We are reading 《乡土中国》 From the Soil by 费孝通 Fei Xiaotong. The Reading Challenge began on March 23, 2020. If you joined late or missed the previous chapters, you can access them here.
Chapter 15: 后记 Text
A Word of Two of Encouragement
祝贺各位！Congratulations on working through the reading challenge! While the chapters are interesting and important, they are also tough. At this point we want to reach out with a word or two of encouragement and offer a few suggestions.
First of all, this book is not an easy read, so don’t be discouraged if you are not understanding everything. I think it is fair to say that no one is getting all of it, at least not without hitting pause to check a dictionary, and slowing down to process the broader conceptual meaning. There are a lot of important theoretical observations here, so if you are too intently focused on the words it can be hard to keep up with the concepts. This is totally normal.
Obviously the best case scenario is that you decide you are going to work slowly through each reading, pausing when necessary and making sure you not only get every word, but also understand every concept. But this is probably not realistic for most of us. Don’t beat yourself up about missing words. Instead, it may be helpful to use one or more of these approaches:
- Focus on certain key sentence structures. When you hear/read a sentence that you think would be useful to you, pause and read it a few times or even write it down. If you can get one or two key sentence structures each day that is still worthwhile progress. Using today’s reading as an example, this could be something as simple as “孔子最关注的是…” [(someone) paid a lot of attention to…] or “自我主义并不限于…连…都该包括在内。” [(something) is not limited to…but also includes…]. There are lots of similarly useful structures in these readings. The idea is to find the right way to say something so as to avoid using 差不多 words and structures.
- Focus on one key paragraph. As you listen, mark a paragraph down to go back to. For me, in today’s reading I marked the short paragraph that began “我们一旦明白这个能放能收…” When the recording was done I went back to it and read it a couple times. Maybe keep a sticky note handy.
- Focus on key words or phrases: if you are a very advanced reader, maybe there are only a few key words that you had never seen before, or a key phrasing that you hadn’t encountered. For instance, I can’t imagine there were many people that could have translated “Like the ripples formed from a stone thrown into a lake, each circle spreading out from the center becomes more distant and at the same time more insignificant.” Take that one sentence and study it. [The full sentence was 以“己”为中心，象石子一般投入水中，和别人所联系成的社会关系，不象团体中的分子一般大家立在一个平面上的，而是象水的波纹一般，一圈圈推出去，愈推愈远，也愈推愈薄。]
- Finally, you could just listen and read along without worrying too much about whether you are missing a bunch of it. This still keeps those deeper Chinese language neurons firing and is helping your language maintenance. Doing this daily is still much better than getting discouraged and dropping the daily exercise.
Find a strategy that works for you on a given day and roll with it. But most importantly, keep it up! 好好学习，天天向上！