Maria Holland

Show Me the Data

In Uncategorized on March 8, 2015 at 2:32 pm

I’ve been reading books in other languages as a yearly project for a few years now, and I’ve been keeping data on the endeavor for the last three.  It’s been interesting!


This graph shows the number of words I underline, which means I don’t know them, in blue; the number of new flashcards I add to my Anki deck, in red; and the total number of cards in my Anki deck, in purple (on the secondary axis).  The x-axis is the page number; the graph starts with Vida de Pi, Corazon tan Blanco starts around page 400, and 三体 started a little before 700.

One thing that I notice from this is that I am much more selective about the Chinese words that I choose to add to my Anki deck – that’s the gap between the blue and red lines starting around page 700.

One new metric I’ve decided to track is my reading speed.  I time myself while reading to get an idea of how long it takes me to read a page.  It turns out that I can read a page in about 8 minutes, although there have been two more difficult patches, which took 15 minutes per page.  And yes, I definitely feel that increase in difficulty . . . There are times when the reading feels natural, and times when it feels like slogging through quicksand.

Take this weekend’s reading, for example.  I spent an hour fighting through four measly pages.  But oh, what difficult pages these were!  The chapter begins by setting the scene: “China, 1967.”  It’s full-fledge Cultural Revolution, so there’s vocabulary like “Red Guards” and “rebel factions” and “Bolshevik” and “reactionary” and “public criticism”.  The Red Guards are fighting, so in one paragraph I had to wade through a list of their weapons, including carbine rifles, machine guns, submachine guns, rifles, and spears.  And then the person being denounced was a physics professor, so there were a bunch of scientific terms like “osmosis”, “in series”, “parallel computing”, “concentration”, “theory of relativity”, and “the Big Bang Theory”.  At least I already knew Einstein’s name . . .


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