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Lorinth’s log - 劳伦的博客

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lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 329 of 408
21 October 2014 at 6:53pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for the kind words rdearman. In fact, I believe that you can acquire a very
acceptable working knowledge of Chinese in two years or even less, especially as you are in
China. Just because I could not do it, for a variety of reasons (time available, fact that
I'm not in a Chinese speaking environment, assorted errors and mistakes in my methods,
etc.), should not discourage you from trying.

Also, I am definitely not "understanding a lot" of what I listen to. If I currently
practice so much listening, it is precisely because I have long felt that this is my main
weakness. In my experience, listening is the hardest among the four competences in Chinese
(much harder than speaking, writing and reading). It's highly frustrating to be able to
read relatively complicated stuff or to express myself, when at the same time I'm often
unable to understand when people answer my questions, and unable to get the point of a
normal speed conversation or to follow a simple tv show.

Finally, I do that in the hope that listening is a competence with a high return on
investment: I suspect that once you are able to enjoy tv shows, podcasts, etc. in a normal
way (i.e. without pausing, slowing down, looking up words, resorting to transcript, etc.),
you learn a lot of language and culture for free. I'm not there yet.
1 person has voted this message useful



lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 330 of 408
04 November 2014 at 12:32pm | IP Logged 
After a week of holidays during which I had zero time for Chinese (I could barely clear my
SRS queues in Pleco and Skritter, without adding any character or word, and that's it), I
resumed studying.

In another thread, I read about a nice site (listeningpractice.org) that uses the Tatoeba
database to test listening comprehension. I took the test with 50 sentences and obtained a
not so impressive result of 57%.

Link

Two things.

One, isolated sentences are uttered with no context at all, so it's hard to guess the
meaning of any unknown word.

Two, where do these sentences come from? Obviously, they are not taken from normal
conversations, nor from a movie. I suspect they come from a learning resource, maybe from
old ChinesePod lessons. But what are their level? Intermediate? Upper intermediate? Basic?
All of them?

Anyway, one more nice resource that I should use again in 6 months time to check whether
there's any improvement.

--

I've continued reading 三毛's《撒哈拉的故事》(now at page 193/259). Often, there's a point
where a book "clicks". It was hard or underwhelming and, suddenly, for no apparent reason,
it becomes much easier and interesting. Ideally this happens after a few words, or at worst
after a few pages. With this book, it happened after 100 pages...

I practiced listening with ChineseLearnOnline (my level) and a Deutsche Welle news item
(above my level) about the new EU Commission.
1 person has voted this message useful



lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 331 of 408
05 November 2014 at 12:38pm | IP Logged 
= The additional problem with extensive reading in Chinese =

This is a question that has been nagging me since I've been trying to read extensively in
Chinese. All articles about extensive reading (that I know of) extol the virtues of
extensive reading to cement the knowledge of words already known and to learn a small
quantity of new words thanks to the context. But this "knowledge" strictly concerns the
*meaning* of words.

When you learn Chinese (or another language in which pronunciation cannot be derived from
the writing system, or not always, or not reliably), you're confronted with an additional
problem: do I keep on reading when I know what a word means but I don't know how to
pronounce it?

In many cases, I'm confronted with characters/words whose meaning is clear because I've
studied them before or because, even though they are new, I can guess their meaning from
context. But I may have forgotten their pronunciation, or I may not be sure of it (it could
always be a character with different pronunciations according to the meaning), or I may
just not know it at all, because the character is new to me.

What do I do in such cases? Do I reach for my dictionary? Or do I look up and count only
words whose *meaning* is unknown? In my opinion, a word I cannot pronounce *is* an unknown
word.

As an example, in the page of 三毛's《撒哈拉的故事》I've just read, I've underlined 6
words/characters whose meaning is not obvious - i.e. I'm above the 98% comprehension
threshold that allows me to do extensive reading (if I count by characters, see below) -
but there are maybe an additional dozen characters or more that I'm not entirely sure how
to pronounce. My current method is to not use the dictionary at all (except when
understanding some key word is absolutely necessary to understand a whole paragraph or
sentence), neither for pronunciation nor for meaning. I underline unknown words and go back
to the book afterwards to look them up and add some of them to study lists, up to a certain
amount per day. But somehow, I have the impression I'm cheating when I read sentences that
I can understand, but that I would be unable to pronounce correctly.

By the way, any word I may "learn" purely through extensive reading will in fact not be
"learnt" until I've internalised its pronunciation anyway. So in this sense, pure extensive
reading is not enough to acquire new vocab in Chinese.

What do you think? How do you read in Chinese?


NB: A second, probably minor, problem with extensive reading in Chinese is: 98% of what?
Characters or words? If counting matters, I tend to rely on characters, because it's just
easier to calculate and because knowing the characters gives you quite a lot of words for
free (i.e. you can guess the meaning of the word thanks to its component characters and the
context), but it's far from being systematic, as all students of Chinese know.

1 person has voted this message useful



Ezy Ryder
Diglot
Senior Member
Poland
youtube.com/user/Kat
Joined 3226 days ago

284 posts - 387 votes 
Speaks: Polish*, English
Studies: Mandarin, Japanese

 
 Message 332 of 408
05 November 2014 at 1:55pm | IP Logged 
Well, some people mispronounce words they've seen only in reading, even in languages such as
English - "Run like the /waɪnd/." It also goes the other way (often more commonly), and they'll
misspell words they mainly hear (I recently misspelled "wahadło" (pendulum), in my native
language). Does that mean they don't know the words? What about people who are deaf since
birth, and never even had a chance to hear the many words they know pronounced? Are you
suggesting they don't know them? I'd presume, a similar process is happening while listening to
something comprehensible. You'll also be able to figure out some words, but this time around won't
necessarily be able to guess how they're written.

As for the 98% thing, for me it's tokens. As you've pointed out yourself, knowing all the characters
doesn't mean you'll understand the text. Sometimes, I can actually understand a text if I don't know
some characters, but can guess the words (like when trying to read in Simplified).
2 persons have voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 4043 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 333 of 408
05 November 2014 at 9:11pm | IP Logged 
Well, I'm still an advocate of looking up works. Not many when I'm still reading with the help of a translation, but when I get to the point at which I understand enough to read extensively, then why not look up only the missing words and learn them properly? Especially when they are only one or two per page. I think the slow-down effect is still nothing compared to the benefit of actually learning a word in context instead of waiting for three or four more contextual opportunities to figure out if I'm right or not.

That's what I've been doing with French. The missing words are so few that I don't see a point in not looking them up. I'm doing differently with Norwegian I'm not at that 98% yet (far from that),and I'd have to look up too many words, so I'm still acquiring a vague, basic meaning of most of them from context. Once I get better and realize there are only a couple of words per page missing, I will gladly start looking these up and learn them 'for good'.

With Mandarin I'm far from reaching your level. I'm using Pera-pera and a translation. I am using modern, light novels. I go through everything I don't know with Pera-pera, but I only focus on those characters that seem more common/important and try to get their meaning and pinyin (it has the advantage of also showing the varied pronuciations of a character, as you know). So, if I could read a Mandarin text and understand 98% of it (my sacred dream), I wouldn't mind looking up a couple of characters and learning them consistently.
2 persons have voted this message useful



lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 334 of 408
06 November 2014 at 4:08pm | IP Logged 
@Ezy Rider

Quote:
Well, some people mispronounce words they've seen only in reading, even in languages
such as English - "Run like the /waɪnd/."


You're right, Ezy Ryder. In fact, maybe there is no such thing as a language that has a 1
to 1 relationship between writing and pronunciation (standard Finnish comes close).
However, Chinese is not in the same ballpark: the pronunciation of a character is never
predictable at all - sometimes you can make a guess when you recognize a frequently used
sound component, but you can never be sure. Of course I'm not saying that someone who's
mute or deaf "does not know" the written language. But as I'm not mute, and as I also want
to be able to speak the language, when I'm reading, there's a voice in my head vocalizing
the text. Therefore I do stumble when I'm confronted with characters whose pronunciation is
unknown or uncertain, in addition to characters/words whose meaning is unknown.

Quote:
As for the 98% thing, for me it's tokens. As you've pointed out yourself, knowing
all the characters doesn't mean you'll understand the text.


Amen to that!

@Expugnator

Alas, I have not reached the point where a standard page of Mandarin text only contains
"one or two" unknown words :-( If I had, I wouldn't be bothered by the fact that, for me,
a standard page contains 8 unknown characters (meaning) PLUS 8 unknown characters
(pronunciation only). 8 is acceptable for pleasant extensive reading. 16 is not.

I guess I have to follow your example, be pragmatic, and concentrate only on those unknown
(either meaning or pronunciation) words and characters that seem important - and slowly
slowly plough my way, until it gets better.
1 person has voted this message useful



lorinth
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Belgium
Joined 3151 days ago

443 posts - 581 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 
 Message 335 of 408
07 November 2014 at 9:48am | IP Logged 
In another very recent thread, Iversen writes:

Quote:
You need to be able to pronounce the words in your head to memorize them
efficiently (…) so to get specific words right you either have to hear them or memorize the
pronunciation you can see in your dictionary. Or accept that not all words get their proper
pronunciation from the start.


Link

... which is a nice way to summarize my dilemma while reading extensively in Chinese…

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that my initial question was too
simple. There are many stages to "knowing" a word, and not only two (knowing the meaning +
knowing the meaning AND the pronunciation). After that, there's also:
- knowing the different pronunciations
- knowing the different shades of meaning
- knowing the different levels of usage (colloquial, bookish…)
- knowing the acceptable collocations
- knowing how to actively produce that word in speaking
- knowing how to write that word
- etc.

If there are so many stages/aspects, maybe it's wiser to just accept that it's normal not
to learn everything at once, that I may ignore some of these elements while doing extensive
reading, provided it's just an interim step in an overall learning strategy.

--

Apart from that, not much to mention these last few days:
- I went on reading 三毛's《撒哈拉的故事》(now at page 223/259).
- I practised listening, alternating more simple (LearnChineseOnline - no transcript but
fairly easy up to lesson 230) and more difficult audio sources (Deutsche Welle or BBC
podcasts - limited understanding before I check the transcripts).
- I went on accumulating and studying vocab with Pleco, and studying characters in the
2000-3000 frequency range with Skritter.

Oh, yes, I purchased yet another book that I may or may not use much in the future: "中文子
譜: Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary". I often resort to the online version
(zhongwen.com) when I need some support to understand characters that will not stick, so I
thought that buying the book was a way to give something back. In addition, though I have
often said that I don't have many opportunities to sit down at a desk to study Chinese, I
do like to browse (dead tree) dictionaries to gather information, or just to leaf through
aimlessly. Finally, I think the etymological info (and hence, in many cases, the potential
mnemonics) in that dictionary is better than what I've seen elsewhere.
1 person has voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 4043 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 336 of 408
07 November 2014 at 1:16pm | IP Logged 
Looks interesting and may be valid for most people and for most of the times, but I don't think it should be taken as an absolute rule, even in the case of Chinese. For example, when I learn a new word which consists of two characters I already know, I really don't worry about learning the pronunciation. I focus on meaning: I have to understand that those two concepts associated generated a third one (often not directly related to each of them). It is so true when this happens with very frequent characters: I have to be very strict about memorizing this new meaning brought by this specific combination of characters, while in order to remember the sounds all I have to do is remember those frequent characters. This is valid with words containing the character 过, like 过分 (yeah I know the meaning can be inferred but when you call someone 你太过分! it carries on a negative meaning that isn't something automatically inferred.

On the other hand, I think 'knowing the different nuances' isn't something you should worried about doing extensively, it's something rather achievable through context. If there are 2-3 core meanings that are evenly frequent, it's ok to at least become aware of their existence, but for subtleties extensive reading does a better job than intensive, I believe. Actually, audio does even better. When I recognize a SRSed word in a series episode, it kind of reassures myself of its meaning.


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