I just had another idea for a feature. It would be really neat to be able to add our own words. I am working through the HSK textbook and using HanziHero to study the characters. However, a lot of the time, there are combinations of the characters that are not present in words here (and also not clear from the meaning of the characters themselves), which makes it so it’s easy to forget why I learned those characters in the first place.
A couple examples:
眼镜 eye mirror, but the word “glasses” is nowhere to be found
锻炼 forge smelt, but the word “workout” is also nowhere to be found.
This makes it so that I need to use some sort of external SRS system so I don’t forget the words, even though I already know the characters. I get that adding every single combination of characters to form a word isn’t feasible, but wouldn’t it be an idea to allow users to add in their own combinations of words? And perhaps if lots of people add a particular combination, it could be taken into the official database (but that’s another idea).
Just wanted to drop this here.
Have a nice week!
Thanks for the feedback!
We’ve had one other request for this, and it is something we hope to think about later this year.
Why word meanings are sometimes unclear from characters
With regards to the meaning of words sometimes not being clear from the characters, that is due to a couple of factors, the two main ones being:
- Most characters have multiple meanings. We teach the most common, and then try to only add words that demonstrate/use that particular character meaning. In that sense, if you come across a word that uses an alternate meaning of the character that you have not yet learned from immersion, its meaning will be less apparent.
- Some words are phonetically transcribed loanwords. Like “sofa” being 沙發 sha1fa1. In this case, the actual meaning of characters are not really used much for the meaning of the word itself. Instead, the pronunciation of the characters is used to hint at the meaning of a loanword that came from Japanese/English/whatever-else.
For (2) I try to add a “note” to each word that has this factor at play to make it hopefully easier to remember and understand.
If we allow arbitrary words, we want to do so carefully
For (1), this is a tradeoff of the application that prioritizes character learning over all else. It is also why we are slightly hesitant on being able to add arbitrary words, mainly because some of those words added will have characters with completely different meaning/pronunciation than what was learned. There is nothing inherently bad about this, but we like the fact that HanziHero is sort of a “oasis” where everything fits together logically, allowing users to be more confident in making inference and building connections between components/characters/words. So if we do allow arbitrary words, we will want to be delicate about doing so while maintaining this attribute of the application.
I think it’s good that you don’t want to allow arbitrary words, however, I think allowing users to add them themselves would make the platform much more useful. For me, it is my primary spaced repitition tool - whenever I see a new word in the wild, I prioritize it. However, I keep running into the problem that I want to add a new word, and I add the individual characters, but then I might forget the actual word because its meaning isn’t directly apparent, even if it might make sense. Recent example is 视频，yes, repeated television kind of makes sense, but I might also forget the word. 频 also isn’t part of any other words, so it feel kind of useless to add it without the characters.
So I think that adding the ability for users to add their own word combinations and think of their own mnemomics would be a great addition to the site. It would enable users to rely more on HanziHero as a tool for learning mandarin and not other programs like Anki.