Flash-card Case Study: My Chinese Anki Decks Structure, Part I


(First in a series of posts describing the Anki flash-card decks I use to study Chinese)

Previously I reviewed Anki software for electronic flashcards, and also about using multimedia flashcards. Currently I use somewhat more than 50 Anki decks (nope, that is not a misprint) to study various languages and other stuff.

Some decks are modest in size, for example to learn a new alphabet. For such I add no new cards once the deck is complete and the daily review time dwindles to a fraction of a minute. Others grow indefinitely, for example the various decks I employ to study Chinese. This reflects both the inherent complexity of the language and the level of effort I have put into it for the past several years.

As a case study, I outline here my decks for Chinese study. First, a list of the decks themselves:

Chinese characters: For learning the individual characters. This started based on Heisig's books and has been extended by myself based on Heisig's principles. Currently consists of 3952 "notes" and 23733 "cards." (To clarify, in Anki a single "note" links two or more pieces of information. From this one or more "cards" are created by specifying various pieces of information as the "cue" [front of the card] and others as the "response" [back of the card].)

Chinese vocabulary: Consists of words and some phrases or even entire sentences in (Mandarin) Chinese. Currently contains 4335 notes and 17311 cards.

Cantonese: Currently contains 296 notes and 1025 cards. These numbers reflect the fact that my Cantonese is at a much earlier stage than my Mandarin.

Cantonese Mnemonics: stable at 89 notes and 178 cards. Embodies Stefan's (of Language Ninja) system for memorizing Cantonese pronunciation.

Chinese 20000 HSK Sentences: I downloaded this as an Anki shared deck. True to its name, contains 22148 notes and 22148 cards, each with a single sentence. The HSK is a Chinese government test for evaluating Chinese proficiency.

Chinese Mnemonics: stable at 95 notes and 95 cards. Embodies my own system for memorizing Mandarin pronunciation of characters.

Chinese Williamson's Teach Yourself: When I first took up Chinese decades ago, it was with Teach Yourself Chinese by H. R. Williamson. I struggled mightily and never got past Chapter 10 (although having some worthwhile adventures in the process). This failure nagged at me ever since. A few years ago I set a goal to go back and crush Williamson's book. This Anki deck (125 notes, 125 cards) contains some oddities that I encountered in Williamson's book but haven't been able to cross-reference anywhere else. The Chinese in Williamson's book is old-fashioned to say the least.

Subsequent posts will outline the internal structure of the most interesting of these.


P_ter said...

Hello Serge Gorodish,
I am just a beginner Chinese. Recently I had a conversation class Mandarin. How to remember e.g., the many words in "ji"? In conversation I do not care about the characters, I just need the sound and meaning. For the moment I only need some 800 words to remember. I made a method for it. It is very limited and I think it can be improved by for example by rhyme. Here are the fourth tones ji I have to remember:
计 记 纪 技 挤 继寄绩
I made a sentence from these words:
discipline, skill
calculate, note down,
bring relief
continue to send achievement.
Discipline and skill, bring relief by calculating and noting down, continue (please) to send (your) achievement.
I did this for a few sounds which have a number of meanings.
It helps me. Maybe some people can improve it.

You mention you have Heisig made to Anki. Are those freely available?
with friendly greetings,

Serge Gorodish said...

Interesting approach. Good luck with your studies.

My Heisig decks are unfortunately not publicly available. Recently the Anki people went through a phase of anxiety and warned everyone that making a deck in conjunction with a book might be a copyright violation (which I think is not true). But out of caution I took some of my decks down.

But I see another shared deck out there that might work for you. Search "Heisig" in the shared decks and then text-search the resulting page for "Hanzi". I don't know whether it will work, but here's a direct link:


Again, good luck!

P_ter said...

Hello Serge,
thanks. I found the link. I can use it for the next phase, that is for me: a year.

with friendly greetings,