iPhone Feature Requests

character

状元
mikelove said:
Interesting idea, though in general I think handwriting Chinese is likely to more-or-less disappear from curricula in another 5 or 10 years (much as learning to write in cursive has largely disappeared in American schools), so it's not necessarily something I'd consider a priority for Pleco.
I wonder if that would ultimately mean the end of characters (versus some alphabet) as learning to write them seems to help people distinguish between similar characters. If not it would be a world first, a language which could only be written with the assistance of an electronic device.
 

radioman

状元
mikelove said:
Interesting idea, though in general I think handwriting Chinese is likely to more-or-less disappear from curricula in another 5 or 10 years (much as learning to write in cursive has largely disappeared in American schools), so it's not necessarily something I'd consider a priority for Pleco.
I have my own thoughts on this, but am curious why you would say that.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
character said:
I wonder if that would ultimately mean the end of characters (versus some alphabet) as learning to write them seems to help people distinguish between similar characters. If not it would be a world first, a language which could only be written with the assistance of an electronic device.
I think it's more that it would be a language that's rarely written except with the help of an electronic device - far more English is written on electronic devices these days than is written by hand.

radioman said:
I have my own thoughts on this, but am curious why you would say that.
Because it requires a lot of effort and is not really necessary to achieve practical fluency - it may be helpful early on in learning to read characters, at least for some types of learner, but to me it feels like once you've gotten acquainted with most of the Chinese "alphabet" you're really just dealing with combinations of reusable parts anyway and there's not that much to be gained by continuing to write them out longhand. To me the best reason to learn handwriting at this point is because handwriting input is a faster way to look up characters than a radical table, but that's mostly a technique thing - if you've learned to write a specific character then you probably already know its Pinyin.

This position is no doubt heavily influenced by my own experience, and I expect a lot of people would disagree with me strongly on it, but my relative lack of interest in Doing Other Stuff With Handwriting in Pleco has had a lot to do with my feeling that handwriting shouldn't / won't be a major part of Chinese-as-a-second-language curricula for very much longer.
 

radioman

状元
mikelove said:
Because it requires a lot of effort and is not really necessary to achieve practical fluency - it may be helpful early on in learning to read characters, at least for some types of learner, but to me it feels like once you've gotten acquainted with most of the Chinese "alphabet" you're really just dealing with combinations of reusable parts anyway and there's not that much to be gained by continuing to write them out longhand. To me the best reason to learn handwriting at this point is because handwriting input is a faster way to look up characters than a radical table, but that's mostly a technique thing - if you've learned to write a specific character then you probably already know its Pinyin.

This position is no doubt heavily influenced by my own experience, and I expect a lot of people would disagree with me strongly on it, but my relative lack of interest in Doing Other Stuff With Handwriting in Pleco has had a lot to do with my feeling that handwriting shouldn't / won't be a major part of Chinese-as-a-second-language curricula for very much longer.
Fascinating. And not at all far from my personal position of what I believe are priorities. Your statement is a bit bold, which leads me to believe you might know a bit more about the future direction of education in China than you are letting on. But I'm just guessing.

Anyway, the challenge, at least as it wound up manifesting itself in my world, is the current University Education System in China. At least where I study, you need to be able to write. Take a test? Write an answer. Homework? Write it. I thought I would get at least some reprieve in my 听力 class, where I would listen and respond verbally to any questions. But no... listen to the audio, then READ the question and, at least in some cases, WRITE your response. There seems to be no escape from reading or writing.

But 听力 is the least of the problem. 阅读 / 口语 / 精读 , my other mandatory classes- all require substantial reading and writing. I talked to the University about changing the curriculum such that I could just study 听力 and 口语, the two classes that I believe would get you to a very useful level of communication - maybe even double up on those and punt on 精读 and 阅读。 (Sure, reading is important, but there's PLENTY of reading in the 听力 and 口语 anyway). They said that you can do that, but then you would not be considered a "full time" student. But, as a government supported university, they require full time students to take all the classes. Seems their position is, "if you are going to learn our language, you are going to REALLY learn our language - reading, writing, speaking, listening.

The Univeristy seems to be bringing more electronic tools into the classroom. Brand new overhead projectors, some of the teachers even use computers and powerpoint on occasion. And China's on a technology roll. So maybe 5 or 10 years out, with new methods for language learning and education being introduced, writing requirements will be shifted to more electronic means. But I guess I would be surprised if that happens. Writing Hanzi seems to be so engrained from a cultural perspective, almost like a right of passage.
 

scykei

榜眼
Yeah, I seriously doubt that we can get rid of general handwriting in 5-10 years, especially since not everyone will have the luxury of computers in a country as big as China. Maybe some day it will happen, but not within a decade, or even a century, when humans are no longer required to perform most tasks manually. Chinese schools for now require you to write stuff, especially in primary and secondary level. Even calligraphy is still a requirement for examinations in Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese schools until today.

Mastering a language requires you to know both how to read and write. It's a generally what we aim for when studying any language, unless you really only care about the communication part. It might be gone from the curricula for Chinese as a foreign language tests but I don't think you can eliminate it from local schools.
 

radioman

状元
scykei said:
Yeah, I seriously doubt that we can get rid of general handwriting in 5-10 years, especially since not everyone will have the luxury of computers in a country as big as China. Maybe some day it will happen, but not within a decade, or even a century, when humans are no longer required to perform most tasks manually. Chinese schools for now require you to write stuff, especially in primary and secondary level. Even calligraphy is still a requirement for examinations in Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese schools until today.

Mastering a language requires you to know both how to read and write. It's a generally what we aim for when studying any language, unless you really only care about the communication part. It might be gone from the curricula for Chinese as a foreign language tests but I don't think you can eliminate it from local schools.
Yeah, I was thinking maybe there would be some way to support something like HSK testing using computers using no input other than either speaking and using a computer to input Hanzi (via Pinyin). That could make sense. But my impression is that the school systems in China, including the University Mandarin language programs show every interest in perpetuating handwritten Hanzi.
 

scykei

榜眼
Yeah, I guess that's true. But that doesn't mean that it will stop handwriting, right?

Edit: no it's not really true. That page tells the number of handphones in use in the country. The distribution isn't mentioned so it could mean that many rich people having owned two or three. I'm pretty sure the number of people using handphones would be way less than that.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
radioman said:
The Univeristy seems to be bringing more electronic tools into the classroom. Brand new overhead projectors, some of the teachers even use computers and powerpoint on occasion. And China's on a technology roll. So maybe 5 or 10 years out, with new methods for language learning and education being introduced, writing requirements will be shifted to more electronic means. But I guess I would be surprised if that happens. Writing Hanzi seems to be so engrained from a cultural perspective, almost like a right of passage.
Well so was cursive - I'm not particularly old and attended a relatively progressive school and we still spent an awful lot of 3rd grade being rigorously drilled on cursive writing, which had been an integral part of grammar school curricula in the US I believe since the 19th century; it's now being rapidly phased out, and few people have raised any objections to that.

My comment really should have been directed more specifically at foreigners learning Chinese, though - the main thing I get irritated about now in that respect is how much effort Chinese teachers continue to put into drilling stroke order and proper handwriting, often at the expense of stuff like tones; if your program produces students with beautiful handwriting whose tones are so bad that no native speaker can understand what they're saying, I would say that your priorities are seriously misplaced. Learning to write if you're a native Chinese speaker is one thing - it may be much less important than it used to be but it's still difficult to get by without handwriting entirely - but learning to write as a student of the language is quite another.

scykei said:
Edit: no it's not really true. That page tells the number of handphones in use in the country. The distribution isn't mentioned so it could mean that many rich people having owned two or three. I'm pretty sure the number of people using handphones would be way less than that.
They mention "subscribers," so while I know there are a good number of Chinese people with multiple SIM cards, I have a hard time thinking that 1.05 billion SIM cards don't translate to at least 670 million (1/2 of the population) actual users; China Mobile has 683 million by themselves. Also, don't forget that a lot of people are too young / old to be likely to own a cell phone (and many of the younger ones also aren't old enough to know how to write and so aren't really part of this discussion anyway).
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
pprendeville said:
This is really an iPad feature request but I don't see a thread for it so putting it here. I'd love to be able to view Flaschard lists with tiled pictures like so: https://picasaweb.google.com/105171181803113268313/Misc#5797287629890870514

Would be useful to me to quickly gloss over words in larger batches instead of individually.
Not quite clear on how this would work with flashcards - do you want the entire cards (words + definitions) in tiles of some kind that you can scan through?
 
mikelove said:
My comment really should have been directed more specifically at foreigners learning Chinese, though - the main thing I get irritated about now in that respect is how much effort Chinese teachers continue to put into drilling stroke order and proper handwriting, often at the expense of stuff like tones; if your program produces students with beautiful handwriting whose tones are so bad that no native speaker can understand what they're saying, I would say that your priorities are seriously misplaced. Learning to write if you're a native Chinese speaker is one thing - it may be much less important than it used to be but it's still difficult to get by without handwriting entirely - but learning to write as a student of the language is quite another..
Agreed that far too much time is wasted (especially in early and advanced instruction), though I think some handwriting training should probably remain.

I think handwriting for foreign learners of Chinese should only cover two things (1) basic characters and radicals that make up parts of many others, and there only aiming at structurally correct rather than pretty looking handwriting; and (2) characters you are likely to use when filling out forms or short notes, ie 男 女 for the gender blank when you try to open a bank account, and stuff you would use to say 'I went to the store' and the like. (2) probably covers most of (1), but best listed separately because (1) should probably be a priority early on, done quickly at the start of reading (probably 200 characters/radicals is enough), and (2) should await a rather advanced level, more or less when oral daily communication no longer poses a challenge (though it too shouldn't include much, probably 600 or so characters can handle it pretty well)

It is absolutely absurd the amount of time beginning students spend on handwriting....though I think the problem reemerges, in a more absurd form, in the advanced stages. Take the 5th year course here at Harvard, where (at least when I took it a couple years back) nearly half of study time was not spent on reading the articles, mastering the grammar, or oral practice, but rather on practicing how to write the vocab lists from each lesson. Given it was a 5th year course, it is pretty much a guarantee that you will never have occasion to handwrite any of these new characters (yes, you might type 孽 as you discuss Buddhism in an email or article, but the chances of being in a situation to handwrite it...even a more generally used character like 咎 is almost guaranteed to never be handwritten, as one only uses fancy expressions like 归咎于 or chengyu like 既往不咎 or 咎由自取 in the kinds of writing that are done by computer (unless you are rather 迂腐 and love 文绉绉 expressions for filling out bank forms, to mention 迂 and 绉, two other characters advanced students are forced to uselessly learn to handwrite)

So really the handwriting should stop after a very basic level is achieved...and more or less this becomes true by default for even well educated native speakers, who learn to write an enormous amount, and then gradually forget all the complicated characters that they never end up handwriting (though, as note-taking and other activities tend to be done in one's native language, they seem to have a broader scope of what they handwrite and thus will usefully maintain likely several thousand...but in my experience, even though native speakers are likely to type or read, say, 睿 in the expression 睿智 or names like 曹睿 somewhat regularly, they will never handwrite it, so many native speakers will eventually forget how exactly to write characters like this, though exactly which are forgoten or retained probably depends on the person and their personal habits) I imagine the technological innovations you mentioned would eventually lead to more notetaking and the like with computer, narrowing the scope of what is retained...to be clear, in my experience there is no amount of handwriting a charecter of any complexity that will lead to long term retention absent constant handwriting, even if this practice lasts for nearly two decades of schooling, given enough years of nonuse...

So I regret all the time I spent memorizing the writing of characters I would only ever type (and thus promptly forgot), and I also sympathize with native Chinese students, practicing how to write words like 魑魅 and 饕餮 and a host of characters even less likely to be handwritten....

It really seems the desire to teach loads of handwriting by teachers is based on the rigid idea that 'language should consist of the four skills of....and if you are missing a skill you have not mastered a language" "you shouldn't be dependent on a computer" and all that silliness. Language instruction should consist of whatever skills are important for your goals - which for most people is communication and access to a culture - and not bowing to some accepted pronouncment of what literacy entails. If one is inclined to follow some such rigid conception, communication and cultural access would likely be better served by adopting ideas of educated literacy from a few 100 years and go memorize works like the 三字经 - certainly would aid in pronunciation practice. And why is there something magically self-reliant about writing with a pen or pencil - unless you know how to manufacture these devices yourself, it seems under this logic you should feel a certain shame for not learning how to use a quill and inkstone. I can't manufacture either a pen or an ipad, so I feel equally justified in being dependent on either, and I'm not planning to get stranded on a desert island away from electric power....

I've also heard the "you don't know a character unless you can handwrite it" - which is of course exactly the opposite logic to what everyone accepts for the standard of knowing classical/literary Chinese. Tons of people achieve a high level of literary chinese, use it in research involving ancient documents, and yet have never tried to really express anything in it (or have only done so as part of a drinking game, and probably not successfully), and certainly there we have a much stronger argument of intellectual importance to the productive act, when compared to making scratches on paper. But productive ability really is wholly unnecessary to even reaching the deepest levels of comprehension of these texts. Though of course people in the 1800s would probably be convinced that none of us count as truly having mastered literary chinese (except those who write scholarly modern 注释 to 中华书局 editions of old texts and the like, where it seems more of an aesthetic preference to use literary chinese in the notes), just as I'm sure plenty of people would consider my writing ability as embarrassingly limited (I've forgotten some 60-80% of the characters I once knew how to write)
 
https://plus.google.com/photos/105171181803113268313/albums/5797612136555597329/5797615720851460818?authkey=COmZppu4xoz9JA&banner=pwa&gpsrc=pwrd1

I've attached a better picture to illustrate what I mean. As shown, this is the way I would like to be able to view my deck of flash cards in Pleco on iPad as the large screen size can accommodate it. I could quickly scan through lists this way, albeit this might not be the best way of using the SRS system. A nice option would also be to reveal the cards meaning or to be able to view the English word instead of the character. Lots of possibilities there. Even matching up the cards using touch gestures would be pretty cool as well. Probably asking a bit much but just a way I would like to use the software.

Ps: any way of posting image above directly into this using an iPad?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
pprendeville said:
I've attached a better picture to illustrate what I mean. As shown, this is the way I would like to be able to view my deck of flash cards in Pleco on iPad as the large screen size can accommodate it. I could quickly scan through lists this way, albeit this might not be the best way of using the SRS system. A nice option would also be to reveal the cards meaning or to be able to view the English word instead of the character. Lots of possibilities there. Even matching up the cards using touch gestures would be pretty cool as well. Probably asking a bit much but just a way I would like to use the software.
Ah, I get it now. Not quite sure if this would get widely used enough to justify it, but we'll see if any similar requests come in.

pprendeville said:
Ps: any way of posting image above directly into this using an iPad?
Only if we add support for one of the iOS forum-wrapper apps (which we should probably do) or if you use a third-party browser that supports file uploads.
 

dcarpent

榜眼
I'm not sure if this would be a new feature or a bug fix, but it seems impossible to turn down the sound on flashcards PRIOR to displaying the first card in a stack. If I open flashcards, turn the sound all the way down, and then reveal the first card, the audio plays at full volume. After advancing the first card you can turn down the volume and it stays down. But there seems to be no way to prevent the audio from playing on the first card (unless you turned audio off in the flashcard settings altogether, I guess). This is awkward. There are times when I would like to review cards without announcing to all present that that is what I am doing. The only work around that I've found is to physically hold my hand over the speaker opening on the bottom of the phone when the audio on the first card plays. Is this lack of control over the audio on the initial card intentional or a bug, or just an oversight? It would be great to get that changed.

A second idea, which I don't think is possible now: while reviewing flahscards, I often wish there was a convenient way to search a character that I come across on a particular flashcard, but search it not in a dictionary but in my other flashcards. I often see a character, know that I've already seen it in another word, know that I have a flahscard for that word, but can't remember which word it is. It would be helpful to be able to quickly search my flahscards to find all flashcards that contain that character. In a way, I guess this would be like making a searchable dictionary out of your collection of flashcards, and making that readily available for searching. Is this possible? It would also be nice to be able to select which set or sets of flashcards to search (have a default, so you don't have to set it each time, but be able to change the default, like in setting the search order for dictionaries). Is something like this possible? Is it already possible, and just something I don't know about?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
dcarpent said:
I'm not sure if this would be a new feature or a bug fix, but it seems impossible to turn down the sound on flashcards PRIOR to displaying the first card in a stack. If I open flashcards, turn the sound all the way down, and then reveal the first card, the audio plays at full volume. After advancing the first card you can turn down the volume and it stays down. But there seems to be no way to prevent the audio from playing on the first card (unless you turned audio off in the flashcard settings altogether, I guess). This is awkward. There are times when I would like to review cards without announcing to all present that that is what I am doing. The only work around that I've found is to physically hold my hand over the speaker opening on the bottom of the phone when the audio on the first card plays. Is this lack of control over the audio on the initial card intentional or a bug, or just an oversight? It would be great to get that changed.
Sounds like a bug, though it may be a tricky one to fix - we'd actually been thinking about changing the audio session mode during flashcards so that (unlike in the rest of Pleco) they would obey the device's mute switch; would that help?

dcarpent said:
A second idea, which I don't think is possible now: while reviewing flahscards, I often wish there was a convenient way to search a character that I come across on a particular flashcard, but search it not in a dictionary but in my other flashcards. I often see a character, know that I've already seen it in another word, know that I have a flahscard for that word, but can't remember which word it is. It would be helpful to be able to quickly search my flahscards to find all flashcards that contain that character. In a way, I guess this would be like making a searchable dictionary out of your collection of flashcards, and making that readily available for searching. Is this possible? It would also be nice to be able to select which set or sets of flashcards to search (have a default, so you don't have to set it each time, but be able to change the default, like in setting the search order for dictionaries). Is something like this possible? Is it already possible, and just something I don't know about?
Not possible now, no. Should be doable in the future once we finish our next major user dictionary format update (ticking off feature requests one by one there, the biggest one for our next major update is getting them to support full-text search since that's by far the most popular request) - the update after that is bringing a much nicer headword index that we can also port over to flashcards, which are currently using a very old one from our first attempt at user dictionary search.
 

dcarpent

榜眼
Yes, making flashcards obey the mute switch would help.

Glad to hear that the flashcard search feature is at least possible; thanks for adding it to your (undoubtedly long) list.
 

scykei

榜眼
mikelove said:
pprendeville said:
I've attached a better picture to illustrate what I mean. As shown, this is the way I would like to be able to view my deck of flash cards in Pleco on iPad as the large screen size can accommodate it. I could quickly scan through lists this way, albeit this might not be the best way of using the SRS system. A nice option would also be to reveal the cards meaning or to be able to view the English word instead of the character. Lots of possibilities there. Even matching up the cards using touch gestures would be pretty cool as well. Probably asking a bit much but just a way I would like to use the software.
Ah, I get it now. Not quite sure if this would get widely used enough to justify it, but we'll see if any similar requests come in.
I would love that. Thumbnails was the main attraction of another colour coded flash card app my friend had shown me about. It allows you to easily navigate around the whole deck of flash cards and mark them as learnt if necessary.

This would be very useful when importing someone else's flashcard lists, like HSK. As of right now, there isn't an easy way to do glance through the contents and mark them besides deleting or moving them from the category. The organize menu would work but it isn't an optinal solution. Browsing through colour coded thumbnails gives you a good sense of progression.

I like that idea and would probably use that a lot. I usually save interesting characters which I would like to go through later to a text file instead of flash cards because it's much easier to go though a list than having cards pop up one at a time for me. This feature will alleviate the problem completely as it would be a great alternative to Pleco's flash card drilling system for people like me and pprendeville. :D
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
scykei said:
This would be very useful when importing someone else's flashcard lists, like HSK. As of right now, there isn't an easy way to do glance through the contents and mark them besides deleting or moving them from the category. The organize menu would work but it isn't an optinal solution. Browsing through colour coded thumbnails gives you a good sense of progression.
Then it sounds like you need color-coded score info more than you need actual tiles - correct? Thumbnails worry me because I think you really need the definitions in a lot of these cases - you might know the characters but not really know the meaning (or all of the meanings), and just skimming through words won't necessarily give you a chance to find that out. Here's an easy way to experiment - go into the Pleco "Settings" screen / "Flashcards" / List Views, turn off "Use dict list settings" and set "List layout" to just "Head Pron" (so definitions don't show), then go back into Organize Cards and see how well you can find / sift through flashcards without seeing their definitions.
 

Bendy-Ren

举人
I don't know if it's been brought to your attention before, but the guy over at Confused Laowai has made a pretty nifty tool to deconstruct characters into all their radicals. Would it be possible to add functionality like this to Pleco? Like in the Details tab of the 字 screen when you select a single character in a dictionary entry.

If there's a dictionary of radicals somewhere, you could even add the meanings of each radical after the character is deconstructed.

I know some of this information is available already in the 字 screen, but what I'm thinking of is something with more detail instead of just the main radical.
 
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