Chinese Resources

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My serious problem with academic Chinese writing

Well it finally happend. My teacher called me out in class and told me that I need to work on seriously improving my academic Chinese writing ability. She then proceeded to pick apart sentence after sentence of mistakes and translation errors with a look of disgust (okay the last part only happens in my dreams). I've always guessed this was the case, but now I actually know it, and my classmates do too.

Before entering graduate school I had never actually written a research paper in Chinese. I'd never taken a Chinese literature class. Heck, I've only taken three years of formal Chinese language classes in my life; most of which took place in the US, and was not focused on formal writing at all. I have no problem speaking Chinese, cause that is where the focus was, and has always been.

The sad reality is that most of my graduate studies focus on massive input, not output. The average lecture is three hours long, and (we) as students are lucky if the teacher can put a name to a face by the end of the semester. In my first year in the program I wrote roughly 20 papers, some of which were 10 pages or more, but the majority were 2-3 pages of very colloquial writing.

Aside from the grades posted at the end of the semester, the amount of feedback I received by the end of one year was zilch. No corrections, no comments, not a single "hey 高健 you write like a foreigner! Knock it off!" But now I'm expected to change... and fast, because I have a 100 pape research paper due in just 28 months, and I'll be damned if I let my thesis board call out the way I write.

This isn't me playing the blame game, it is simply the harsh reality of where my Mandarin is, and why it got there.

So, how the heck am I going to fix this?

  • I've signed up for a private tutor on iTalki, with the sole purpose of fixing my academic writing. We start class tomorrow, and I have to email them a paper in a little under two hours.
  • I'll be using Lang-8 to focus more on the translation of English academic articles into Chinese (something I'm going to have to get very good at in the next 24 months). Nothing too long, just key phrases or ideas that I'll need to talk about in my own thesis.
  • I'm going to read more academic journals (in Chinese), about the topics I need to know (got about 30 that I've been putting off cause I never seem to have time).
  • I'm going to write more, and with more focus (more on that later).
I don't know if it will be enough, but it's a start. Cause right now the only thing I wanna to hear my teacher say is "wow, your academic writing is really getting better!"


  1. I haven't thought much about academic Chinese. Does this refer to Chinese written at the level appropriate for academic journals? Are there any academic journals (published in Taiwan) in Chinese that are available online?

    1. YT,
      Thanks for your comment. Yes, I'm talking about writing Chinese at a level that would be acceptable for publication (after review from a native speaker). The program I am attending here in Taiwan demands that non-native speakers complete their thesis project in Chinese, so I am very concerned about further developing my Chinese writing skills. Many academic journals are published online, but you generally need to have an institutional license in order to view anything more than an abstract. However, even Google Scholar can help point researchers in the right direction or narrow down key vocabulary words.


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