Learning Mandarin Chinese

Let’s start a discussion about using clozemaster and other electronic tools to learn Chineses. My first question is: Are any of you opting for “fill in the blank” instead of “multiple choice” ? Do you use an accompanying software to produced chinese characters? Which one, and how do you rate the software’s performance and ease of use?

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Hi dbrunt, I am using Clozemaster to learn Chinese (traditional). I always use “fill in the blank”. For me, multiple choice simply doesn’t work, because my passive knowledge of Chinese is large enough to see the correct answer in 99.99% of the questions straight away; not necessarily because I actually know the answer, but often because the incorrect answers don’t make any sense.

I found that I learn a lot more by only using “fill in the blank”. And when I don’t know the answer and have to use the “?” icon so that the multiple choice alternatives appear, I always try to choose the wrong answer on purpose, forcing me to redo the question at the end of the session.

As for your other question: I use the standard IME of my operating system to type Chinese characters.

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Hi there!
I’ve taken to learning simplified Chinese this year and I’m using Clozemaster for that purpose. It’s good so far, although there is less ordered content than for, say, German. I mean by this that the six HSK levels each have about two thousand sentences. That’s no problem for HSK1, which only contains about 150 words of vocabulary, but already HSK5 is supposed to be 1300 new words as compared to HSK4 (from what I gathered), which suggests you might not have representative instances of each words.
The HSK ? unordered section has plenty of material (20k sentences), but I haven’t checked if it is helpful once one is done with all HSK-categories.

Lastly, I use the multiple choice option, I force myself not to look at the options, and draw the character on paper. My reasoning is that it’s tedious to draw the character by hand on the app - and much better than a pencil, so I’m only trying to mimic “fill in the blank” as best as I can.
As for the points, it goes much slower with that method, but that doesn’t matter much. Points are a good enough way to measure how much you’ve worked - not all that much your progress, nor even how you compare to others in terms of how much you’ve worked (for they might use other methods).

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the six HSK levels each have about two thousand sentences. […] [This] suggests you might not have representative instances of each words.

That’s an interesting point. I’m not sure how many sentences for each word would be representative, but I can tell you from experience that working your way even through only 2000 sentences takes a long time already.

Also note that Clozemaster does not have sentences for all HSK words. It takes sentences from Tatoeba, so if no-one has created a sentence with that word in Tatoeba, it will also be missing in Clozemaster. I ran a few scripts to calculate how many words are missing. For HSK 1 through 4 it’s pretty good (as you would expect, since these levels contain the most common words) and only a few words are missing. For HSK 5 it’s about 120 words, which is about 9%, and for HSK 6 it’s over 1000 or 40%! Once you reach those levels it’s a good idea to also learn from different sources.

As I mentioned, I am learning traditional Chinese, and unfortunately Clozemaster does not offer graded sentences for it. There’s only the unordered section of > 30.000 sentences, with cloze words randomly ranging from “way too easy” to “way too hard”. It does help me to become more comfortable in Chinese, but it also takes a lot of time.

Therefore, I created some of my own collections based on the TOCFL, the Taiwanese version of the HSK. They are public, so if you’re interested you can take a look at https://www.clozemaster.com/languages/cmn-trad-eng/collections (the collections all start with the word TOCFL). I also took sentences from Tatoeba, and, to save time when learning, I limited myself on purpose to 1 sentence per word. I made separate collections for the missing words, in which each “sentence” only consists of the dictionary definition.

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Yes, as you’ve stated, 2000 sentences take an awfully long time, especially with Chinese. Actually, I stand at about 1800 sentences and I’ve started in, more or less, november. So in a way, it might be better that the higher HSK levels aren’t complete - that will push me out of my comfort zone.

I’m curious about what you said with HSK5 - there’s only 120 distinct words appearing? That would really be a massive flaw.

Thanks for sharing that link with the TOCFL, I may try to use Clozemaster to learn the traditionnal characters as well sooome day. :slight_smile:

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Luckily it’s not that bad! :slight_smile: What I meant is that there are about 120 words in HSK5 (out of 1300) for which there are no sentences in Clozemaster. 91% of the HSK5 words can be learned using Clozemaster.

For HSK6 it’s worse: about 60% of the HSK6 words occur in Clozemaster.

PS. Happy Chinese New Year! :confetti_ball:

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Hello sir! Thanks for the kind reply.
I was wondering: how did you calculate these statistics?
In particular I’m interested in finding how to establish the list of all missing words. That way I can fill in the holes of Clozemaster’s teaching offer. :slight_smile:
If it’s technical, please still do give a quick try at explaining, I might be able to understand it with enough research.

Have a nice day!

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Hi @Ilraon,

I’m really sorry for responding so late! For some reason I was never notified about your response, so I only noticed it just now.

In case you’re still wondering, after all this time, how I obtained these statistics… Some time ago, I created an online dictionary with example sentences to help myself learn vocabulary. Since the dictionary is based on Tatoeba, just like Clozemaster, I can calculate exactly how many HSK words have at least 1 example sentence in Tatoeba.

Creating the dictionary involved writing lots of conversion scripts and tools :slight_smile: Mainly to convert between Traditional and Simplified Chinese and to properly segment sentences into words.

Hope that helps!

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The original poster doesn’t seem to be around any more, but to answer their questions for anyone else who’s interested, I’ve mostly been using text input for Simplified Chinese. I initially enabled it in my computer’s language options, but it seemed to stop working on a regular basis and the characters wouldn’t appear even though the computer said it was set to Chinese. I’ve now switched to Google Input Tools and that seems to be working fairly well.

https://www.google.com/inputtools/chrome/

I don’t think what I’m doing is as beneficial as the method @Ilraon describes, but it’s been very good for improving my understanding of pinyin - “zou” vs “zuo”, “shou” vs “shuo”, etc.

It’s also scared me quite a bit, because it made me realise how many characters share the same pinyin! Type in “shi” or “yi” and a very alarming number of characters come up. But so far so good - I will carry on!

Chinese is the most fun I’ve ever had trying to learn a language.

ETA: the other thing I’ve installed that has helped me a lot is the Zhongwen Chrome Extension, which lets you hover over any characters you don’t know to see the pinyin and translation.