Suggestion for dealing with multiple pronunciations

Characters like 還 (hai2/huan2) and 數 (shu3/shu4) have multiple pronunciations, but the way they’re quizzed is a bit arbitrary to me. Even knowing both characters perfectly doesn’t ensure that you can answer these types of characters correctly. In fact, you have to actually memorize what the quiz deck itself contains, which to me seems like a severe case of overfitting (which I feel is already present for me in some form, since there are some words I remember better solely because I can’t think of other words in the deck that are similar, like 知己 :sweat_smile:).

Maybe you have a plan already, maybe not. In any case, my suggestion would be to add a small marker (such as A, B, … since it’s an ordering that can’t be confused with tones) to each character, and then quiz them by alphabetic order. The reason why I’d choose alphabetic order based on pronunciation instead of usage frequency is because I feel I can quite often give a ballpark estimate of the pronunciation (thus narrowing down if we’re talking about pronunciation A or B), whereas usage frequency between different uses of 數 seems a little… too esoteric.

So in the case of 數, it would then be quizzed as 數 (A): shu3, and 數 (B): shu4. Even if you’re asked “what is the meaning of 數 (A)”, this would still have a non-ambiguous answer. It would also reinforce from both directions that this character has multiple pronunciations that you should be aware of.

Let me know what you think :smiley:

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Maybe you have a plan already, maybe not. In any case, my suggestion would be to add a small marker (such as A, B, … since it’s an ordering that can’t be confused with tones)

I think it’s too complicated, and suffers similar issues. Now you have to memorize the English alphabet order of the pinyin of all readings of a character? But what if they don’t include all possible readings? Is “all possible readings” even well defined?

Good point. Maybe there’s some merit in listing all the expected elements up front in that case then? I mean, there’s no reason why the user should keep going for months until they’re surprise-introduced to the second pronunciation.

One could also accept whichever of the pronunciations, and ask for the meaning of that specific one. Then ask again, but this time reject with a “you’ve already answered for pronunciation A”. That would not require any prior knowledge and would simply guide the user into answering what they haven’t yet. The downside here though is the meaning, which is not a strictly 1:1 that can be rejected on the basis of a previous answer.

I can think of 數,卷,行,還,得,地,的 on the top of my head which have non-exotic alternate pronunciations. So knowing these would arguably cover more of the practical language than character no. 4312.

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