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[non-sk] subconscious learning - flashcards

Neil   November 22nd, 2010 7:05a.m.

I got this idea after reading AJATT - recently he's been going on about frequency of language usage and not quantity. 2 minutes every hour he reckons.

I'm looking for a program which puts up flashcards both word and definition at the same time, and cycles randomly through them at a fixed display interval between 1s to 20s or so. I want to put this on in the background on a 7" screen at work or whereever - just to keep them ticking over. Anyone got any ideas?

I guess a digital photo frame would work, would have to check if it's possible set intervals down to 1 second and have random order. It would be a hassle generating all the pictures too - CSV input would be good.

An advanced feature would be an optional 1234 grading system in case something kept popping up which you know well already. And linked into Skritter definition grading... 'Skritter Subconscious'?

jww1066   November 22nd, 2010 10:12a.m.

We discussed an article on passive practice in this previous thread:


It suggests that people get much more benefit from passive practice when they have previously studied those items actively. So if you study items on Skritter, then export them to whatever screen saver you're going to use, you should get much more benefit than if you passively study new vocabulary.

As for the software, what OS are you using? Googling turns up a number of promising options:



Neil   November 22nd, 2010 6:50p.m.

Cheers James, I think you're right about displaying studied material. Maybe also words which contain known characters would be the next step.

I'm on windows - It will be for running in a window on a 2nd monitor while working rather than screen saver, I'll be searching around...

Neil   November 23rd, 2010 9:10a.m.

I've gone for the photo frame - huge $36 bucks. Now I'll have to figure out how print from excel to JPEG. PDF creator does it but one page (i.e. one card) at a time.

Neil   November 25th, 2010 5:43a.m.

Ok I have this up and running - works well. Used Zan Image printer which will make up to 1000 jpegs at one time and is installed like a printer.


jww1066   November 25th, 2010 9:42a.m.

One thing I would consider is to put the Chinese and English on different slides. So you see the Chinese, think "what's that?" and then a moment later see the English.

nick   November 25th, 2010 10:48a.m.

Nice setup--that looks great! Make sure to post an update later about how well it's working for you and how often you look at it.

葛修远   November 25th, 2010 12:11p.m.

I'd be really interested to see how this works out as well.
I agree that some sort of separation would work better - otherwise it might be too easy to just read the English. Then again, this is supposed to be passive so maybe it's fine as it is.

west316   November 25th, 2010 12:46p.m.

I am currently using an Anki deck that has all of the information I am after on the "front" side. Is this ideal? No. However, it was already uploaded and saved me tons of time. The deck has worked out well for me.

I suspect this will be similar. Also, he is more interested in a passive experience. I suspect his current setup will work well.

The setup looks really nice Neil. Well done.

Neil   November 25th, 2010 11:38p.m.

Cheers guys -
The photo frame does not do random order, so if I wanted to do Q and A cards as 2 pictures that would be possible. Timing is selectable at 5,10,15,etc seconds but 5 is actually quite fast.

As I have mentioned elsewhere before, there are 1500 words in HSK L6 which are made up of characters I already know on skritter but have not yet studied. Hence no pinyin. So I'm using this as a first stage familiarisation, in parallel with some Anki or Skritter to follow it up.

It's just to be glanced at every now and then while at work, so the size of Chinese characters is such that it is easy to see, and the English requires a second glance/read.

There is an 8" photo frame for $60, which does split screen with 4 photos on one screen... hmmm one for home maybe.

Mandarinboy   November 26th, 2010 12:21a.m.

Thanks Neil for this very useful tips. I just bought one photo frame my self and uploaded my Anki list to it and it works so great. It just goes in the background and every now and then I happen to see it and get some short training without thinking about it. Very nice idea. Every exposure to the language counts:-)

jww1066   November 26th, 2010 8:20a.m.

My wife has a screen saver on her Mac which shows English words, and then a couple of seconds later shows their definitions. It seems to be fairly ideal for passive acquisition.

Mandarinboy   November 27th, 2010 9:35a.m.

Really liked Neils Idea and have set up that at work as well. To help me out i have made a small VBA macro in excel that makes is easy and fast to fix the cards. If anyone is interested it can be found here https://docs.google.com/leaf?id=0B-BfzC-4_dxeYTY2MWQ0MjEtMGIxNi00NmUxLWFlMmUtYjQxYzgxMDliMTc3&hl=en&authkey=CO6joLoL

What I do is to export my Skritter list with the top 100 words i have most problem with. Those i just paste in the excel sheet(cell A1) and run the macro named: joincells. That will concatenate the three columns exported from skritter in to one card, add page breaks, fix the fonts, remove empty lines etc. After that the cards are ready to be printed. Also added another macro to remove words with more than 2 characters. This is just to not have to reduce the size of the character font. Now I can update my list every week with the current most troublesome words. With just a a little bit of programming knowledge anyone can change the code to change fonts, colors etc in any way you like. Rather easy in fact. And yes, there is very little error handling code since this is just a quick and dirty solution for a fun project.

Neil   November 28th, 2010 3:09a.m.

@M-boy - nice one. The way I did it was to copy the range and then paste special -transpose to get the definition under the character without manual editing.

All up;
Order Well Known (least known first)
How Many 100 Words
Tone Format Tone numbers

Paste into Excel cell A1
Use Mandarin boy's macro or copy and paste-transpose then edit to style. Re-order the cards if you need to, this is the order they will display in.

Print to JPEG with Zan Image printer (free) If you have more than 1000 cards, do this a few times. I used A6 landscape page size, 90% quality B&W JPEG. Produces 20kb images.

Put it on an old SD card/USB stick, into the photo frame and away you go.

Note the cheap 16x9 screen ratio photo frames are fine - the better ones are 4x3 which is the size you need for photos.

Mandarinboy   November 30th, 2010 4:58p.m.

If you like to do an easy own slide show you can use the build in tools in Windows or MAC for that. I have an extra screen to my computer. On that i go to explorer and the folder where i have the printed cards and open up any of them in "Windows picture and flash viewer" or "media player". Both have slide show capacity. There is also a screen saver that can be sued for this. Media player works great for the extra screen when i work. I used it on our very large flat screen at work and that really did do it for me:-) This is a fun way of getting some extra training without spending to much time. Reading is currently my weak spot so i need this.

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