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Knee Howdy: Challenge Chinese Vocabulary to a Duel and Bury it 'Six Feet Under' inside your Brain!


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I have finished writing a new book that teaches beginner vocabulary. It's called "Knee Howdy: Challenge Chinese Vocabulary to a Duel and Bury it 'Six Feet Under' inside your Brain!"

You can watch a video about it on youtube.com/kneehowdy.

I would very much like some constructive criticism. I have attached a sample chapter for your review.



I attached a new pdf Knee_Howdy_Sample.pdf with a few changes. The most notable being that I changed the "Sounds Like" section to "A proxy mate's hound". The meaning is explained in the beginning.

Knee Howdy Sample.pdf

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I took a quick flick through the sample chapter.

Good points:

- Mnemonics are awesome.

Bad points:

- When we're talking about Chinese, any "sounds like" examples are worse than useless, except for the most basic syllables (e.g. ni and hao) and some of your examples are especially misleading (e.g. "G.N.", "HONey", "SHUN MOther"). If I followed these, no Chinese person would understand me, and that's not just because of my British pronunciation. You'd be helping people a lot more by leaving this section out and encouraging students to learn pinyin properly.

- You missed out j in the pronunciation section. Your descriptions of the sounds you covered are okay, but you shouldn't only cover the problem sounds - be comprehensive in this section or leave it out entirely.

- It costs money.

What's the main selling point of this book? I can't think of anything it offers over free resources, such as memrise.com and sinosplice's pronunciation guides - even if I were a beginner, I'd find it hard to justify buying this. How many words do you cover in the whole book?

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While we're on "constructive criticism", you might think about proofreading things before publishing them (either on YouTube or in PDF format). The number and type of grammar and spelling errors I encountered in your material after just 5 minutes of clicking around is pretty appalling. When I feel like I should be getting paid to read what you wrote (my rates are reasonable if you need a proofreader), there's a problem, especially if you're going to charge $20 for the thing.

Oh, and that was not a real offer to proofread your book. neverending covered just a few of the reasons I wouldn't want my name associated with it.

I am having a hard time imagining your intended market for the book. People who enjoy being spoken to like they're mentally incapacitated? People who enjoy bad advice and horribly inaccurate pronunciation guidelines? People who enjoy paying US$20 to read some trash by someone who can't even use his own language accurately, just on the off-chance that maybe his Chinese is better than his English? Oh wait. This person has made it public that his Chinese level is low intermediate, so there's not a chance in hell of that being the case.

So tell me, what reason would anyone possibly have to buy your book?

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This is one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. Do you waggle your had around in time with all of your tones!?

Burry a word 'six feet under inside your brain'!!!

Then you've got a bit of Thomas the Tank Engine!

Even small children, who I'm imagining this is aimed at, would think this is completely retarded

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No sir, I don't wag my head around when I speak Chinese. The video is an demonstration of how to memorize Chinese words quickly, not how to speak them in public. I am sorry I didn't make that clear.

I am glad you thought it was funny, that was my intention. I am trying to show how you can have fun and make up silly stories to help your memory.

The more "retarded" it seems, the harder it is to forget.

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Well, yes, I will remember your method. I will remember it not just because it's strange but also because it's wrong. No one says 'choo' when they mean 'qu'. 'Choo' is more like a pinyin 'chu' sound. That's just one criticism....I'm confused that you'd even be trying to sell this or why you decided people needed to learn how to speak Chinese so badly?!!

Perhaps you could also do some for Chinese people to learn English eg 爱阿么吃爱你子 (that's how you might teach them to say 'I am Chinese') or 好二鱼 (how are you?)

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You are correct, it is definitely qù and not chù. That is why the correct pinyin is included, why I pronounced it correctly in the video, and why it says "sounds like" and not "sounds exactly the same as".

I am seeing from the comments here, that I need to make sure that I reiterate this in the book. I need to make sure that the reader is convinced that he must learn pinyin and pronunciation correctly and that the "sounds like" sections are only to help with memorization.

I think your examples of how to teach Chinese to learn English might work as a way to help them to remember the approximate sounds and thus lead them closer to the correct sounds.

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I think if you took out the "Sounds Like" sections it would be a stronger learning experience for the learner. I know a fair number of learners who had troubles with pinyin sounds because they were pronouncing it as if it were english (the most classic example is how most learners pronounce "pinyin" as if it were english). i would think that "Sounds like" would amplify this issue. I know a few learners who learned ZhuYin instead of pinyin, and had less pronunciation issues because they didn't have to deal with the "dual-identity" in the roman letters.

I'm really not a fan of "sounds like" approach, or inventing your own pronunciation helpers. I always wondered why my korean friends had a lot of trouble making the [f] sound. After learning the Korean alphabet, I realized that there textbooks use a aspirated [p] sound as a "sounds like" koreanization for pronunciation. I also had loads of fun once in a bookstore with my chinese wife using a phrasebook that thought pinyin was too hard for learners to learn, so instead introduced their own "sounds like" romanization. I read the phrases as if I was reading english and was unfamiliar with Mandarin sounds. My wife understood about 10% of the phrases.

Your first section is devoted to learning pinyin, so I would stick with that. I never really nailed pronunciation myself until I purchased a CD that went through the whole tone chart, pronounced it, explained how to make the sound, and provided sammy diagrams (which I like, not everyone does though). Funnily enough, I wrote a pronunciation guide during my learning process that came out quick similar to yours, though I had mapped chinese sounds to English using IPA. I saw http://www.amazon.co...36423492&sr=8-9 in the bookstore the other day, and I wish it had been available when I started learning.

I'm not against mnemonics either. I use them all the time for memorizing characters (ie. Tuttle/Matthew's approach). But I think any such mnemonics should be introduced as a memory aid ONLY after the pinyin sounds have been mastered. By introducing them in the same book as you're teaching pronunciation, it may only serve to confuse the reader. I guess overall I'm not sure of the focus of your book. If it's for beginners, then I think the mnemonics are only going to make learning pronunciation properly more difficult. If it's for someone who already knows pronunciation and can apply the mnemonics without messing up their pronunciation, then they have probably advanced beyond the concepts introduced.

That being said, it's great to see you trying new approaches to learning.

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Hi Webmagnets. Early on in your pdf you warn people not to "fall into the trap of thinking that it would be easier to just memorize these words by rote". I can't help thinking that it is mnemonics that have become the trap, due to their overuse nowadays, and the time and space they require slowing things down to a bit of a crawl (and with that crawl being more or less muddy n mire-like depending on the quality of the mnemonics). The fact that your 'Sounds like' (and related 'Memory hook') fields differ between single character and phrasal entries* (e.g. 我 is 'moi' one second, then the 'WA...' of the 'WATCH OUT'** in 我叫 the next, whilst 叫 by itself is then 'jowls'), and that the quality of the sound-to-semantic fit is so variable (the 'moi' for example makes a bit more sense/doesn't require potentially losing time if not one's bearings in involved stories, though see the comments on page 2 of this thread regarding the sound fit), will IMHO only compound the potential problems and frustration.

*It's usual to have mnemonics for single characters, but not for phrases. Doubtless most resource writers feel that their single-character mnemonics will be sufficient (so they can then devote space to hundreds or even thousands of characters, rather than just a hundred or so), and that whatever then mnemonicless phrases (many outside the scope of most works) will supply all the necessary extra context (albeit in Chinese) without the need for too much convoluted "extra help".

**What does the use of the caps signify, by the way? A new 'Sounds like' that differs from one given already or elsewhere in the book (as in the WATCH OUT)? Or that is the "same" (re. the KNEE in the 'Memory hook' for 你好, from the earlier 你/ni3/knee/you)? Or...? (There doesn't appear to be any explanation of these caps in your book~excerpt pdf, so I can only guess!).

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But I think any such mnemonics should be introduced as a memory aid ONLY after the pinyin sounds have been mastered.

I think I agree, but then again I think everyone who studies a languge will do the "sounds like" thing at the very start. The key is to be saying "sounds like the English xxx but the vowel is longer and the lips are rounded", for instance. Indeed I wonder if that isn't a bad idea in general: to acknowledge that people can't help but to compare sounds to those they know already, & turn that into an advantange by pummelling home the differences, meaning a closer engagement with pronounciation right from the start. But perhaps this is impractical if it's overloading the student with too much information.

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Gharial, I can't speak for others but when I used mnemonics I accelerated super-fast and never felt that they took any more time; as for space (you mean in the brain?) I think it's been said several times elsewhere that after a while you forget the mnemonic and just remember the word/character itself.

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