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Laban

Flashcard app where you can type in answer in pinyin

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Laban

Hello,

 

I am starting to learn Chinese and I am mainly interested in learning to converse in Chinese at this stage (not learn characters yet, with the exception of a few very common ones).

 

I am have been using Fluenz Chinese a bit and many of their exercises show you a word or sentence in English and you must type it in Chinese using pinyin.  I find that this works well for me and helps me to remember better than when just using flashcards without typing in the pinyin.

 

Is there a good iOS app (or even a regular Windows program) that has the ability to show you English and ask you to type it correctly in pinyin (and detect if you made a mistake)?  

Of course it would be great if the app also has a decent selection of pre-made decks with quality audio available.  Can Anki do this?  Any other app?

 

One more question: I recently bought the app Nemo Chinese and it has a very useful practice mode where it shows you English and prompts you to say it in Chinese, then it automatically plays your recording followed by how it is said by a native speaker.  Unfortunately Nemo does not have the ability to add your own cards - is there any flash card app with this capability?

 

Thanks,

Laban

 

 

 

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Shelley

Have you tried Pleco? Have a look here https://www.pleco.com/

 

It is a dictionary and flashcard app. It does lots of things, too many to try and list here so have a read of the website.

 

I think it is an indispensable tool for students learning chinese.

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Laban

Thanks for your replies.  I do have Pleco and I love it as a dictionary and for practicing strokes when I was learning a few characters, however I had some issues with it when trying to use flash cards; from what I recall it had a couple of shortcomings:

  1. You have to type the tone mark at the end of each syllable, not after the letter where it is supposed to go.  E.g you must type hao3 instead of ha3o.  When practicing, I would much prefer to learn to put the tone mark over the right letter as well.
  2. It does not do well with phrases / sentences longer than 4 or 5 words.  To be able to find pre-made decks that also include longer phrases or sentences would also be good.
  3. It has a input field for each word (or is it for each syllable) - I would prefer one long blank input field without knowing how many words or syllables that are expected.

The above could just be that I do not fully understand how to configure Pleco, so any advice / corrections on the above points would be appreciated.

 

 

 

 

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Shelley

Interesting, I have not seen tone number put in the middle of the syllable. I have always learnt it goes at the end of the syllable. I have to say it looks very confusing and messy in the middle of the word.

 

It is worth looking at the help files to learn how to configure Pleco to suit your needs. Do you have the paid version? Which dictionaries do you use?

It is also worth remembering the Pleco user Forum, i have found it to very helpful.

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imron
11 minutes ago, Shelley said:

I have to say it looks very confusing and messy in the middle of the word.

I think they look confusing and messy at the end of the word too.  Tone marks are so much better - but unfortunately harder to type.

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LiMo

@Laban

It's probably just worth noting as an aside that having impeccable pinyin is, IMHO, something of a waste of time. As others have noted elsewhere, or just about everywhere, pinyin has next to no utility beyond the beginning stages.

 

I'm not saying don't study it, it's important to build a strong foundation in pinyin and link it to proper mandarin pronunciation. However, it seems like a lot of work to focus on not just getting the tone right, but putting it over the "correct" letter, which is itself purely convention seeing as the whole character takes the tone. Having good pinyin is important, you don't want to be mistaking liu and lou, but putting the tone mark over the i instead of the u makes next to no difference. Perhaps you've been led astray by associating the tone marks with accent marks in European languages which, I think, are much more closely related to the letter they appear above.

 

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Laban

Yes, I have the paid version (~$30 if I recall).  I agree that the numbers look messy, but it would not be hard to simply use the number to immediately put the proper actual mark over the preceding letter.  This is what Fluenz's flash card app does (though it does not allow you to add your own cards):2017-07-10_111530.png.7547e9b3a732e6da4bcc25badbaeef40.png

 

Here is an example of what is looks like when making a mistake

 

2017-07-10_110955.thumb.png.8ab64eaed8f314b21e650653ba8158f5.png

 

In other words, the numbers should only be used to control what mark get put over the preceding character - they should not linger (which makes the text almost unreadable).

 

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Yadang
13 hours ago, Laban said:

Can Anki do this?

 

You can have a field in Anki that will require you to type in your answer and it will highlight parts of the answer you get correct green and the parts you don't red. However, you'd still have to find a pinyin input method that requires you to put the tone over the right letter. I suppose you could always use alt code... That might actually be your best bet if you're set on putting the tone over the "correct" letter. 

 

However, I agree with LiMO: You should be spending your time on pronunciation - if you use pinyin as a tool to do that, you'll learn it alongside learning correct pronunciation without much extra effort.

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Laban

Yadang (and others),

 

I can see that putting the tone mark over the proper letter is not so useful (thanks for pointing that out!).  

 

It sounds like Anki will allow me me to type in pinyin in one long text field (not broken up into one field per word / syllable) and it supports for long phrases, but can it also check that I use the right tone for each syllable?  

 

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Shelley

I use Pinyinput to type pīnyīn with tone marks on my windows PC. On my phone and tablet I use characters most of the time so I don't worry about it.

Have a look at imron's post above for details of Pinyinput.

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abcdefg
6 hours ago, LiMo said:

It's probably just worth noting as an aside that having impeccable pinyin is, IMHO, something of a waste of time. As others have noted elsewhere, or just about everywhere, pinyin has next to no utility beyond the beginning stages.

 

I very much agree with this. Had been trying to figure out how to say it tactfully. The effort that you expend in learning these Pinyin tone marks and where to put them and how to type them and so on, could just as well be spent learning characters. That "mastering-Pinyin" effort will have zero long term payoff.

 

Early in my studies, nearly a decade ago, I laboriously wrote a longish Pinyin e-mail to a friend I had met in Harbin. I double checked each tone mark several times just to make sure they were all correct. I wanted to make a good impression. The lady didn't answer for what seemed a long time. I finally wrote again and asked if she had received my message.

 

She replied that she had, but was having to rely on her 7-year old son to "decode" it since she had not tried to read Pinyin herself in over 20 years.

 

5 hours ago, Yadang said:

However, I agree with LiMO: You should be spending your time on pronunciation - if you use pinyin as a tool to do that, you'll learn it alongside learning correct pronunciation without much extra effort.

 

Pinyin is a very temporary learning tool with very limited usefulness. Don't get hung up on it. Get through your "Pinyin phase" and move to characters as rapidly as you can. Nobody will ever in a hundred years say, "Wow, that Laban sure does write great Pinyin. What an impressive feat!"

 

Please don't think I'm saying Pinyin is useless. I've gone back to Pinyin as temporary remediation when I find that I mispronounce this or that word again and again, when local people can't understand it the way I'm saying it.

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Laban

abcdefg, et.al,

 

I guess I have a few things to work out in my Chinese learning, but perhaps I should also clarify my goal. 

 

I am learning Chinese because my wife is from Taiwan and I want to be able to carry out at least basic spoken conversations with her mother and other relatives.  I also just want to learn some Chinese.  But I have very limited time to study, so think my time is best spent learning a decent number of basic words and phrases to achieve this goal.  However, just hearing the words / phrases and repeating them, etc. using flash cards and similar apps does not work very well for me - it is hard to make it stick (think Teflon...).  However by writing it in pinyin in addition to hearing it, etc., it sticks quicker.   

 

Knowing characters as well would be fun and of course useful, but memorizing such a large number of characters in the limited time that I have available seems impossible (not to mention that you forget them unless you use them somewhat regularly).  I can practice my spoken Chinese by speaking to my wife very easily, but not so much with written characters.  

 

I realize that I am digressing from my original question, but if someone in a similar situation has some wisdom to impart, it would be appreciated...

 

 

 

 

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mikelove

@Laban - thanks for the feedback.

 

We've already addressed #2/3 in development builds of our long-awaited and surprisingly-close-to-dropping-out-of-the-sky-as-a-beta version 4.0 update; everything is now in a single field of unlimited length.

 

Tone mark feedback is interesting, though - I honestly can't remember anyone ever asking for that before. There's an important practical benefit to using tones in input in that they can (like apostrophes) help resolve cases of uncertain word segmentation; if you enter, say, xiàn'àn 现案 as xia4na4n you need a space or apostrophe or some such in your input in order to make it clear that you want xian+an and not xia+nan, whereas with xian4an4 the segmentation is obvious both to you as you enter it and to the app as it parses it. Personally I also find that remembering which letter the mark is supposed to go over introduces some unnecessary additional cognitive load.

 

I could see some justification to adding a feature to automatically 'pretty print' pinyin input, though - converting tone numbers at the end of syllables to tone marks + inserting apostrophes where appropriate. So you'd still enter numbers at the end of syllables as now, but we'd display it as pinyin with tone marks as you were typing it. Would that help matters any?

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Laban

@mikelove  Great news on your soon-to-come new version!!  Can I join the beta program?  When is the GA release slated for?

 

Regarding the tone marks, this post has convinced me that it really is not that important where the mark goes, as long as you get it right for the syllable in question.  However, Pleco currently does not allow you to type the number after the character where it technically belongs (=it considers it an incorrect answer), which is a bit frustrating (especially when you are used to typing it there).  It would be great if Pleco would be able to handle both cases (or at least not treat it as an incorrect answer).  The feature to pretty print right away when the number is entered would be fantastic (and may not be very hard to implement...)!

 

I am impressed by how active and responsive you guys from Pleco are!

 

 

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Yadang
8 hours ago, Laban said:

It sounds like Anki will allow me me to type in pinyin in one long text field (not broken up into one field per word / syllable) and it supports for long phrases, but can it also check that I use the right tone for each syllable?  

 

It can, assuming you type it in the exact same way it's entered in the field you're comparing it to. It's also worth noting that you still have to judge the answer and rate it as correct or incorrect, but anki will highlight places where what you type matches perfectly with the field in green, and where it doesn't match will be in red.

 

The only (potential) problem is that you'll have to get pinyin for everything you want to type. I think there's an anki addon that does that, but I doubt it does as good as a job as pleco.

 

You might also consider the following: if you learn pronunciation correctly (which you should do regardless), and then learn pinyin as you go along, you could instead of typing out the answer, say the answer and compare what you say with whether it matches up with the pinyin - you just have to be honest with yourself.

 

Another thing you could try (with both words and sentences) if you have native audio for what you're trying to learn, is recording yourself and comparing it to the native audio, and repeating until you get your pronunciation as close as you can to that of the native speaker's. It's not fun, but it's very effective. Anki has a feature that makes this very seamless, because you can record yourself and play it back on anki.

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Laban

@Yadang 

 

10 minutes ago, Yadang said:

Another thing you could try (with both words and sentences) if you have native audio for what you're trying to learn, is recording yourself and comparing it to the native audio, and repeating until you get your pronunciation as close as you can to that of the native speaker's. It's not fun, but it's very effective. Anki has a feature that makes this very seamless, because you can record yourself and play it back on anki.

I did not know Anki could do this - I will definitely try it out!  

 

 

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imron
4 hours ago, Laban said:

I am learning Chinese because my wife is from Taiwan and I want to be able to carry out at least basic spoken conversations with her mother and other relatives.

That being the case, you might want to seriously consider learning zhuyinfuhao instead.

 

Many Taiwanese people have an aversion to pinyin. 

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Lu

I don't think I've ever met a Taiwanese person with an aversion to pinyin. Most of them just don't know it (because they don't learn it) and have no special feelings about it. Teachers of Chinese for foreigners do know it (although I've never asked a teacher about whether she liked it), so not knowing zhuyin fuhao doesn't have to be an impediment. If your aim is to learn to converse in basic Chinese, and your textbook uses pinyin, there is no real need to learn zhuyin.

 

That said, zhuyin is not difficult (only 20+ characters and it mostly matches the pinyin system) and if you want to ask your wife for help on a word, she could write it out in zhuyin. So I suppose there is a small advantage to learning it.

 

Incidentally, the rules on tonemark placement, in case someone needs them: if there's only one vowel, the tonemark goes on that vowel. If there is more than one vowel, the tonemark goes on the first vowel, unless that vowel is an i or a u, then it goes on the second. That's it. It might be a fairly unnecessary skill to get this right, but on the other hand, it's not complicated.

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imron
4 hours ago, Lu said:

I don't think I've ever met a Taiwanese person with an aversion to pinyin

I've met a few.  In any case if you are trying to impress your wife and in-laws, knowing zhuyinfuhao will help do a better job of that than pinyin.

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