Improving The Livemocha.com Mandarin Chinese Speaking Exercises

I expressed some dissatisfaction about some aspects of Livemocha.com‘s service in a tweet and they tweeted back to me:

Livemocha: @miltownkid thanks! we are happy to fix any errors. can you identify the course/unit/lesson number?

I could try to express myself in 140 characters on Twitter, but I thought this could be useful information for them and anyone following my Chinese lessons because I plan on having you use Livemocha in the future (for pronunciation practice).

The two problems I have with the speaking exercises are:

  • The pinyin spacing
  • No traditional Characters (although I should learn simplified 😛 )

The Pinyin Spacing

The first problem is the pinyin spacing. I’m going to use the Grocery Shopping reading as an example:

Jīn wǎn wǒ yào qù shāng diàn mǎi xiē píng guǒ hé shēng cài。Gòu wù lán tài chén le yú shì wǒ huàn chéng yī liàng gòu wù chē。Diàn yuán zhèng zài wèi gù kè chēng xiāng jiāo。 Míng tiān qǐng bāng wǒ cóng shāng diàn mǎi liǎng hé níu nǎi ba。 Wǒ bǎ yī hé jī dàn hé yī hú níu nǎi dǎ fān dào dì shàng le。 Diàn yuán bāng wǒ shōu shi gān jìng bìng bāng wǒ ná le xīn dě。

Another problem I noticed after previewing my post is that the pinyin must be in some funky encoding. I retyped it up all sexy. 🙂 (Unicode FTW!) (Note: I got a few tones wrong but it’s late and it’s for illustrative purposes only. 😉 )

Jīn wǎn wǒ yào qù shāng diàn mǎi xiě píng guǒ hé shēng cāi . Guò wù lán tài chén le yú shì wǒ huàn chéng yī liàng guò wù chē . Diàn yuán zhèng zài wèi gù kè chēng xiāng jiāo . Míng tiān qǐng bāng wǒ cóng shāng diàn mǎi liǎng hé niú nǎi ba. Wo bǎ yī hé jī dàn hé yī hú niú nǎi dǎ fān dào dì shàng le. Diàn yuán bāng wǒ shōu shi gān jìng bìng bāng wǒ ná le xīn de.

The problem with listing it like that is (in my opinion) it makes it unnecessarily harder to read. With each and every sound spaced like that your mind has to figure out where the words are. Removing the spaces makes it SO much easier to read. Like this:

Jīnwǎn wǒ yào qù shāngdiàn mǎi xiě píngguǒ hé shēngcāi . Guòwùlán tài chénle yúshì wǒ huànchéng yī liàng guòwùchē . Diànyuán zhèngzài wèi gùkè chēng xiāngjiāo . Míngtiān qǐng bāng wǒ cóng shāngdiàn mǎi liǎng hé niúnǎi ba. Wo bǎ yī hé jīdàn hé yī hú niúnǎi dǎfān dào dìshàngle. Diànyuán bāng wǒ shōushi gānjìng bìng bāng wǒ nále xīnde.

That’s WAY easier to read AND it makes it easier to look up unfamiliar words (like guowulan, I didn’t know that one!)

Traditional Characters

Why not have them? Google will the work for you. Watch. 🙂

今晚我要去商店买些苹果和生菜。购物篮太沉了于是我换成一辆购物车。店员正在为顾客称香蕉。明天请帮我从商店买两盒牛奶吧。我把一盒鸡蛋和一壶牛奶打翻到地上了。店员帮我收拾干净并给我拿了新的。

BLAM!

今晚我要去商店買些蘋果和生菜。購物籃太沉了於是我換成一輛購物車。店員正在為顧客稱香蕉。明天請幫我從商店買兩盒牛奶吧。我把一盒雞蛋和一壺牛奶打翻到地上了。店員幫我收拾乾淨並給我拿了新的。

Took me like 37.8 seconds.

Why Can’t We Make Our Own Readings?

You know what would be really sweet? If I could just make my own readings! Then it would be in the encoding that I wanted, with no spaces the way I like it and… Yeah, that would be sweet. I also didn’t see any “simple” reading for beginners. Like (again, in my opinion) there should be a reading of just the initials and finals for pinyin (or some basic combination of them). Also, there should be some readings that focus on tone practice (I think).

That’s it. 🙂 I’ll take a look at your flashcard system, but it’s going to have to be PRETTY sexy to pull me away from Anki (or anything else that uses a spaced repetition algorithm.)

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6 Responses to Improving The Livemocha.com Mandarin Chinese Speaking Exercises

  1. Penney Morse says:

    I looked at the time for this post. Are you getting enough sleep?

    • miltownkid says:

      Busted by mom! Why yes, yes I am. Look at the time of this reply and see when I’m got up. 🙂 I usually don’t stay up that late either, I just wanted to reply to that right away and… I stayed up a little late. 😛

  2. Magdalicious says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, there is absolutely no reason to not provide both Traditional and Simplified characters. Also, I really like the ping yin spacing you don’t usually see it spaced that way but it would make reading pingyin so much easier.
    I’ve been playing with Anki for the past couple of days.. not hating it so far… I’m not entirely sold but I have to really see what it does.
    I’m excited about it so.. that’s something isn’t it?

    • miltownkid says:

      PINYIN! PINYIN! How are you suppose to use pinyin correctly if you spell pinyin wrong!? lol 😉

      I have a feeling there won’t be a better alternative to Anki. I spent a lot of time looking around last week and… There aren’t a lot of options. And if you consider the FLEXIBILITY of Anki along with it (PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, syncing through the web) there really isn’t anything in the same league.

      The largest problem I’ve had with it so far is the formatting of the cards (the templates). I don’t think the majority of sets (I’ve played with) are setup for optimal learning. Optimal learning is HUGELY important for learning (to read) Chinese because it’s such a monstrous task.

  3. maugrassia says:

    I haven’t tried Livemocha that much, yet. But I’ll be trying it soon.

    Oh, and btw, have you ever read about Gwoyeu Romatzyh? I barely know any Mandarin Chinese and this form of reading pin yin has been recognize for great pronunciation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwoyeu_Romatzyh

    • miltownkid says:

      All systems are terrible compared to pinyin… Just because. 🙂 Actually, I also learned Zhuyin while in Taiwan because of the number of Children’s books available which used it. You can see all the different systems here. Or check out the comparison chart here.

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