I created three sets of HSK1 flash cards to aid with daily drills.
In the future, I may work on more advanced HSK levels as well as word, phrase and grammar flash cards.
This was a crapload of work not just to make, but to print and cut.
Flash card drills ∞
I recommend separating each deck into two parts. The first part is small - the 'x' most recent items. The second part is larger - all the older items which have been learned fairly well. I suppose doing this will require little boxes to keep the "decks" in.
The small deck needs to be drilled regularly. As items are learned, move them into the large deck. Perhaps take the first part of the week to learn new things and do drills, then the second part of the week or weekend to re-review the large deck. Then mix the small deck into the large deck and begin a new set of characters for the following week. I'm still exploring this.
The basics ∞
With three sets, these are the basic things which can be done:
- read Chinese -> write pinyin
read pinyin -> write Chinese
- read Chinese -> write English
read English -> write Chinese
- read pinyin -> write English
read English -> write pinyin
A drill can be done as writing, as speaking or both. For example:
- read Chinese -> write pinyin
- read Chinese -> say Chinese
read Chinese -> say Chinese, write pinyin
I recommend speaking whenever possible. More advanced drilling would include listening. Working with a partner would allow you to do:
- pinyin/(anything) -- hear Chinese -> write pinyin, or perhaps just say the accent direction.
- pinyin/Chinese -- hear Chinese -> write Chinese
- pinyin/English -- hear Chinese -> write English
- pinyin/English -- hear Chinese -> say English
- English/Chinese -- hear English -> write Chinese
- English/pinyin -- hear English -> write pinyin
English/pinyin -- hear English -> say Chinese
Basic drills ∞
Apparently the technique I had in mind exists and is named: Spaced repetition. Sweet.
I'm still unsure how much time ought to be spent. Here are some thoughts.
10 minutes with set one:
- read Chinese -> say Chinese, write pinyin
read pinyin -> say Chinese, write Chinese
10 minutes with set two:
- read Chinese -> say English, write English
read English -> say English, write Chinese
10 minutes with set three:
- read pinyin -> say English, write English
read English -> say Chinese, write pinyin
Spaced repetition ∞
- Take a deck of flash cards.
- Take a set of ten starting characters, like the numbers 1-10. Set the rest aside, in a "not yet" pile.
Frequently, preferably every day or even several times a day, review your pile. Separate it into three piles.
- Know well
- Know poorly
- Do not know
- Take your "know well" pile, and set it aside. Shuffle the remaining "know poorly" and "do not know" cards together. These now become your "regularly review" pile.
- Infrequently, perhaps every week, review your "know well" pile to make sure that everything is still well known. If you aren't perfect on anything, then demote it back into the "know poorly" pile for more frequent review.
Infrequently, perhaps every week, take some cards from your "not yet" pile and move them into "know poorly" to begin reviewing them.
This technique would be completely separate for the three decks of cards. You will have different piles for each. I find the Chinese characters with English translation are the cards I'm most confident with, followed by the English translation with pinyin, and lastly the Chinese character with pinyin. Maybe working on the ones you find easiest more regularly will help you learn the others?
The decks ∞
I built three decks of cards.
- Simplified Chinese Character / Pinyin
- Simplified Chinese Character / English
Pinyin / English
To make these, four types of files were created.
- Simplified Chinese Character (front)
- English (back)
- Pinyin (front)
The front and back need to be created separately because the items need to be flipped if printed on the reverse of a page.
I call the front side the "a side" and the back side the "b side", in reference to vinyl/records. The "a" side is the "top". So a finished page with both sides printed will have the a side on top, and the b side on the bottom.
I keep things very simple. One side has just one thing, and the other side has just one thing. I've seen flash cards which mix simplified and traditional Chinese, have stroke order, include graphics and much more, but that's too much for a beginner. I may adjust things as I actually use my cards, or for any future HSK2 or other more advanced flash cards I may make.
The current incarnation puts 12 cards on a US-letter sized page.
There are 15 pages for the HSK1 characters.
Everything was done in Inkscape, so they are easy to modify for another type of layout (like Europe's A4), for photo paper, card stock or whatever. This also sort-of makes them "Open Source Chinese flash cards".
If you print on regular printer paper, be aware that the back side will probably be visible through the card. Even heavy stock printer paper may not be enough. I found some pseudo-card stock which works nicely. Photo paper may also be an option, although that's expensive. A half-stack of paper will be more than enough.
Do some test printing on regular to make sure you get things right first. You may need to edit these files to adjust the alignment. See my notes in the next section.
Printing these off takes a whole lot of ink. You may need to buy another cartridge. If you can, remove the colour cartridges from your printer, as for some reason it may like to print some things in yellow. You may want to just to avoid printing those hidden yellow dots. Why did you even need a colour printer again?
I kept the font size large for pinyin, but for English I had no choice but to reduce it. I wanted to keep the font size consistent, so all English text got reduced even if not actually needed. If you think it looks too small on your screen, then make sure you're zoomed to 100%. Size 12 is about regular text, so it should be ok.
I chose to print some things flipped one way and then the other so that whatever way you flipped the card would give you the answer without having to rotate the card. Some translations are so awkward that I was only able to fit the wall of English going in one direction.
The a sides have dots floated around the outside, to help line up a ruler for cutting. However, I highly recommend getting a cutting board with one of those glaive-like chopping arms. There's a crazy amount of cutting that needs to be done.
Stuff specific to me ∞
My printer sucks, and shoves stuff around as though there were an invisible border. This is strange since it's supposed to be able to print on photo paper. Maybe it can do the full thing if it's a small photo, but a border is forced on anything larger.
So I not only needed to adjust the alignment of everything on the flash cards, but also trim a border off the edges.
20.4cm .------------------- : 26.4 : :
After doing that, I have a rectangle whose cards I can cut out at between 6.5 and 6.7cm. I stayed with about 6.7 and the centring worked out alright.
My printing process ∞
First and foremost, print test pages on crappy paper before printing on good paper. You'll probably need to edit things, perhaps several times, to get the layout right.
Print everything in order.
- a-chinese / b-english
- a-chinese / b-pinyin
a-pinyin / b-english
After finishing each set of three, place them in a pile. Alternate how you stack on that pile.
So you place the first three like so:
.-------------. : : : : `-------------`
Then you place the next three like so:
.------. : : : : : : : : `------`
Print 01 and stack it, then 02 and stack it, then 03 and stack it, etc.
Cutting process ∞
After everything has been printed, carefully move the pile of paper over to your cutting area.
If you're cutting method can handle multiple pages, consider it. If you try to cut too many at once, you will have issues and possibly ruin a printout. The recommendation for your cutting board may be way too high if you're using heavy or card stock. Be careful. If in doubt, try some test cuts out on stock you used just for test prints or perhaps haven't printed anything on.
Set your widthwise trim. For me, this was 26.4cm which I was cutting off of the left side, when looking down at the a-side.
Now trim the widthwise border, stacking each item up carefully into the groups of three.
Set your lengthwise trim. For me, this was 20.4cm which I was cutting off of the top side.. I rotated the sheet counter-clockwise so I was cutting the left side off. This is also when looking at the a-side.
Now trim the lengthwise border, stacking each item up carefully into the groups of three.
Set your flash card size trim. I made these cards to about 6.5-6.7cm square. I was able to set my cutter at 6.7cm and be reasonably happy about how things turned out.
The method I detail is not as exact as it could be, and some items will be off-center. It's possible to change the cutting method and be more exact, but it will take a huge amount of additional time.. perhaps double or more.
Important: Hand-cut every page individually at this point, no matter how confident you may be. It's easy to completely screw up and shuffle cards around, ruining your pace.
For each page, feed them in lengthwise, performing your three cuts. Like so:
.-- cut here v .---------------. : : : : : : : : : `---------------`
Set side the column-of-three that you just separated. Take the remaining sheet and cut again.
.-- cut here v ------------. : : : : : : : : : ------------`
Once last time.
.-- cut here v --------. : : : : : : : : : --------`
Now you have four columns of paper. Each one has three items on it.
For each item, you can feed it in and make cuts just like you did the large sheet.
.-- cut here v .-----------. : : : `-----------'
.-- cut here v --------. : : : --------'
You've finished cutting one page, and now you have a little stack of 12 ready-to-use flash cards. Take that pile and sort it into its correct pile:
- a-chinese / b-english
- a-chinese / b-pinyin
a-pinyin / b-english
I highly recommend using a tupperware-type container or even a bowl. You don't want a bump to send a stack of cards sliding down or flying away.
Since my method at this point doesn't require changing the cutting settings at all, you can take a break after any set of three pages. I did my cutting over a number of days.
I may have completely screwed up, help! ∞
Mistakes may happen. Perhaps I messed up some characters so they're printing on the wrong back sides of a card. Perhaps some translations may be awkward or completely wrong.
If you find something which can be improved, and Chinese is still listed as a current interest (see the right-hand side of this blog), then Contact Me and I can make adjustments. You'll need to back up translation claims, I'm not going to listen to "my uncle says.." bullshit. Cite a dictionary. I was using https://www.mdbg.net/chinese/dictionary for most things.
I also made some simplifications to the translations to emphasize themes.
I also do realize that Chinese characters are not always words by themselves. For example, many words are created by pairing characters. This really does make translating flash cards like this completely stupid, but it's a start to help memorize all the squiggles.
Flash card containers ∞
Aside from a couple of elastics, tupperware or a re-used food container, I found that regular printer paper origami boxes works extremely well.
I'm not into origami, and I was able to figure things out easily enough. Give it a try, and you'll be able to make a box just the right size for your cards. I recommend you use an elastic to keep your box closed.
I ended up making six boxes.
For each of the three sets:
- A loose pile of stuff I'm working on every day.
- A box with any well-known cards.
A box with any completely-unreviewed cards.
So yes, I have a few neat little stacks of flash cards. This affair took a lot of work, and so I like that the presentation is nice too.
I release the flash card files into the public domain.
Because it's fucking language, people.
However, my text / this web page is not public domain.
Some thoughts ∞
Feel free to package these alongside your own for-pay stuff. If you decide to charge money for these, you're only competing with me and my completely free release. Anyone who searches for "free Chinese flash cards" or "HSK1 flash cards" will probably find me.
Providing these pre-printed and laminated and charging for that sounds like a good idea. I won't do this myself, so there's a little business opportunity for someone..
I would appreciate attribution. A simple reference to "spiralofhope" or a link to spiralofhope.com will do.
I may have made horrible mistakes that I haven't found yet. I'll be updating these as-needed. If you try to take credit for something that you really didn't do, you're going to look like an idiot for mistakes that someone else made.
The files ∞
You can also download them individually:
|NOTE - You will need to right-click and 'save as'.|
- 01 - English - b
- 01 - pinyin - a
- 01 - pinyin - b
- 01 - 〇一二三四五六七八九十人 - a
- 02 - English - b
- 02 - pinyin - a
- 02 - pinyin - b
- 02 - 上下不东个中么习书买了些 - a
- 03 - English - b
- 03 - pinyin - a
- 03 - pinyin - b
- 03 - 京亮什今他们会住作你候做 - a
- 04 - English - b
- 04 - pinyin - a
- 04 - pinyin - b
- 04 - 儿先关兴再写冷几出分前北 - a
- 05 - English - b
- 05 - pinyin - a
- 05 - pinyin - b
- 05 - 医午去友叫吃同名后吗听呢 - a
- 06 - English - b
- 06 - pinyin - a
- 06 - pinyin - b
- 06 - 和哪商喂喜喝回国在坐块多 - a
- 07 - English - b
- 07 - pinyin - a
- 07 - pinyin - b
- 07 - 大天太女她好妈姐子字学客 - a
- 08 - English - b
- 08 - pinyin - a
- 08 - pinyin - b
- 08 - 家对小少岁工师年店开影很 - a
- 09 - English - b
- 09 - pinyin - a
- 09 - pinyin - b
- 09 - 怎想我打日时明星昨是月有 - a
- 10 - English - b
- 10 - pinyin - a
- 10 - pinyin - b
- 10 - 朋服期本机来杯果校样桌椅 - a
- 11 - English - b
- 11 - pinyin - a
- 11 - pinyin - b
- 11 - 欢气水汉没漂火点热爱爸狗 - a
- 12 - English - b
- 12 - pinyin - a
- 12 - pinyin - b
- 12 - 猫现生电的看睡租站米系老 - a
- 13 - English - b
- 13 - pinyin - a
- 13 - pinyin - b
- 13 - 能脑苹茶菜衣西见视觉认识 - a
- 14 - English - b
- 14 - pinyin - a
- 14 - pinyin - b
- 14 - 话语说请读谁谢起车这那都 - a
- 15 - English - b
- 15 - pinyin - a
- 15 - pinyin - b