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Say It Right Series

The Chinese tree

Posted by christian October 23, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

I've been thinking a bit about how the lessons might be better presented so as to aid their navigation. With their numbers growing, the problem is less and less one of a lack of material, and increasingly one of finding what to do next.

 CP presents its content as lessons which are classified according to level and function. The functional aspect is there to enable users to choose study material which is relevant to them, and the classification of level should enable one to choose lessons which are challenging and ulitmately enable one to later do lessons from a higher level.

 The vocabulary which occurs in newbie lessons is presumably vocab which occurs more frequently in natural speech, and therefore enables you to understand more of the language you come across in daily life.

 It may be worthwhile, though, to think of presenting a structure for the lessons themselves which mimics the structure of the language itself. Consider the following simple example:

 你 is one of the most common words in the language. If I do a lesson on greetings, I will learn 你好, a very common phrase. However, 你 is also used in a bunch of other patterns, such as 你们, 你的, etc. Learning those next will reinforce the word in my mind and often highlight the ways in which a word's meanings change with context. This is what I do right now in that when I learn a word I look for other lessons in my level which include it, but perhaps more can be done to make this easier and more systematic by presenting the vocabulary in the lessons as a word tree. It seems to me this may make more sense than using tag clouds or other such tools because it classifies things according to their function.

 However, I am not a linguist, so I'm not sure this makes sense from a linguistic point of view. I also wonder how detailed such a tree would have to be. Though there is probably value in providing such a high level overview of the language, clearly including too many branches makes it unwieldy and opaque. 

 Curious to hear what you guys think...

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