Sunday, 19 November 2017

A nerd's progress on learning Chinese for no practical reason

Once a nerd, always a nerd.

An infrequent progress report. These days I could probably pass HSK5 and am thinking whether it's even worth continuing doing these HSK tests. They are so geared towards students planning to study and get their first job in China (har har) that they are not very useful in assessing overall language proficiency. I've heard good things about TOCFL, yet again it is likely very much geared towards future students in Taiwan. We will see.

After finishing Integrated Chinese I moved on to Reading Into a New China and have just started the second volume. With a bit of ChinesePod sprinkled in, my least developed area is probably writing. Language production is always less developed than comprehension, and wrt speaking - I don't have that much of a desire to develop eloquency in spoken Chinese, at least yet! Plus a few hours a week online with a tutor, who doesn't focus on speaking either, but we talk nearly exclusively in Mandarin, sort of help.

I'm thinking what to do about writing, other than the obvious - write a lot. The trouble is, the stuff I can write is rather limited in vocabulary (according to Anki, my passive vocabulary is just under 4k words and 2k characters) and will end up being like a first grader diary :D With a lot of mistakes, naturally.

Perhaps sticking to reading as much as I can will be the best for the next (half?)year. While flipping through talks by Steve Kauffman I saw him mentioning a few nice, though old, readers e.g. Intermediate Reader in Modern Chinese and Twenty Lectures on Chinese Culture. In traditional characters (I'm not looking for an easy way out hah)! The thing about most modern Chinese readers that I don't like is they are extremely utilitarian, especially all textbooks published in mainland China itself. Not only they (China-published books) stick to the repertoire of "read text, memorise the list of words, fill in these blanks", but also the topics of their texts are largely grouped around "how wonderful it is for a foreigner to study and work in our great country". Blergh. Princeton readers and many recent Cheng-Tsui's books are more palatable to me. Plus I'll probably have to learn a bit of traditional charset for the old books above.

So those are on the to-(try to)read list. Plus tentatively Classical Chinese (in simplified, thank gods). Classical more because the further I get away from beginner-ish dialogues, the more I realise how much of modern written Chinese is rooted in 文言文. No matter the charset.

Oh and why I even started writing this post: I wanted to share my nerdy Anki model for Chinese cards. Here it goes - it started with stock Chinese Support model but grew a bit over last year. It's not beginner-friendly and has some minimal Russian language usage. I find some Chinese words and sentences make more sence when translated into Russian than into English. Probably a native language bias.

Here we go:
Styling and

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