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Describe the experience of reading your first novel

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I am finishing up my first adult novel. I am curious to see the experience of others as they advanced from novitiate to first-time bookworm. I just read an article on pinyin.info in which the author said it took him three years to read his first, while somebody he studied with allegedly could not read more than two or three pages in a couple hours, even after 10 years of study. Is this the case for other people? I'm 11 months and a few days into my study of Chinese, which for the first few months saw most of my waking hours being involved in cultivating my knowledge thereof. If I'd spent even three hours a day during those introductory months, I'd probably still be a year away from where I am now.


How much difficulty did this journey entail? Did you look up words on every page? Every paragraph?


Page 319 of 鹤惊昆仑 was my first page without any need for a dictionary. Especially since then, it's been quite smooth sailing. I've written about 62 or 63 pages of notes, for a total of maybe 7,500 words in a novel of almost 600,000 characters.


How much time did you spend on this? 


I went from around 45 minutes per page at the start, down to around 5 minutes (including taking notes on new or forgotten characters, words, tones) now that I'm on page 515. 


Did you enjoy it? And, most importantly: How did the experience of your second novel contrast with the first?


I'm worried about this last issue the most. Wang Dulu is, I think, a relatively unique writer.  I have about 100 novels in Chinese I've ordered from JD (excellent) and Amazon (5 times the price, even with shipping!) since I began studying, and I've read several pages from most of them. Some of the others are not nearly as understandable or readable as his, so I fear that if I read the next book in the pentalogy, my lack of exposure to other styles will be less beneficial as picking out another author (I'm thinking 边城, it looks like a mediocre challenge before moving onto something bigger, like Jin Yong)

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Congratulations on your progress. I should have started a daily reading habit years ago. Nothing has been better for developing my ability to attack intimidating blocks of Chinese text.


After reading my first two novels in Chinese I analyzed my reading rate data for a statistics class project.

  • I read sentence by sentence, aiming for 100% comprehension and only looking up any words I don't know once I have tried to understand the whole sentence.
  • I don't keep any notes, but Pleco saves my history of search queries. I hope to one day analyze that data to identify any stubborn holes in my vocabulary.
  • You should read books in the format you enjoy, but I'd recommend reading books in an electronic format to ease vocabulary lookup.
  • Any gains in reading rate from the first book may not be immediately apparent when you start reading the second book, especially if your second book is of a completely different genre like mine was.
  • After my second book I started reading the news in Chinese, mostly《今日话题》(InTouch Today) and The New York Times Chinese edition. I think the larger breadth of topics is better for developing my reading ability.



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I'm on my sixth novel, and still looking up words, but finally reading is becoming enjoyable, and my comprehension is excellent. I still encounter the occasional section where there are a number of lookups required, but even then I could skip the lookups and still mostly understand. 


I usually read aloud, and sometimes I'll read 3-4 pages with no lookups, knowing both the meaning and the sound/tone. 


I think I am still a few novels away from feeling I can read virtually anything with no phone/computer nearby, but now that I can read 10-20 pages in an hour or two, reaching the goal seems close now.


And I still prefer books made of paper. I want to spend less and less time staring at a screen.

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How much difficulty did this journey entail? Did you look up words on every page? Every paragraph?

83% through 活著, the beginning was somewhat rough, I was looking up words every sentence or so. Now it's more like every few sentences, definitely there's a word or at least some kind of adjective  in every paragraph. If there are too many words but I get the meaning, I won't necessarily look all of them up. I tend to look up words when I feel like I'm missing out on something important by not knowing them - or when I feel like I've seen them before and should know them. A 30 minutes reading session will generally produce 10-15 new words and I'll probably look up half of these. I'm a little self-conscious that I'm only doing OK with this novel because I've seen the movie already. The areas where the novel separate from the movie can be more vague and challenging for me. 


How much time did you spend on this? 

A lot. I read it off and on, and didn't really commit to it until a about a month ago. I've ready 30 minutes of it on most days so I would say I've easily put 10 or so hours into it. 


Did you enjoy it? 

Yes, very much. 



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