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How to transition into reading native books


blackfalcon
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4 hours ago, mungouk said:

would someone be able to share the CTA analysis of the book? 

 

Stats below, & text file of vocab export as per these columns: image.png.8825c02e2533742544b2a76d0fc43dd0.png

 

hz.txt

 

I really don't think this is a "flowery-language" type of book.

 

 

 

Word Statistics
    Total    57,002
    Known    0
    Percent Known    0.00%
    Unknown    57,002
    Percent Unknown    100.00%
    Unique    4,292
    Known    0
    Percent Known    0.00%
    Unknown    4,292
    Percent Unknown    100.00%
HSK Statistics
    Total Words    
    Level 1    37.10%
    Level 2    11.37% (48.47%)
    Level 3    8.67% (57.14%)
    Level 4    3.61% (60.75%)
    Level 5    4.26% (65.02%)
    Level 6    2.84% (67.86%)
    Other    32.14%
    Unique Words    
    Level 1    2.94%
    Level 2    2.47% (5.41%)
    Level 3    4.05% (9.46%)
    Level 4    5.20% (14.66%)
    Level 5    7.50% (22.16%)
    Level 6    6.97% (29.12%)
    Other    70.88%
TOCFL Statistics
    Total Words    
    Level 1    24.56%
    Level 2    18.69% (43.25%)
    Level 3    7.35% (50.59%)
    Level 4    4.24% (54.83%)
    Level 5    1.85% (56.68%)
    Other    43.32%
    Unique Words    
    Level 1    3.54%
    Level 2    3.45% (6.99%)
    Level 3    5.43% (12.42%)
    Level 4    8.01% (20.43%)
    Level 5    4.43% (24.86%)
    Other    75.14%
Character Statistics
    Total    74,932
    Unique    1,837

 

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>>When I studied English as a teenager, I read hundreds of books by myself. However, I made the mistakes of reading books like Agatha Christie novels, Hemingway, Steinbeck and Shakespeare. Or even worse, the Lord of the Rings where I suffered through 100s of pages describing the creeks, glens, willows and whathaveyou. Later on, when I lived in the UK for 4 years, I never came across the word "glen" in real life and I never had to comment on the "weeping willow's shade" or the like. Looking back, I should have read more non-fiction books and/or Newsweek or the like. The vocabulary in those sources is more connected to real life. This is why I am currently reading mostly on TCB and started 2 non-fiction books as my first Chinese books. <<

I've had the experience of reading in several different languages side by side - the other language and then the professional translation (not Google) into English, and in each instance, whether the content was philosophy, fiction or creative non-fiction, the original language contained revealing nuances and insights into the way of thinking/experience of the original author that were not in the translation. That's a big reason why I study languages - in addition to being able to manage when I travel. I learned German specifically to study the works of one philosopher in the original. It was totally worthwhile.

If you're only interested in practical information and conversation, fine. But some of us are interested in the finer aspects of culture and life - including glens and weeping willows. And some of us really, really enjoy and appreciate Hemingway, Steinbeck and Shakespeare.

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There will also be a point when you impact on your ability to get the most from your factual reading because you've rejected the context it was produced in - the full panoply of the language the native author grew up in and remains immersed within, which will affect the subtle implications of their phrasing and inform their worldview and assumptions. Probably not that material if it's instructions on how to set a digital box to record a series but anything more complex like business and the economy with all their human dimensions will surely benefit from being read against the wider picture.

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I don't think it matters what you read as long as it is a lot and on a lot of different subjects. You'll come across "glen" and "weeping willow's shade" at some point and then you'll either pay attention to them or not and they'll become parts of your vocabulary. I doubt anyone has ever suffered from having a wide vocabulary.

 

In my current reading I might come across something like "She embraced the One Power and channeled to hurl a fireball at the towering trolloc with a falcon's beak below disturbingly human eyes" is unlikely to ever be useful, but most of the words will contribute to understanding elsewhere. I have never thought of them a waste of time myself because I'll pick up the relevant stuff with time anyway even without paying much attention to individual words. If I didn't know what a "falcon" or "a beak" is I'd just think that it has something in it's face and carry on. Then, in a movie or somewhere else, someone is going to point at a bird and call it a "falcon" causing my faint memory of the word getting reinforced and with enough reinforcements it'll "click" at some point and I'll have acquired the new word without ever having really tried to.


I guess my point is, if you don't like a book, find another one, but any book is going to have a lot of "unnecessary" words.

 

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2 hours ago, Moshen said:

I've had the experience of reading in several different languages side by side - the other language and then the professional translation (not Google) into English, and in each instance, whether the content was philosophy, fiction or creative non-fiction, the original language contained revealing nuances and insights into the way of thinking/experience of the original author that were not in the translation. That's a big reason why I study languages - in addition to being able to manage when I travel. I learned German specifically to study the works of one philosopher in the original. It was totally worthwhile.

 

 I do not disagree at all. I totally enjoyed Steinbeck, Hemingway and Shakespeare, but I do not believe they were the most effective method of studying the language for me.  As I mentioned everyone may have different motivations behind studying Chinese. Given that >98% of learners will eventually drop the towel on Chinese, looking for compelling content is ever so important. Everyone should read what that person finds "compelling". And this may be  Tang poetry...

 

I simply want to provide an alternative point of view since on this forum (not unlike an echo chamber) 活着 has been mentioned so often as "the" first book to read that it is bound to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. There are other books (or "odd approaches" 😉 ) that may be as compelling to some and as easy to start with. I can recommend a non-fiction-book on stress management, etc with similar stats as 活着:

    Total  words  64.474
    Unique  words  6.022

 

Here is a google translation of one of the first paragraphs:

The word "stress" can refer to the reality of many things, both a blessing and a curse. On the negative side, this makes the discussion of stress science elusive. Even scientists who usually narrow the definition use the word "stress" to describe the experience tangled in their minds while also describing the results. One study may define it as being too thoughtful and frustrated, another study sees it as an overwhelming workforce. One study used stress to describe daily disturbances, while another study used it to explore the long-term effects of trauma. Worse, when the science of stress is spread through the media, the title often uses the well-known word "stress", but it doesn't explain what details the research actually measured. This will make you doubt whether the findings apply to your life.

 

Now this writing may not have the subtlety of 活着, but I can already find plenty of word combinations and sentence patterns that I can immediately apply to my own life's conversations.

 

 

2 hours ago, Jim said:

There will also be a point when you impact on your ability to get the most from your factual reading because you've rejected the context it was produced in - the full panoply of the language the native author grew up in and remains immersed within, which will affect the subtle implications of their phrasing and inform their worldview and assumptions.

2 hours ago, Moshen said:

the original language contained revealing nuances and insights into the way of thinking/experience of the original author that were not in the translation. T

 

I agree and yet I believe as a foreigner and a beginner of Chinese you are bound to miss the gorilla in front of your eyes. German college students, who read Thomas Mann's "Zauberberg" (the magic mountain), will not be able to understand many of its implications and cultural connotations unless they have an expert tutor or they read analyses on that book.

The said "sparrow" in 活着 was mentioned several times, but how many readers on this forums will have understood its symbolism (an "auspicious symbol of happiness and the coming of spring")? And this is just one random word from the first paragraph....

 

 



 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Jan Finster said:

活着 has been mentioned so often as "the" first book to read that it is bound to become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

 

Interesting.
Well I'm new here so I hope I'll be forgiven, but 活着 is not going to be high on my "books to read" list either.
I'm just half way through my first book, which is from the middle of the translation of the Wheel of Time fantasy series by Robert Jordan and I'm probably going to keep on going with it for the rest of the series. About seven million characters should keep me busy for a while.. I'm thinking on taking up Game of Thrones after that.

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On 1/24/2021 at 10:07 PM, Woodford said:

I've found that the most important thing to do (which, unfortunately, I didn't do) is to get a feel for the difficulty of a given book. You can analyze it with CTA, and you can also sample a few pages to get a "feel" for it. For me, anyway, it's never been a matter of vocabulary, because I can always look up words I don't know. Rather, I've found that some authors use really obscure, ambiguous, and/or literary sentence structures or phrases. Too often I would think, "Well, I know all the words here, but I can't make heads or tails of the sentences! I haven't even been tracking with the last 3 paragraphs!" Ultimately, I forced myself to slog through a few really hard books, when I really should have just set them aside and saved them for later.

 

We're at a similar place, it seems, though other than the first book, we've gone in different directions. 

 

I wish I could get into CTA - it's a great tool - but I'm stubborn about my paperbacks. Plus, the whole process of finding a .txt file online, and then running it through the program, because too much prepwork for me. First off, I don't know where to get reliable .txt files anyway. Instead, I've been doing something else I saw here - basically, collecting books that interest me, and then when it's time for a new one, I just spend an hour or so without it before I decide whether I should keep going or move on. Ultimately, I've also noticed the same limitation - archaic grammar and literary usages have been far more of an issue for me than vocabulary. 

 

As for the topic at hand, I think I would echo the general sentiment here: you just need to jump into the things that interest you.

But that might be harder than you think... If you've been studying in a program that has reached its end, or have been focused on the HSK all these years... maybe you will find that there is nothing in particular about Chinese that you actually need or enjoy. This is sort of where I'm at - I'm still reading, but increasingly the question has become "why Chinese"? If there's something you really want out of Chinese, just go for it. Don't be like me, wait super long because you "don't feel ready", and then realize you don't enjoy it much anyway. 

 

 

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6 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

I wish I could get into CTA - it's a great tool - but I'm stubborn about my paperbacks. Plus, the whole process of finding a .txt file online, and then running it through the program, because too much prepwork for me. First off, I don't know where to get reliable .txt files anyway.


Up until now, I bought all my books on 微信读书, along with their paperback counterparts (so I could practice re-reading them without any Pleco help). You're totally right about the .txt files. They're full of misprinted characters, which are a real pain for a non-native reader like me! And the websites that host them tend to be a bit shady. From here on out, I'm switching to paperbacks alone. I'm having some symptoms of withdrawal from the Pleco tools, but I suppose I need to eventually stop using them.

I think another tedious activity for me is finding paperbacks I'd like to read. I live in the United States, and maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but even though the US has a somewhat large Chinese diaspora, Chinese books don't seem widely available. Even the selection on Amazon feels very slim. Many books on China's best-seller lists are simply English books or Chinese translations of English books. 

 

6 hours ago, PerpetualChange said:

maybe you will find that there is nothing in particular about Chinese that you actually need or enjoy. This is sort of where I'm at - I'm still reading, but increasingly the question has become "why Chinese"?

 

That question haunts me, too. I happened to be a language nerd, mainly with ancient languages. I wanted to learn a language that was modern, useful, widely spoken, and very challenging. So I chose Chinese, and somehow, by some miracle, I've continued long enough to get to this point. I have good friends from China, but no other pressing need to learn the language. My wife, who became fluent in German and lived in Austria for three years, is watching me drill away at all these books and flashcards with little practical benefit and abysmal speaking ability. I suppose I'm in it for the long haul, and I know that someday it can all pay off, especially as I branch out to a greater focus on listening and speaking. But that's just it--if I reach my goal in Chinese fluency, then...I have Chinese fluency. That's it. Then what? I never gave it much thought.

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2 hours ago, amytheorangutan said:

the bother of having to look up the words more manually prevent me from obsessively looking up too many words. 

 

I can relate to that. Whenever I've read ebooks on my iPad with Pleco hovering alongside (iOS split-screen mode FTW), it's been far too easy to look up every unknown word, rather than carrying on and learning the word through repeated example, as we would do through reading in our native languages. 

 

 

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14 hours ago, Woodford said:

I think another tedious activity for me is finding paperbacks I'd like to read. I live in the United States, and maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but even though the US has a somewhat large Chinese diaspora, Chinese books don't seem widely available. Even the selection on Amazon feels very slim. Many books on China's best-seller lists are simply English books or Chinese translations of English books. 

 

Two words: Taobao agent. I've been satisfied with Superbuy. Or, if you're able to register, buy directly from JD.com.

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18 hours ago, Woodford said:

I think another tedious activity for me is finding paperbacks I'd like to read. I live in the United States

I’ve been getting my books from books.com.tw even though I use it because I read traditional characters but I see quite a lot of simplified books too. Honestly, I love this website so much, delivery is ridiculously fast and reliable around 3-4 days from ordering to delivery. Delivery fee is a bit expensive but normally a book would cost around 10-15 GBP including shipping which I don’t mind paying.

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On 1/27/2021 at 7:18 PM, amytheorangutan said:

I read most of my chinese books in paperback

Well, you've convinced me to switch.

 

Thanks everyone so much for the replies!

 

In case it helps anyone, I decided to go with a children's novel called 淘气包马小条, and it seems like a good next step after graded readers. I probably could do 活着, but I'd rather wait a little bit so it's just slightly less a struggle.

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6 hours ago, blackfalcon said:

hildren's novel called 淘气包马小条

 

If you're down for children's novels, I'm a huge fan of 皮露露和鲁西西. The language is very practical and the descriptions of things revolve call-it-what-it-is type metaphors. For example, a city with a lot of machinery is call "screw city" which is where I learned the word 螺丝 from. Each book is a collection of short stories that are all semi-connected in their content. I read 3 or 4 of them before it got old and am happy I did.

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On 1/26/2021 at 1:39 PM, Jan Finster said:

I simply want to provide an alternative point of view since on this forum (not unlike an echo chamber) 活着 has been mentioned so often as "the" first book to read that it is bound to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. There are other books (or "odd approaches" 😉 ) that may be as compelling to some and as easy to start with.

Here’s another alternate viewpoint: don’t use novels as your gateway to native materials at all! Use video games with strong narrative elements. Video game text is often written for a lower reading levels and you get quick feedback on whether you understood what you read (you’re often unable to progress if your understanding a totally off). As for which video games you should play, there are plenty of recommendations on this forum but GBA/DS-era Legend of Zelda games might be a good start.

 

Another alternate route is to start by reading comics. But admittedly most comics are harder than 活着, you would have to explicitly look for kids series like Doraemon or Yotsuba.

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6 hours ago, coffeepresto said:

However... all of these novels are children's books. So yeah, my recommendation is to start there.

 

6 hours ago, coffeepresto said:

So what children's books are good? I love Cao Wenxuan (曹文轩).

 

I first read 活着, and currently I'm reading 曹文轩's 草房子.

I really enjoy the book, but I do feel like it is significantly harder than 活着,

sentences are often long and quite complex and there are quite some descriptive structures I just skip over.

I really wonder what age group this book is meant for, feel like it's a bit too much for elementary students,

w.r.t both content and language.

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6 hours ago, jannesan said:

 

I first read 活着, and currently I'm reading 曹文轩's 草房子.

I really enjoy the book, but I do feel like it is significantly harder than 活着,

sentences are often long and quite complex and there are quite some descriptive structures I just skip over.

I really wonder what age group this book is meant for, feel like it's a bit too much for elementary students,

w.r.t both content and language.

I’ve seen plenty of “children’s literature” that is not really that easy. I think part of it is wishful thinking from Chinese parents (like 3000-count 汉子 flashcard sets for babies). Also, a kid who struggles to read 草房子 on their own might be fine listening to their parent read it to them. Kids don’t tend to fret over details that are above their head, and if they feel like they missed the gist they’ll ask the reader to explain it in simpler language.

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On 1/26/2021 at 8:44 AM, mungouk said:

I'm probably being over-ambitious here, but I just bought a paper copy of 活着 on a whim.

 

Given it got mentioned, I thought I'd reread 活着. Might be worth pointing out that while say 98% of the book is narrated by a character called 福贵, the 2% that isn't - and which includes the first few pages - uses, I think, noticeably trickier language.

 

Without wanting to get into any argument about whether it's a good first book or not, I think apart from the straightforward language, another reason people recommend it is beacuse while it's not exactly a cheerful book, it is quite affecting/moving, which may not be the case with most Chinese texts previously read by that point.

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