CPOD, how many words have you taught us?
In the approximately 1300-1400 lessons or so that cpod has put out, how many different words would a student have learned, assuming they listened to all the lessons?
I don't expect that someone actually go through all the pdfs and count words manually. But i'm thinking that a word macro could count different words in all the lessons, and spit out a value. I'd be willing to try and write a macro (for free, of course) and have cpod use it to count words.
go_manlyOctober 18, 2009, 10:08 AM
All I can say is my Newbie/Elementary dictionary has 1992 different words from the dialogs. I have only looked at 9 Intermediate lessons, and there are 164 new words so far.
RJOctober 19, 2009, 01:18 AM
how many words can you possibly make with 2000 characters considering all the one, two, and three character words that are possible? 20,000? 50,000? This is what you must "know" to read a newspaper. The fact that it involves 2000 charcters is just a side fact. It really tells you nothing about your ability to read. All they are saying is that 90+% of words needed to write a newspaper article can be built using 2000 characters. Granted you must know them, and I realize your original quest was to count words.
go_manlyOctober 18, 2009, 12:20 PM
My plans are still the same. I just changed my mind and thought it was a bit silly changing my name when this is how I am recognised. Nice twist on my name though - I take it the beach doesn't appeal to you as it does me.
Interestingly, a couple of weeks ago, I took a cab here in Sydney, and the cab driver was a Mandarin speaker. (We seem to go through phases here - ten years ago they were all Indian and Middle Eastern - now they are all working in supermarkets and service stations [gas stations for the yanks amongst you] - at present there are a large number of Chinese driving cabs.) I asked him to test me out with some Mandarin. He first wanted to know how many words I knew - 500, 1000, 2000? I had no idea. I guess some people can gauge your speaking ability by the size of your vocabulary. What I find though with Mandarin (unlike when I was learning German) is that the size of my vocabulary is no indication of my ability to put that vocabulary into meaningful sentences.
RJOctober 18, 2009, 12:30 PM
Just having some fun with you, hope you dont mind. Actually I do like the beach. Who doesnt? I think you hit the nail on the head when you said
"the size of my vocabulary is no indication of my ability to put that vocabulary into meaningful sentences"
On the other hand I just asked my wife if size matters and she said yes. So, there you go.
pretzellogicOctober 18, 2009, 12:53 PM
rjberki, fair question, and thanks for not taking this thread down the "grammar is needed, not just words" path. My take is that this will quantify what we're learning. My guts tell me that you're familiar with that saying, "if you're not measuring, you're not managing". I want to start quantifying what is being learned for 2 reasons:
1) I can then start estimating how far cpod has taken me to "fluency". There's no metric around how many words one needs to be fluent, but that doesn't mean that one shouldn't be created. On the contrary, I think it forces the language community to start giving us real tools to learn efficiently and effectively.
2)I notice that we get lots of cpod lessons on topics over and over. Food, travel, love are a few search terms that will bring up almost 100 lessons. Village or farmer are a few search terms that will bring up 5-10 lessons, but then on further inspection, I find that lessons like this
don't actually refer to a village in the text/pdf. It can be argued what fluency is, but there should be some basic set of words that you should know in order to start communicating. This is something that I, a language amateur, would expect of pros. I do note that the language community bags out on this part of the discussion for partially understandable reasons (like, "what is a word?" is "ahhuh" a word, and so on).
sebireOctober 18, 2009, 12:55 PM
What I want to know is how long it's going to take me before I can even read news headlines. I go on BBC Chinese every now and then in the vague hope I will actually be able to spot a headline I can read. How many words is that? What's the CPod equivalent? Advanced? Media?
pretzellogicOctober 18, 2009, 01:05 PM
go_manly, so 1992 words. There are as of 10/18/09, 322 newbie and 267 elementary lessons for a total of 589 lessons. Not sure that your dictionary included all the newbie and ele lessons, but I think this is pretty interesting in itself.
go_manly, Thanks for your input.
TalOctober 18, 2009, 01:11 PM
sebire - I think I've read that one needs to be able to effortlessly recognize and understand somewhere in the region of 3,000 to 4,000 汉字 to (even begin) to cope with reading newspapers and so on. But I thought your character knowledge was pretty good already?
As for the fluency issue, my impulse is to suggest that it can't necessarily be quantified by something just like number of words. I've taught Chinese students English who I would call very fluent, very able to express themselves and communicate, yet their vocabulary was not vast.
Real fluency comes with using the language to actually communicate, and regular practice doing just that, not notching up 500 lessons studied or deciding that having done so one now has a vocabulary of 1992 words or whatever.
RJOctober 18, 2009, 11:53 AM
I thought you changed your name to "shark bisquit" or something? No longer planning on spending all that study time on the beach?
I really dont see how counting words is going to help me or cpod. If they vary the subject (and they do) and they use unrestricted natural colloquial speech (and they do) then you will get what you need. Wont you?
RJOctober 18, 2009, 01:26 PM
I dont totally disagree with you but im not sure the benefit justifies the effort. Tal is right. There is a lot more to it than vocab. Mark for example still listens to newbie lessons as do I, to review, but also to catch any new usage patterns or colloquial expressions. Go_manly is building a dictionary so it is understandable that he is counting but I have no reason. Language is tough to quantify. Putting the words together quickly enough to speak and pronouncing them correctly is the more important part. I could memorize thousands of vocab words and still not have a clue how to speak Chinese. Fresh lessons allow me to use the same words in different contexts. This is valuable even if no new words are added. It not only cements the meaning in my mind but teaches me new ways to USE the words.
pretzellogicOctober 18, 2009, 01:37 PM
rjberki, the "hard-to-quantify" and "language-is-more-than-just-words" arguments are why nothing exists worldwide (at least through the google/bing/ask searches i've done) in this area. I asked the question of CPOD, but my questions are usually the ones that get no answer from cpod at all. Thanks for your post.
sebireOctober 18, 2009, 02:35 PM
Haha, tal, I'm glad I've managed to fake having "pretty good" character knowledge... :D
Pretzellogic, I'm not so fussed about quantifying language by the number of words I know. I have no idea how many words I know, but I certainly know the answer is "not enough". I didn't even know the word for "drink" until yesterday (as in 饮料，not 喝！） I am just wondering how long other people find it takes, particularly if they don't live in China. E.g. am I two years away? Four years? A lifetime?
RJ - transliteration is evil.
pretzellogicOctober 19, 2009, 12:19 AM
Changye, I disagree that it's more interesting to know how many characters we've been taught, when CPODs approach to characters is even less explicit than CPODs inductive approach toward Chinese. Plus, Jenny only really gives very few character by character definitions, so we would only learn (my estimate) less than 5% of the characters taught in any individual lesson, and likely less than 5% of the english words.
In any event, I suspect the data doesn't readily/easily exist to know how many Chinese words have been taught, and this post can head toward obscurity.
changyeOctober 19, 2009, 12:41 AM
Actually, what I want to know is the number of Chinese characters that have been used (not taught) in all the Chinesepod lessons uploaded in the past.
I hear that Chinese elementary school kids learn about 3,000 characters, and I think it's a good target number for us foreign learners of Mandarin.
With 3,000 of Hanzi, probably you virtually have no problem in reading Chinese newspapers in terms of "characters". For the record, Chinese character code (GB) level-1 contains 3,755 characters.
I guess that the number of hanzi you learn at Chinesepod is (much) less than 3,000, perhaps, since most Cpod lessens are for conversation, but not for reading.
pretzellogicOctober 19, 2009, 01:04 AM
Hi Changye, I heard from my wife that you needed around 2000 characters to understand most of the text in many Chinese newspapers. But of course, most is not all, and more characters you know is better in this case.
I would also like to know how many characters we've learned, but I really do suspect that it's more that CPOD has never counted. I wasn't as serious a Chinese language student as I was now that i'm in China drowning in mandarin and finding it hard to catch my breath. Plus, I wasn't sure how to use all the cpod tools when I first subscribed, because if I did, I might have my own answers to the character question, similar to go_manly had in his first post.
pretzellogicOctober 18, 2009, 01:16 PM
Another reason cpod might want to take this metric path is to address Henning and Sebire's issues in a systematic, quantifiable way. Without this kind of data, Henning's on his own in trying to decrease the amount time spent learning without losing what he has. Sebire could be directed to certain exercises to possibly address her question.
I suspect that all of us in China that will eventually return to our home countries will face Henning's problem. Without attempting to get this kind of information, we'll all end up forgetting a significant amount of language that we've all spent a lot of time and effort acquiring.