Using Obscure Words
A recent discussion in a lesson, despite its completely straying from the topic at hand, actually highlighted a phenomenon that occurs often in the early stages of language learning for many language learners: using obscure and/or complicated words.
3 days ago
3 days ago
Sorry for nitpicking, but "忖度" (cun3duo2) is a rather formal written word, which is rarely used even by native Chinese people. I sometimes find such words in your Chinese writings. I would recommend you look up a word (you found in a English/Chinese dictionary) again in Chinese/English dictionary, where you can probably find whether it's a written word or not. If you don't find it, please go and get a better dictionary.
3 days ago
2 days ago
No need to apologise.On the contrary thankyou for pointing out the inappropriateness of cun3duo2.I am sure the rest of your advice is also very good as always but I'm not sure what to do with it.I don't have any paper dictionaries and with the handiness of online dictionaries don't intend to fork out dough in the near future for one [but probably will eventually as I'm sure there is some merit in it].I generally use mdbg which has both english/chinese and chinese/english.When I'm trying to find a word to express something in Chinese I don't know I generally use mdbg and then try to find the word that has the lowest hsk number that also seems to fit my definition best.Usually there is something very fitting in a lowish hsk category,but in this case I was trying to look up "wonder"..as in "I'm still wondering"..not "in awe of " etc [which the hsk rated ones all seemed to refer to] and cun3duo2 was the only one that seemed to fit.However even with low hsk rated words whether I'm using them correctly is still going to be an issue.Thus I would hope that there be more such feedback as yours above to point out if sentences and word usage are correct or not.How else is one to learn? So I welcome all feedback on any Chinese I write..much appreciated.
I can't read the hanzi at the moment so I'll look at what you've written with much interest later.
2 days ago
I have 'wondered' how to say 'wonder' in the past too. Most dictionaries don't cover this word well. They sometimes just refer to 奇迹, which is a noun and not exactly what we are talking about. From what I gather, though, the best translation is 想知道, which sounds less ponderous to me, but maybe it'll have to do. I 想知道 if super changye can come to the rescue with a better solution?
2 days ago
One of my dictionaries shows 我想知道 and 我琢磨(zuo2mo) for "wonder". I think that bababardwan's example should be translated as ...........
When you don't know if a word is frequently used, just google it. FYI, 忖度 has only 106,000 of search results, and 琢磨 is 6,780,000.
2 days ago
I can't read the hanzi at the moment but gather the cun3duo2 has 106,000 results.I still wouldn't know what to make of this.This would tell me it is used albeit perhaps not too commonly [but is 106,000 also indicating rare?..dunno].Does this tell me it is not the best word I can find for the situation? No,I think I'll have to rely on feedback either CPod or kind poddies like yourself can give.I suppose I could extensively research it,looking for sample sentences on google etc but then this could become a very time consuming exercise over a single word that is listed in a dicitionary.Thus the benefits of the CPod community to discuss such matters.Also I think one should try to express oneself in Chinese even if making lots of errors and coming out with unnatural stuff...hoping to be corrected.If I was worried about such things I would not venture to write much beyond ni3hao3 which I think holds one back.So I hope you'll forgive my awkward attempts at Chinese.
thanks xioaphil for your input.I'll read the hanzi part with interest later.
2 days ago
Oh you can't read hanzi at the moment. The pinyin is 'xiang3 zhi1dao' as in 'would like to know'.
PS: Maybe you just have to change your current settings. Are you able to click on 'vew' and then change 'character encoding'? Forgive me if you already thought of this.
2 days ago
I'm on a work computer running windows and I think you need the original disc [which is goodness knows where] to enable asian character recognition.I have it all up and running at home,but thanks for trying to help.Yes,xiang3zhi1dao is a good suggestion that would have worked in this situation and now that I know cun3duo2 is strange that might have to suffice [..but I'll also check changye's suggestion when I can].But this brings up a good point.After a while one probably has enough Chinese under one's belt to make oneself understood with such workarounds using simple language [as kids do],but at the same time not being able to precisely say what one is trying to.I think often there will not be very close translations or equivalents given they are two different languages,but at the same time I think if one is to try and progress one should try to find more ways to express things,stretch a bit even if one makes a dog's breakfast of it all.There you go changye,maybe your chubby dog can feast on it,hehe. :)
2 days ago
Thanks for that.I see what you mean.我还琢磨为什么“上西天” 有“死了意思。为什么“西”。
现在Google有“忖度”109，000【增加 2.83% 一天中 】 和“琢磨”有6，820，000【只增加 0.59%】，所以未来“忖度”比“琢磨”多兴，哈哈。
23 hours ago
I've been mulling over your advice about google frequency and what I would make of a number like 106,000.To get a feel for it I decided to enter a couple of similar English expressions..."mull over" got 389,00 ..a little over 3 times more common that 忖度 but importantly "muse over" got only 50,100 less than half what "忖度” got.Now if a Chinese speaker were to say to me that he had been musing over something I would not find it strange or amusing at all.To me ,musing over something seems pretty commonplace and not obscure at all.I am not arguing that 忖度 is not strange or that you are wrong about it,only that I think it's very difficult for me to ascertain whether a word I venture to try using in Chinese will be appropriate or not [beyond trying to stick to hsk numbered ones where possible] and thus reliance on CPod/fellow poddies for guidance.I think that if "muse over" only gets 50,000 hits then to me I'd be starting to think a word is pretty uncommon if it only gets say a few thousand hits,but as I say I really don't know what to make of those numbers unless I'm tossing up between a few alternatives.
19 hours ago
It seems that you're making a simple thing complicated. Don't take it too seriously. Google frequency is only a rough guide, but it's more reliable than some online Chinese dictionaries. Just look at the following google results. Do you still have the heart to use 忖度 in your comments? I don't. Even native speakers rarely use it, let alone us foreign learners. There is no positive reason you use 忖度 in your Chinese comments, at least now.
19 hours ago
I already conceded from the start that you know a lot more about the inappropriateness of that word and took your word for it and have not intended to use it based on your advice.I also think you gave a much better example to use and I thank you for that.I have also been well aware for a long time of the possibility of using google to check out how a word is used.My response has been more related to when left to my own devices,prior to feedback,what is one to do when trying to express oneself in Chinese.You have suggested I go and buy another dictionary.Probably all good advice but I'm trying to say that could be very time consuming and inefficient and not always easy to interpret over a single word.If I were to take this advice too much on board it could be quite discouraging from giving it a shot at expressing myself in Chinese.Do you think that I should only post stuff in Chinese that I've double and triple checked? If so ,why? I'm here to learn after all and I thought getting community feedback/Cpod feedback and having a crack was the way forward.I also happen to be of the opinion that in English at least [something I do know about] that just because a word is uncommonly used does not mean that it may be very apt if used in the right context [so once again,the numbers don't overly impress me].In fact,occasionally a relatively rare word may be the best way to express oneself.Of course I'm making no such claim that I can do this in Chinese.As I've said I do generally go for the lowest hsk number that seems to fit at this stage of the game.I'll be the first to admit that my ability to express myself in Chinese is atrocious,but should that stop me from trying? Personally I think it's best to try and learn from one's mistakes than to spend a long time trying to produce something very simple and perfect from the start.But I suppose every person learns differently.If your advice has been to try and help me then I thank you.If on the other hand my poor word choice is irritating to you then I can only apologise and suggest you feel free to scroll on.
19 hours ago
I still would like to recommend you not to use 忖度, at least, in conversaitons.
19 hours ago
That point was taken on board and agreed with readily from the start.Is there something being lost in translation here? I'm sorry if I somehow didn't make myself clear that I appreciated your pointing that out and was going to take up that bit of advice.Once again I thank you for that advice.I have no intention ,since you've advised me,of using that word at all.
ps In your above list of words I think some of them would have distorted what I was trying to express.Also,such a comparison is only possible if one has the greater knowledge to be aware of all the alternatives,which I don't have.As I said before,I only bothered to look up mdbg over a single word and chose what looked like the most accurate translation from the options that search provided at the time [sure some had hsk ratings,but none of them looked apt ..and your excellent zhuomo didn't come up...anyway..thats the one I'd use in future..thanks again].
19 hours ago
I liked your point about rare words sometimes being exactly correct. In my experience, Chinese makes a clearer division between words that are just oral and words that are meant for writing. In English, the line is much blurrier, especially if you use a complex word in your speech. It won't seem strictly wrong, but it could seem slightly pompous. Chinese marks the difference more clearly, which I believe is what Changye was trying to point out.
We're all here to learn and help each other, and to learn by helping each other. I've "known" both of you for a long time and I'm sure nobody had anything but good intentions.
Finally, it's very good to try to express yourself even when you are not 100% confident that your phrasing is correct. For an interesting discussion of this, I refer you to a recent post by a noted modern linguist (disclosure: he is also a CPod employee and personal friend).
19 hours ago
Thanks Pete.Changye's and your point is a very good one and I perhaps failed to convey that it was not lost on me.I have seen that notion expressed on these boards before.I completely get it that stuff like the word in question could sound completely strange in oral Chinese.After all,you have oft pointed this out in your excellent PWP lesson.My whole point above was how was I to ascertain this from my own devices? I think changye's answer to this also contained some good advice,but I was trying to say that I don't know how efficient or easy this will be for me over every single new word.I think I'd rather make a fool of myself and come out with a lot of stuff I've had a crack at than try and make simple perfect sentences.For me I think that could hold me back,but maybe I'm wrong.Anyhow,thanks for both of your inputs.
18 hours ago
Great post Pete (and John)--thanks for that!
Running out the door now but am full of comments, will be back later tonight.
18 hours ago
As for example words I showed in my previous posting, as you said, not all the words have a similar/same meaning, and it's on pourpose. I just wanted to show frequency of words that belong to a little broader category. I think it would be more effective than just showing the frequencies of 琢磨，推测，揣测 and 忖度. Gee, I forgot to show the frecuency of 推测 in the comment. It's 8,740,000.
16 hours ago
Thanks for that link Pete to John's excellent post.I hadn't read that before but I think it's very insightful and good of John to open up and share it.I agree with Michael Max's comment underneath also:
"It was a given I would be speaking rotten Chinese, I could stop worrying about it; it was completely liberating."
..that's my attitude too.You've just got to get in there and give it a crack every opportunity you can get.I get laughed at often [at...because I've made a dogs breakfast of it all,not because I'm coming out with anything witty] at my attempts and I just laugh along.Hey,I'm even glad that the recipients have had a laugh one way or another.Hopefully brightened their day [and they didn't even have to go to one of those Indian inspired laugh groups for it].
16 hours ago
I don't want to let you down, but you can't get enough feedback here in the forum, anyway. Poddies are usually too busy to find and correct mistakes in other people's comments in Chinese. Actually, proofreading and correcting Chinese comments written by someone else is often more difficult and time-consuming than writing something in Chinese by yourself. Furthermore, most people probably don't want to embarass posters by pointing out their mistakes, unless posters clearly ask for feedback/corrections in every comment.
15 hours ago
Yeah,I realise that and it's a good point,不过怎么办法？I personally welcome feedback from one and all.It won't embarass me as I know there will be countless mistakes and I think it's important to learn from them.You are right,mostly one is left to ones own devices.There are times when I may go the extra mile to try and sort out what's going to be most fitting,but other times either too lazy or too pressed for time to let one word hold me back and so just give it the best shot I can.I think that's generally preferable to switching to English words when I'm not sure what to use because there is zero potential from learning from that [and also when one is engaged in an exchange I think there can be a kind of indirect feedback in that it will often become apparent whether they are following what you are trying to say or not which after all is the main point of communication even if grammar/word choice aren't perfect.So sometimes clarification will be sought,or at least you'll realise...hey,that didn't work as they obviously took my meaning to be something different].This is why I have tried to thank you so many times for pointing it out and encourage you to do so in the future when you feel inclined to.I understand it takes effort.You are the biggest champ in this regard and I think the Poddie community in general appreciates it.多谢。 ：）
14 hours ago
其实，其他thing about trying to use a Chinese word to express myself as in this case using cun3duo2 ,even if I had not had the benefit of feedback,I had the experience of looking for the word,finding the best word I could for the effort I was prepared to put in,but at the same time not being either confident or entirely satisfied that there was not a better word out there.Thus,I reckon that my mind was primed for the next time I did come across someone using a suitable word for wonder.I might have been lucky enough to either stumble across someone authoritative [as opposed to the blind leading the blind] using it in which case I may have thought..."ah,so that was ok after all" [which in this particular case is obviously not going to be the case] ,or I may have stumbled across someone like yourself using zhuomo and I may have then picked up on it and thought "aha,so that's what others are usually going to use..that's better".I think by having tried to figure it out myself it's going to be more likely to stick when I do stumble across it.Anyhow,that's my theory for what it's worth.But of course this is not as valuable as direct feedback at the time.
12 hours ago
Do you have a Chinese grammar book? If not, please get (good) one. I think it's about time you learn Chinese grammar comprehensively and systematically. It's, of course, very important for you to actively use/write in Chinese, but at the same time, you have to firm the foundation of your Chinese "behind the scenes".
Otherwise, you could possibly end up "mastering" broken and peculiar Chinese. Actually, reading a grammar book is rather boring especially when you just start learning Chinese, but it should be very interesting and enlightening for you who have already learned Chinese for a few years (?) and have a lot of questions about Chinese.
Do you have any positive reason not to buy a paper dictionary? Is buying a good dictionary a big deal for you? I’m kind of old fashioned and prefer to look up a word in a paper dictionary. The first thing I do when I start learning a language is get a good dictionary. Sometimes I buy one even long before I start learning, hehe.
4 hours ago
I know it shows that I do not have a Chinese grammar book.Also something I know I should do.Why haven't I? Well for starters that would mean time away from CPod reading a book.I have trouble enough as it is keeping up with all the lessons.This is after all my favourite hobby,and there is only so much free time outside of other commitments such as 2 jobs, a family and sport.It would be a whole other ball game if I was studying this for some academic pursuit and had exams looming.I never paid any attention to grammar in English at school because ,ok I admit it,I do find grammar boring despite acknowledging it's importance.I don't think this really held me back to any significant degree there ,however I'm sure that it's a whole different kettle of fish when it comes to second language acquisition where the syntax isn't going to come naturally.Actually the very fact that it is different means that it probably won't be as boring as I would anticipate.However,as it is,despite intending to check out the CPod grammar guide a while ago,I never got around to it,but that is on my mental to do list for the near future.Also,I have still the majority of QW's to get through.Then there's practice on the Activity stream.I have some hope that more practice there with the feedback then proferred will get me over the line and iron out some of the strangeness.Finally I like picking up the grammar tidbits in the Intermediate lessons as they tend to stick best [patterns like ruguo..jiu,lessons like excuses for being late where le was so well explained...here I found to my surprise I actually enjoyed learning these patterns].Once again it comes back to why this site works for me as opposed to picking up books.I find it fun,entertaining,and engaging and if I relied on books I may have lost interest altogether,but to each their own.But yeah,you're right,at some stage down the track [it has been almost exactly 1 year at this stage] a grammar book may interest me.I might have several "ah ha" moments.I think it will work better in that setting than from the start though I know others would disagree and think it's better to have a good foundation first before getting into bad habits.The thing I find with the grammar is that the syntax has not really held me back to any great degree from understanding the Chinese,only from constructing it.Somehow I can't quite link the two,but hopefully in time it will come.As for paper dictionaries,once again a good idea I'm sure,but with the convenience of online dictionaries I haven't seen a great advantage in having one.Generally the online ones have been good at my level.Are paper ones really that much better? You've gotta remember I'm not anywhere near your level and won't be going in depth into things the way you do.
2 hours ago
Paper dictionaries have one great advantage. You can throw them at the wall when you're frustrated. Sometimes you might feel like doing that with your computer too, but it's more costly in the long run.
Unless you get one of those paper computers, but they're really only for burning so your ancestors can enjoy the internet too.
2 hours ago
I can throw my electronic dictionary against the wall. Then again, most people don't surround their dictionaries with bubble wrap.
43 minutes ago
So how many layers do you use dude? And do you *pop* as you consult?
xiaophilAugust 26, 2009, 04:03 AM
One of my friends was teaching class when a Chinese student asked, "Ms., can I please go defecate?" I know this is a bit crude (and I am a bit sorry for that), but still, it is a perfect example of exactly what is being talked about here (and a bit funny as far as I'm concerned).
bababardwanAugust 26, 2009, 11:21 AM
Actually you are right as far as I know.I have not seen example sentences on mdbg and it's a very good point that I think I should utilise.I must admit after finding a word in mdbg it can be a bit of a guess how to use it/whether it's appropriate and I think I definitely should look for example sentences.I must familiarise myself with nciku.Thanks,that's actually been extremely helpful I think. :)
bababardwanAugust 26, 2009, 04:15 AM
Still,she's in less of a position to decline his very unambiguous request than if he'd more circumspectly asked to be excused. :) Is there also a cultural difference at play there,rather than a language difference? But it's a good point that I get,hehe.
changyeAugust 26, 2009, 04:20 AM
I have very good Chinese/Japanese (and J/C) dictionaries. They show a lot of grammatical, cultural and historic tips, including distinction between a written and colloquial word, suggestions about synonyms and important grammatical structures. These dictionaries were edited in collaboration with a famous Chinese publisher which is well known for 《现代汉语词典》 that shows a sort of the standard vocaburary of modern Mandarin.
I believe the latest editions are better than mine (published in 1992). There are several good Chinese dictionaries available in Japan. Honestly, I know almost nothing about how good Chinese dictionaries are in other countries. Of course, I also often use online dictionaries, as well as google, especially when I look up a new word. I need both paper and online dictionaries. Paper dictionaries can't catch up with the times.
matt_cAugust 26, 2009, 05:21 AM
Its cool guys, it was actually quite interesting. What I'll do is delete the comments from the post but link to this post from the lesson.
This way we can maintain the new method yet save all your comments. :D
oranginaAugust 26, 2009, 05:50 AM
Changye, I have never seen an English/Chinese (or C/E) dictionary that good. And I check whenever I go to a bookstore. Not that that means they don't exist. My dictionary has often received the wall treatment for not telling me if a word is only used in written Chinese. Seems like such a simple thing to include. I have a feeling there is much more cross scholarship between China and Japan than China and England. (I have also not run across a dictionary that uses American English. Only a problem when I can't figure out which English word to look up!)
changyeAugust 26, 2009, 06:59 AM
I have never seen an English/Chinese (or C/E) dictionary that good.
I suspect so now. As you said, Japan has traditionally produced a lot of scholars who have profound knowledge about classical Chinese literatures, and this probably made editing Chinese dictionaries relatively easy. Actually, the largest Chinese dictionary (to be exact, Chinese/Japanese dictionary) in the world was edited and published by Japanese. Please just take a look at "history" in the Wikipedia article below. It's very impressing.
Additionally, Japanese scholars and publishers have been very keen to make language dictionaries targeted for students and learners, partly thanks to so-called "university entrance war" in Japan, which has consequently evolved this kind of dictionaries drastically, especially English and Chinese ones, in the past few decades. Ironically, Japanese people are known for not being good at foreign languages despite a lot of good dictionaries sold in Japan, hehe.
xiaophilAugust 26, 2009, 07:36 AM
Changye and Origina
I had an Oxford Chinese/English dictionary. I thought it was pretty 'horse horse tiger tiger'. Although I completely agree with what you guys said, I think there is another factor. People in English speaking countries don't have the need to learn other languages like other countries do, so the material is just simply more limited no matter what the language. I really admire you, changye, for being able to thrive here without ever resorting to your native tongue.
zhenlijiangAugust 26, 2009, 08:16 AM
Ah I hardly know where to begin. OK, with the dictionaries then.
First, a 'disclaimer': I am a huge fan of paper dictionaries. That said, the dictionary I use most frequently--and I use it very very frequently--is my electronic one containing one J-C, two C-Js (between which I jump back and forth trying to pin down one expression I want) and a few 'extra' not-as-commendable dictionaries like "new business terminology", "IT terminology" etc (= bound to be outdated v. soon).
I looked up "wonder" on both MDBG and nciku, my preferred English-Chinese dictionary. So I can see now how Bababardwan came to choose 忖度. But compare the search results--don't you think nciku does this more intuitively (go to Examples for their long list of English example sentences rendered in Chinese), in this case at least?
This is just me personally, I've looked at MDBG when I first heard about it here and for some reason didn't like it enough to ever use it, even though everything is nice and large and easy to see. nciku on the other hand I go to all the time esp when I'm "composing" one of my dog-breakfast Chinese posts. I do have paper English-Chinese dictionaries, but both (Langenscheidt and Concise Oxford) are too concise, too pocket though I did use them more as a beginner. As for Chinese-English, I have the large ABC edited by John DeFrancis one, but that has virtually no examples (=not useful)!
I never really gave thought to this until Changye mentioned it; I think we Japanese learners take for granted what our dictionaries so helpfully provide: markings, color codes, something indicating the frequency of any character or word that is an entry is only one of such features. We often see the star system. Entries with three stars we know are most high frequency. In fact I have heard a scholar--who has himself been on the compiling team of several Japanese dictionaries of Chinese--say, you know you're doing well even if you study only those terms with three, two and then one star (for starters anyway), as those are the most important.
The point is, in fact you should study those first. I also agree with Changye that our exam-oriented approach has made our publishers as competitive as they are and our dictionaries so GS (good service)--Xiaophil, I have to say I don't agree that we generally have less material in English because the need for English speakers to learn foreign languages is less acute or urgent.
Yet, or rather precisely because of, the Japanese approach (thinking in terms of efficient exam prepping) we're terrible at foreign languages, sad but true.
And whether in a class or working with a tutor, teachers in my experience always tell you if any word is 'for writing' and 'not oral'. That's essential in learning Chinese, we're taught that early on. Not to have that information would be like studying French nouns without their genders.
But so are we seeing that this is a major problem area with English dictionaries of Chinese in general?
That's kind of a serious problem IMO.
bababardwanAugust 26, 2009, 04:05 AM
Thanks for moving that mate.I'm sure you realise I was not trying to be drivelly or stray,it just went that way.Sorry about that.I'll have to learn to flick the switch to a new separate thread earlier next time.I think there's one more comment from changye there that needs to be transferred here,then maybe you should delete it all from that thread.I don't think I can do it properly from this end.
bababardwanAugust 26, 2009, 08:57 AM
I must say,while my usual dictionary is mdbg [I just prefer the layout..find it visually clearer,and I like the scissors tool of breaking down characters] I have on occasion gone to nciku when I just couldn't find a word in mdbg at all like today I couldn't find carotenaemia in mdbg but nciku was up to the task on this one.So I have kind of come to the conclusion that nciku is more comprehensive ,but generally for me mdbg is fine and I like the hsk ratings also.It would be great for it to go beyond hsk ratings and have a more precise frequency of usage rating and an oral/written indication.Also,there are probably many features of these dictionaries that I have just not gotten around to exploring at this stage.
sebireAugust 26, 2009, 09:30 AM
What on earth are those star things on nciku, I've never worked them out. Everything seems to be 2.5 stars. I unfortunately find nciku ridiculously slow, so I use it at times, but recently have been going to dict.cn.
I quite like my Oxford English-Chinese mini-dictionary.
bababardwanAugust 26, 2009, 09:48 AM
I've not really had a good look at nciku before ,but I just had a look and if they're the stars I think others are referring to ..if you mouse over them then it says it is referring to the HSK number.So once again I'd say mdbg has it better than nciku on this front because the hsk numbers are just easier to see in mdbg than these faint yellow stars in nciku and trying to work out how many are coloured in.
zhenlijiangAugust 26, 2009, 09:55 AM
Changye, I don't know that it's a good grammar book that Bababardwan or other learners in a similar place need most at this point. Of course I always recommend that learners get into a small group class or find a good tutor--unlike you I'm not confident enough to try to learn a language without at least one good teacher holding my hand. But I understand that this is not realistic for many people.
The grammar I have learned (and like I've said before, for the first six months we didn't even really do grammar, we were busy learning how to make sounds and say our own names) has been through using readers that show us constructions and usage, and being required to write our own sentences as homework--no strictly-grammar books to date, and I've been studying now nearly three years.
You point out that Japanese dictionaries are also good for learning about grammar. My other (very good actually) grammar source has been the NHK (Japanese public broadcaster) radio Mandarin courses that come with texts every month. These courses are solid and engaging, very well designed and lessons well written. And it's good to make the time M-F, 15 min each lesson to listen, if you do nothing else. Each half-year course would have about 100 points to cover (if I remember correctly the first two weeks or so is mainly pinyin and pronunciation). I've listened to those for about two years and have begun to tire of the repetition esp at the beginning, but they always have something for the intermediate learner as well. The difference with CPod lessons is that the dialogues are mostly much more textbook-y of course, but they do cover grammar well, and take the absolute beginner in manageable steps through to what I think is high elementary level in that half-year.
I wish that all learners had that great a source, wherever in the world they're studying.
But grammar books--I think that's more for more advanced (otaku?) learners. English grammar we first did I think in middle school (? my memory isn't too hot), ages anyway, after we were already fluent and using it to communicate. We weren't learning grammar in order to become fluent in English; we were learning the terminology and learning how to deconstruct sentences (make diagrams) and talk about them. Many grammar books I see in Japan, from the titles I just know I don't want to be near them "Common Errors by Japanese Students of Mandarin and Why They're Common" and such (the author just wants to show slower students up!).
What I do think is helpful instead is to read a lot of young children's literature--that's just right for our level. Try to get an illustrated Chinese dictionary for young children and use it. I know not everyone loves children's books like I do, but I'm assuming Baba for one wouldn't mind that too much ...
And writing now--that's another thing altogether. Which I will get to.
TalAugust 26, 2009, 10:25 AM
I really like the Tuttle Concise English-Chinese Dictionary, it really stops the papers blowing around on my desk, (the fans are always on in Guangdong in the summer.) Seriously though it has lots of example sentences. Sometimes I'll just pick it up and browse, and it's surprising how just doing that, you'll pick up lots of little things you didn't know, and you can't really browse any 'electronic' dictionary in the same way.
I'm sure if baba chose to study grammar from a book it couldn't do his writing ability any harm, (there has to be a certain amount of fairly mundane 'looking at language' mate if you want to really improve your skill), but I do agree with zhen that reading (just going over and through sweet and well-written sentences again and again) can teach you a lot. (And you can do this with a good dictionary.)
changyeAugust 26, 2009, 11:13 AM
I think nick is much better than MDBG as the latter shows no exmaple sentences (am I right?). I dare say that MDBG is just "useless" for elementary and intermediate learners.
"Tuttle" seems to be good. It shows only important words and phrases, and examples and supplemental explanations shown in it is very useful. Probably you can use it for a long time.
changyeAugust 26, 2009, 11:18 AM
for the first six months we didn't even really do grammar, we were busy learning how to make sounds and say our own names
This must be the most ideal way to start learning Chinese, although it could become rather boring. I really admire both the teacher and her (?) students for their patience. I mean it.