Sounds for characters within a word

OG Skritter provides the aural pronunciation and tone of each character in a word or phrase, followed by that for the entire word or phrase.

New Skritter is weirdly silent.

The pedagogical benefits of providing repeated demonstrations of pronunciation should be clear: repetition is critical in language learning. New Skritter neglects this opportunity for reinforcement.

It is especially important given how important tones are in Chinese, and particularly given that the individual tone of the first character in a word depends upon the second character and thus changes from its “standard” tone.

We need to continue OG Skritter’s emphasis on pronunciation repetitions, especially to become acutely aware of when a character retains its standard tone within a word, and when it doesn’t. This distinction is lost in the new Skritter.

The ideal is what you were already doing before the new app: provide individual standard tones for each character in a word, and then, when one has completed the review, pronounce the entire word (with its changed tones when that happens).

There really is no good pedagogical reason for not doing this anymore - it diminishes Skritter’s aural training substantially.

1 Like

Strange, my OG Skritter (2.1.2) doesn’t do this.

I do recall a time when the beta played the individual syllables’ sounds. Objectively, it was wrong: the sounds played after each character were used the tone for the character in isolation, not necessarily the tone used within the word. Subjectively, I found it annoying. I see how it could be beneficial for a beginner, but at some point the tones just aren’t that hard and having audio after each character is distracting.

I’d actually take that a step further and say I have found the analytic nature of Chinese vocabulary to be a bit of a trap. Yes, it is possible to break words down into syllables/characters, but speaking and understanding the language involves using and recognizing words, not syllables. I want to reinforce listening to words, not unnatural dissections of them.

I think it may be unusual to find tones easy, even if you are not a beginner. And mastering the difference between an individual character’s tone and its pronunciation within a word in which it is the first character usually takes a lot of practice and familiarity with different contexts. If you find this easy, power to you. I still have some challenges myself even after many years of Chinese.

I can’t see how the pronunciation of each character while practicing it is distracting. Surely one is sounding out the character in one’s head during practice anyway, or even saying it out loud. Making sure this sounding out is correct, by having the character pronounced out loud for you to hear, reinforces the essential aural practice that otherwise is unavailable without a tutor. Having the word pronounced at the end of practice reinforces the differences in tones depending on a character’s position in a word.

In any case, the pronunciation of individual characters should at least be optional in preferences. Eliminating aural reinforcement of individual characters altogether is not good pedagogical practice.

BTW, latest Skritter update is 2.7.7. OG Skritter has always provided individual character pronunciations before the pronunciation of the entire word, in my experience. However the 2.1 version you mention is 6 years old, so perhaps it did not provide them then? (I’ve been using Skritter about 5 years or more)

1 Like

I agree that it would be great to have an option to hear the individual tones (assuming they are correct). It would be very valuable for beginners for the very reasons you cite, and what is useful or distracting for others is a subjective matter.

It’s been a long time since I tried it, but IIRC the reason I personally found it distracting is that you hear the sounds of the syllable after you complete that character’s quiz. That’s to be expected. However, if you are moving through words quickly, this means you are hearing the previous character’s sound when you are already looking at and/or thinking about the next character. I found this not just not reinforcing, but outright dissonant.

When I started using Skritter last September, the latest non-beta version for Android was 2.1.2. This remained the latest non-beta version up until a few weeks ago. (Or at least I think it was 2.1.2. After the release build transitioned to 3.x I started using a side-loaded 2.1.2; the only other option was 2.3.5 which was definitely newer than what was previously being distributed.)

1 Like

Ah, that makes sense - Android. I was referring to IOS for the version number, which is quite different.

Agree, character sounds would best be heard during the writing of a character. And it would best be optional.