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Frequency Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese

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Wilco
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 Message 1 of 9
02 March 2010 at 5:57pm | IP Logged 
From Amazon.com :

Amazon wrote:


"A Frequency Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese is an invaluable tool for all learners of Mandarin Chinese, providing a list of the 5,000 words and the 2,000 Chinese characters (simplified) most commonly used in the language. Based on a fifty-million-word corpus composed of spoken, fiction, non-fiction and news texts in current use, the dictionary provides the user with a detailed frequency-based list, as well as alphabetical and part-of-speech indexes.


All entries in the frequency list feature the English equivalent and a sample sentence with English translation. The Dictionary also contains thirty thematically organized lists of frequently used words on a variety of topics such as food, weather, travel and time expressions.


A Frequency Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese enables students of all levels to maximize their study of Mandarin vocabulary in an efficient and engaging way. It is also an excellent resource for teachers of the language."




Has anyone tried this new book? After looking at the sample page, I have to say I'm impressed. It's the first Mandarin frequency list based on words and not on characters I have seen, and even though the list is small (5000 words), it might be very useful. Nevertheless, I would like to hear first hand opinions before buying it!



Edited by Wilco on 02 March 2010 at 5:58pm

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Pyx
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 Message 2 of 9
03 March 2010 at 12:38am | IP Logged 
Actually there are some word frequency lists. There's one in Wenlin, and the HSK list should be more or less frequency sorted too. Why would you want to plow through 5000 words without real context?
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irrationale
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 Message 3 of 9
03 March 2010 at 4:42am | IP Logged 
I have it.

Use it wisely. Since Chinese vocab is very tricky and context dependent learning these words without context can be dangerous and soemtimes flat out wrong. Almost all of the words have multiple confusing English glosses that refer to multiple meanings of the word. This is a horrible way to learn and I just ignored the glosses for most words and used a Chinese dictionary.

Further, even though it is roughly in order of frequency, returns diminish after the 2000 or 3000 mark and the rate of appearance quickly vanishes to be about equal for each word. Therefore, the properties of the corpus begin to show themselves, such as the fact that it contains many newscast words and formal words, because the corpus lacks a lot of informal dialogue, relying on newscast transcripts for a lot of the "spoken".

All in all however, it does contain a lot of words that you won't see in your text that are used all the time in the language, and even if just for that, you need a book like this to get those pesky words in your mind. Just use it with extreme caution and don't rely on it as some sort of bible.
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Pyx
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 Message 4 of 9
03 March 2010 at 5:49am | IP Logged 
I think irrationale said it very well.

You see, I'd think that the only reason to use a frequency list is to get a good headstart before you start reading. But a good portion of the things in this dictionary make *only* sense in context. See #113 for example: "0113 所 /sus/ (2) aux [particle preceding a verb to form a nominal structure]". Does that really help you to learn that construct before you get to the texts? Or look at #84 "0084 之 /zhh/ (3) aux [archaic equivalent of structural particle 的]". That sounds like you'd only encounter 之 in classical texts, and not in modern writing, when it's actually all over the place!

If I were you, I'd keep half the money for the dictionary, give me the other half for this great money-saving tip, and learn from the HSK lists.. they're pretty good (and I say that as someone who detests vocabulary lists) and will most likely help you more than that thing.
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Wilco
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 Message 5 of 9
03 March 2010 at 7:39am | IP Logged 
Thank you for your reviews and tips! I didn't buy the book yet, I will wait until I can borrow it from my library next week, so I can get a look at it.

As for HSK, I am already studying by their lists, but I have this strange feeling that they are not based on the actual written Chinese, but more on arbitrary government standards... I wonder if the HSK lists are more or less the same as the 8000 most common words in Mandarin? Irrationale and Pyx, did you study HSK lists? How can you compare?
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Pyx
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 Message 6 of 9
03 March 2010 at 7:48am | IP Logged 
I'm just learning what I'm coming across in my everyday reading, but the other day I had a close look at the HSK lists, and found that I new the vast majority of the first 2000-3000 words (I didn't look much further than that). That makes me think that the ones that appear there must also be very frequent, or otherwise I wouldn't have picked them up before.

PS: This is also precisely the reason why I find frequency lists so pretty darn useless. By definition you'll come across the most frequent words so often that you'll learn them first anyhow.

Edited by Pyx on 03 March 2010 at 7:50am

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irrationale
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 Message 7 of 9
04 March 2010 at 4:15am | IP Logged 
I have memorized the first 5000 or so HSK words, and am working though the advanced level words. It is a decent list, but not a magic bullet. A lot of the words are very formal and some rather useless (chalk and blackboard), but there are a lot of very useful and common words in there too. But it is not a magic bullet; you need this and more if you want to learn to an advanced level and not take 10 years. Some common words are not in the list, and in the 5000 most common list. Some aren't in either.

The most important thing is that you get in your mind the most common 2000 or 3000 words (tokens), period. There is no magic bullet to doing this, but in the end, the best method is to talk to natives and watch native material. While you are doing this you can go through these types of lists to accelerate your learning and activate more words. The second most important thing is that you DO NOT LEARN THE English TRANSLATIONS and always use sentences with your words. Use a chinese dictionary for everything you can. If you can't understand the definition then don't memorize the word, or find a sentence or 3 or 4 to make it clear. The English glosses are basically garbage that mean nothing and will hurt you when trying to use the word.

Good luck.


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translator2
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 Message 8 of 9
05 March 2010 at 2:55pm | IP Logged 
I think this new book is much better. I just got it yesterday:



McGraw-Hill's Chinese Dictionary and Guide to 20,000 Essential Words: A New Method for Non-Native Speakers to Look Up the 2,000 Most Commonly Used Characters in Chinese


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