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/