Saturday, February 20, 2016

Memrise and Chinese

My Chinese studies began in 1979 as an add-on to my engineering studies.  This limited the amount of time that could be committed, but I had the advantage that after the first quarter I was the only student of Chinese in the University, which meant I had a private instructor for the next five quarters.  The class didn't do any written Chinese, but was instead all spoken using Pinyin, audio tapes and conversations with the instructor, who was a student from Taiwan.  This made for some good basic conversation.

After college I attempted to learn reading and writing on my own, which progressed for a time, but everything got stuck since there was not enough opportunity to use the language.  Then in the early 1990's, my direction changed towards Japan and the effort was left off.  I largely gave up hope that there would be any further progress.

But then along came Memrise with its vocabulary drill.  Suddenly there is hope again.  I learned that there are now 6 levels of Chinese for the Taiwan TOCFL language exam, and a similar number for the China HSK exam.  Memrise has word drill sets for each of the levels, which allowed me to find out something of where I stand.  The level 1 sets are a breeze to go through, provided I don't need to accurately regurgitate the spelling for the Pinyin.  For example, I confuse "dou" with "duo" and often mix up the 2nd and 3rd tone, but it seems Chinese have issues with these too.  The level 2 is going quickly.  Level 3 has much that is familiar, but maybe half isn't.  Level 4 is mostly unfamiliar.  Writing characters by hand is something that I don't want to attempt unless I am forced into retirement and get very bored.

One thing that is really useful is that there are both Traditional and Simplified character drills.  My self learning was originally all on Traditional characters, but I would like to be equally proficient at both.  That will take some extra work, although it seems that only about 20% of the characters are significantly different.  Besides the vocabulary drill, however, I need to add in some conversation and reading.  Hopefully most of the skills can be moved up to the level 5.


Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

I'm glad you are progressing. I like Memrise though so far it hasn't been challenging for me in Hebrew: apparently I know more than I thought (just needed practise, I guess). But still, I'm having fun with it.

It is a great tool and I thank you, once again, for having shared it :D.


Looney said...

Max, glad you like it. The emphasis seems to be on basics. What I really want is the ability to do something like give it a few links to economics articles and have it give me the top 100 words by frequency that aren't in a basic 2,000 word list. Then set me up to drill on this. I also wish I could customize the spaced repetition algorithm.

Duolingo is working on a Hebrew course that should come on line later in the summer. It will allow you to test out to whatever level you are at, then you can drill from there.

I am a quarter of the way through a top 1,000 Hebrew words in the Bible list. Verb conjugation practice would be very helpful.

Max Coutinho said...


Duolingo...let me Google it...Ah, found it: it seems good. I will stay tuned to look at that Hebrew Course later on, then.

Congratulations! I don't know if you have this tool or not, but for modern Hebrew verb conjugation:
It's very helpful.


Delirious said...

I have become accutely aware recently of my lack of upper level vocabulary. I really feel the need to add some useful words to my chinese abilities. In addition, I never really progressed very far with my characters. I should check out memrise.

Looney said...

@Max, thanks for the verb list. Looks like modern Hebrew is a bit simpler with past/present/future rather than perfect/imperfect + Qal/Hiphil/Niphil/Hitpael/... ?

Looney said...

@Delirious, I have been curious how well you converse in Chinese. It is quite a time commitment!

Looney said...

If either of you see "dstillma" on Memrise, you will know who it is. Not much interaction is possible on that site.

Max Coutinho said...

Looney, you're are welcome. Yes, verbs in Modern Hebrew are simpler because, as you'll see, many of them incorporate the binyans already (like the verb to dress ). But Niphil is still used in the indirect speech.

Have a great week ahead

Max Coutinho said...

If I see "dstillma" I will follow. If you see Max_Coutinho98...