Feedback about the "Sounds"

Two points here

  1. I wish there was an option to skip them

One of the biggest topics talked ad nauseum for WK, especially for prior learners, was skipping radicals. With HH I have the same issue, but doubly so because there is a further barrier before I can actually start studying characters/words. Signing up and seeing level 1 only has sounds/components was a little disheartening. I kinda get it for components - it’s perhaps better to consciously study them as concepts rather than just hope the learner picks up on the patterns. But for anyone already familiar enough with the sound system, I don’t see the value add here.

  1. I think the explanations for the sound system/pinyin are misleading.

I applaud yall for trying to teach Chinese phonology in an accessible way, but after reading the doc on “Standard pinyin differences” I think overall the explanations would confuse new learners.

I think “HanziHero Pinyin” is closer to Pinyin than the “Standard Pinyin” mentioned in the docs, which seems more like a simplification of Pinyin than the actual system. If you look at the chart on Wikipedia, you see that syllables are made from initial + medial + final. I think it would be helpful to learners to show a Pinyin table, explain the official system, and then say that you are teaching initial + medial combinations as initials. It could also be cool to add in a Bopomofo chart - I think that’s what made the sound system really click for me, and it fits in with the Taiwanese flair of the site.

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Thanks for the feedback. I agree that there are things we can improve around sounds.

The main reasons for teaching the sounds is more to cement in the user’s mind each of the associations. Since our associations are arbitrary (e.g., ti- corresponds to “Timmy Turner”), it is necessary to teach them. Our quizzes, after all, just quiz on that association (Q: “What sound is Timmy Turner associated with?” A: “ti-”)

Now, we could just not quiz or teach sounds entirely, and have the user pick up on these things gradually through context, but I think that increases the barrier to understanding. There are only 72 sounds in total, and we teach them only as they are necessary (e.g., a less-common one would only show up as a lesson right before you are taught the corresponding character), so it only adds up to 7 days in total of lessons at the standard 10/day rate.

This rationale is similar to components as well. The components within Heisig, WaniKani, HanziHero, or any other using a similar mnemonic system are partially arbitrary, hence the need to teach the specific name that is used within the given mnemonic system. Many components have no “official” name, after all. And certainly no official English name.

However, despite all of this, we do plan on adding functionality to skip characters people may already know within the coming months. But we think teaching the necessary components and sounds for each character one wants to learn is somewhat necessary. Mainly because that is how the entire system works. It’s a necessary upfront cost, it seems.

Though I could see us allowing a user to mark certain components as “known” if they really already know them from another mnemonic system, but I don’t see us doing that anytime in the coming months.

While Pinyin can be broken down that way, what most people refer to is a Pinyin chart, which will not clearly break out the medial into its own category. This is what you will see on most Pinyin charts like this one or even the one on Wikipedia. As I note in the documentation page you refer to, most of our differences from “standard pinyin” are mainly of academic interest. In the same sense that many resources just have initials and finals, and some resources may talk about medials - all we are doing is slicing it a slightly different way to meet our ends. The most important unit in Pinyin is the complete syllable form, which we do not modify at all.

However, I do think that documentation page could be made much more clear and just give the TLDR of how our pinyin “chart” may differ from others but its really not important and we have a good reason to do so for mnemonics. Thanks for the feedback :slight_smile:

Yeah, just adding any sort of pinyin chart would be very helpful. We’ll definitely do that at some point! :+1:

Yeah, we want to add bopomofo at some point for sure. I agree that Bopomofo is more clear in this respect. For example:

  • Pinyin: qiong = q + iong
  • Bopomofo: qiong (ㄑㄩㄥ) = q (ㄑ) u (ㄩ) + ong (ㄥ)

The way Bopomofo does it, where the medial is not “simplified” or “reduced” or however you call it, makes it clear that it should have that umlaut ü sound in qu-. Many foreigners don’t realize this because Pinyin drops the u and replaces it with an i here.

Like that documentation page states, much of our system comes from the Marilyn Method which is also more inspired by Bopomofo than Pinyin.

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