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Focusing Exclusively on Reading


ablindwatchmaker
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On 10/26/2021 at 9:52 AM, Insectosaurus said:

I need the reading ability for my master's, way more than I need any kind of fluency

 I may have misundersood you (or Paul Nation) but I think by fluency he meant being able to read comfortably and at a good speed. I suppose the idea is that if you want to see marked improvements in reading speed, it's best to train with easy texts. Or, a text which has become easy to you because you've already read/studied it, which is I think what Imron found too. In fact I think Nation talks about two types of beneficial extensive reading: one where you know all the words and it's easy, the other where there are some unknown words and it's a little trickier. So maybe 10 minutes reading-for-speed an easy text and 50 minutes reading a novel might be better than 60 minutes on the novel? I need to try it out.

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On 10/26/2021 at 4:27 AM, Insectosaurus said:

What you get from reading native material that won't show up in translations: very colloquial forms of expression, locations, historical references, grammar structures you've never encountered before and a lot more. I would really like to now what Paul Nation (or research in general) says about grammar structures, since they won't show up in the word family statistics. Even if it sometimes takes me some time to parse a sentence in Taipei People, when I've finally understood how that sentence was formed, this will help me understand similar sentences later in the book and in other books of the same style, vocabulary aside

 

Thank you for the detailed response! I guess I’m just going to go hunt down more native material and try to get a more favorable ratio of original works to translated works. I’ve got enough to keep me busy for a while, having acquired most of the books that have been frequently mentioned here on the forums. 
 

Theoretically, ebooks and physical books should be the same, no? Assuming you get to a point where you rarely have to look up new words, shouldn’t the experience be the same? It’s definitely easier to read with Pleco than with a physical book, but I’ve always attributed this to the fact that I still lack vocabulary, not because of some other difference between the two. 

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On 10/26/2021 at 11:38 AM, realmayo said:

 I may have misundersood you (or Paul Nation) but I think by fluency he meant being to read comfortably and at a good speed. I suppose the idea is that if you want to see marked improvements in reading speed, it's best to train with easy texts. Or, a text which has become easy to you because you've already read/studied it, which is I think what Imron found too. In fact I think Nation talks about two types of beneficial extensive reading: one where you know all the words and it's easy, the other where there are some unknown words and it's a little trickier.

 

Hm... My memory from both talks by Paul Nation and studies I've skimmed through via my university library (note that I'm a student of history, not anything language oriented) is that both extensive and intensive reading are recommended.

 

I think reading simple texts would be good for my reading speed, but so would a fluent listening ability (which is what I'm focusing on in that area). I know the AJATT method or anything that looks like it are either adored or frowned upon, but I think immersion really is the way to go, and that I have done too little of it. AJATT in itself is obviously a bit extreme, what I'm talking about is consuming a lot of spoken language every single day.

 

So what I'm basically doing at the moment: listening to podcasts, music and so on to increase my fluency. Reading difficult material to increase my vocabulary and my overall breadth of the language.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 11:38 AM, realmayo said:

So maybe 10 minutes reading-for-speed an easy text and 50 minutes reading a novel might be better than 60 minutes on the novel? I need to try it out.

 

Note that I'm reading the news most days, so I get simpler sentence structures that way. My post about reading was only about reading novels, I probably should have made that clear.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 11:53 AM, ablindwatchmaker said:

Theoretically, ebooks and physical books should be the same, no?

 

Only if you can keep yourself from highlithing them words and looking them up as soon as you don't understand them, or that character that you don't recognize. I sure couldn't. Physical books forces you to really stare at that sentence and parse it by yourself.

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On 10/26/2021 at 5:03 AM, Insectosaurus said:

Only if you can keep yourself from highlithing them words and looking them up as soon as you don't understand them, or that character that you don't recognize. I sure couldn't. Physical books forces you to really stare at that sentence and parse it by yourself.

 

I can definitely see the problem, but I still encounter too many new words to not take advantage of Pleco. Once I get to the point where I’m not running into very many new words, I’ll start incorporating physical books into my routine. In addition to the ease with which you can look up words, it also has the added benefit of allowing you to quickly correct errors with tones, which is still an issue with newer vocabulary. 

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On 10/26/2021 at 11:03 AM, Insectosaurus said:

Note that I'm reading the news most days, so I get simpler sentence structures that way.

I see, that makes sense. It seemed from what I watched of Nation speaking that he liked the idea of training the eyes to jump from word to word at a faster speed. Intensive reading is a bit different (a text where you don't have to look anything up can still be extensive reading).

 

Of course this guy Nation could be wrong on everything! It feels strange to take some random person's words as gospel. But reading the following a while ago in one of his books made me much more comfortable about continuing to use Pleco reader:

 

Quote

Extensive reading also provides opportunities for deliberate noticing through the use of dictionaries to look up the meanings of words. In the case of e-books, the ease of instant touch access to the dictionaries built into e-readers and tablets makes it much more likely that learners will look up words and thus add a deliberate element to vocabulary learning during extensive reading.

 

But I defintely do have to force myself to try to work out the sentence first, before looking up a word.

 

 

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On 10/26/2021 at 12:33 PM, realmayo said:

But reading the following a while ago in one of his books made me much more comfortable about continuing to use Pleco reader:

 

I remember him saying that in one of his speeches, but I don't think there was any study done? It felt more like a professional hunch. We also need to remember, as you've pointed out, that he's talking about English, which has a phonetic system (I don't agree with you that Chinese is as well, from a learner's perspective) and that Chinese don't use spaces. It might be transferable, but also might not be.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 12:33 PM, realmayo said:

Of course this guy Nation could be wrong on everything!

 

It's also about separating what has been studied and what are guesses (qualified guesses, though). He himself quite often is good at pointing out that a lot of stuff aren't really testable, which is good for an uninformed listener. I really couldn't bother to read up too much on a field where I have no qualifications whatsoever. Therefore I try to mix what people say and what has been working for me personally.

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The memory benefits of looking up words in a dictionary seem to have been quite well-established over the years, though I suppose it could be argued that we don't know if that transfers over to e-screen pop-ups. I do find his term "deliberate noticing" to be quite useful.

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@realmayo

 

I’m pretty certain it is vastly more effective than just skipping.

 

I’m really looking forward to seeing where I am, in terms of vocabulary, after six months of hard grinding. It will be an interesting experiment because I’ve ceased almost all flashcard work and am simply looking up words as I go. If after 6 months I’m only using lookups every few pages, then I’ll know I’ve acquired a ton of new words in a very short period of time, and I’d be willing to bet the improvement will be greater than if I had just skipped unknown words and tried to figure them out from context. Unfortunately, I don’t have a frame of reference, and won’t, because I’m not willing to risk taking such a hit to my progress. 

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On 10/26/2021 at 1:10 PM, realmayo said:

The memory benefits of looking up words in a dictionary seem to have been quite well-established over the years, though I suppose it could be argued that we don't know if that transfers over to e-screen pop-ups. I do find his term "deliberate noticing" to be quite useful.

 

Nota bene; I also use a dictionary. I never, ever skip without understanding, when I read intensively, which is what I've been doing lately when it comes to novels. You can get the exact same effect digitally, but I think many of us don't have the discipline to not click that word quite quickly. I certainly don't.

 

It might very well be useful, I just take my own experience of reading the same book digitally at first, then physically, and the feeling of shock when I realized how little I actually had understood.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 2:13 PM, ablindwatchmaker said:

I’m pretty certain it is vastly more effective than just skipping.

 

It surely must be.

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@Insectosaurus 

 

I honestly wouldn’t worry about that discrepancy. 
 

Let’s say this is your native language, and let’s assume you are a pretty well-read person. If you were to use an e-reader in your native language, would you be compulsively clicking on words? No, you would only click on words that you weren’t completely confident about. In other words, you actually do need to look up these words, otherwise you wouldn’t be clicking on them in the first place. When you are 100% confident about something, you don’t randomly second-guess yourself, you just keep going, and this works just fine. Having read (in my native language) using both methods, predominantly physical books, I have never found myself using a pop-up function for the hell of it—it’s always because I actually lack understanding about something. 

As for the benefits of resolving ambiguity through natural deduction and not looking it up, we have to think about the amount of time spent resolving the ambiguity as well as the decent possibility that you can’t resolve the ambiguity on your own. In this case, even if doing it naturally imbeds the word into your memory more effectively, is it enough to make up for the lost time AND the possibility that you completely fail? I’d rather take 2-3 seconds to look up a word, move on, and keep doing this until I no longer need to do it. I’d be willing to bet it is vastly more efficient than trying to do it on your own. 
 

I believe that the difference you are noticing is solely a function of your vocabulary and overall understanding of the language, as opposed to any important, inherent differences in the two mediums.
 

When I get to a point where I am only rarely clicking on words, I’ll make the switch, and I’m willing to bet it will be pretty seamless. 

 

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On 10/26/2021 at 2:59 PM, ablindwatchmaker said:

Having read (in my native language) using both methods, predominantly physical books, I have never found myself using a pop-up function for the hell of it—it’s always because I actually lack understanding about something. 

 

AFAIK the brain learns a lot buy thinking, being wrong, and getting corrected, or solving problems on its own, i.e. to look at a sentence without spaces and really staring at it, to finally figuring out the way you're supposed to parse it, is something I really believe in. It's even more important in a language without spaces. But this is just my own experience, my reading ability skyrocketed when I started reading without crutches, and stopped resorting to translations. Since I don't have several versions of me its possible it would have skyrocketed anyway. 🙃

 

I don't see the connection to my native tongue. I'm already fluent and know what I know and don't know, and it should be close to impossible to not grasp how to parse a sentence, unless its poorly written.

 

I think you're overestimating how long it takes to long something up while reading non-digital. It's quick. It's just not *as* quick or *as* convenient. 🙂

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Wow! This thread has really been active since I checked in last time!

A lot of thought provoking discussion!

 

@ablindwatchmaker, I'm not doing "exclusively extensive reading" or anything but rather just focusing on what I feel like focusing on at any given day, but I try to do some reading, listening, writing, and speaking every day. I've been really busy at work lately so the last two weeks I've been only reading in the evenings and I'll pick up my sessions with tutors every two or three days now again that it's getting a little easier. I'm also trying to improve my handwriting by learning xingshu forms.

For listening, I've been trying to find interesting audio books in mandarin, but I haven't had much luck with it. I found 三体 books on Ximalaya and listened to the first one and a part of the second book. I enjoyed it very much, but then they changed something and the app just started telling me that I'm not allowed to listen to it here... I found the WoT books on Ximalaya read by some fan some time ago but now it turned out that they didn't have them all. So even though I generally dislike machine narration, I've actually found listening to Pleco reading the first WoT book for me while driving to not be too bad!

 

I guess I'm a lot more relaxed in my reading than you too. I couldn't care less even if I don't understand some words or even some sentences in what I read as long as I can follow the story. My own experience learning English as a kid thought me that as long as I read books, I'll pick up the vocabulary even without SRS or anything. I treat SRS as a crutch to help in some specific needs but other than that I can't really be bothered to do it anymore. I read someone's experiments comparing reading versus SRS some years ago that suggested that reading was actually a little bit more effective for learning new vocabulary in terms of vocabulary learned in days, but I couldn't find it anymore. My takeaway from that was something that I guess I knew already. If you read, you'll encounter the words anyway frequently enough and you won't be able to forget them even if you tried. As a kid I remember reading the first three or four WoT books in English with a dictionary by my side and I haven't really needed the dictionary after that. At the time also I couldn't care less about learning English. I just wanted to know what was going to happen next in the book! To me that is the secret to language learning. Do something that you love in the language and don't focus too much on learning the language. The mind and body will adapt to what you do with it.

 

Also I'm not convinced about the 98% comprehension theory. In my own experience I don't need anything near 98% comprehension rate to pick up new words from context. Anything more than 80% is enough for picking up new vocabulary if I'm reading something even vaguely familiar, though the higher that number is, the more enjoyable the whole reading experience is and it's more likely that I'll continue doing it. On the other hand, if I find the book utterly uninteresting, I'll give up with it a lot faster than if I need to struggle a little to read it.

 

I am quite particular about looking up the pronunciation of characters and words though. I'm reading in Pleco and I wrote a script for it that adds the pinyin after all words that I have marked as unknown in there. As I go, I mark words known that I begin to know the pronunciation for and so the amount of pinyin in my reading diminishes all the time. I've also read somewhere that it is better for memory, and the ability to recall pieces of information quickly, to get instant feedback rather than staring a character and trying to pull out the pronunciation from some deep recess of your mind. I don't have the source for this either, but it makes sense and works for me at-least. So in general I'll use the popup dictionary to check a word the second it starts to bug me and I don't pay it any further attention until it starts to bug me again somewhere else. With Chinese, the ability to add the pinyin to only the unfamiliar words is extremely important for me and I guess I'll continue this way of reading until I encounter few enough unfamiliar characters to conveniently look them up with Pleco's handwriting recognition while reading a physical book.

@Insectosaurus, did I understand you correctly that you have just entered your third year of Chinese study? Meaning that you've studied it a little over two years? That is insane progress! I have just begun my fourth year and last year at this time I hadn't opened a book yet other than some dull graded readers.

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EDIT: I noticed the first quote was not aimed at me. I'll keep my answer since it's not off topic, even if a little our of place, perhaps.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 9:22 PM, alantin said:

If you read, you'll encounter the words anyway frequently enough and you won't be able to forget them even if you tried.

 

That should depend on what you read and how rare the words are. As realmayo said it's funny we always bring up Paul Nation but it's basically because I've seen a few of his talks and its a research field I don't have any knowledge in, but he's overall positive to flashcards as a complement in language learning.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 9:22 PM, alantin said:

Also I'm not convinced about the 98% comprehension theory. In my own experience I don't need anything near 98% comprehension rate to pick up new words from context.

 

The 98 percent is for English and it's not about picking up new words, it's being able to completely understand what you read without resorting to a dictionary to also learn those new words you encounter. I'ts been tested in what sounded like decent experiments.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 9:22 PM, alantin said:

did I understand you correctly that you have just entered your third year of Chinese study? Meaning that you've studied it a little over two years? That is insane progress! I have just begun my fourth year and last year at this time I hadn't opened a book yet other than some dull graded readers.

 

Hi, yes, I started out in september in 2019. I did read a university course some year earlier but I dropped out after just one or two weeks since I didn't like it. I doubt I learned much from that, since it was just a few hours in total, but I do remember 名胜古迹 was part of our word list! Thank you. I guess one positive for me is that my only friend is my partner and we don't have any kids, so I have a lot of spare time. 🙃 It feels like I'm been progressing quite quickly but like most language learners I feel this learning stage is a tough one, since all the "newbie gains" are behind me. I really need to listen, listen, listen a lot more than I've been doing, but I tend to zone out when I do that...

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On 10/26/2021 at 10:46 PM, Insectosaurus said:

The 98 percent is for English and it's not about picking up new words, it's being able to completely understand what you read without resorting to a dictionary to also learn those new words you encounter. I'ts been tested in what sounded like decent experiments.


Yeah. I know Krashen's theory and the research and I adore pretty much everything he has ever said. He is actually entertaining too! Not necessarily the defining quality of most academics... I don't think it's English specific though. In his famous speech promoting the comprehensive input method he used German to illustrate. Basically my only beef with this is that I believe the 98% is way too high of a number to quote around. You definitely can learn new words from context even if you only comprehend 90%. You may not understand absolutely everything, but for an average learner's practical needs I personally think 98% is a needlessly high arbitrary number.

I don't think I'm familiar with Paul Nation though.. I'll have to look him up. I do think flashcards have a place in language learning. Especially in the beginning. But like @ablindwatchmaker observed, they take a lot of time! And I believe that time is better used reading once you can read actual books for extended periods of time at any comprehension level. In getting to that level I think flashcards are extremely helpful.

 

Right now I'm using flashcards for handwriting practice but that's more for providing me with appropriate level sentences in audio format that I can then write out on paper and check if I got the characters right. So I use flashcards still. Just not for drilling vocabulary that gets a lot of drilling from reading already.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 10:46 PM, Insectosaurus said:

I guess one positive for me is that my only friend is my partner and we don't have any kids, so I have a lot of spare time. 🙃 It feels like I'm been progressing quite quickly but like most language learners I feel this learning stage is a tough one, since all the "newbie gains" are behind me.

 

We do have a lot in common! 😄

Even with my Chinese studies on low burn for two weeks while extremely busy at work, I've still managed spending two hours a day reading and listening and 10 hours of reading over the weekend. I doubt I'd be able to do that if we had kids.
And I noticed you've started studying Japanese? I studied Japanese first and then moved over to Chinese. 🙃 I've had some free talk tutoring sessions in Japanese lately to maintain a little bit. But I doubt I'd be able to study both languages at the same time. However, knowing Japanese beforehand does help with Chinese!

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On 10/27/2021 at 12:13 AM, alantin said:

Basically my only beef with this is that I believe the 98% is way too high of a number to quote around.

 

I guess my point is that familiarity and/or interest in the material makes up for the higher rate of unknown words in the reading material. I personally zone out after 10 minutes reading graded readers that are at this goldilocks zone, but I can keep going for two ours with something something that's deemed over my head by Krashen but I'm interested in. Also the problem is that if you always look for 98% comprehensible material, you'll never be able to transition to native material. Not enough graded readers available in the market and even if you read them all, the first book you pick up will still be like getting dropped naked in freezing water at the deep end of the pool and told to swim after you've only played in the warm kids pool before.

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On 10/26/2021 at 11:13 PM, alantin said:

Yeah. I know Krashen's theory and the research and I adore pretty much everything he has ever said. He is actually entertaining too! Not necessarily the defining quality of most academics... I don't think it's English specific though. In his famous speech promoting the comprehensive input method he used German to illustrate.

 

The 98 percent figure comes from research done by Paul Nation. The problem with Kraschen is that he decided early what was his stance, and has since been shoehorning his arguments into every study. Nation has mentioned their good friends but know what not to talk about. 😉 My point is that Chinese works in completely different ways. I would argue morphemes get you further in Chinese than in English due to how the words are formed, but I have no studies to back it up. Since Nation's 98 percent figure is about word families and not words, I even think he might agree with me here. 😇

 

On 10/26/2021 at 11:13 PM, alantin said:

You may not understand absolutely everything

 

And this is were the 98 percent are relevant. They tested whether or not the readers actually understood what they read. Below 98 they didn't, even if they sometimes thought they did. Note that this is is about a high level of understanding *without* a dictionary. It's not about being able to learn a word here or there or if it's useful for you. I think he mentions this study in the link further down if you're interested.

 

On 10/26/2021 at 11:13 PM, alantin said:

And I believe that time is better used reading once you can read actual books for extended periods of time at any comprehension level.

 

Maybe not any.

 

 https://youtu.be/GpsVp95Wu_E?t=1361 😉

 

On 10/26/2021 at 11:13 PM, alantin said:

And I noticed you've started studying Japanese?

 

Yup. Japanese has always been the language I really wanted to learn and I started Chinese a bit by accident but stuck to it. Fluency is more important to me when it comes to Japanese.

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On 10/26/2021 at 8:07 AM, Insectosaurus said:

Since I don't have several versions of me its possible it would have skyrocketed anyway. 


😂 Yeah, I was about to say, if I had two of me maybe I’d know which approach is better. In any case, hopefully we both arrive at the same destination despite our different approaches. I’m pretty sure we will! 
 

@alantin

 

You can find the 三体 audiobooks on YouTube 😁 

 

I think that being able to check the pronunciation of words is at least as important to me as being able to quickly know what a word means. I shudder to think of how many errors I’d be making if I didn’t use Pleco, but I guess others do just fine without it. 
 

I think we differ in our tolerance to ambiguity. I am already at 98% with just about anything modern, but I don’t find it to be adequate for me. Of course, the first book I read, Potter 1, was very difficult and I was way below 98%, but it’s been much easier ever since. I just pounded through flashcards throughout that book and 三体 1—I’ve been at 98% ever since, but that’s because I memorized every new word I encountered in those 2 books. Horrible idea. Maybe the dumbest decision I’ve ever made in my studies. 

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On 10/27/2021 at 2:25 PM, ablindwatchmaker said:

Maybe the dumbest decision I’ve ever made in my studies. 

 

😂 Although personally I'm way more selective in terms of which unknown words I'd choose to memorise, I wonder if learning rare Chinese words offers much greater secondary advantages than would be the case in an abc language. The rare word will probably be made up of characters that you already know, so you'll be reinforcing your knowledge of how those characters are typically used, or you'll be encountering new uses which should help you with other new words using the same character in the future. And if instead this rare word uses a character you've not seen before, it's still likely to be a character worth knowing at some point in your studies. Knowing how to write hand grenade can come in handy at the fruit market.

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On 10/27/2021 at 4:25 PM, ablindwatchmaker said:

You can find the 三体 audiobooks on YouTube 😁 

 

Hmm.. I didn't remember that. I did search there, but I disliked the only one I found even more than I do AI reading. 😂 It was read too quickly and... "over-eagerly". Nothing like I imagined the people in the book talking.

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