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Tips and Tricks for Learning Chinese


dakonglong
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I don't use LingQ anymore but I do have something similar. I use Chinese Text Analyzer to mark know words that I can read (i.e. I know the pronunciation for all characters, I don't care if I know the meaning or not) and I run a script I wrote for adding pinyin after all the words I can't read. Then while reading I mark the words known as I find I don't need pinyin for them anymore and in the next chapter they are going to be missing the pinyin. I check meanings only if a word peaks my interest for any reason and other than that I just let them seep into my vocabulary through repeated exposure.

 

This is pretty much the same way I learned my English when I was a kid, but this time the characters require a little tinkering around while reading books I've already read in English before facilitates the process.

 

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On 1/13/2022 at 7:50 PM, alantin said:

I use Chinese Text Analyzer to mark know words that I can read (i.e. I know the pronunciation for all characters, I don't care if I know the meaning or not) and I run a script I wrote for adding pinyin after all the words I can't read.

 

This is an unusual but interesting approach.

 

The downside of using CTA and marking the words as "known" is that (in my experience) known words are not static or permanent. They can become unknown again. For instance, I may have "known" a words 4 months ago, maybe because I happened to read lots on a certain topic, but now, I do not know them anymore. With Lingq, I can easily click on them and they become yellow again.

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On 1/13/2022 at 9:58 PM, Jan Finster said:

With Lingq, I can easily click on them and they become yellow again.

 

You can mark a word unknown in CTA with a double click too.

I quite like my setup. Once I finish a chapter, I just record the values from CTA to my excel sheet, run the script to create a pinyined version of the next chapter, and keep going. I usually read either in CTA or Pleco.

I won't be able to conjure up the dictionary definitions right away for the words I know, but I never need to do that anyway. Also characters and the context often give you a very good idea of what word means. I just now saw "大拇指(dà mu zhǐ)". I knew two of the characters already, though the middle one was new, but it doesn't really take a genius to guess what the word means even without the context and I doubt I'll have trouble remembering the middle character either, so I just marked it as known. Not all words are like this of-course, but a fair share of them.

I also find that there not many red words that I don't understand in the context while still being able to read them aloud. Some, but not many. If I encounter a word I can't read out loud, I'll just check it and it'll turn red and come around with the pinyin next time.
 

Screenshot 2022-01-13 at 22.37.34.png

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On 1/13/2022 at 9:38 PM, alantin said:

I quite like my setup. Once I finish a chapter, I just record the values from CTA to my excel sheet, run the script to create a pinyined version of the next chapter, and keep going. I usually read either in CTA or Pleco.

 

This looks like a nice DIY setup. You could consider selling it 😉

I wonder why you made your script only translate the unknown words to pinyin and not also translate them into English. If you did, then you could at least "hope" to learn the meaning just by coming across that word again and again.

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On 1/14/2022 at 10:00 AM, Jan Finster said:

I wonder why you made your script only translate the unknown words to pinyin and not also translate them into English. If you did, then you could at least "hope" to learn the meaning just by coming across that word again and again.

 

English is a crutch (just like pinyin is too) and the English translation is not the meaning of the word. It is the English translation of the meaning of the word. If you have the crutch there, it will draw your attention and give your brain the signal that the brain can just rely on the translation and the new unknown information is unnecessary. In most cases the context and the characters are more than enough to give the brain enough material to figure it out if you come across the word again and again and figuring out meaning while discarding all superfluous information is exactly what the brain is meant to do.

 

I do fall back to English sometimes, but it has to require effort/initial resistance so that it is easier to just figure the meaning out from the context and just keep going instead of getting mired in reading English definitions. Ideally the use of English (or any another language) should only be used as the last resort for the words or characters that go over that initial resistance. I think relying on English translations is also an unnatural way to learn a language and it unnecessarily keeps you in a "translation mode" instead of just using the language directly. Also what do I do if I don't know the English word the dictionary suggests? Go read an English explanation of the English word while my goal is to learn Chinese?

I'm waveringly walking forward with the goal to learn to run. I don't need any more crutches hindering me and I'm slowly but steadily shedding the crutches (pinyin) that I still do need.

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On 1/14/2022 at 4:00 PM, Jan Finster said:

This looks like a nice DIY setup. You could consider selling it 😉

 

It is a nice setup @alantin!

 

I'm also a fan of "Using the Force" as much as possible rather than relying on crutches.  Or at least make it a little harder for yourself to reach for the crutch.  Your brain is so good at avoiding work that if you make it just a little harder, it might decide to learn the darn thing instead.

 

Although I did end up using a light-weight pop-over translator for Chinese wikipedia.  I surrendered, and now wikipedia is now usable. 

 

Your set-up reminds me of the transcrobe inline translations from @AntonOfTheWoods in the other thread.  That seems like it would be pretty useful, but I'm scared off from installing a heavy browser extension.  Plus in-lining reduces even the 1 second of work required for popping-over an unfamiliar word -- which might be too much a crutch.

 

wiki.thumb.png.a4d6cc7ddab8f9058d25062a35dc536e.png

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On 1/14/2022 at 10:00 AM, Jan Finster said:

This looks like a nice DIY setup. You could consider selling it 😉

 

It's a very small tweak to one of the CTA example scripts by Imron and it requires CTA to work. Sadly I'm not a programmer and I have no idea how much work it would require to make this into a standalone product.

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On 1/14/2022 at 11:07 AM, alantin said:

In most cases the context and the characters are more than enough to give the brain enough material to figure it out if you come across the word again and again and figuring out meaning while discarding all superfluous information is exactly what the brain is meant to do.

 

You certainly have high standards and I am glad it works for you. I believe learning from context works well if you focus on one topic (e.g. baking) and watch 20 videos on Youtube. Then of course you will pick up what "flour" etc means. However, I read a variety of sources, so to me, at my current level, this is totally unrealistic since I may re-encounter the unknown word only after several weeks or even months. By that time I would not even know I have encountered that word before unless I use LingQ and it shows me the yellow highlight (indicating I have encountered it before). To be honest I do not even remember the unknown words I have read 2 hours ago.... 😉

 

I have read hundreds of books in English and worked in the UK for several years. However, even in English, there are occasional words that I would not easily have learned from context. One example is the word "lugubrious", which I did not know. Let us imagine you encounter the following sentences:

  • All we can see now is a lugubrious old man
  • I feel the lugubrious ascent of disgrace
  • The screenplay and direction are lugubrious
  • His face looked even more lugubrious than usual

(all sentences are from example sentences found online)

Now, can you pinpoint the exact meaning of "lugubrious" or do you just have a vague gut feeling what it could mean (positive, negative, etc)? (of course I use Eng-Eng dictionaries)

 

On 1/14/2022 at 11:07 AM, alantin said:

Also what do I do if I don't know the English word the dictionary suggests? Go read an English explanation of the English word while my goal is to learn Chinese?

 

I do and I have actually learned some useful English vocabulary, because I am studying Chinese (I only use ZH-Eng, and not Zh-German). 

 

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On 1/14/2022 at 6:18 PM, phills said:

Your set-up reminds me of the transcrobe inline translations from @AntonOfTheWoods in the other thread. 

@phills, my philosophy is definitely "the learner is always right". You give the learner options (from non-segmented, right through to English + Pinyin) and let them decide. Then you do stats on all your learners, and say things like "it looks like those learners who use X mode learn vocab 18% faster, maybe give that a try, it might be useful to you also!" But at the end of the day, the learner should always be the master. I hope to be able to create an entire suite of tools that are all connected and allow learners to choose exactly what is best for them, including giving them detailed analysis of how the system sees their progress.

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On 1/14/2022 at 12:58 PM, Jan Finster said:

You certainly have high standards and I am glad it works for you.

 

Or I'm lax and lazy. 😅

 

 

On 1/14/2022 at 12:58 PM, Jan Finster said:

I have read hundreds of books in English and worked in the UK for several years. However, even in English, there are occasional words that I would not easily have learned from context. One example is the word "lugubrious", which I did not know. Let us imagine you encounter the following sentences:

  • All we can see now is a lugubrious old man
  • I feel the lugubrious ascent of disgrace
  • The screenplay and direction are lugubrious
  • His face looked even more lugubrious than usual

(all sentences are from example sentences found online)

Now, can you pinpoint the exact meaning of "lugubrious" or do you just have a vague gut feeling what it could mean (positive, negative, etc)?

 

I claim that I've never seen that word in my life and I'm unsure how to pronounce it, but I'm going to wing it and guess it means something like "unkempt", "disgraceful", "sloppy", etc. I most likely wouldn't look it up. I don't think I would ever need an exact meaning for this word, but it may very well pop up in my mind later when writing something and I'll go "I'd like to try to use that word, what was it again.." and I'll then type something as close as I can get to it in google and see what definitions it brings up. They are usually pretty close to what I expected, but sometimes there are surprises.

I haven't looked that word up yet. I'll go do that after clicking "Submit". 😂

I have a question for you. I gather your native language is German? When you encounter unknown German words, do you look them up in German too or do you go by your gut?

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On 1/14/2022 at 1:15 PM, alantin said:

I'm going to wing it and guess it means something like "unkempt", "disgraceful", "sloppy", etc.


Interesting. This seems to be one of the surprises. I didn't guess it referred to emotions but rather a manner of doing something.


Definition of lugubrious

1 : mournful especially : exaggeratedly or affectedly mournful
2 : dismal (a lugubrious landscape; lugubrious cello music)

 


But you do get closer to the real meaning the more you encounter the word in _different_ contexts.


And like I said, I don't have high standards. I'm lazy and while reading I don't care about exact nuances as much as the overall message. Writing is a different story. There I do get particular about nuance and that's when I usually learn the exact meanings and differences between words.

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On 1/14/2022 at 12:15 PM, alantin said:

something like "unkempt, disgraceful, sloppy, etc.

 

It means something like mournful, gloomy, sad, unhappy, doleful. But more nuanced: " exaggeratedly mournful". 

 

I only remember this word, because it would occur at least 4-5 times in several books I read over the past 3 months and I made a point of saving unknown new words in an Excel sheet (in order to further build up my English vocabulary).

 

 

 

On 1/14/2022 at 12:15 PM, alantin said:

I gather your native language is German? When you encounter unknown German words, do you look them up in German too or do you go by your gut?

 

It depends on the context and mostly on how lazy I am 😉 If I feel it is just an adjective, maybe I just go by my gut, but if it is important (like some technical term) or if read challenging texts and want to expand my vocabulary, then I do.

We just posted at the same time :)

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