This is the beginning of a 7 part series on learning Mandarin using the questions who, what, where, when, why, and how.  We will go over how to utilize each question individually to its full potential, and then how to combine the 6 questions to speed up your language acquisition.  The first question we will look at is….

WHO?

By asking questions using who, you will learn many new words associated with the word you already know. For instance, say you have learned the word brother (哥哥). You can ask yourself the question who is your brother? There are a number of responses to this question such as:

  • My Brother’s name is… (我哥哥的名字是…)
  • His name is… (他的名字是…)
  • He is my younger brother (他是我弟弟)

Try asking questions using who next time you are stuck. See where it leads you.

New site address

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Hello Everyone, I have moved this blog to this new location www.masteringmandarinnow.com. Hopefully the transition went smooth!

Break

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As you all can tell I haven’t updated this in a while. After doing some thinking, my Mandarin studies have to take a back seat. I need to concentrate on furthering my career by passing exams that require all the study power I have. I will continue to try and update my all Mandarin blog when I feel like posting in Mandarin. I’ll still be perusing the language learning blogosphere because my love for learning languages won’t go away. I’ll probably study a few times a month to make sure I keep what I have, but as far as learning new things, it will have to come naturally. I’ll still be listening to Chinese music, and watching chinese movies/tv shows, as well as listening to podcasts. Thank you all for the help you’ve given me, and fear not, I will be back to tackle Mandarin! 再見!

Done!

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Finished my exam on Friday… oh how it feels wonderful to be done with that. I finally had some time this morning to watch the Ang Lee movie Lust, Caution (色, 戒) . What a really great movie. It’s an espionage thriller based in Japanese occupied Shanghai. I may have to watch it again to catch everything. I have liked everything I’ve seen from Ang Lee, especially Eat Drink Man Woman(飲食男女). Wang Lee Hom was in this movie and I thought his acting was fair. Tang Wei (湯唯) was superb in her depiction of everything from a student to a seductress. Definitely check it out.

SRS Part 3

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So far the only piece of Spaced Repetition Software that I have personally tried out is Supermemo, Anki, and a little Mnemosyne. As you could somewhat gather from previous posts on here I was becoming somewhat frustrated with Supermemo’s archaic functionality. What I did notice though was the extremely high level of retention I had after using SRS for a while. Because of my job I have had to pretty much halt most of my progress in Mandarin when I studied for an exam. This stoppage usually has lasted about 2-3 months. I thought that this would really hurt my progress but the SRS repetitions seemed to have helped me remember a lot. I don’t like stopping for that long and I am in the process of trying to figure out how I can continue to study for actuarial exams and still keep my Mandarin up. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. Unless I can figure out a manageable way I will have to continue halting the Mandarin study during exam season until I have finished my exams. Those exams must take precedence over my Mandarin studies. Anyways…

I think one of the only reasons I stuck with Supermemo for so long was that I didn’t want to have to input all my characters/words into another program and start all over. And that was with only 300 or so elements. Imagine if you get to a point where you have 1000+ elements? Starting over doesn’t seem so fun or practical. That is why I highly recommend that you try out a couple programs in the beginning and see which features you like/dislike. I know that some of the programs cost money but honestly, it’s worth it. Re-doing 1000+ elements and getting a new program to the point at which your old program was will take you a solid 10+ hours, and that’s being generous. At $10 an hour you’ll exceed the cost of Supermemo and FullRecall combined in no time at all. Therefore it is worth it that you find which SRS you like using and dealing with. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you definitely must like working with the program otherwise no amount of effort/motivation will keep you working with it.

Due to the fact that I have become so dissatisfied with Supermemo, I am moving on to Anki and Mnemosyine. I am going to try both out for a bit and see which one I like the best. In my prior use I liked Anki’s features and it just seems to jive with me in a way that Supermemo didn’t. Also there is a much quicker update cycle for Anki and Mnemosyne. If anyone has any comments on either please let me know. While I am excited to start a new piece of SRS I realized I need to change up my plan of attack. I would frequently get burnt out from entering in characters I “should know” and reviewing them constantly only to find myself forgetting them very quickly. I just got into a rut and was already so sick of using Supermemo that it caused me to stop doing my SRS repetitions for quite some time.

While exploring the language learning blogoshere I stumbled upon Khatzumoto’s 6 part series on how to more effectively use SRS. I don’t know how I missed it as I have been to his blog many times but after reading through it I recommend that anyone planning to use SRS give it a read. It has a wealth of information and it effectively described why I had trouble staying motivated and some appropriate solutions that I am going to try and implement. I wont paraphrase the piece as I feel any such effort would fall short , so head over there and give it a read. Its worth it.

This week I will be really thinking hard about how to implement some new techniques to using SRS and I will post my new plan of attack in the coming days. Maybe it will help some others with their SRS use, maybe not. Until then, 再見!

SRS Part 2

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In this part of our SRS discussion we should look at who the major players are in Spaced Repetition Software. For more information from the official website for each SRS just click on its name. While I have not listed all the spaced repetition software out there I feel that these are the most robust and widely used. With respect to Anki and Mnemosyne, I feel that this will allow them to become the better applications in the long run because they will get the most development. If you use another piece of software please leave a comment about it. Now, on to the SRS.

Supermemo – Supermemo is probably one of the most widely known pieces of Spaced Repetition Software out there. It was created by Piotr Wozniak out of Poland in the mid/late 80′s. There are multiple versions available with varying costs. Although it is arguably the most powerful piece of spaced repetition software out there right now, it is also the most archaic. Another feature that I found hard to use was the import/export of lists.

Mnemosyne – is free and is based off a similar version of the Supermemo2 algorithm. The best features that I have found with this software is that it has great support for different kinds of media, as well as 3 sided cards with the written word, the translation, and the pronunciation. Another major feature that this shares with Anki is the ability to run off of a USB drive. This is nice if you have a USB you take around with you to use in places where foreign software is not allowed.

Anki – is another free piece of software that shares theSupermemo2 algorithm . As stated above it can be run from a USB drive and also has a synchronization feature which allows the user to keep their data on multiple computers in sync. I have not tested this feature myself but I have heard mixed reviews.

FullRecall – is free with limitations ($35 for the full version) and the UI of this software is similar to many of the other SRS that we’ve reviewed. The major question I have is how the “underlying artificial network” actually works in practice (sounds good in theory). I would need to look at some code to see how it compares to the SM2 algorithm.

Next time I will talk about my experiences with SRS and how SRS fits with my ongoing plan to learn languages. Also we’ll take a look at some other language blogger’s use of SRS and any recommendations they may have as well. For further reading, check out the following reviews around the language blogosphere. 再見!

Nihongo Pera Pera’s review of Anki, Mnemosyne, and Supermemo
The Cunning Linguist’s review of Anki, and SRS in general

SRS Part 1

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What is an SRS? What does it mean when people say they are going to do their SRS repetitions? These are a few of the questions I had when I first hear of SRS (Spaced Repetition Software). From Wikipedia “[SRS] is a learning technique in which increasing intervals of time are used between subsequent reviews”. Basically its a flash card program that tests you at increasing intervals. Click here for an article from the creator of Supermemo which describes the basic theory of the algorithms used in most SRS. The wonderful thing about SRS is that it does all the hard work of figuring out when you should review something and the more you use it the more accurate it will be. Omniglot has a great article on the modus operandi as he calls it. One thing to note though is that Spaced repetiton software can be used for anything that lends itself to Q&A form, not just languages. In Part two I’ll discuss the major players in the SRS scene and which ones I have used/prefer. I’ll also discuss how I have progressed using spaced repetition software. Until then, 再見!

I am going to start a multiple part series on Spaced Repetition Software in the coming days. This has been prompted by my growing distaste with Supermemo. Stay tuned to learn all about Spaced Repetition Software as it pertains to learning! 再見!

My Chinese Blog

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Well, I started my Chinese blog. Here is the link to it, and I also updated the link box on the right hand side so its easier to find. As always I would love any help you can give me or any correcting you can do for me. Don’t worry I’ll never be offended because its more important to learn correctly. I am very excited because even in writing this short childish post I learned a lot. I can tell this will really speed my learning up. Thanks everyone, 再見!

I got 王力宏‘s new cd titled 心跳 two days ago and I cant stop listening to it. There are some really good tracks on it. One of my favorite songs is titled the same as the cd, ‘心跳‘. It is supposed to be about a personal relationship. I also love the song ‘Everything’ not only because its an awesome song, but because I can understand a lot of the words. Its the first song where this has happened. The premise for the song is quite sad, as it is supposedly about his friend who went to propose to his girlfriend, and she said she had no plans to marry. I also like 另一個天堂 as well as ‘腳本‘. both are really great songs. I highly recommend this album to everyone.

Along with this post, I am going to try my first post on my All Mandarin All The Time Blog. It will more than likely be childish as well as riddled with mistakes but I am very excited. I’ll be posting the link and upload the post later tonight. 再見!