Setting suggestion for Chinese learners


#1

You can think of each Chinese word as having three parts: The hanzi, the pinyin, and the meaning. Skritter is mainly focused on the hanzi. With default settings, the only reinforcement of the link between meaning and pinyin is passively seeing them together during reviews. There are two options that can change that:

  • Hide reading (meaning hide the pinyin). With this activated, reviews of any type can also be reviews of meaning->pinyin. Skritter will not track that independently, but assuming you learn it more easily than other reviews (like character writing) you will see it enough times to help it stick.
  • Hide definition. With this activated, you turn other reviews into an opportunity to test pinyin->meaning.
  • Turning on both isn’t a good idea, because then writing reviews prompt you to write with nothing to go on, requiring manual clicks to reveal something you’d use to know what to write.

The purpose of this post is to encourage you to choose hide definition. It would be ideal if Skritter had real support for all 6 relationships between the 3 elements, but as long as the meaning<->pinyin link is only weakly supported in Skritter, I think the best option is to bolster pinyin to meaning:

  • Doing that should improve your listening skill, which opens up a huge source of language input. Being able to listen to lots of examples will supplement the other big area where Skritter is weak: understanding the meaning of words.
  • It’s valuable to quickly turn characters into meaning (Skritter explicitly trains this) and pinyin into meaning (the topic of this post). If you are a little slower at producing pinyin from meaning it will be when you are writing or speaking and have the time to think (or even go from meaning->hanzi->pinyin indirectly).

Even if you disagree with my goal (and the conclusion), I encourage you to be deliberate about which link you want Skritter to help you reinforce, and choose the “hide” option appropriately.


#2

(Another interesting effect I forgot to mention: Many Chinese characters start with a radical which is related to the meaning and end with a component related to the sound. With “hide reading” you get the definition for a writing prompt, which often results in hinting you about how the character starts. With “hide definition” you see the pinyin which often hints about how it ends. For example, if I prompt you to write a character meaning “roast” you might think “hmm, could start with 火”, but if I tell you its pinyin is kǎo you might think “hmm, could end in 考”. So even just switching from one mode to another can exercise your brain differently)