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The 2022 Aims and Objectives Progress Topic


alantin
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Due to a chain of bad reading experiences, less and less time for practice, a diminishing interest in China itself (for tourism, work, study, etc), and a failure on my part to find (and stick) to some kind of energizing and structured path forward, I decided that I'm quitting, at least for the rest of the year, and maybe permanently. 

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@PerpetualChange It is certainly a difficult time to be enjoying China and pursuing Chinese at the moment, with the apparent 'closing down' (as opposed to 'opening up'...) of the country to foreigners. I also understand what you might be going through with bad reading experiences, good new literature coming out of China at the moment seems to be harder and harder to come by. That being said, theres certainly a lot to get your teeth into historically - anything post New Culture Movement should be accessible and often eye-opening stuff. I would say if it is the case you are feeling exhausted/exasperated by modern writing. theres nothing wrong with letting things slide a bit and just enjoy reading at a slower and more gradual pace with some older stuff. Im not going to recommend anything in particular, as genre might not be to your taste, but any classic writers from the 30s onwards will hopefully give you some more positive reading experiences.

 

It might sound a bit corny, but I like to recall the phrase from 千字文:得能莫忘!

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Part of it is exasperation that it just seems to get harder the further along I get. I liked being in classes and having structure and then being around it all the time when I was abroad. Now that that phase of my life is over and I have  a full-time job, children, etc, and it gets harder to keep up with everything and find an appropriate place for Chinese in my life. Other hobbies I have offer more community and more positive social experiences. I don't want to quit Chinese entirely and give up on something I've spent 10 years of my life on but I'm not making inroads anymore, and grinding through native material is just not working. I dont know what that sentence you posted means and ive got no willpower to figurw our for myself - that's just where I'm at if I'm being honest.

 

There’s got to be some path forward but I just can't figure out what it is, and with no Chinese speakers in my circle of family or friends it's now become one of those things that is never going to meet me anywhere unless I bend over backwards to make space for it. 

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On 8/8/2022 at 11:07 AM, PerpetualChange said:

Part of it is exasperation that it just seems to get harder the further along I get.

 

I can definitely relate to that! I think I hit a rough patch between books 16-25. I felt really great after the first dozen books or so, and felt like most of the hard work was behind me. But then I realized that I hadn't yet touched some of the hardest books in my library. So the final "hump" of my efforts has consisted of finally confronting those books. Will things get more quiet after that? I'll have to wait and see! With regard to mainstream literature (i.e., not the classical, archaic, or extremely academic stuff), I know there must be a light at the end of the tunnel. Reading articles on websites like Sina News or Zhihu feels really natural, and usually much easier than books, with a vocabulary comprehension rate of around 99.8 to 99.9%, and a reading speed that's about 2 to 3 times faster than when reading novels. So if reading the Chinese news were my goal (and it is a very big goal of mine), I'd already be there.

 

For better or for worse (probably for worse), I'm a "one thing at a time" sort of person. Within a year or so, I'd like to give special attention to listening comprehension (which I only practice casually these days, with some success). To what degree can I, as someone who doesn't live in China, master that skill? Judging from my progress so far, I think that with more concentrated attention, it is very much possible to learn how to listen to Chinese news/TV/podcasts. I would be interested in the stories of anyone who has successfully accomplished that! In the beginning, I understood nothing. Then I could pick up a word here or there. Then a phrase. Then entire sentences. Then enough to understand my Chinese tutor. But currently, I can't quite listen well enough to truly understand most Chinese podcasts, at least as they're intended to be understood. I do like to practice and see how much of them I can understand, however. It's just that the threshold is very high. If you miss a phrase here or there, it can totally destroy your grasp on the overall meaning.

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It's just that the threshold is very high. If you miss a phrase here or there, it can totally destroy your grasp on the overall meaning.

 

If you feel that way, then I suggest you put your priority first on podcasts rather than newscasts.  The reason is that TV news by necessity is very concise, while podcasts are not usually as constrained for time, and are more chatty and expansive.

 

Another option you didn't mention is audiobooks.  Have you thought about listening to a recording of a novel that you've already read, or of an author you're already familiar with?

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On 8/9/2022 at 6:50 AM, markhavemann said:

The problem is that if you don't like doing something in your native language, you probably won't enjoy it for very long in your target language. If there is an activity that you really enjoy that you could potentially do in Chinese rather than English, you should make that your goal and figure out where you've been going wrong. 

 

Yeah this is a great point. The stuff people seem to like here (reading books or news, podcasts, youtube, dramas, etc) are things I engage with pretty limitedly in English. I could definitely try to find Chinese things I'm more directly interested in, like music and video games.

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Hooray!  I just finished all 10 of the Level 1 folktale graded readers from Beijing Language and Culture Press.  When I have a chance (soon, I hope), I will post a review of them. Much more enjoyable and a bit more challenging than I expected.

 

So I posted my review here:

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/44336-graded-readers-by-the-numbers-characterswords-page-count/page/6/

 

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I have just capped off 5 years of serious Chinese study, and things are feeling quite good. Over the past months, I've been anticipating an end to the more "goal-oriented" phase of my reading practice, and I think I finally have a concrete roadmap! It was my stated goal, a long time ago, to get myself to the place where I'm only encountering unknown words (whose meaning I can't guess) once every 3 pages or more, at least for the average book. So far in 2022, I've already read 4 books that exceeded that goal. I plan to read through another 3 or 4 books, and if everything goes according to plan, I'll dramatically reduce my reading practice to 15-20 minutes a day (which may further improve my reading speed) and focus on listening practice. From here on out, I hope to finish Lu Yao's "Ordinary World" trilogy and read Jiang Rong's "Wolf Totem." There aren't a lot of other books in my library that I'm super-excited to read. I do have the modern classic "White Deer Plain," but I'm getting rather tired of that "life in the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution" genre. After finishing this reading list, I will have read over 10,000 pages. Hooray!

 

With regard to listening practice, I won't be starting from square one, fortunately! Throughout the past five years, I have worked on it inconsistently--sometimes working hard on it, sometimes stepping away from it for a month or two. I started by listening to the audio CDs that came with my graded readers. Extremely difficult and frustrating, but I did experience slow growth. Then I spent a summer listening to the "Learning Chinese through Stories" Podcast, often while mowing my lawn or walking. The hosts were really lively and friendly, and there were different difficulty levels to choose from. It was done totally in Chinese, and they would repeat themselves a lot and engage in Q&A with one another to highlight the meaning of a word. My first really positive experience. Since that Podcast ran out of content and stopped updating, I turned to "iMandarinPod." It was really great--it was also done entirely in Chinese. They would tell a story (usually around HSK4/5 level), then give a simple Chinese definition of hard words, then have a discussion about the story, and then re-read the story. That lasted a year or two, but I ultimately moved on (I think they stopped adding new episodes, too). After that, I experimented more with YouTube videos and subtitles (native-level), ultimately spending the Summer of 2021 on that strategy (as much as 2 hours a day). Since then, I haven't given it the same focused attention, but I have been constantly listening to Chinese podcasts in the background throughout my day. It's been encouraging, because I can understand a lot of it! It's a sort of cycle. If I understand it, I like to listen to it more. If I listen more, I understand more. If I understand more, I like listening more. And so on and so on.  I'd like to polish my listening skill by giving it another year or two of intensive focus. I wouldn't call myself a confident listener yet. I am excited about the way it will expand my experience of the language.

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On 9/1/2022 at 8:33 AM, Woodford said:

It's been encouraging, because I can understand a lot of it! It's a sort of cycle. If I understand it, I like to listen to it more. If I listen more, I understand more. If I understand more, I like listening more. And so on and so on.

 

In my experience so far, it's interesting how much listening improves just by knowing more words. I started watching Chinese dramas at around a 2,500 word vocabulary, and I remember being so frustrated with my inability to understand anything. It should have been a clue that when I turned on the Chinese subtitles, I still didn't recognize half the words.

 

Now that I have expanded my vocabulary (I have been watching the dramas the whole time) I found that my comprehension just kind of improved on its own. The problem wasn't really with my listening, it was that even if I heard the sound of the word correctly, I didn't know what it meant.

 

With your advanced vocabulary, I imagine you will improve extremely rapidly, but I'm curious to hear your experience.

 

One other interesting observation, I think there may be  a "sweet spot" to transition over from reading to listening because I'm finding that the words I'm learning from books now are mostly proper nouns and obscure synonyms that are not often used in conversation (ex: I used 倏地 in a conversation with my teacher last week and she told me that was only the second time in her whole life she had heard that word used). I think I noticed the usefulness of learning new words from novels starting to drop off around 7,000 total vocabulary. Interestingly, once I picked up the newspaper instead, I again started finding useful new words again. I guess that's the benefit of breadth over depth in reading material.

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On 9/1/2022 at 11:50 AM, dakonglong said:

In my experience so far, it's interesting how much listening improves just by knowing more words.


Yes, this has absolutely been my experience, as well! Spending a lot of hours reading has familiarized me with a lot of phrases I hear in spoken Chinese. On the other hand, like you suggested, it gets me in trouble with speaking. I repeat a lot of stuff I read in books, and my tutor would often say, "Oh, we don't say it that way." While my speaking will need some work, my reading experience has definitely placed me on a good foundation for improving my listening ability.

 

 

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On 9/2/2022 at 12:50 AM, dakonglong said:

I started watching Chinese dramas at around a 2,500 word vocabulary, and I remember being so frustrated with my inability to understand anything.

while listening to chinese the reasons for frustration are: take an example: 

 

想象力 xiǎngxiànglì imagination 

 

compared to english here the mind should perform multi tasking 

 

2. it should select among these following for xiǎng , , , , , ,  (while listening)

3. at the same time it should not confuse with 险工 xiǎngōng as it contains xiǎng in a way (while listening)

4. mind should differentiate xiang in “xiǎngxiànglì” with tones (while listening)

 

etc..

 

@dakonglong @Woodford    @Jan Finsterany other reasons for frustration, while you analyze your listening? and how you overcome, with specific examples ? 

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On 9/4/2022 at 1:39 AM, phoneticsem said:
On 9/4/2022 at 1:39 AM, phoneticsem said:

想象力 xiǎngxiànglì imagination 

 

compared to english here the mind should perform multi tasking 

 

2. it should select among these following for xiǎng , , , , , ,  (while listening)

...frustration, while you analyze your listening?

 

No, it does not select from different xiangs. It only selects from different xiǎngxiànglì-s. And there are not that many 😉

 

I do not analyse anything. I just listen. I said this before, just do it and your brain will eventually make sense of it. It is not about analysing!!!

 

 

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Well, there aren't even that many "xiangs" with 3rd tones on them. Among the common ones, I can only think of 想,响, and 享。The latter two characters are often compounded with other ones: 音响,享受,分享,etc. But the first one, 想, is a lot more common, especially as an isolated, non-compound word. The patterns 他想,我想,你想, etc., are extremely frequent, and your brain gets really accustomed to them.

 

I wouldn't mistake 险工 for xiang, because Chinese resists eliding two consecutive words together, such that the "g" sound will always stay with 工 and won't get attached to the end of 险. The g sound would also dramatically change the way 险 is pronounced. "Xian" and "xiang" have very different "a" sounds, so they would be easy to tell apart.

 

I don't think my brain processes through all the different "xiangs," but just grows accustomed to certain contexts, sentence patterns, and compound words. 

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On 9/3/2022 at 4:39 PM, phoneticsem said:

any other reasons for frustration, while you analyze your listening?

 

Good question! My experience is similar to @Woodford's above. When I hear "wo xiang qu" I don't need to analyze which xiang I'm hearing because the wo and the qu give me context to know that it's 想.

 

I think the tricky part was getting to the point where I had read/listened enough to where I could recognize common sentence patterns and phrases and all of these sounds were equal to more than the sum of their parts. For example, if someone just read off 100 characters one-by-one and expected me to type them, I would probably miss a bunch. Alternatively, if someone read off a coherent sentence of 100 characters, I would probably get most of the characters right. The difference is just the self-reinforcing context which improves as you begin to understand a higher percentage of the content (as your vocabulary increases).

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