Flashcards, characters, words, sentences

October 29, 2009, 07:02 PM posted in General Discussion

Do you put entire sentences on your flashcards? I've just started, and it's great stuff. Here's my new guideline:

When learning characters, study words. When learning words, study sentences.

I never believed in learning the characters in isolation. Seemed like a waste. Why not learn the words, instead? You'll have to learn the characters to get the words, anyway. Now I'm feeling the same way about words. However, having entire sentences on flashcards won't work very well if you don't know the characters. That's too much unknown stuff to put on a flashcard.

So right now, when I encounter a word where I know the characters, but didn't know the word, I make a search for it on nciku, find a good example sentence and add the whole thing into the vocabulary tool in CPod. This usually gives me a grammar construction and sometimes several new words (and if not, overlearning on old words) for free. Also, getting to know the word in a context really helps me to know how to use it (to avoid using it just like its English counterpart is used in English). However, I always make sure I know all the characters in the sentence. I never add a sentence with unknown characters.

Just thought I'd share. Do you work with memorizing sentences? Why or why not?

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December 14, 2009, 01:19 AM

I'm not working with sentences yet, just words, phrases, and collocations.  I've been listening to the dialogues for over a year now, so my listening comprehension is strong compared to my friend who takes classes at the university but doesn't use Cpod much; however, I've only just started reading and writing characters.  I feel I need to focus on those ubiquitous lexical chunks Ken loves, which will lead me to sentences when I can write more competently.  I agree with you that working with sentences reinforces natural grammar and structure. 

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December 14, 2009, 01:32 AM

Memorizing sentences is a standard Chinese teaching method. At university in China I was asked to learn dozens of sentences each week.  It helped me avoid embarrassment in dictation; it helped reinforce grammar patterns.  I'm not sure if it has any lasting benefits. (I certainly cannot remember any of them now.)   

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December 14, 2009, 02:01 AM

I use sentences too. I find that it makes it easier to recall individual words. The sentences also give me some speaking practice and help me learn Chinese grammar.

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December 14, 2009, 08:01 AM

My biggest problem with flashcards is that I need practice sentence ordering. I wrote a program that helps me do that: it's a game where you arrange words into the proper sentence ordering. It helps me a lot more than individual word flashcards. It uses CPod lesson expansion sentence sets as content.

I stuck it online if you want to try it out. It's called Bing Xiang Tie  (冰箱贴). I wrote it for myself, so it's got a few bugs...but most of it's pretty solid. One caveat: It does require .NET 4 because I'm lazy, which means it also only works on Windows.

I have a Silverlight version online but that doesn't hook into CPod and it doesn't have most of the features (tone colors, traditional, online dictionary support, etc.)

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December 16, 2009, 09:56 AM


I am having great fun with the "BingXiangTie" (ice box magnets) program (game). Painless learning at its best and it covers an important aspect of Chinese - sentence structure. Thanks so much for this. I recommend it highly.