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Recognizing a character out of its usual sequence is hard even for native speakers. I remember when I took a character test, for the longest time I couldn't come up with a pronunciation for 蛤 (to make matters worse, it was 2x2 inches big). Eventually I settled on gě, which is close to one of the dictionary pronunciations gé. When I reported back, imron reminded me it's há in 蛤蟆功 from Jin Yong's most famous book...

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You probably haven't met 蛤蜊 (clam, gélí in dictionary, gěli where I come from) my childhood delicacy. We ate 田鸡 (edible frog) too but never 蛤蟆 (toad). Obviously 蛤蟆 is the more common word containing this character but for some reason it never entered my mind while I stared at the out of proportion

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I may have encountered a different variety of 蛤蜊 from you, on my plate. Another variety of character I've encountered on my bookshelf is 蛤蚌.

 

On 1/27/2022 at 4:41 AM, Publius said:

while I stared at the out of proportion

I will very occasionally see an English word like "here" and think - that can't be spelled right. Particularly if the word is just standing on its own.

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On 1/27/2022 at 4:25 PM, realmayo said:

I will very occasionally see an English word like "here" and think - that can't be spelled right. Particularly if the word is just standing on its own.

 

Yeah. It could be misspelled "hare".

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Yeah, language learning is fun.

I was baffled by the Japanese names for hydrogen (水素) and oxygen (酸素) until I learned they were borrowed from German, Wasserstoff 'water stuff' and Sauerstoff 'sour stuff' respectively. :D

 

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  • 6 months later...

I am disappointed with my reading speed. It seems to hover around 50 CPM. Probably because as I get more advanced, I tackle more difficult topics (?)

 

I just tested myself on the subtibles of this video (subs in attachment). According to CTA, I should be familiar with 97% of the words.

Still, it took me just over an hour to read those 3209 characters (~2000 words).

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdBCgsPAfds&ab_channel=大康有话说

 

I did look up words I did not know...

ChineseText-Part.txt

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On 8/6/2022 at 11:50 AM, Jan Finster said:

I am disappointed with my reading speed.

Don't be disappointed! Reading speed comes with time and practice. 

 

I only really felt my reading speed improve after at least 18 months of reading every single day. Prior to that, I read books like snail pace. 3,000 characters use to take me 30-45 min to finish (with pop-up dictionary and looking up all unknown words). Sometimes it could take more than 45mins, it depends on the context, writing style, my mood, my concentrations....and many other factors.

 

Even now, I don't read that fast, it's just much better than before. Of course, it hugly depends on the type of content.

 

CTA may tell you that you know the words, but your brain may still require a bit of time to recall it and bring it to the forefront. This takes a long long long time to improve.

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On 8/6/2022 at 11:50 AM, Jan Finster said:

Probably because as I get more advanced, I tackle more difficult topics

 

Paul Nation believes that if you want to make an active effort to improve fluency (so, here, reading speed), you should only use familiar material. (And it should also be meaning-based, you should train under time pressure, and do plenty of it.)

 

It used to be really hard to get hold of reasonably long but fairly easy texts in Chinese, outside listening comprehension textbooks. But @MoonIvy's site looks like it provides a solution.

 

On 8/6/2022 at 11:50 AM, Jan Finster said:

According to CTA, I should be familiar with 97% of the words

 

You could try opening up a short portion of such a text in CTA, which shows e.g. 97% known words, and read the text within the CTA programme, changing the status of any 'known' words to 'unknown' if you don't understand them, and vice versa. Then at the end of the text, see what the % known figure is: if it is now below 97% then that suggests CTA is too optimistic, and you perhaps need to find easier texts.

 

 

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Those are great comments.

 

On 8/7/2022 at 10:58 AM, realmayo said:

But @MoonIvy's site looks like it provides a solution

Those webnovels are really not intersting to me.

 

I guess I will read 20-30 of that Yotuber's political talks and then I should be more familiar with the vocab.

 

On 8/7/2022 at 10:58 AM, realmayo said:

You could try opening up a short portion of such a text in CTA, which shows e.g. 97% known words, and read the text within the CTA programme,

 

Yes, the CTA number is actually "words I have been exposed to before" rather than words I know. Still the text is at a level I enjoy reading, so it cannot be that much too difficult.

 

On 8/7/2022 at 10:58 AM, realmayo said:

you should train under time pressure,

I do not really get why? Why does deliberate practice need time pressure?

 

 

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On 8/7/2022 at 1:41 PM, Jan Finster said:

I do not really get why? Why does deliberate practice need time pressure?

 

Time pressure makes you read faster than you would with no pressure. As a result you get better at reading faster. Ultimately, you become comfortable reading at a higher speed, without any pressure. I guess that's the logic.

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Quote

Time pressure makes you read faster than you would with no pressure. As a result you get better at reading faster.

 

I'm not sure I understand this.  The goal - surely - is not just faster reading but faster reading with comprehension.  How does forcing yourself to read faster force the comprehension rather than make you lose comprehension?

 

And if you're studying Chinese for pleasure, why try to force yourself to read faster, when that inevitably happens naturally, without effort, the more comfortable you get with the language?

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On 8/7/2022 at 2:35 PM, Moshen said:

I'm not sure I understand this.

 

I think there's a link between (a) forcing yourself to read faster with comprehension, and (b) later being able to read faster with comprehension, without forcing anything.

 

On 8/7/2022 at 2:35 PM, Moshen said:

And if you're studying Chinese for pleasure, why try to force yourself to read faster, when that inevitably happens naturally

 

Presumably the answer is that your destination is fluency and you'd like to reach it quickly rather than slowly. But if the journey is more enjoyable than the destination for you, then it makes sense to delay fluency as long as possible.

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On 8/6/2022 at 3:50 AM, Jan Finster said:

I am disappointed with my reading speed. It seems to hover around 50 CPM.

 

I would like to offer another perspective on this. I made absolutely no effort to increase my reading speed, yet it still increased dramatically over the past year.

 

I started off reading around 300 characters per day, that was the most I could handle because native books were so far above my level, and there were so many new words (probably 1:7 to 1:10 words were new). Even that small chunk of reading probably took me around ten or fifteen minutes each day, so I was reading around 20-30 CPM at best. Now I can read a page of my current book in something like 2-3 minutes and there are about 600 characters per page, so I'm reading around 200-300CPM (this is towards the end of a 400ish page book where I'm already familiar with the common vocabulary. My speed would likely slow down again, at least temporarily, if I started a new book).

 

To emphasize, I made absolutely no effort to read faster. Zero. In fact, I mostly read for enjoyment, so I stuck to whatever pace felt comfortable for me. The only thing I did was make sure to open my book and read a few characters every single day, no matter what.

 

What seemed to make the difference is seeing the same words over and over and over until they're just absorbed instead of read. Initially I was inclined to say I knew a word or didn't, but now I'd say it's more like each word has a familiarity score (I know the word 60%, 99%, etc..) and the more I see it the more I know it's various contexts and can simply absorb the meaning instead of having to interpret it (ex: I know the word 将, but it seems weird in this context).

 

I wouldn't worry too much about specific training. I would just read and you'll improve before you know it. At least that was the case for me.

 

 

 

 

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Three thoughts. A bit wordy, I know. Sorry 'bout that.

 

First, don't focus too much on numbers thrown around by natives or people on the internet in general. The average English reading speed has been said to be 300 words per minute for several decades. More recent studies I've seen have concluded that this figure is vastly overestimated. This might be true for Chinese as well. Note that I also don't mean that people on the internet are lying, they might simply overestimate either their speed or their comprehension. Average reading speed also goes down the longer text you read.

 

Second, while reading quickly is a useful skill that is needed, so is reading slowly. Having never had any problems in school I've always been a fast reader and never thought more about it. It was not until I started reading novels of higher quality and academic texts that were not just plain information that I realized that while I certainly could read these as fast as other texts, I shouldn't. Reading Simmel or Gadamer at 300 words per minute is simply not feasible. I spent last year actively slowing down my reading speed, rather than the other way round.

 

The following is taken from the first chapter of The Island of Dr Moreau:

 

Quote

She kept tacking to and fro in a widening compass, for she was sailing dead into the wind. It never entered my head to attempt to attract attention, and I do not remember anything distinctly after the sight of her side until I found myself in a little cabin aft. There‘s a dim half-memory of being lifted up to the gangway, and of a big red countenance covered with freckles and surrounded with red hair staring at me over the bulwarks. I also had a disconnected impression of a dark face, with extraordinary eyes, close to mine; but that I thought was a nightmare, until I met it again. I fancy I recollect some stuff being poured in between my teeth; and that is all.

 

I could read this as quickly as I read a post-it note or the news. But if I slow down, the scene will appear more vividly in my mind. It will also increase my enjoyment of the novel. I'm certain this is true for most people.

 

Third. Not being a fan of drills, I have thought some about why I have no problems reading fast, even if I never practiced it (and also didn't read books). It might be that I spent a  lot of the time at the computer as a child, reading stuff here and there, but I don't think that's likely. I think instead that it might be due to subtitles. They only appear for the time they do, and you basically have to grab as much information as you can during that time. Perhaps subtitles have forced us to be fast readers if we really need to be? I'm going to try this as an experiment in Chinese.

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  • 1 month later...
On 8/6/2022 at 6:50 PM, Jan Finster said:

I am disappointed with my reading speed. It seems to hover around 50 CPM. Probably because as I get more advanced, I tackle more difficult topics (?)

 

Part of it is could be because you're switching too much between different types of content.

 

I improved my reading speed a lot last year, but if you asked me to read something new I'm still quite slow.  You ramp up speed as you get more familiar with the material.  My higher speeds all come from the second halves of books, when I have gotten used to the setting / characters / langage etc.

 

Even in individual reading sessions, my last 15 mins is much faster than my first 15 mins.


Ideally if you were fluent like a native, you'd be really quick reading anything, but that's far far along the fluency curve.

 

I've had a similar plateauing experience in my listening project this year, leading to frustration and lapses, and I've resolved this by refusing to switch between books until I've finished one. 

 

Of course, people have different learning styles, so throwing it out there for your consideration.  It seems to work better for me.

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I'm now on my 28th book overall (around 9,000-10,000 pages of reading so far), and I'd have to say that my reading speed very much depends on the kind of content I'm reading (of course). When I'm reading formulaic, simple, "boilerplate" material (pop literature, blogs, and most news), I can fly through it pretty quickly. When I'm reading something more complex (Mo Yan, Qian Zhongshu, etc.), I have to go more slowly and think harder about what I'm reading. In terms of personality, I'm not a person who has a lot of discipline for doing things quickly--I tend to take my time.

It probably takes me 2-3 minutes to read a good, full page of English text. For a Chinese page of text, it takes me more like 5-7 minutes (2-3 times slower, depending on the difficulty of the content). Like I said higher up on this thread, I have a deeply ingrained habit of reading Chinese out loud (usually under my breath), which doesn't help.

 

Soon, I will reduce my reading to around 15 minutes a day, and I'll focus more on listening. Although increased speed isn't the main goal, I think those things might make me faster! When my reading is timed, I'll read faster. Listening to Chinese will burn expressions and sentence patterns more deeply into my mind. As has been mentioned above, having a grasp of the spoken language is likely of great benefit when reading.

 

I'd have to say that I'm pretty satisfied with my current reading speed. It's always good to get faster, but I feel okay. Any improvement will just be a bonus!

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