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Extensive reading and reading speed


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Oh wow. That will be great thing for reading improvement just tap on the word and get the meaning of the word. Is it possible to use this while reading light novels and books or any other document too? That has few difficult words. You said it's paid, is there any free one too? I wan to just see the demo then make my decision.

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7 hours ago, micky056 said:

Oh wow. That will be great thing for reading improvement just tap on the word and get the meaning of the word. Is it possible to use this while reading light novels and books or any other document too? That has few difficult words. You said it's paid, is there any free one too? I wan to just see the demo then make my decision.

You can get the same with lingq.com. There is a free trial, but Lingq is only useful in the premium version. A lifelong premium account of (only) Chinese is 199$. Well worth it.

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This thread has been incredibly inspiring and influential for my own studies, so much thanks to the OP and everyone who has contributed.

 

A few questions:

1) What was your approach to learning your first 1500 characters? And how did you approach learning new characters in you readings? You mentioned flashcarding characters, did you make sentence cards?

 

2) You mentioned mostly reading web novels in text format via Pleco's document reader. Where did you find/how did you create text files of books? I also use Pleco for my reading but still on the graded reader stage so most of my material has been bought through the store. (Just thinking ahead as to where to get reading material once graduated from graded readers).

 

3) Anything you'd do differently regarding time spent reading? Make more or less flashcards? Look up unknown words more or less often? Read harder or easier material?

 

4) Anything you'd do differently regarding tracking reading speed? Start earlier, track more, etc?

 

And here's some beginner motivation to share. I'm a few weeks into reading very basic graded readers, and although it's slow going and semi-painful, I'm starting to see progress!

 

263693016_readingspeedgradedreaders.png.e81482bfcb59da68429705a90947ea5d.png

 

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4 hours ago, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

3) Anything you'd do differently regarding time spent reading? Make more or less flashcards? Look up unknown words more or less often? Read harder or easier material?

Not the OP, but my recommendation would be for:

 

* less rather than more flashcards,

* a fixed quota of new words to learn per day (the exact amount differs per person, but I find a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 10 works well for me).  You can still look up other words as needed - just don't create flashcards for them.

* easier rather than harder material.

 

Generally speaking, you'll be better of reading lots of easier material, picking up occasional new words, than tackling a smaller amount of harder material.  If the volume of easier material is high enough, you'll end up with the same number of new words learnt per day - but you'll also get in far more reading practice.

 

Also generally speaking, you'll be better off getting 'revisions' of words by reading them in Chinese content than you would be revising them in flashcards.  Add too many flashcards and you'll be taking time away from reading in order to do all the revisions.

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@micky056

 

On 5/20/2021 at 6:44 PM, micky056 said:

Is it possible to use this while reading light novels and books or any other document too?

Yes, you can use it to open txt or epub files, and there's also a built-in web browser.

 

On 5/20/2021 at 6:44 PM, micky056 said:

You said it's paid, is there any free one too?

Unfortunately as far as I'm aware there's no free trial, but it's not too expensive at $9.99 alone or $29.99 as part of the basic bundle, which also includes flashcard functionality and a few other useful things.

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Also not OP, but thought I'd take a stab at these questions:

 

On 5/24/2021 at 9:46 PM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

1) What was your approach to learning your first 1500 characters? And how did you approach learning new characters in you readings? You mentioned flashcarding characters, did you make sentence cards?

My advice would be to write out characters. It becomes easier to remember a character if you've written it before and understand how characters are formed and written. The way they did it at my school, which worked for me, was to take about 10 characters per day, and write each of them out 10 times. There are lots of resources which teach you proper stroke order which is more important than it initially seems. You don't really need any fancy books or lessons for this, and you don't need to buy fancy paper (although it can help). Just pick 10 characters of your choice and write them out. Start with simple ones like 一二三十口大日 etc. but feel free to throw in common or fun ones like 你好、中国、学习 as you feel like it. Pay special attention to the differences between similar characters eg 学 and 字, 王 and 玉

 

On 5/24/2021 at 9:46 PM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

2) You mentioned mostly reading web novels in text format via Pleco's document reader. Where did you find/how did you create text files of books? I also use Pleco for my reading but still on the graded reader stage so most of my material has been bought through the store. (Just thinking ahead as to where to get reading material once graduated from graded readers).

I would recommend The Chairman's Bao if you want to find interesting things to read that are at your level. The HSK 1 articles are both very accessible and challenging for beginners. A lot of the stories are quite similar which can help with reinforcement. Here's an extract from one article about a man who opened a 卤肉 restaurant (a kind of pork - ignore this word) with his wife. "他小的时候和他的爸爸学习做卤肉,现在他和他的妻子开了这家饭店。他做卤肉,妻子做烧饼。" Hopefully the level of Chinese is right for you.

 

On 5/24/2021 at 9:46 PM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

3) Anything you'd do differently regarding time spent reading? Make more or less flashcards? Look up unknown words more or less often? Read harder or easier material?

Imron is 100% right about this. I am a full convert to the Imron philosophy of Chinese learning. In a sentence, the philosophy is "don't let looking up & memorising every new word reduce how much you use Chinese". It's better to read 500 words where you had to skip 100 of them (or just look them up, see the definition so you understand the sentence, and then move on) than it is to read 50 words, and then stop because you want to do flashcards and memorise the 10 new ones before you move on. If the words are important enough to learn, you'll come across them again, and might even learn them through context without trying. If they're not important you won't see them again and shouldn't be spending time learning them anyway. This applies to the difficulty of the text as well. The easier the material, the less you'll struggle with having to skip words and not understanding the text and the more volume you'll be able to get through in X time or before getting tired. Also, even an easy text will have new things to learn in there. They'll use words you already know in ways you haven't encountered before, or words you know the meaning for but haven't used much thus reinforcing the knowledge.

 

On 5/24/2021 at 9:46 PM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

4) Anything you'd do differently regarding tracking reading speed? Start earlier, track more, etc?

I don't have any strong opinions on this topic.

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@pinionand @imron (and everyone else too), what characters do you consider when calculating your reading speed? Do you only count hanzi or do you also count punctuation?

I find that if you remove all punctuation characters form a text when making this calculation, you obviously come up with somewhat slower reading speed figure.

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On 5/19/2021 at 11:24 PM, pinion said:

I did the vast majority of my reading in Pleco's document reader, which is a paid add-on that I think is well worth it. Any time I encountered an unfamiliar word, I just tapped on it to see the pop-up dictionary definition. I know others on this forum feel that this makes looking up familiar words too easy to a degree that is counterproductive, but I think the advantages outweigh the disadvantages because it allows you to get through a greater volume of material much more quickly.

 

I resonate with that statement. When I was learning to read Chinese, I leaned on Pleco's document reader like a crutch, with all my weight. Whenever I felt the impulse to touch any word to get its meaning or correct tones, I did it with zero reservation. I milked it for all its worth, you could say. After reviewing a book electronically a couple of times (I would often re-read previous pages before reading new ones), I would get a physical copy of the book and read through it without Pleco (by then it was easier, because I had already read through the book and studied the words in Pleco).

 

I stopped using the Pleco reader after 7 or 8 books, but if I didn't have Pleco in the early days, I just wouldn't have had the patience to learn Chinese. I'm impressed at those who learned the "classic" way, without such technology. 

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11 hours ago, alantin said:

what characters do you consider when calculating your reading speed? Do you only count hanzi or do you also count punctuation?

I included punctuation just because it didn't occur to me to remove it, but I don't think it really matters, right? Whether you calculate your reading speed as 150 cpm with punctuation or 140 cpm without isn't really important; as long as you're consistent, the only thing that matters is whether the number is going up.

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Pinion was doing it for his own interest, so I agree it doesn't matter which way he did it as long as he was consistent.

 

Could anyone else comment on what the rough conversion is from "total characters" to "Hanzi"? It seems there are a few people reading this thread and using it as a benchmark to set a personal challenge, and they'd probably benefit from knowing how it converts. Presumably its <10% of characters are punctuation in any given text?

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6 hours ago, pinion said:

Whether you calculate your reading speed as 150 cpm with punctuation or 140 cpm without isn't really important; as long as you're consistent, the only thing that matters is whether the number is going up.

Yeah exactly. It doesn't matter as long as you are consistent with yourself. It only matters a little if you want to compare you results to someone else's.

 

27 minutes ago, NanJingDongLu said:

Presumably its <10% of characters are punctuation in any given text?

 

I haven't done any exact calculations, but based on a few tests, the difference in the chars/min figures I ended up with was between 15% and 25%.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 5/25/2021 at 4:46 AM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

1) What was your approach to learning your first 1500 characters? And how did you approach learning new characters in you readings? You mentioned flashcarding characters, did you make sentence cards?

 

I learned the most common thousand or so characters using Memrise (this course and its sequels, doing only the character lessons and skipping ones on speaking), and then started reading graded readers and learning the new characters I encountered there. (To be clear, this makes more sense for me as a heritage speaker who already had basic grammar down and therefore mostly just needed to attach characters to words I already knew orally.)

 

Once I took the dive into native content, I looked up every single new character in my reading material (made easier by Place document reader, of course), and made sure to pronounce it to myself. I waited until I'd encountered a "new" character enough times that I had, oh, 75% recognition before adding it as a flashcard, at which point I would add both the character as an individual card and at least one word it was part of in the text I was reading. So, for instance, while reading a detective novel I added 測 as an individual character and then also 猜測、推測、測謊, all of which also appeared in the text, as word cards. My goal for adding the word cards was somewhat less to learn those specific words per se and more to get a sense for the meaning that character has in multiple contexts.

 

I did restrict new characters to ten a day, then later five. Ten characters a day sounds like a lot, but if you do a couple hours of reading in a day they'll likely be reinforced fifty or a hundred times, especially early on when the characters you're learning are relatively common.

 

I did not make sentence cards--I relied solely on extensive reading to see words in context.

 

On 5/25/2021 at 4:46 AM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

2) You mentioned mostly reading web novels in text format via Pleco's document reader. Where did you find/how did you create text files of books? I also use Pleco for my reading but still on the graded reader stage so most of my material has been bought through the store. (Just thinking ahead as to where to get reading material once graduated from graded readers).

 

If you search "[novel title] txt," you'll find plenty of (admittedly sketchy-looking) sites where you can download text files of full webnovels. As for finding titles, I started out by picking out likely-looking candidates from novelupdates.com, on the theory that webnovels that someone is bothering to translate must at least be decent. (This, as it turns out, is not necessarily true.)

 

On 5/25/2021 at 4:46 AM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

3) Anything you'd do differently regarding time spent reading? Make more or less flashcards? Look up unknown words more or less often? Read harder or easier material?

 

I feel pretty good about how things worked out. The number of flashcards generated by my method was generally small enough that I could have done with it during my commute in ten or fifteen minutes a day, which is what I wanted. Ideally I would've done a better job of reading easy stuff first and hard stuff later--there were a couple points where I accidentally picked something so hard it discouraged me from reading, which is obviously counterproductive.

 

On 5/25/2021 at 4:46 AM, Dr Mack Rettosy said:

4) Anything you'd do differently regarding tracking reading speed? Start earlier, track more, etc?

 

I do wish I'd tracked time for the first and third books I finished (the latter was actually the second I started, but I took a break in the middle to read something else). Other than that, I will note that at point I realized that tracking time was both stressing me out and discouraging me from squeezing in extra reading in those random ten or fifteen minute slots throughout the day, so I took a break.

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13 hours ago, pinion said:

Ideally I would've done a better job of reading easy stuff first and hard stuff later

In the rush to read more and more 'advanced' content this is something often overlooked (I know I didn't pay attention to it early on in my studies), but it really is valuable advice.

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Thank you @realmayo! That was really interesting!
Also interesting to see such validation for re-reading. I'm half way re-reading one of my favorites and it sure is a lot easier this time. I also recently found an audio-version of the book on Ximalaya and have listened the first chapter already. An interesting experience. My normal listening comprehension of an audiobook in Chinese is very low but with I really get immersed in the story! I'm currently thinking about continuing my reading for the summer so that I'll first read the book on pleco checking all unfamiliar words, then re-read the physical copy, and then finally listen to the audio.

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@realmayo, that's some really great info. I think my habits were partly influenced by my time of trying to gain reading fluency in Latin. I happened upon some blog posts by the linguist Justin Slocum Bailey, who also champions the idea of extensive reading and says that the concept can apply to any language, and not just Latin (Link here). After a hyper-grueling effort trying to learn Latin (which has terribly confusing syntax and grammar, not to mention a real lack of accessible graded reading materials), I set it aside and I started itching for a modern, "living" language. Chinese is an interesting case, because while it's modern, it also has a nice feeling of antiquity to it.

 

I'm not sure how much longer the practice of re-reading and constant dictionary lookup would have benefited me--maybe I stopped too early. I definitely feel like it helped me develop a strong foundation. But then I thought, I'm a pretty fast and confident reader of my own native language, English. How did I get that way? It wasn't always that way. I don't re-read stuff in English, but I expose myself to a ton of books. So probably, at some point in my Chinese journey, it's good for me to leave behind the "depth" (reading the same thing over and over) and move on to "breadth" (reading a ton of stuff with less repetition, if any at all). 

 

Even now, with a vocabulary size that's approaching 17,000 Chinese words, I still find many books to be laborious to read. I'm thinking, surely it must start to level off somewhere! There can't be an infinite amount of words! They just keep pouring in! Somewhere else in these forums, somebody posted a nice article that convincingly argues that there are about 26,000 Chinese words (excluding names and other proper nouns) that are used in modern speech. Surely, once you've crossed the 20,000 mark and start to enter into the home stretch, the words start to get quite rare and less essential to know. I'm getting closer, I suppose, and I can't wait until I can just extensively read a book without lifting my phone to look at Pleco every 2 minutes.

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3 hours ago, Woodford said:

How did I get that way? It wasn't always that way. I don't re-read stuff in English, but I expose myself to a ton of books.


Really?
Someone pointed out a little while ago that children seem to enjoy watching the same thing over and over again. 50 times watching the same teletubbies video doesn't seem to bore some specimens in the least. Maybe you've done more in-depth exposure to English material than you realize. 😁

I do agree with you. At some point you'll need to move on to breadth and actually I don't think re-reading the same thing over and over again is the only way to climb the mountain. I got a decent level in Swedish in the past by just listening to audio books. I listened to them a lot and definitely didn't re-listen. Granted, with Swedish you can get a lot of help from knowing English, but the same should apply to other other languages as well. With a language as different to anything else as Chinese, I do find the re-reading crutch helpful at the level I'm at the moment, but I believe I'll have moved on to "breadth" reading well before 17,000 words.

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4 hours ago, Woodford said:

maybe I stopped too early

 

Well according to that last bit of text I quoted, as your reading ability improves so does your ability to correctly guess from context, so it might well be that you stopped at the perfect time!

 

For re-reading specifically, and assuming we're talking about novels: I think there are two benefits. First, it's easier second time around because you know what the sentences mean, you now already know more vocabulary, and more of what you don't know is guessable. That means you can focus more on the skill of reading per se, picking up grammar patterns, increasing reading speed etc. Second, assuming you need to see a new word on average seven times to learn it, re-reading a book will of course turn any frequency-4 words into frequency-8 ones, so you get a vocabulary uplift too.

 

I suppose the downside of re-reading a novel is that you're also re-reading text that includes chunks that were too easy to be of great benefit even the first time around, and also chunks that are still too difficult second time around. So for that reason I can't imaging reading a novel more than twice, unless I loved it.

 

But other texts, e.g. in short texts in textbooks, which have been selected because of valuable grammar patterns or for the particularly high quality of the writing, those I think are worth re-reading dozens of times, even memorising them, in order to internalise their content. But that's intensive reading, not extensive reading and is a bit off-topic. Although I'll add that the book I was quoting from calls extensive reading (of the Krashen type) "meaning-focused input" and intensive reading "language-focused learning". And the authors insist they're both necessary, despite more old-fashioned teaching ignoring the former and more contemporary people ignoring the latter.

 

17 hours ago, alantin said:

and then finally listen to the audio

 

Yes I'm now thinking about audiobooks - though perhaps listening on a chapter-by-chapter basis, rather than waiting until I've finished the whole novel before then listening to the whole audiobook. Then it should be fresher in the mind each time.

 

 

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6 hours ago, alantin said:

Really?
Someone pointed out a little while ago that children seem to enjoy watching the same thing over and over again. 50 times watching the same teletubbies video doesn't seem to bore some specimens in the least. Maybe you've done more in-depth exposure to English material than you realize. 😁

 

Oh, I very much enjoyed repetitive material when I was a child, though not as much when I was older. I'm sure that repetition can help anyone. Maybe if I'm getting hopelessly frustrated about my reading speed in the future, even as a very advanced learner, I might fall back on reviewing a book multiple times to "speed read" it. I think I'll actually do that when I switch to learning the traditional characters. Just to get a feel for them.

 

I spent about one year reading graded readers, and I read each one four times. Then I spent about another year reading native-level novels, and I also read each book four times. It was rather overkill, probably. :) Now I read each book only once. I encounter about 0-2 unknown words on every page (so that's an average of 1, I guess). Of course, that's just an average. I might encounter a page with 10 unknown words, then a stretch of pages with zero. For me, that's still rather distracting and cumbersome. Some people can just ignore the unknown words and be happy with knowing the overall gist of the story, but it's psychologically difficult for me to do that. My arbitrary goal is to reach an average of one unknown word every 3 pages (i.e., the majority of pages have no unknown words). I'd like to reach a point where I can just put the dictionary away and read. And it is true that my ability to guess words from context is growing!

 

5 hours ago, realmayo said:

I suppose the downside of re-reading a novel is that you're also re-reading text that includes chunks that were too easy to be of great benefit even the first time around, and also chunks that are still too difficult second time around. So for that reason I can't imaging reading a novel more than twice, unless I loved it.

 

That's a good observation. I loved those somewhat rare moments when I reviewed a book and understood something that I didn't understand the first time. But otherwise, I say to myself, "Yep, the hard parts are still hard to understand, and the easy parts are still easy."

 

I definitely feel, however, that the system of review really helped me. I still encounter challenging content, but when it comes to the more plain-spoken, less literary, less complex stuff, I feel pretty confident.

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