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PerpetualChange

How do you know a book is "at your level"?

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PerpetualChange

I've gotten really tired of reading Graded Readers, and then still feeling somewhat baffled when I encounter a legit Chinese paragraph, so I've decided to move on and just power through Chinese novels from here on out. I know it will be a struggle, but the question is, how much of a struggle should it be? I was blasting through Chinese Graded Reader 2500 words at about 3 minutes per page, now I'm reading one page every 15-20 minutes, comprehending maybe 90% after I've looked up the words I don't know. Is that normal? Is there a good rule of thumb to test whether something is at your limit? I am fine moving on to elementary school novels if need but, but I wonder what successes people have had and what you all consider to be a healthy reading pace. 

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Shelley

I think perhaps you would benefit from this https://www.chinesetextanalyser.com/

 

It is designed to help you decide what percentage of words/characters you know from a text, then you can decide if its for you.

 

It has been written by @imron and I am sure if you have any questions I am sure he would be very happy to help.

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PerpetualChange

Very cool. I think I've come across it before. My biggest issues were 1.) I mostly like printed materials and 2.) I haven't been on any kind of standard curriculum since year 2 of Integrated Chinese, so I don't really "know" what characters I know. Hence my desire to fallback on the tried and true metric of "how long did it take you to read a page?", haha. 

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歐博思

250 words in n seconds:

6.488: C2

12.233: C1

15.5555: B2

13 seconds flat (but you re-read to understand missed grammar point, so double the time): B1

87 seconds: A2

∞ seconds: A1

 

So I'd put you at about B2

 

Spoiler

100% not accurate math aside, keep in mind some people read at the same comprehension level at different speeds.

 

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imron
2 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

1.) I mostly like printed materials

Me too!  And Chinese Text Analyser works as a supplement to that.  I personally don't use it to read texts, and although some people use it as such, it was not designed to be a tool for reading texts.

 

It's designed 1) to find which of several texts is most suitable to read based on your existing vocabulary, and 2) to find high-frequency, unknown words from any Chinese text, because learning high-frequency words will provide you the biggest gains in understanding.  It can of course be used for other purposes, but those were the 2 main design goals.

 

So, if you have 3-4 different texts, and you're not sure which one is the most suitable to read, you can open them up in CTA and it will tell you which one has them most unknown words or which one has the least amount of words you'd need to learn to bring you up to 98% comprehension.  You can use CTA to pre-learn high-frequency unknown words from that text, which then helps when you are reading the printed version.

 

3 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

but the question is, how much of a struggle should it be?

The lower the struggle the better.  In my opinion, you'll be better off reading easier material rather than struggling through more difficult texts.  Once you've read half a dozen easier texts, you'll have built up enough vocabulary that the more difficult texts will be more accessible, plus you'll have gained other valuable skills required in order to read for pleasure (such as stamina to read for longer periods of time, better ability to identify word boundaries and more), and reading will give you continual revision of your known vocabulary.

 

By contrast, choosing a more difficult text will result in continual stop-start-stop-start of unknown words *and* be continually frustrating because even if you are making progress and learning new things it will feel like no progress is being made because page after page is just stop-start-stop-start.

 

I wrote more about my experience with reading novels here.

 

What novel are you currently trying to read?

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mungouk

As a way of answering this more generally, it might be more useful to think about identifying some classic or popular texts and giving them a reader rating of some kind?

 

For example, in the US, schoolkids can be tested to determine their "lexile" level, then you can go to https://lexile.com/parents-students/find-books-at-the-right-level/find-books-that-match-your-measure/ to get suggestions for books to read.

 

Surely there must be enough classic and popular books available as text files to compile a list of which might be appropriate, or maybe the Chinese MOE have even developed a similar list for Chinese readers?

 

 

 

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DavyJonesLocker

I'm in a similar position as you @PerpetualChange in that I have exhausted graded readers and just can't bare to look at text book chapters anymore that once a week now. I have had two fails at a novel

1. 三体 (100pages in), interesting but too many unknown words

2. 流星, 蝴蝶, 剑  (50 pages in, easier but just not at all interesting for me)

 

3rd book is "Kafka on the Shore" (Haruki Murakami) 《海边的卡夫卡》 (村上村树)Harder than both above I'd say and certainly a a fair bit deal above my reading level. This needs to be clarified. I can understand almost all passages, its just the sheer amount of unknown words. I would hazard a guess at 1 in 8 / 10 words 

 

My approach is  (on Tablet)

1. Day one: read for 1 - 1.5 hours of the chinese version and PLECO OCR to very quickly look up unknown words, this maximises the reading fluidity as much as possible

2. Day two: reread day one with a split screen (Chinese top half, English bottom half). This is surprisingly useful as it highlights some important aspects like Chinese Formal Nouns  (which i keep forgetting), comparison to English tense  (which i never thought was an issue before!), and a good insight into the art of translation. This last point I never consider before but it's been a great learning experience.

 

I am almost at the half way point and quietly confident I will finish it

 

I too struggled with trying to find the appropriate book and to be brutally honest the whole advice of "reading at your level" or the "95% word recognition level" is not really worth much when it really boils down to actually trying to implement it. The ability to comprehend a novel depends on several factors, such as past experience and/or familiarity with the subject matter (scientific, nature, abstract meanings cultural implications and so on ), the type of unknown words (piles of descriptive passages using adverbs, idioms, clauses etc) or a pile of product names, sentence structure, author writing style , and the largest one of all ..... interest it the subject matter.

 

Its working for me anyway. I doubt it's the most optimal way but the reality is that I am improving slowly and reading far more in a day that I have ever done since I started Chinese.

 

Some notable points thus far....

1. I love paper based books but it's just not feasible for me at this stage , the ability to look up unknown words on an ebook is invaluable is trying to maintain a reasonable reading fluidity

2. PLECO is both a blessing and a curse, it is very tempting to just tap the word that you already knew but didn't immediately spring to mind. Several times I have checked a seemingly unknown word and kicked myself for finding out is is a very simple one

3. Reading stamina and speed has increased noticeably. On the latter , I have mentioned before on here that I am against trying to specifically increase reading speed. I find it totally counter productive and every time I have slowed down I could understand more of the text, especially with more complex grammar patterns. It a personal view but I am even more convinced it has to be a natural evolution (unless you need it for exams, jbs etc)

4. I can't say that I am picking up unknown words that well, probably because there is just too many of them, however i certainly am left with a trace imprint of "i have seen that before" or a vague idea of what it is. 

5. Interest in the subject matter is the all time number one. With HSK passages, half a page and I start looking at my phone. I just bought "The Code book" by Simon Sing . A fascinating book on history of cryptography. Dull for many of course but since i read the english version when it  was first published, I  am keen to read the chinese version in the distant future. This also references the "difficulty aspect" One may find these mathematical terms difficult whereas my educational background makes me well suited for it

 

So all in all, I think my best course of action in the future is just to stick to mainstream mass market novels, avoid the literary greats whether it be Chinese or a translation of an English classic, find a topic that interest you and if you fail , put it aside for another day. Ebooks are dirt cheap and given i will get 3 - 6 months out of them its well worth buying a pile.

 

 

 

 

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Shelley

If you want a source of free, legal ebooks have a look a Project Gutenberg. Choose language as Chinese and there are hundreds from the classics, some more obscure things and some more modern, but remember they are free becuase they are out of copyright so will be of a certain age and therefore type of book.

I have to say though its a good source and also for English books too.

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PerpetualChange
11 hours ago, imron said:

What novel are you currently trying to read?

First off, the CTA looks very interesting and I'll check it out, though I'm still not sure how it will know which words I know?

 

Also... I'm trying to read 革命時期的愛情 by 王小波

 

I'm having decent success just reading it (it's a hardback), using PLECO hand-draw to look up words I don't know, reviewing those words, and then re-reading (more quickly) a second time. But I'm averaging maybe 4 pages an hour. I'm having fun, I just don't know if the community think this is healthy or if I should switch to a much easier novel. 

 

30 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

I'm in a similar position as you @PerpetualChange in that I have exhausted graded readers and just can't bare to look at text book chapters anymore that once a week now. I have had two fails at a novel

 

Yes. I have "Discussing Everything Chinese - Vol 2" on my desk, but it's such a slog anymore. Reading a chapter about Taiwanese and Shangai business relations or something, I just can't force myself to get through it. It did have 一件小事 by 魯迅 which was a nice, if not a little arbitrary, break from the normal "cultural topics" to literature. 

 

30 minutes ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

2. PLECO is both a blessing and a curse, it is very tempting to just tap the word that you already knew but didn't immediately spring to mind. Several times I have checked a seemingly unknown word and kicked myself for finding out is is a very simple one

For better or worse, I've never gotten comfortable with that. 

 

48 minutes ago, mungouk said:

For example, in the US, schoolkids can be tested to determine their "lexile" level, then you can go to https://lexile.com/parents-students/find-books-at-the-right-level/find-books-that-match-your-measure/ to get suggestions for books to read.

 

Surely there must be enough classic and popular books available as text files to compile a list of which might be appropriate, or maybe the Chinese MOE have even developed a similar list for Chinese readers?

 

This is an interesting thought! Maybe could just ask some people on Hellotalk or Wechat what the first novels they read were? 

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mungouk
13 hours ago, 歐博思 said:

250 words in n seconds:

6.488: C2

12.233: C1

15.5555: B2

 

Wouldn't that depend entirely on exactly what [level] the words are?

 

 

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imron
1 hour ago, PerpetualChange said:

though I'm still not sure how it will know which words I know?

You tell it!  You can manually mark words as known, or you can import lists of known words, or you can set it to mark words as known when you export them (under the assumption you are exporting them to be studied in a separate program such as Pleco or Anki).  The more you use the program, the more accurate the list of known words will be.

 

1 hour ago, PerpetualChange said:

I'm having fun, I just don't know if the community think this is healthy or if I should switch to a much easier novel. 

Having fun when reading Chinese is healthy.  I haven't read that novel, but what I have read of 王小波  was fairly middle of the road in terms of difficulty (not too difficult, not too easy). 余华 is generally considered an easy read, so if you aren't sick of that time period, maybe consider something like 《活着》next.

 

2 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

For better or worse, I've never gotten comfortable with that.

I personally think for better.   It's my firm belief that although popup dictionaries help with immediate understanding, they are detrimental to long-term learning and understanding.

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imron
2 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

"95% word recognition level" is not really worth much

95% word "recognition" is probably not worth much, but 95% comprehension is a different story (even better, 98%), and in fact covers almost all of " past experience and/or familiarity with the subject matter (scientific, nature, abstract meanings cultural implications and so on ), the type of unknown words (piles of descriptive passages using adverbs, idioms, clauses etc) or a pile of product names, sentence structure, author writing style".

 

I agree that interest in what you are reading is also of paramount importance.

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Wurstmann
5 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

革命時期的愛情

There are probably easier books. Something more recent for a start. 上海宝贝 by 卫慧 for example.

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matteo

Like many others said before, I think what matters the most is not the pace itself, but rather to make sure that you enjoy the process. Some people really can't stand reading a book if they have to continuously stop and check the dictionary, some others (like me) don't mind much. 

But no matter what you are reading, having fun while doing it ensures that you will keep at it over the months and the years and eventually get much better at it. 

 

I am also caught somewhere between graded readers, which I have completely outgrown, and proper novels, which require a degree of focus and energy that I don't always have. 

Have you tried reading comic books? I find them a very enjoyable compromise. 

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DavyJonesLocker
8 hours ago, imron said:

95% word "recognition" is probably not worth much, but 95% comprehension is a different story (even better, 98%),

 

Yeah true, but I think it's just too theoretical and in reality next to impossible to find material that fits the bill especially at post graded reader stage. 

Even if you read  all of the 3000 graded reader series , then pick up  another series, you can still find your at a modest comprehension level due to  different authors choice of word list.

 

I don't have the optimal answer. I think also picking a reasonably short book is a wise choice too as you can see an end in sight.

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imron
6 hours ago, matteo said:

and proper novels, which require a degree of focus and energy that I don't always have. 

My experience is that the focus, energy and stamina required to read novels is one of the soft reading skills that you only develop though reading more novels.

 

It's a catch-22 situation, but until you start doing more long-form reading, you won't ever develop that stamina.  I was already fine with reading shorter newspaper articles and blog posts, but it took me finishing about 4 novels to start to feel ok with long-form reading, and maybe 8 or so novels before really feeling comfortable.

 

2 hours ago, DavyJonesLocker said:

and in reality next to impossible to find material that fits the bill especially at post graded reader stage

You're right that this is a big problem.  I wonder if YA fiction, or 'children's books but not the kind with pictures on every page'  might fit the bill.

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歐博思
17 hours ago, mungouk said:

Wouldn't that depend entirely on exactly what [level] the words are?

I was being a little facetious and hid the most important words of my post in "spoiler". Sorry.

 

Yes.

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Jan Finster

I use Lingq (premium version) and therefore I do not longer care about which texts are at my "level". Lingq lets you look up words in an instant and mark words as known or unknown. Never read a graded reader and probably never will. Lingq has been a life saver for me. Or rather, without it, I would have given up on learning Chinese. I personally do not believe that looking up words in a paper dictionary improves your retention rate compared to pop-up dictionaries. If anything, looking up words repeatedly will. Pop-up dictionaries are obviously much faster for that purpose. 

Lingq premium is around 100$/year (there is a black Friday sale ATM), which is great value for money IMO.

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roddy

To be honest, 15 minutes a page doesn't sound like reading to me so much as dictionary practice  (and if your capture and review is up to scratch, vocab acquisition). I've done exactly the same thing, but in retrospect I'm not sure how useful it was *for my actual reading ability*. 

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mungouk
3 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

I personally do not believe that looking up words

 

Looking up every single word you don't know is not how you acquire your native language... reading speed goes up a lot if you just move on and learn by context.

 

On the other hand, if it's a new character you won't know how to pronounce it.  Do you guys have a strategy for that?  How do you "park" it?

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