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Fastest intensive self-study routine to go from HSK 4 to 5?


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On 5/29/2021 at 11:18 PM, NanJingDongLu said:

(I'm still angry that 传真 is an HSK4 word).

As a German, I have to sheepishly admit that I am still using fax everyday at work. Ok, I am not feeding the machine with actual papers, but quite a few recipients in the medical field do not accept email. I know, I know, COVID and the home schooling fiasco has made it clear to the world that Germany does not rank among the top 20 internet-savvy countries....😭🙈

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8 hours ago, Fithen said:

I wouldn't want to excel in that at the cost of being unable to speak well about common topics or read other genres.

This won't happen.  Rather, you'd start the next book in a different genre and very quickly pick up the frequently occurring words - far more quickly than you would by going through the HSK levels.


That is, you learn vocabulary as you need it, rather than learning it on the assumption that it will be useful someday.  Regardless of your level, there will always be a steady stream of new words for you to learn and it makes sense to prioritise the words you are encountering today, rather than by words you might encounter at some point in the future.


Chinese has a long tail - that is, there's such a wide variety of relatively low frequency that once you reach a certain point (definitely HSK 4 and above) the vocabulary that is relevant to you is highly dependent on what you are reading.


8 hours ago, Fithen said:

On the other hand, I can go through the HSK at a faster rate.

You can go through them at a faster rate, but are you learning them such that you'll be able to know and use them well one year from now?  Words you encounter from context are easier to remember because you have the context of the story around them that helps you remember them.  If you are reading regularly, you will also encounter the useful and relevant vocabulary again and again in context, which helps to further reinforce things.


If you want to be able to read literature, there are also a number of soft skills that can only be developed through reading - parsing word boundaries, processing sentences, relating things back to previous context, instant recognition of words, building stamina to read for long periods of time, and so on.  You can't really build those skills through flashcards, and so if flashcards is what you focus on you'll flashcard yourself to a 5,000 word vocabulary and then find you have difficulty reading (because you haven't been practicing those other skills) so you'll flashcard yourself to a 10,000 word vocabulary and still find you have difficulty reading (because you haven't been practicing those other skills) so you'll flashcard yourself to a 15,000 word vocabulary and still encounter the same problem because all along you've been trying to solve for the wrong thing.  Especially so once you reach higher levels and each additional 1,000 words learnt only accounts for a tiny fraction of an increase in understanding of what you are reading, and those other skills take on a higher importance.

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3 hours ago, alantin said:

I'm also not against SRS. It is a good tool, but I've done it too enough over the years to have noticed that it too ceases to be a good tool if it's not used in moderation. When memorizing isolated facts, like word lists, you won't really be able to do anything useful with that word until you've seen it in the wild a bunch of times and also used it yourself. That's why if you pick the words yourself from material that you yourself read, instead of taking a ready made list, and preferably also took the context, the whole sentence, you're going to get a lot better effort for words learned ratio from your SRS than if you just go through the HSK list. Also the amount of text in text books is usually not nearly enough to internalize vocabulary. That's why you need to be reading books to get enough exposure to the words.


I know where you're coming from, but a couple of thoughts: first, there are lots of exceptions to what you say about needing to do something useful with vocabulary. I mean, if you know 德国 and 英国, then I think if you SRS 法国 a few times you'd have no problem with using that word out in the wild.

Second, I think treating a textbook text the same as a novel (i.e. as so-called extensive reading, just trying to understand most of it, and moving on), that would be misusing this resource. A well-written textbook text is best pored over repeatedly, thoroughly understood, perhaps even memorised, and repeatedly reviewed, so that its contents (vocab and grammar) become internalised.  At least, that was my conclusion after a two-month language course where after that kind of intensive study, I suddenly found that my extensive reading ability had shot up - even though I'd done zero extensive reading over that period.

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