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Say It Right Series

Learning measure words

Posted by simonpettersson October 19, 2009 in the Group General Discussion.

Tags: measure words, study strategy, tips, ideas

We all love to hate 'em. Here's my new strategy for learning measure words:

1: Whenever I add a new noun to my vocabulary list, I look it up on nciku. Usually, there are measure word colloquations there. Hopefully, there's just one.

2: If it's a measure word I haven't already studied, I add it to the vocab.

3: Since the pinyin field in the vocab list is editable (thank you, ChinesePod!), I add the measure word there. This is because in StudyArcade, which is the iPhone app I use to study vocabulary, both directions (C->E and E->C) have the pinyin on the answer side.

This is based on the classic approach of learning gender in gender based languages. You don't learn "'voiture' means 'car'", you learn "'la voiture' means 'the car'", since this gives you the gender for free. The same way, when learning Chinese, don't learn "'zhǐ' means 'paper'", learn "'yī zhāng zhǐ' means 'a piece of paper'".

Problems with this approach:

1: The Chinese field of the vocab is not editable, which makes it impossible to do it the way I want to do it (adding the character of the measure word in the Chinese field and the pinyin in the pinyin field). Also, no "Convert to tone marks" button is availible in the pinyin editing field, but that's easily worked around.

2: Sometimes there are multiple measure word colloquations.

So what I'm looking for in this discussion is both your own ways of learning the measure words, and if you have a solution to any of my problems (like, what should I do when there are several measure words for a noun?). I'll be interested in reading your thoughts.

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