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SRS Study Tip

05/01/2012

I have a method that I use to optomize my use of SRS that I thought I would share.

I use Anki and Pleco (Spaced Repetition Systems) for learning Mandarin, Cantonese and Taiwanese pretty much every day. I think SRS is a great tool for language learning and I am sure that I wouldn’t have learned as much as I have without it. Despite this, learning words without context is not a perfect option by any means. Sinosplice has a good post about the limitations of SRS. My method is to try to use a search engine to give the words I am learning some context, while also practicing sentence formation skills.

For instance with Cantonese, if I were reviewing the word 樣衰 (joeng2 seoi1; ugly), I would:

1: Open Google HK with “Pages from Hong Kong” selected. (I also do the equivalent with Google Taiwan for Taiwanese)

2. The next step is to try and make a simple sentence; one that you think a native speaker would have used before. Something like “Hold the newsreader’s nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers” will not be appropriate. The most important thing here that really helps with language retention, is using a Chinese IME to input the sentence. I use the Windows Jyutping IME, which also allows me to see if I get the tones correct when I am inputting the characters (correct tones are essential for the MOE’s Taiwanese IME).

For this example, I went with “個女仔好樣衰” (go3 n(l)eoi5 zai2 hou2 joeng2 seoi1; that girl is really ugly)

3. It came up with around 90,000 hits so I can be sure that this sentence is idiomatic. It isn’t a perfect system and is not equal to affirmation by a native speaker of course.

4. If the hit number was low or I got no hits at all, then I would just try another sentence.

It is time consuming, sure, but if you don’t have anyone to practice speaking with, this can be a great way to see if you are using words in context correctly (maybe even a better way because lots of native speakers fail to correct mistakes).

For the Taiwanese IME, I use the MOE IME (try saying that a few times).

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