East Asia Student

Random Stuff Related to East Asia


Learning facts and Chinese at the same time

As well as using it to study languages, I also use Anki to learn various facts and information about the world. I have cards about history, science, geography and so on, and these are in the same deck as all my other cards. It feels good to remember these interesting bits and pieces, and they also help to break up my Anki study time and add some variety.

Using Wikipedia for example sentences

I don’t know why I didn’t do this before, as it seems obvious now. I was looking for nice example sentences for 氨基酸 (amino acid), and it occurred to me that Wikipedia would probably have a good, concise sentence for it. Then it occurred to me that this is true for pretty much any noun you can think of!

Since then, I’ve frequently added the Wikipedia ‘definition sentence’ for nouns I’m learning, especially if the new vocabulary is science-related or generally factual. As is typical with Wikipedia, I usually end up wasting a lot of time clicking on links to other articles and getting lost down the rabbit hole (when I was at secondary school I used to spend so much time doing that it probably counted as a hobby…)

This becomes even more irresistible with Chinese, as not only am I curious about the content of the articles, but also the Chinese terms for things. Isn’t it interesting that ‘glucose’ is 葡萄糖 (“grape sugar”)? Another nice aspect to this is that if you’re a bit lost, you can usually mouse over the link to the English version of an article and see what the title is.

You can get more general Chinese example sentences with this searchable collection.

Learning facts in Chinese

The next logical step was to start adding factual knowledge sentences in Chinese. These are gradually accumulating in my Anki deck, and I love them because I’m learning a lot of cool Chinese vocabulary, plus interesting stuff about the world at the same time. So just now I added this fact:

<img class="aligncenter size-full” title="“蜂蜜的成分除了葡萄糖、果糖之外还含有各种维生素、矿物质和氨基酸。” - “Apart from glucose and fructose, honey also contains various vitamins, minerals and amino acids.”” src=”/img/2012/06/honey-fact-anki.png” alt=”” />

It’s interesting and succinct, and I’m learning some useful words at the same time. A lot of these sentences are written in quite a formal style, of course, but I don’t mind that. It’s good to get a feel for that style, even if you’d rarely use it in speech (plus we do actually have to use it in exams sometimes at uni). As well as that, it feels good to be able to define a word in Chinese off the top of my head.

I’m sure a lot of readers were already doing this, but I’m going to recommend it anyway. If you don’t feel like your reading level is up to this yet, I’d say just add a few anyway and work up from there. The quickest way to learn to do something is to do it, of course. And this is well worth learning to do, because you can then use Wikipedia in Chinese rather than English, which makes great reading practice.

Contact me: mhg@eastasiastudent.net