I did recently let some of these thoughts in chat known to one of the devs and they were super nice, but I think I really failed to demonstrate the point/s I was actually trying to make and perhaps emphasise some things which may not be clear to the devs and more advanced learners who are already much further along in their studies than me, which may prevent those from seeing the wood through the trees That, and I’d love to know what other people’s thoughts are about what I’m about to say.
So initially, following registration (and to note, I’ve just done this again to verify my initial feelings), I click Lessons. I got told about lessons, etc then it says the following:
This text shows the pronunciation of the current sound item. It uses pinyin to spell it out. If you aren’t familiar with pinyin, don’t worry - you’ll learn it as you go through the course! You’ll learn more about this bit of pinyin as well as be able to hear it sounded out in the Pronunciation tab.
Fine, I’m a user who knows nothing about Chinese pronunciation or Pinyin but great, we’ll learn more as we go. I’m presented with the first “sound” which is shown as “B-, Bart Simpson” I hit the audio so I can hear, and to me, it sounds like buo or boa… but I’m then told in the pronunciation instructions that
The “b-” sound in Pinyin is pronounced the same as the “b-” sound in English.
Uhm, ok, maybe. I mean, it doesn’t at all, but I’ll play along. I hit the right arrow, and I’m told about association and that you want me to associate this sound with “Bart Simpson” … ok, I mean, it sounds nothing like ba-rt simpson and doesn’t have even remotely the same spelling as the letter your showing or my romanized internalisation of the sound (boa in my head). …Again, I have no prior experience with Pinyin . Now I’m also starting to wonder, “What does the hyphen represent next to the b?” … anyway, I’ll do as you say and associate “b-” with “Bart Simpson” - continuing on.
Next we are on -a, and it’s the same as above, but this time I’m wondering to myself why the hyphen is now in front of the “a” . hitting the arrow and to your association instructions, and you mention the following:
The “a” in the English word “auditorium” sounds similar to this final
Now, I’m thinking to myself, What the hell is a “final” ?? Continuing on.
Next, you show me a “1” and you say the following:
This tone is high and flat. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is extremely high, just relatively higher than the other tones.
I’m thinking, “high and flat” relative to what? There is no audio and no examples or description of what’s actually happening here. Is 1 the highest and 10 the lowest? or does 1 represent something else? Is 10 actually the last number, or is it 6 or 8? But if 1 isn’t “extremely high,” does that mean there is a zero (again, I’m playing dumb a bit here to emphasise my point) - Continuing on.
Ok, now we are at something that is more in my wheelhouse, components/radicals - I don’t think I’d be a good judge of character here as I come from Wanikani and already know what’s expected and the answer.
It’s worth noting that I could not find a way to get the tooltips (sorry, I don’t know your terminology), but the initial highlighting and descriptions describing the lessons and navigation back after the initial viewing, perhaps an oversight?
So on the quiz, your showing me auditorium, and I put in “a” and it accepted my answer without the hyphen, so I suppose I’m left to assume the hyphens don’t mean anything I mean wanikani would give me the shake and warning if it did.
Continuing on to the next set of lessons, and am greeted with this
In our modified pinyin chart, there are some syllables that have no final, which we refer to as a “null final”. For ease of typing, we represent it as “-_” …
Ok, So again, this is all meaningless to me, but it seems to suggest I need to go find this chart of yours on your site somewhere?.. but I thought we were going to learn as we went along as mentioned earlier (?)
Anyway, so I finish all the available lessons, and I’m still none the wiser as to what it is I actually just learned - I can’t complete any more lessons to gain more clarity, but I can go over to my user settings and change my daily limit to 20. Okay, I understand why you might want to coddle new users and not allow them to overwhelm themselves, but as mentioned, I haven’t currently learned anything, and 20 is kind of leaning on the side of too low… I come from an environment where I learn 100 items a day (sometimes I change this depending on the day), so perhaps you should consider increasing the initial item count and also have an “advanced settings” checkbox or something, and if enabled, allow the user to specify their own number so they can set it to whatever they feel comfortable with.
Anyway, now for the next 10 lessons, which I’ll breeze through. “pouch” component is just the same as its main character over on Wanikani, ie: east, so to avoid confusion, I’ll just change the synonym and enter “east” here too, but unfortunately, I can’t go ahead and modify or add my own mnemonic to match my association. The dev told me this is a good idea to be able to do this, so this will be added at a later date (perhaps you could even allow other users to view other user-created mnemonics and up/downvote them and add them to their account for the given component/character) It’d also be nice to have the ability to insert an image to reinforce a text-only mnemonics, which I’ve found valuable elsewhere.
Ok, now that I’ve maxed out all my lessons for the day, I can’t do anything further, given that I don’t know what all that audio and pinyin stuff was all about (again, I’m playing this up slightly ) and given that I knew what all the components were from prior knowledge from over at Wanikani, I’m kind of left feeling a bit lost.
I head over to the “Curriculum” tab and select characters. It’s interesting you haven’t grouped these per rank or level as shown back on my dashboard, or am I to assume that every group of 50 represents a rank/lvl?
The first thought is, “Christ, I know pretty much all the meanings of every one of these up to a very high level, so I’m going to be stuck learning very little for a long time.” The dev told me they are going to address this, which is great (hopefully not just flat out skip or delete of the item entirely or forever, as I wouldn’t mind being reminded of it in a year or some amount of time).
Anyway, I click on the character for mouth, and now I’m starting to get a bit of a better understanding of the audio associations we covered, but this is where I think I’m really going to struggle on this platform, unfortunately, and it breaks my heart to say, as I can see you’ve spent a lot of time incorporating the audio/pinyin associations into the mnemonics that you’re using for the character/s. The problem, as I see it, is that you’ve overcomplicated things. For a single character, you’re now requiring me to remember four things to remember one.
[k-] Kermit the Frog is chilling in the  basement of the [-ou] bakery, his 口 mouth covered with flour that he has been trying to eat. Of course, he is a puppet, so each handful of flour he sticks in his mouth just hits it and falls right back out.
Why is this a problem? because this is going to hinder and not help, especially long-term, and basically nullifies all the positive aspects of using mnemonics in the first place (again, this is going to be hard to see for those of you who already know the meaning / created the mnemonic), and it’s a problem which is only going to condense as time moves on… I’ll explain as I go on why this is the case.
Now if i was over on Wanikani (and for the sake of argument, just pretend the sound is the same in both Chinese and Japanese), the menmonic would probably be something like this.
The laughing cow had a really big mouth blah blah blah
(cow being the associated sound/reading and mouth being the meaning)
No additional fluff. Sure, I’m not going to learn the tones based on this, but it’s actually a useful mnemonic that is actually going to help and not hinder my association with the character, and the tones will be drilled when we get to the quiz and I have to type it out in pinyin and subsequently drilled in review… Better yet, when we actually encounter the character or meaning in media and real context (not some robot audio voice on the platform). Which is obviously going to be far quicker / possible using my mnemonic as opposed to your one.
Other issues with your method… It’s great to have familiar scenarios, people/char/s and associations in mnemonics, but they are going to come up several orders of magnitude more compared to the ones over at wanikani just because of the nature of Chinese and because of the way your incorporating the sounds and associations into the mnemonics. This is going to lead to complete confusion and frustration (I already know this and I actually haven’t even done a character yet in the lessons). For example, how many stories am I going to have involving “Kermit the Frog” etc at any one time or in my stacked-up reviews? Wanikani already has a difficult enough time balancing things as it is ie: rearranging similar meaning characters, menmonics with a similar premise, characters of different difficulty levels, characters that look incredibly similar, being too close to one another, etc. I expect that as you get more beginner-level users using your platform, you’re going to have a hell of a time trying to restructure things to avoid this.
As an example, let’s pretend Wanikani was doing the same thing as you. You’d start, and they’d force you to learn Hiragana, Katakana, and Romaji (take your pick, or just imagine it’s all three), regardless of whether you knew them already or not (from my perspective, these would be the analogue of your audio/pinyin lessons), and they’d likely teach them as they would on Tofugu ie: “せ” “se” then menemonic “sexy vampire teeth” (I forget what actual menmonic they use). They’d then force you to learn pitch accent alongside with no context or explanation ( I know I’m joking) Then a few radicals, then kanji, but… Right so now we are learning some kanji, but instead of just associating the entire sound with the character in question, they’d break it down into each individual Hiragana, Katakana, or Romajii (take your pick) and incorporate all the potential sounds based on the mnemonic associated with them and incorporate this mess all into a story so I can learn this single character. (I hope you see why this is an issue.) Now, how many stories are we going to have involving the escapades of our sexy vampire teeth in the coming weeks or months? And when confusion and frustration sets in, what am I to do And remember, this is just one out of the 100’s or 1000’s and doesn’t even take into consideration confusing pinyin with other pinyin (roman letters with the same roman letter etc) and, in turn, their respective associations.
I mean, I get it. The trouble here is coming down to the tones, but I think you’re going to tie most users in knots with your implementation and tie yourselves in knots trying to resolve it as time goes on. I’d like to hear other people’s thoughts on this, but from my perspective, I’d isolate the audio/pinyin stuff from the main lessons, give it its own insulated section, and strip out all the " Sound Composition" stuff from the characters mnemonic stories.
I also agree with this topic over here.
And I’d say basically just make a more interactive optional section that is like Tofugu’s hiragana, katakana, and romaji guide, but of course using Bopomofo and Pinyin. I think there is a real value in first associating a sound with a shape and then remembering the shape and in turn the sound with a menmonic (which the tofugu guide does so well with the image overlays), and then this makes learning other forms easier just by virtue. At least that’s what I found when learning hiragana, and then following learning the sound/pronunciation and subsequently katakana and romaji was easier to learn as a result. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, I’d imagine if you taught me Bopomofo in the same way Tofugu taught me Hiragana, then I’d understand Pinyin much more easily and quickly.
Anyway, I know this is a giant post, and I know you guys are aware of some of these issues already. Overall, the site is super slick and I like it, you guys seem sound and this was purely just constructive criticism and an insight into what a newb will see when using