Tag: Harry Potter

Hapax Legomena vs. the Brick Wall

The Brick Wall

With reading as my primary skill of focus in learning Chinese, a large part of my study is acquiring new words. Some vocabulary is from general word lists such as the HSK, while much of it is tied to a specific text I am reading, in order to increase my level of comprehension. While many approach the task of reading in a foreign language by looking up unknown words as they are encountered, I prefer to learn them ahead of time, to avoid the break in concentration while reading. With my bad habit of perfectionism, my main strategy in the past for learning these word has been the “Brick Wall Method”:

The Brick Wall Method – Learn every unknown word you encounter, no matter how difficult or rare it is

My theory has been — like being a brick wall against a tennis player — to not let any unknown word get past me, so that eventually I will run out of unknown words and thus will have learned the language. If a word is used in a text, it’s clearly important to some nominal degree, and if it’s used once, then it’s more likely to be seen again at some point, versus all the words that aren’t in the text.

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Harry Potter in Chinese

When the forum question comes up, “What should I read when I’ve passed the beginner stage?” a number of people suggest: “哈利波特!” At one point maybe two years ago, I had peeked at a chapter posted online, just to give it a try. It seemed still to be above my level, even though I had known roughly 5,000 words or so at that time. But recently in a buying mood, I made 《哈利·波特与魔法石》 my first purchase of a Chinese book. Never having been to China, receiving it in the mail and opening the package was a real excitement, as it was my first book entirely in Chinese that wasn’t a textbook. On occasion I have checked out Chinese reading material from the local university library (which has a huge selection), but I read so slowly that I could never make it past the first 2 chapters before it was due a month later. This, on the other hand, was a book I could keep forever, giving me a hope that I could actually finish it, even if it took years. › Continue reading…

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