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This chapter describes Wenlin’s electronic flashcards. Wenlin has two kinds of flashcards: “classic character flashcards” and “flexible flashcards.”


Flashcards have long been used by students of all languages. They are an effective way to learn new vocabulary.

Ordinary flashcards are paper cards with information written on both sides. A Chinese flashcard, for example, might have a Chinese character on one side, and the pronunciation and English translation on the other. To use a card, you first look at the character and then try to remember the pronunciation and meaning. Then, you turn the card over to see the correct answer. Of course, you can use the card in the opposite direction, and try to write or visualize the character given its pronunciation and translation. Paper flashcards are great (we recommend them)—but they are also limited. Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the stroke count, the full and simple forms, and some examples of common phrases that contain the character? You could always custom make a set of cards and optimize the information to suit your needs, but it would be a lot of trouble. Moreover, it’s not clear how best to organize the information on a single card, let alone organize hundreds or even thousands of cards for a long term study plan. How would you manage periodic reviews? Paper cards are isolated from each other, and there is no convenient linkage between the cards, your textbook and your dictionary.

With Wenlin’s electronic flashcards, a session takes place in the full context of Wenlin, so you have constant and simultaneous access to all the other features. While in the middle of a session you can delve into the dictionaries, request lists, conduct searches for examples, listen to sounds, read some text or even write a letter. Wenlin’s electronic flashcards are easy to produce, organize and maintain. You specify the characters you want to study, and Wenlin automatically generates the questions. After you answer the questions correctly, you can add new characters to your list of characters to study.

In the beginning, Wenlin will ask you about a particular character quite often, but as you begin to master the character, these periodic reviews will become less and less frequent. Instead, Wenlin will concentrate on the characters most recently added. Once you add a character to your study record, it stays there forever. Flashcards can be used in concert with the rankings of the 3,000 most commonly used characters. For example, you can start from the very beginning by learning the most common characters first, gradually progressing to the less common and (possibly) more difficult ones. Here you would be mastering all the characters in a rational order. At all times, you will be confident of your progress because you will have an exact measure of where you are and how you are doing. Of course, if you or your teacher want to concentrate on the characters given in a particular textbook, you can proceed that way. Wenlin is flexible—you only include the characters you are interested in.

We hope that you enjoy Wenlin’s flashcard system. With a built-in system of rewards (you even specify the type of “payment”), and no penalties for answering incorrectly (indeed, you can even cheat!), you may find it a helpful tool for learning Chinese.

Before You Use Flashcards

Before you use flashcards, you should be fairly familiar with Wenlin’s other main capabilities, such as writing Chinese characters, and looking up vocabulary. To emphasize this, we’ve delayed introducing flashcards until Chapter 13. If you haven’t tried creating a new document and making a list of the vocabulary you’re currently studying, we recommend that you do so before starting flashcards.

Also, if you’ll be using your own computer exclusively, it’s a good idea to install Wenlin on the hard drive, so there will be a Wenlin folder in which to keep your flashcard file (choose Install from the File menu; Appendix C gives installation instructions). Otherwise, if you’ll be using different computers, or a non-personal computer, you might want to keep your flashcard file on a removable diskette.

Classic Character Flashcards and Flexible Flashcards

What's the difference between “classic character flashcards” and “flexible flashcards,” and which kind should you use?

Classic character flashcards have existed since Wenlin version 1.0. Their main limitation is that they're made for memorizing single Chinese characters only, not general words, phrases, questions, etc. They're easy to use and are still fully supported in Wenlin 4.

Flexible flashcards are new in Wenlin version 4.0. You can use them for memorizing Chinese characters, words, and phrases; English words and phrases; and quizzing on practically any question you can think of (with composed answer or multiple-choice).

You might prefer flexible flashcards since they provide more flexibility. Then again, you might still prefer using the classic character flashcards, especially if you already used them in an earlier version of Wenlin, or if you're happy using flashcards for studying single characters only. There are various differences in how the two kinds of flashcards behave, and we're not sure which you'll like better, so we suggest that you give both a try. You might like to use both.

This chapter first describes classic character flashcards, then flexible flashcards (sections 13.x thru ...?).

Creating a New Classic Character Flashcard File

The first time you use flashcards, you need to create a new flashcard file in your own name. Follow these steps:

Choose Flashcards from the File menu

A window opens:

Press the triangle button labeled: ▷create a new classic character flashcard file (*.wenlinfc)

A dialog box appears prompting you for your name

Type your name (or a pseudonym) in the dialog box

Choose OK

A new dialog box appears that asks how you wish to keep score

Type in something that you want a lot of, or accept the default

Choose OK

Next you’ll see a dialog box for saving your flashcard file. This is your opportunity to decide where to store your flashcard information. What difference does it make? To use your flashcard file again in the future, you might need to know where it is. If you’re using a computer at school, for example, you might want to save your flashcard information on a removable diskette, so that nobody else can erase it, or so that you can use it on a different computer.

An ordinary Save As dialog box lets you specify the disk, the folder, and the file name. The name must end with .wenlinfc or .wfc (which both stand for “Wenlin Flash Card”). (We recommend .wenlinfc, since .wfc is also used by other programs, to mean “Windows Wireless Network settings file,” “Wink Flash Control Bar,” “War FTP client file,” etc.)

If Wenlin (or the operating system) complains that “The disk is read-only,” you must specify a different disk. (A CD-ROM is read-only.)

As soon as you specify the name and location for your flashcard file, Wenlin begins the flashcard session. A window opens (whose title is the name you entered) with these introductory remarks and choices:

To get started, you must add new characters to your record. Wenlin always suggest that you begin with the first eight characters in a file called NewHanzi. You can add these characters, or any other characters. To see the NewHanzi file, press the button labeled ▷NewHanzi. To see a list of the 3,000 most common characters press the button labeled ▷MostUsed.

Adding New Characters to Classic Character Flashcards

You can add new characters at the beginning of each flashcard cycle. To add new characters:

Press the button labeled ▷add new characters

A dialog box appears

Place characters into the box

You can use the Grabber to Grab the characters that Wenlin suggests or any other characters from anywhere on the screen. If the dialog box is in the way, drag its upper frame and move it elsewhere. You can also use the Convert command, or the Paste command to place characters in the box.

Choose OK

You don’t have to add the new characters all at once. You can press the ▷add new characters button, add one or two characters and choose OK, then make one or more characters visible, press the ▷add new characters button, add those characters and choose OK, and so forth, until you have added between 8 and 12 characters. You can’t add more than 12 characters per cycle, but you can quickly go through the first cycle and then add more characters.

When you’re done adding characters, press the ▷begin new cycle button.

A Classic Character Flashcard Cycle

A complete flashcard cycle consists of four phases. In each phase, you are asked a different type of question. There aren’t any dire consequences to answering incorrectly! Wenlin simply beeps and repeats the question later. When you have answered all the questions correctly, you can proceed to the next phase.

Phase One

In phase one, you are shown the top line of a character’s dictionary entry, with the character itself replaced by ???, and you are asked to identify the correct character from a list of multiple choices. For example:

Make your choice by clicking on a triangle, or by typing a number. You are free to “cheat” at any time by pointing to a character (if the Instant Lookup option is on) or clicking on a character with the hand tool.

When you choose the right answer, ??? is replaced by the character. Also, a sound recording of the character’s pronunciation is played (if the sound files are present), unless Quiet has been turned on in the Options menu.

Phase Two

In phase two, Wenlin shows you the character, and asks you what it is. For example:


After thinking about it (you may want to vocalize or sub-vocalize the answer), press the spacebar or click on the button ▷continue:spacebar. Wenlin then displays the dictionary entry of the character, and asks whether you remembered correctly. Press one of the buttons ▷Yes or ▷No, or type the corresponding letter, ‘y’ or ‘n’.

At the same time that the entry is displayed, a sound recording of the pronunciation is played, unless Quiet has been turned on in the Options menu.

Here is a suggestion: if you have trouble trying to recognize the character or recall its exact pronunciation or meaning, don’t spend too much time or make yourself anxious by struggling to remember it. Instead, go ahead and select “continue”, then take your time to study the character’s definition, and select “No” — then the same character will come up again soon afterwards and you will probably succeed in recognizing it.

Phase Three

In phase three, the character’s pronunciation is omitted from the top line of its dictionary entry, and you are asked to identify the correct pronunciation from a list of choices. Sometimes, but not always, the only difference between choices is the tone. For example:

Keep in mind that you can click on any syllable with the 口 mouth tool to hear it pronounced.

The sound file is played when you click on the correct answer (unless Quiet is specified).

Phase Four

In phase four, you are shown the top line of a character’s dictionary entry, with the character replaced by ???, and you are asked to write the character. You can write it in your mind, in the air, on a piece of paper, or using the 筆/笔 brush tool. You might want to count the strokes as you do so. You are then shown the character, and given the option of seeing it written stroke-by-stroke in the stroking box.

When you finish with phase four, the cycle ends. Before you begin the next cycle, you have the opportunity to add more characters if you want to. Or, if you just want to review, you can begin the next cycle without adding any more characters.

Exiting Classic Character Flashcards

You can exit flashcards at any time, by closing the flashcard window that bears your name. Wenlin keeps track of where you left off and will resume at the same place when you start a new session. There is no need to Save your flashcard information: it is saved automatically while you’re using it. Remember, flashcards are not timed or monitored; they are an independent feature in Wenlin. Feel free to take a break, read, write, print, listen to sounds or do anything else during a flashcard session.

Starting Another Session of Classic Character Flashcards

To start another flashcard session, continuing where you left off in the previous session:

Choose Flashcards from the File menu

Click on this button:

▷open a flashcard file which you have already created

Choose the flashcard file with your name

You will be asked to confirm your identity by a dialog box asking “Are you so-and-so?” Don’t use somebody else’s flashcard file! That would only result in confusion for both of you.

If you had previously left the flashcards in the middle of a cycle, Wenlin resumes where you left off. Otherwise, it starts at the beginning of a new cycle and you can add additional characters or just review the same characters. (Whether or not you add new characters at the beginning of a cycle, earlier characters are always brought back for occasional periodic review.)

Your Classic Character Flashcard Record

When you have your flashcard window open, when you click on any character, down near the bottom of all the text and buttons in the character’s dictionary entry window, there is a triangle button like this:

▷see flashcard record for 字

If you click on the triangle, you can see your score for that character, and the date and time when that character most recently appeared in your flashcard questions. If you already have a score, you have the option of editing the score—thus you can assert the supremacy of human beings over machines! The score is a number between 0 and 100, measured in “points” or “dollars” or “flowers” etc. (whatever you specify). If you don’t have a score for that character yet, you have the opportunity to add it to your soon list by clicking on another button. Adding a character to your soon list means that you’d like to make it one of your new flashcard characters when you start the next cycle.

Once you have added a character to your flashcard file, it stays there forever. You can’t remove it, but if you want to stop reviewing it, you can “put it on hold” by clicking on a button like this:

▷put 字 on hold (prevent 字 from appearing in the flashcards)

that appears when you have clicked on ▷see flashcard record for 字.

Your total flashcard score is always simply the sum of your scores for all the characters you’ve quizzed on. The score is shown following a triangle button, like this:

▷score: 3456 points

By clicking on the ▷score button, you can see all the characters in your record, categorized by their scores, along with buttons for changing your name or scoring method, and a description of the name and location of your flashcard file.

Interpretation of Your Classic Character Flashcard Score

Your flashcard score is intended to provide you with feedback on your rate of progress, and help add some fun to your memorizing. The score is for your own enlightenment only. It would be a mistake to use it for “serious” purposes. Teachers are advised that using flashcard scores for student evaluation would be a violation of the software license.

If you score 100 points for each of 10,000 characters, you’ll have a million points! But don’t forget to eat, sleep, exercise, etc.

Creating a New Flexible Flashcard File

Adding Cards to Flexible Flashcards

Exiting Flexible Flashcards

Starting Another Session of Flexible Flashcards

Your Flexible Flashcard Record

Interpretation of Your Flexible Flashcard Score


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