TL;DR - we want to make some mnemonic changes for characters and want to know your thoughts on it before proceeding.
A common point of feedback we have gotten is that our current mnemonics are a bit hard to process.
To illustrate, let’s go over the mnemonic for 敵 from our traditional course. It is pronounced dí and means “enemy”.
[di-] Diddy Kong is  inside the living room of the [-_] house, trying to dodge the crazy 攵 foreman’s attacks. The 攵 foreman, his 敵 enemy, keeps on throwing 啇 antiques at him, and one hits him in the tail. The foreman screams that man and monkey are 敵 enemies, and throws his yellow construction hat at him too.
The story itself is not bad! However, there are some things that could be better.
- The meaning and pronunciation is jumbled together within a single story, making picking out each individually a bit more mental effort. It also makes it a bit longer.
- The story begins with pronunciation elements, but should probably begin with components. After all, when we look at a character, we start with the components and use that to recall the story!
- Besides the phrase “living room of house”, there are not many clues that this is indeed the living room. It should include something mentioning a carpet, or a couch, or a TV - anything that conveys that feeling of location.
To address these issues, we are thinking of doing the following:
- Split the mnemonic into a “meaning” mnemonic and a “pronunciation” mnemonic.
- Ensure that the “meaning” mnemonic places the component names earlier on, and the meaning later on in the story.
- Ensure that there are more subtle “location hints” within the mnemonic.
- Redesign the lesson flow to better fit a split mnemonic.
Here is an example of a split mnemonic for that same character:
“Don’t throw the 啇 antique at the 攵 foreman! Doing so will just make him your life-long 敵 enemy.”
It begins with the components and leads to the meaning. No pronunciation information is included, and we try to make it as brief as possible to aid with memory.
“The 敵 enemy of the foreman, [di-] Diddy Kong, hangs from the ceiling fan of  inside the living room of the [-_] house, tossing antiques at him.”
It begins with the meaning and weaves in the pronunciation elements in a more naturally worded manner. It will include some components as well, but they won’t be highlighted and will be omitted for the sake of brevity as appropriate.
The amount of information and the story itself did not change much, it is just split up to make it more digestible.
The two split mnemonics, as we see, are related, allowing them to be remembered individually or in tandem, depending on the needs and learning style of the user.
The process of recall would generally be:
look at components → recall meaning via mnemonic → recall pronunciation via closely related mnemonic
What do you think? Is this a clear improvement over what we had before?
We already have some 3,000+ character mnemonics, so updating them is quite the effort. However, we are happy to do so if there is a clear benefit in doing so. Our goal is to be the best platform for learning Chinese characters, after all! We ourselves quite like this new approach, but want to know that this is something our users want before proceeding.
What do you think? Anything else we could do to make our mnemonics even better? Of course, our mnemonics will never be able to satisfy everyone, but we are trying to find a path that is most suitable to the majority of our users.