it gives a nice sense of fluidly and confidence in reading which can be sorely lacking if constantly reading near your limits of comprehension. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
imron
7 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

Also it gives a nice sense of fluidly and confidence in reading which can be sorely lacking if constantly reading near your limits of comprehension.

This is also very important, the feeling that "I can read Chinese!".

 

The fluidity and confidence are part of a set of "soft" skills required for reading (mental stamina is another one, parsing word boundaries and processing in context are others that are covered somewhat by fluidity and confidence).

 

Many learners are under the impression that vocab is the main driver for being good at reading - and this is true up to a point, because without enough vocab you won't be able to read, but once you already have a decent base of vocabulary, it's these softer skills that make reading easy or difficult, and you can't get those skills just from revising flashcards.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...