Learning to Read Chinese as a Heritage Student
Being exposed to Chinese as a child did give me significant advantages, I am certain of. I know what a lot of words mean once I know how it sounds, and in what context it is used. So when learning Chinese characters, for many common words and phrases, I simply have to attach a pronunciation to a foreign character. For example, when I am confronted with foreign word 爸爸, I only need to build a link saying "爸爸 is pronounced bàba," since I already know that bàba means "father" from everyday use. This is in contrast to a foreign learner who will have to learn each link separately (爸爸 is pronounced bàba, 爸爸 means "father", bàba means "father").
It definitely is easier for me to acquire new words and characters. In fact, I have progressed much faster than I had expected.
So my real study of Chinese has been split into two temporal sections. About a year and a half ago, I began seriously studying Chinese reading. I first went though premade HSK lists, and went though HSK levels 1-3 fairly quickly. I was probably midway through HSK 4 after about 4-6 weeks of studying, when I went on an extended family vacation. And after my vacation, SRS study was overwhelming because I had a huge backlog of thousands of cards to get through. It was demoralizing (and I think a strong negative of SRS systems - you must review cards every day, otherwise the backlog builds up, and you are less willing to review the cards you need to catch up). So I never got out of my SRS backlog after a 2 week vacation, and I never got back into the swing of studying. I put it off for a year.
I got back into studying Chinese about 6 weeks ago, sometime after my winter break. I dusted off my Pleco app and bought some more books, and have been studying since. It took me about a week or two to go through all of the cards I learned the first time through. (I deleted my score file and started over from HSK 1). I have gone though all of the cards up to the New HSK5 level. I decided to hold off on HSK6, and instead studied the top several thousand most common words, most common words used in movies, and most common words used in newspapers. I also went though the words in the Old HSK 1-3 that were not included in the New HSK. This may sound like a lot of new words, but it was doable with my trusty Pleco SRS system.
I think I have reached a point where I know plenty of characters and words, and I need more practice reading in context.
I have been reading a little bit, but since I've sort of overloaded my SRS system (a mistake on my part), I have too many cards to review (up to 500 cards on a big day). I've stopped/slowed down adding of cards, and am just maintaining my current card system. Once it has died down, I'll be able to concentrate my efforts away from SRS towards reading.
SRS is like a game to me. I review cards while waiting in line, waiting for my boyfriend, eating lunch, basically whenever I have a few minutes to myself. It has gotten addictive, and Yes, I think there is such a thing as Too Much SRS!
My goal is to wean myself off of SRS, stop adding new cards, and focus on seeing my words "in the wild" while reading native material.
I am glad I have made so much progress in the past few weeks, and I look forward to continuing my studies.
Do you have any Chinese language learning goals (short term or long term) that you would like to share? Have you ever overwhelmed yourself with SRS?
Not a Learning book per se, but a really nice linguistic analysis of the Chinese Language. He explains a lot of the misconceptions that people have about the Chinses language, and details the Chinese writing system from ancient times to modern.
A really great dictionary. If you are beginning, you will probably want a paper dictionary. It comes in handy, even in this era of electronic dictionaries. And the ABC ECCE is one of the best. It has both English and Chinese lookup.
Simply the best geneological-etymological condensation for the modern reader. Harbaugh breaks over 4000 characters down into 200 simple ideographs from which each family of characters branches off. This is more for serious students who are interested in the entymology of characters, but is immensely helpful in learning word concepts and meaning.
This book presents memorizing characters with short mnemonics and stories to help you learn. This may be good for beginner learners, but I prefer learning the true entymologies (see Harbaugh's book above). This book does not teach pronunciation, so you will have to work on that separately.
Another book with stories and pictures to help you learn and memorize Chinese characters. This mnemonic device method is very popular, and gives rapid results for the beginner.
A DeFrancis reader for the beginner. Good if you prefer to have more structured lessons, presenting about 10 new characters per lession (more as you progress). Nice to have if you are self studying, but want to follow a specific teaching plan.