Cloze Deletion Kanji and a word on Heisig

In reply to this comment in my previous post:


Interesting. I wonder how we’d do it in Japanese?

Indeed, I had thought about this while typing up the previous post so I may as well get off my butt and write about it! Anyway..

Let’s take an entry like this:

♪004 WELCOME!♪

Welcome to MOTHER3 world




ヒナワの父 アレックの家


Now, for me, I would actually take the entire entry and split it up based on the character I wanted to learn. But, let’s say for simplicity’s sake that I wanted to learn island 「島」.


♪004 WELCOME!♪

Welcome to MOTHER3 world

ノーウェア[#### island -or- 周囲が水で囲まれている陸地。-or- 海中或湖中被水圍繞的小陸地。]



So, for this kind of a card, I’ll have the keyword in either Japanese (if I’m ambitious enough!), Chinese or plain old English. Generally, I will opt for Chinese. As in the previous entry, I would do things for pronunciation as well like this:


♪004 WELCOME!♪

Welcome to MOTHER3 world

ノーウェア[しま#### island -or- 周囲が水で囲まれている陸地。-or- 海中或湖中被水圍繞的小陸地。]



If it’s a character I’m familiar with from Chinese, I probably won’t add much more information to it. If it’s a Japanese specific character, then I’ll try and find the Chinese equivalent to explain it.

At any rate, I’ve only got, like, two cards with this thing so I can’t speak much for results yet.

Another interesting method would be to apply Kendo’s lazy kanji method to this too, wherein you put your little story inside the deletion area.

[Now for a quick digression!]

I have found, though, as much as I enjoyed doing Heisig (ha! Typing up all those characters was a blassssst), and I do believe Heisig gives you a stronger sense of fluency than just jumping into the language with Genki books, it can just be a tad too impractical. I mean, it’s the same reason we don’t tend to use paper dictionaries, right? Now we’ve got to stumble through these characters and stories, and take the time to input them into the SRS. Now, if there’s anything I’ve learned from AJATT, it’s that we should be streamlining the process to make it fun and as stupidly easy to do as possible. I think Heisig kind of goes against that.

So, to me, why not kill two birds with one stone? Combine them with things you are probably reading in your immersion environment anyway. I mean, I have seen a lot of people say “hey, you know, I’m reading x book/x manga but only 100 characters into Heisig”. I say, you know, here’s a chance to learn it in context anyway. And I think, simple, basic, English translations are quick and easy to read and impress the character on you faster. Then, as you progress, you switch these into Japanese. Rather than having a bulky Heisig deck with a SRS sentences deck.. unify the whole thing! Then they come back as you do your usual reviews.

I mean, I hate switching between decks. If it’s all in one, it’s better for me. Simple. Straight. Easy. Plus, you can always look back on those old cards as a confidence booster on yourself (“Haha, I didn’t even know ISLAND back then. What a dunce!”) as they come back up in reviews.

Of course, this comes after having studied Chinese for so long that it’s easy to look back and see Heisig as not entirely necessary to learning kanji. But, as is most important, what do you think?

Cloze Deletion Hanzi

Farting around on Twitter, as I am wont to do, I noticed a tweet by Khatz saying:


Possible future #SRS hack/tweak: learning kanji using cloze deletions…hmmm..

Which brought to mind the current method that I use for character cloze deletions! Now, I should say, I don’t really use my old Heisig “Remember the Hanzi” deck much anymore. I kind of flip through it when I feel like writing, but I generally am using it less and less. Part of the reason is I don’t write as much (except for some forms and documents) anymore. I should really change this, since I love writing and that’s how I got into the language to begin with so…


My variation is an extension of the short version that I tweeted as an example:


你很 [handsome]!。



What I have been doing, though, is taking the English keyword and turning it into the Chinese definition, as such:


你很 [容俊俏或舉止瀟灑、有風度。]!。


帥 部首 巾 部首外筆畫 6 總筆畫 9

注音一式 (語音)ㄕㄨㄞˋ

While Heisig would say “to heck with that pronunciation nonsense!”, I argue that it should be kept in there—for Chinese. Japanese I completely understand why you’d want it separated, but pronunciation is very important in Chinese, especially tones. Yes, some characters have multiple pronunciations (even [帥] from the example!), but it is still good to get an idea of the pronunciation. No need to memorize it, and I would say don’t try, until you’re sure you know which tone it is. Once you know, then that can lead you on to…

Pronunciation specific practice! I’ll do entries like this (with embedded audio files, of course!):


你很 [ㄕㄨㄞˋ容俊俏或舉止瀟灑、有風度。]!。


帥 部首 巾 部首外筆畫 6 總筆畫 9

[+audio file of ㄕㄨㄞˋ, sometimes the whole sentence if it’s short enough]

The goal is to match the pronunciation with the audio and the writing (or, mental visualization of) the character on the back.

Now, these all use a very simplistic example sentence, but I would suggest making larger, more contextual, entries. Using the textbook dialogues from your language books might be a good idea. The goal, of course, not being to learn the incredibly dull sentences and grammar points, but just to focus on one character in the context it’s being presented in. Learning from real world examples would be much better, but if you’re like me and have already blown a handful of cash on those beastly books, this might be a use for them other than kindling to keep warm in the winter.

Google Blogsearch

The principles of sentence hacking and using the SRS as a study method, and strongly influenced by this AMAZINGLY GENIUS idea by a handsome guy in Japan, suggests using Twitter as a dictionary and source for original L2 sentences. Genius.

Anyway, I have a further extension on this great idea provided through Google. I just found this out today, but Google now offers Blog Searching.

So what does this mean for you as a adventurous young L2 learner? Simply take the Twitter method mentioned above, but search full blog entries! You’ll find more interesting articles than those from a regular Google search, and from native speakers expressing themselves in a natural way.

Get Google Blogging (Gloggling? Gblogging? eh~just go have fun)!

Building a language repository (Avoiding boredom in your L2)

A new buddy of mine asked me through Twitter the other day:

@zhongruige basically, what chinese-specific material have you found the most useful/fun/cool? it never feels like you have quite enough…

To which I left a rather lengthy reply:

@[handsome China buddy] I am kind of all over the place with Chinese material–but it’s all “relevant to my interests”. Generally, though, I read more than I watch movies or anything. For example, I’m reading this article now because I like the artwork in that station:
You’re right it never feels like enough, or I get really bored of it quickly, so I constantly try and keep new stuff flowing in. When I didn’t, I got lazy/stagnant and reverted back to English stuff. How about yourself? (Sorry for the long answer!!)

The point I was trying to get at, and I believe missed entirely, is that my focus is on just creating a lot of “stuff” in Chinese to keep around. We have a lot of “stuff” in English: links to BBC, Facebook, that quirkly blog that you read but you wish other people didn’t know you read, books, movies, magazines, etc. etc. We built up over our life times the strongest collection of English material that no school could replicate.

Just do the same with Chinese (or your L2). It’s really that simple. All you need to do is start. With the internet, there’s nothing stopping you from building an equally impressive collection.

Here’s what I do:

Buy any reading material, for even passing interests, from, 7-11, bookstores, etc. Do the same for movies as well.

Head to the internet where I spend a fair share of time and surround myself with Chinese websites:



Yahoo! News, PChome News, Dictionaries, etc. It helps having it at your fingertips.

The point is, you have to surround yourself with the same kind of material you surround yourself with in English: filler material, “busy work”, stuff you look at when you SHOULD be working (in my case my SRS).

When you get bored reading about x in your L2, just switch to something lighter, more fun, or a silly video/movie that you can totally just “veg out to”. No pressure. Sit back with some popcorn, have a regular coke, go hog wild.

The point is, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS have material in your L2 with you from a variety of sources. You’ll be less tempted to take a break in English; take a break in your L2 instead.

A look at my SRS entries

Taking a break, I figured I would share how I am writing up my SRS entries for Chinese now:




【體驗】ㄊ|ˇ |ㄢˋ 親身體會、感受。
【幸福】ㄒ|ㄥˋ ㄈㄨˊ 指生活、境遇圓滿愉快。

I am trying to break from the habit of using pinyin as a romanization, and switching entirely over to zhuyin/bopomofo. Also, I am  trying to use entirely Chinese definitions and other example sentences where possible. It helps a lot, because for a long time I had seen 將 used in a way I couldn’t figure out—until I looked at the Chinese definition. For example:




【去除】 ㄑㄩˋ ㄔㄨ ˊ消去、革除。
【果皮】ㄍㄨㄛˇ ㄆ|ˊ
【當作】ㄉㄤˋ ㄗㄨㄛˋ看成、認為。
【肥料】ㄈㄟˊ ㄌ|ㄠˋ

將 can be used as 把 ! It opened up so many more sentences to me. I felt like I had made a huge breakthrough when I figured that out.

All of these entries came from a MOS Cafe (MOS Burger) pamphlet talking about their coffee. Why not?

Hanzi Story for 3/23

I have already inputted all of the characters from Chinese Characters: A Genealogy and Dictionary into a single study file in an SRS. As I go through them daily, I always come across a few of the ones that I really quite like or flow together very well. I’ll write a more indepth entry on this process in the future, but just a quick introduction to these posts will have to suffice for now.

Here’s today’s Hanzi Story:


is a CART attacked with an AXE in broad SUN light