Learn Chinese Faster With This Anki Add-On
One of my biggest frustrations when reading in one of the few foreign languages I’ve tried to study is how long it takes to find all the words I don’t know (and there are, admittedly, a lot). This is destructive and I will most likely leave before I even read the article, chapter, or page.
For those learning Chinese, there is now Chinese Prestudy , an Anki add-on that creates flashcards to improve reading and comprehension speed. Ideally, if you are working on a book, you always study words several pages ahead (hence the Pre) so as not to interfere with your reading progress.
The Anki flashcard system, which is used by developer Jack Kinsella’s Janki method to learn code, essentially involves using flashcards that show you a word, phrase, or image the minimum number of times you need to keep it forever.
Before you can use the add-on, you need to download Anki itself. Follow the instructions on the page for your operating system – and note that Chinese Prestudy is only compatible with Anki 2.1, so if you already have Anki 2.0 you will have to upgrade to a newer version. After downloading and launching Anki, you will be prompted to select and confirm the interface language. This should be your preferred or native language, not the language you are trying to learn.
If you’re new to Anki, there is a long and detailed user guide as well as introductory YouTube videos to help you navigate and customize the program. Once you get the basics down, you are ready to install Chinese Prestudy.
- Go to Tools> Add-ons on the menu bar.
- Click the Get Add-ons button.
- Paste the code for Chinese Prestudy found here into the popup and click OK.
- The add-in should appear in the list of add-ons in the previous window and as an option at the bottom of the Tools menu. If not, restart Anki.
To use Chinese Prestudy, you need text that you can copy and paste, such as a news story or a PDF book. As a complete newbie, I picked a BBC article about a story I was already familiar with: the defeat of Serena Williams at the US Open. When you have text:
- Create a new deck using the Add function to place your cards in it. Otherwise, Anki will add cards to the default deck. This is fine, although it is useful to have a specially named learning kit if you are using Anki for other purposes.
- Go to Tools> Chinese Preliminary Analysis.
- Paste the text you are trying to read into the dialog box and click Continue.
- In the next window, you can choose the size of the target vocabulary. I have chosen 3500 recommended most common words, why not? Click Continue.
- Select the deck you created earlier and click Add Notes.
That’s all! To explore, click on the name of the deck and click Explore Now. Each card will show a simplified symbol, pinyin, definitions, and example sentences after you click Show Answer. According to Anki’s method, you will see this word again with a frequency depending on how well you already know it.
The add-in currently only accepts Simplified Chinese characters as input, so if your selected text contains traditional characters, you’re out of luck just yet. However, he creates traditional character cards to explore. They are paused by default, so to unpause the pause, go to the main Anki window on your desktop, click Browse and type “card: HanziTrad” in the search box. Select everything using Ctrl + Alt + A (Command + Option + A on Mac) and press Ctrl + J (Command + J) to unpause.
There are companion Anki apps available for both iOS ($ 24.99) and Android (free). Chinese Prestudy only works on desktops, but you can sync your generated decks with your mobile app using a service called AnkiWeb .
Finally, preliminary Chinese analysis probably works best if you already have some experience of learning Chinese or if you use it along with other learning methods.