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suMMit

"levels" of Chinese

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suMMit

I saw this somewhere online:

 

Intermediate Level

Having a proficiency level of or equal to HSK 2, or a vocabulary size of 300 words, or having about 50 hours total previous class time.

 

Really? 300 words and 50 hours of class time is considered "Intermediate"? I feel like with Chinese study, people seem to throw around intermediate very freely. What happened to Elementary and Pre-intermediate? In my mind,  to be considered "intermediate", you'd have to be able to far more than 300 words and you'd be able to do a lot with the language - just not the most eloquently.

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889

Maybe somebody somewhere squished the language. It's often set as a prerequisite to taking an intermediate course, not as a definition of intermediate level.

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suMMit
50 minutes ago, 889 said:

It's often set as a prerequisite to taking an intermediate course, not as a definition of intermediate level.

That makes sense.

 

I do often see the levels in a lot of places listed as Beginner - Intermediate - Advanced though. I definitely think there are more shades.

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DavyJonesLocker
59 minutes ago, suMMit said:

Really? 300 words and 50 hours of class time is considered "Intermediate"? I feel like with Chinese study, people seem to throw around intermediate very freely. What happened to Elementary and Pre-intermediate? In my mind,  to be considered "intermediate", you'd have to be able to far more than 300 words and you'd be able to do a lot with the language - just not the most eloquently.

 

because studying for a year full time and still hovering around even lower intermediate stage doesn't really sell material, courses, language schools  etc :wink:

 

It some ways the naivety is helpful as if you knew at the start how much work is required into learning Chinese to be able to simply sit in a coffee shop and read a bog standard novel that you might pick off the bookshelf in a high street bookstore, you might think twice about even starting. In hindsight I doubt I would actually!

 

I have no evidence  so its just purely based on experience but I think one realistically needs around as a min 10k+ (including passive words) just to do what the average high school educated man or woman can do can do. Add in specialist subjects, professional careers jobs, or even interest in any  topic really (football, motorbikes, DIY or whatever), and then you are adding many more thousands on to that to perhaps 20k?. So a "high level" must be up near that amount of words.

 

Changing from the old HSK to NEW standard is somewhat an admission of the real ability of foreigners to use the language and that has given rise to a false sense of security and attained level. e.g people assuming HSK6 is the highest you can go there you must be at an "advanced level"

 

.... then you hear about all those fancy self proclaimed fluent pologots ..... yeah right ....... 

 

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889

A bit like the way people who sell clothes play around with sizing to make customers forget they've put on a few pounds.

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Weyland

It's almost as if this whole idea of "Chinese fluency" has a long tradition of foreigners overselling their actual capabilities. It's almost as if the majority of "fluent in Chinese" foreigners have a hard time reading a newspaper.

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Flickserve

There is a podcast called learning Chinese with stories. Beginner and intermediate stories have three further subdivisions. Quite practical to subdivide the levels.

 

HSK 2 as intermediate must be some marketing splurge.

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大块头

Relevant quote from the Wikipedia entry about the HSK:

 

Quote

Estimates of equivalent CEFR levels

In 2010, Hanban stated that the HSK's six levels correspond directly to the six levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) However, this statement has been rejected by both the German and French associations of Chinese language teachers, which argue that HSK level 6 is equivalent to CEFR level B2 or C1.

 

 

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roddy
19 hours ago, Weyland said:

It's almost as if this whole idea of "Chinese fluency" has a long tradition of foreigners overselling their actual capabilities. It's almost as if the majority of "fluent in Chinese" foreigners have a hard time reading a newspaper.

The situation is a lot more nuanced than that.

 

Schools have always kept students happy with 'progress' - finish half a textbook, move up a level. I once asked a big private Chinese language school in Beijing why the advanced course I was looking at used a textbook labelled Intermediate. The answer was something along the lines of "It's advanced for our students." 

 

Alongside teachers, the general public helps. Utter three comprehensible phrases and you get told your Chinese is great. Which the professional and amateur linguists on here know isn't true, but it's not that hard to believe the propaganda if you're making what seems to you to be great progress, and everyone tells you 'Oh, as long as we can understand you'. I definitely had a stage in my early-mid twenties of thinking I was pretty good at Chinese before realizing, luckily for all who had to listen to me, that I really wasn't.

 

This state of affairs has now been institutionalized since the HSK changes of 2010. The old HSK was way harder than the current options - it just went further. If anyone wants to look at an old 高级 paper and compare it to HSK6,  I really think they´ll see the difference, and I suspect it might be quite eye-opening for many students today (although bear in mind most people bailed out of the process at an old-HSK 8.) A nice PhD thesis might be looking at the knock-on effect of those changes on the creation of textbooks and other resources. Are there fewer post-HSK6 level textbooks being published now?

 

There are, of course, foreigners overselling their Chinese ability, particularly on their CVs (in real-life, I think, most of us are some mix of realistic and self-effacing). But the Chinese-teaching industry does seem to have opted out of doing much above a 'good enough for foreigners' level, so I can understand how they get there.

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imron
36 minutes ago, roddy said:

If anyone wants to look at an old 高级 paper and compare it to HSK6,  I really think they´ll see the difference,

Here's a sample of the listening from the old HSK advanced.  It's in a whole different ballpark.  The instructions are all nice and clear and them boom - random interview with crackling audio and accented mandarin, and then you have to do maths in your head about the stats and figures mentioned.

 

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ChTTay
32 minutes ago, roddy said:

But the Chinese-teaching industry does seem to have opted out of doing much above a 'good enough for foreigners' level, so I can understand how they get there.

 

Exactly this! And also I always felt like foreign students of Chinese are just compared to other foreign students of Chinese. Whereas if you’re learning another language (like Spanish or something) you’re usually held to native speaker standards. You’ll be measured and compared to a native speaker. A lot of students also buy into this (consciously or not). 

 

People often misinterpret my relative fluency for having “advanced” Chinese. It’s just I’ve lived here for 10 years and most daily life Chinese stuff I’ve said hundreds or thousands of times. Imagine how many times I’ve ordered a meal in that decade. That’s a lot of practice. I’m probably intermediate by current inflated standards. 

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Lu
3 hours ago, ChTTay said:

People often misinterpret my relative fluency for having “advanced” Chinese. It’s just I’ve lived here for 10 years and most daily life Chinese stuff I’ve said hundreds or thousands of times. Imagine how many times I’ve ordered a meal in that decade.

Yeah, that. I sound so fluent and extremely competent in everyday situations, and then I try to do something two centimeters outside my comfort zone and it all crumbles.

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murrayjames
6 hours ago, roddy said:

There are, of course, foreigners overselling their Chinese ability, particularly on their CVs (in real-life, I think, most of us are some mix of realistic and self-effacing).

 

While I agree with the useful context and nuance you provide in your post, this wasn’t my experience with many of the expats I regularly interacted with during my five years in Chengdu. In general, I observed a reverse correlation between actual Chinese speaking ability and perceived Chinese speaking ability. Perhaps foreigners in Beijing (and in other parts of China you’ve spent time in) are more humble.

 

(EDIT: That is, humble with respect to their Chinese ability. I don’t mean that the foreigners I knew in CD were lacking in humility generally.)

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Weyland
13 hours ago, roddy said:

I once asked a big private Chinese language school in Beijing why the advanced course I was looking at used a textbook labelled Intermediate. The answer was something along the lines of "It's advanced for our students." 

That's why anyone who has a good grasp of what their Chinese level is should pay close attention to whatever class they're signing onto. I wanted to attend an "advanced" class in Beijing, at one of the private schools (that also post on this forum) through an intermediary. Imagine their surprise when I could actually form half decent sentences. Got told within hours of arriving that there'd be no point in coming to class unless I switched to a 1-on-1 class. 

It probably doesn't help that a lot of these "language schools" are in the business of providing a culture/linguistic EXPERIENCE as opposed to an education. Though I certainly don't blame them, as the fluency pyramid of Chinese language students flattens out A LOT when you get to the bottom. Like one of those button topped push pins you use on cork/cardboard walls.
 

13 hours ago, roddy said:

Utter three comprehensible phrases and you get told your Chinese is great ... but it's not that hard to believe the propaganda if you're making what seems to you to be great progress, and everyone tells you 'Oh, as long as we can understand you'.

It helps if you've reached a similar degree of fluency in a second language before you even start studying Chinese. Having used Hellotalk to try and get corrections it sometimes takes more effort to get someone to correct your mistakes than it would take to just open a grammar dictionary and review a passage before you write your sentences. 
 

13 hours ago, roddy said:

There are, of course, foreigners overselling their Chinese ability, particularly on their CVs (in real-life, I think, most of us are some mix of realistic and self-effacing).

Sadly, I've met quite a few foreigners with "native in Chinese" on their CV. Though I must say when said tidbit is brought up it can get hilariously awkward. One time I was sitting next to someone on a plane who worked for Carrefour in China and was looking for different work/ updating his CV. Right when I glanced over to his laptop he was writing down that he was fluent in Chinese, which I immediately made remarks on and tried to have a conversation in Chinese. I, of course, didn't expect at the time "fluent" meant HSK3 with a stutter.

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Weyland
12 hours ago, imron said:

Here's a sample of the listening from the old HSK advanced.  It's in a whole different ballpark. 

As someone who's suffering from hearing issues I can attest that I would've never passed HSK6 if they kept this standard. While I wouldn't mind if they reinstated it, still in the end it all comes down to; There just aren't enough resources to get a well-rounded understanding/grasp of Chinese on the market. Nothing that is proper fit to what else is on the market. I personally used the HSK6 materials from the Beijing Language and Culture University Press to prepare for the HSK6 exam. I'm actually reviewing it now, because I'm ashamed in how little of the vocabulary I still use in my writing. But, then again, when would you use e.g. 密封 in your writing? 

 

9 hours ago, Lu said:

I sound so fluent and extremely competent in everyday situations, and then I try to do something two centimeters outside my comfort zone and it all crumbles.

That's why whenever I practice new words/phrases with my friends I use a (?) after said word of phrase. Just so that they know that I'm moving out of my comfort zone and to give some feedback were I to F up. 

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歐博思
14 hours ago, imron said:

Here's a sample of the listening from the old HSK advanced.  It's in a whole different ballpark.

If this fastfood-drivethrough-radio-with-poor-reception-even type audio recording were the standard for some English test, I guarantee I'd not place as a native speaker.

 

I'd like to see them keep higher difficulty levels but with high quality recordings.

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DavyJonesLocker
2 hours ago, Weyland said:

Sadly, I've met quite a few foreigners with "native in Chinese" on their CV. Though I must say when said tidbit is brought up it can get hilariously awkward. One time I was sitting next to someone on a plane who worked for Carrefour in China and was looking for different work/ updating his CV. Right when I glanced over to his laptop he was writing down that he was fluent in Chinese, which I immediately made remarks on and tried to have a conversation in Chinese. I, of course, didn't expect at the time "fluent" meant HSK3 with a stutter.

 

 

In some ways though it's standard practice to exaggerate the heck out of a CV. I can't tell you how many CVs I've seen like this that that claim something like "expert" programming skills which meant a bit of VBA   

Language is different though in that if you claim a high level , the minute you open your mouth at an interview your ability will come readily apparent . HSK tests are also unsuitable guide as they don't test speaking .

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Weyland
10 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

HSK tests are also unsuitable guide as they don't test speaking .


Sure they do. But I wouldn't be surprised if you could read aloud every word with wrong intonation and still pass it.

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DavyJonesLocker

I wonder what the ratio of people who take HSK to HSKK is . Anyone know?

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imron
2 hours ago, Weyland said:

I can attest that I would've never passed HSK6 if they kept this standard

Oh, you would have passed HSK 6 - because this was back when 6 was lower intermediate, 8 was upper intermediate, and advanced was HSK 9, 10, 11.  The current HSK6 supposedly corresponds roughly to the old HSK 8.

 

Incidentally, back then, HSK9-11 was the same test, it just got progressively more difficult such that the 9s wouldn't be able to keep up and would start failing a bunch of questions earlier, and the 10s would start failing a little bit after that.

 

2 hours ago, Weyland said:

But, then again, when would you use e.g. 密封 in your writing? 

If you like scifi, there's a book called 《球状闪电》 written by the same author as 《三体》which uses this word a handful of times.

 

It also appears in 《圈子圈套》, but doesn't appear at all in any of the books by 余华 that I checked.

 

This once again demonstrates the importance of learning things as you come across them, rather than from generic word lists, otherwise you'll be learning things that you might never see.

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