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Mandarin

Remembr.it mini-interview

I got in contact with Andrew from Remembr.it for a review I’m doing on their Chinese Character Flashcards software.

I’ll post the review soon, but in the meantime I thought Andrew’s answers to the questions were interesting enough to make a post of their own.

1. What was the inspiration behind Remembr.it? What motivated you to make it?

The inspiration was born out of frustration that no one seemed to be able to suggest a sensible way for an adult foreign learner to go about learning Chinese characters. Chinese children start learning characters from a very young age as part of their process of learning the Chinese language. What works for them is not necessarily going to work for adult learners. Despite that many Chinese teachers still insist on teaching foreigners “the way they were taught”.

We figured that there had to be a better way and based on our learnings about cognitive science, memory and our programming background we developed Remembr.it.

2. What is the exact number of Chinese characters in the program? Why this number?

There are 2194 characters in the simplified course and an even 2200 in the traditional course. A student that is able to recognize those characters should be able to recognize 98% of commonly used characters. The characters were selected mainly based on their cumulative frequencies. We also considered the new and old HSK lists as well as adding some characters that don’t have a high frequency in literature but are useful for everyday life. A good example are characters related to food, drinks, etc.

3. What’s the competition for Remembr.it and how does it compare?

To be honest I don’t really know. There is another program aimed at teaching students to write characters called Skritter. It’s very good but we don’t really see it as a competing product because we see writing characters as a different skill to recognizing characters.

4. How would you recommend people study Chinese in combination with Remembr.it?

Our general advice for new learners is this:

  • Focus on speaking and listening - basic conversational stuff.
  • In parallel, start on the Remembr.it course.
  • Use pinyin for your study but always try to have the characters side-by-side with the pinyin and glance at them to see what you can recognize.
  • As you are going through the course look at as much Chinese writing as you can (e.g. signs, menus, etc). It really builds your motivation as you start to recognize more and more characters.
  • Don’t bother trying to read until you are well into the course. 1800+ characters. You just end up wasting too much time looking up characters to make it an efficient use of your time.
  • Remember the course is only designed to get you started reading. Once you’re getting to the end of the course you should switch to actual reading. That’s where you’ll pick up the remainder of the 3500-4500 characters you should eventually be able to recognize.
  • Once you can read … read! Flashcards will only get you so far.

A detailed review of Remembr.it is on the way soon!

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