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Effective ways to learn vast vocabulary and retain it in Longterm Memory


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Sreeni

Some people have built millions of vocabulary.   What are the best methods that worked for you to build the Chinese Vocabulary Bank?

 

1. Learning the origin of the characters?

2. Mnemonics way of memorisation?

3. Flash cards, SRS ?

 

what are the peak number of new words you learned in a day?

 

The following is my way,I can think of and I will keep Editing this portion:

 

1. Learn Numbers, relationships like mama, papa and animal names, colors, week days along with 4 tones. Learn all 214 radicals with meaning, writing, pronunciation and if any doubt Search “etymology of that particular character and understand etymology. 

 

2. Use some Chinese source books say text book in my case. Here learn the sentence as a unit of learning and write down the words for which you do not know the meaning or pronunciation. Break it down into small components and learn all of them


In general, I will scan the Chinese text using Google translator and translate it to English or mother tongue. I will understand it first. Copy the Chinese text into Pleco dictionary and get vocabulary for all the words and note it down in note book. Initially hand writing is important. You also add to Anki , but writing with hand is must as it will help to identify and rectify mistakes, which you might make if you did not write them at all. After you have written most of the characters by hand, then you can switch to digital learning. If you find any new character you can write with hand in the notebook and test your self whether you can write them correctly.


while learning from Anki, if you can not recollect meaning or pronunciation, connect with the word, update the card with additional notes (for eg: 1. if you confused one character of  the word with another character, include that character. 2. If can not recollect one character of multi character word, write that character) and then only you proceed to next flashcard

 

3. Listen to the pronunciation from Dictionary, for e.g Pleco Dictionary and speak out the new word in the same tone until you feel, the tone is correct.

 

4. If you did not understand English word learn that word first, else you can not remember the meaning

 

5. After you learned 400-500 words then start using Anki flash cards and enter the new words and review them all for a week and revise again at the end of Month, Quarterly, after 6 months and after a year. This should help with long term memory and retain those words.


6. Reduce distractions say while reading or learning new words do not go to other tasks like browsing news, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, whatsapp and set max time for those applications


7. Build a vocabulary bank of minimum 3500 words first
 

My sample Flash Card

 

Anki Front:

充满
 
Ideogrammic compound (會意😞𠫓 (a newborn) +  (standing person) – A newborn grows to stand and become mature.
 
Outlier explanation: 充 mean “ample, more than enough.” 
 
Anki Back:
 
充满 chōngmǎn full of
 
充 chōng to fulfill, to fill, to satisfy, to act in place of, substitute, sufficient, full
 允 yǔn to permit, to allow
 
满 mǎn fill, full, satisfied

 

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calculatrix
4 hours ago, mungouk said:

I found it essential to learn the vocab before starting each new textbook chapter. 

 

Thank you, @mungouk for your really helpfull detailled explanation.

But WHY do you prefer learning the new vocab before even seeing the text?

I always do it the other way round. First I try to read the text and mark all words I do not know.

Then I create a card for each new word. And on the back side of each card I  list all sentences from that lesson that contain the current word, so that I can see the new word in its context. 
The only advantage I see in memorizing the words in advance without knowing some context is, that I could impress the teacher when it comes to reading the new text in the classroom. 😉
What are the benefits? Please enlighten me.

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somethingfunny

It’s a cognitive load issue.  If you “pre-learn” the character form, pronunciation, and meaning, then it will free up the limited processing space in your brain for understanding its use in context.

 

Too much cognitive load and your brain can’t process it and you just give up because you feel miserable.  This is one way to mitigate cognitive load but there are others. The one thing you can’t do is overcome cognitive load.

 

If you do it this way then you can spend class time using the words in discussion with the teacher, rather than asking the teacher the pronunciation/meaning and then trying to recall it along with the other 50 生詞 you’ve just learnt.

 

I’ve taught lessons in school before where I just gave the pupils all the content as question/answer flash cards and had them test each other straight away without teaching them anything.  I wouldn’t do that now, but it was an interesting experience.

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mungouk
19 hours ago, calculatrix said:

But WHY do you prefer learning the new vocab before even seeing the text?

 

Well, pretty much what @somethingfunny said, and this:

 

On 3/17/2021 at 12:38 PM, mungouk said:

HSK 1-3 is 600 words of vocab and after that things increase rapidly — HSK 4 adds 600 new words, and HSK 5 after that adds another 1300 new words on top of those. My study habits changed after HSK 3, and like I said earlier I found it essential to learn the vocab before starting each new textbook chapter.

 

My current learning pattern is 3 x 1 hour Skype lesson a week. I'm not interested in "impressing the teacher", but I am interested in making the most of the time we have.

 

Compare the texts from the HSK books at level 3 and level 5 (click to enlarge images).

 

(edit: These are from the widely-used HSK Standard Course series published by BLCUP.)

 

This is HSK 3 chapter 20 of 20. There are 3 short dialogues and 1 short article, each with 2-5 new words; 14 new words for this chapter. So a very large proportion of the characters in the text will be familiar, and each short text can be studied separately if required. The dialogues are of course about daily topics of conversation: in the lounge, in the classroom etc.

 

1381430399_HSK3-1.thumb.png.69685eed90ca5237ca6f7eecc757db8b.pngHSK3-2.thumb.png.9e2747b9ed822a68e4628aac7e5007ca.png

 

Compare that with the start of HSK 5 chapter 15 of 36, which I'm doing this week. There is one single text of 639 characters, and the subject is "being an armchair strategist"... it's about an army general and his son at the end of the warring states period, not a subject I know anything about at all. Furthermore the very first "warm-up" exercise is already asking what you know about this period of history, and asking you to pick out nouns and verbs related to the military and explain what they mean.

 

HSK5-1.thumb.png.e3abea111f9badbf50dc1c5bb5c16fff.pngHSK5-2.thumb.png.6ebc8fc458229f8a5877013bba9cabaa.png

 

There are 45 new words in this section (and some more later); 6 of them are proper nouns and 3 others are not actually on the HSK vocab list either. (Most chapters have a few that aren't on the list.)

 

So, in a nutshell, I would be very unlikely to cope with this text without preparing before the lesson.

 

btw I don't actually do it out of context, I look at the first few pages as well to understand the theme.

 

When we start a new chapter we would typically follow this pattern:

  1. Teacher reads out the new words at the side, covering those needed for the first paragraph. I repeat them to get the tones right.
  2. I read the paragraph out loud — usually pretty stop-start at this level. There are sometimes whole sentences comprised of the 生词.
  3. Teacher reads out the paragraph sentence-by-sentence, I note the pronunciation and then repeat it. So by now we've read it all twice. 
  4. Discussion in Chinese about what the text means and/or answering comprehension questions.
  5. Do the same for the next paragraph until the text is complete.

I have actually done some chapters in this book without any preparation beforehand, because I was too snowed under at work. Some of them were pretty painful and I felt like I was wasting our time somewhat. 

 

18 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

you just give up because you feel miserable.

 

Quite. Some of those lessons were very discouraging. 

 

By pre-learning vocab as well as I can, we can concentrate on more important things in the lesson, such as  pronunciation, grammar, discussing a new area of vocabulary... and this case, learning some history and the origins of some apparently-common sayings.  There seem to be lots of Chengyu creeping in recently, too.

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Sreeni
14 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

 

You can’t learn new words in a day.

 


If you think you can, you can learn on same day.

If you think you can not, you can not learn on same day. 
Both ways you are right..
 

howmany days it will take to learn new word? 

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Sreeni
On 3/17/2021 at 12:38 PM, mungouk said:

so what works for one learner might not be good for another.

 

So true. Each person’s learning styles are Unique. I want to know which methods/practices are working for others, so that I also can try new methods.

On 3/17/2021 at 12:38 PM, mungouk said:

What I've found most useful is exploring the combination of components in each new character. (As with the Outlier Linguistics explanations in their Pleco dictionary; Tofulearn also has this kind of information too).


Started breaking down the components 5 months back and it has made me believe I can retain my Chinese vocabulary.
 

Outlier dictionary has functional components and empty components and their Ancient forms are helping me a lot and following that. However some characters are not helpful in memorising. For example if mouth radical is part of character they just give it is related to mouth and the next component as empty component or phonetic component.  So with mouth we can chew, speak, suck, scold and I need to make my own connection with radical and empty component to remember meaning.

On 3/17/2021 at 12:38 PM, mungouk said:

btw "millions", really...?


yes.But seems reading speed. Not sure how many words  he learnt..

 

The graph below shows my increasing reading speed over the course of about 15.6 million characters read between December 2018 and July 2020 (so just over a year and a half).

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/60492-extensive-reading-and-reading-speed/

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Sreeni
2 hours ago, somethingfunny said:

 

How do you know/measure whether a particular word has made a change in long term memory? 


as per dictionary.com learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through study, experience, or being taught.

 

for e.g: One of the 7 words I learnt today.

 

Anki Front:

充满
 
Ideogrammic compound (會意😞𠫓 (a newborn) +  (standing person) – A newborn grows to stand and become mature.
 
Outlier explanation: 充 mean “ample, more than enough.” 
 
Anki Back:
 
充满 chōngmǎn full of
 
充 chōng to fulfill, to fill, to satisfy, to act in place of, substitute, sufficient, full
 允 yǔn to permit, to allow
 
满 mǎn fill, full, satisfied
 
May be I might forgot , if I did not revise, so I will revise this for few days.
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rouloubole

Hello, very interesting conversation, I have a small question to ask ; 

6 hours ago, mungouk said:

Compare the texts from the HSK books at level 3 and level 5 (click to enlarge images).

 

This is HSK 3 chapter 20 of 20. There are 3 short dialogues and 1 short article, each with 2-5 new words; 14 new words for this chapter. So a very large proportion of the characters in the text will be familiar, and each short text can be studied separately if required. The dialogues are of course about daily topics of conversation: in the lounge, in the classroom etc.

 

1381430399_HSK3-1.thumb.png.69685eed90ca5237ca6f7eecc757db8b.pngHSK3-2.thumb.png.9e2747b9ed822a68e4628aac7e5007ca.png

 

 

What is the " HSK books" that you are using ? I can't seem to find anything about this book, sadly.


Thanks in advance!

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Sreeni
On 3/17/2021 at 12:38 PM, mungouk said:

 I found it unhelpful to try and learn radicals first, or at least learning them on their own.  


True. I learnt tones, numbers, week days and few other characters before Radicals, but was not connecting and remembering them as solo words, but very difficult to make connections. Do you feel any other thing specific can be learnt before Radicals? 
 

Learning with teacher are really helpful. We have YouTube videos, which works as online learning for tones, numbers, radicals etc., these are alternatives

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mungouk
11 hours ago, rouloubole said:

What is the " HSK books" that you are using ? I can't seem to find anything about this book, sadly.

 

HSK Standard Course series published by BLCUP. Available everywhere.

https://blcup.com/EnSeriesBook/index/8#001

 

4 hours ago, Sreeni said:

Learning with teacher are really helpful. 

 

Pretty essential to have a teacher — otherwise how do you know you are not learning bad pronunciation which will be difficult to change later?

 

 

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Sreeni
2 hours ago, mungouk said:

Pretty essential to have a teacher — otherwise how do you know you are not learning bad pronunciation which will be difficult to change later?


The teacher who is correcting students pronunciation mistakes are important. I know the classes where Teachers could not correct pronunciation.

 

this forum friend @imron suggested some where in the post , to listen to the pronunciation of new word and speak out and compare your pronunciation. This method is helping me

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mungouk
15 hours ago, Sreeni said:
23 hours ago, mungouk said:

btw "millions", really...?


yes.But seems reading speed.

 

Reading speed and vocabulary are completely different things.  

 

English has about 500,000 words. The biggest Chinese dictionary 汉语大词典 has about 370,000 entries. 

 

To put it in perspective, current HSK 6 requires you to know 5,000 words and 2663 characters.  The new system when it finally comes out (so-called "HSK 3.0") will require about 11,000 words for the new HSK level 9.

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  • Sreeni changed the title to Effective ways to learn vast vocabulary and retain it in Longterm Memory
TaxiAsh

One think I find useful when learning new words (using TOFU flashcards HSK decks) is not only look at the characters in the words individually, but when you click on the single character - of course - it can have lots of different meanings. But on TOFU you can scroll down and it shows a list of most words that use the character. This gives me a much better idea of when you will see the character again, in another word.

 

Shame you can't use TOFU like a dictionary though. I'm sure there is a dictionary that also does this.

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mungouk
55 minutes ago, TaxiAsh said:

I'm sure there is a dictionary that also does this.


MDBG does something similar. 


If we follow @Sreeni's example of 充 and look it up on mdbg.net we can see options for dictionary entries that:

  1. start with it: 充*
  2. end with it: *充
  3. or have it in the middle: *充*

    (the * means "anything else", similar to regular expressions for those who are familiar with those.)
     

1496230561_Screenshot2021-03-18at23_16_59.thumb.png.490f555b09a70ae1c122eb408b5a9797.png

 

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TaxiAsh
4 minutes ago, mungouk said:

MDBG does something similar. 

oh yeah so it does!

 

I never noticed that! I only use the app version.

 

I think this is good way to learn a character, not always, but sometimes on flashcard, it will list 20 meanings, but when looking at list of words, can generally get the gist of what it means, or when it's used.

 

Since I'm on the laptop, I tend to just hover over the characters if I can't read a word. (chrome zhongwen add on)

 

Thanks @mungouk

 

 

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Sreeni
9 hours ago, TaxiAsh said:

but when you click on the single character - of course - it can have lots of different meanings. But on TOFU you can scroll down and it shows a list of most words that use the character.


All dictionaries will have this feature, when you click on characters it will give sentences and words. Whatever dictionary you are using strict to that as you will be comfortable with the navigation and usage of that. I get used to Pleco with Outlier add-on.
 

My advise is you select some text book and learn sentence by sentences, para by paras, lesson by lessons,  book by books...So refer back to your sentence and see which meaning best fits to that word and write it down as the first meaning and continue writing others.
For chōng dictionary has 150+ words which has character chōng. Going thru your reading is best to know the usage, compared to 300+ words (man3 might have another 150+ words).please note I use Google translator for the overall meaning first.

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calculatrix

A very big Thank-You to mungouk and somethingfunny.
@somethingfunny thank you for pointing at the concept of cognitive load, and to the importance of using limited resources (our brains) economically. 😉 

@mungouk thank you for taking the trouble to scan the pages.
It shows impressively what lies ahead of us.

Both of you convinced me to question my learning schedules.
This week I will start trying to pre-learn the vocab.
Maybe at my current level it does not make such a big difference, but it looks as if it will pay off later.
 

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