speak chinese like a native

A critique of SRSing, and a solution.

Posted by Zhaoyang January 8, 2010 in the Group General Discussion .

Tags: anki, mnemosyne, leitner, wozniak, algorithm

(This is the first thread I've started here. I'm reposting this into this group where it belongs. )

Somewhere, between the initial memorization and the later real language usage, there is a breakdown in the logic and wisdom of flashcarding.

At the short-term end, these programs seem extremely good. At the long end, the item in effect graduates out of the daily routine- 人 at 2+ years is not a problem. In the middle is the morass of items recognizable with effort. As the deck grows and this burden increases, it becomes more obvious that some "real language" program is necessary, for example simply reading and listening to the materials from which the deck was build. Let's say this should have been done all along. So, the flashcards will graduate quickly, *but not because we've stretched the memory* a la the algorithm/theory, but because we're seeing the items periodically. I see 人 dozens of times a day = the 2+ year interval is nonsense. So, a reading/listening program renders the algorithm nonsensical.

人 eventually doesn't matter, but the thousands of reps of the partially-remembered items, when instead I could be reading/listening, is a huge problem. Should there be a cutoff/graduation/suspension of items? With enough supplementary reading the items are *eventually* effortless enough, but *until then*, they are a workload of "reading" in the form of flashcards. My opinion is that this is unnecessarily punitive, since I can actually read my texts with help from the audio I can recall as I'm reading. So, yes they should.

Someone might reply that with the whole-sentence method, one is reading all along. Yes, maybe it is a practical compromise, but it looks like just one step that suggests more, as follows:

As a brand-new newbie, dissect everything into tiny bits as necessary. As soon as something becomes readable/listenable, put it on a schedule to do exactly that- real reading/listening. What should the schedule look like? A graduated-interval scheduling would be nice!

[Begin extra credit assignment] Take some large body of text and/or audio. Parse it recursively. (The fullest solution would parse all the way down into strokes/phonemes.) Generate flashcards of the leaves. As the smallest bits are mastered, back up to the parent. Make a flashcard of the parent, suspending the leaves. Continue. In the end, the entire original work is scheduled for reading/listening. Implement this and be rich and famous. [end]

I have a practical idea too for graduated-interval scheduling of whole texts. My first try mixed such cards into the deck. They interrupted the routine. So, make a separate deck. It would have cards assigning the reading/listening of whole texts- whatever you're capable of. Then you could suspend all of its constituent bits in the main deck. Keeping strict track of the details of this would require the algorithm above, but it doesn't have to be that complicated: If in your readings you can't understand something, unsuspend the item, maybe, or just look it up and say "ah, I knew that".

Conclusion: For the initial memorization to intervals up to (a few days? 30 days?), flashcard programs are powerful tools, but the learner should be reading/listening to real language as soon as possible. Then the cards for the "bits" of the readings/listenings could be, and I argued above should be, suspended. I haven't actually done this yet. This being a new year, I might try it now. Doing more "real language" is why I joined CPod.

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