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Chinese proficiency report 10

Even though I wrote my previous report only a month ago, I think it’s time for another report, simply because I’ve realised that my reading ability and vocabulary is a lot better than I thought. This is no accident, but rather the result of hard work (more about that in a separate post). Check studying Chinese page to learn more about my studying or follow this link to see older reports). This report sets the stage for my last semester in Taiwan, at least for the foreseeable future, so apart from assessing where I am now, I’ll also specify some goals for the coming semester.

Speaking: Not much has happened with my speaking recently, so what I said in the previous report still holds true. My goal for the coming semester is to implement the theoretical knowledge I have (pronunciation, vocabulary) in my everyday speaking. I think I can handle pronunciation quite well when I’m reading something or when I concentrate, but I need to transfer that knowledge into the real world. I will achieve it using two different methods: direct tutoring and learning to speak more slowly (this is when I make most mistakes), and of course attending 15 hours of class every week should help a lot too.

Listening: My listening ability is also similar to last time (I can understand most of what people say if I’m in a conversation, but it’s still really hard before I get used to the person and/or the situation).  I feel that listening is difficult because it requires so much practice. Quantity is truly king and that makes it hard to achieve anything quickly. However, I do live in Taiwan and hear a fair amount of Chinese automatically. I will try to improve by hanging out with friends, listening to the radio and so on, but to be honest, I can’t be bothered to put in a huge effort here, since I might as well do that in Sweden (radio, film, Chinesepod).

Writing: Frankly speaking, I have only written one text in Chinese during the vacation, but on the other hand, it was quite long I feel that if I’m careful, I can almost almost make myself understood, even though the topic might be difficult or complicated, but I still lack a feeling for when to use lots of words. I know how they are translated into English, but I need to read a couple of hundred books or spend a few years here before I actually understand what’s the difference between them and in what contexts they are used. Learning to write better is not a priority right now, but it might be later, when I’m back in Sweden.

Reading: This is actually the main reason I wrote this post, because I’ve accomplished two things since last time. First, I’ve finished going through the 3000 most common Chinese characters and I’ve learnt all those I didn’t know before. This doesn’t mean that I know how to use all of them, but I have greatly increased my vocabulary (I’ll write a separate post about this project later). Second, and partly as a reult of the first, I’ve realised that my reading is a lot better than I thought. I’ve read a few newspaper articles while waiting for my food in restaurants, and more often than not, I understand most sentences without needing a dictionary. Naturally, it becomes very hard if I have no idea what the article is about or if it’s about something I’ve never encountered in Chinese before, but generally speaking, I can understand newspapers, provided I have enough time, and today I had my first lesson using a book which in the preface is mentioned to be designed for people who have studied Chinese for four years or more. I can handle the contents, but of course it’s difficult. I’ve also started reading manga books, which is also great, especially for more colloquial language (I’ll probably write a post about this as well).

In short, I have achieved a reading ability in Chinese where I can understand texts meant for adult native speakers, provided that it’s about something reasonably familiar and not at a very advanced level. I don’t understand everything, but I understand enough to make it worthwhile. I’m not at an adult native speakers reading ability yet, but I’m working my way towards that goal.

If we look at the numbers behind this, it’s not that hard to figure out why I feel that I know more words. I had 8500 words in my vocabulary list last month, now I have 9600, an increase of 1100 words in 22 days, which gives an average of 50 words per day. Since many of these where single characters I didn’t know before, I feel that I can guess the meaning a lot more often than before. Furthermore, four months ago I had 6400 words, which means that I have increased my vocabulary with 50% in only one semester! No wonder I feel my reading ability is a lot better.

So, what about reading for coming semester? Well, reading is something I mostly do because I like it, so apart from text books, I’ll probably read lots of Chinese, perhaps a lot of manga. This isn’t because I feel I have to or that it’s good (in fact, it would probably be a lot better if I focused on speaking and listening instead; reading I can easily do in Sweden), but simply because I enjoy it. However, reading is still good, so I expect to improve here as well, although perhaps not as much as last semester.

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  1. Cristi’s avatar

    Nice progress… How do you go about learning the new words? Still using ZDT?


    1. Olle Linge’s avatar

      Yeah. I know enough radicals/parts of characters to be able to look at them and learn them, basically. Some of them takes more effort, but the vast majority I just throw into the program and run a few sessions and then I know them. “Knowing” here means that I can read and understand, English -> Chinese is a lot slower, but that’s deliberate. I hope that will come with practice.


    2. Chris’s avatar

      That’s awesome, some might even suggest being able to read a newspaper classifies as being somewhat fluent in the language. That’s a huge achievement. Gratz!

      I’ve never read a non-web based comic in my life. I would be really interested to see what manga you’ve got a hold of.

      On another note, when you are adding single characters to your database do you include all the meanings, as some characters often have several, if not a dozen, or more meanings? Also, before you mentioned you preferred not to add full sentences, instead focussing more on vocab. Could you expand on this? For me, I usually add both, which definitely is a solid way to do things but it takes quite a while. Also for reviewing, I can recite a word very quickly but having to remember entire sentences is often pretty taxing. I am really not sure which way to go, sentences, or vocab :-/


      1. Olle Linge’s avatar

        I think most people include being able to speak and write better than I do when they say fluent, though. I wouldn’t say I’m there yet, perhaps I would need another year of full-time studies to get reading ability up to a decent level. Listening is a lot harder and might take many, many years to get even close to native speakers.

        I’ll review some of the comics I’ve read shortly, stay tuned!

        When I add single characters, I include all the meanings listed in the dictionary. If there are several ways to pronounce the characters, I add that as a comment afterwards (like “if jiao4, same meaning but noun”). I’ll expand on this much more in two upcoming articles, one on the 3000 dictionary project and one on my overall learning strategy. Your questions makes me more motivated to write those texts, though, so you shouldn’t have to wait for long!