Getting Around: MRT Exit Gives you the closest MRT exit to your destination

I came across MRT Exit just the other day, which promises to help find the best route from an MRT exit to your destination. As the MRT systems in Taipei and Kaohsiung keep expanding and are getting busier, it’s kind of nice to know what exit you need to head towards because, suffice it to say, it can be a little confusing:

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This is especially helpful as an exit may lead you to a destination that isn’t necessarily listed on the signs or even the maps on the concourse.

Anyway, MRT Exit does a lot to help mitigate this confusion by allowing you to check out your destination online first, plug it into the site, and figure out which line you need to take, what station to disembark from, and which exit to use to leave the station.

So let’s take a look at how it works!

Continue reading “Getting Around: MRT Exit Gives you the closest MRT exit to your destination”

ClozeCards: New Stories, Flashcards and Motivation

I just heard from David, the creator of ClozeCards.com (which you may remember from a previous post). He recently shared the information below with me, and I thought it would be really great to let everyone else know about these new features. The site itself has gone through a redesign, so I highly recommend going to check it out if you haven’t been over there yet, or have yet to see the new changes.

Anyway, I’ll let David go over some of the new additions–perhaps the most exciting of which is the recent collaboration with a Chinese publishing company to bring Chinese short stories into ClozeCards!

Short-stories, flashcards, and motivation.

Using flashcards is probably the most efficient way to learn Chinese. Unfortunately, flashcards offer very little to mark your progress and has no obvious milestones that can be celebrated. I don’t know about you, but for me, learning Chinese becomes much more fun when I see myself improving, when I can do something I previously couldn’t, and when I achieve a goal.

Now, after a long time of searching, I think I’ve found the best of both words: The efficiency of flashcards together with the motivational boost of small, achievable goals. The generous people at Chinese Stories Publishing have given me 11 short-stories, complete with audio and English translations, and I’ve created corresponding flashcard decks and graded the stories by difficulty. These stories are perfect goals: They’re reasonably short (you can learn the vocabulary in less than a week), you can easily how much work you need to put into them, and they’re fun!

I’ve prepared a GIF to show you how the flashcards integrate with the stories. What you see here is me practicing the vocabulary for the story ‘The Hundredth Customer’. The Chinese title is 第一百個客人 (dì yī bǎi gè kè rén). As I fill in the gap sentences with pinyin, each occurrence of the word turns green in the story. Once I’ve reviewed the words a couple of times, they’ll loose their color to make them easier to read.

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What’s more, to help understand the text, there’s both an English translation for each paragraph and a pop-up dictionary for each Chinese word.

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The difficulty level of the stories range from beginner to advanced and the full list can be found here: https://clozecards.com/content/?tags=Audio+Book

Have fun,
David from ClozeCards.com

[Guest Post] Learning by Example

I’ve long been a fan of learning new words and new phrases by context, that is, in the greater sentence and paragraph as a whole. Using and learning words in sentences has been a huge benefit to my studies as well, and as I read more advanced works, I relied a lot on the context around it to actually learn what the vocabulary I didn’t know was.

Below is a guest post by the creator of a new site specially aimed at this learning style: ClozeCards. It is something I really wish I had in the early days of my studies, rather than huge vocabulary lists and fairly disjointed example sentences. I do believe there’s a huge benefit from learning new vocabulary this way, and I like the way that the site encourages you to write the Pinyin (with tones as well) when you go through the sentence. Plus the little popup menu that gives the definition and audio is really nice, and I like how it has been implemented.

So, without much further ado, here’s the post!

Hi, my name is David and I’ve created a new way of learning Mandarin Chinese. This article will tell you the basics of how it got started and how it got works, but if you’re feeling impatient, you can go and try it out for yourself at: https://clozecards.com/

螢幕快照 2015-11-20 下午8.44.23

It’s no secret that Chinese is hard and I certainly struggled to get the grasp of the language. After getting incresingly frustrated with slow progress from studying on my own, I turned to online tutors. Speaking to another human helped greatly but even with my tutor’s tireless efforts at explaining grammar and word meanings, I still struggled to get a deep understanding of the material we covered. Seeing how words were used in sentences appeared to be the best way of cementing them into my brain and I often said “Don’t just tell how this word is used, show me!” Furthermore, a deeper understanding of characters is often required when reading. For example, this next sentence uses ‘谢’ to mean ‘wither’ instead of the much more common ‘thanks’ meaning.

花都谢了。 The flowers have all withered.

Also, in the above sentence, ‘花’ mean ‘flowers’ but it can also mean ‘to spend’:

你一共花了多少钱? What is the total amount of money you spent?

For me, seeing such examples helped much more than just being told the different meanings of a word.
What’s more, after each lesson, a lot of what I had just learned drained from my brain like water through a sieve. I would be lucky if I could remember half of the vocabulary when I reviewed previous lessons. Fortunately, I’m not the first with this problem and utilizing flashcard software is a popular solution. Anki, the flashcard program, became my trusty companion for a while but the number of cards I wanted to study quickly grew unmanageable. I tried other software — like iKnow.jp — but nothing felt right. This is when I decided to find my own path. I knew I wanted something with these features:

  • Massive number of examples. Words and grammar should always be taught in the context of a complete sentence.
  • Seamless reviews. Learning a word just to forget it tomorrow is no good; review should therefore be interspersed with study.
  • Goal directed learning. Learning Chinese is a monumental task. Working towards smaller, tangible goals (such as reading a short-story or moving up an HSK level) is paramount.
  • Skill appropriate examples. Seeing an example you cannot read is no good. Examples should be chosen based on your current vocabulary.

On ClozeCards.com, I’ve collected more than 50,000 example sentences and created both long (HSK level 1 to 6) and short (covering just the vocabulary of a short story) courses. By having you complete gap sentences with pinyin answers, the site not only helps you memorise words but also teaches you how they’re used, all with examples tailored to your reading level. Give it a go at: https://clozecards.com/

WaiChinese – A complete tone changer

I have to preface this by saying I am extremely impressed by WaiChinese. I have absolutely always wanted an app that was able to actually track your tones as you say them and it’s finally here! So please go and try it it out!

Now onto the full review!

It all comes down to tones

First and foremost this app is specifically focused on improving your tones and, by extension, your regular daily conversation. Phrases are recorded by native speakers, and I’ve had some recorded specifically for me to focus on particularly difficult tone combinations. The app provides live-as-you-record sound charts so that you can see how the tones are actually said, both yours and the ones the teacher records.

Below are two examples of how this looks in the app. The sound chart on the top is the teacher’s original recording, while the chart on the bottom is the student’s:

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On this screen you can touch on the “translate” text at any time to see the English translation of the phrase you’re currently studying. In addition, you may notice a green book on the side with a grade on it:

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If you click on the green book that has the grade on it, you’ll be taken to this screen:

Archived

Here, all of the recordings done by a student for a particular word, in this case 你好, will appear on this page. What this means is that a student see and hear how they’ve progressed over time for any word submitted on WaiChinese. The student can also see the teacher’s grade and comment. This provides a great way to focus on improvement for particularly difficult tones and tone combinations.

And in case anyone is curious, the app’s designer has also provided a little peak into the teacher’s view:

Teacherinterface

From here the teacher can see the list of students and is also able to grade them very quickly. This is where WaiChinese fits into a very unique niche: not only is it a great resource for students, but it also becomes an invaluable tool for teachers as well.

Originally I wanted to point out that this is an excellent app for Chinese language teachers to be used in the classroom or in 1-on-1 sessions. But I can also see this being really helpful for learners using Skype or even just language exchange partners. Certainly, at least, the “I have a teacher that will assist me” option makes it seem like this would be a great broad use case for this app.

My Personal Experience

I’ve been using WaiChinese for about a week now and I have to say it has made me much more conscious of my tones. I find myself thinking about them on a more regular basis than I normally would. Plus, the comments from the teacher as well as the visual representation of how my tones are being said, has been particularly good reinforcing how and where I need to improve.

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So I am admittedly very impressed about how this app has made me be much more aware of the tones and how I’m actually saying them–compared to how I think I’m saying them. Especially because, after using this app, I noticed there is definitely a big discrepancy between what it actually sounds like versus what I think it sounds like.

Some Video Goodness

Below is a short demo video showing how the system works:

There is also another great demo video which you can find on Vimeo here.

Conclusions

Ultimately it’s the fact that this app is not limited to pre-configured flashcards, but rather any vocabulary word or phrase you want to learn that can be recorded is available to you.

But really it’s better if you try it out for yourself: So sign up today to beta test WaiChinese–it’s completely free! It’s available both for Android and iOS.

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A Quick Look at “Learn a Chinese Phrase”

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I was recently contacted by the Learn a Chinese Phrase team from Wayne State University about a video series they put together. I must admit this was pretty surprising, considering I went to school in Michigan and had friends at Wayne State University, too. So I was quite curious to see what they had put together, and now I’m sharing with you! Enjoy.

First up, here’s some basic background on the program: Learn a Chinese Phrase was started in November 2011 by the Confucius Institute at Wayne State University. The goal they hope to accomplish is to teach Chinese through interesting and fun idioms. They take a Chinese idiom and, if it has an English equivalent, teach it by association for the student to both learn the idiom and structure as well.

As of this post, Learn a Chinese Phrase has 63 videos already online. In addition to the 2-minute idiom videos, there are 10 accompanying supplementary videos. In these videos, the teacher takes the idiom just presented and breaks it down for the student. I have to admit, the videos are actually pretty cute at times (I liked the one about being stingy) and I found them quite enjoyable to watch.

I got to talk with John Brender, Ph.D. who is in charge of the project and asked him what they plan to do in the future. He replied:

We are in the process of producing a mobile app to enable users to take these lesson on the go. The app will allow users to take our lessons on the go and test their knowledge on each lesson via the interactive in-app quizzes.

I’m a huge fan of digital apps for learning Chinese on the go, so I am really looking forward to seeing what they put together! If you’re interested, here are links to one of their idiom videos and a supplementary lesson.

You can find “Learn a Chinese Phrase” on YoutubeFacebook, or follow them on Twitter.

If you happen to check it out, let me know what you think in the comments below!

So Long and Thanks For All the Chinese

This is going to be quite a short entry, busy putting together my research proposal for my thesis! But I wanted to share this with everyone, I was super excited when I found this the other day.

I just happened across this website that has four books of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy translated into (simplified) Chinese. Since I love that book series, I thought I would share it with everyone. Just click that link and you’re set to go! Then find the book you want to read and go ahead.

Since I’m a proponent of Traditional Chinese, I like to use the Tongwen Bookmarklet for Chrome that Chinese Hacks mentioned previously. It’s super useful, and it automatically changes the characters as soon as I go to a page. I highly recommend it.

With all the lousy weather recently, I will leave you with my favorite quote from So Long and Thanks For All the Fish:

每次洗完衣服時,就開始下雨。真對不起大家。提醒我這句話:「他繼續駕駛,那些雨雲在他頭頂上追著他跑。他不知道自己是個吸雨機。他隻知道自己的工作日都很悲慘,並且還總是碰上一連串糟糕的假日。而雨雲隻知道他們喜歡羅勃,總想跟著他,擁抱他,把他澆個透。」

原文:”And as he drove on, the rain clouds dragged down the sky after him for, though he did not know it, Rob McKenna was a Rain God. All he knew was that his working days were miserable and he had a succession of lousy holidays. All the clouds knew was that they loved him and wanted to be near him, to cherish him and to water him.”

Free Bilingual Glossaries Online

This originally started out as a comment on Chinese Hacks, specifically on this post (which mentions me, so I have to thank them graciously for their retweets and mentions, thanks!), but I decided to also post it here.

In addition, most of Taiwan’s government resource websites provide a lot of Chinese<>English glossaries, especially for their particular area. Some examples:

Medical terms provided by Taipei City’s department of health (www.health.gov.tw):

http://www.health.gov.tw/dictionary_ch.htm

Medical term’s from Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov.tw):

http://www.cdc.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=3053&CtNode=1474&mp=1

Meteorological terms from Taiwan’s Central Weather Bureau (www.cwb.gov.tw)

http://www.cwb.gov.tw/V6/public/Bilingual_Glossary.htm

Railway terms from Taiwan Railway Administration (www.railway.gov.tw)

http://www.railway.gov.tw/tw/cp.aspx?sn=7390

More terms, both website and immigration related provided by Taiwan’s Immigration office:

http://iff.immigration.gov.tw/ct.asp?xItem=1092769&CtNode=32285&mp=T001

Anyway, that’s already quite a lot so I think I’ll stop here for now. These are good for popping into Anki, doing a Chinese—>English card format. I would suggest just testing yourself on the phrase as a whole, learning to recognize it, not the individual characters in it (though pronunciation is important!). Many times, these will be helpful on signs or as you read through material. Or, I may Google them and get larger contexts for them for cloze deletions.

I’m using these two methods and if it isn’t apparent yet I haven’t quite decided which one I prefer!

As you can tell, looking for “雙語詞彙” on a website will bring you to these pages. You can also try popping it into Google to see what comes up, though I have not tried it myself yet.

Feel free to share your finds—Chinese or any other language that interests you in the comments!

Chinese<—>Chinese Online Dictionaries

Just a few links for my (and potentially your) reference for some online Chinese to Chinese dictionaries. The links are in increasing order of difficulty (e.g. Children’s Concise, to Children’s, to regular [with a lot of literary references to some entries; really interesting!], idioms, and character variants).

Kids Mini (GREAT place to start!):

http://140.111.1.43/cgi-bin/gdic/gsweb.cgi?o=ddictionary

Kids:

http://140.111.34.46/jdict/main/cover/main.htm

Regular dictionary:

http://140.111.34.46/newDict/dict/index.html

Idioms:

http://dict.idioms.moe.edu.tw/

Chinese Character Variants:

http://dict.variants.moe.edu.tw/

Hope they’re helpful!