Huge problem: Skritter never trains "English to Mandarin"

I’ve been using Skritter for ~5 months and went all the way up to HSK5. However, now I feel a little stuck, because I realized:

Skritter never trains “English to Mandarin”. It never asks you "How to say >>a fine; violation ticket<< in Mandarin?"

Skritter only asks you the other way round: "What is the meaning of 罚单?“

For me, that’s a huge problem. I’m able to read and pronounce almost anything I’m seeing, but when I try to speak I’m something missing “the most obvious words”. I’m still thinking in English, and in many instances then I can’t just remember what “a fine” means :). If I would see the 汉字 or hear the word, I would immediately know.

How have you solved this? Should I completely pivot away from Skritter and towards Anki? (any recommendations of HSK1-HSK5?)

PS: I only use it for Mandarin, not Japanese


Skritter already asks you how to write down a character/word presented to you in English, or whatever language you are using the app in. Perhaps it doesnt direcly ask you the translation of a given word in English, but keep in mind that Chinese is a logographic language where characters are the written representation of a concept and the way you “say” such concept.

When drawing a chracter/word, you should think about it as more of a 3-in-1 thing: the way it’s written, its meaning and its sound; therefore, when asked to write down the word Communism, you should also internally think about how it’s pronounced (tone included!, you can’t separate it from the “sound of the letters”), the meaning of “communism” and obviously the way to write it.

However, to aid this issue, I’d like to see a new type of card where, e.g., the word “tree” is presented in English (or even the concept/definition of such word, which is already found on Skritter, to up the game if one chooses so) and you have to answer by:

  • Choosing the correct card between 2 or 3 different cards with different characters each. This can range from simiilar characters with the left radical of 木, such as “林” or “村” or random characters to test that you are really sure the radical 木 belongs to tree.

I remember that when I was learning Multiplication tables as a kid, the teacher every now and then would ask us if we were sure about the answer we had given to her, even if it was correct, and that made us doubt ourselves, forcing us to think something through as opposed to rote memorization and therefore creating better neural pathways to reinforce our learning.

Of course this would also work by presenting the word or definition in Chinese, perfect for those in more advanced levels.

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Yeah, I’d also appreciate a new card for this.
I don’t even need suggested answers. I’m good with the 1-2-3-4 I-knew-it-or-not button rating system :).

But even though I really like Skritter, I consider this a fundamental design flaw, to teach CN>EN, where most people actually are studying EN>CN.

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I’m not sure I agree! In the wild, you’ll be presented words not in English and need to know what they mean, versus seeing or hearing English words and going the other direction of how to translate them in Mandarin. To me it seems more beneficial to see a word and know what it means in English, and how it’s pronounced in Mandarin. (And of course if you can spot a word in Mandarin and know what it means in English, you can probably it do it the other way around)! For training the other way around (EN>CN), that’s served a bit with writing prompts, where you see the definition and no Chinese text, this can be made more powerful with a hide reading setting so you’ll only see that English definition, but that is going from English definition only to Chinese.

In the wild, the most common things you do are listening and speaking. Skritter teaches listening—what does that word or phrase I just heard mean? But it does not teach speaking—I want to ask, “where’s the bathroom?” How do I do that?

I want to see an English word or phrase and have to remember (no multiple choice, just like Mandarin to English) the Mandarin equivalent.

It’s true that you can “hide pinyin” on the writing cards, and that’s something, but sort of a cumbersome way to do this.

Hi Calion,

One way is to make sure you are taking advantage of the “i” section, which is where the custom example sentences can be found. Another option is that you could create a custom study deck and add the key phrases and sentences you want to work on.

As for the English card, the team has recently discussed adding some different card types, so it is possible that we may have a card like this in the future. There are plans to experiment with it internally first. Let me know if you have any other questions.