Recently I’ve been getting back into the swing of my Chinese studies thanks to a web app called Remembr.it. There are several courses you can signup for, but I’m doing the Traditional Chinese Vocabulary Course.
Remembr.it is a web app which uses flashcards and spaced repetition to help users learn vocabulary or characters.
Upon signing up, you go through a brief tutorial to learn about the interface, then you can start studying vocabulary. The vocabulary is well organized, so you can search for what you want to learn.
Once you select the words you want to study, you are taken to the lesson page. Words are introduced one at a time and you must correctly recall all words four times in order to complete the lesson. Following the lesson, the words are added to the queue for future testing.
When tested on words previously studied, you get one try to recall the word, if you correctly recall the word, it gets pushed later into the queue. If you get it wrong, you must study it again and it will appear in your next lesson.
You can see screenshots of all of these features here.
Things I Like
Free trial, no credit card needed
I really like that you can try the service for free without having to give any information, other than an e-mail address. The number of flashcards you can make during the free trial is capped at 100. This is more than enough to figure out if this is the type of service for you.
Professional audio for all of the vocabulary
The use of high quality audio is quickly becoming the standard for any language learning tool, and this site is no exception.
Instead of using the mouse to review you can use the arrow keys. I only started using it recently, but I’ve noticed that it makes a significant difference.
The interface is very simple and promotes distraction-free studying. If you have a test due, you have to finish it in order to do anything else on the site, which I think is a great idea.
Go at your own pace
You can learn as many new words as you want, though the recommended amount, according to the site, is 30 words a day.
Before your first study session, you will learn about the site interface and the lesson and test formats. This is a simple yet effective addition that just makes things easier from the start.
Spaced Repetition, much like audio, is quickly gaining popularity among language learners as well as teachers. The flashcards on Remembr.it use spaced repetition and you can see your progress on your homepage once you create an account and start some lessons.
Drilled upon introduction
This is one of the deciding factors that makes this site especially useful for beginners in Chinese. You must correctly recall a word during a lesson four times before it is considered “remembered”. This makes it easier to establish a solid foundation when learning a new word.
The vocabulary is organized into parts of speech, and then further into topics and more specific categories. For example, someone who loves cooking can easily find all of the nouns and verbs related to food and drink.
Things I Would Like
The option to use Zhuyin instead of pinyin
I started Chinese using Zhuyin Fuhao, and I still find it easier to use than pinyin, so the option to toggle between them would be really nice.
Example sentences for vocabulary
This would be especially nice for the flashcards that have two words on them, such as 進去/近來.
An undo button.
I can be a rather clumsy person sometimes and press the left arrow key, which marks a card “incorrect”, instead of the right arrow key, which marks a card “correct”. At the same time, an undo button would make it too easy for people to manipulate the queue and forgive themselves for “trivial” mistakes. But an undo button would be nice for the honest, clumsy people.
Who this is for
I believe the Remembr.it Vocabulary Course works best for beginners who don’t have much vocabulary under their belt. Note that this course is NOT for absolute beginners to Chinese.
There are, however, Simplified and Traditional Chinese character courses on the site as well.
This particular course is a nice way to get a foundation and plant the seeds for incidental learning. I’m going to use Remembr.it to build a foundation before “graduating” to learning words by reading, watching TV or movies, or making custom flashcards with Anki.
For people not learning Chinese, courses for Japanese, German, French, Russian, and more vocabulary courses are on the way.