Friday, August 12, 2011

A clever butcher uses a cleaver

If you were learning English, then the above sentence might be a good one to stick in your flashcards. Picturing a butcher who wears professorial glasses, holding a cleaver, might make it easier  - both visually and audio-wise - to remember the new word 'cleaver'. It's certainly more memorable then the sentence: "Use a cleaver to cut meat."

And this is the logic I've tried to use when finding new sentences to enter into my flashcard deck.

As you would have seen from my post a few months back about finding sentences, I use a variety of sources for my deck. But it was only when I was reviewing this sentence below, that I realised that there was a clever/cleaver trick that I was unconsciously using.

     Lennie stopped chewing and swallowed it whole
     Lúnní tíngzhǐ jǔjué, húlún yàn​le xiàqu​

While saying the sentence during my daily flashcard revision, I realised that this sentence had a clever/cleaver style of repetition in the words 'Lúnní​' and 'húlún'.  It's not a big thing, but I realised it was a bit of a mental crutch that I had indeed being relying on when learning the cards - and on a few occasions when I was trying to recall a word in conversation.

I went back through some of my flashcards, and found that so many sentences I'd chosen had inadvertently used this trick, and I've actually tried to be more intentional in this regard.

OK, so now that you know this trick, there really is nothing else to say. If you choose not to take advantage of this, that's your choice. But if you choose to use this, here are some sentences that I've found in my deck which someone was clever/cleaver in constructing.

If you'd like to copy these into your deck, feel free ...

     Bees store honey to get through winter
     mìfēng wèi guòdōng zhùcún fēngmì
     trick:  mìfēng vs fēng

     I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow
     wǒ tóu yi pèngdào zhěntou jiù shuìzháo le
     trick: tóu / zhěntou (although, you really should have noticed this without clever/cleaver sentences!)

     She sat there motionless, nothing can motivate her
     tā yidòng​budòng de zuò zài​nar, méiyǒu​shénme néng cùdòng tā
     trick: yidòng​budòng / cùdòng

     If you lose a credit card you should report it to the police
     diūshī xìnyòngkǎ yào xiàng jǐngchá bàoshī
     trick: diūshī  / bàoshī

     Don't disappoint your parents
     bùyào gūfù fùmǔ duì nǐde qīdài
     trick: gūfù / fùmǔ

     Mr Li the shopkeeper has two assistants
     Lǐ lǎobǎn yǒu liǎng gè zhùlǐ
     trick: Lǐ / zhùlǐ

And here are a number of other sentences that appear in my flashcards, but I'll leave you to do the translations yourself if you want to use them. The trick might be around using the same sound, the same character, or anything else that makes it easier to recall one word using another part of the sentence:

纤维 / 维生素
耳朵, 耳环, 耳机, 耳语, 耳子
他们企图蒙骗公众耳目 (cheat! sounds like 'qitu')

Just to be clear ... this is not a miracle. This will not take you from a beginner to intermediate in record time. But it will make it a little easier to remember words, and since you're already investing time in learning Chinese, you may as well take advantages of clever/cleaver tricks like this.

Don't butcher it!