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Reading and Vocabulary Acquisition


dakonglong
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Hi All!

 

I have finally reached the point in my studies where I enjoy reading native material. I think this is 50% because I have reached a decent level of comprehension (somewhere between 90% and 98% based on whether I’m near the beginning or end of a book) and 50% because I have become more comfortable with ambiguity and just sort of skipping over the stuff I don’t completely understand. Either way, I have recently been able to read for longer periods of time than I could previously.

 

However, this has led to a new issue; I can read much faster than I can acquire new vocabulary. In a given day I might read 3 – 5 pages of a book (currently, volume one of The Hunger Games). During that reading session I will come across approximately 10x new words per page, so between 30 – 50 new words total per day. I currently add all of these words to pleco and memorize 15 of them every day, but because I am adding more words than I am learning in a day, this is creating a huge backlog of vocabulary in pleco.

 

For those who read a lot and have larger vocabularies, do you add all of the new words you encounter to a flashcard app and drill them until you know them? Or have you reached a point where you can just acquire new words through reading itself? If so, at what point did that start to happen? I ask because I want to push my vocabulary from 7Kish words up to 20K+, but by acquiring 15 words a day using my current process that will take years. Can I potentially learn these words faster by just reading more every day? Or should I just sit back, continue what I’m doing and be patient?

 

Thanks!

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Set yourself a daily quota of new words. 
 

Don’t stop reading when you reach the quota (unless you want to). 

 

Don’t even stop looking words up in the dictionary when you reach the quota (unless you want to). 

 

Simply stop adding the extra words to your Pleco revision queue. 
 

The article I wrote above goes into to the logic of why ignoring these words won’t have a negative effect on your learning. 

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I think that 15-word-a-day limit should work well, actually. It will only take you 2.3 years to get to 20,000+ acquired vocabulary, and you'll pass other milestones (like 10K and 15K) long before that. Things really start to change around 12-15K, where you'll have to read double or even triple the pages to get in 15 words a day. That's where I'm at now. When I started reading in September 2019, I would read 4-6 pages, and end up with 30, 40, or even 50 new words. Unlike you, I just studied them all as they came, which was truly torture. Now, I'm at 18,500 words, and limit myself to 14 words a day (5,000 a year). My reading pace has become the new bottleneck, rather than new words. I often encounter one word or less per page, and I only have time to read about 14 pages a day, so my intake consists of only about 8-12 words.

 

If trends continue, I think things really taper off between 20-25K words. Unknown words are few and far between, and the remaining words tend to be less and less commonly used ones. That's when I'll likely say, "Okay, I'll stop this whole vocabulary exercise and just relax." I'm probably more of a perfectionist and a stickler than some others (I don't like the feeling of skipping over unknown words too often), so that point would probably happen sooner for other people. 

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On 10/5/2021 at 6:15 AM, dakonglong said:

I have finally reached the point in my studies where I enjoy reading native material.

 

I am surprised you "enjoy" native material at the 7K word level. I am at around 8K words and native material is far from "enjoyable"...

I got to that level within ~2 years with very little flashcarding. In fact, I have not flashcarded at all in the last 12 months or so. I believe your 15 words per day goal is perfectly achievable if you just read. My personal average is a bit lower, but then I am only studying Chinese in my little spare time and there were months without any studying in between. All the words I have learnt this week were not words I have encountered this week for the first time. Rather, the words that I (finally) learnt this week were all words I may have encountered months or even a year ago for the first time and then probably xyz times after that. Eventually with enough repetition and exposure, some words will stick and this averages at around 11 words per day for me. I am not convinced flashcarding would do a better job in the limited time I have. 

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On 10/5/2021 at 9:11 PM, Jan Finster said:

this averages at around 11 words per day for me.


How do you measure this?

I'm the same way with you regarding flashcards. I use them rarely and usually for completely different purposes than learning vocabulary, and my idea of my vocabulary is quite vague. I've studied for three years now and it's probably somewhere around 10k. Chinese Text analyzer shows a little over 11k, but I'll mark a word known if I can read it and have some idea of what it means even if I can't use it in a sentence myself. I read at around 80 - 140 characters per minute depending on the material.

I also wouldn't call my reading "enjoyable". It is still a chore, albeit a lot less so than half a year ago for example. I usually also have a lot of unknown words per page with any native material but I just ignore them and read on unless something starts bugging me.

I guess I'll have to at least double or triple my vocabulary and reading speed before I'll really call my reading enjoyable.

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On 10/5/2021 at 11:11 AM, Jan Finster said:

I am surprised you "enjoy" native material at the 7K word level. I am at around 8K words and native material is far from "enjoyable"...

 

This is something I wonder about myself, especially after hearing about other people's experiences with reading. The 7K words I quoted are just the flashcards I have created and actively study every day, but it's possible that my actual passive vocabulary is larger. I can tell you that in the book I am currently reading, I encounter about 10x new words per page, but of those 10x, probably 5x are words that include one or more characters I have already learned where I can (roughly) infer the meaning of the word. I tend to look them up anyway and they are usually close to what I have guessed (ex: dark vs dim, blue vs azure, etc...). The other 5x words tend to be a combination of useful words, chengyu and really specific or abstract vocabulary. With the latter two, I just accept the fact that I do not really need to know them to understand the general content, and even when I do know them it doesn't really add that much.

 

When I read after taking a break for a few days it's painful, like you imply. I'm constantly stopping and starting and I cannot get through more than a few paragraphs without getting tired. I get lost in the individual words and the grammar sometimes confuses me. However, when I make a habit of reading every day I notice that I can just kind of glaze over the parts I don't understand and still absorb the general meaning. Even at only 7K words, I can get "lost" in the book to some degree. Perhaps I'm just lucky, but looking up words in pleco doesn't seem to break me out of it either (even at 10x per page).

 

Part of the reason I'm asking about vocabulary acquisition is because I don't feel like my lack of vocabulary really detracts from the experience that much, and I feel like I can read pretty enjoyably already. Who knows, maybe all that has happened is that I've become more comfortable with an overall lower level of comprehension. Either way, I can honestly say I do enjoy it.

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On 10/6/2021 at 12:28 AM, alantin said:
On 10/5/2021 at 8:11 PM, Jan Finster said:

this averages at around 11 words per day for me.


How do you measure this?

 

I read everything on Lingq. Their vocabulary counting system is not perfect, but if you do not cheat on yourself (e.g. counting things like 第一个, 第三个 and 第四个 as three separate words) it is quite good in my opinion. And it does find more new words than Chinese Text Analyzer (esp. multi-character words like e.g. 年度报告) as far as I can tell.

So, it is 8000 words in 2 years, which averages to 11 words per day (8000words/730days).

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@Jan Finster, ok. I tried Lingq for a while too, but didn't really like the UI. Especially that it seems to save your settings in a cookie or something so they won't be the same over different browsers. I can also get pretty much the same thing from Pleco and Chinese Text Analyzer without paying for a subscription. I like Steve Kaufmann though. He has a lot of good stuff! I may use Lingq again in the beginning if/when I decide to pick up German again.

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On 10/6/2021 at 7:15 PM, alantin said:

ok. I tried Lingq for a while too, but didn't really like the UI. Especially that it seems to save your settings in a cookie or something so they won't be the same over different browsers. I can also get pretty much the same thing from Pleco and Chinese Text Analyzer without paying for a subscription.

 

In my opinion, Lingq offers more or rather something different than just Pleco and CTA. I still use CTA all the time and I would probably use Pleco if there was PC version. Yeah, the Lingq UI is from an 80s video game, but I do not care....and they are working on a new version. I you pay for a lifetime subscription for only Chinese. It was a one-off payment of 199$, which (to me) is a steal! 

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On 10/7/2021 at 4:39 AM, Jan Finster said:

you pay for a lifetime subscription for only Chinese. It was a one-off payment of 199$, which (to me) is a steal! 

do you see yourself using Lingq for more than 1-2 years? I imagine once you can comfortably use native material you won't look back

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I use the Pleco reader to read books in Chinese because it's easy to look up words I don't know that way, but I make no effort to add new words to flashcards or anything like that while I'm reading. I could spend hours on developing the best method for maximizing my learning, but for me, the best method is just to read and look up the words I need. My reasoning is that if I make reading into "learning", I am less likely to read regularly because it becomes a chore. By having no strings attached, I can just pick up my phone a read a couple of pages whenever I have free time.

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On 10/10/2021 at 9:57 AM, malazann said:

1-2 years? I imagine once you can comfortably use native material you won't look back

I do not expect to be able to read native Chinese material "comfortably" after 1-2 years. Realistically, it is an investment for at least 5 years. But, according to many voices on this forum it could be 10+ years.

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