Three types of learners
I've been working through the 三字经 and came across this section which reminds me of three categories of people learning Chinese: the naturally talented, those who achieve skills from hard work and study, and lastly those with 'no talent'. :( The last category learn mainly from life experiences.
The relevant section of 三字经 (Part XIII) is presented below:
三才者，sān cái zhě ……………….there are three kinds of talent
天地人。tiān dì rén ………………..(from) heaven, earth and man.
三光者， sān guāng zhě ………….there are three kinds of light
日月星。rì yuè xíng …………………sun, moon and stars.
The first two lines actually refer to three kinds of people – people with three different kinds or levels of talent: 天才 tiāncái, 人才 réncái and 地才 dìcái (those people born talented; those who have skills that they have learnt, and lastly those who have talents based on experience – it could also translate as people with no talent in the sense of no learning. In the old days it may have referred to farmers and labourers. In contemporary China it may refer to people who are good dealing with other people (‘a good people person’.)
The next two lines mirror the first two lines (this kind of duality is common in Chinese writing.) In a sense this is saying that you have to live with what you are born with (the hand you have been dealt.) In contemporary China it would be re-interpreted more optimistically as don’t give up, you may actually make something of yourself. It is interesting that in old texts they are interpreted according to the prevailing ethos.
者 zhě (a person, but also can refer to a thing.)
才 cái (talent)
bodaweiDecember 02, 2011, 08:30 AM
I'm going to give this a bump, to see if anyone is interested in types of learners. Maybe because I see myself in the 'no talent' category - but I am wondering if we can also conceive of having something of all three 'types'. Learners must presumably have some 'Heaven sent' talent in something, if only stubborness, which I believe is my gift. (Some people have a range of talents useful for language learning and I am not thinking just of things like 'photographic memories'. The ability to engage strangers in conversation is another talent.)
We all need to do quite a lot of work to achieve success. And if you live in China you are lucky enough to absorb something of the language, almost without trying. As I imagine small children do.
Anybody have other views?
pretzellogicDecember 02, 2011, 01:27 PM
I guess I don't really disagree with you. Or maybe I would characterize it differently. There is the spectrum of learners you mentioned. There is a normal distribution of these learners across those willing or able to put in a couple of hours/days/weeks to learn Chinese, to those willing/able to go all the way to put in the ~2200 hours necessary to become "fluent".
'all the way to put in ~2200 hours necessary to become fluent' - I haven't been listening when this was discussed, if it was discussed before. That's 'only' a year full time, doesn't sound too bad, except most people are not in a position to spend all their time learning Chinese.
~2200 hours was posted quite a few months ago by RJ in another post that didn't get a lot of traction, so i'm not surprised that you didn't see it. But i'm a fan of quantifying what you're doing and how long you do it so you can start improving the Chinese learning process.
"Most people are not in a position to spend all their time learning Chinese" - yes, that's why i'd characterize them at the far end of normal distribution of 'people studying Chinese'. Very few people that aren't embassy staff can put in that much time. But I think it demonstrates the committment of the people that have full time jobs but aren't embassy staff that learn fluent Chinese. I'm trying to be one of them, although my many fits and starts are hampering progress.
For me, at least, it seems 2200 hours is not sufficient. I spend about 15 hours a week studying Chinese, and have done so consistently for about 9 and a half years. However, I still don't consider myself completely fluent. So, it is probably not my fate to be a natural talent in this.
Mark - I am with you on this one. I spend quite a few hours on my Chinese (unfortunately not consistent) and I have been doing so since 2004 - I look at it as something I will do for the rest of my life. I just love using the language. I have no particular goal in mind. To me, the idea of goals perhaps works better for people who do not have sufficient inner drive, like an imposed disciplined. And while having talent would be nice, it is not a reliable indicator of success.
yeah, as bodawei has cottoned onto, in case you missed it mate, your avatar was amongst the "new users" on the right hand side of the main community page [it was there yesterday, but seems to have progressed off the list, as others have come on], hehe. So good question...I'm not sure either what it takes to become an old user...maybe another 10 years, hehe. :)
and yeah, xiaohu was the other one I noticed also. xin xiaohu not laoxiaohu.
bababardwanDecember 02, 2011, 09:37 PM
I tend to think more in bell curves than distinct categories, but I guess folk like to categorise and makes it more fun to discuss perhaps.
Exactly - this idea came from the sanzijing, ostensibly a primer for little kids (although how they understand it is beyond me). I guess bell curves don't get a mention in the sanzijing. It's a fairly modern idea. Actually if graphed it may look more like a tri-modal curve. Where 'it' is the characteristic most relied upon in learning Chinese... (1) Heaven sent talent, (2) the ability or stubbornness and time required to work extremely hard and acquire skills, and (3) mindless absorption.
KethDecember 04, 2011, 07:40 AM
Quantity of practice: The 10 year rule.
There is now a compelling body of evidence for the “10 year rule”: a minimum of 10 years of dedicated work and practice are required to become an expert in any field. Accumulating hours of practice, however is not enough. High levels of accomplishment also require that practice time be well spent. It is estimated that 10,000 hours of practice is required before a performer is ready to begin a professional music career( Ericssion et al 1993). Sosniak( 1985) found in a study of young pianists on average they started their concert soloists careers after 17years of training. Composers from first exposure to music to a notable composition -20years. In this respect Mozart is interesting, because it took him until he was eleven years old before he composed his first successful opera, that is still regularly performed by opera companies today all over the world.