I Had an Epic Dicussion About Sentence Mining With Three Chinese Learning Buddies on My Podcast & I've Never Felt More Inspired! (Listen Here...)

I recently wrote a guide to sentence mining for my blog and on my latest podcast episode I invited a few of my Chinese learning friends – Karl, Ryan and Jorge – to share their approaches and discuss how the technique has helped them. Check it out here and let me knw your thoughts! What’s the Big Deal About Sentence Mining? (Podcast) – I'm Learning Mandarin

Great to hear that you feel inspired, and I have no doubt that you will be able to switch your podcast to Mandarin, you are clearly very dedicated.
One question though, what is on the other side of your sentence flashcards? Jorge seems to have used translations / bilingual material as basis. But some people caution against using translations and advocate keeping everything monolingual.
Your description seems to indicate an approach more similar to Steve Kaufmann’s; who advocates just exposing yourself to the material. That would mean nothing on the other side of the card?
I’m not a flashcard user, just curious (also I have recently pondered if I should switch my dictionary language to Chinese…)

Good question! I usually include closed deletions. So on the front of the card I include the sentence with a couple of key words deleted. Then on the back I have the full sentence. So this forces my brain to fill in the blanks and pay attention to the sentence structure. For example:

Front: 你被人胁[ ]吗?

Back: 你被人胁迫了吗?


Do you think they are a must to have in your language studies? It takes a lot of time to add them in Anki and then review them. Is there any way for you to track the ratio I mean how many are you able to retain and use them in an actual conversation spontaneously? Time is a crucial factor. For example spending 1 hour on adding sentences vs listening to an audiobook for an hour/reading a compelling book for an hour?

Your thoughts please.

While I do agree we will need to be mindful of how we use our time, and will always advocate for not investing too much into things that are not valuable, at least some time is just kind of the nature of deliberate practice.

I have said before, if I could just buy a pre-made Anki deck with relevant collocations, sentences, etc., I would, but I actually find there is a lot of value in taking notes ourselves. In many cases it is the fact that I took note of something, said “this is important”, is the reason that I can remember it later.

My shortcut of using Morphman + ANKI and subs2srs has actually worked pretty well. I just bury, mark as leech, etc., sentences that are not valuable. I actually don’t even check the translation side of the card usually when the front is TL. It becomes a matter of, did I notice what I wanted to with this card? Be it a preposition, collocation, case, etc.

This does mean that I end up making probably 99 cards for every one that is useful. But when I can make 5.000 to 100,000 from a TV series in 10 minutes (depending on the number of seasons), the few seconds reading each that isn’t valuable is actually pretty easy. Morphman is also great to bury the cards by default.



Can you share the link where you described step by step process? I think I will give it a try. Thanks in advance.

I found the links.

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I personally think flashcards are a must. Perhaps I have extremely bad memory (middle aged & occasional pot smoker hahaha), but there is a lot of vocab that needs to be memorized in order to enjoy native content without looking up a word every sentence. But if one is only interested in basic conversations, you can probably avoid it.

And it shouldn’t take an hour to add sentences (daily review time is up to the learner’s pain tolerance). There are lots of add ons for various languages, so you should be able to copy a word into Anki, get a definition, add text to speech and make a card within 10 secs. Plus, there are cool tools like migaku, subs2srs and morphman to make it even easier.

For me, I’ve been my deck has been a mix of +1 sentences mined from books / media / premade decks and hanzi only cards to really learn the characters. Personally, I loathe cloze sentences because they take to long to review and I’m up to adding >30 cards a day and >250 reviews. But they are probably more effective?

Lately, I’ve been adding single vocab only cards. I find that the sentence cards were helpful in the beginning, but the harder, less frequent vocab that keeps popping up in my reading I’m really trying to drill in since I’m sick of looking them up haha.


Yes you found the links :).

@asad100101 It depends what your goal is. If you want to speak well, with correct sentence structure, then I have found Anki very useful. I think some sort of system for drilling whole sentences is a must. Here is another method I used which doesn’t use Anki and which is also great for pronunciation. Struggling to Speak Authentic Chinese? This Method Will Help Master Mandarin Grammar – I'm Learning Mandarin

PS I don’t spend a huge amount of time using Anki. I find 30 minutes a day is enough for me - though I have good comprehension skills already and my main purpose for using Anki is to learn to speak well with good sentence structure. Adding sentences takes barely any time at all.