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Learning to skim in Chinese


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I recently started reading again, after having not done it for almost a year.  I switched to focusing on listening.  The only things I read was (quite a lot) of random subtitles, but that probably doesn't add up to a book.


A couple of things I discovered when I restarted:


1. When I left off in Jan 2022, my peak reading speed was about 250cpm, my average around 200.  When I restarted, reading (乡土中国) my reading speed is about 160 cpm.  I trip up on characters slightly more often than I remembered from last year. 


2. About an hour into my reading, I was getting a bit bored & impatient.  I then realized I could apply the tricks that I gained from practicing listening to reading. 


Particularly what I call "eaves-dropping" -- a technique of not deciphering every character, and listening for the gist of the meaning.  And letting meaning flow backwards as well as forwards -- as I figured out segments of what was going on, that let me then figure out what I missed previously.  When you're eaves-dropping, in any language, you don't hear every word perfectly but you understand all the juicy parts (or so you think).


I realized this sort of eaves-dropping mindset could be analogized into a sort of skimming, when doing reading.  Instead of struggling with homonyms, I had confusing written characters that could be deciphered into several different meaning that I can let context sort out.  And I can keep scanning ahead.


So I tried that for a few hours.  I picked a genre novel, a Chinese translation of Assassin Creed's Odyssey.  That's something I've never read in either Chinese or English, but is a game I played like 6 months ago.  It's tropey and full of filler descriptions that can be easily skipped, and is the sort of book I would skim in any language, if I read it at all.  So far:


ac_odyssey1.txt: 84.39 mins, 27617 chars, 327.25 cpm
ac_odyssey2.txt: 75.60 mins, 30042 chars, 397.38 cpm


Wow, what a turbo-boost!  So far, my comprehension is crap.  But not so crap, I couldn't follow the gist of the plot, and I can slow down for the parts that are more interesting. 


Right now, I would rate my comprehension as similar to when I first started practicing listening intensely last January.  I called it 70% then, but that's probably a little generous.  Say it's more like 50%.  My listening comprehension went up over time, and I think I can do that for reading too.


Previously, I could access this form of speed on occasion when I really got into a book.  But after a year of listening, I seem to be able to kick myself into this mode more or less at-will when I'm reading.  With more practice, I think I can get the comprehension level up to a reasonable "skimming" level, on a similar progress curve to my listening.


When I skim in English, I don't understand everything 100% perfectly either, but it's still very useful and is probably the most common form of "reading" I do.


Curious as to other's experience with trying to skim in Chinese.  To me, it's a bit like reading @Publius's out-of-order passage.  I think I can now grasp ~50% of the meaning, taking glances at ~3-4 spots in the frame:




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