Recently, a Chinese learner phrased something in a particular way. He reached us out to us and said: “I have a memory problem. How can I do more reviews?”
I believe a lot of people feel the same way. They think that learning Chinese is tough work since it requires too many memory skills.
They are under the impression they should work a lot every day since they don’t memorize things easily. And Chinese is a hard language to learn, anyway, everybody thinks that. They worry they’re not learning enough to make their learning journey a success. Here, the learner thinks he needs to do more once he’s done his reviews, to drive what he learned in Chinese into his long-term memory even more. Is that true? If so, what should he do more? What should you do more? Let’s take a look.
It’s hard to learn consistently. It can be complicated to feel confident about your learning journey, to be sure of what you really do know vs. what you think you know, but it’s actually still sitting in your short-term memory.
That’s why you often do extra work. You want to do more because you’re not sure if you know well enough the Chinese characters you’ve learned. You figure it’s better to do more, just in case what you were doing isn’t enough.
But you know what? here’s a difference between working hard and a lot, and working efficiently. There is such a thing as overwork, and it’s useful not to go there. Let’s see why and what you can do to reassure yourself that you do know what you’re learning well enough.
Learning you can trust
The Ninchanese app is made to make you discover new notions and review them when you need to. That way, you don’t need to think about how to manage your memory: Ninchanese’s system (SRS) keeps track of that for you. Imagine knowing a lot of Chinese characters. It’s a challenge to keep all them fresh and to not forget them entirely. It’s particularly tough for someone that is not in the country to use the vocabulary they learn every day. But that’s something the SRS solves.
Here’s an example of near-perfect learning you can get thanks to Ninchanese SRS:
An effective and personalized learning
The SRS makes you meet and run into Chinese characters again and again, always at the right moment – for you. Memorization is what’s best about Ninchanese’s SRS. It evolves as you use it to match your learning style better, and it becomes the best friend you know you can rely on to not forget Chinese characters. Ninchanese’s learning system was designed specifically for learning Chinese and if we dare say so ourselves, it works better than other SRS.
Learning with reviews. Why do they matter?
The real question? Do you have a memory problem? Use the SRS and let it know more about you and your memory working mechanics. Let it get to know you for a while, understand your memorization path and learning curve. Once done, there’s no need to do extra work such as repeating Chinese characters over and over.
So to answer the question: Can I do more Reviews?
No, you can’t do more reviews on Ninchanese than what you need to do. It can be hard to trust the system but take your time and do your reviews every day. You’ll see the good it does for your memorization of Chinese characters. Our learners have a memorization rate of over 97% of the Chinese character they learn when they do their review every day. Reviewing really makes things easier when it comes to managing the memory process of learning Chinese characters efficiently.
Since learning requires a lot of things to work on, once you’ve finished your reviews, there are still things you can do. For instance, if you have new freshly unlocked words, here’s an area to work on. It’s what we call the recall time. The recall time is something to train. You won’t remember better a word if you see it more. But by playing a time attack, you will recognize Chinese characters faster.
#1 – Time attacks: to work on your Recall Time
The time attacks are a game you play in Ninchanese. The goal is to answer as fast as possible pinyin of characters, or their meanings. Both will help you learn to recognize and bring to mind characters faster. Each time you finish a time attack, you win a medal if you can recall them quickly. It’s nice to do that from time to time in earlier unlocked stages, to see if you need a refresher or to check how well and quickly these words reappear in your brain. And with new freshly unlocked stages, time attacks are a challenge but lots of fun too. Try to get a gold medal.
Benefits of the time attack
Time attacks work on your recall time. See, when you start to learn something, it’s in your brain, somewhere. Trouble is: where? Recalling that notion can take a looong time if you don’t work on it. So that’s why the time attacks focus on that, your recall time. It eases your mind and helps it remember faster.
Doing the time attacks especially help you with two things: reading and understanding. When you read Chinese,t there are two stages: the one where you stop at every character you try to read, and the phase where you can tackle a full sentence head-on, and understand its meaning without pausing to think about reading each Chinese character. Time attacks help you reach the second phase, and that’s not an easy trick to pull off. With time attacks, you’ll understand faster Chinese characters and make the meaning association more easily. Then when you encounter these Chinese characters, you’ll appreciate the meaning of text faster and ease the reading.
Doing the time attack helps in a lot of ways, as you can see.
To do them, go back to a vocabulary stage and look for the time attack.
#2 – Practice making sentences with meaningful grammar points
How can you remember better the Chinese characters you’ve learned so far? The best method is to use the characters you’ve learned in context and to understand how to use them. Because understanding is the best way to memorize, doing the grammar stage and the dialogue stages on Ninchanese are a great idea because they make you know how to use these words.
Benefits of the grammar stages
Working on making a sentence with the words you’ve learned is crucial. I firmly believe that you remember better when you understand. And when you are using a Chinese character in a sentence, you are giving it the chance to show you how to use them. And profoundly understand it. You’ll often say “ah, that’s how you use it”. We’ve worked all our grammar sentences with this idea in the back of our heads. Our goal is first to bring clear grammar lessons you’ll have no trouble understanding, but the secondary goal is to use the words you’ve learned in these grammar stages and lessons. That’s why they make the perfect second job to do when you have done your reviews.
We’ve also created a comprehensible and practical Chinese grammar app. The app focuses only on grammar lessons. You can download the app for Android here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.chinesegrammar&hl=en_US
#3 – Train to speak Chinese as much as you need
The third essential thing you should do is put yourself in situation. After you have practiced sentences building with the grammar stages (and your reviews), here’s how to continue getting the best out of your learning efforts: continue using the Chinese characters. Keep seeing them used in sentences and using them in situations to convey what you want. The dialogues on Ninchanese are perfect for that. You’ll practice speaking Chinese in a context, through an actual complete sequenced dialogue of a given situation.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what word to use, especially when you know several with close meanings. Using them and gaining the habit of using them in set situations will complete your understanding of the word’s entire meanings. That, in turns, reinforces your memory on the character.
Benefits of speaking Chinese sentence with words.
There is still one area of a Chinese character learning you need to work on: pronouncing it. That one is not easy and it takes time to learn to use the right tone each time you say a character. Learning the pinyin (and using numbers or remembering its tone can help) is an excellent way to learn how to pronounce a word. But the best method to remember the tone is to say it. You can’t beat actual real training when it comes to learning how to speak it with your mouth (and not only in your brain) to remember how to pronounce it. The speaking stages on Ninchanese are puurfect for that.
I just spoke about the speaking feature of the dialogues, but the listening mode is also a great way to practice your knowledge of Chinese characters and reinforces their use and graphical meaning as you look for them when writing.
Let see what a real example of the benefits of using the app with these pieces of advice.
Recently I spoke with another of our learners, Oisin. It’s interesting to study his case because he was using Ninchanese differently than how we thought it would/should be used. Oisin used Ninchanese only to learn grammar points and do the speaking stages. He never did his reviews.
Having already studied some Chinese before, he unlocked Chinese characters easily in the first worlds but then he started having some difficulties in the world 4 and even more so in world 5. That’s when he reached out to us.
So we had a conversation about his stumbling blocks, and I understood he was learning without taking into account all the logical relations we’d built between the vocabulary, grammar, and dialogue stages.
And then, I asked him to redo Ninchanese’s first worlds, and to do it a little differently: I asked him to do his reviews stage by stage, coupled with time attacks, the grammar stages, and dialogue stages this time.
So he went from doing no reviews at all to doing them all stage by stage. Let’s see his memory progression on these next graphs:
Picture One – all grey
As you can see, all the little cubes are grey. Each cube represents his memory level for a word unlocked on the app. The colors range from grey to red to orange to green. If it’s all green, then it’s all good.
After two weeks of using Ninchanese and following the learning roadmap I laid out for him, here’s what his memory graph is starting to look like:
Picture two – half green with some red
The graph definitely has a green tint to it now. Overall, he knows his words pretty well, but we can see that not every word is well-known yet. Yellow cubes (getting there) are starting to point out and red cubes start to flourish here and there.
Let’s see the last graph, taken a week later (so we’re 3 weeks in). It’s interesting to look at, as, as you can see, things are more than a little different.
Picture 3 – Mostly green and some red
With one more week of studying and reviewing under his belt, almost all his HSK 1 and 2 words are known, and well. Now, he is starting to get more red cubes since he is starting to really learn some words at his level. So we can see him progressively learning new words and making the other less known from last week all green!
See how green they are? Doing his reviews has really enabled him to know these words better. You can also see that he’s started reviewing words from higher levels as well, but these are less well known. There are isolated green cubes, and red squares popping up here and there.
What does that tell us? It shows us that he’s starting to have knowledge and to more or less understand words at his level of Chinese.
This snapshot of his memory level also gives us a clearer idea of why he was beginning to run into difficulties, going from being an intermediate learner to reaching an advanced Chinese level.
By doing his reviews, Oisin understood the “primal” meaning and pronunciation of Characters and secondly, by also doing the associated stages in the grammar and dialogues area, he is making progress faster into memorizing words.
The lesson to be learned here: even if you already know some words, have studied a little Chinese before, or you think you have a memory problem, it’s by doing your reviews on time, coupled with doing the contextual stages, such as grammar and the dialogues, that you’ll ensure the Chinese characters you learn stick more than anything.
All in all, to those wondering: have I done enough if I finished my reviews? The answer is yes, somewhat! You can trust our learning system to make sure you get what you need to learn well. I can’t stress enough that while reviews are important, there’s not all that’s to be learned. You’ll want to complete your Chinese character learning by using the time attack, grammar, and dialogues stages to learn Chinese.
All of these stages are complementary to your education and essential to memorize them better. You can’t only learn the Chinese characters to speak Chinese. The Chinese language can’t be just that; it’s a whole language you need to acquire on all his aspects. And if you believe you have a memory problem, then you have to train more or, rather, to train better. I recommend you to have a learning plan to use the app and stick to it. Adapt your program as you learn but keep using it.
I hope it will help you succeed in learning Chinese and if you need any help, let me know. Happy to create a learning roadmap for you!