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Meaning&phonetics based system to learn characters adopted for English-speakers

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I have adopted the meaning &phonetics based system to learn characters for English-speakers. The main problem was that English is an analytic language, in which grammatical features are reflected in the word order and the usage of service words, while the formulas of different kinds used in my approach required more free positioning of words (and in poems there should be metrical structure). My approach is very well suited for Russian-speakers, but the most widespread language is English. In this topic I present an adopted system much more suitable for English-speakers. Also I'll give all necessary information here and will not direct readers to any links for details. 

The number of elements is reduced to two only, they're (i) seven poems by 声母 blocks (not poems but very short verses in fact) and (ii) the table with two sheets also arranged by the blocks. 

The blocks according to 声母 vs  韵母correspondence are: (1) B-P-M-F (2) D-T-N-L (3) Z-C-S (4) ZH-CH-SH-R (5) J-Q-X (6) G-K-H and combined 7th block for syllables without 声母 beginning with e, a, o, y and w.

For every syllable of some 400 of them if not accounting for tones a certain character is considered the key character, and the poems enable to learn them very quickly and reliably.

Then if accounting for tones certain characters are also selected as 'head' characters (key characters are head characters, too). In the entire Mandarin language there are about 1200-1300 of them, within HSK5 approximately 880. To memorize them one can use so-called intermediate presentation of poems.
Those syllables which are presented by more than one character are learnt seperately with the help of the Table (and horizontal formulas on the second sheet).

On the first sheet of the table one can see all characters from HSK5 organized by the initial sound and then by tones. When pointing with a cursor left from the key character one can see in the pop-up window a vertical formula, IN ENGLISH, a phrase, linking the meaning of the key character with meanings of other head characters. The direction to read the vertical formula is always this: firstly downward from the key character (if there are other characters below) and then upward. In the example the phrase is: 'The horse cursed, ate cannabis and began to chase our mother, right?' Target words (head words) are underlined. 

On the second sheet formulas link characters with the meaning of the head character according to the succession shown in the picture. Only seven target words can be in the formula (that is determined by the features of human brain). If there are more characters having the same pinyin, a new formula begins with the last character of the previous formula. 

Once HSK5 characters for a block are learnt, new characters added should be marked (for example, with green color), and a new formula should be designed to connect them with the basic HSK5 characters. 

Here is an adopted presentation of the B-P-M-F poem. Each stranza is given in four modes: English-Russian, English-Russian with comments (grammar abbrivations see here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_glossing_abbreviations), Russian in Latin script and Russian in Cyrillic script. 
English-Russian modes mean that what is possible without breaking the necessary word order and metrical structure to give in English is given in English, the rest in Russian. In addition, combined words are used having English root or stem and Russian postfixes or prefixes. 

In the Latin transcription of Russian 'j' is used to show softness of consonants and 'y' is reserved for special Russian vowel 'ы', which sounds similar to 'i', but with one's tongue humpbacked.
With bold letters stress is shown (exept the English-Russian mode with comments where English is in bold).

At the bottom, please, find the first sheet of the Table for B-P-M-F in English and MSWord file with the Poem.
I hope that to some who struggle with learning Mandarin at not too advanced stage my approach can bring quick and reliable results.


B-P-M-F Poem (English-Russian)





Ostler holdit,
                   but afraidsia -
                                                law nie writtan.    
Bielyi nie desire
                   v raw standatj,
                                                                  …… zhestj.
V groupie all
                       lookiat v tarielki,
                                                         foodu chewiut.
Pomoschi nie lookia,
                sboku ostler keepitsia and that lish
                                                                 chtoby v corner vlieztj.


Ostler hold-it (3.SG PRS)
  but afraid-sia (‘-sia’ means ‘himself’) -
    stallion-u (ACC)
      law nie (not) writt-an (PPP).
Bielyi (white) nie (not) desire

  v (in, to) raw stand-atj (INF),

    priedatelj (traitor),

      ...... zhestj ('tin', slang meaning snth hard).

V (in) group-pie (PREP) all

  look-iat (3.PL. PRS) v (at, in) tarielki (plates),


      food-u (ACC) chew-iut (3.pl. PRS).

Pomoschi ('help' GEN) nie (not) look-ia (PRESP),

  sboku (aside) ostler keep-it-sia (3.SG. PRS, '-sia' means 'himself') and that lish (only)

      chtoby (in order that) v (in, to) corner vlieztj ('fit' INF).




Konjuh dierzhit,
                      no boitsia -
                                               zakon nie pisan.
Bielyi nie zhelaiet
                         v riad vstavatj,
                                                         …… zhestj.
V gruppie vsie
                  gliadiat v tarielki,
                                                    iedu zhuiut.
Pomoschi nie vidia,
                   sboku koniuh dierzhitsia i tiem lish
                                                           chtoby v ugol vlieztj.


Конюх держит,
                но боится -
                                      закон не писан.
Белый не желает
                  в ряд вставать,
                                                        …… жесть.
В группе все
                глядят в тарелки,
                                            еду жуют.
Помощи не видя,
                сбоку конюх держится и тем лишь
                                                      чтобы в угол влезть.





All uzh syty do kraiov,
                        but v koniushniu nie runut,
                                                           slovno koshka,
                                                                      …… something zhdut.
…… Zhdut
                      …… oni
                                                                          ……  Brut.


All uzh (already) syty (fed) do kraiov (to the brims),
  but v (in, to) koniushniu (stabling) nie (not) run-ut (3.Pl.PRS),
    slovno (like) koshka (cat),
      …… something (ACC) zhdut (‘wait’, 3.PL.PRS).
…… Zhdut (‘wait’, 3.PL.PRS)
  …… oni (they)
    chiego-to (‘something’, GEN),
      ……  Brut (Brutus).


Vsie uzh syty do kraiov,
            no v koniushniu nie biegut,
                                              slovno koshka,
                                                        …… chto-to zhdut.
…… Zdut

                 …… oni
                                               …… Brut.


Все уж сыты до краёв,
            но в конюшню не бегут,
                                    словно кошка,
                                                          …… что-то ждут.
…… Ждут
                 …… они
                                            …… Брут.





A iescho raisali glasses,
            brakom sochetaiutsia,
                                             lozhnyie prichiny putting forward, just a laugh.
Fundamental those reasons,
               and saliva spitting riano,
                             and lookiat at dvieri pianym
                                               tusklym glazom rozovatym s agitation at litse.
…… Hei,
                        nie vo snie lj you
                                      or in bad insanity chiornoi polosie?
You compare maybe
                     sily loshadinyie all us
                                    s that koniom, and it’ll clear: in delusion
                                                                                                   are we vsie.


A iescho (and also) rais-ali (3.PL. PRF) glasses,
  brakom sochetaiutsia (‘get married’ 3 PL. PRS),
    kazhdyi (everyone)
      lozhnyie (‘false’ ACC) prichiny (‘reasons’ ACC) putting forward, just a laugh.
Fundamental those reasons,
  and saliva spitting riano (zealously),
    and look-iat (3.PL. PRS) at dvieri (doors) pianym (‘drunk’ SG. M. INS)
      tusklym (‘dull’ SG. M. INS) glazom (‘eye’ SG. M. INS) rozovatym (‘pinkish’ SG. M. INS)
                                                       s (with) agitation at litse (‘face’ SG. M. PREP).
…… Hei,
  priiatielj (friend),
    nie vo snie lj (not dreaming) you
      or in bad insanity chiornoi (black) polosie (strip)?
You compare maybe
  sily (‘power’ PL) loshadinyie (‘horse’ ADJ) all us (GEN)
    s (with) that koniom (‘stallion’ SG. INS), and it’ll clear
      in delusion are we vsie (all).


A iescho podniali riumki,
         brakom sochetaiutsia,
                                 lozhnyie prichiny vydvigaiet, prosto smieh.
Fundamentaljnyie prichiny,
                   i sliunoiu bryzzhut riano,
                                i gliadiat na dvieri pianym
                                             tusklym glazon rozovatym s bespokoistvom na litse.
…… Ei,
                   nie vo snie lj ty
                               ili pomieshatieljstva chiornoi polosie?
Ty sravni, pozhalui,
                sily loshadinyie vsieh nas
                              s tiem koniom, I staniet iasno: v zabluzhdienii
                                                                                             my …… vsie.


А ещё подняли рюмки,
           браком сочетаются,
                                ложные причины выдвигает, просто смех.
Фундаментальные причины,
        и слюною брызжут рьяно,
                 и глядят на двери пьяным
                          тусклым глазом розоватым с беспокойством на лице.
…… Эй,
                не во сне ль ты
                      или помешательства черной полосе?
Ты сравни, пожалуй,
                  силы лошадиные всех нас
                                     с тем конем, и станет ясно: в заблуждении
                                                            мы ……все.





Such a comfort to sit here
                     and deceivatj nam each other
                                          hiding faces due to …… shame.
Vyrazhaiasj matiersсhinoi
                 that rastaiet tut zhe v vysi,
                                          we sly cowards are
                                                            …… m-m-m.


Such a comfort to sit here
  and deceiv-atj (INF) nam (us) each other
    hiding faces due to …… shame.
Vyrazhaiasj (expressing) matiers
сhinoi (‘swearing’ INS)
  that rastaiet (will melt) tut zhe (at once) v vysi (in the sky),
    we sly cowards are
      …… m-m-m.


Tak udobno nam sidietj zdiesj
                i obmanyvatj drug druga,
                              priacha litsa ot
                                               …… styda.
Vyrazhaiasj matiershinoi,
           chto rastaiet tut zhe v vysi,
                   my hitriuschiie trusishki
                                                …… m-da.


Так удобно нам сидеть здесь
                  и обманывать друг друга,
                                пряча лица от
                                               …… стыда.
Выражаясь матерщиной,
                  что растает тут же в выси,
                                мы хитрющие трусишки
                                               …… м-да.





Otlichaiemsia li
                   …… chiem-to
                               from utrativshih
                                               we …… conscience?
We were yet invited v gosti
             to taste dinner after all,
                   but besides we not disgrace zhe cheloviechiestvo
                                                                            …… dolzhny (must):
Satisfactory hotia by
              only straitforward proiehatj
                           chtob svoio uvazhitj imia (name)
                                                            …… (    )
grabbing the scruff of the horse's neck
                     like too scared elder woman
                                …… only prokatitjsia, even such we are nuzhny.


Otlichaiemsia (‘differ’ 1.PL. PRS, ‘sia’ – ourselves) li (question particle)
  …… chiem-to (in anything)
    from utrativshih (those who lost, PL PRESP PRF)
      we …… conscience?
We were yet invited v gosti (to visit)
  to taste dinner after all,
    but besides we not disgrace zhe (still) cheloviechiestvo (‘mankind’ ACC)
      …… dolzhny (must):
Satisfactory hotia by (at least)
  only straitforward proiehatj (to go)
    chtob (in order) svoio (one’s) uvazhitj (to hornor) imia (name)
      …… (    )
grabbing the scruff of the horse's neck
  like too scared elder woman
      …… only prokatitjsia (to ride), even such we are nuzhny (‘in demand’ PL).


Otlichaiemsia li
                  …… chiem-to
                                ot utrativshih my
                                                 …… soviestj?
Nas zhe v gosti priglasili
             degustirovatj obied,
                        no escho nie posramitj my chieloviechestvo
                                                                             …… dolzhny:
Hotj na troiku,
              lish by rovno
                     prokatitjsia na konie, chtob svoio uvazhitj imia
                                                                                 …… ,
Uhvativshisj za zagrivok
               ispugavsheisia staruhoi,
                             …… prosto prokatitjsia, i takiie my nuzhny.


Отличаемся ли
             …… чем-то
                         от утративших мы
                                                …… совесть?
Нас же в гости пригласили
                    дегустировать обед,
                                  но ещё не посрамить мы человечество
                                                                                       …… должны:
Хоть на тройку,
             лишь бы ровно
                        прокатиться на коне, чтоб своё уважить имя
Ухватившись за загривок
        испугавшейся старухой,
                                …… просто прокатиться, и такие мы нужны.





…… Maybe
            …… they’re not we
                       but they’re niekto (some people),
                               or they’re we, but we not here, niet (are we)?
We did not want that kind of shame
      that they know everywhere,
              chtoby (that) matieri (mothers) uznali (get to know)
                    how not fulfilled the plan we, only s’eli (‘ate’ PL PRF) viesj (whole) obied (dinner).

…… Maybe
  …… they’re not we
    but they’re niekto (some people),
      or they’re we, but we not here, niet (are we)?

We did not want that kind of shame
  that they know everywhere,
    chtoby (that) matieri (mothers) uznali (get to know)
      how not fulfilled the plan we, only s’eli (‘ate’ PL PRF) viesj (whole) obied (dinner).

…… Mozhet,
        …… to nie my,
                a niekto,
                    ili my, no my nie zdiesj, niet?
Nie hotieli my pozora,
         chtoby znali povsiemiestno,
                   chtoby matieri uznali,
                           kak nie vypolnili plan my, toljko s’eli vesj obied.             


…… Может,
         …… то не мы,
                  а некто,
                         или мы, но мы не здесь, нет?
Не хотели мы позора,
           чтобы знали повсеместно,
                  чтобы матери узнали,
                        как не выполнили план мы, только съели весь обед.




English example.png


B-P-M-F Poem_EngRus1.docx

BPMF table_English.xlsx

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Here you can see how the intermediate presentation of the poem looks like (only stranzas 1,2,5,6), it is revised in such manner. Firstly only key characters are to be drawn, and at the second iteration other head characters.


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Here are two pictures of the process of drawing complete intermediate poem presentation. On the first picture orange characters are key ones, black are other head characters, and characters having pinyin represented by another characters, too, are marked with small blue triangle in the right upper corner. On the second picture these are reproduced as macrocards (characters of the same pinyin organized in the order described above).

Macrocards as they are (two pictures below) can be made only for difficult syllables and learnt seperately.





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Then, I came to an idea even to make 'verse cards' in intermidate presentation, one card for each verse line, i.e. for each syllable (all tones) for whole blocks by 声母 vs 韵母 correspondence. For example, a card for 'ban-pan-man-fan', 'bian-pian-mian-...', etc. On the reverse there is the beginning of the phrase in the line (pic.). See also in the second picture how these cards are revised. 
The number of cards required is more than reasonable, 120. And it allows to learn all 'head' characters, from 880 for HSK5 to 1200 for the whole language, since the number of cards will not increase if to add new head characters, these will just fill blank and crossed out sells. The full set of 'head' characters, for all possible syllables with tones, represents perfect framework to learn thousands of other characters by linking them to the 'head' characters. 



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At last (this time it's really 'at last'), as soon as intermediate poem presentation cards are memorized, complete poem presentation cards can be made and learnt, see picture. They include ALL characters meant to be learnt, HSK5 or any bigger range. It's recommended to draw key and other head characters in another colors than other characters. The number of these cards is only 120, too. So, the system has again four elements actually, but different as to the previous version of it:
1) seven short poems (120 lines in total),
2) the Table

3) intermediate poem presentation cards (120 cards)

4) complete poem presentation cards (120 cards). 
This set should be added by macrocards in cases when syllables are represented by more than 7-8 characters. Also, macrocards can be used to memorize most difficult syllables regardless the number of characters.

I don't expect I'll be adding any new elements to the system as far is learning characters is concerned. The system is complete and very effective. There could be some new approaches worked out in the future, but they would concern other aspects of the language learning, not characters. And, of course, I'll upload the rest of poems and the complete table with formulas in English in the first sheet (vertical formulas) as soon as I've composed them.


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I hastened to draw the final line. Macrocards are very desirable for all syllables that are represented by more than one character, but of a bit different type: on the other side there should by an icon of the head character instead of pinyin of the syllable. All is linked to the head character, which is a sort of representative for the whole syllable (with respect to tones).

Taking into account, that in the HSK5 more than 500 syllables are represented by a single character, the number of macrocards of this type (or normal type) required to cover HSK5 is some 350 cards only.


Thus, to learn all HSK5 characters one needs to memorize only 120 intermediate poem presentation cards and about 350 new type macrocards (or only 120 complete poem presentation cards, but it's more difficult; those can be used for finalyzing the material though). That's all. All the rest is just auxillary means.




Edited by Pall
additional information

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Why head characters are so important? Yes, they are of conventional nature. Someone could select another characters to represent syllables with tones. But it doesn't matter, some characters must take that place.


Even in science there are conventional things. For example, when electricity was invented, they didn't know in what direction it flows and decided that it would be from Plus to Minus. And even special term was introduced, 'anode current'. When I was a boy I was engaged in radio engineering as an amateur and read technical articles in special magazines like 'Amateur Radio Engeneer'. This term was broadly used then in those articles even though they soon realized their mistakein 19 century. But they decided to retain the term 'anod current' for convenience.


Head characters stand in the middle of the classification. There are different approaches to learn characters, of course. They are mostly learnt according to their structure and origin. But in any case these classifications begin with some top level, which splits in other levels, those split again, maybe more steps have place, and at last the learner comes to the level of characters. But it's a long classificational way, we have to deal with too many classification divergence points. The result is that   to memorize some two thousand characters we spend several years. 


In the 'meaning&phonetic approach' it's different. Let's take 没 as a head character. Going from it to the top of the classification we can see where it stands on the upper level. We recollect its pinyin and meaning even assuming we don't know it, but we know that in the intermediate poem presentation card it stands above 每 , which is a 'key' character, the tone and the meaning of which we know very well because they are easily memorized thanks to the poem. To recollect all that for 没  here we deal with only one chain link, the 'vertical formula'.


And we can go from 没 to the level below, to the head type macrocard, where it is drawn on the reverse. The other characters are associated with it in our memory, and thanks to that we can recollect the tone  and meaning of those characters, too. Again we deal with only one link chain, 'horizontal formula'.


The number of 'head' characters is between 880 and 1200 for any learner regardless his level. They can be learnt quickly and firmly thanks to the 'poems' and 'internmediate poem presentation' cards, the number of which is only 120. And these are predominantly most used characters within their tones.


By the way, even Stephen Hawking is a supporter of the conditional approach in explaining the Universe, he adheres to some theory as long as it helps to relate facts to each other. If it cannnot do that any more, the theory is thrown away and he takes as the basis a new theory.



Edited by Pall
additional considerations

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Probably I should compose first of all seven 'poems' and upload intermediate poem presentation cards with all 880 head characters (one character for each of all possible syllables in HSK5), because that would provide quick basis for further learning. As soon as it's available any new character can be attributed to its concrete place in the system and remembered thanks to that. Making and learning 350 head character cards would become just additional exercise.

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