posted by j.stewartwallace on May 21, 2012 | 27 comments
I think it would be good if you could turn off the pinyin on the word review section. Any thoughts?
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trevelyan on May 21, 2012 | reply
You can enable and disable the various review options on this page:

jlepo on May 28, 2012 | reply
I disagree. I am a novice pinyin is an essential crutch for the next few years.
Xiao Hu on June 4, 2012 | reply

I feel compelled to say that you can drop the Pinyin crutch much faster than you think. If you use POPUP reviews often and read the dialogues in Chinese, you'll repeatedly come accross the same characters and naturally build up your recognition through this process. You can start reading Chinese at an elementary level in six months and an intermediate level in a year, if you work dilligently.

trevelyan on June 4, 2012 | reply
Quick note that we've added a dialogue-based test option to the popup review. The questions are all in simplified only at the moment, but we'll add traditional and pinyin support if there is good feedback and we keep it.
seamus5 on June 6, 2012 | reply
I love this! My only thing that I think is really weak is the grammar study here. Good stuff in the podcasts, but nothing to review/ reinforce. This is a small but good step in that direction.
drummerboy on June 4, 2012 | reply
I just tried it and see that on the longer ones some of the text does not fit into the screen on the iPad. Great new feature though! As always, love the way you continue to add more features to the site. You guys rock!
trevelyan on June 4, 2012 | reply
Should be fixed now... unless the text is so horrifically long that the test itself is more of a caricature of an HSK reading passage, in which case maybe a bit of scrolling isn't a bad thing.

Hopefully this fixes the problem anyway. I'm actually pretty happy with it now, but let me know if you think we should shrink down the fontsize even further.
craigrut on June 4, 2012 | reply
Really like this new function :).
j.stewartwallace on June 6, 2012 | reply
Just tried the new function - its great. Also agree about dropping the pinyin crutch. How about a 'toggle on - toggle off' pinyin function?
craigrut on June 7, 2012 | reply
I've been reviewing on my phone and using my thumb to cover the pinyin where it normally shows up.

Crude, but it works until there is a better solution :).
Noah.Pflugradt on June 7, 2012 | reply
Um.. folks. Go to:

Account Settings (below your name)

then go to the Tab:

Review Settings

Then look into the section "Review Preferences:"

and simply remove the check mark from:

"show pinyin during character tests"

David put that in about a month back... mainly to shut me up I think ;-)
trevelyan on June 15, 2012 | reply
We've just added the popup review to individual lessons. Subscribers can load the function from the vocab page, where it an option now alongside loading the flashcards, exporting the vocabulary, etc.
trevelyan on July 21, 2012 | reply
Quick update: we're currently overhauling the popup review. This involves mostly backend refactoring work designed to make it easier to add new features. We'll try not to be disruptive with it, but FYI things may break for the next few hours while we make the transition.

drummerboy on July 23, 2012 | reply
Hi David,

FYI The pinyin is not displaying with the review cards.
craigrut on July 22, 2012 | reply
Haha, I was just about to ask why I've seen 三等舱 30 times in 100 cards! Glad I checked here first :).
jasper.obviar on July 22, 2012 | reply
I am finding some minor bugs in the vocabulary entry itself which would affect the pinyin function. I'll describe it by example:

Question: PINYIN for 偶尔 = ?

My answer: I type -- ou3'er3

Result: incorrect

The correct answer: ou3‘er3

The ' character is not being recognized by the program - instead it is looking for the ‘ character
jasper.obviar on July 22, 2012 | reply
Apparently, the ‘ character is the same as ' on the US keyboard, but the earlier needs to be inputted using a Chinese IME while the latter is just a standard character on the keyboard.
jjwitte on August 4, 2012 | reply
I'm a great fan of SRS and I think the review application here is quite good. But I wonder if there's a better way to implement the definition questions (you see some characters, then type the English definition).

E.g. if I see 骗子 and type "cheater", and then it says "wrong: it should be swindler", that doesn't work for me. Then you spend part of your learning energy memorizing which English synonym to use for a specific question, rather than learning vocab. But picking an English definition from 4 options is usually much too easy.

Maybe something like the "Chinese memory game" at might work?
pefferie on August 7, 2012 | reply
A possible solution would be to add a link below "wrong: it should be swindler" saying "But I was right!" and take the student's word for it.
trevelyan on August 14, 2012 | reply

This is an excellent suggestion. Just implemented.

trevelyan on August 5, 2012 | reply

We're slowly broadening the dictionary to avoid these problems. Tagging input and adding correct-but-not-marked-as-correct definitions to our database will solve this problem over time.

In the meantime, two things you can do to make the problem go away: (1) adjust your review settings to remove generative english questions, or (2) go through your vocabulary list at the URL above and just manually change any definitions that you keep getting reflexively wrong.

Sorry that there is not yet an easier answer to all of this stuff. We are planning to keep adding new testing modules though, so there will be more variety in the future.
trevelyan on August 14, 2012 | reply
Quick note that we've just updated the Review Settings page to make the Popup Review more customizable. Anyone who has not stumbled to this page yet can find it here:

As of this morning, assuming a question type is enabled for your account, a slider will appear that can be used to control the relative frequency of each question type relative to other enabled questions. For those who want to reduce the frequency of generative pinyin or english questions without disabling them completely this might be a better solution.

All the normal caveats apply -- this is all new code, so please report problems since we may not be aware of having broken things. Please also note that for iPad users tap-and-drag does not work, but tapping the slider range in the spot you want the slider to go will reposition it.
incommunicado on August 19, 2012 | reply
I know it might be a big ask design wise, but further to the request to turn off pinyin on the word review section (and there are good arguments for and against and, also, the formerly advised review options do not apply to every page of the review section when activated and would hinder review functionality even if they did) might it be possible to incorporate a toggle switch, in the default off-position, for each character review page. In that way, a further hint could be provided as required, which for me at least would aid the learning process, tones could be confirmed, and English could also be similarly called up when seeking a meaning clue when trying to recall the pinyin. Of course, you would need to specify each time, perhaps at the toggle switch, whether an English or pinyin answer was required).

After all, you did manage to incorporate the suggested add synonyms feature, and that is an excellent enhancement. I have very little programming knowledge, so this suggestion could well be totally unfeasible.
trevelyan on August 19, 2012 | reply

I'm not sure I understand... can you be a bit more specific about what you mean. What would you like us to be showing/hiding as a hint in which review mode?


incommunicado on August 19, 2012 | reply
OK, the issue as I see it is that sometimes when the main element displayed on the page is a character(s) (i.e. I guess in character review mode) the pinyin or the english is also displayed below. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on user knowledge level - if they are able to just about recognize the stand-alone character anyway, the displayed pinyin/english will tend to draw the eye away from the character so that character recognition is not reinforced and answer submission is much too easy to be useful learning. On the other hand, if the stand-alone character is not recognised at all and the pinyin is not displayed simultaneously then there is no chance to associate it with the pinyin sound. Also, it can be frustrating, where for instance no English is displayed simultaneously, to recognise sufficiently to be able to type in the pinyin but be unable to remember the english meaning (I sometimes need to go off to another webpage to research after answering the question correctly). So, it would be really great to have optional access, by means of a toggle switch, to 2 out of the 3 necessary elements (i.e. character + pinyin or character + english meaning) when trying to provide the third missing element (i.e. pinyin or english).

If it is not possible to provide an on/off display toggle an alternative might be to give an (after the marking event) option of clicking a button to open another page hyper-linked to the word on the vocabulary listing, thereby providing all 3 elements together for user reference.

I fully appreciate these may be a totally impractical suggestions, but I thought I should raise them just in case.

(I hope the above is clearer now, if not and you remain interested then maybe we need to take the discussion off-forum as my explanations are getting pretty verbose).
trevelyan on August 20, 2012 | reply
It looks as if the hint field wasn't properly toggling on and off depending on user settings, so that is fixed at least.

I've also changed the system so that even if the show hint field is disabled, the hint will appear if the question is answered incorrectly. This should provide some reinforcement in the event of incorrect answers, and if people want more time to look at the hint before the next question loads, they can change the "delay after incorrect answer" field on the review page.

I don't want to make the interface any more complicated than it already is (buttons to toggle stuff on and off, etc.) since we are trying to keep things simple. And it isn't the end of the world if someone answers incorrectly either -- it just shuffles the word back to the start of their SRS routine and helps reinforce the proper meaning/pinyin by repetition that way.

So lets see how this works -- hopefully these changes solve your biggest issues at least.

incommunicado on August 20, 2012 | reply
This is much better now - being a relative novice I hadn't realized that the hint toggle wasn't working properly. I am also glad that the hint now appears when I answer incorrectly, so I no longer have any concerns about the review process.

I fully agree that it is best to keep things as simple as possible. Many thanks for fixing this so quickly.