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Really dull HSK textbook


realmayo
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I might finally do an HSK exam this year so I looked at an HSK textbook properly for I think the first time - the official one, 标准教程 / Standard Course HSK6.

Wow it's boring! The texts are so uninspiring, they feel crammed with grammar/words rather than flowing at all naturally, and lots of the topics are so not interesting. I feel that the textbooks from the old 北京语言大学 course or the Road To Success series often had texts you could really get your teeth into. But maybe that's my memory playing tricks on me.

 

I did see that @OneEye did an excellent livestream last year on intermediate and advanced textbooks, mainly Taiwan ones and mainly ones used by ICLP. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMUqwb1kMdY It appears he used textbooks the same way as me, listening and listening and listening to the audio of a text before finally opening the textbook to look at first the new words and then finally the full text. I hadn't realised that was primarily an ICLP method - at a mainland university many years ago I had to buy a bunch of cassettes (and a walkman) ago to help me memorise the texts, as we were supposed to do before class.

 

As has been mentioned before, native or lightly edited native speaker texts, with high quality audio, glosses on some unfamiliar vocabulary and grammar points, and exercises to reinforce and internalise that new information: hard to beat, when done right! (And those ICLP textbooks, Thought & Society and an Independent Reader, are done so right.)

 

But perhaps a super-high percentage of people only use the HSK textbooks these days?

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I also find HSK books super dull. I lose the will to live just trying to get through one chapter. I find A Course in Contemporary Chinese is so much better and I’ve been working on Thoughts & Society. I think I will ask my teacher to use that in our lessons. 
 

I definitely find majority of Chinese teachers and classes use HSK books probably because they think most people would want to take the HSK eventually. 

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Good luck on you HSK6 adventure---it ain't easy!

 

The advantage of the HSK6 Standard Course textbooks is that there are a lot of additional materials available online, such as the Chinese Zero to Hero course (or just search for HSK6 in YouTube).  Having multiple perspectives helps reinforce the important points.  Some of the texts are adapted from their originals, which you can find online; I found this an interesting exercise.  I studied the vocabulary first (as in, the whole book's vocabulary), so when it was time to read the texts, it was much faster and less tedious.

 

Teachers are more familiar with and adept at teaching the Standard Course textbooks, but at the HSK6 level, there are so few students that teachers don't get much experience.  Finding a competent teacher at this level is hard.

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On 5/16/2022 at 9:58 PM, amytheorangutan said:

I find A Course in Contemporary Chinese is so much better and I’ve been working on Thoughts & Society.

 

Any thoughts about why you find those books better? I think one of my problem with the HSK6 book is that the texts are too short and so each topic is pretty superficial: it's like the topic is simply an excuse to teach you some words and grammar. But the books that I prefer - Thought & Society is a great example - have fewer chapters but longer texts: yes there's a lot of relatively specialised vocabulary, but it means you get to 'inhabit' the topic for a while, each chapter is something of an event or a milestone, especially if you're studying the text super intensively, almost to memorisation level.

 

On 5/16/2022 at 11:02 PM, becky82 said:

at the HSK6 level, there are so few students that teachers don't get much experience.  Finding a competent teacher at this level is hard.

 

Good point. To be honest, if I had several teachers, I'd use the best one to teach me stuff away from these HSK books, and let the OK teachers take me through the HSK book with its vocab/grammar. But perhaps a great teacher would use the HSK textbooks as a starting point only, I don't know.

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On 5/17/2022 at 1:23 AM, realmayo said:

the official one, 标准教程

Who say that is official one? there are many books for HSK.

 

HSK 2.0 has three thing ( Listening, Reading, Writing), You decide which one need to focus more.

For example if you can't summarize one page to 400 characters by professional way.

I would suggest these books:

1. 新汉语水平考试HSK六级书写解题宝典 2012

2. 21天征服HSK:6级写作 2018

3. 21天征服HSK:5级写作·语法 2016

4. 25天攻克新HSK5级写作 2013

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On 5/17/2022 at 2:23 AM, realmayo said:

And those ICLP textbooks, Thought & Society and an Independent Reader, are done so right.

Something I discovered after I had more or less finished my "textbook phase" was that Vivian Ling was involved in (either as author, editor, or advisor) nearly all of my favorite textbooks. She was the editor for TOCC, Thought & Society, The Independent Reader, and Literary Chinese for Advanced Beginners. She was even thanked in the Introduction to Michael Fuller's An Introduction to Literary Chinese, which I had no idea she had been involved with until just a few weeks ago. There are at least a few others, but those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. So, I'd say anything with her name on it is probably worth getting.

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On 5/18/2022 at 6:21 AM, OneEye said:

So, I'd say anything with her name on it is probably worth getting.

I keep wanting to go through the rest of the Independent Reader, but I'm still waiting to find a teacher, ideally an ICLP one, to work though it with.

@OneEye One question for you, about the Aspects in Life book and the Independent Reader: did you study these the same way as Thought & Society (i.e. very intensive listening before anything else)? Are they both as suitable for that approach as Thought & Society?

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On 5/17/2022 at 7:27 AM, realmayo said:

Any thoughts about why you find those books better? I think one of my problem with the HSK6 book is that the texts are too short and so each topic is pretty superficial: it's like the topic is simply an excuse to teach you some words and grammar. But the books that I prefer - Thought & Society is a great example - have fewer chapters but longer texts: yes there's a lot of relatively specialised vocabulary, but it means you get to 'inhabit' the topic for a while, each chapter is something of an event or a milestone, especially if you're studying the text super intensively, almost to memorisation level.


What I don’t like about HSK books is that the texts just feel too artificial. Like they don’t care at all what it is about or what they write as long as they include all the words that need to be thought in each chapter. I find A Course in Contemporary Chinese texts to be more natural in introducing new grammar patterns and words, the topics are quite interesting like the popularity of plastic surgery, death penalty, surrogacy etc just feels more like real topics for adults no matter whether you are learning a language or not you’d probably still come across these topics in conversation. 

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On 5/19/2022 at 2:46 AM, realmayo said:

One question for you, about the Aspects in Life book and the Independent Reader: did you study these the same way as Thought & Society (i.e. very intensive listening before anything else)? Are they both as suitable for that approach as Thought & Society?

I actually didn't complete either book. After Thought and Society, I read maybe a dozen of the readings in The Independent Reader, but I didn't do it intensively or even systematically. More like, occasionally I'd open the book to a random article and read through it, maybe spend a day or two on it, and then put it aside for a while. By that point, I was auditing a graduate paleography course, applying for grad school, reading intro to 古文字學 books, doing some freelance translation, studying using movies and TV shows, etc. I had kind of burned myself out on textbooks, given how intensively I had been studying them at the time (3-4 textbooks at a time, 8+ hours a day), so I couldn't stomach doing any more of them.

 

I didn't get a copy of Aspects of Life in Taiwan until I was already in grad school, when I met an ICLP student who offered to get me a copy from their bookstore. I basically got it to complete my collection. :) I've skimmed through some of the lessons, but never actually studied it seriously.

 

As for whether they're suitable for the same approach, I'd say yes, but with the caveat that all of the texts in both books are unabridged published articles, so they'll tend more toward a written style than spoken. But still, much of the usage isn't outside what you might hear in a lecture or TEDx talk.

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On 5/19/2022 at 3:30 AM, OneEye said:

I'd say yes, but with the caveat that

Interesting, thanks. I suppose it's not irrelevant that the Thought & Society book is subtitled "An advanced text for spoken Chinese."

 

 

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On 5/18/2022 at 11:49 PM, amytheorangutan said:

Like they don’t care at all what it is about or what they write as long as they include all the words that need to be thought in each chapter.

 

Definitely feels very top-down. Here's an absurd sentence from the first text in the HSK6 book I looked at. It includes the nouns for jacket, qipao, stereo, radio, faucet, buttons, socket, and device for prospecting for minerals!

 

I initially thought I should partly-memorise these texts but now I've looked at them I really can't see the point.

 

 

image.thumb.png.818589040febc67aea00711acc26ce9b.png

 

 

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