Interesting! I have two thoughts on this:
The first is that I appreciate Skritter’s desire to be sympathetic. Certainly, if I get one character wrong in a rarely-used 8 character 成語, I may very well not care enough about it to want to be drilled on it every day until I get it right. If I got 7/8 characters, that’s good enough for me. But that’s a very personal choice, and I would like it to be made by me and not hard-coded into the app.
The second is that the above logic is simply incorrect. I have experienced this incorrectness on several occasions, and it is frustrating. The problem is that when I scribe or assign a tone to one of N characters in a word, an error can be the result of many things:
- I might have drawn the character incorrectly.
- I might have believed I was supposed to be using a different character.
- I might have misremembered the tone used by the character.
- I might have chosen a tone that was incorrect given the context.
There may be others. But of the above, only #1 and #3 represent a situation where my knowledge of the character is in question. In those cases, it is probably good to mark the character wrong, and it might be a case where I care less about the word (though again, I’d like to be the one make that call). In the case of #2 and #4, though, my error was wholly that I didn’t remember the word. Marking the character wrong and the word correct is unequivocally the complete opposite of what should be done.
An example I experienced quite a bit before I gave into O’BrienSkritter and its insistence on using the fifth fingertone were compounds ending in 邊. I’d keep getting tone cards for 邊 on its own, and keep getting them right, but they would keep coming back because I’d frequently enter 3-1 for words like 左邊. Assuming for the moment that 3-1 is wrong, entering 3-1 only means I don’t know how to say 左邊. It in no way represents a misunderstanding of 邊.
A far more entertaining example is 啊. Since all five tones are valid, you literally can’t get it wrong. But I am asked its tone a lot more than I should (taking on a different tone in 是啊 and 好啊 frequently trips me up on or the other).
(The above examples should be uncontroversial. I would, however, take things a philosophical step further and say that even the case of #3 (not that Skritter can tell the difference ), I lean towards thinking the fault should be 100% assigned to the word. Tone changes happen enough that even for characters with unambiguous tone marking an intra-word tone error as a character error is reinforcing a relationship that isn’t really there. Moreover, the tones are most important when speaking, when to operate at speaking speed you are remembering – at the very least – the sounds of whole words. You don’t have the time to analytically construct each word out of its “characters” and their tones. At some point, your remembering of how to pronounce a word simply starts having a lot less to do with the individual characters.)