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Say It Right Series

Private messages (poor interface)

Posted by aeflow August 14, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

I noticed only today that I had a private message sent to me back on July 30.  I had disabled forwarding of such messages to e-mail, so I can only read them on the ChinesePod website itself.

 

The only thing that notifies you of pending messages is an inconspicuous notice at the extreme right-hand edge of the page, a mere number in parentheses after the word "Messages".  In my case, I could not even see it without scrolling the page horizontally, which I never had any occasion to do before, since pages that have the "About You" sidebar have all their important content in the left-hand side, and only the watchlist and most active users list on the right-hand side.

 

There should probably be some more conspicuous way to signal pending messages.

 

Sorry about that, Ron.  To answer your question, Mnemosyne is freeware flashcard software that incorporates "spaced repetition".  When viewing each flashcard, instead of simply telling the program "yes, I remembered it/ no, I forgot it", you click on a number from 0 to 5 (forgot completely; almost remembered; just barely remembered; too hard/repeat it sooner next time; just right; too easy/repeat it less frequently in the future).  In this way, the program automatically adjusts to you, and instead of presenting all characters equally often, it presents the ones you find challenging more often.  There are many similar flashcard programs that use spaced repetition, see the list at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetition

 

Note Mnemosyne has no built-in knowledge of Chinese, so you have to input flashcard content yourself (for instance, by creating a tab-separated text file and importing it).

 

Wenlin is a non-freeware program available at http://www.wenlin.com .  The main benefit is that it incorporates the entire ABC Chinese-English Dictionary, which is fairly complete.  It incorporates a text editor in which you can input Chinese characters using pinyin, and you can lookup definitions of words simply by moving the mouse cursor over the word in question.  So you can copy-and-paste web page text or lesson text into it, read it, and instantly get definitions for any unknown words.  It also has features for showing stroke order, and primitive flashcard functionality (unfortunately without spaced repetition, and only for individual characters and not words).

 

Since it's not freeware, it can license a "real" Chinese-English dictionary.  The dictionary available with Chinese PeraKun, or the one at http://dict.chinesepod.com/ leave quite a bit to be desired.  The disadvantage is, it's not integrated into a web browser, so you do have to take the extra step of copy-and-pasting text from a webpage into Wenlin.

 

So Mnemosyne and Wenlin serve entirely different purposes, but personally I find them both useful.

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