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Say It Right Series

Using Obscure Words

Posted by matt_c August 25, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: obscure words, changye, bababardwan, language

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. 

 

 

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bababardwan says 
3 days ago

miantiao,

谢谢你的说明。我还忖度为什么“上西天”有那个意思。。“死了”。中国人觉得天在西方?

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changye says 
3 days ago

Hi bababardwan

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.

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miantiao says 
3 days ago

hey bababardwan

中国人不是那样觉得,天堂不是在西方,我不过觉得西方法律、教育、福利、医疗社保这类公平的系统和组织在西方国家对居民有利益,觉得相当公平的。因此,西方的这些为了保佑人民的组织和系统很受中国人的欢迎。 说实话,很多中国人为此就想获得这些人道德措施,觉得与其移民,不如向内改善。

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bababardwan says 
2 days ago

changye,

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.

miantiao,

I can't read the hanzi at the moment so I'll look at what you've written with much interest later.

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xiaophil says 
2 days ago

bababardwan

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?

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changye says 
2 days ago

Hi xiaophil

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 ...........

我还想知道为什么~
我还琢磨为什么~
我还在想, 为什么~

Hi bababardwan

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.

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bababardwan says 
2 days ago

changye,

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.

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xiaophil says 
2 days ago

bababardwan

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.

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bababardwan says 
2 days ago

xiaophil,

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. :)

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bababardwan says 
2 days ago

miantiao,

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”。

changye,

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。

其实,我喜欢你的比如“琢磨”;多谢。周末的时候我应该琢磨这个事。

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bababardwan says 
23 hours ago

changye,

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.

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changye says 
19 hours ago

Hi bababardwan

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.

认为 137,000,000
觉得 123,000,000
相信 92,200,000
以为 58,100,000
估计 42,500,000
怀疑 29,600,000
在想 26,300,000
猜测 11,300,000
猜想 9,170,000
琢磨 6,750,000
沉思 5,760,000
揣测 1,470,000
冥想 1,830,000
忖度 105,000

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bababardwan says 
19 hours ago

changye,

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.

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changye says 
19 hours ago

Hi bababardwan

I still would like to recommend you not to use 忖度, at least, in conversaitons.

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bababardwan says 
19 hours ago

changye,

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].

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pearltowerpete says 
19 hours ago

Hi bababardwan

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).

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bababardwan says 
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.

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zhenlijiang says
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.

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changye says 
18 hours ago

Hi bababardwan

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.

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bababardwan says

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].

日落好,哈哈

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changye says 
16 hours ago

Hi bababardwan

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.

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bababardwan says 
15 hours ago

changye,

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。 :)

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bababardwan says 
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.

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changye says 
12 hours ago

Hi bababardwan

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.

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bababardwan says 
4 hours ago

Hi changye,

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.

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tal_ says 
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.

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xiaophil says 
2 hours ago

I can throw my electronic dictionary against the wall.  Then again, most people don't surround their dictionaries with bubble wrap.

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tal_ says 
43 minutes ago

So how many layers do you use dude? And do you *pop* as you consult? 

 

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