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Reading material chasm?

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As to big L-Literature, there is literature that is experimental and plays with the conventions of storytelling and language, and there is literature that tells the story in a fairly straightforward way but is considered Art for how the story itself develops. The first type would be difficult to understand and even more difficult to appreciate for an inexperienced reader, the second type not necessarily.


Right.  I imagine that Hemingway would be relatively easy for English learners while James Joyce would be very much harder.

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4 hours ago, Lu said:

What is easy for native speakers is not always what's easy for learners, much as you see with children's literature


Fair enough, quite likely I struggle more with newspapers versus novels more than most - as I say, I find a random novel easier than a random news story.


As for what constitutes "literature" in general, I don't think this is the time or the place to attempt any definition. "Fiction" or "novels" is probably a more sensible choice of words.


I still regret wasting time on certain novels the last time I was studying Chinese: would have been better off ploughing through harder textbooks first. But reading novels is good for the ego: "oh, I don't understand this part of the book, never mind, not my fault, after all it's written for native speakers" versus "oh, I don't understand this part of the textbook, maybe my Chinese isn't quite at this level yet".

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey @stumpy1001, I just looked through the list of graded readers and I realize it is entirely missing the graded readers from Imagin8 Press which has also written the Rise of the Monkey King series. Their higher level readers go up to 1800 characters. You can find them here: 



We've talked and I've read a few of their books and they have my stamp of approval! 


I know there is still a big gap between that and authentic readers, but it might help to at least bridge that gap a bit. 


We also did a podcast about this very issue you are facing. You can listen to it here. 



Good luck!

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I feel your pain caused by the gap between graded readers and real novels. I experienced the same problem.


To remedy it, I turned to children's books, in particular the kind that includes pinyin--not necessarily because I needed the pinyin, but because I think the presence of pinyin is an indication of reading/vocabulary level for children. I remember I read a book about Chinese myths, and so many words that I learned from that book have recurred in other written works. It was extremely helpful. I wish I could tell you the exact name and publisher, but it's sitting in a box somewhere, and anyway I bought it 10 years ago so it might not even be in print anymore. However, I'm sure you could find something like it. If you are in China, just go to a bookstore and look around for something that grabs your eye.


Another kind of children's book I used was the Chinese version of National Geographic Kids. Easy sentence patterns and lots of new words, plus lots of interesting facts.


I would recommend against reading English-language literary novels in translation. They're often poorly translated. One of my well-read Chinese friends used to tell me that reading them gave her a headache because the translations were too literal. Japanese lit in translation might be better since it is so popular, I'm not sure.

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