Has my 閱讀 Chinese reading improved?

Stone tablet, in Puli 埔里.

Over the years, I’ve noticed a few cues indicating that my 閱讀 had improved, and surprised myself at that! Indeed, I’ve been studying Chinese for a while now, but sometimes it feels like I’m just treading water, so these small epiphanies that I’m making strides forward are always encouraging.

In case you’re in a similar self-Chinese-learning journey, here are some suggested milestones to aim for, listed in the order I’ve reached them:

  • get a sense of how words are split, i.e. no longer seeing a Chinese sentence as a just a string of hanzi, but as words, even though you have no idea what those words mean. 😆
  • recognize proper nouns. Chinese names are usually made up of three hanzis which make them easier to recognize, but trickier is developing an intuition for foreign names, such as the Japanese ones which have usually four hanzis, or homophonic “Western” names. Getting over this step is helpful, as it may avoid time searching for words that don’t exist in any dictionary! 😅
  • recognize idiomatic phrases. Most common will be the chengyu 成語 which are generally made up of four hanzis, but some are longer phrases which can be less obvious to discern.
  • recognize written Chinese dialects. Remember when you started, and all the Chinese characters looked alike, but now you can differentiate between written Mandarin Chinese and Taiwanese/Cantonese/etc…?! Congratulations! How to make the difference? There’s no secret here, it takes practice! The more familiar you are with Mandarin hanzi, the more you’ll be able to tell when a hanzi looks odd enough to realize that it’s a dialect one.

This list only goes as far my current Chinese reading ability, but I’ll be sure to update it as I continue on on this journey.

The next milestones for me will involve, I guess, the competence to read hand-written Chinese, and 文言文 literary Chinese.

Thinking further about all those indicators, some if not all them also apply to other languages. Depending on one’s linguistic background, challenges in learning X language will be different, Mandarin Chinese isn’t harder than any other, all require some studying and practice!


(last updated: 2016/10/16 日)


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