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Prioritising / relative importance of skills


杰.克
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On 10/15/2021 at 4:32 PM, glu said:

These include de-emphasizing Chinese characters and focusing on building vocab first

 

This worked really well for me. In fact from day dot, I completely have cast aside learning to write characters. Chinese isn't my profession (not a translator) and so i have the flexibility to just bin off writing. 8 years down the line its been a fantastic decision.  So many Chinese teachers, and fellow learnings gape in shock when i tell them. But I hate writing, and its a complete time sink. My speaking and listening is a million times better for it. So yeah I agree, I don't think characters are that big a deal (for me). P.S I can still read, and write on a phone/computer, i just cant hand write.

 

The other things i feel strongly about 

1) Most people who study chinese as a major are dogshite. Mainly because they spend so much time studying, and so little time actually talking to people. Honestly, some of them are at shameful levels of spoken chinese after 3 years studying and 1 year abrad in china. If you put them next to someone whos never done chinese, and asked them to go speak to a shop owner, it would be hard to tell the difference.

2) Chinese takes a long time to learn. The HSK6 in 1 year, or Manadarin Blueprint, or whatever snake oil failsafe study guide to perfection is dogshite. It takes a long time, and you need to figure your own path, not follow some get rich quick marketing gimmicky course.

3) Related to point 1 -  if you want to become good at speaking chinese, why dont you ACTUALLY SPEAK? you can't learn chinese out of a book. All you can learn out of a book is how to read chinese. Get out there and speak to people.

 

I do think though, everyone is completely different. The most important thing, is to spend time trying out a variety of different learning methods, and chose what fits you best. That being said, anyone reading this, feel free to completely ignore what i feel strongly about, because you will be different!

 

 

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On 10/15/2021 at 12:16 PM, 杰.克 said:

3) Related to point 1 -  if you want to become good at speaking chinese, why dont you ACTUALLY SPEAK? you can't learn chinese out of a book. All you can learn out of a book is how to read chinese. Get out there and speak to people.

 

Yes, yes, yes. And don't be afraid of making mistakes. 

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I agree that speech should come first. However, the ability to speak can be built not only in the practice of speaking. It is especially important for me to be able to quickly translate short phrases using different words into Chinese. You can prepare for this with fleshcards. I remember my experience of speaking English. When I used to attend a group where a native speaker spoke to us, there was not much progress. The situation began to change only after I started looking for English phrases that would be equated with ordinary Russian speech.

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On 10/19/2021 at 5:54 PM, Pall said:

However, the ability to speak can be built not only in the practice of speaking. [...] You can prepare for this with flashcards.

 

You are speaking from my heart! Living in an age where literacy permeates every area of our lives, written content is just a very efficient way to access even the verbal aspects of language. But the Chinese script really is an obstacle there, because it obscures or straight-up hides (for unknown characters) the pronunciation. Your example of using flashcards to ingrain frequent turns of speech is spot-on.

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On 10/19/2021 at 7:42 PM, glu said:

But the Chinese script really is an obstacle there, because it obscures or straight-up hides (for unknown characters) the pronunciation.

Yes, it's an obstacle. However, given that only about 400 syllables are used (with tones of 1200-1300), the effectiveness of memorizing words based on how they sound alone has a limit. Therefore, I propose that you first say it orally, then, when more or less the sound is fixed, try to type the fleshcards. In this case, a certain image of words is formed in the brain, which helps to remember sounds as well. And for the most insistent, there is still one more exercise to write by hand, which ideally consolidates the knowledge of words - both their phonetics and notation.

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On 10/19/2021 at 4:54 PM, Pall said:

However, the ability to speak can be built not only in the practice of speaking

 My experience tends to come from other students studying in China. But i met many many many students who degree/major/phd etc was Chinese Language, who had terrible spoken Chinese.  For me being able to converse is the pinnacle reason to study a language (i accept this may not be for others). And those students would often excuse this away being awful by evidencing they were good at grammar/ or dictation/ or they memorised Shijing or something like that. 

 

The ability to speak - by and large needs people to speak. I think this is a more important message for people to hear. You don't need to study more flashcards, or have a better arranged anki deck, or have the latest pleco set. YOU NEED TO GET OUT THERE AND TALK TO PEOPLE.

 

I really do giggle when I think of all the people, who had terrible Chinese skills, because they never put it to actual use, but where in a daze about as to why. Its like expecting to be good at playing football, because you've studied in depth how the stitching and rubber of the football is put together. If you never experience actually kicking the dam thing, how the hell will you know if you can play football or not.To me being able to converse with someone is factors better than being able to read or to write. These 2 things are important, but mildly so in comparison to be able to talk to someone. 

 

End of the day - all the flashcards in the world ain't gonna help you speak. SPEAKING HELPS YOU IMPROVE YOUR SPEAKING. 

 

Show me someone who isn't improving as quickly as they'd like at speaking, and it wont be because they aint doing enough flashcards, thats for sure.. It will be because they dont have enough italki classes, 1 on 1 tuition, chinese friends, a chinese gf/bf, language partners, a class enironment where they are not just not 1 in 20, a chinese work environment..... i could go on

 

The truth is , finding opportunity to speak is cumbersome, and takes time, and also demands a level of social confidence.  This is the real crux of the problem. How easy is it to carve a life for yourself where you get chance to speak 1/2/3/4 hours chinese per day? not easy...     

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On 10/19/2021 at 9:12 PM, 杰.克 said:

The ability to speak - by and large needs people to speak.

No doubts. If you want to learn how to speak, you must try to speak. However, imagine you did't know a word and happened to immerse in China. Speaking would take a long way to master. For the beginning you'd have to understand a little what other people say. It's quite different of you learnt in advance a number of phrases equivalent to those in your native language and trained yourself to distingiush by ear some minimum of the most used words, about 1,000. Then i'm sure direct communication would make you very fluent in a short time. 

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I would rank the language skills as this:
1) speaking
2) reading
3) listening
4) writing.
However, prior to developing the first of them one needs, first of all, to listen how to pronounce the sounds and to learn to do that himself, and secondly, to learn some minimum of the most used words and expressions. So, the real ranking would be
1) some listening
2) mastering some minimum of the most used words and expressions as to use them in one's speech, preferebly with elementary writing
3) speaking
4) reading
5) listening (movies, radio, news, etc.)

6) writing

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Pall, I don't disagree with your logic, I just disagree with your emphasis. 

 

My worldwide experience is, many students of Chinese are bad at speaking because they don't speak. 

 

But how is it that  hard working, diligent students of Chinese are bad at Chinese despite studying Chinese for many years? They satiate themselves by studying 4 hours of flashcards/grammar/dictation/listening exercises/homework etc everyday but probably register seconds or minutes of communicating with people.  It's all an unconscious excuse to avoid getting to the harder nitty gritty of putting yourself out there and actually speaking. So although your academic and well reasoned point, is not wholly incorrect. I think it's a distraction for 99% of Chinese learners to read. The meat and gravy of the point, is reinforcing the fact they should be speaking more chinese!

 

My emphasis would be like this, I want to get on a large speakerphone and shout into every Chinese learners ear - YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY STUDY THE SKILL THAT YOU WANT TO GET GOOD AT!

 

I.e first and foremost get some of these ducks lined up :italki classes, 1 on 1 tuition, chinese friends, a chinese gf/bf, language partners, a class environment where they are not just not 1 in 20, a mandarin work environment.

 

 

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On 10/20/2021 at 9:16 AM, 杰.克 said:

But how is it that  hard working, diligent students of Chinese are bad at Chinese despite studying Chinese for many years?

 

To be honest, the same applies to people who can speak great Chinese but struggle with a newspaper or an apartment rental contract - they're basically illiterate. Surely all skills (reading/writing/listening/speaking/cultural) are important? It's just about efficiency in terms of the order and emphasis people choose in studying them. I think it's well-established that ideally it's better to listen to lots of a foreign language before starting to speak it. It's also obvious that characters can be an obstacle and if there are ways to temporarily bypass that obstacle - perhaps for example the tools that @glu has been working on - then so much the better.

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On 10/20/2021 at 11:16 AM, 杰.克 said:

My emphasis would be like this, I want to get on a large speakerphone and shout into every Chinese learners ear - YOU NEED TO ACTUALLY STUDY THE SKILL THAT YOU WANT TO GET GOOD AT!

Thanks, you changed my mind. I was going firstly to build up one-file text with examples of all levels HSK word use (1-6) for the first quarter of the HSK(1-6) Radical organised wordlist, but now I'll do that first of all only for HSK4 level for the entire Part 3 (Not so rare radicals) and then for the remainder in the end of the list, Part 4, which is considered to be without 'supporting characters', 15% of the total HSK(1-6) words, meant for Unique and Very Rare Radicals. At that stage I'll be able to start to speak intensively on various topics and I'll find ways to do so. Only after that I'll continue to build up these texts further, adding HSK-5 and HSK-6 words. As a result, only the parts 1 and 2, for frequent and very frequent radicals (10+5) will remain untouched? one third of all the HSK words. These radicals are very easily distinguished in texts, so anyone, who would see an unknown word of one of these 15 radicals, should look if the other characters of the word related to 27 radiclas of the Part 3 or not. If so, then it would be very likely he had learnt the word, then it could be easier recollected. If not, the word was to be learnt as a new one. The HSK(1-6) Radical Organized Wordlist is the best framework to arrange one's personal vocabulary.

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/61595-using-radical-organized-hsk1-6-wordlist-to-learn-chinese/

 

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On 10/20/2021 at 9:45 AM, realmayo said:

To be honest, the same applies to people who can speak great Chinese but struggle with a newspaper or an apartment rental contract - they're basically illiterate. Surely all skills (reading/writing/listening/speaking/cultural) are important?

 

So given this is a thread where ppl share their "opinionated" views. My opinionated view is this... They are absolutely not all equal!

 

Being able to speak, is factors more important than being able to read, and then even more so that being able to write.  Being a mute, is more embarrassing and more of a significant drag on your life then being illiterate. How often do you need to read a rental contact? How often do you need to speak to someone?  Both are important, but speaking is multiples more important than reading, and you will lean on it much more in every aspect of your life than reading. And to me this is a simple fact. If you deny that there isn't an order to their importance, your either a chinese teacher or a student that is bad at speaking...

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On 10/20/2021 at 2:58 PM, 杰.克 said:

Being able to speak, is factors more important than being able to read, and then even more so that being able to write

Right. But you can't start speaking without knowing some words and simple grammar to combine them (or at least feeling the grammar).

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On 10/20/2021 at 12:58 PM, 杰.克 said:

If you deny that there isn't an order to their importance, your either a chinese teacher or a student that is bad at speaking...

I'm not very good at speaking but I could chatter moderately well in Chinese long before I could recognise even a dozen characters. However I envy people who can rock up in China with a few years' book-study behind them: they've done the hard work, all they need to do now is talk to people every day to develop confidence & fluency and they'll have great all-round Chinese. It's much harder to do it the other way around. My hunch is that neither approach is the most efficient, but choosing the most efficient route isn't always possible if you're based, say, in a university outside China for a few years or, conversely, are working hard in a Shanghai office every day.

 

Characters are a real nuisance though, and I suspect at an intermediate level they may hinder students from treating words as sound units (something that's not a problem for languages with more obviously phonetic scripts).

 

I think this is a great post by Victor Mair, who found a way round that obstacle by reading newspapers with phonetic script above each character, which may be of interest to the OP. https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=189


 

Quote

 

The hardest part of learning Chinese is mastering the thousands of characters that are necessary for full literacy.  The spoken language, in contrast, is relatively easy to acquire.  A good teacher who employs benign pedagogical methods can have students conversing quite fluently within a year or two.  By “benign pedagogical methods” I mean focusing on pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, and patterns (phrases, clauses, sentences – through build-up drills, substitution drills, etc.).  Unfortunately, all too many Chinese language teachers crush the enthusiasm and the confidence of beginning and intermediate students by requiring that – almost from the start – they arbitrarily learn dozens or scores of characters every month.

 

From the very beginning of my own Chinese language learning experience nearly forty years ago, I have staunchly opposed this over-emphasis on brute force memorization of characters.  Rather, I advocate what I call “learning like a baby” as much as possible.  Namely, let students naturally become familiar and comfortable with the basic expressions, structures, and intonations of the language.  After acquiring this solid foundation, then gradually introduce characters in a systematic fashion, one that is directly linked to words and expressions, not as isolated morphosyllables.

 

 

 

 

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Being able to speak, is factors more important than being able to read, and then even more so that being able to write.  Being a mute, is more embarrassing and more of a significant drag on your life then being illiterate.

 

Wow.  That sure is at odds with how I live my life.  Whether in any language, I spend multiple times more time reading than speaking.  Most days I speak no more than 10-20 minutes all told.

 

Bottom line, the answer depends on your personality, your lifestyle and your goals.

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On 10/22/2021 at 2:20 PM, glu said:

that's very positive feedback.

I would like to stress the main point of my agreement with you: in the study of a foreign language speaking should come first, if only because the word 'language' means speech, conversation. Therefore, even in the study of hieroglyphs and the words they express, which I consider absolutely necessary, their study begins with mastering how they are voiced.

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