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  1. You may know me as one of the authors of the Heavenly Path reading guide, we’ve recently moved this guide to a new location, along with our webnovels and books resources. We hope this is a much better format than the previous Google Docs and Spreadsheet. I thought I’ll share with you my experience of spending 18 months reading original Chinese novels everyday, novels I had previously never read in any other form. I jumped straight into original work because reading something like Harry Potter in Chinese just didn’t interest to me. As well as reading, I also regularly watch Chinese TV but just so I don’t bored you to death, I’m only going to focus on reading, passive vocabulary, and from intermediate onwards. Maybe I’ll talk about the other aspects in another post in the future. My reading method and word review technique When it comes to reading, it’s really simple, I don’t do any unknown word extraction or pre-learning, I simply open the book either on Chrome or Readibu and start reading with a popup dictionary. I would note down unknown words, then after my daily reading session is over, I would go through that list and pick some words to add to my Pleco deck. I decide these words in a very subjective manner, literally do I think it’s useful to me, have I seen this before and am I likely to see this again. As for reviewing words with SRS, it’s super simple. I’m using the Pleco SRS flashcard add-on. I have most settings set to the default, and I do a review once a day. Pleco would display the word in Chinese characters only, I say the word out loud (recite the definition in my head if I need to), and then ask Pleco will reveal the pinyin, definition and play the audio. I would then give myself a score of 1-6. Sometimes if I struggle with certain words I would look up example sentences in Baidu Fanyi, write them down and then write my own sentences with those words. If I need further help, I’ll ask on Discord. The beginning... Before jumping into native novels, I read short children’s bedtime stories on https://www.qigushi.com/baobao/ for a few months to prep myself for literature style text. End of September 2020 was when I decided to start my first native novel. At the time, I had around 1,700 words in my Pleco deck, which I had collected from day one of my learning journey. I picked up a children’s novel called 舒克和贝塔历险记, which was recommended to me by a native. Following on from 舒克和贝塔历险记, I read 大林和小林,秃秃大王,小布头奇遇记,小布头新奇遇记 and 没有风的扇子. Even though these were all children’s books aimed at 6-7 years olds, I found them to be really difficult at the time. I had to do it slowly, and at times I had to spread a chapter over two days. Slowly as the weeks went by, it became easier and easier as I learnt more words. I felt that I jumped into native books too early, as I had a real difficult time at the beginning. I later discovered https://chinese.littlefox.com/en which I wished I had discovered earlier. If I could go back in time, I think reading and listening to all the Level 3-5 Little Fox Chinese content before jumping into these books would have made the experience less painful. 3 months later... By mid December 2020, I had around 3,500 words in my Pleco deck. I decided to up my game and started a slightly more sophisticated children’s book series called 笑猫日记 by 杨红樱. It was a huge step up, due to the more mature writing style, less repetition of the same words, and the increase usage of chengyus. At the beginning of the series, I only managed to read one chapter a day (approx 2k characters), which took me around 30mins, before feeling completely drained. As I learnt more words and my literacy ability improved, it became less draining and occasionally I managed to read two chapters a day. I ended up reading 6 笑猫日记 books in 3 months. It also helped that I read from the same series for a long period of time as I got use to her writing style and many of the same words and chengyus were repeated throughout the series. Another 3 months later... By mid March 2021, I had around 5,300 words in my Pleco deck. Once again, I decided to up my game, and started an urban fantasy children’s series called 幻想大王 by 杨鹏. The added fantasy elements and longer paragraphs made this quite a step up from 笑猫日记. Exactly the same as with 笑猫日记, I was slow at the beginning then eventually I picked up my reading pace after a while. I read 4 books from the series before moving onto something else. 2 months later...I started to dip my toes in the adult webnovel world... By May 2021, I had in my deck around 6,300 words. I decided to give it a go at a relatively simple but long cultivation webnovel (total of 1.2mil characters) that I had discovered, 重生之极品皇子妃 by 叶忆落. Chapter lengths were around 1.5k at the beginning, then it increased to 3k after around chapter 70. This was a mistake, I should have waited a little longer and pick a shorter webnovel as I ended up spending 6 months on this. Luckily I did eventually got really fast at reading it, due to many repeated words and her simple writing style, else it might have dragged for longer than 6 months. At the same time, I did manage to also read two more children’s books called 我的狼妈妈 and 我的狐狸妹妹. I also read a few other short adult webnovels: 我男朋友好像有病,狐狸尾巴露出来了,当你走进图书馆而书里夹了一枚书签. 6 months later...I was fully in the webnovel world... By October 2021 I had in my deck around 8,000 words, and have been reading native novels for just over a year. I would say at this point, native content for adults started to become a bit more accessible. I also learnt how to navigate a few webnovel platforms to search for content. Today.... As for today, I have around 9,000 words in my deck and have read roughly 4million character worth of content. Read adult webnovels: 重生之极品皇子妃 by 叶忆落 你是不是喜欢我 by 吕天逸 我男朋友好像有病 by 一只大雁 狐狸尾巴露出来了 by 姜难吃 当你走进图书馆而书里夹了一枚书签 by 晚秋初十 微微一笑很倾城 by 顾漫 带着小卖部去古代 by 叶忆落 (dropped around 50%, might go back to this and finish it) 我家又不是神奇生物养殖场!by 唇亡齿寒0 做树真的好难 by 喝豆奶的狼 撒野 by 巫哲 幻想农场 by 西子绪 Read next: 镇魂 by priest (starting on Monday with some members of 看剧学汉语 Discord) Final Reflection My reading speed increased as time went on. As I didn’t take notes on my speed time over time, any improvement was based on feeling. One year after starting this reading journey was when I noticed a significant difference. I checked my reading speed recently while I was reading 幻想农场 by 西子绪, and found myself at around 200 characters per minute (so in 30mins, I can read around 6,000 characters). This is three times the speed from when I first started. The amount of time I can focus on a piece of text without feeling drained has also increased. Nowadays (18 months later), as long as that content doesn’t contain too many words I don’t know or complex sentence structure or grammar, I can read for as long as I want. I currently know around 2.8k characters, and at a level where I can comfortably read (with occasional help from a dictionary) some slice of life modern novels. Novels with a bit of fantasy or supernatural elements mixed in are also manageable. Anything heavy on certain themes such as ancient martial arts, high fantasy and sci-fi are still quite difficult. This is something I’m slowly working on right now. General FAQ Why have you only read webnovels? It’s simply ease of access, reading from a website allows me to use tools such as Zhongwen or Readibu. PayPal payment is also available on platforms like 起点中文网 and 晋江文学城. They are also extremely cheap. 幻想农场 by 西子绪 (a 700k character webnovel) is around $3-$4 to buy via 晋江文学城. 9k words doesn’t seem like it’s enough to read native content? That is simply just the number of words I have in my flashcard deck, many words are learnt from content and many are combination of characters I’m already familiar with. For example, I know 书店 and 网上, so I don’t necessary need 网上书店 in my deck. How do you determine which novel to pick up next? I based it on the total length and number of unique characters or recommendation from other learners. Usually I would give the first few chapters a try, if I really struggle then I put that on hold and try something else. Do you have any goals of the rest of 2022? Continue learning Chinese of course, I’m still far from being able to read everything without a dictionary. I don’t have a fixed ordered reading list as I decide base on my mood at the time but I would like to read 全球高考 by 木苏里 and 夺梦 by 非天夜翔 this year. Key take aways Patience & perseverance is key - The journey from 1k to 3k characters is a difficult and frustrating one, especially if you want to read Chinese literature. Not going to lie, I’ve wanted quit many times, but I’m so glad I pulled through, it was so worth it in the end. Don’t rush - It’s tempting to rush to the best work, but don’t do it, just take your time. For example, if I had attempted 幻想农场 2 years ago, or even a year ago, I would have been so frustrated with all the unknown words and the slow reading speed, that I might even have drop learning Chinese entirely, but instead I had an amazing experience! Take that first step - I know many learners find it difficult to pick up a completely brand new native novel that they’ve never read before in another language, but it honestly isn’t as scary as it seems. The difficult part is actually finding a suitable novel and taking that first step. The first few chapters might be a bit difficult but trust me it will get easier after a few chapters. If you’re looking for something to read, maybe give one of these a go: HSK (2.0) 4 - give 秃秃大王 a try HSK (2.0) 5 - 我的狼妈妈 or 我的狐狸妹妹 are good options HSK (2.0) 6 - 他们都说我遇到了未知生物 by 青色羽翼, 蜜汁炖鱿鱼 by 墨宝非宝 or 撒野 by 巫哲 would be good choices for this level For more recommendations check out our Webnovels and Books resource page. Some extra tips Listening is important - I know I haven’t really touched on listening in this post, but listening (whether it’s watching tv, listening to audiobook or a podcast) really really helps with passive vocabulary acquisition and retention. Use your vocabulary - Actively using vocabulary makes a huge difference in retention, so if you’re able to use what you learn from reading when speaking and writing then go for it. Conclusion Thank you for reading my ramble, I hope I’ve been able to inspire you, and you’ve learnt something from me post. All the best in your Mandarin Chinese learning journey. Remember, learning a new language enables you to discover all the culture has to offer, so go out there, discover and enjoy. I tried to keep the post short (still ended up quite long), so I didn't go into too much details. So please do ask questions, and if you want any more details on anything I'll be happy to provide it.
    18 points
  2. I left China in a big rush at the end of January 2019 when the Covid outbreak was just becoming known. Had to fly an indirect, stop-and-start path because of flight cancellations. Eventually managed to get back to Texas, my Stateside home. Had not lived here in any consistent manner for over a decade while exploring China and learning its language, history, culture and ways. Fell in love with the people, the cuisine, the tea. Thought I would probably live out the rest of my days there. Back in America, I initially maintained robust long-distance relationships, chatting regularly with Chinese friends who were still in country. We sent snapshots back and forth, did video chats. Gradually there became less to say, and we contacted each other less frequently, relying more on written messages. The connecting ties became stretched and began to feel somewhat strained. The messages became shorter. Locally I have spoken Chinese sporadically with staff at Chinese restaurants. Once or twice, when visiting in larger Texas cities, I've had a foot massage and conversed with the technicians. Watched the occasional Chinese movie. Read some Chinese-language news stories online. Did not read start reading Chinese novels. Never did that, even in China during my "Chinese language prime." Would have been smart to sign up for on-line tutoring and really step up my reading. But I got busy with resuming my western life and dropped the ball on keeping up my Chinese. My personal language proficiency was slow in coming, hard won. I was not a "natural" blessed with huge talent. Had to work hard. But my Chinese has been distressingly fast in disappearing. Now after nearly two years, it is ragged and rusty. In another year it will mostly be gone. My Chinese was not self-taught. I was blessed with excellent face-to-face teachers, and I invested maximum effort in learning from them. Plus, I used the language fearlessly with native friends and when out and about in the streets, gradually smoothing out the rough spots by the process of making lots of mistakes and benefitting from immediate and spontaneous native-speaker corrections. I've tried to think analytically about the areas of proficiency that have decayed the most rapidly. Far and away, where I now fall short the worst is in using the right tones. I just get them wrong in conversation. This obscures what I'm trying to say and requires that I repeat and sometimes rephrase. I often must "finger-write" the character on the palm of my hand. Instead of being fluent, I am butchering the language. I still tend to surprise Mandarin-speaking Chinese Americans by using colloquial Chinese pretty well. They can tell that I have not just learned in a classroom or from a textbook. But the tones are decaying faster than the rest of the package. If I quiz myself about what tones are involved in such and such a word or phrase, then listen to a native speaker on YouTube or some such saying the same passage, it is obvious that my tones are frequently off, significantly off. When learning Chinese, starting about 2006 in Beijing, I made the tones an integral part of any acquired new word. I didn't know the word until I also knew its tones. I realized early on that the tone wasn't just something that could be "tacked-on" later. I didn't make the mistake of thinking I would learn to read and write the words now and go back later and master their tones. So, it surprises me somewhat now to see that the tones are vanishing so fast. Perhaps part of the reason is that I have always had a pretty good ear. I could appreciate how the tones and the phrasing of native speech should sound. I did lots of child-like imitation of the native speakers in my life. Shameless and unquestioning "monkey-see-monkey-do." And I was surrounded by Chinese 24/7, avoiding most contact with English-speaking foreigners. I am posting this personal observation just to report the phenomenon, not trying to draw any deep linguistic conclusions. Was simply reflecting and thinking about it this morning. I wonder if this is the way in which Chinese language proficiency usually dies. Anyone else had experience in that area? What is the first thing to go when you stop playing a musical instrument after years of piano or violin lessons?
    14 points
  3. I've been waiting for the past two years to go and see a Broadway performance in Shanghai after seeing Matilda but COVID has rendered that impossible. I decided to try out a Chinese production of Tennessee William's "A Streetcar Named Desire" at 上海话剧艺术中心 yesterday. First of all, the whole production was amazing. The performances for Stanley and Blanche were something else entirely and I've already purchased tickets to the Chinese production of Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman." On the language side of things, though, I was stoked to walk out of the theater having understood nearly all of the performance! There were roughly three moments where I really just didn't understand a few sentences, one of which was a joke that got quite the laugh. Beyond that, though, it was all smooth sailing, even picking up on some new puns added during the translation to Chinese. I'm not sure when I crossed the line to being able to understand Chinese at this level (native speed, good enunciation, lots of colloquialisms, no subtitles/live, non-ideal listening environment with distracting secondary noises) but I'm elated that I have. This was a good boost as I've spent nearly all of my reading time this summer reading books in English despite originally having a goal of adding a lot of advanced vocabulary. Additionally, this was also a moment where I realized this is another way I can study the language in a rewarding way. I'll be purchasing the translation of "Death of a Salesman" to study the language in advance. Aiming for as close to 100% comprehension as I can get. I'll look for some quality Chinese dramas if the experiment with "Death of a Salesman" goes well. Are there any listening comprehension milestones that other's have passed? Did it just kind of sneak up on you or could you see yourself getting closer and closer to it?
    14 points
  4. I hired a calligrapher and created an animated Anki flashcard deck for learning cursive Chinese. It's available for purchase here. Like my HSK 3.0 vocabulary deck (which financed this project), I will be donating 30% of all proceeds to UNICEF.
    12 points
  5. Fairly early on, I stopped using firm goals such as Pass HSK 3 or learn 2000 words as my targets. I felt like they were too rigid, and although good as signposts, didn't really correlate that strongly to actual progression. Instead I started to use experiences, such as "being able to use chinese to order a coffee at coffee shop" , "first time able to only use Chinese with a language partner' or "first time giving presentation at work in mandarin" etc etc. In terms of how I study now, I've been at a fairly high level for a while now, having been working in a Chinese language office for last 2 years in Mandarin (having studied for 8). I can speak with confidence on all general topics, and so now to progress I just zone in on more detailed areas. For example last year I have been watching and learning in depth about the "Romance of the Three Kingdoms" and all the vocab for that. How does it feel to be at a functional level? Honestly it feels great. It's the most amazing rock of mental health and satisfaction in life. To me (who only studied as a secondary thing, never my actual major) it is a shining becon of inner- happiness that noone can ever take away from me. Furthermore I have the most amazing interactions with people. The warmth and love I get and give to Chinese people here in the UK when I chat with them in their mother tongue is so rewarding. Like, if i start speaking Mandarin, you instantly see peoples barriers go down. Its genuinely the best thing Ive ever done with my life.
    12 points
  6. I'm currently back in Texas because of the travel restrictions surrounding this Covid mess. Friends sometimes ask why in the world I ever liked living in a place such as Kunming. Lately, by means of reply, I've given several of them links to these picture stories about Tanhua Temple 昙花寺, one of my favorite easy places. It's a bit clumsy to reach by public transportation, no bus goes right to the door,. So I usually ride my bike. Only 15 or 20 minutes from my Kunming apartment. This quiet place hasn't made it onto the "tourist circuit," and I don't even find it mentioned in most English-language guidebooks. Admission is cheap. It's never crowded. When I started digging around in the forum archives for links to my write-ups of this peaceful place, I discovered I had posted about it three times, roughly a year apart. Not surprising, since I love to go there. Thought I would share these illustrated articles with you today, realizing that quite a few of today's members are new. Hope you enjoy a short look. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55348-a-minor-kunming-park-昙花寺公园/ -- Nov, 2017 https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57023-burning-some-incense-烧佛香/?tab=comments#comment-442020 -- Aug, 2018 https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59293-a-walk-in-the-park/ -- Nov, 2019
    12 points
  7. This weekend, for the first time since I started learning Chinese 2.5 years ago, I felt that reading Chinese is actually fun 😃 Today alone, I have read ~12000 characters covering about 45 TCB HSK 4 lessons. This may sound trivial to you guys, but it is the most I have ever read in a "day" (without any form of exhaustion). According to CTA the texts were at a 97.5% comprehension level. It took me about 4 hours (with some interruptions (emails, playing chess online, etc)). Somehow, this weekend something "clicked" and I somehow recognised characters much better than before. I believe a very important aspect of it is study intensity. I know many people believe in the "don't break the chain" philosophy and small steps will add up. However, for me, whenever I did some really intensive studying (>30 hours per week), I made the most progress. I have always struggled with character recognition and I never tried to learn them separately (Heisig, Tuttle). As you know, I love TCB, but one of its downsides is that "even" the "HSK 1" lessons cover around ~1400 unique characters (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/50831-the-chairmans-bao/?do=findComment&comment=478385). This can be quite much and I have voiced my frustration over characters before (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/13726-i-hate-hanzi/?do=findComment&comment=471032). Currently I am at TCB HSK4, which cumulatively has more than 3000 unique characters in the lessons I have read so far. Because of the intensive studying this week, I re-encountered lots of characters several times and therefore I managed to recognise characters much better. I wondered before, if learning vocabulary gets easier, once you are able to recognise 3000 or so characters (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59489-learning-vocabulary-after-knowing-3000-4000-characters/). I believe it does. For instance, I was able to identify each of the following individual characters and their meaning: 吸收 阳光 发电. From that I was able to work the meaning of the phrase even though I did not previously "know" that 吸收 together means "to absorb" and 发电 means "to generate energy". So, from the above my starting speed is around 50-60 words/min, which is pretty lame, but to me it really felt like I was flying over the words 😊
    11 points
  8. Hi! I just want to share with you guys a list I'm using for my personal study. I downloaded subtitles from 61 dramas available on Netflix that seemed watchable (I omitted those in the horror, crime and fantasy genres) and used SegmentAnt + AntConc to find the most common words across different dramas. In this document you'll find all words that appear in at least 6 different dramas. That is, those that appear in at least 10% of the dramas in my database. Here's how I'm using this to study: -I deleted all of my existing Pleco's flashcards, including the default HSK cards -I then imported this list to Pleco as flashcards -While I'm watching a show, I follow along the script in Pleco document reader. You can download the subtitles as text using LLN or GlotDojo and then save as TXT so you can open them in Pleco reader. -When I stumble upon a word that is on my list, it will show a dotted square around the "add card" button. This way I know I've found a word I want to learn. -I write down the word, by hand, in my vocabulary notebook. -I then add the word to LLN's word list so I can later download Anki flashcards. -After watching, I review the words in my Notebook. -Later that day or the same day, I review the Anki flashcards. Note: Some of the words in this list are not in Pleco's free dictionaries. If Pleco does not find a word in a dictionary, it will obviously not be identified as a word in your flashcard database when you use Pleco reader. So the more dictionaries you have, the better this works. Another note: The list is ordered by Contextual Diversity, not by Frequency. Here you can find a scientific paper that will explain why Contextual Diversity is a better predictor than Frequency of whether a native speaker knows a word or not: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16984300/ I'm actually creating my own Spanish course for complete beginners, and the word list I'm using is also based on Contextual Diversity across different Spanish language TV shows. You can find the course I'm creating on my YouTube channel, Spanish Input. Chinese Netflix 10 percent words.ods
    11 points
  9. I've hit a new milestone in my reading! My study habit entails learning all of the words in a book on a chapter-by-chapter basis, and reading the chapters as I go. When I started with my first book (The Witches, by Roald Dahl), I was doing about one chapter per week. Now I'm on my fifth book (The Giver, by Lois Lowry) and for the first time since I started at the beginning of the year, I was able to cover two chapters in a single day! This is SO exciting for me. Slowly but surely, the frequency of unknown vocab is shrinking...I am definitely looking forward to the day when I am able to just lose myself in books. Eventually the day will come when a day's vocabulary quota (30 words) will cover five or six chapters...and this week's milestone was a huge step in that direction. What milestones have y'all reached (or are looking forward to)?
    10 points
  10. I have been following the goals for 2021 thread with fascination, though I didn’t get to the band wagon properly then. This time no-one seems to have set up a thread for goals for 2022 yet so here goes. My overall goal for 2021 was to begin reading books and begin to have meaningful conversations with my tutors all in Chinese. I largely attained those goals, but this time I wanted to make more detailed plans for 2022 so I can properly reflect on them later. Also, my goals are basically about keeping doing what has worked for me so far, though I want to make a little bit better commitment to writing in the future. I have planned different allotment of daily study time for each of the four activities (reading, listening, speaking, and writing) with their respective expected results. 1. Reading The goal for 2022 is to read 60 minutes a day, finish the first five books of the Wheel of Time and reach the average reading speed of 190cpm. This is basically what I've been doing over the last two months so this shouldn't be a problem. 2. Listening Listening is the easiest of all the goals for me to attain. I'm planning on keeping listening to my recordings of my chats with tutors and anything else I find interesting while commuting and taking walks for at least 60 minutes a day. I'm not sure about what kinds of results I should expect in a year. Also, my listening comprehension is already quite good, but I still can't fully understand random videos or podcasts. The main problem being the vocabulary, not parsing what I hear. So, I'll consider this a success if a year from now I can follow and enjoy an audiobook on a familiar topic, that I haven’t read or listened before. 3. Speaking Living outside of China, this is currently the most difficult one for me to get in larger quantities. I'll continue taking on average about 4 free chat sessions with iTalki tutors each week. I think four hours a week is a good compromise where I can afford them and I can also see real improvement over time. Each session will give me on average about 25 minutes of talking time and it also provides about the same amount of active listening practice. They are also the perfect opportunity for me to activate the passive vocabulary I accumulate from the input activities. I can now have these sessions completely in Chinese (a year ago I was struggling to switch over to Chinese from talking 80% in English myself) but I'm still at a loss of words with unfamiliar topics and I’m bad at explaining around the words I don't know, so I often must look up words or ask how to say an English word in Chinese. I expect to be able to reduce thinking time while speaking and to stop using English altogether. Also, I expect to see further improvement in my pronunciation. I'm fortunate to have two tutors who are quite strict at correcting pronunciation, and they tell me I've improved a lot over the last year, though it is difficult for me to notice myself. 4. Writing When I say "writing" I specifically mean "write with a pen by hand on paper". I found a good way to practice this by repurposing the vocabulary in context anki deck by Mandarin Blueprint to the purpose. The one I'm currently using has about 7000 sentences, 5000 most common words, and 1600 most common characters, ordered so that the cards gradually introduce new characters and words in context while repeating the old ones over and over. The original purpose is to cloze out a word in a sentence and then see if you know it or not, but since each card has audio, I tweaked it so that anki reads the sentence for me and I write it on paper only looking at the text if I run into a character I don’t know how to write. I'm not very strict about grading the cards since there is a lot of repetition in them even if I only always clicked "Good" on each card". I had good success with this type of practice earlier this year, but I got busy and stopped doing it. Now I'm going to commit to doing this for 20 minutes every day and I expect a year from now to be able to write about 5000 most common words and 1600 most frequent characters from memory. Having a passable handwriting wouldn't be bad either, so on the side I'll continue to practice with the handwriting practice sheets by 大块头. I also chat often with a few Chinese people on WeChat, but I'm often lazy and write to them in English. I've noticed that if I do that, they'll usually type me back in English, even though they know that I can understand anything they text to me in Chinese. So, I have also made a resolution to type everything to them in Chinese from now on. That should give me a hefty amount of additional Typing time, but I'm not going to plan for it. I’m going to try to estimate and keep a record of. Altogether these activities should give me about 1025 hours of Chinese study time over 2022 of which about 36% (365 hours) should be reading, 44% (452 hours) listening, 8% (87 hours) speaking and 12% (122 hours) writing). That is 80% input activities and 20% output activities. The writing section is the only new routine I need to establish, though I tried it for about a month already this year, and the listening part is the easiest to go over quota. It is all something I've done already and, while I don't mind any extra, I’m still going to make my best to hit each sub quota to keep the four skills in a balance. What are everyone else’s goals for 2022? 🙂
    10 points
  11. Hi All, Today I decided to start a personal website so that I could document some of the tips and tricks I have picked up over the past few years learning Chinese. I thought I would also share them here in case they are useful to anyone. Here is the first one: The Unexpected Skill You Need to Learn Chinese Over the course of my six years of Chinese studies, there is one skill that has most contributed to: (1) speeding up my overall language development, (2) making study more enjoyable, and (3) improving my real-world Chinese abilities. That skill is handling ambiguity. What do I mean by this? Let me try to explain with a story. When I first started learning Chinese, I would learn in a controlled environment familiar to many language learners—where I could force 100% comprehension of the material. For example, while reading a dialogue, I would stop reading to look up any word I didn’t know. While listening to a podcast, I would rewind it and re-listen to any section I hadn’t understood, until I could completely comprehend it. I made it a habit to understand everything, and, as a perfectionist, this seemed intuitively like the best way to study. Eventually though, these methods led to serious issues with my real-world comprehension. For example, when I tried to listen to HSK dialogues roughly at my level, my brain would “lock up” whenever I encountered an unknown word, and I would just focus intensely on that word and miss any content that came after. In a twenty-word dialogue, this could cause my comprehension to drop to < 50%, when it could have been as high as 95% had I just skipped over the word. This made it nearly impossible for me to understand Chinese in the real world. Ultimately, I convinced myself that I did not need to understand every word of the content to catch the basic meaning, and that I needed to actively ignore what I couldn’t immediately understand to focus on what I could. Specifically, I was able to train my way past this problem by (1) reading extensively without looking up unknown words, (2) listening extensively without rewinding; just focusing on what I could understand. These methods taught me to quickly infer meaning where I could, and skip over content where I couldn’t. As a result, I was suddenly able to make more sense of communications I couldn’t completely understand (most of them, as a learner), which is an invaluable skill when using Chinese in the real world. I recommend you try it out! Note: If you have any tips of your own, please add them below. Also, if you have any feedback, I would love to hear it, either here or directly on the post. My goal with this is to help create a smoother path for new learners, so they don't repeat the same mistakes I made in the past. Here is the link to the website, in case anyone is curious. I hope to post weekly (or so) articles from here on out. https://www.selfstudymandarin.com Thanks!
    10 points
  12. Update: I took a 2 months break from Chinese, but now I finally finished all HSK 3 lessons (approx. 1500). It is by far the biggest section of TCB. I had completed about 25% of them already in 2020. The audio per lesson is about 2 min, so there are ~3000 minutes (50 hours) of listening. Here the statistics (known word count relative to HSK 2.0 (2010-2021)): Words: Total 261.963 Known 179.557 Percent Known 68,54% Unknown 82.406 Percent Unknown 31,46% Unique 10.712 Known 2.468 Percent Known 23,04% Unknown 8.244 Percent Unknown 76,96% Characters: Unique 2.785 Here the statistics for all lessons HSK 1-3 all combined: Total words 382.650 Unique words 11.759 Unique characters 2.930 I noticed I am picking up more when I watch Chinese TV dramas and even though I only read about 30-40% of the texts of the lessons, my reading speed and character recognition also improved significantly. OK, let's tackle HSK 4 lessons
    10 points
  13. Just to give an update: still stuck in my apartment (6 weeks+ now I think? Losing track of time...). The good news is that the food situation is better, getting food is no longer difficult. Buying random stuff (100%+ markup of course) is relatively easy with group-buys, but getting specific stuff you actually want is still hard. Mentally the whole situation is really taking a toll on me (and everyone...), it just feels so freaking hopeless. 6 weeks in and my xiaoqu is still seeing cases everyday. How many and and why we dont know, because our juweihui sucks and dont tell us anything. Have some friends that got allowed to occasionally leave their compound due to no cases the last month that suddenly got 2 new cases yesterday and are now locked again. It really feels like the 0 case goal is impossible. At this point seeing Beijing getting more cases actually makes me happy, I'm already way past caring about other people. Let the guys up there that are deciding these policies suffer as well, lock down all those guys that think this is a "Shanghai is shitty"-problem only. I know this aint a very nice or healthy attitude, but am in a revolutionary mood lately. Exhausted
    9 points
  14. That is so interesting, I've never imagined learning the language(or any language) but not living/having lived in the country it's spoken. I will say one advantage of that must be a lot less pressure. Also, when you do finally make a trip over, I pretty much guarantee it will not be quite what you imagine! There will be many pleasant surprises and disappointments. It will be an amazing trip though, seeing and hearing the language all around you! For me, it's the small wins that keep me going. For example: The sauna in the gym I go to had been broken for 3 weeks leading up to cny. I was walking in the other day, stepping into the elevator when I saw a guy who appeared to be the manager. I quickly stepped back out of the elevator and asked if he indeed was the manager and he replied that he was. With no preparation I told him the situation and added that myself and 5 friends(exaggeration) are not happy about the sauna not working and one of them is not going to renew and asked when it would likely be fixed. He said he had no idea(exaggeration) that it was broken and promised he'd get right on it. The woman at the front desk jumped in saying they couldn't get a repairman before cny etc. Anyway, I was able to do this all in Chinese, nothing needed to be repeated, nothing mis-understood and all with a friendly tone and demeanor. The very next evening, I went back to the gym. The sauna was working and the light had been replaced in the steam room! I'm sure for many on here, a conversation like this is a very ordinary. But for me it represents a small win, I had the vocab, the grammar and no need to prepare in advance. Every time those small wins happen, I feel like it's worth it to keep putting in the effort. The small defeats also keep me going. I try to say something and am at a loss on how to express it, or the listener didn't really get it. That situation motivates me to put in the effort so that next time it's easier.
    9 points
  15. @Miko869-- I respect your opinion but have had a different reaction to recent events. ------------------------------------- The main appeal of China for me was in living there, getting to know the people, going to interesting places, doing interesting activities, learning about the food and the tea in a hands-on, participatory manner. So a closed China, one that necessitated my hasty retreat to the US was not at all welcome. And the prolonged border closure which followed was equally disappointing. My "China Life" crumbled. I now have much less incentive to learn the language. I studied Chinese history and culture as a way to better understand the land and its peoples. It also gave me some common ground when making friends. It wasn't something abstract. I had a very dear girfriend for 5 or 6 years. She couldn't leave the country with me. I miss her terribly and we have by now drifted apart. I've had to release her and urge her to go on with her life, since it's doubtful I will ever be able to return. It would be unfair to ask her to wait for me. All of which underscores the well-known fact that all of us are different. I wish you the best in your language and culture pursuits. I have been in mourning, and am just barely becoming optimistic about life again, as China fades into the rear view mirror.
    8 points
  16. Please note that I am keeping an eye on this thread and if it veers any closer to name-calling or useless bickering, I will close it.
    8 points
  17. This is my opinion about the books I've read so far, in the order I've read them. The funny thing is that I know some people are bound to disagree. Sometimes I purchase a book because somebody said that it was easy, and then I find that it isn't really so easy! I think my bad experiences peaked at around my 6th/7th book (when my reading comprehension got so bad that I couldn't even be sure I was understanding the story correctly). Since then, I've found some books to be harder than others, but I've been able to understand them. 活着 by 余华 - Very easy. 我们仨 by 杨蒋 - Very difficult (at least at the time--I'm not sure what it would feel like to read it today). 三体 by 刘慈欣 - Easy to follow, but a ton of vocabulary to look up. 人生 by 路遥 - Very easy. 解忧杂货店 by 东野圭吾 - Easy. 解密 by 麦家 - Very difficult. 金黄时代 by 王小波 - Very difficult--not just in vocabulary, but sentence structure and style. 黑暗森林 by 刘慈欣 - After reading the first Liu Cixin book, easy. 死神永生 by 刘慈欣 - After reading the second book in the series, very easy. 猫城记 and 小破的生日 by 老舍 - Very easy vocabulary, but has a style that's sometimes hard to follow. 美国历史很有趣 by 袁飞腾 - Easy, but has an elevated level of new vocabulary. 撒哈拉的故事 by 三毛 - Very easy vocabulary, but a little hard to follow her style sometimes. 从你的全世界路过 by 张嘉佳 - Easy vocabulary, confusing style (same as above). 草原动物园 by 马伯庸 - Easy and fun read, but slightly elevated vocabulary. 皮囊 by 蔡崇达 - Easy. 人间值得 by 中村恒子 - Extremely easy in every way (it's a translation from a Japanese author) 人生海海 by 麦家 - Not hard for me at this point, but it's at a somewhat advanced level. 我没有自己的名字 by 余华 - Extremely easy, with one confusing story in it (it's a collection of short stories) 穆斯林的葬礼 by 霍达 - I enjoyed this book, but it's rather advanced. 生死疲劳 by 莫言 - Also a bit advanced. I also read the Bible in Chinese, which was really easy for me, but maybe only because I'm acquainted with it already in English/Greek/Hebrew. So just for fun, I can imagine the order I should have read these books: 人间值得 by 中村恒子 活着 by 余华 我没有自己的名字 by 余华 人生 by 路遥 解忧杂货店 by 东野圭吾 皮囊 by 蔡崇达 撒哈拉的故事 by 三毛 从你的全世界路过 by 张嘉佳 美国历史很有趣 by 袁飞腾 猫城记 and 小破的生日 by 老舍 草原动物园 by 马伯庸 三体 by 刘慈欣 黑暗森林 by 刘慈欣 死神永生 by 刘慈欣 金黄时代 by 王小波 解密 by 麦家 人生海海 by 麦家 我们仨 by 杨蒋 穆斯林的葬礼 by 霍达 生死疲劳 by 莫言
    8 points
  18. There are a lot of different topics that kind of circle around this (i.e., "Why Chinese", "Chinese as a Hobby"), but none of the threads I saw are asking the specific question I want to ask, which is what motivates you personally to keep studying? Is it getting in touch with family tradition and culture as a heritage learner? Is it being able to talk to a spouse or their relatives? Is it something like the HSK test, being able to measure your own mastery in quantifiable terms and see the results? Something else? My motivation has changed a lot over the years, and these days, I can't really say that I feel motivation to keep going. That's why I'm making this thread, so see what inspires others to press forward.
    8 points
  19. @Yadang You should read OneEye's Hacking Chinese post first. To my knowledge, chengyu is the bugbear of many Chinese learners. Guess where they come from? Classical Chinese of course. See, a reason why even a smatter of rudimentary knowledge of the classical syntax can help you decipher a modern text. OneEye's favorite is 非请勿入. Mine is 非诚勿扰, a match-making game show, whose name clearly is derived from Confucius' 非礼勿视 precept. The thing is, a modern writer, unless he's writing a graded reader, does not assiduously differentiate between classical Chinese and modern Chinese. It's all Chinese. An educated Chinese person should have no problem understanding it. It's that simple. Moreover, they often employ Classical Chinese in their writings, either as a narrative device, or to achieve some desired effect, or simply to reflect the reality of a certain period. There's no escaping it even if your interest is solely in contemporary literature. Take the latest Book of the Month 《异兽志》 for example. It's a series of horror mysteries. The clue is revealed at the end of each chapter, in increasingly difficult semi-classical language. Like this: Professional translators as they are, Lu and Roddy had trouble following the plot as the story progressed. Another example is 《人面桃花》, first volume of the 2015 Mao Dun Literature Prize-winning trilogy by 格非. Since it covers the late Qing to early Republican period, it's only natural to see classical language in letters, diaries, grave inscriptions, or even drinking games. Even if you're not the literary type, netizens, journalists and shipowners alike just love to make pun of idioms, proverbs and old sayings, which have a 2500:100 chance of being from the classical era. Sooner or later you'll hit the wall that is Classical Chinese. Better be prepared. At least know what it is that you're struggling against. Hey, even Party slogans can't live without classical wisdom. 以知道八荣八耻为荣,以不知道八荣八耻为耻. Do you know 以…为… is a venerable classical construction?
    8 points
  20. I'm fond of telling stories, so here goes... My background was originally in ancient languages. I studied Latin in High School, and in my adult life since then (I'm 34 now), I've reviewed my Latin and picked up Ancient Greek and Ancient Hebrew. At a certain point, I was really itching for the fresh feeling of a "living" language that people still use today. I tried a few European languages (Russian, Spanish, German), and I just lacked the perseverance for it, for various reasons. Being an ancient/literary language learner, I had a particular distaste for all the cutesy, touristy learning materials: "Excuse me, where is the bathroom? When is the next train? Let's count to ten!"). I remember Russian being particularly fun, but the teacher abruptly left and went back to Russia before I got very far, and I never picked it back up. I tried a little Arabic, but was discouraged when I found out that most of its speakers don't use Modern Standard Arabic, but one of many subdialects. My wife speaks German fluently, so this year I've returned to it and have been slowly chipping away at it. There's no way on earth she'll ever finish studying Chinese (she began with me, but didn't continue), so German can be our one shared foreign language. The Duolingo course, while certainly not perfect, does the job well, and it's been a million times easier than Chinese. Back around 2012, I went to a local Chinese school and tried taking lessons there. My old high school friend studied Chinese, and I thought he was the coolest person ever. Chinese felt so exotic, fun, and challenging to me. As an American who grew up with tons and tons of Chinese-manufactured goods, I would see a lot of multi-lingual instruction manuals with those cool-looking Chinese characters in them. Those characters seemed to be saying, "You'll never be able to read us!" It's just a wall of impenetrable mystery, and learning to "crack the code" was almost a form of exploration. The language has so many speakers, and there are so many of them in my own country. So I thought, "Why not Chinese?" The Chinese school gave me a very warm reception and paired me up with a foreign exchange student from China (Inner Mongolia). For whatever reason, we didn't hit it off well. She said, "Why do you want to learn Chinese?" When I didn't give an answer that satisfied her, she gave me an intense, skeptical glare and heaved a deep sigh. That set the tone for the 2-4 brief weeks I spent with her. Her feedback was often quite blunt and visibly annoyed. During that period of my life, I had busied myself past the breaking point, and I got overwhelmed. Chinese study was the first thing to go. I wrote a brief email to the school that said I was quitting, and, per the agreement, they could keep all my tuition money. I imagined them on the receiving end of my email, thinking, "Oh, yes....yet another quitter! Same old story." At the time, I thought my failure was due to my overly busy schedule and my lack of motivation to continue in Chinese. But in retrospect, I think it's also because I wasn't compatible with my teacher, at all. A few years later (around 2016), I met and married my wife, and we taught English as a Second Language to visiting Chinese scholars. It was just an awesome experience, and even though I don't do it anymore, I still keep in touch with a good Chinese friend I met during that time. Of course, these scholars were all extremely intelligent, interesting people. I loved hearing all the Mandarin background chatter as they spoke among themselves. I got an invitation to my first hot pot gathering, which was a communal eating experience that far surpassed anything I had known from my upbringing in American culture. My appetite for learning Chinese was awakened once again. I thought, "I always wanted to learn Chinese, didn't I? Well, why don't I just do it?" In Fall 2016, my wife and I audited a university course, taught by mutual friend who emigrated to the US from China around 15 years ago. She was the most extroverted person I had ever known--really encouraging, and filled with infinite energy. On maybe our second class, she gave us a sheet of paper with some stock Chinese phrases and took us to the local Chinese grocery store to try using those phrases with strangers. I was completely mortified, but I guess it's an experience I'll never forget. Unfortunately, the class still had its own downsides. It only moved at the pace of the slowest student (who wasn't studying or doing his homework). I was introduced to the basics, like stroke order, tones, the first 200 or so words, etc. But not a whole lot of content. I didn't apply myself too diligently, and I continued to focus my attention on Latin and other ancient languages outside of class time. My wife and I sailed through two semesters and then stopped the following summer. That summer, I was beginning to realize that my latest effort was failing again. Did I really want to learn Chinese, or did I just think I wanted to? How many languages am I going to start and then not finish? What do I want to do with my life, anyway? At any rate, yes, I DO want to learn Chinese. So I need to make it happen. I took the old class textbook, made flashcards for 300-500 words, and started cramming through them. Then I discovered Mandarin Companion graded readers and got hooked on them. Then I bought a ton of other graded readers. Then I turned to native content. Since then, I haven't turned back!
    8 points
  21. I’ve collaborated with a few other fellow Chinese language learners to put together a document focusing on reading Chinese fiction, especially webnovels. Webnovels are extremely popular in China (many are adapted into anime, manga, audiobook/drama and TV shows), and are easily accessible digitally online (both for free and paid). We have divided the document into levels by character count and HSK level. We did our best to fill each section with useful resources and tips to help guide you on your Chinese reading journey. The resources in each level are ones we've personally used and found useful. We are aware that the levels may not be perfect, and using character count may not work for everyone, however it's one way that most people will be able to relate to. You can find the resource here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/e/2PACX-1vSjVsapt4NOZx0KuDwgBUfQggTyT15hdgUjHHdqZRnV8LTnzQ5lY-fKjJhV0cb7I06q3x_syq1DyE4H/pub Hope you find it useful!
    8 points
  22. Followed some of the journeys of folk on here and it's definitely influenced my plans for 2022. 1) Loved Jan's posts about listening to ECB extensively., so I'm going to unapologetically copy and have this as my number one priority. Listening, a real weakness of mine. 2)Not as much emphasis on learning characters. Again, based on some of the wisdom on here. I think I have a decent grasp on the rules etc and can pick this up again later. 3) Travel to China? Very probably wont happen, I'm guessing. Who knows what the future holds, but 2022 looks very unlikely. Really want to spend some time around the Kunming area and immerse myself in the language now I'm likely to have more free time but might have to wait. 5) Still got my eye on a Chinese Diaspora course at Massey University. Might give thsi a go in Semester 2 in June if I have the time. 6)....keep logging on to this site. 7) Learn how to count as I missed out number 4). OK, not funny. Oh, and Happy New Year everyone!
    8 points
  23. To be honest, it isn’t really sustainable for me to continue this way forever! I get up at about 6 AM, before my kids wake up, and I spend 60-90 minutes reading and/or watching a Chinese YouTube video. Then I go to work around 8:30 (I work partly from home, so sometimes there’s no commute). Combining my lunch and break times together, I can get around 45-60 minutes of additional study in. I like to go through my SRS cards while walking—it’s a great routine! Then in the evening, I eat dinner, do a few basic things, play with my kids, etc. Then I have 7:30 to 10:30 basically free, and I spend up to 30-60 minutes wrapping up my Chinese practice and the remaining time studying part-time (one course at a time) as a graduate student. If there are other big tasks that require my sustained attention, I do them on the weekend. In other words, I’m shaving years off my life expectancy! I don’t know how it is that I haven’t already lost my mind.
    8 points
  24. Finished Yu Hua's short story collection, in record time! It was just a very readable page-turner. In the 327 pages I read, I only had to look up 57 words in the dictionary. His writing is so clear and smooth that my reading speed effectively doubled, and I could just immerse myself in the stories. I think this is really the first "natural" reading experience I've ever had in Chinese. I didn't have to interrupt myself every 30 seconds to look up the meaning of something or try to puzzle my way through a confusing phrase. I'm not congratulating myself too much, though, because it is Yu Hua, and he's known for being a straightforward author. More important is the actual content of the book itself. It's one of the wildest literary rides I've been on. As I read through the 21 different stories, I never knew what to expect. Will the next story be a really normal, mundane one? Or will it suddenly go off the rails and became a total fever dream? Yu is really good at subverting the expectation of the reader. Even the titles of the stories seem to be part of that subversion. They'll tempt you to guess what the story is about, and then you discover that the story isn't about that at all. Some of the most impactful stories, I thought, were 爱情故事 (it evokes a powerful mood of despair), 祖先 (it has the biggest "fever dream" quality--it's totally wild and random),and the titular story, 我没有自己的名字, which is quite unexpectedly shocking in its cruelty. As most people can already imagine, Yu is known for his relentless gloom and pessimism, and happy endings are often the exception. He's turned it into an art form, I guess! As a "postmodern" author, it's interesting to see him find out what the rules of story writing are, and then do his best to break them. For instance, in conventional storytelling, you can't narrate your own death, because you're dead. But Yu uses the phrase, "And then I died." As with a lot of what Yu writes, it's equally disturbing and amusing. I've thought about what my next book will be, and I've ultimately settled on Huo Da's 穆斯林的葬礼. It's a very large, 600-page book, and will be the longest one I've ever read in Chinese. It enjoys some prestige, and it is the winner of the Mao Dun literature prize. One thing struck me as I read through the reviews: A Chinese reader using the phrase, "Every time I read this book..." and an English reader (reading the English translation, titled "The Jade King") saying, "This book is so good that I had to read it twice." Wow! I guess it's worth a look, then. I can tell it's harder to read than Yu Hua, but it's still on the easy side and doesn't try to be too fancy in its vocabulary and syntax. At this stage, I like that.
    8 points
  25. So, here is my reality check after 12 months: As some of you know, I have changed my goals to that of listening to all TCB lessons. I did this very intensively for about 3-4 months and completed HSK 1-3 on TCB and I am half-way through with HSK4 (https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/50831-the-chairmans-bao/?do=findComment&comment=482025). Somewhere in summer 2021 I lost my Chinese focus due to relationship problems and I became massively interested in taking my English to the next level after reading Christopher Hitchens and feeling humiliated as to how many English words I (still) did not know. So, I have been inhaling several English books from authors such as Bertrand Russell, Theodore Dalrymple, Josef Conrad, etc and collected tons of new words and interesting expressions. I also started to read more books on psychology and philosophy (Rollo May, Nietzsche, Jung, etc). To my surprise, I found them quite accessible and it made me wonder if studying Chinese has made me smarter (?) Maybe, compared to Chinese, everything else becomes pretty trivial and a low-effort exercise (!?) So, since summer, Chinese has been on the back burner. I still passively listen to the old TCB audios for 0.5-1 hour per day, but I am currently at a crawling pace in my "TCB marathon". Nevertheless, it was a sucessful year: I am writing this sitting jet-laged and sleepless in a hotel bed at 4 a.m. Just 30 minutes ago I switched on the TV and to my surprise I understood remarkably much from the CCTV channel 4 news. I could pretty much always tell what they were talking about and very many expressions were familiar from TCB. I am far from understanding everything, but complete unterstanding no longer seems out of reach [this is after studying Chinese for ~2.5 years]. As for 2022: I will continue my TCB audio marathon and I will try to read more. My reading skills are lagging behind my listening. Reading still feels like a chore. Of course, I know what I would have to do: read and re-read easier material, such as TCB HSK 3 articles. I hope I will eventually cross the skill threshold where reading finally becomes fun and I can pick up new expressions on the fly as I do with English books.
    8 points
  26. He likes you. Whether he wants to date you may be another question, though. He may be hesitant to date someone from another culture: will it be difficult to adjust your various expectations, what will his parents think, how will you get along with his family, etc etc. Or he may be hesitant to date someone from another country: will he have to stay in yours, far away from his family and everything he feels at home in, will you move to his, and how would that work... (This is all assuming he is Chinese from China, staying in a different country.) Perhaps ask yourself these questions as well. You don't have to have ready-made answers, but give them some serious consideration. If you decide it's too difficult, just enjoy the little crush for what it is and let it brighten your workday and his. If you decide it's worth trying, perhaps ask him for coffee sometime, something really, really low-key, to build a friendship first. And are you bringing him small gifts and things to eat as well? He will read that as you liking him.
    8 points
  27. I have some advice! After reading your posts in this thread, I think your biggest problem is trying to read/listen/consume material that is too far above your current level. It's fine to do this if you want, but it will slow you down in terms of achieving your goals. I like to think of this phenomenon as the "race to advanced" which is quite common among Chinese learners, and something I suffered from as well at one point in my learning and it held me back until I got over it and started consuming things that I thought were too "easy". You mention wanting to acquire a massive vocabulary before going back to TV, and wanting a large vocabulary to help your reading comprehension, however you also mention that In which case vocabulary is almost certainly not the limiting factor in understanding - whether written material or listening. You could double your vocabulary and maybe all it would do is raise that 98% figure to 99%. That represents such a minute improvement in understanding (99 words out of 100, instead of 98 words out of 100) that it would be a colossal waste of effort to focus on vocabulary, especially when you already admit it comes at the expense of other activities. I suspect however that this 98% figure is not as accurate as you might think, namely because: Which to me indicates you are regularly looking up words to check, and relying on Pleco for pronunciation and meaning of words that you already "know", and that misleads you in to thinking you have such high comprehension. I put "know" in quotes because confidence in knowing a word is just as important as knowing the meaning and the pronunciation (see here for an expansion on this idea), and if you are clicking on a word you don't know it. This gets to what Insectosaurus was talking about with physical books being so useful, and I agree on that. It forces you to confront how well you actually know the words in the text and it can't be masked by popup dictionaries because looking up a word requires more conscious effort. I also agree with Insectosaurus that Pleco is still super useful even with physical books and I use it all the time too (here is my setup if you're interested). Coupled with your decision to drop flashcards, you'll just be exacerbating the problem by using a popover dictionary, because you'll end up not spending time on the words you almost but don't quite know. And you're not spending time on them because there are too many new words and it's mentally draining to review them all. And you have too many new words because the reading material you are choosing is too far above your current level. And that's the root of the problem. You can fix the problem by choosing easier material. If you choose material that doesn't require you to check so much, that in turn will increase your reading speed, which will allow you to get through more material and also consolidate the words and grammar patterns you already know. If you have a month to spend on hard-core study, I'd recommend doing something like what Jan Finster did here. Find a source of easy to understand material and start going through it. It will boost your reading and your listening skills significantly and flow through in to all the other areas you mention you want to improve. You need to consolidate the 12,000 words you already know, not add more to them. Definitely do not do something like this: That will just compound the problem - more new words, making it mentally draining to read and mentally draining to review. In the time it takes to read 1 difficult book, you could probably read 2 or 3 simpler books, and the latter will be vastly more useful for your goals than the former. You mention that But you don't have to give up reading them. You just need to wait a little bit longer until you can read them without it being so mentally taxing. Keep it all simple, and in 10-20 books time, things like 三体3 will be simple too, and you'll be able to read it (and books like it) without it being mentally draining and without it having so many new words and so many complicated sentences. Also do not do this: Review is super important for consolidating everything that you've learned. What I'd suggest instead of ditching flashcards is doing a much better job at curating your flashcards. This includes limiting what you add (you can still look up words, just don't add them to flashcards) and then also nuking your deck when it gets too large (for me, I define "too large" as taking more than 30 mins to review). Choosing easier material also means you don't have so many new words to deal with but still plenty enough to be learning from. Even if you went through HSK level1 material from TCB like Jan did, I guess you'd still find plenty of new words. With your current strategy, I expect you'll still be doing lots of lookups. Yes, you'll be better off than you would be if you'd skipped those words, but not better off than you would be if you'd chosen easier material that didn't require you to lookup or skip so many new words. This is because you aren't training what you want to learn. From what I can tell, you want to to be able to read without external aid, and to do that you need to train reading without external aids. If the content you are reading contains too many words that you are not sure about, and you need the external aid, then you need to drop down a level or two until you find the right balance and then work back up from there. As mentioned above, with a vocab of 12,000 words, vocab is likely no longer your biggest problem. Spending a bit of time focusing on reading speed could really pay off, especially as your reading speed is quite low, meaning it will be easy to get initial gains (see below for ideas on how to boost this). Active listening will always cause a lot of mental fatigue until you have spent enough time training it that your brain is no longer fatigued by it. Improving your vocab will help somewhat, but at 12,000 words, probably not as much as you hope. Once again a better strategy is to choose more suitable material. Definitely read more things like 活着 and less like 死神永生. If you do that, then before too long 死神永生 will be as simple as 活着. Trying to do it the other way around will take longer. The downside is sentence structure and vocabulary that is not found so much in regular Chinese. I like reading translated works, but I'd also recommend native material over translated material for your first dozen or so books. The translated books will still be there waiting once your Chinese level has improved. Some more thoughts based on comments from other posters. In my experience, it is better to spend more time on extensive reading. It'll be faster and more enjoyable, plus you'll be revising and consolidating your existing knowledge while also picking up a manageable amount of new vocabulary and grammer. This means you'll quickly reach the point where things that would have been intensive reading are now extensive reading also. The same will not happen if you put too much focus on intensive reading first. This is poor maths, because it is total characters, not unique characters. Divide by 10 for a rough approximation of unique characters, so it would probably be around 2,000 new characters/month and 60 new characters a day - still far too much in my opinion but nowhere near as crazy as the numbers you mentioned. Yep. I've not heard of Paul Nation before, but based on what you guys have written in this thread I suspect I would agree with a lot of what he says. "Deliberate noticing" is something I do when I come across a word I don't know, or almost know. When I look it up, I always spend time deliberating noticing the word - especially if it's something I almost knew, I'll spend the time time noticing what it was that I didn't know properly so that I will be able to know it properly the next time. I agree with this. The brain will take the shortest easiest path for doing something, and if you're constantly looking up words with a popup dictionary, it will decide it doesn't need to spend the time to learn them properly because you'll just be able to look them up quickly again when you need to. Adding in friction makes the brain put in more effort to remember things. Yes! Me. It works really well. Yes it does transfer - and you should constantly mix it up with new material to validate this. Definitely easy gains you are missing out on.
    8 points
  28. There are people that do it in 4 years. Most people don't though. I just want to prepare your expectations. 4 years to do HSK 6 is quick. Because it's an online forum, theres always going to be a stories of people that do it in a quick time. You will have to be a diligent and consistent student, and put a lot of time into memorising word lists. Additionally this doesn't directly translate to being good at Chinese Language - as due to the speed, a lot of that content probably isn't going to be at a useable level. You will have become good at sitting HSKs. Given you are self studying, i would have the HSK's as a loose goal. Use them to make signpost your progress, but not to wholly guide your language learning process. End of the day, Chinese acquisition is slow. The journey is enjoyable though, no matter what age. Looking back now, I smile to myself at my "targets" when I started. They were all off by a mile.
    8 points
  29. The reading marathon continues, and I just finished 草原动物园. I bought it randomly, without knowing what to expect. It's actually one of my favorite books thus far! It's a pretty interesting (fictional) story of an Anglican missionary from the United States who was sent to Inner Mongolia in the early 1900s, after the Boxer Uprising. He wanted a way to capture people's attention, and contemplated introducing Chinese people to this new invention of "film" by building a movie theater. However, the empress in Beijing passed away, and her personal zoo, filled with sick and starving animals and having fallen into disrepair, was being auctioned off. The missionary decides to adopt some animals for himself (an elephant, two zebras, a lion, a parrot, two baboons, and snake). He then takes an impossible trek to Inner Mongolia to build a zoo. His organization is infuriated, because they wanted him to build a church, not a zoo. The plot is a bit clever and funny in its design. Along the way, he confronts adventure, dangers, eccentric characters, and the religiously pluralistic society of Buddhists, Shamans, and Daoists, some of whom help him along. What was really refreshing is that I could actually understand almost all of this book--the previous two books I read were sometimes really unclear. The only downside is that sometimes, in these sorts of books, a character will see magical/fantastic/mystical things, and it isn't clear whether they're actually seeing them in real life, or if they're dreaming it, or imagining it, etc. Sometimes, an author leaves that intentionally vague, leaving you asking yourself, "Did that really happen, or not?" Well, since Chinese is only my second language, and I'm clumsy with it, those sorts of storytelling conventions can throw me off a bit. Along the way, I learned just under 300 new words. I'm now moving to Book #15: 皮囊 by 蔡崇达. I think it's a non-fictional memoir written by a person who grew up in poverty and has become rich and famous in China. It's a nice change of genre, and it looks like an easy and breezy read.
    8 points
  30. Nah I don't think there's any nefarious plan behind it, I think the primary aim is what they claim it is — reducing the social problems associated with cram culture. Possibly reducing foreign influence in education is seen as a desirable side effect, but I don't think it's the main aim. From that perspective (and despite having previously taught at a for-profit training school myself), I actually think they have the right idea. Kids should be allowed to have a childhood, not forced into the rat race before they can tie their own shoelaces. And kids from poorer backgrounds shouldn't be forced to shoulder additional disadvantages by not having the same access to extracurricular classes as their more privileged peers. Naturally the transition will be a little bumpy and there'll be cases of overreach. The CCP isn't exactly known for using a nutcracker to crack a nut if there's a sledgehammer within arm's reach. But IMO the overall direction is a positive development.
    8 points
  31. I've put the audio for Talks on Chinese Culture 中國文化叢談 on dropbox, you should be able to download it from here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/vv5nn3gen15h57r/TOCC.rar?dl=0 Let me know if it matches the textbook that you have.
    7 points
  32. I have started studying 行书 (and a little 草书) and am going to be dumping pictures of my progress in this thread. I'd love for others to do the same! It's fun to share my progress and really cool to see what other people are doing. Here is a sample of what I've accomplished so far today:
    7 points
  33. Q1 overview: I went strong for the first two months consistently doing more everything than what my targets were, but then Ukraine happened and completely destroyed my ability to concentrate on anything for weeks except watching the Game of Thrones unfold on our backyard. When I got used to that (sort of) the Covid situation went to hell in Shanghai and other places in China, and pretty consistently everyone I care about in China are in the middle of it all, in addition to it (and the Ukraine situation) causing some grief at work. So for the last month or two my Chinese studies went to background and I've pretty much only hung on to my regular chats with tutors three to five hours a week. Looking at the number of hours spent, I reached 90% of my goal for the Q1 pretty much nailing and even surpassing my Listening, Speaking and Handwriting targets and almost finished my target for typing practice which is about seeing characters and typing the pinyin including the tones right based on it. However I only did about half of the reading I intended. It is the weakest routine for me, so it is the first one to go when something happens. Reading Writing Typing Speaking Listening Left Of Total Q1 41 -6 3 -10 -3 25 266 16.4.2022 Reading Writing Typing Speaking Listening Percentage of expected up to now 47 % 104 % 62 % 148 % 92 % Reflecting on my more qualitative goals for the year. One of the main goals I set for my self four months ago was "Talk with tutors without looking up words. Reduce thinking time. Improve pronunciation". I got feedback from a tutor today was that I speak a lot faster than in January and that I don't stop to look for word that much anymore. The latter part I've noticed myself too. So it seems that I'll be able to have pretty good results by the end of the year regarding my conversation skills related goals. My Reading and Writing are taking a hit quickly after not not doing them for a month or so, but I feel they are pretty quick to get back on track once I get my mojo back. I'm going to be able to get pretty long summer holidays this year, so I expect to get a lot of motivation for my Chinese studies then. I also tend to be a bit bipolar with my language studies so I'm not worrying about the slump. I also regard these goals and the data gathering more as an interesting exercise to analyze my own behavior and a way to give myself motivation rather than as any hard quantitative and qualitative targets.
    7 points
  34. I settled on a routine for leveling up my listening. As you may know, I've been focusing on reading the past 6 months, and now I have that mostly under control, I'm focusing on listening. Similar to reading, I think volume is key. My plan is to listen to audiobooks of stuff I read last year. My goal is to do it: 1) at full speed, 2) without pausing, 3) without looking at text, and 4) (stretch) while doing other brainless stuff like chores. So far I've tried it for 2 weeks, about 15 hours, and wanted to track / share my progress. 1. Baseline: Last I worked on my listening, I had focused on watching Chinese dramas. I had watched 3 series (about 40-ish episodes each), so had about 100 hrs of focused listening to native content. However, I was listening with subtitles the whole time, plus pausing a lot, and I ended up training my reading as much as my listening. The net result was my listening ability was still very sporadic. I could understand only short sentences at full speed. I had tried listening to some Upper Intermediate audio on duchinese and I could only understand it if I also read subtitles at the same time. If it wasn't concurrent reading, I needed to get to half speed, sometimes 3/4 speed, with pauses, to understand ~70% of it -- if I listened after I read the text. I got lost easily facing a wall of foreign sounds. Once lost, I wouldn't be able to refind the thread and had to stop. 2. When I started: Because I read all of audiobook content already last year, I had hopes I'd be able to jump right ahead to listening at full speed, without the text. Nope. Got lost again. Also, my stamina was bad, I had to quit after 10 mins or so. And when I restarted, I'd quit and pause often, limiting my sessions to under half hour total. So as a compromise, I kept listening at full speed and not pause, but would keep the text open in another window. Every 15 seconds or so, I'd glance at the text just to keep my "context" fresh. Even when I didn't exactly read when I glanced, it helped to keep myself oriented. 3. Now 15 hours in: My stamina is built up. My sessions have gone from 20 mins to ~1.5 hrs. For the last couple of days, I finally was able to not open up the text in another window, and still keep track of the content. When I get lost, I can rezone back in after 30 seconds or so, and figure out where I am again. I didn't have to stop or pause. My comprehension is still not that great. I'd estimate only 60-70% of the words are understood, but it's enough to get the gist of the story. However, even when I don't exactly understand the words, I understand what the purpose of the unknown words were -- meaning they're describing an object, it's an action scene with A doing stuff to B, someone is waxing eloquently about the human spirit etc. That's often enough to maintain the thread. The best part though is the ability to re-orient myself if I get lost. This doesn't seem to be content specific -- it helps even with new stuff, random audio that I haven't heard before. If I can't figure it out right away, just wait a little bit, and I can slowly re-figure out what's going on. With that, and the increased stamina, I find listening actually takes less energy than reading. Even though my listening is still way behind my reading, I find I can just keep listening to more and more text. It doesn't feel like it's as much "work" as each time I exceeded my reading limits. 4. Listening v. Reading speed: I've gone through at least one complete book in audio. Comparing the time spent listening to that book vs the number of characters in the book, I find the audio goes at 273 cpm. That's still faster than my leveled-up reading speed, which is humbling. On the other hand, it suggests that listening might eventually help me read faster, so I'll have to see if that's true. I'm a big believer in you having to train your brain to process the Chinese words at the proper speed, whether it's for reading, listening or talking. So listening is still helping train me to process Chinese words at higher speed than before (and I can even go 125% or 150% speed later on). ----------- Anyways wanted to see if others have tried similar things or what they thought. Every third day or so, I'm putting in a conventional session of reading so I can maintain it.
    7 points
  35. @dakonglong I'm not sure I have any particular advice for you, but I do have personal experience which migh provide useful perspective to you. At the beginning of last year, I was in a position not dissimilar to the one you find yourself in now -- I had a fairly limited vocabulary (~5000 according to Chinese Text Analyser), and I really wanted to improve my Chinese. Now, you read a few books with a semi-intensive study method, and noted some improvement. And now you are questioning to what extent you want to keep going. Well, I did keep going, so I can give you a preview of what it is like at the other end of that tunnel. I dedicated all of last year to cramming as much Chinese vocabulary as possible. I learned the vast, vast majority of unknown words in each of the books I read, advancing at a pace of 30 words per day, and in this way I covered 7 and a half books over the course of the year, bringing my vocabulary from ~5000 words on January 1, 2021 to ~17,500 words today. So what is the difference? Well, I am significantly closer to being able to read real, adult literature in Chinese with near 100% comprehension, without the aid of a dictionary. To be clear, I cannot do that yet -- but my calculations suggest that I should be able to reach that level within another three years of consistent effort (the same calculations that I ran through suggested I would need a vocabulary of around 50.000 words to be able to read most adult literature with <1 unknown word per page). I think you probably are not aiming for the same level of comprehension of literature as I am, though, based on what you've written in your posts. However, even for conversing with others, I feel like the massive gains in vocabulary I have made have proven immensely useful. Firstly, I feel myself able to converse much more smoothly than I was able to before the start of this project. There are so many things that I did not know the word for before, and now, I do. I can speak precisely without much effort, instead of having to awkwardly talk around holes in my vocabulary, or worse, having to avoid topics entirely due to an inability to properly express myself. Nowadays, if I want to talk about solar energy, I can do that. If I need to mention microchips in daily conversation, I can do that to. If I want to describe a warm, lush, forest, I can do that in vivid terms instead of saying something simplistic like "wet green trees". And other people have mentioned this, but I want to drive it home as well -- you can't necessarily count on other people to use a heavily restricted vocabulary when talking to you, especially if you want them to be themselves when doing so. So learning all of this vocabulary has given me that much more confidence that I won't be left in the dust when someone talks to me, or when I observe conversations between native speakers. This is the long tail of vocabulary. Once you reach this level, there isn't a such thing as a wildly useful word anymore -- not in the same way that words were when you were at a lower level. You're pretty much never again going to find a word and think "wow, my skills were severely impacted by not knowing this specific word!" Vocabulary growth at these levels isn't measured in the single digits at this point -- it is measured in the hundreds or thousands. Hundreds or thousands of words that, on their own, are not going to make much of a difference to your ability to communicate individually. But taken as a whole, they make a huge difference in your skills. And I think, if your goal is to really be able to fully immerse yourself in the language, you'll eventually need that level of competency. Having this dramatically large vocabulary allows you to be eloquent when speaking, not "technically able to get your point across". It allows you to engage in media the same way a native would. You might personally choose not to go down the same path that I have chosen, but make no mistake that the fruits of your labor, if you do, are immense.
    7 points
  36. Hey guys, sorry it’s been so long since I did an update. I graduated successfully with a 92 average, which was number one, but honestly it basically feels meaningless. My final thesis was on the 3 body problem. Doing the final year and a half online was a disaster, and my Chinese went downhill massively - thanks covid. All the student had to speak, which meant we got about 3 minutes per class to actually use Chinese. Time differences also made it challenging. Glad that I graduated of course. I guess the question is, would I recommend this degree to anyone else? Probably not, but it depends on what you want to get out of it. My classmates were all young and were basically there to party and end up with a degree, I was there to learn Chinese. In person was better by far. Also important to recognize it was a Chinese language and literature degree. Classes on Chinese mythology were a waste of time for what I wanted, and my time would have been better used doing self study on stuff I would actually use. I also really struggled with being treated like a child - things like having attendance taken at every lecture. In England you can attend lectures if you want, but exam results are what matter. If you fail then that’s on you, if you can pass without attending class then it’s all good, but that just wasn’t an option for us in China, to the point where you wouldn’t get a visa if you missed a certain amount of classes. I’m glad I did it as I learnt a lot, but if I could go back in time I probably wouldn’t have bothered.
    7 points
  37. It's repeated in many places on the Internet and IMHO it's just not helpful: drilling radicals isn't useful in and of itself. Unless you need to use a paper dictionary as already mentioned. In particular, knowing how to pronounce a radical on its own is of very little use, especially to beginners. I started this way and it made me waste a lot of time when I was trying to get to grips with Hanzi. What you need to do is start to identify common components (which are sometimes, but not always, radicals), and to understand how the meaning components and sound components of common characters are used. (Since at least 80% of characters are picto-phonetic, which include both types of component.) Olle Linge's Hacking Chinese website has loads of good resources relating to this. This is a good starting point: https://www.hackingchinese.com/phonetic-components-part-1-the-key-to-80-of-all-chinese-characters/
    7 points
  38. I suppose that now I'm in the middle of my 5th year of serious Chinese study (20-25 hours a week since Fall 2017). I studied very casually the year before that (maybe 3-5 hours a week) by auditing a college course from Fall 2016 to Spring 2017. So that provides context for where I am now! I tend to read 60-90 minutes a day (I've read maybe 40 graded readers, followed by 19 native-level books), review SRS flashcards 45 minutes a day (getting very close to 20,000 vocabulary flashcards), and actively listen to YouTube videos around 45 minutes a day. Reading Goals I want to keep up mostly the same pace I've been going, at least until this Summer. I'm in this odd halfway zone, where I feel like reading is getting a lot easier, but I still have some work to do. The easy/moderate native-level novels are feeling quite good, but the higher, more complex, more literary stuff tends to give me some trouble still. But of course--I've only been reading novels for 2.5 years, so what else would I expect? This year, I want to ramp up the difficulty and read some of the harder stuff (as judged by CTA's unknown vocabulary count): --"A Muslim's Funeral" by Huo Da --"Life and Death are Wearing Me Out" by Mo Yan --"A Fortress Besieged" by Qian Zhongshu As a "bonus" if I feel extra ambitious: --"Wolf Totem" by Jiang Rong --"White Deer Plain" by Chen Zhongshi And somewhere in there, I want to read Lu Yao's "Ordinary World," all three volumes. I think his writing style is much easier (so it might not do much to stretch my skills), but I've heard it's a very good book. And having read his other book, "Life," I believe it. All the above books are total behemoths and require a very large time investment to read. Up to this point, I've limited myself to 300-page books, on average. I hope that after this next big push, my reading skills will feel more confident. I'd like to get to the place where although I'm far from perfect, I do have a general competence in reading modern Chinese literature. Listening Goals I've had a pretty workable system, where I practice listening to Chinese videos with subtitles. Progress is slow and frustrating, but it's happening. I just need to stick with it on a daily basis. I deleted my English language podcasts a week or two ago, leaving me with only my Chinese ones (I'm having major withdrawal symptoms from the English ones!). The frustrating thing is that I can understand large chunks of the Chinese podcasts, but never enough to really engage with the content. I don't know if it will happen this year, but I'd really love to turn a corner on my listening skills and actually...well...understand stuff. Not just chunks of content, but long stretches. Without subtitles or repeat listening or other such aids. So this year, I'd like to just keep up the active listening for at least 30 minutes a day, using podcasts for passive listening. Writing and Speaking Goals This will hopefully be accomplished by sessions with iTalki tutors. At this point, I'll be stepping out of my comfort zone significantly. Quite frankly, I was procrastinating in getting to this step. To ease myself into it, I'll be doing an English and Chinese "exchange" discussion with a Chinese friend, starting next week. I've seen a few tutors on iTalki that seem really promising. With the many hours I've already invested in this language throughout the years, I don't want to stop short of speaking and writing. When people ask, "You study Chinese? Oh, can you speak it yet?" I don't want to have to keep answering, "No." I want to use the language and go places with it, starting with the large community of Chinese people already living around me. A week or two ago, I got into a conversation with a very lonely Shanghai man in his 70s or 80s who doesn't know any English and is living in the USA with his daughter and son-in-law. He seemed extremely happy to have somebody to talk to, but because of his accent (his original language with Shanghainese, not Mandarin) and the noise in the room, I could barely understand anything. It just felt really bad to disappoint him. Maybe if I keep practicing, I'll be good enough to engage with him someday! This year, I'll be happy if I've started an iTalki routine at all. If I'm having 3 sessions or 3-5 hours a week, that will be really awesome. I think this year could shape up to be an adventure, if I allow it to.
    7 points
  39. I'm quickly coming up on that time when I reflect on this previous year and look forward to the next one! This year's goal was to read books, approach 20,000 vocabulary flashcards, and improve my listening skills. Since the beginning of the year, I've increased the amount of books I've read from 8 to 18. Admittedly, I've always been chasing a magic number: How many books do I have to read until I feel like a much more fluid, comfortable reader? I have to say that reading still doesn't really feel comfortable. I'm improving, and I have a lot of great moments, but there's still more work to do. I started the year with 15,000 vocabulary flashcards (which I review via SRS every day). Now, I'm approaching 19,500. Again, as with the number of books, I've been chasing after a "magic number." Laughably, there was a time when I thought that the 5,000 HSK words would be "enough." Now I'm discovering the sheer immensity of the Chinese language. I run into new words all the time, even as I approach 20K acquired flashcards. Granted, whereas I used to encounter 1000-2000 new words in any given 300-page book, I now only encounter 300-500, or even less. I still don't feel like I can fully ignore the dictionary when I read, but I am getting close. At some point, I'd love to encounter new words so infrequently that I can say, "I don't know what this word means, and I don't care to look it up. I'll just keep reading." Like a native reader would do, really. Last summer, I had the privilege of binging on Chinese YouTube videos and drilling them over and over. Since then, I have tried to maintain a listening habit of around 20-30 minutes a day. I'm convinced my listening skills have improved, but it just doesn't feel that way. My growth is never really felt. I guess that's how physical growth works, too. As a child, you don't feel yourself grow, but you can look back on old pictures and say, "Wow, I was a lot shorter 2 years ago!" Can I say in confidence that I can listen to Chinese and understand it? Ehhh...not really. Not without qualification, anyway. It's still tough. If I'm listening to slow and/or simple stuff, I can totally understand it. Otherwise, my comprehension fades in and out. For some reason, the motivation is still here, and I might as well take advantage of it. I have no immediate plans to go to China, and no practical use for the language. Improvement is really slow and no longer comes in quick spurts. The learning process can be endless, grueling, and sometimes really dull. But for some odd reason, I really enjoy it, and I think practice will pay off in the long term. This coming year should be a big one, especially if I incorporate more speaking practice.
    7 points
  40. I'm hosting a read-along of 活着 in December on my Instagram (@lang.dreams). Maybe some of you are interested to join? I hope the little self-promo is ok (it's completely free, I just want to provide some value to the community). To make things easier for everyone participating, I created Anki vocabulary decks, with the help of @imron's CTA, to study beforehand and while reading. I've created four different lists, each list is a stand-alone aimed at learners at different HSK levels (post-HSK3, post-HSK4, post-HSK5 & post-HSK 6). Each list contains the 450 most frequent unknown words, the learning queue is ordered by the first occurrence in the text. So for example, if you have finished HSK 4, then pick the post-HSK4 list. It contains the 450 most common unknown words that fall in the scope of HSK5, HSK 6 and non-HSK words. Download links for the Anki decks (it links to the Anki shared-decks page): 活着挑战 after HSK 3 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge 活着挑战 after HSK 4 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge 活着挑战 after HSK 5 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge 活着挑战 after HSK 6 - #ReadingHuozheChallenge One little disclaimer, you might have to delete some cards since they are auto-generated, so some easy or nonsense words have made their way into the non-HSK portion.
    7 points
  41. You need to build a mini china for yourself back in Texas. Granted it's not easy, and will involve sacrifices, but it's possible if you are committed. It's not a stretch for me to say, that I speak more Chinese now (back in UK) then I did whilst living in Beijing for 3ish years (fell into a Laowai english speaking friendship circle trap). I have actively sculpted out a Chinese life for myself in the UK. I got a low paying but highly satisfying job in a Chinese language office environment, i moved into a homestay for a year with a Chinese family, i purposefully made friends with local students, attended events, if i see a chinese takeaway i make efforts to go in and chat with people, i even go to the local Chinese church about once a month with my ayi from my homestay. I consider myself to live in the perfect world now - i speak Chinese all day, but can still go see my parents in a 15 min car trip. I talk about three kingdoms with my colleagues but can still pop to the shops and get a sandwich i like. I wish you luck my friend, Ive seen your posts on here for many years and your a committed person. I have no doubt it you will make it work. I was a bit shell shocked when I came back, but I now feel happy and more settled than i have in my whole life.
    7 points
  42. While I don't know anyone's specific circumstances on here, it's important to remember that for some developing world students, a scholarship to China isn't a fun year or two overseas and a career boost - it's their best, possibly only, chance of a university education, and there isn't necessarily a good 'something else' option for them to go and do. There are aspiring doctors and engineers out there in the middle of multi-year courses who feel they've been kept in the dark and treated badly. Whether that was inevitable, I don't know, but I can understand the frustration.
    7 points
  43. It makes sense that your goals would evolve over the years as your language ability and as your personal priorities shift. My goal right now is to read novels without constantly consulting a dictionary. I love reading; that is my primary motivation in learning a foreign language--reading and being exposed to ideas to ideas in the target language, and really feeling the target language, if that makes sense; through reading you can see what the language can do in an artistic sense. I also want to be able to speak about complex topics with ease. Recently, I took the ACFL OPI and came out to Advanced Mid, which is roughly B2. In my opinion, B2 represents a considerable degree of fluency, certainly enough to do most things. It's not enough to talk about high-level ideas with ease; during the test, I could feel my language breaking down when I was asked high-level questions... I could answer, just not comfortable. So now I would like to achieve something like Advanced High, which I guess would be C1. My goals before this level, though? I think just not having to translate in my head had been my goal for a long time.
    7 points
  44. Hi all, I'd like to introduce you to the Laowai's Unofficial Chengyu Guide, a searchable online database that includes not only the translation of the story behind Chinese idioms (if applicable), but also usage examples, English-language equivalents, origin details, and more. I currently have about 110 entries, and I add a few entries each week. I've included some screenshots for 人山人海 (rénshānrénhǎi),马马虎虎 (mǎmahūhu),凤毛麟角 (fèngmáolínjiǎo),and 沧海桑田 (cānghǎisāngtián) entries below. If you check out the website, know that you can enter characters, accented or unaccented pinyin, and English into the search bar (see the full usage guide here.) I hope people find this guide useful! -- I'm always open to constructive feedback, and also I'm taking requests if you'd like me to make an entry for a specific chengyu. You can reach out here or email me at [email protected]
    7 points
  45. I continue to spend around 20 minutes a day doing active listening, and 90 minutes a day reading Chinese novels and collecting new SRS vocabulary flashcards. When I began last January, I said I would be happy if I reach 17,500 flashcards, but now I have over 18,500. I use a very simple SRS algorithm (in Pleco) that doubles the delay from 1 day to 2, 4, 8, 16 days, etc., every time I get a word correct. My strongest cards are delayed to 512 days. Likewise, when I get a word wrong, it cuts the delay in half. I guess I could have programmed it to be "smarter," but this system has worked very, very well, with an astounding accuracy (when I fail to remember a word while reading a book, I often see that word promptly come up for review in my SRS test--it knew I was about to forget the word). Right now, my review is about 200 words each day, taking about 40 minutes (so my study routine is roughly 2.5-3 hours). I think vocabulary acquisition will slow down, because I'm encountering less and less new words, and I would have to do a LOT of reading to maintain my customary pace of 15-20 new words a day. I am attempting an all-out effort over the coming months to perfect my reading skills as much as possible, so I'm finishing books at a much faster rate (I'm on my 15th book). Of course, each subsequent book brings about a lesser and lesser improvement to my skills. Borrowing from my own observations and those of other people in these forums, it seems like after 8-12 books, one can say, "I can read (just not very confidently)." After 20-25 books, one can say, "I can read fairly well, with some obstacles." After about 50 books, you're really starting to fly. By early 2022 (i.e., a few short months), I plan to be past the 20 book mark. I want to get to 50, but because that's such a long-term effort, I want to relax a bit and not burn myself out trying to get there. It will be a good time to start integrating other tasks into my study routine, having a better balance with listening, speaking, and perhaps even writing. To be honest, because I'm such an introvert, I have emphasized reading skills the most so far. But as that skill plateaus, I really need to start speaking Chinese more often, and perhaps seeing whether I can find someone to correct my writing/grammar. I have a friend from Tianjin who's willing to do a language exchange every week or so. Beyond that, I'll probably have to resort to iTalki or some similar platform, which I know isn't always an instant success, because you need to find someone who is personally compatible with you and does a good job. I think it will be the hardest part of my journey, but I just need to do it, likely starting next year.
    7 points
  46. You're definitely right to think there's a problem here. Personally I think the best way to learn vocabulary is a combination of (A) flashcards (or rote learning) and (B) seeing the words for real (e.g. in books you're reading). But if you're having to limit your reading just to keep up with your flashcards, then you will be limiting the potential encounters (re-encounters) with these words in real life. And you will be limiting the development of the faster reading speed and stronger language skills that should happen automatically to your brain when you read Chinese texts at the right level of difficulty. I would make two suggestions. First, instead of trying to learn all the unknown words in a book, just learn the most important. By most important, I mean words that come up frequently in modern Chinese, and also words that come up frequently in the book that you're reading. One problem with native material is that it will include lots of words that you won't see again for years and years, so the value of memorising those words at this point is questionable (unless you plan on repeatedly re-reading the book in the future). Second, if 15 words a day is a realistic daily limit, then absolutely keep to that. But don't stop reading just because you've got a backlog of words. Keep on reading regardless. If words are important, you'll see them again soon, so don't worry, it's not like you've missed your one chance to ever learn them. Five thousand words per year probably isn't at all bad, I reckon? And the more you read, the better you'll become at guessing or working out the meaning of unknown words, and that will improve your vocabulary. I use Imron's Chinese Text Analyser to analyse a book before I start reading it: it tells me all the words I don't know, and I then choose a certain number of those words that I want to learn before I start reading - I make the selection based on a combination of how often they occur in the book, and how frequently they occur in Chinese in general. During this time, I'll be reading another book, so basically I'm reading one book and at the same time learning some of the vocabulary for the next book I'm going to read. But even here I've fallen into your trap before: of delaying reading a book because I haven't learned the vocabulary (yet). It's a dangerous trap!
    7 points
  47. We just released a big update to the dictionary yesterday! This update adds about 380 new characters, plus 60+ new Expert entries, bringing the total to over 3000 characters with 250 Expert entries. If you have the dictionary, you should get the update automatically, or you can go to Pleco's Menu > Add-ons > Updated. If you don't have the dictionary yet, you can get it here: https://www.outlier-linguistics.com/products/outlier-dictionary-of-chinese-characters Here's the list of new Expert entries for those interested: Simplified: 一老适丂者包万合三上下而戎尔气帚鸟生大然户夺爻所升乌歌青何教孝非你学火灬山年智窃云五斗林犬辶麻於今燕受这飞𣏟知哥雨自可 Traditional: 一老丂者包合三上下而戎气這帚生氣大萬戶然爻爾所升歌青何教孝非號你適奪火灬山年學智云五斗林犬辶麻於麼今竊烏燕受飛𣏟鳥知哥雨自可雲出 There's some really interesting stuff in there. Here's a screenshot of the Expert entry for 智:
    7 points
  48. [Take the following with a big pinch of salt] In theory at every level of Chinese government there is a parallel split between the 党 and政, between the Party (党) and the ‘State’ (政). The Party decides policy and the State executes it. The 党 operates through committees, headed by a Secretary. The 政 operates though jobs that sound more familiar in English translation, such as Premier, Governor, Mayor. Although in theory they operate in parallel, in practice the holder of the top 党 job is senior to the holder of the top 政 job of the same level. For example Chairman of the party versus Premier of the country. And so on, all the way down. In the word 党政, the 党 comes before the 政. So at each level of government it’s the party committee that’s key. And the secretary of that committee is the main guy. But it’s not a completely clean break between 党 and 政: whoever has the top 政 job will typically also hold the number two job (e.g. deputy-secretary) in the 党 committee, where he is subordinate only to the secretary of that committee. Administrative levels The rough sequence below National level is Provincial -> Municipal -> County -> Township. Provincial: 省 Municipal: 市 County: 县 Township: 乡 (I guess then it’s 村?) And the principles generally apply throughout: the various committees (委) are 省委、市委、县委、乡委. Those committees’ secretaries (书记) are 省委书记、市委书记、县委书记、乡委书记. On the ‘政-side’ the top jobs all have a 长, so: 省长 (Governor)、市长 (‘Mayor’)、县长、乡长. Municipalities: 地级市 (shortened to 市) I had lots of trouble working out what a municipality is! And this is where most of the action in《秘书长》takes place. Official Chinese sources seem to translate 地级市 as “municipality”. The most accurate translation, word-for-word, of 地级市 is “regional-level municipality”. English-language sources like Wikipedia call them prefectures or prefecture-level municipalities. A 地级市 is a region “地” and its main city “市” that have been brought together to form an administrative entity. There are 293 of them: most cities you can think of in China (but not Beijing or Shanghai) are likely to be the city in a 地级市. They seem to take the name of their main city. So when you say “I’m just driving into Suzhou now” you’re probably referring to the city called Suzhou. But there is also a municipality called Suzhou, and it’s made up of both the city Suzhou and the surrounding area. So most of a Chinese municipality could in fact be very rural. A municipality is split into counties (县) and/or districts (区). They are below the municipality in the leadership hierarchy. Government/control of a municipality The Party runs the municipality though the Party committee. Municipality is 市 Committee is 委员会 Municipal Party Committee is 市委员会, i.e. 市 + 委员会. But it’s usually abbreviated to 市委. So: 市委 shì-wěi n. municipal Party committee The committee is headed by a secretary. Secretary is 书记. So: 市委书记 is the municipal Party secretary, i.e. the most important person in the municipality. On the ‘政-side’ in a municipality, the highest position is the 长 of the 市, so: 市长 shìzhǎng n. mayor. By convention whoever is 市长 will simultaneously be deputy secretary of the municipality Party committee too (there may be more than one deputy secretary though). 市委副书记 = 市委 (municipality+committee) + 副 (deputy) + 书记 (secretary). Committees These committees are themselves run by their “standing committees” where the real decisions are taken. I’m not sure if people distinguish much between the two in real life: obviously the secretary of the overall committee is also secretary of the standing committee too, etc etc. The ‘standing’ basically means permanent (as opposed to a committee that’s set up to organise one particular thing and later disbands). (常务gets translated in dictionaries as “day-to-day business; routine”, but here the 常perhaps comes from 常设 chángshè attr. standing; permanent.) They seem to have around 10 to 12 members. 常务委员会 chángwù wěiyuánhuì n. standing committee 常委会 chángwěihuì = the standard abbreviation for standing committee 常委 cháng-wěi = n. member of standing committee So, a municipal committee standing committee member would be a 市委常委
    7 points
  49. It seems to me that one of the main goals of HSK 5 and 6 is to equip you with vocabulary, or at least familiarise you with a lot of words, so just push through. Remember that important vocabulary will be repeated in later chapters too. Be careful of the trap of thinking that you have to master everything chapter 1 before moving on to chapter 2. I can't remember HSK 5 that clearly but I'm pretty sure that besides the "required" vocab, the exams includes a lot of "guess from context or just ignore" words, as does HSK 6. In your exercise book you can just look these up these unglossed words when you need to, then move on. If they are repeated in later chapters you can consider "learning" them, unless you've already learnt them just by seeing them in multiple contexts. I'm beyond HSK 6 level and am constantly staggered by the sheer number of words you need to learn to understand a language at a reasonable level (I think this might be even more so with Chinese). I would suggest adjusting your expectations to "learners can begin to read Chinese newspapers and magazines with assistance, watch Chinese films with difficulty, scrambling to recognise a few words in the subtitles to help them hold on to the plot, spending the first twenty five minutes wondering what the hell 心诚 means, only to realise near the end that it's part of the name of one of the characters." Jokes aside, in my opinion, to even begin to read newspapers, or comfortably consume any native content really, you need to be able to do HSK 5 fairly easily, and be well on your way to being familiar with the HSK 6 vocab, along with having the reading skills needed to do the exam to any acceptable level. Not to throw cold water on things (is that even an English idiom?), but native content is definitely harder than any language learner hopes. That's not to say you shouldn't be going for it. Just don't be fooled by the promises of HSK 5, even though I think it's a pretty good milestone in Chinese. As a side note, if you do want to consume native content, TV shows are the place to start. You get time to get used to the actors ways of speaking and the general vocab being used in the show. I think movies are mostly a waste of time for a language learner, and newspapers can be left until much later unless you are particularly interested in that. 家有儿女 is a great way to start. I watched 100 episodes before HSK 5 and don't regret it.
    7 points
  50. I appreciate this post, because my summer has been spent almost entirely on listening practice (90-120 minutes a day). I've read a ton of testimonies on this site about reading success, for instance, and it seems like most people follow a similar course. Once they start reading native-level novels, they feel "good" about their reading after 8-12 books. However, there are less success stories about listening comprehension--maybe because it's a more difficult skill to precisely benchmark, and also because many people either don't attempt it or give up on attempting it. My listening skills have been lagging, simply because it doesn't feel as good to practice listening. Whenever I would try listening to something (even lower-level material), it would go in one ear and out the other. My brain couldn't get traction. I only understood a word here or a word there, and it felt fruitless. When reading, on the other hand, the words on the page would be kind to me. They would sit still and give me plenty of time to comprehend them! Over the past four years, I have casually listened to Chinese podcasts--while mowing the lawn, driving in my car, going for a walk, engaging in repetitive tasks at work, etc. And it has indeed gotten me to an intermediate level. What used to be totally incomprehensible is now manageable. And I think it's due to, in large part, the interplay between reading and listening. I would understand many things while listening, simply because I encountered and grasped the language in a book first. But I've been meaning to get over this hump of intermediate learning. I need to just sit down, focus all my attention, and consume tons of audio content. To be honest, I don't know what to expect, or how good I'll be after the summer. June-August isn't a lot of time (Chinese study takes years, of course, not months), but I'm hoping for a little boost. Maybe someday, my listening will improve to the point where I can derive more benefit from passive listening--i.e., much like when I listen to English podcasts in the background while doing something else, I can (somewhat) understand Chinese podcasts playing in the background. Then I can reserve that more active/deliberate time for other things, like reading Chinese novels or speaking with a tutor. So these days, I grab whatever looks interesting on YouTube and make a playlist out of it. For each video, I try it first without subtitles, then again with subtitles (looking up unknown words and making Pleco flashcards out of them), then again without subtitles. The next day, I listen to it with subtitles, then again without. On day three, I listen to it once, without subtitles. I think it's slowly paying off! I'll try to evaluate my progress by the end of Summer, and then go back to focusing more on books.
    7 points
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