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Amazing source of sentences

#1
I came across this book in Eslite here in Taipei a few days ago while looking for material for one of my English students. It's a book of 8000 conversational sentences, English and Chinese, with MP3 recordings of all 8000 in both languages. This seems to be a really popular format for language books here, because there are similar books for Japanese, Korean, etc., all with Chinese sentences. Not all of them have the Chinese audio though, unfortunately.

Anyway, the Chinese is very conversational, though it seems to stay away from too much slang (which is a good thing, IMO, better to learn the "correct" stuff first since slang changes so quickly). The book is called 史上最強的英語會話8000, and it's something like US$10 plus shipping at books.com.tw.

The book is arranged topically in 15 units: People, Emotional Expression, Functional Expression, Eating, Living, Transportation, Education, Relaxing and Leisure Time, Clothing, Numbers, Working, Culture and Tradition, Disaster, Crime, and The Society and Environment. Each unit is further broken up into sections, so in the unit on Eating there are sections on Cutlery, Cooking Utensils and Appliances, Drink, Meat and Seafood, Meat, Seafood (not sure why the redundancy), Desserts, Vegetables, Fruit, Other Food, Portions, Deciding on a Restaurant, Making Reservations, Ordering Food, Things to Say During a Meal, and Eating Habits. "Things to Say...", for example, is further broken down into General Comments and Questions about a Meal, Complimenting, Complaining and Criticizing a Meal and Restaurant, and Problems. I thought Complaining and Criticizing sounded like fun, so here's a sampling from that section (out of 20 sentences total):

I'm never coming back to this restaurant.
我再也不會來這間餐廳了。

This custard pudding is crappy.
這個卡士達布丁很難吃。

Don't you think the cheesecake is dreadful?
你不覺得這個起司蛋糕很糟嗎?

I didn't know the service here was so horrible.
我不知道這裡的服務那麼的糟糕。

This beef tastes like shoe-leather.
這塊牛肉也太硬了吧。

This chicken is quite tough, isn't it?
這塊雞肉太韌了,對不對?


Now that I look at it, those seem a little basic, because of course food vocabulary is something you learn about at a basic level. The Hot Springs section under Relaxing and Leisure Time is more representative of how useful this book is. You can learn words like bathe, boiling, bubbles, changing room, coin locker, hand towel, healing, hot springs resorts, massage, naked, nude, pools, rinse off, swim suit, fumes, lukewarm, minerals, mixed bathing, nudity, sulphur, rotten eggs, pulsating, scalding, volcanoes, price of admission, etc. There are 50 sentences altogether just about hot springs. Lots of daily words that any native speaker knows that textbooks may or may not cover adequately, in a very colloquial, conversation style. It's like gold.

I've been checking out Glossika's stuff recently (he has posted a few videos this year explaining his method in more detail than before, albeit all in Chinese), and this is exactly the sort of book he uses in his own language learning and in teaching his students English. He also advocates recording the sentences yourself and listening to those to work on pronunciation and accent (and if you listen, his accent is unreal).

I'm trying to figure out exactly how I'm going to use this, so I'm up for suggestions and discussion. It's a huge amount of material and it's not like I can just sit down and type it all out, nor do I really want to. I'm not too worried about using it for reading, more for things like shadowing, working on accent, vocabulary acquisition, developing fluidity and prosody in my speech, etc. My reading is coming along nicely using other material.

Unfortunately there's nothing close to this made specifically for learning Chinese (this is for learning English), but this is a close second, IMO. Anyway, maybe this will be useful to some of you.
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#2
that would be super awesome if I was learning chinese. ;P

I wonder if there is anything else like this after I finish core10k...
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#3
Hey, thanks for this posting; Will definitely check it out! Sounds like a great book, which will be useful for me and also for my fiancée (she's still studying more advanced English).

It will be nice having something Taiwanese, as I'm currently using mainland chinese sentences and audio, much to my other-half's disgust..

I imagine using it will be a case of reading a chapter at a time, adding useful vocab to your vocab deck, and picking out sentences which contain unusual/useful speech patterns. I'm curious though; how is the audio formatted? The site seems to say that it's all seperare mp3s files on a DVD data disc, rather than CD tracks?

There is a similar set of books for Japanese btw:
http://forum.koohii.com/viewtopic.php?id=2036
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#4
Yeah, the girl in the recording has a nice, clear Taiwanese accent. It's great. The recordings come on one of those mini DVDs. It's 16 hours of MP3 audio, just under 700MB.

Good to know about the Japanese books, but I'll probably use the ones I was thinking about when I mentioned it in my first post, because they're Chinese-Japanese, and they even have books with 10,000 sentences for Japanese here.

I think I'm going to do something different than what you mention with it, actually. This is something I've been trying to get at for a while mentally, and I think it's finally taking form. I've been talking to some people recently who have really incredible Chinese, and asking how they do it. There's one guy, a white guy from the US, who sounds like a Taiwanese guy to the point that one of his English students was convinced he was an ABC or at least part Chinese/Taiwanese. Another who speaks several languages with a near-native accent, though his Mandarin isn't quite there yet. Then I've also been watching Mike Campbell/Glossika on YouTube. His accent is unbelievable.

These guys all talk about intensive work with audio, and some even suggest memorization of audio tracks, even to the point of ignoring reading and writing for a while. That's not an option right now since I'm in school, but I can still put a lot of emphasis on speech and listening over the next several months.

So what I plan on doing will be somewhat experimental, but I feel like it may work really well. I'll be spending an hour or so per day shadowing the audio. Maybe 100 sentences or so per day. While shadowing, I'll be focusing on meaning and pronunciation. In the process I also plan to record myself saying some of the sentences. Then I'm going to cut the English out of the tracks and throw them into Anki, and essentially have SRS audio. Each flashcard session I'll basically listen to the track (which will be the front of the card). If I understood correctly and was able to shadow I'll mark it correct. Otherwise I'll mark it incorrect. I'll have the track name on the front too, so I can look it up in the book if I need to. Anything I have trouble with gets typed on the back of the card so I don't have to look it up again (if I get it wrong again).

Now, during the day (when I'm out, not at my computer, using Anki on my phone or in class), I plan to listen at least some to my own recordings of these sentences. This is the painful part, because I hate hearing my own voice, and it's worse when I'm speaking Chinese. My pronunciation isn't horrible, but it does need some work, which is something I only discovered recently by hearing myself. The good thing is that by hearing yourself you can discover exactly what doesn't sound right, especially if you hear native speakers on a daily basis. You can also compare your voice to the audio recording in this case. Occasionally I'll re-record something I know really well and compare with the original recording to see how I've progressed and what I still need to work on.

Now, let's say (I'm pulling this out of my ass) that over the course of 4 months from adding any given card, you review it an average of 10 times in Anki. Well at a rate of 500 cards per week, you will have added them all after 4 months, and by 4 months later (to give time to review the ones added at the end) you will have listened to and said each sentence 10 times or more. That's more than 80,000 repetitions of these correct, conversational, idiomatic sentences.

So what does this do for you? Well this is what I'm hoping. For one, your tongue is a muscle, and I will have worked it out extensively during this time, building muscle memory. I probably won't even have to repeat every sentence every single time I review it to get the benefits. If I've paid attention to meaning every time I've said it, then it will feel wrong to say the sentence (or parts of the sentence) wrong, and it will sound wrong to me because I will have heard it so many times. Grammar, as one of the aforementioned people (who is a linguist) put it to me, is just sound patterns. If native speakers use and understand the sound pattern, then it is grammatically correct. Well I will have just said 80,000 correct sound patterns while paying close attention to sound and meaning. This is a way to ingrain this stuff: grammar, vocabulary, situation-appropriate usage, everything.

By virtue of the fact that I will have practiced so many sentences and listened to so much audio, my listening ability should also shoot up. By relying on only what I hear versus using the page (or iPhone screen) as a crutch, I should develop a much more acute ear for the language. This is much like ear training for musicians. You devote a lot of time to really listening closely, and your ears can develop in ways that most people can't imagine.

Besides that, I will have learned a ton of useful vocab and phrases for all sorts of different situations. It's really incredible how much information you can pack into 8000 sentences. I don't plan on adding all the vocab to my flash card decks by any means. I probably won't even worry about learning how to read or write most of it, at least for a while. Like I said before, my reading is coming along just fine (there's actually a big gap between my reading and speaking ability). This is to improve my conversational Chinese, including fluency, accent, vocabulary, listening, grammar, etc. I'm sure once I've learned the stuff well I'll learn the written side of things, but that comes really easily for me.

This will be a big project and take a lot of time, but I have the time right now to devote to it and I'm pretty sure it will work really well. If not, well, I'll just ditch it, cut my losses, and move on to the next thing.
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#5
hey, sounds like a plan for improving speaking.

On a similar note, I used to do listening -> transcription cards in anki for Japanese. My format was:

Front:
Japanese Audio

Back:
Kanji (cloze delete)
kana
English meaning

For these I would listen to the audio, make sure I understood the meaning, and then type the full sentence out in kanji (cloze delete) before revealing the reverse.

I soon found my listening ability AND my (computer-based) output ability shot up. The transcription part makes reviews significantly longer, but it's worth it; you really learn to differentiate similar sounds when you have to type them out / spell the words exactly. I imagine this would work even better for chinese, as you'll be hyper-aware of the tones.

Didn't help my speaking, but then you can just shadow the front for that too.
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#6
I've always wanted to make pronunciation production cards (like your shadowing cards) in Anki, but here's something I'm worried about:

How do I grade myself?

How do you know if you've hit the right accent on everything? How do you know if you're forming all the sounds 100% correct? How do you know if your sentence has natural flow? If you had a native speaker with you, they could grade you, but I'm worried about my ability to accurately grade my own pronunciation.

You could always record yourself saying the card, then compare that to the native speaker's version. The problem with this, for me at least, is that sometimes I can't hear where something sounds wrong. A native speaker will tell me that something sounds wrong, but I just can't tell on my own.

I imagine that if I were to do pronunciation production cards, it would help my pronunciation overall, but I would be worried about learning some things incorrectly, and then having to go back and fix them at a later date.
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#7
Well I don't plan on marking based on accent, unless I make an obvious error. Accent (and pronunciation for that matter) isn't something that's either right or wrong. You will never be "100% correct" because there's no such thing. Furthermore, it isn't something that will just click. It's something that, over time, with work, you will get closer and closer to converging on. So the actual accent stuff is (hopefully) an outcome of all of this, not the rubric by which I will grade myself during the process. The idea is for my accent and fluency to gradually improve over the next few months as a result of the intensive work I'll be putting in with the audio over the next several months.

Also, I'm not quite sure if I want to do this as an Anki deck. That's an idea I was throwing around, but I may actually end up doing something different, though the core idea will remain the same. This week and next week I'm working on pronunciation intensively before I start this project, so I have a few weeks to work the wrinkles out. If I could figure out some way to make an SRS-type playlist in iTunes, or just a graduated-interval type of playlist (wasn't there a thread about something like that a while back?) I might like that even better.

One thing I meant to mention is that I may or may not actually finish the whole book. We'll see. Or I may work on it intensively for a couple months and then slow down with the rest of it. We'll see how it goes. I'm using a similar approach with some textbooks and their audio tracks too, so who knows. The textbooks are important for me to finish by a certain time because they contain the type of stuff that I'll need to know for my proficiency test this November, which will determine whether I can go to grad school here in Taiwan. So again, we'll see.
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#8
bflatnine Wrote:Accent (and pronunciation for that matter) isn't something that's either right or wrong. You will never be "100% correct" because there's no such thing.
I would argue that 100% correct would be sounding like a native. If a native speaker says you sound like a native speaker, I would say you are 100% correct in your pronunciation.

bflatnine Wrote:Furthermore, it isn't something that will just click. It's something that, over time, with work, you will get closer and closer to converging on.
I imagine you are right about this, though.

It sounds like you've read/thought a lot about improving your pronunciation. Do you have any links to helpful information online? Is shadowing really the best way?
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#9
But "sounding like a native" is really nebulous. I've been corrected by native speakers who clearly didn't know what "correct" pronunciation was, because they have no reason to be concerned about it. In Taiwan you'll hear a lot of people mix up 'l' and 'r', saying things like jīlòu for 雞肉, and I actually had a lady correct me after I said jīròu. The range of accents and variation in pronunciation among native speakers is too wide, even in a small country like Taiwan, to define specifically.

What you can hope to do is to get your pronunciation as close as possible to this range of acceptability and correctness, so that native speakers have a really hard time perceiving any foreign accent. This is a rare thing to achieve, but it's worth striving for. The list of foreign learners of English that I've met who have achieved this is very small, and that's with English. The number of people who achieve this with Chinese or Japanese must be much smaller. I don't expect to ever sound like a local Taiwanese person, but I will try to work on it as much as possible over the next several months.

I would recommend watching Glossika's videos on YouTube, though unfortunately some of them will be in Chinese without subs. There has been a good amount of discussion on shadowing over at how-to-learn-any-language.com, but I don't have any links off the top of my head. A lot of my information has come from personal discussions with high-level speakers of Chinese who have great accents, along with one phonologist who is doing his PhD in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language here in Taipei. Shadowing is the best way I know to improve pronunciation. There may be better, of course. I've used shadowing before to a lesser extent, and when you really get in the zone with it, you can really improve your pronunciation and prosody quickly.

The trick is that you need to know how the sounds should be pronounced in the first place. You need a sharp ear to be able to perceive the differences between what you're saying and what the recording is saying. This is where it helps to record yourself, IMO, because it's easier to hear it when you're not in the moment of trying to say it. But while you're saying it you need to really focus on what you're saying, how you're saying it, and make sure you're saying it as close to the recording as you possibly can.
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#10
I'm very eager to buy the book and audio but I'm a guy and I don't know how shadowing a girl would be. I know that girls and guys speak quite differently in Japanese. Does the same hold true for Mandarin? If so, does anyone know of any book that's similar to this one with audio that has a male speaker?
Edited: 2012-03-26, 4:57 pm
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#11
Of course they speak differently than men in real life, but this is very standard conversational Chinese so that's not a problem here, IMO. The slang and girly way of talking is something you'd hear in real life here in Taipei, not something on a CD intended for educational purposes.
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#12
If possible, I'd suggest watching Chinese dramas/TV shows with Chinese subs.

Download the drama script and analyze it. Find hanzi that you don't know yet
and make sure you remember them next time (Heisig?).

It's a lot better to hear dialogue that is spoken by actual native speakers rather
than from textbooks that attempt to simulate conversations.
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#13
Of course that's a great method, but that's not what I'm talking about here. This is one thing I'm doing, out of several. What I'm trying to do here is cram a ton of sentences into my head for all kinds of different situations, shadowing them to build fluency (as in fluidity of speech), and work on standardizing my pronunciation. None of which you can really do with TV shows, because you're limited to sentences related to the plot and the speech styles (often not very standard) of the actors. Of course, these are good things as well, but not for what I'm trying to achieve in my study currently.
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#14
Mkay, so still trying to work everything out.

But I found a quick way to cut up the audio into individual sentences. Using Audacity I cut the music and track introductions, and muted the sentences numbers. Then I inserted a 1 second silence between English and Chinese sentences (there is already enough silence between each pair of sentences, so no need). Export, open with AudioSlicer, a Mac app for cutting up audio at silent points. This splits the file into however many sentences it has x2 (English and Chinese).

Keep everything simple using only numbers in the file names so that find/replace works well in your CSV document that you import into Anki, and your sentences are imported that quickly. I did a batch of 64 sentences just now in about 15 minutes start to finish, including a quick break to post on another forum. It helps that I'm not entering the text, of course.

I'll be spending a good chunk of next week preparing this deck, at least as far ahead as I can if I don't finish.
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#15
Dude.. I love you.
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#16
Ze feeling is muchal.

There's also a great book I found the other day for learning Japanese (using Chinese as the base language). It has 10,000 sentences, organized in 5 sections, corresponding to JLPT N5-N1. With an MP3 CD. Definitely getting bought when I finally start Japanese for real. Anyway it's called 新日檢N5~N1必考10000單隨手K.
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#17
Actually I have to say it seems like there should be an even faster way to split an MP3 track up into sections based on silence. The AudioSlicer app doesn't pay attention to silences less than 1.1 seconds, and the spaces between English and Chinese sentences is shorter than that. I know when I used Logic (professional audio editing/recording software) and ProTools (same) there was a way to do this really quickly, but since my days of needing this kind of software are over, I don't have them anymore. Anyone know of an app that will allow you to do this quickly, either in real time or close to it?
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#18
bflatnine Wrote:Anyone know of an app that will allow you to do this quickly, either in real time or close to it?
There's a command line utility mp3splt (http://mp3splt.sourceforge.net/mp3splt_p...nloads.php), that is very flexible - you can configure the length of silence periods, the level at which sound is considered silence etc. I've used it under Linux, but I understand that it's also available for Mac OS X. There's also a GUI (Mp3splt-gtk) but I've never tried it.
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#19
If I remember correctly, I tried the GUI for mp3split, but it wouldn't install for some reason. I've figured out a workable solution for the time being, by just copying 1 second of silence and pasting between each sentence, then running it through AudioSlicer. It's acceptably quick. Thanks though!
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#20
I bought the 史上最強的英語會話8000 book. I was wondering if you were still making a deck. If you are, I would be glad to collaborate so that we can maybe get this thing going. I really want to get an Anki deck out and I'm determined to add 50 sentences a day. We can possibly do another google doc like last time. That worked out really well and it only took about a week for the RTH2 if I remember correctly, haha.

Let me know if you're interested.
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#21
I won't have the time to work on this for at least the next few weeks because I have family in town. After that, it's still not likely. I have a new semester starting in two weeks and I have a heavy class/study load. I still plan to do this book at some point, but since I'm hoping to start my MA here in Taiwan next fall, it's having to take a backseat to my academic needs for Chinese.
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#22
Do you (or anyone) happen to know another source for Mandarin sentences with audio much like this except with a male speaker rather than a female speaker?
Edited: 2012-06-05, 10:32 pm
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#23
I don't know of anything. I have some decent audio for some of the ICLP textbooks, but most of it is kind of off, pronunciation-wise. They use the so-called "Taiwan standard", which of course nobody sounds like in real life. Exaggerated retroflex initials, lots of 兒化, etc., but they use Taiwanese tones and pronunciation (星期 is xīngqí, 暫時 is zhànshí, 垃圾 is lèsè, etc.). Very odd-sounding. My Taiwanese friends start laughing when they hear the recordings, and like to put on their best Beijing accent when they make fun of it. It's all fairly academic, too, and there's so much audio (around 10 GB if I remember correctly) that I'm not really able to share it other than by lending out my USB drive.
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#24
@bflatnine or bryos:
When you finish the deck, can you share it, please? This seems like an awesome concept and I would buy the book, but I can't understand how to buy it (the website is in chinese).
Edited: 2012-06-06, 4:17 pm
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#25
Marble101, I was going to use this book for shadowing with the audio, but I kind of changed my mind because I'm afraid that if I shadow this through all 8000, I'll sound weird or something. Maybe I should just stop whining and do it anyway.

Maybe I would sound cool if I could produce the same sounds as a middle-aged Taiwanese female. I'm just afraid of sounding like the guy in this video:

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