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DavyJonesLocker

What is your approach to reading and remembering new words?

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DavyJonesLocker

In my humble attempt to expose myself to more reading I have allocated a lot more time to just general reading. Text books are shelved for a while. No new words added to ANKI, I am just going to run down the review count to keep things ticking over.

 

I have exhausted the graded reader materials so its onto easy(ish) novels. I have had a two false starts with 2 books

《三体》 刘慈欣 super interesting but due to the shear amount of unknown words reading stamina is hard to maintain. .

《流星,蝴蝶,剑》 simply lack of interest on this one, hard to push on through. Not for me at the moment but I do want to come back to it 

 

Both of these with patience Id say are not too difficult to understand at an 85% - 90% comprehension level if I check the unknown words. (perhaps with the exception of the cultural references in the latter book)

 

One thing I realise that is "interest" trumps "difficulty". I rate this as highly important as even if one reads above one's level, it is still is a lot better than not reading at all! Hence I had much more motivation to read 三体 than the other one despite the slower progress.  

 

Third attempt is 《海边的卡夫卡》 [村上春树]    (Kafka on the Shore , Haruki Murakami)  who is one of my favourite authors and have read almost all of his works in English. It's going well this time I am and quietly confident I can finish it (fingers crossed). However, the usual problem is that I encounter a lot of new words. I am never certain what's the best approach is to remember these new and often useful words.

 

Just check them and move on reading don't put them into SRS? 

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murrayjames

The wise words of  @imron , paraphrased and truncated:

 

  1. Read things that interest you every day. (link)
  2. Read things at, or slightly beyond, your current level. (link)
  3. Reading things in Chinese daily is a natural SRS. (link)

 

To this I add: There is no shame in putting down a book and coming back to it later. When you return to 《三体》 in a year’s time, you will find it easier, which will bring a big boost to your self-confidence.

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imron
2 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I am never certain what's the best approach is to remember these new and often useful words.

I am certain, and described it in a post a few days ago, which I'll reproduce here in full because this is a better thread for discussion.

 

---

 

On 7/14/2019 at 1:20 PM, DavyJonesLocker said:

given I have already  2000 "new" words in my SRS decks

Delete them and start again.

 

The useful ones will show up again in whatever it is you are currently reading.  The not useful ones you can ignore until they do start to show up in what you are reading.

 

Then, going forward, have a fixed quota of new words to learn per day.  I recommend 5-10, with 5 being a soft limit (at least this much) and 10 being a hard limit (no more than this).

 

You can keep looking up new words after you reach your quota, just don't add them to your SRS decks and don't worry about learning them for now.  This helps keep things to a manageable level.

 

Don't worry about missing out on useful words.  As mentioned above if it's useful then you'll see it again and can add it then.  If you don't see it again, then by definition it's not useful to you and you can happily ignore it for now. 

 

Learning Chinese isn't Pokemon, you don't need to catch them all.

 

---

 

56 minutes ago, murrayjames said:

There is no shame in putting down a book and coming back to it later.

I agree with this.  The books you put down are not going away, and if you really want to read them, you can come back to them at a later time when you have the ability to read them more easily.

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DavyJonesLocker

@imron

 

yes I read that, thanks for the reply. I didn't want to turn that thread into "how to read chinese books thread"

 I was more curious to see what our forum members do, see different views, I'm sure we both agree it's not a one size fits all :wink:

 

I personally think the 'SRS / reading' trade off is quite variable for different learners. Obviously 0% reading  and 100% SRS is nonsensical and ,many would have you believe 100% (reading) / 0% is ideal too. For me that is exceptionally ill way of learning Chinese  (from lengthy experience) However where the optimal  balance is often difficult to gauge. 

 

I do find the standard learning methods which work perfectly well with the average learner are pretty ineffective for me.  

 

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jannesan

How do you guys feel about prelearning all the vocabulary of a chapter before reading it? I am thinking to use this approach when I will finally start reading a novel after finishing a couple of graded readers I still haven't read. More concretely my plan is to extract all vocabulary from the book, filter out the ones that only occur once (or twice or some other low amount), and learn them chapter by chapter. Like this I could always read one chapter behind.

 

I may start with 活着 as it is often recommended and it doesn't contain that many unique words.

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ChTTay
1 hour ago, imron said:

Learning Chinese isn't Pokemon, you don't need to catch them all.

😂😂😂

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Lu
5 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

However, the usual problem is that I encounter a lot of new words. I am never certain what's the best approach is to remember these new and often useful words.

 

Just check them and move on reading don't put them into SRS? 

I mostly agree with @imron: every day add 5-10 words from your reading to your SRS. Words that keep coming back, or words that seem useful. Beyond those 5-10 words, look up words you need to understand the story, but don't bother putting them in your SRS pile. This way, you'll read and learn at a sustainable pace and sustainable is always good.

 

However, this is not usually what I do myself. When I read, I usually look up as few words as possible. The pronunciation of names of main characters, if I don't already know it, and words that I absolutely need to have the story make sense. Apart from that, I just read. But I do think this method is less than ideal.

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Jan Finster

This forum is relatively silent when it comes to Lingq, but I gave it a try and I think Lingq would be ideal for your purpose.

I have started reading on Lingq 1 month ago and I really like it. Here is why:

a) you can mark words you do not know and when you run into the same word again, Lingq will have it marked for you. So, you automatically realise, you have seen this word at least once before. It also lets you assign a level of "knowing a word" and it lets you tag words. For example I can tag all 成语 I encounter and if I want to review them I can only review words tagged with "成语". If I want to review sentence starters ("in my opinion..."), I have a tag for those, etc.

b) It keeps track of the words you know, the words you are learning, etc.

 

If you want to use Lingq in any meaningful way, you need the premium version (lingq.com). But, so far the money is well worth it.

 

 

(I have no affiliation with Lingq, nor do I get anything from them for recommending them)

 

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DavyJonesLocker
2 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

This forum is relatively silent when it comes to Lingq, but I gave it a try and I think Lingq would be ideal for your purpose.

 

 

thanks Jan, I'll have a look

 

7 hours ago, murrayjames said:
  1. Reading things in Chinese daily is a natural SRS. (link)

 

 

I don't quite agree with Imron this though. I get the general sentiment of words naturally repeating but there is no SRS algorithm going on reading a book. there is no intelligent Spaced Repetition at all with a book. I think though this is just more a technicality though.

 

6 hours ago, imron said:

You can keep looking up new words after you reach your quota, just don't add them to your SRS decks and don't worry about learning them for now.  This helps keep things to a manageable level.

 

 

4 hours ago, Lu said:

Beyond those 5-10 words, look up words you need to understand the story, but don't bother putting them in your SRS pile

 

 

yeah i think I will try an approach for now. I want to just limit SRS to a fixed number everyday so as not to encroach into my time available for reading. If that means no new cards so be it . Actually I haven't added new cards in months on end as I have so many suspended cards

 

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murrayjames
1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I don't quite agree with Imron this though. I get the general sentiment of words naturally repeating but there is no SRS algorithm going on reading a book.

 

I understand “natural SRS” as a rhetorical device used to challenge those who spend hours on Anki in lieu of interacting with native material. The “SRS” part is tongue-in-cheek, but contains a kernel of truth. Important new words that a reader encounters do reappear through further reading.

 

1 hour ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

there is no intelligent Spaced Repetition at all with a book.

 

I don’t see why intelligently spaced intervals are so important. Say I grant that reading extensively is a suboptimal method for learning vocabulary compared with flashcards. That doesn’t make flashcards better. It may be that reading lots of books in Chinese is more motivating and rewarding than juggling 20,000 discrete facts in a digital database.

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NinjaTurtle

Davy,

 

I am a big fan of learn-them-as-you-need-them. What I mean is, write a short composition on a topic. (If your Chinese is not at a high level, you may wish to write it in English first.)

 

Write out a sentence, and for the characters you do not know, write out the Pinyin. Then look up the unknown characters. Then rewrite the sentence, this time writing in your newly-learned characters.

 

This techinque works well for me, much better than learning vocabulary lists.

 

You also asked about how to remember new words. When you hear a new word, immediately use it in several questions. (For example, yesterday I had to ask how say “ketchup” in Chinese. I had learned it and forgotten it.) When you learn a ‘new’ word like this, immediately use it to ask several questions:

 

Do you have any ketchup?

Where can I buy some ketchup?

Do you ever put ketchup on a hamburger?

How much does ketchup cost?

 

(Make it clear to the listener you are only doing this for language practice, otherwise they may get irritated.)

 

Asking several questions with a new word is a great way to remember it.

 

Do you have someone you can practice speaking Chinese with?

 

 

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trevorld

I agree with @imron in having a hard limit of new SRS cards a day - for me 10-15 cards across all subjects (including Mandarin) is sustainable.  Like @Lu I often don't bother to stop reading to look up a word when I come across new characters/words instead choosing to go with the flow (if you are choosing to read comprehensible input this shouldn't be too big a problem with enjoying the work).   However I'll often look up any unknown words/characters I remember later.  For example recently I was reading a children's construction site book with my son and later looked up 镐 (which I remembered as the metal tool with 高 phonetic component) and after watching Ash vs. the Evil Dead TV show on Netflix I later looked up 婊子 (which I remembered as the female insult with the 表 phonetic component). 

 

When I do look up characters and words I always look them up in a frequency list as a sanity check on whether learning this word is really that useful (use your judgment based on your own needs but in general I find top 10K word usually worth it, 10K-20K marginally worth it, 20K+ only if that word is really easy to learn or one has an idiosyncratic reason to learn it based on one's interests/communities) and I also add that frequency information as metadata in Anki.  To better focus my SRS energies I also try to be fairly aggressive in leeching and deleting previously added SRS cards: instead of having Anki leeching at the default 4 misses I have it set to leech at 2 misses and I have a preset filter that tells me all the words I clicked a "1" or "2" on that day and I often choose to delete any of those cards that correspond to low-frequency words.  So all in all in a day I'm usually adding 0-8 new cards, "leeching" a couple cards, permanently deleting a couple of cards I had carelessly added in the past, and unsuspending 0-2 cards I previously leeched (often years ago) that I now feel I'm ready to learn again (or even better have actually solidly learned in the meantime).

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biyalan
14 hours ago, jannesan said:

How do you guys feel about prelearning all the vocabulary of a chapter before reading it?

 I'm sure people will have conflicting opinions about this, but in my experience if I'm reading something where I'm going in with a good base line comprehension (say maybe 95% of words), I prefer to see new words in context for the first time, rather than pre-studying them. This is because encountering the word in context goes a long way towards making it easier to learn, it helps choose which of many definitions to prioritize it helps me to recall if I can connect the word to a sentence. That said, I think that if you try to read a book and it's frustrating because you don't know enough of the vocabulary, pre-studying some vocab might be a way to get to the level where you can read (that specific) native-level content. 

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Enjune Zhang

Start from the basic 2500 characters frequently applied to cover 97% reading materials in Chinese. Website recommended below(Chinese website , check if it could be accessed overseas) https://zidian.911cha.com/changyongzi.html

Remember new words in the context and build a vocabulary lexicon for yourself with Microsoft excel or any counterpart that may allow you to search for the word you accumulate while reading.If you have the same word again, you could go back to check the note taken, and if there is some other new meanings in the same word, go enlarge your lexicon.

Mark the words you don't understand and check them all at once when you finish a page or two instead of stopping for them half way through a paragraph, which is a detriment to your reading enthusiasm. Try the book with 60% characters you could recognize or the best suggestion for you is to  start from short articles with easy-to-understand expressions like some tips and guidance shared in Wechat official account or Zhihu, a platform like Quora in China. 

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Lu
9 hours ago, biyalan said:

in my experience if I'm reading something where I'm going in with a good base line comprehension (say maybe 95% of words), I prefer to see new words in context for the first time, rather than pre-studying them.

On one hand I agree: see it in context, put it into Anki with a sentence from the context, and it becomes easier to remember. On the other hand, if you pre-study, it's a really nice confidence boost to encounter words that make you think 'I know that one! I remember learning it yesterday! And now I understand the sentence!'

Ideally, I guess you'd read, then learn the words from context and in SRS, then read again to bask in your newly acquired 100% comprehension. But not many people will want to spend that kind of time.

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Andrew1556

I'm a big fan of whiteboards! Write down all the characters you encounter recently, and you'll see them every time you walk by :)

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