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Lorinth’s log - 劳伦的博客

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

 Message 345 of 408
28 November 2014 at 2:13pm | IP Logged 
To help me clear up my Skritter backlog I started banning "writing" for some characters that
do not appear in the HSK 1-6 vocabulary list. I consider that I should be able to reproduce
from memory, in writing, relatively frequent characters, i.e. as a rule of thumb those that
appear in words included in the HSK 1-6 list. As far as less frequent characters are
concerned, i.e. those that do not appear in words included in the said list, I should be able
to know their meaning(s) and their pronunciation(s) - but being able to actively produce them
in writing from memory is not a priority.
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Senior Member
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 Message 346 of 408
01 December 2014 at 9:58am | IP Logged 
At the very moment when sub2srs/Anki had introduced a vast amount of fun into language
learning, the Chinese authorities have decided to close down the two main web sites
providing subtitle files in Mandarin ( and Ah, well. When I've
finished studying 白蛇传说, other such sites may have popped into existence.

Nothing earth-shattering to log.

My routine now includes reading 《哈利•波 特与密室》(now at page 50), learning characters
with Skritter (in the 2000-3000 frequency range, based on Patrick Zein's list), words with
Pleco (collected from my daily input), audio dialogues extracted from the movie 白蛇传说
with sub2srs and fed into Anki, plus an Anki deck with massive Cloze deletions (MCDs)
(sentences extracted from transcripts of podcasts) and listening to podcasts (Slow Chinese
podcast about 面子, and 火龙的传说 a story found on the site 兒童之路).

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 Message 347 of 408
01 December 2014 at 7:26pm | IP Logged 
Too bad that you mention these two sites now that they're closed :/ (I did hear about them before, but the few times I searched for subtitles I forgot about them). I don't do Subs2SRS or any SRS, but my main source of videos are Singaporean series with double subtitles, so maybe it would be fine to make my own subtitles for videos from Mainland China in simplified characters. Anyway, I believe when the need comes there will be other options.
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Senior Member
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Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 Message 348 of 408
03 December 2014 at 11:08am | IP Logged 
@Expugnator: Up to now, the internet has had a tendency to abhor the vacuum and to fill gaps, so I do hope that other Chinese subtitle sites will appear soon. Maybe there *are* others available right now, but I haven't looked very hard yet.

What are the Singapore series you use for Mandarin? I've watched a few episodes of Lim Pei Lin about food, but I'm a bit tired of cooking shows, they've been all the rage in French just as in Mandarin for a few years now and I've watched quite a lot of them in French with my family.
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 Message 349 of 408
04 December 2014 at 8:58pm | IP Logged 
I started with 'Don't Stop Believing" someone from the Chinese team suggeted. Now I'm watching I'm in Charge. There are others like The Recruit Diaries (English-subs only) and others with only Chinese. It's easy to find more through the related videos to these.
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Senior Member
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
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 Message 350 of 408
08 December 2014 at 1:07pm | IP Logged 
I'm trying to learn how to post pictures on this forum, so here are two examples of Anki
flashcards I studied this morning.

The deck on the left is made of dialogues and snapshots from the movie 白蛇传说, extracted
with sub2srs and then exported to Anki. This card offers a nice example of the tricky
double 了 construction. Next time I'll create a deck with sub2srs, I'll try not to forget
to add the previous and next sentences for context.

The deck on the right is my interpretation of the MCD concept. As you can see, I take the
word "massive" quite literally, with a lot of text on the front of the card, which allows
me to (hopefully) produce and see a word (here 食品) in several different contexts. The
back of the card contains the same text in pinyin (as suggested by Google translate, so
prudence is needed). My challenge is to produce the word orally, not in writing, and to
read and understand the context of use of the said word. The text comes from the "Slow
Chinese" website.

Slow Chinese

Edited by lorinth on 09 December 2014 at 9:34am

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Senior Member
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Speaks: French*, English, Spanish, Latin
Studies: Mandarin, Finnish

 Message 351 of 408
12 December 2014 at 10:26am | IP Logged 
Yet another interesting iTalki session about the scary subject of 食品安全 in China and
elsewhere. My teacher is very talkative, which is OK as I had made it clear that I wanted
to improve my listening comprehension. When it's her turn to talk, I can stop her and ask
her to rephrase or explain, or make me repeat some word, expression or sentence. So overall
I'm satisfied with the italki experience up to now. Unfortunately I had forgotten to start
my Skype session recorder, so I can't listen again. Also, as all learners know, there are
days when your fluency level suddenly drops below your expectations, which is what happened
to me this time. Fortunately, the other scenario also sometimes happens… You know, those
days when you suddenly find that you can talk (relatively) easily about random subjects.


As a test for when I will be finished with my Anki/sub2srs deck about the movie 白蛇传说, I
have started preparing another Anki deck with another movie I like: 浴.

Problem is, the two main Chinese sites (that I know of) offering Chinese *.srt subtitle
files have vanished (see #346). So I will have to use the "hard burnt" subtitles provided
by the DVD. In practice, I ripped the DVD with Handbrake in the *.mkv format, which is a
"container" for video, audio and subtitles.

After that, in Subtitle Edit, I installed an additional Chinese OCR engine, available here
(, as explained here
(, opened the *.mkv file and ran Subtitle Edit on the
*.vob subtitle file. The OCR engine produced 500 subtitles in plain text. Among these 500
subtitles, not one is entirely correct; so there's some tedious editing work ahead. That's
the stage where I'm at now and I feel somewhat unsure about what to do next. Of course,
editing those 500 subtitles one by one *is* a form of studying, so I may gather the courage
to do just that.

Or maybe there's a simpler way? Anyone?


Apart from that, I've kept on reading 《哈利•波 特与密室》 at a leisurely rate (now at page
99/203) and studying isolated characters (with Skritter), words and sentences (with Pleco),
MCDs (with Anki) and dialogues from 白蛇传说 (also with Anki). I've also listened
intensively to several podcasts (with WorkAudioBook), most recently Slow Chinese podcasts
about 食品安全 , 海峡的两岸, 面子 and 国产动画, plus ChineseLearnOnline podcasts (lessons

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Senior Member
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 Message 352 of 408
17 December 2014 at 10:21am | IP Logged 

(Warning: long and detailed post ahead)

What's the problem with my listening comprehension? In my opinion, it's still extremely
disappointing, after so many hours, weeks, months and years of studying Chinese. I'm still
unable to listen to the news, even concerning a subject about which I've read texts in
Chinese; soaps and movies are mostly opaque; even animes for kids are often beyond my
grasp. If I tune in to some random radio station, more often than not, I won't be able to
fathom what people are talking *about*. Let alone enjoy the show.

Olle Linge, of Hacking Chinese, has devised a clever way to analyse the problem. As a
summary, the problem can be:


- phonology, if Chinese sounds like gibberish and you could not even transcribe some audio
in pinyin
- vocabulary, if you could transcribe in pinyin, but without understanding the words
- speed, if you can understand the audio after repeated hearings, or at a slower speed
- motivation, when "you just can’t get around to actually listening to more Chinese"
- what Olle calls "a lack of cultural understanding, grammar or different ways of thinking
and expressing opinions", which could equally apply to written Chinese.

So let's see what *my* problem is. I decided to test my listening comprehension with a Slow
Chinese podcast about school geniuses.

Link: 学霸和学渣

Note that this is supposed to be artificially simple audio material - not because the
vocabulary used in the text is particularly easy (it's not very complicated either) but
because it's read slowly… that's the whole point of "slow Chinese", isn't it? So, after so
many hours of practicing listening, it should be easy for me, right?

Of course, I deliberately refused to peek at the transcript and used only the audio

I loaded the mp3 file into WorkAudioBook. The file was split into 46 segments of varying
length, that do not necessarily correspond to sentences or other syntactically relevant
units (I suppose WorkAudioBook relies on pauses in the speech to split audio files).

1. I listened to it once "cold". Here, I should have written down immediately how many
segments I could understand on first hearing. Using the tags provided by WorkAudioBook, I
could have marked all segments as "easy" (100 % understanding), "hard" (no understanding of
the general meaning of the segment) or "medium" (I can understand the gist, but some
details are lost, or there's some guesswork going on). I did not do that, but I assess
that my understanding level was around 55 % on first hearing, i.e. I knew what the text was
about, and I had understood some parts of it very clearly. However many sentences were
totally opaque.

2. I started to loop repeatedly through all segments and to use the tag feature of
WorkAudioBook. After one hour of looping (there's about 3'30'' of audio in there, so that's
a lot of looping), I still had 4 sentences marked as "hard" and another 4 marked as
"medium". Hence, for 38 sentences, I had a 100 % comprehension level, i.e. 82.6 %. As the 4
"medium" sentences were not 100 % opaque (in fact I had understood three of them correctly,
it's just that I was unsure, see below), I could conceivably raise that proportion to maybe
89 %.

It's both very disappointing and somewhat encouraging: at such a slow speed and with so
many repetitions, I could hope for 98 %. On the other hand, many sentences that I had not
understood on first hearing had become understandable with repetition. So I guess it's a
case of half full/half empty glass.

3. I transcribed the 8 "medium" or "hard" sentences in pinyin and looked up unknown words
in a dictionary without peeking at the transcript.

- Segment 1 (medium) "原来是指在 xue2shu4jie4 很有影响的人物": I had rated it as medium
because I was not sure about the meaning of 学术界 or, more specifically, I thought 术
(shù) was in fact 数 (shù), so the sentence did not make sense. If I had known the word 学
术, I'd have understood. My pinyin transcript was correct.

- Segment 2 (hard) "有一对 shuang1bao1tai1 学霸 tian2mei2". I looked up "shuang1bao1tai1"
and found the correct 双胞胎 (twins). Again a purely lexical problem, as my transcript was

On the other hand "tian2mei2" was really " jie3mei4" 姐妹 ( sisters). So my pinyin was
horribly wrong. In addition, I know the word 姐妹.

- Segment 3 (hard): "tian2mei4li5a5 shen1jing2 jiang3 xue2ting2de5 da3bian4 shi2pin3". In
this case, I didn't understand anything. Having just looked up 姐妹, I had the first word.
The rest was opaque. Even with my dictionary, I was unable to find the correct words using
my pinyin so, even before checking the transcript, I knew that my phonological perception
was completely off.

In fact the sentence was "姐妹俩申请奖学金的答辩视频", ie. Jiěmèi liǎ shēnqǐng jiǎngxuéjīn de
dábiàn shìpín. In addition to the phonological problem, I had to look up 申请, to apply
for; 奖学金, scholarship; 答辩, to defend (a thesis). I sort of knew 视频 (video), but as
the context was completely opaque, I did not recognize it.

In addition, the full sentence was spread over two segments, so it didn't help either: if I
understand correctly, "申请奖学金的答辩视频" is a long subject, with the verb "流传开来" being
in the next segment, after a place adverbial (在网络上).

- Segment 4 (medium): "在网络上 liu2chuan2 开来". In this case, I was pretty sure I'd
understood, but I was not sure about liu2chuan2. When I typed it in my dictionary, it
suddenly became obvious: 流传. My pinyin was correct.

Segment 5 (hard): "使很多网友 ting2hu5 太 niu3 了. Hm. My pinyin must be off because those
words don't appear as such in my dictionary. A peek at the transcript, and it's in fact:
"使很多网友惊呼“太牛了”. I should have recognized 惊呼 as I know both 惊 and 呼. In fact, I
noticed afterwards while doing reviews that I had studied that very word (惊呼) in Pleco
the *same morning*, recognized it and passed it as correct. Doing fine with a word in an
SRS and not recognizing the very same word in the wild is not an infrequent event.

As for the expression 太牛了 (niu2 of course, not niu3), I'm still not sure what it means
(very arrogant?).

Segment 6 (medium): "在很多其他方面的表现也非常优秀。" I was not sure about this sentence. It
turns out it was correct. Its meaning only clicked when I saw it in writing, though.

- Segment 7 (hard): "他也是通过 shen1jing2 jiang3 xue2tin4de shi4pin3 而出名". Same unknown
words as in segment 3, with completely wrong pinyin: 申请奖学金 (shēnqǐng jiǎngxuéjīn) and
视频 (shìpín).

- Segment 8 (medium): "他就在数学和物理方面获得了很高的奖". I was unsure I was remembering
correctly the meaning of 物理 (physics). In fact, I was correct.

4. I also checked the rest of the text to make sure I really had understood those part I
thought I had understood. No problem here.

So what's the diagnosis, what's my problem, using Olle benchmark?

- Phonology: I DO have a phonology awareness problem:
(1) I tend to mix up the initials ji- and ti-
(2) tone recognition is far from perfect.
(3) my phonological awareness tends to drop when there are several unknown words grouped
together. In fact, knowing the words helps me to hear correctly, it "gives shape" to what
I'm hearing, while I should reinforce the other ability: hearing correctly even when I
don't understand, if only to make dictionary lookups more efficient.

- Vocabulary: I also have a vocabulary problem, but I'd say that for texts of that level,
my vocab level is OK, I was able to guess several new items based on the context and the
number of unknown words is fairly low. Some of these "unknown" words I had in fact studied
before, but I did not recognize them when hearing them (not infrequent).

- Speed: if my comprehension level can jump from a 55 % (in slow Chinese…) to 89 %, that
must be one important part of the problem, if not the most important.

- Motivation: no problem, I believe.

- Cultural background: that may explain why I didn't get the expression "太牛了", but I
don't think this parameter plays such a big role in this case.

- I'd add another problem not mentioned by Olle. Even when listening to mostly
comprehensible input (for instance, in my case, ChineseLearnOnline lesson 235-240),
listening requires a sustained effort and, after a few short minutes, my attention and
hence my listening comprehension tends to worsen, even for audio that I'm perfectly able to
understand when I start listening with a fresh mind.

Treatment: I should probably concentrate on

- transcription exercises to improve my phonological awareness
- listen to more texts at that level: listen once cold, loop through sentences, transcribe
unknown parts, look up unknown words, check transcript, in that order.

It might be useful to repeat such a test in, say, 6 months' time, to assess whether there's
any improvement. I should use another "Slow Chinese" text, assuming the difficulty is more
or less the same from one text to another.

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