Too many technical words

In my Chinese University classes, all we do now for us advanced students is learn more and more vocabulary. It gets really tiring when you open your textbook and just memorizing huge quantity of words that you probably won’t use often, but will probably need to know if you eventually want to become fluent in Chinese and read Chinese books, etc.

For example, for this school semester that has just started here in America, I have learned words like “super”, “final competition”, “advertise intensely”, “To unfold before one’s eyes”, “Miss World” (as in the beauty pageant), "“to sightsee”… The list goes on and on and on…

I’m glad we are learning all of this, but at the same time it’s hard to keep my enthusiasm high for learning Chinese when there are sooooo many technical words that you just have to sit down, memorize the pinyin and the characters, and move on. It gets really tiring.

So what do you guys do to keep yourself motivated and learning all those technical words? Do you just casually study them so that you don’t burn out? Or do you guys just stick to your dictionaries instead of learning a crap load of technical words.

I want to eventually read some books in Chinese. My level of grammar is fine, but my vocabulary is so low that any Chinese book I try to read would bore me to death, and would require me to be glued to my dictionary.

So what’s the key? How do you learn a mass amount of vocab?

By using them.

Fear not, English has far far more technical words than Chinese.

How are words like “super” and “to sightsee” technical words? From the title, I thought you were talking about things like “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles” or “protein synthesis” or “magnetic flux” or “neeps and tatties”.

As others have noted, words like sightsee, super, final competition, advertise, and intensely are normal advanced words, not something technical. You can’t read CNN’s headline story excerpt today without knowing era, inaugural, address (=speech), first lady, balls (= dances), tap (=draw upon), virtues, resiliency, administration, to usher in, and accountability. That’s just the nature of learning any language at the advanced level – you need to learn basic words that adults use when writing and speaking.

Flashcards help. Self-administered rewards help. But for me the greatest motivation is just the yearning to be able to understand what’s in front of me. One thing that helps is to keep things in perspective: realize that you may forget many of these, but having learned them once means that later when you encounter them again, it will become easier to relearn them, and if you never do encounter a particular one again, well, then no loss, eh?

I’ve done both. But if you always rely on the dictionary and don’t make a concerted effort to memorize vocab, then your future reading will be slow, and listening comprehension will be impaired. So one approach is to make a small mark, perhaps a dot, next to each word in the dictionary when you look it up. If the next time you look up words, you find that there are one or more dots already next to them, then you know these are words you’re encountering repeatedly, so it may be worth making flashcards and memorizing them.

So start with readings which already have the vocab identified for you, or which have Chinese on one page and English on another, so you can glance over to confirm your guesses rather than looking so many words up. Or read smaller bits, like bilingual news blurbs, or short articles and news stories, so that you can finish them much more quickly than you would a book, thus getting a sense of accomplishment.

Patience and persistent dedication to the task. Perseverence, over a number of months and years.

Sorry, was super busy recently.

You guys are right, most of the words I study in my Textbook are not even technical words, although I must admit that I do run into a bunch of them in my textbook from time to time. I guess I better just suck up all these new words and memorize em (and use em, etc.)

Dragonbones, thank you for your input. As always your advice is well-received. I never though about marking some words in my dictionary, I think I will start doing that. I should also start reading small articles like you suggested instead of trying to tackle novels. My Chinese is still not that advanced yet to do so (although I really badly want to start reading some modern Chinese literature).

Hmmm, sometimes I wonder just how many Chinese Characters I know and how many more I have to know in order to be able to understand higher level reading.

When you do, consider reading something broken up into discrete units, like short essays (散文) (e.g. there’s a book of them by 三毛 San1 Mao2, or short, humorous stories (e.g., 離島醫生 Li2dao3 yi1sheng1, which is about as easy and colloquial as adult writing gets – highly recommended). Local bookstores should carry both – just ask.