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Lorinth’s log - 劳伦的博客

 Language Learning Forum : Language Learning Log Post Reply
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Senior Member
Joined 3139 days ago

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

 Message 385 of 408
07 May 2015 at 11:26am | IP Logged 
Here's a very inspiring article
that has convinced me to start transcribing more systematically the audio input I use to try and improve my
listening comprehension in Mandarin. I've started yesterday with 锵锵三人行 and, as from now, I intend to use my
lunch time study slot to that effect (about 30'/day). Of course that means reducing the proportion of written
input, but there's only so much time I can devote to learning Mandarin, so it's all a matter of setting priorities.

I'll transcribe in pinyin with tone marks, as the idea is not to train my ability to produce characters, but to
force me to really pay attention to what is being said while WorkAudioBook is
looping through each sentence, to avoid fooling myself into believing I sort of understand when I don't, and to
improve tone recognition as well as my overal listening comprehension in the process.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 4031 days ago

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

 Message 386 of 408
08 May 2015 at 12:18am | IP Logged 
Looking forward to hearing about your experience! I, too, think attempting to transcribe is a powerful strategy, but there's only so much time for Chinese. Maybe I can change my mind after your notes =D
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Winner TAC 2010 & 2012
Senior Member
United States
teango.wordpress.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 4421 days ago

2210 posts - 3734 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Russian
Studies: Hawaiian, French, Toki Pona

 Message 387 of 408
08 May 2015 at 12:57am | IP Logged 
I spoke to a Hawaiian language post-grad recently, and he said he made his biggest breakthroughs in listening skills whilst transcribing a variety of tough conversations in class (often replaying small sections up to 20 times).

In the class setting, everyone would compare their notes with each other after several attempts to transcribe the audio on their own, and then try to listen again and make corrections to what they previously wrote on the basis of what they discussed. They only got to see the corresponding text for each section after they'd come to some kind of agreement or were reasonably sure they couldn't do much more by ear.

Using transcription to develop listening skills is an interesting idea, especially if you have some software to facilitate the process. I look forward to hearing how you get on with WorkAudioBook!

Edited by Teango on 08 May 2015 at 12:58am

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Senior Member
Joined 3139 days ago

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

 Message 388 of 408
08 May 2015 at 10:18am | IP Logged 
@ Expugnator and Teango, thanks for the encouragement. As I have often noted in this log, listening comprehension, for me,
has always been the hardest and the most disappointing part of learning Mandarin. I'm desperate to find a cure. This method
seems promising. I hope I can keep at it. I'll log my observations on the experiment.


I was caught unawares and read the entire chapter 1 of 鬼吹灯, part 2, over the last three days. It starts off really well
(just as vol. 1 started really really well) with our three heroes, Hu (胡爷), Fatty (胖子) and Big Metal Tooth (大金牙)
starting a seedy antique shop and Hu buying one very fine, but single (and probably cursed) 小脚绣花鞋 (embroidered shoe
for foot binding, see Google image) from a destitute Shaanxi peasant who wants some money
to 娶个大屁股的婆姨. Of course, the three decide to head for Shaanxi's 最偏远的地方 (most remote places), where 地下埋的好东
西,数都数不清 (there are more valuables buried there than you could count), to retrieve the other shoe of the pair and, by
the way, 要不咱们一起去玩一次,顺便收点玩意儿 (why not pay a little visit there and have fun and, while we're there, why not
collect some stuff?).

Of course, fun will probably be had and… what could possibly go wrong anyway?

I have the paper version of the book, but I'm using an electronic version (available
here) in Pleco reader right now. I have disabled all dictionaries but the Chinese-
Chinese 现代汉语规范词典. To do that, go to Settings > Manage Dictionaries and, for all dictionaries but the one you want to
use, tap its name and untick the "Use in reader" option.

Why would I do that? I think ereaders are wonderful and all but, in a way, it's too easy to fool yourself into believing
you can read a text, when you're constantly tapping your screen to look up words. Using a Chinese-Chinese dictionary forces
me to stay in Chinese and read more of it. Now, granted, a sizeable proportion of definitions remain quite hard to
understand at my level. But, more often than not, I can piece together part of it. Combined with the context provided by
the sentence, it's often enough for me to guess, or to remind me, what the meaning of the unknown word really is (in
addition, about half of the time, I tap words to check their pronunciation, I don't even look at the definition).

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Senior Member
Joined 3139 days ago

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

 Message 389 of 408
18 May 2015 at 11:42am | IP Logged 
I've worked as a translator for over 20 years now, and the odd thing is that I'm not sick and tired of it. Another apparently strange
thing is that I'm quite suspicious about the idea of learning languages through translation. I know from experience that you can be able to
translate a language well without having a good command of that language and without being able to do anything active with that language
(speak and write). Case in point: Latin. But unfortunately other (living) languages could be mentioned too, as far as I'm concerned.
Anyway, at the learning stage, translation should be considered as a temporary and specific aid, and avoided altogether in many, if not most,

Therefore, if I've been toying with the idea of honing my Chinese translation skills, it's definitely not as my main tool to learn that
language, and not to earn a living (I'm lucky enough to have enough work on my hands as a translator), but for FUN. That said, translating
can support the learning process: I'm at a stage where I believe I need to pay some attention to details, which is where translation can

Problem is, you can't do a propre translation job without feedback. There are postgraduate translation classes, but they are unaffordable
for me, both time- and money-wise. So I had the idea to make a list of bilingual resources (ZH-FR if possible; ZH-EN would do), translate
some Chinese text from time to time and compare to a translation made by a professional. The Chinese text should be available in an
electronic version.

Such resources could include:
- Books. I have some books in two languages (Mo Yan, Yu Hua…). It's easier if I can find the ZH version on line.
- Bilingual sites where I can switch easily from ZH to (most probably) EN, and where EN is a fairly reliable translation. Ideas?
- There's a web based tool/community for translating from Chinese but I can't remember its name. Anyone?

In the meantime I've started translating a few paragraphs of 余华 (Yu Hua)' s 十个词汇里的中国, (China in Ten
) of which I happen to own an electronic version in ZH and a paper version in FR.

[EDIT] After much googling, I finally found the collaborative translation site I was alluding to above, it's the Marco
Polo Project

Edited by lorinth on 19 May 2015 at 11:55am

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Senior Member
Joined 3139 days ago

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

 Message 390 of 408
22 May 2015 at 11:07am | IP Logged 
After all, maybe there's a point where focussing on *reading* actually can improve your *listening*
comprehension skills: that happens when, while watching movies, you can read (and make sense of)
target language subtitles (almost systematically displayed for shows and movies spoken in Mandarin)
fast enough to be used as crutches to improve your listening. Which is quite obvious for languages
that rely on alphabets, but easier said than done as fas as Mandarin is concerned. I definitely
should watch much more TV.

Apart from that, I'm still reading, and enjoying a lot, 鬼吹灯, part 2. I'm in chapter 7/36. This
series about tomb raiding is definitely better than 盗墓笔记 though the latter is newer, more well-
known and serves as the basis of a movie about tomb robbers that is being shot in China. 鬼吹灯 is
more fun and better written, there's a huge amount of interesting information about Chinese
geography, history and society. And it feels easier to read for intermediate learners (except for
minutiae about 风水, but I suspect they may sound convoluted even to Chinese readers), though that
parameter is obiously hard to assess objectively.

Been somewhat lazy with listening exercises with 锵锵三人行. Should give myself a kick in the rear.
Have translated a few paragraphs of 十个词汇里的中国 into French but haven't compared with published
translation yet.
Should register for HSK5.
Should exercise more.

Edited by lorinth on 22 May 2015 at 11:08am

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Senior Member
Joined 3139 days ago

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

 Message 391 of 408
03 June 2015 at 3:13pm | IP Logged 
As I complained, over at, that my listening comprehension had not
progressed one tiny little bit after one or even two years of regular drills, I was offered
some interesting pieces of advice as to the way forward.

My first step should be to try to assess my current level, so I can have a semi-objective
basis of comparison in, say, one year's time. I have often tested my listening
comprehension and documented the results on this very log, so it should be fairly easy to
gather the inevitably disappointing data.

In the meantime, I've continued working daily on transcriptions of 锵锵三人行 and on two
recent Slow Chinese podcasts on the notion of 孝 and on some 有中国味道的词语.

I'll probably go on with regular (5 days/week is my objective) transcription exercices in
pyinin: I've been doing that for a few weeks and I have the feeling it's the way to go as
it forces me to listen with precision and it allows me to see where the problems are
(vocab, tones, phonology, speed, accents, etc.) without fooling myself.

On another front, I've kept on reading 鬼吹灯, part 2. Now on page 71/242, chapter 10/36.
Definitely a fun read.

I still haven't checked my translation of an extract of 十个词汇里的中国 against the
published French version.

I'm preparing a new subs2srs/Anki deck with the first episode of the series 奋斗.

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Senior Member
Joined 3139 days ago

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

 Message 392 of 408
04 June 2015 at 11:19am | IP Logged 

It's been a long time since I've had to divide one of my posts by languages. As I want to devote most, if not all, of my
free time to Mandarin, I've ceased to actively study Latin, Finnish, Spanish, Dutch or other languages, bar the occasional
brief wanderlust craze (ancient Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, what not). That does not mean I've broken any ties with those
languages: I've read two or three books in Spanish, I've kept my Anki deck in Finnish (though it only throws two or three
words a *month* at me) and, above all, I sort of try to limit the damages in Dutch and Latin by helping my two eldest
daughters in those languages. The way Latin is taught to my eldest daughter is quite catastrophic: she's force fed tables
upon tables of morphology and is expected to translate Cicero after that - this is barely a caricature. Of course she
loathes the whole process and the language as a consequence. So I try to help her out by reading some chapters of
Oerberg's Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata (link) with her, to at least put some
flesh on the corpse and show her that Latin can be a real language and fun to read. But it's hard to make the two
approaches fit, and the nonsensical one is the one that will be tested at the end of the year…

Anyway, end of rant, the unexpected result is that this made me want to read some good Latin again, so I've restarted
Luigi Miraglia 's wonderful Fabulae Syrae (link). I read it a few
years ago and often could read Miraglia's version of the myth, then the "Ad Usum Delphini"
(link) version, and finally Ovid's version of the same story.

Note that, contrary to what the Wikipedia page implies, the "Ad Usum Delphini" version of classical Latin texts should not
be regarded with contempt: the objective is not *only* to present a watered down version with scandalous elements removed,
it is above all a version that presents the same text in its (admittedly slightly redacted) original form AND a version in
Latin prose (so it's much easier to analyse the hexameters) AND notes, all in Latin. An exceptionnally useful - not in the
least antiquated - method, if you ask me. See examples here.

Edited by lorinth on 04 June 2015 at 11:25am

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