anki cards: DIY karaoke

So.  I was just about to write this post, and happened to pop over to the land of AJATT quickly beforehand… and I find that the post is sitting there, written.  Grr.  Reckon I’ll give my take on the subject anyway though, since it’s ever so slightly different.

Firstly though, I have a (really quite embarrassing) confession to make.  One of the things I’ve always really wanted to do was sing along to Cantonese songs, especially whilst walking along in the street.  Why?  Probably a lot to do with wanting to show off – let’s face it, speaking another language is a supercalifragilistic-cool thing to be able to do.  Anyway, as a way of turning my (frankly pathetic) dream into reality, I’ve recently been splitting up songs using Audacity for use in Anki.  This has all the same benefits as taking audio samples and sentences off of CantoDict (reading, listening, pronunciation); plus, it’s great fun 🙂

It’s really easy – just open an mp3 in Audacity, highlight a line or two of the song (it’ll be that cool kinda soundwavey stuff) and copy-and-paste it into a new file.  It’s not especially nice to listen to in this form – it jars if you play it.  To smooth it out a little, select the first second or so (in that new file) and use the fade in plugin; use the fade-out plugin on the last second, too.  Save as an mp3 in your deck’s media folder[1], and Bob’s your uncle[2].

Then, in Anki, create a new card, using the audio.  It’s best to have the lyrics so we know what we’re singing; it’s quite easy to find lyrics for songs online, the name of the song plus “lyrics” usually does the trick.  Enter the lyrics in the “expression” field – if you’re doing Cantonese songs, the Jyutping should be generated.  My cards are set up so that the audio, Jyutping and Chinese characters all form the question; the task is just to sing along!  The answer field includes some very brief notes on any new words.  Couple of screencasts of this in action below (click to enlarge):

There are a few notes on this – for Cantonese learners, download the Cantofish Firefox addon – you can mouse over Chinese words, and it’ll tell you the Cantonese pronunciations.  This makes picking the correct Jyutping easier.  (If you’re learning Japanese, use Rikaichan, and if you’re learning Mandarin then use Perapera-kun.  Incidentally, if you’re not already using Firefox, it would be a good idea to so that you can use all those great plugins :))

Secondly, there’s an Anki plugin called “Learn Mode” – I highly recommend it for this kind of learning.  It lets you take a batch of cards to learn and fiddles the scheduling algorithm so it works on the order of seconds (as opposed to days).  Lets you learn the lyrics pretty fast if you didn’t already know them.

Thirdly… it’s probably a good idea just to start off with choruses.  It takes less work that way, and you get more of a chance to practice them anyway when listening to songs.  If you’re wondering how long it takes, it took about five or six minutes to splice and enter into Anki  all of 夢中人 by Faye Wong, a song with about seven different lines.  Not hugely time consuming, and (I think) worthwhile.

Songs are especially useful to SRS, since you can usually find lyrics for them (i.e. a transcription); also, I’ve found that I don’t mind spending more time trying to get them right than other types of cards, so it’s good from that point of view.  Fun fun fun!

Anyway, hope that’s clear – if not, or if you have any problems, suggestions or accusations of plagiarism, please leave a comment!

[1] Just recycling this – the media folder might be hidden – if (in Anki) you go File>Open, it’ll show you where it’s stored.

[2] Another strange idiom. Who is Bob? Why, upon completion of some task is he suddenly absorbed into my extended family? An extra person to have to send Christmas cards to?! No thanks.


6 thoughts on “anki cards: DIY karaoke

  1. Pingback: How To Learn Cantonese « thousand mile journey

  2. Pingback: Spotify fo’ Cantonese « Thousand Mile Journey

  3. Hey Eldon,
    Cool approach. I sometimes do a similar thing when I’m learning a saxophone solo, break it up into small pieces and slow it down if I need to. Seems like the anki cards themselves are better suited to language though!


  4. Hey Neal,

    Sadly it does seem to be the case that flashcards are not well suited to music learning (there are numerous impracticalities) but (as you say) it doesn’t mean you can’t apply the same kind of ideas to music practice!

    – E

  5. Pingback: DIY Karaoke, Vol. 2 – and L2IR « Thousand Mile Journey

  6. Pingback: F**k Pinyin, or: WILL YOU TURN OFF THAT RACKET?! « Thousand Mile Journey

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