Popular Post tysond Posted June 6, 2014 at 07:45 PM Popular Post Report Share Posted June 6, 2014 at 07:45 PM When learning Chinese, one of the most useful things you can do to improve your listening ability is drilling sentences. This means you repeat the same sentences, spoken by native speakers, over and over. Your goal is to understand every word that is spoken in the sentence. Typically, one does this by finding an audio file with the text spoken (e.g. an audiobook, or podcast) then find the transcript. Typically, you would load the audio file into an application such as Audacity, select each sentence manually, match it up manually with the transcript and repeat it. While this is OK, it requires a lot of mousing around to select audio fragments and match them up with the text. And if you want to go back to an earlier sentence and drill it some more, you need to find it again and re-select it again. And then if you would like to export these sentences to another tool (e.g. Anki) with the audio, it requires selecting, then extracting the files for each segment of text, and copy pasting the sentences into your tool. It’s pretty slow going and you spend a lot of time not listening to Chinese but playing with tools. Recently I found the application “WorkAudioBook” at http://workaudiobook.com/ by a developer called Sergey Povalyaev which is designed as an audio player for language learners. I was pretty excited to find it because it makes it very easy to do listening practice, and can additionally be used as a tool to create subtitles that match the timing of audio very easily. This application is free for PC (and I think Android but I don’t have an Android device so can’t confirm). I have no relationship with the developer but I am very impressed by him! WorkAudioBook will load an MP3 and automatically segment it up into sentences based on short silences that occur between sentences. You can then load a text document with the transcript and simply highlight the text that corresponds to each spoken sentence, and press a button. WorkAudioBook will then mark that timing of the audio sentence with that text (recording the start and end time), just like subtitles on a movie (if you have ever looked at an SRT subtitle file it’s just start timing plus end timing + text). So, first time round you can listen to a sentence, mark the text that corresponds to that sentence. Go through the audio until you’ve matched up and studied a bunch of sentences. The after that, you can drill yourself by listening to the sentences. If you think you understand the sentence, you can check your answer by revealing the “subtitles” that correspond to that sentence. You can mark sentences as easy, medium and hard depending on how easy you find it to listen and understand. New vocabulary can be marked and exported to Anki. Even more interesting for me, if you go through a whole audio file and mark all the sentences, you can export all your timings as an SRT file. An Example Walkthrough Here’s an example. Let’s consider how to use this tool to practice listening by using an example passage from Slow Chinese. There is very good documentation for WorkAudioBook on the website (http://workaudiobook.com/) so I’ll just explain the steps and you can check the website for details. First download the WorkAudioBook application on PC. Let's try the very first podcast from Slow Chinese series, about the Dragonboat festival: http://www.slow-chinese.com/podcast/1-duan-wu-jie/ Download the MP3 file and load it into WorkAudioBook. Open the subtitle editor and “edit” it. Insert the title “端午节” and then transcript below which starts with “中国农历的五月五日是一个重要的节日”… Turn off edit mode so you can start marking the sentences. Press space to play the first segment of sound. It’s into music so we want to skip through for a bit until we get to the good stuff. Press the fast forward button (Alt-Right Arrow key also works) a few times until you get to the first sentence. The first sentence is端午节. Because of the intro music it doesn’t quite detect this sentence starting neatly at 25-27 second so you might want to just select it yourself (doesn’t really matter it’s just a bit neater). You should stop the auto playback (press stop button). Then select 端午节 in the subtitles text, and press “N” (or press the Play Next button). This will mark the audio sequence for 端午节 as the 25-27 seconds mark. Then the next segment audio selected is “中国农历的五月五日” so select that text, press stop, and press N (Play Next) again. The next segment is “是一个重要的节日，叫做端午节”, stop and press N. Continue like this – trim or expand the audio a little if it doesn’t quite detect the sentences well or if you would prefer longer/shorter audio fragments. It’s often useful to use the next red line in the audio as the likely next best stopping point. If you make a mistake just delete the subtitle using the Del button (this won’t delete the text, just the marking of start and end timings). There are handy shortcuts for advancing through the text to the next punctuation mark (press H). Once finished marking all the text (takes a few minutes) you are ready to drill. Go back to the start and you can either walk through the audio (fast forward, reverse) or you can select sentences in the text and it will jump to the right audio for that sentence. Drill away – try to understand the sentences, look up words you don’t know, even try shadowing the sentence by saying it exactly as said. I’ve also used this tool to transcribe text (if I don’t have a transcript, I make one) and I’ve used it to match up transcripts with TV show dialogs. Notes that for TV/Movies it’s a bit harder as the sentence endings are harder for the software to find as there is a lot more background noise. There isn’t currently a record feature (would be even better for shadowing), although the developer says he’s considering developing one. Advanced: Make an SRT file and use Subs2SRS to make Anki sentence cards Now, what I like to do with sentence is put them into Anki, and “cloze” words. So I get the audio + hanzi into a card, and then I mark particular words I want to learn, and drill them in SRS (this is often called MCD – massive/micro cloze deletion). Actually what I really really like is having a sentence “bank” of hundreds (indeed, thousands) of cards that are ready made, and then select which cards I want to learn next based on what vocabulary I am prioritizing. So this tool is really useful for this purpose because I can take an audio file, mark the sentences according to the transcript, the export a SRT (subtitle) file. To do this press the Import button (I know, a bit strange to press import in order to export but that’s how it’s done). After exporting an SRT I can load both the MP3 and the SRT into Subs2SRS (you just need to tell Subs2SRS to look for All Files to find an MP3 file as it’s usually looking for a video file type but it’s perfectly happy with MP3 once you select it). Turn off the “video snapshots” option and you are ready to make Anki cards (check out the Subs2SRS documentation for details). Using this I made 100 Anki cards for Glossika’s Business Chinese audio files in about 15 minutes. I plan to make all the rest over the weekend. If you have English translations you could also match up the English with the sentences and make a second SRT file, then put that into Subs2SRS to make bilingual cards. To get pinyin I think it’s easier to use one of the Chinese plugins for anki that auto generates Pinyin. Summary In summary, WorkAudioBook is a really cool tool for drilling audio. It probably works best for audio books (you need the audio + the full book) or podcasts (you need the MP3 and the transcript). Even if you don’t have a transcript you could just use it to repeat sentences from any source with sentence breaks. The developer really seems to be focused on learning English via audio books but it works perfectly fine with Chinese text too. You can also use it for movies/TV (you’d have to strip out the MP3 audio from the file) but the sentence detection might not be optimal given background noise, so it might take a bit longer. If you already have an SRT file that matches the audio it could be super quick (but in my experience it’s hard to get a good match, so you might need to mess around with timings using other tools). For your pleasure, I've attached the SRT file for the Slow Chinese article (I wanted to attached the Anki file but internet connection is not cooperating today so I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader). Hope you find this information useful, happy studying! Slow_Chinese_1.srt 18 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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