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HSK 5 - Too many new words in the exercise book


_Ethan_
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Hanban says that HSK 5 introduces around 1300 new words, which matches the number of new words in the text book, since there are 36 lessons and each lesson has near 40 new words.

 

However, after starting my HSK 5, I found that there are just too many new words in the HSK 5 exercise book that are not given in the HSK 5 text book. This is very different from the HSk 4 which I just finished. I have counted and estimated there are around additional 40 new words in each lesson. That will double the amount of new words each lesson, and I feel very overloaded with them.

 

Therefore, my question is if I will need to learn all of those new words in the HSK 5 exercise book to score a proper score for HSK 5 (let's say 90%+). My purpose is that after I finish HSK 5, I should reach the level that Hanban claims "learners can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, watch Chinese films", which I know is difficult, but not impossible.

 

Thanks

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39 minutes ago, markhavemann said:

"learners can begin to read Chinese newspapers and magazines with assistance, watch Chinese films with difficulty, scrambling to recognise a few words in the subtitles to help them hold on to the plot, spending the first twenty five minutes wondering what the hell 心诚 means, only to realise near the end that it's part of the name of one of the characters."


That's the best summary of HSK5 that I've ever heard. It's exactly what it feels like! Even now, at a vocabulary level of 17,000+ words, I still keep getting deluged with unfamiliar new words. I know it's technically impossible, but I'm beginning to feel as though the vocabulary size of Chinese is infinity. I am slavishly dependent on subtitles most of the time, and I will never not be tripped up by a word that is actually supposed to be someone's name.

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The HSK5 vocab does not cover all the characters / words you can come across during the exam, at least it did not cover it in the first few years of the exam. The reading part has characters / words outside from the scope, for the exact reason the above posters told you, i.e. put you in the situation where you have to guess the meaning, which will happen a lot if you want to read newspapers, magazines and watch TV shows aimed at native Chinese.

 

It is also advised to keep your expectations under control: passing HSK5 (even with 90%+ points) will not make you be able to consume such content, at least not without further character checking / learning new vocab / reversing back the video and check certain parts again. And yes, it can be frustrating, but this is how you learn to use the language and this is how you develop your language capabilities. Treat HSK5 as a minor milestone and a status check on your progress of learning Chinese, but do not expect too much from it.

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9 hours ago, Woodford said:

I am slavishly dependent on subtitles most of the time

 

I know well-educated* Chinese people who admit to sometimes relying on subtitles while watching Chinese TV.

 

As for newspapers/TV after HSK 5, another way of thinking about it is that someone who's passed HSK 5 should now be able to profitably use newspapers/TV as part of their continuing study routine if they want. A large part of that study routine after HSK 5 will be vocabulary acquisition, and newspapers/TV are good ways to acquire new vocabulary.

 

*i.e. once taught by me

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10 hours ago, Woodford said:

That's the best summary of HSK5 that I've ever heard. It's exactly what it feels like! Even now, at a vocabulary level of 17,000+ words, I still keep getting deluged with unfamiliar new words. I know it's technically impossible, but I'm beginning to feel as though the vocabulary size of Chinese is infinity. I am slavishly dependent on subtitles most of the time, and I will never not be tripped up by a word that is actually supposed to be someone's name.

At 17k+, how do you keep track of the size of you vocab? I'm a mere HSK5 mortal with just under 4k or so. But starting to learn a lot of words just from interactions without a repetition deck.

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12 minutes ago, Mantou said:

At 17k+, how do you keep track of the size of you vocab?

 

I currently have that many SRS flashcards that I keep up with (so my actual vocabulary is a little bit higher, probably, because if I can guess the meaning of a word or I know it already, I don't make a flashcard out of it).

Truth be told, however, once you move beyond HSK, learning new words is just a matter of reading books. Reading just a few native-level books will greatly improve your vocabulary size, and it isn't as intimidating as it seems. And I was probably using a bit of hyperbole in my post above. The amount of new words I'm encountering is indeed getting less and less, but I've still found myself thinking, "Wow, Chinese has a lot of words." 

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On 8/2/2021 at 10:20 PM, _Ethan_ said:

will need to learn all of those new words in the HSK 5 exercise book [?]

 

I'm in the same situation and I don't add those "extra" words (that have the asterisk in the 生词 list) to my flashcards. The amount of official vocab is huge enough as it is.

 

On the other hand, studying for HSK 5 seems to be exactly the right time to start consuming native content (actually most of the texts in the textbook are adapted from published articles), and expanding your vocabulary beyond the HSK syllabus anyway, according to your own taste. If the new words are aligned to your interests then they are likely to be more useful and appear in the kind of content that you want to consume.

 

 

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On 8/3/2021 at 3:59 AM, Woodford said:

That's the best summary of HSK5 that I've ever heard. It's exactly what it feels like! Even now, at a vocabulary level of 17,000+ words, I still keep getting deluged with unfamiliar new words.

I collected a great deal of empirical data with Chinese Text Analyser, and then ran some fancy maths projections. The calculations suggest that a vocabulary of ~43.000 words is required in order to pick up serious, adult-level literature and expect to see <1 unknown word per page. (Let me know if you would like me to explain how I arrived at that number).

 

So that would suggest you are about halfway there. No wonder you feel like you are drowning in unfamiliar words! 

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On 8/2/2021 at 4:20 PM, _Ethan_ said:

My purpose is that after I finish HSK 5, I should reach the level that Hanban claims "learners can read Chinese newspapers and magazines, watch Chinese films", which I know is difficult, but not impossible.

Keep in mind that someone who can pass the HSK5 organically (i.e. casually, without studying specifically to pass it) is going to have a much higher level and a much larger vocabulary than someone who tailors their studies specifically to passing the HSK5. If a student is part of the former group, then I think absolutely they'll be able to read newspapers and magazines, and watch films (albeit with some difficulty, and depending on the subject matter). However, if you are only barely able to pass the HSK5, and only did so because you specifically studied HSK5 materials, I think it is unrealistic to expect these things.

 

Why?

 

Well, the HSK tests aren't all-encompassing. No test could possibly test EVERYTHING you are expected to know at a given level. So, they settle for testing you on a smattering of things that they expect you to know. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Someone who can pass the HSK5 comfortably is going to know everything in the test and much more. Just like someone who passes an end-of-year science exam with flying colors is going to know everything on the test, plus a whole bunch of stuff that wasn't tested.

 

I don't want to rain on your parade or anything. But I want you to have realistic expectations so that you aren't disappointed. I have a (passive) vocabulary of 10.000+ words, and news articles are starting to become approachable. Reading novels unaided is still mostly out of sight. Because, if you take what I said above into account, 10.000 is only a quarter of the way to that magic number of 40.000 that will allow me to handle a wide variety of subject matters with ease.

 

I think Imron's advice is excellent: It can be a lot more effective and satisfying if you focus on learning what is directly relevant to you first, and then broaden your vocabulary later, as you become more advanced. For me, personally, my goal is to be able to comfortably read literature, so "relevant vocabulary" to me means absorbing vocabulary from the kinds of books that I like to read. I think you would benefit from identifying what your medium to long-term goals are, and then figuring out what kinds of vocabulary are most relevant to those goals, and targeting that.

 

That's just my two cents.

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1 hour ago, 黄有光 said:

The calculations suggest that a vocabulary of ~43.000 words is required in order to pick up serious, adult-level literature and expect to see <1 unknown word per page.

 

I wonder if your calculations have taken into account the fact that the meanings of some unknown (i.e. previously-unencountered) words will be completely obvious, and the meanings of some others will be more or less guessable? Only some of those previously-unencountered words will be mysterious when encountered for the first time.

 

Previously-unencountered words will be obvious and/or guessable partly because of context. And partly because the reader already knows similar words.

 

So the better your reading ability, the higher the likelihood that a previously-unencountered word will be obvious and/or guessable.

 

So I'm rather sceptical of the 43k figure. Someone who reads a lot and builds a vocabulary of 20,000 words will not have much or any trouble with many of the

<1 unknown words per page, I think?

 

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13 minutes ago, realmayo said:

Only some of those previously-unencountered words will be mysterious when encountered for the first time.

very much agree with this, it's the same as in English - the native English speaker supposedly has a vocab of 40k+, but may never have read, heard, used or come across a significant portion of them in their life so far; they will, however, have no issue inferring the meaning when they do. 

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59 minutes ago, realmayo said:

So I'm rather sceptical of the 43k figure. Someone who reads a lot and builds a vocabulary of 20,000 words will not have much or any trouble with many of the

<1 unknown words per page, I think?


I agree--this is my instinct, too. The way I'm counting my words is completely different from the way CTA counts them. As I get closer 20,000 words in my SRS flashcard collection, I can definitely feel myself approaching 1 unknown word or less per page in the average book (I'm not quite there yet, but likely will be in the coming year).

In my experience, CTA estimates my vocabulary at a much, much higher number (because it counts every possible word, whether you can guess its meaning or not). So I'm not surprised that if you have actively studied 20K words, CTA will give you a vocabulary size of 43K.

That being said--even one unknown word per page sometimes feels like a lot (and that's just an average, and not normally distributed, so on some pages, I have to look up 5 or even 6 words, which can feel tedious).

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It's a little strange to me that this discussion revolves exclusively around the number of words.

 

Don't you sometimes (or maybe even often) have the experience of knowing all the words yet not being sure of what the text is saying?  I certainly have that a lot, and I am not sure that it will disappear with more and more words under my belt.

 

To reduce that kind of confusion, you need more experience reading confidently - not necessarily more words.

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3 hours ago, Moshen said:

Don't you sometimes (or maybe even often) have the experience of knowing all the words yet not being sure of what the text is saying?  I certainly have that a lot, and I am not sure that it will disappear with more and more words under my belt.

 

I'm sure this is true. But I imagine vocabulary size and sense-making (for want of a better word) can advance together, each helping the other. For practical reasons, people are unlikely to build a massive vocabulary base without spending plenty of time reading, and spending that time reading should make your sense-making ability improve.

 

On the other hand, if you were magically able to plug in an extra 10,000 words into your brain, your reading speed would increase immediately, meaning you could read more pages per hour - and all that extra reading would, again, improve your sense-making ability!

 

Probably the best solution is to combine extensive reading (novels, for reading speed, familiarity, exposure to already-learned or unlearned-but-guessable vocabulary), intensive reading (textbooks, for specific, super-solid reading skills) and vocabulary lists (of whatever sort).

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6 hours ago, realmayo said:

I wonder if your calculations have taken into account the fact that the meanings of some unknown (i.e. previously-unencountered) words will be completely obvious, and the meanings of some others will be more or less guessable? Only some of those previously-unencountered words will be mysterious when encountered for the first time.

That is absolutely a correct thing to point out. That number encompasses passive vocabular -- ALL vocabulary that you can understand when encountered -- not merely active vocabulary. So I don't doubt that someone with an active vocabulary of, say, 20k could read literature with great proficiency.

 

3 hours ago, Moshen said:

To reduce that kind of confusion, you need more experience reading confidently - not necessarily more words.

Eh...you're right that reading comprehension is a beast that needs to be tackled. But I think opaque vocabulary is the much bigger problem. "They went to the store and bought an XXXXXX" is a much bigger problem for comprehension than "Store went the they to dish detergent bought and"

 

And I agree with RealMayo -- the legwork one needs to do to build a substantial vocabulary is necessarily going to entail the kind of practice that will improve your reading comprehension. I'm in the middle of reading my fifth novel and my reading comprehension is definitely better than it was in my first book, and I've added ~6.000 words to my passive vocabulary since I started with my first book, so this whole year has been a win-win for me on both fronts.

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I secretly relish coming across a new/infrequent but understandable/inferable* word, even if at a rate of one per page: this is what good prose is all about, in any language. Beating yourself up for not having filed and drilled a record of every infrequent but inferable word you encounter is madness - it smacks of pointless compulsion. (Looking at myself here, too!)

 

Isn't it the height of joy to be able to form a half-baked idea of something based solely on context, orthography (character components do help), and the morphological composition of the word itself? Isn't it the most exquisite relief to allow yourself to go on living your (Chinese-speaking) life knowing that, in the fulness of time, unless you're already dead and past caring, you will be either vindicated or disabused of that vague notion by the sheer exigencies of life and literature themselves? Isn't the almost physical pleasure of this gradual acquisitive process how we acquire and use language - any language - after all?

 

Why jump the gun and ruin all this for you by reaching for the dictionary at every infrequent word, making a homework of it, and memorising it for no purpose other than to feed a foolishly addictive, because never-ending and ever-unsatisfied, sense of completion? If you really want to get to a stage where you understand Chinese without being dependent on the help of a dictionary and without having to study every word, then you should simply allow yourself to understand Chinese without being dependent on the help of a dictionary and without having to study every word. 

 

Dictionaries and the like are excellent tools to use when you're authoring, editing or translating things professionally. It's good practice to use them in those cases and all professionals do. But only then.

 

Equally, studying words is a must if you want to learn to use them at all. But infrequent and inferable words that you don't need to have in your active vocab aren't worth studying, aren't worth counting, aren't worth worrying over at all. They're worth looking up, perhaps, if they're essential, in no way inferable and/or just plain attractive. But their low frequency comes with a knowing smile, not a chastising smirk. They're little gems in your path. They're there to be enjoyed, not bagged and counted.

 

So I would personally focus the spirit of this discussion on the seemingly huge number of active words one should learn to use - and to use in the right contexts and in the right collocations. And that is much more surmountable summit, and a very personal one at that as it depends on idiolectic taste and what you use the language for. 

 

*Please note this argument applies to words, not characters, and presupposes one is proficient and familiar with those ~3.500 characters and ~20k words estimated upthread as foundational for all HSK5-6/Advanced users of Chinese. 

 

 

 

 

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No doubt, I’ll look back at my word-counting in the future and cringe over it as a sign of immaturity. “Ah, yes! I was so young. So naive!” That’s already happened with character-counting. After recognizing the most common 4000 characters or so, it really stopped mattering, and I stopped caring. I imagine that will happen soon with words. For now, I’m the data and statistics nerd who likes to quantify and track his progress and motivate himself by “gamifying” Chinese study. My Chinese reading habit will hopefully span the rest of my life, and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to really enjoy and internalize the language without counting stuff. So in principle, I agree with many of the sentiments expressed on this thread!

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17 hours ago, sanchuan said:

Why jump the gun and ruin all this for you by reaching for the dictionary at every infrequent word, making a homework of it, and memorising it

Well, in my case because I am setting very high standards for myself which I am working arduously to reach. I an still triaging words to a certain extent, and I've adopted a study habit that allows me to balance extensive and intensive reading, but just to give you an idea, here are my eventual goals:

 

* Absolutely fluent reading comprehension across any subject (or the vast majority of subjects) that is of interest to me. Here's is what that means to me:
   * Being able to casually read high literature (science fiction, 金庸-level 武侠, encyclopedia articles, news, etc) with excellent comprehension. Unknown words should be rare, and should usually be clear to me through context. I should be able to summarize what I've read in my own words, make inferences based on what I've read, and if needed, engage in discussion about meta information, such as the author's intentions, the themes which are present, the style the text is written in, etc.
   * Ideally, 红楼梦 should feel approachable (even if difficult). I would like to be able to work my way through it with the same level of difficulty as e.g. *Romeo and Juliet* or *Hamlet*. I consider this to be a stretch goal.
* I hold my listening comprehension to similar standards. More specifically:
   * I should be able to listen to audiobooks on familiar topics with ease. I should be able to engage in discussion about the text to the same degree as outlined above for reading comprehension.
   * I should be able to watch dialogue-heavy dramas and movies in 普通话 with ease, *without* subtitles
   * I should be able to watch the news and understand virtually everything that is said, the same as I could in English 
   * I should be able to attend university lectures on topics that interest me
* I do *not* hold my productive skills to the same standard (writing, speaking). I think it is unlikely that I will ever live in an environment where I am surrounded by (and use) Chinese 24/7, and so I think holding productive skills to such a high standard is probably unrealistic. Here's what I am aiming for in this area:
   * I want to be able to engage in the kinds of discussions discussed above. I want to be able to converse fluidly in Chinese regarding essentially any topic I could casually read about. I expect to be able to do so with an expansive (i.e. not clunky, not requiring me to speak awkwardly around gaps in my vocabulary) but not necessarily elegant/highly educated active vocabulary. University-level active vocabulary would be *amazing*, but I will be satisfied with high school-level diction.
   * I don't expect perfect grammar, or perfect vocabulary choice. I expect that I will make mistakes in my speech, perhaps even with some regularity. However, I *do* expect myself to be able to speak fluidly, with well-ordered thoughts, such that the majority of mistakes either go unnoticed or are absolutely painless for the listener. (I have an English student from Japan who speaks like this, so I have a specific standard in mind).

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