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On 9/30/2021 at 10:42 PM, Woodford said:

Using my standard of word counting (the number of words I encounter in books whose meaning I can't guess, and I thus save them as flashcards)

Just out of interest, are you excluding words that you've learned but can't remember at the point you come across them in the text?

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On 10/1/2021 at 11:32 AM, realmayo said:

Just out of interest, are you excluding words that you've learned but can't remember at the point you come across them in the text?


I am excluding those! It doesn't happen extremely often, but it happens. It's amazing how when that happens, that very same word will show up in my SRS review just a day or two later. It's pretty good at predicting when I'll forget words. I know there's a big lively debate over the effectiveness of flashcards, but it's pretty much my plan to stick with them until my SRS review load reduces to practically nothing. I did the 5,000 HSK words that way, and I still keep up with them, but I only have about 1 card a day to review. 2 seconds, and then done! :)


I think you bring up a good point, though--I'll always be forgetting things, to a certain degree, and I'll always have to deal with a certain amount of imperfection when understanding written Chinese. But hopefully I'll have an ever-expanding core of skills that just "stick." A robust, general competency. At least by the standards of a CSL learner.

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On 10/1/2021 at 1:07 AM, Woodford said:
On 10/1/2021 at 12:58 AM, Moshen said:

I am curious:  What would be the equivalent number for your own native language?  Wouldn't it be roughly similar?


Yes, you're likely right! And in my native language, I don't exhaust myself over learning every individual word. Because Chinese is my second language, and I'm determined to "learn" it, I'm probably pushing myself in ways that are really a bit excessive. So the time is coming soon when I have to turn my focus elsewhere and just relax. I mean, it would defeat the pleasure of reading if I'm only reading in order to reach a goal of X number of books. "377 down, 582 more to go!" Ha ha, that would be bad.


I also think that this "obsession" is excessive, but if it works for you, go for it. :D
Just commenting that English is a second language for me and I have never obsessed about learning English vocabulary. I have just picked it up by reading and using the language daily for the last twenty years. In my mind there is no deeper secret to picking up vocabulary in any language.

I don't really pay attention to how many unknown words I encounter in any of the languages I know anyway. A lot in Japanese, not many in Finnish, I looked up one English word yesterday.


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I'm back from my break! I originally said I would be gone for two weeks, but it ended up being one month. Now I am back to learning 30 words per day. It is nice to be back in action.


This year, I have read (or will have finished reading by the end of the year):


1. The Witches, by Roald Dahl

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

3. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

4. Prince Caspian, by C.S. Lewis

5. The Magician's Nephew, by C.S. Lewis

6. Voyage of the Dawn Treader, by C.S. Lewis


I have of course been keeping close track of statistics (mostly unknown word counts), and am excited to say that I am finally ready to graduate from children's literature to young adult novels. The possible lineup for next year includes:


1. The Harry Potter Series

2. The Hunger Games Series

3. 猫城记

4. The Secret Garden

5. Rendezvous with Rama

6. Howl's Moving Castle

7. The End of Eternity

8. Ender's Game


Very excited to be moving into serious literature here! Also -- learning all of the vocab in each book -- 30 words per day is going to start covering more and more pages, so the amount of reading on my plate is set to steadily increase. Looking forward to many hours lost in good reading 😁



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@黄有光.  Curious, have you already read all those books in English or another language? 


If you have, you might want to consider swapping a few of them with native Chinese language books instead.  Your list seems very heavy on translated works.  Native language books use slightly different vocab words than translated books, and so you might be learning a lot of words that aren't common in conversation.  If you've never read them and just want to read them, then it's a different case.  I do the same, trying to pull double duty.  But after you've bootstrapped your basic reading ability, I find less value in reading translated works that you've already read in another language.  Anyway, just a thought.


猫城记 looks pretty interesting.  I'll have to add it to my list.  I'm refillling my pipeline, and you've reminded me to make a post with my list, like I did last time.  That helped me focus on getting through specific books.

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@phills You are right, the list is VERY heavy on translated works. In a lot of ways, it isn't as good as it would be if it was original Chinese literature. There are a few reasons why my list includes all of these books:


1. It is useful to read books that I have already read before in English. I still come across that annoying situation where "I know every word but don't understand the sentence" (or, more rarely, the same situation over a whole paragraph), and reading familiar literature helps stop that from being a major problem.


2. A lot of these, like you said, are books that I have not read before. The thought here is, why read them in English when I could read them in Chinese instead?


3. I think there is a tendency among language learners to automatically reject translations as inferior to original works, and I don't agree with that. Of course, there are definitely poor quality translations out there. But I have read plenty of books translated into English throughout my life and never once did I feel like those books were "written in translationese". Books like Twenty-Thousand Leagues (French) and Metro 2033 (Russian) were very enjoyable. As long as the translation is of good quality, the book should be fine. 


Anyway, my to-do list does actually have a pretty good number of original Chinese works on it, but I want to wait until I have more reading experience under my belt before I tackle most of those, because many of them are quite difficult (wuxia novels etc). Currently I am making a transition from reading children's novels which I've read before in English, to YA lit, some of which I've read before and some of which I haven't. Gradually I expect to transition entirely or almost entirely to literature I haven't read before.

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Makes sense.  I use a lot of the same criteria in my own selection of books, and I find it's just a matter of balancing for what you want to prioritize.  Interest is really the most important thing; if you find it interesting, you'll keep doing it.


I also used English translated works that I've previously read to bootstrap my Chinese.  And I still have them on my list spread out to "benchmark" my progress (e.g. I remember this book being hard in 7th grade in English, and the same parts are hard now -- ha I used to be a 5th grader, now I'm almost a 7th grader!).  Some of them are books / series I loved when I was younger that I want to revisit (e.g. Wheel of Time, if the Amazon series gets me in the mood).


However, Chinese native language books may not be as hard as you may imagine.  Many wuxia books are not that hard.  三体 is not going to be appreciably harder than your other selections (I read 三体 at about the same cpm speed as translated fantasy novels; 古龙 was even speedier). 


So if you are still tinkering with your order of what to read, you have more options to mix it up than you might realize.  I'm a big fan of reading "easy" / "mass-market" Chinese native language novels over "literary" Chinese novels for language learning.  I'm saving most of the literary Chinese works for later on my list :)


Anyways I know you have a fairly elaborate system going regarding vocab building & book selection, so I don't want to disrupt it; just giving you some fuel for thought.

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On 11/15/2021 at 10:22 AM, phills said:

However, Chinese native language books may not be as hard as you may imagine.  Many wuxia books are not that hard.  三体 is not going to be appreciably harder than your other selections (I read 三体 at about the same cpm speed as translated fantasy novels; 古龙 was even speedier). 

I'm sure there are probably wuxia books out there that written with simpler vocabulary, but for example one of Jin Yong's books has 16,052 unique unknown words spread over a text that is 590,000 words in length. That far exceeds my current limits.


My current limit is <2000 unknown words in the whole book, regardless of how long it is. The reason being that I learn very nearly all of the unknown words in each book, and I get restless if I spend too long on a single book. Eventually, I will probably relax this requirement -- for example, once the frequency of unknown vocabulary sinks low enough that I can read mostly for pleasure -- but for now it keeps me sane.


You are right about 三体, though! I've been keeping a close eye on it, and currently that one is 2,900 unknown words (out of a text 105,000 words in length). Not currently doable according to my requirements, but it will be within the next year for sure. Based on my experience this year I am expecting my vocabulary to grow by another ~8000 words over the next 6-7 months, so that will bring a LOT of books into play for me.


Anyway, I know most people only learn the most common words out of each books, but that doesn't work for me. I hate reading a text and feeling like I'm peering through a haze of impenetrable vocabulary, and having to piece together disjointed stretches of understandable text to understand what is going on. So learning all of the words means I can read each chapter comfortably. Also, the vast majority of these words I'm going to have to learn sooner or later anyway -- I might as well learn them now. So right now I guess you could say my study strategy is "quality over quantity" -- but I will definitely be moving on to "quantity over quality" once I can read casually.

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You seem pretty set on this course of action, so I won't belabor the point too much, but I do think you should seriously reconsider using translations as such a large proportion of your input. Translations certainly aren't all bad (and I'm a translation student myself), but they often are somewhat unnatural. Off the top of my head, here are some things you're missing by sticking to translations:


- The way Chinese banter works is not at all like translated English banter.

- While both languages can certainly do it both ways, the default in English is for dialogue tags to follow the dialogue, while in Chinese they usually come first. This changes the rhythm of narration. (I glanced at the translation of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and it has retained the dialogue structure of the English original.)

- Sentence structure in translations is often--not wrong, but not how a native writing from scratch would write. And English and Chinese are much more different than English and French or even English and Russian.

- Chinese names: parsing them out of a long sentence, and learning characters that frequently occur in them; getting a sense of what kinds of names go with what kinds of people.


Maybe none of these strikes you as that important. But I think that given that 1) you're building a foundation right now and 2) each book is a still significant percentage of your overall Chinese exposure, it would be best to stick to 100% natural native content.

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