Learning to read Chinese and Vietnamese Menus

 Mandarin and Vietnamese food word decks now available on ANKI

One of the ways you can enhance your food experiences as an independent traveler is learning to read the names of dishes on foreign menus. Just imagine being able to go into any restaurant or snack shop and picking out what you want to eat. You will no longer be limited to tourist restaurants that have English menus.

Learning to recognize menu items isn’t as difficult as it first might appear. Recognition of a word, or passive learning, is far easier than the production of word, or active learning. For example recognizing that 牛肉 is beef in Chinese is easier than producing牛肉 from the English cue ”beef” . Second, you only have to learn 100-200 items to have a vocabulary broad enough to handle most menus. You could get away with far fewer by picking out the types of things you want to eat and learning only those. No sense in learning something you are not going to use.

Using flashcards is the best way to learn this type of information. Using a computerized flashcard system, such as ANKI, that keeps track of your cards and the learning process is an even more efficient way of studying. By starting with just ten items and reviewing a few minutes each day, you can build your vocabulary base over time. In a couple of weeks you will be ordering that first bowl of beef noodles.

ANKI was developed by an Australian to help him learn Japanese, but it can be downloaded free of charge and used to learn anything that can be written on a flashcard. It uses a spaced repetition system of learning that gradually increases the time interval at which you review learned material. For example, when you answer a question correctly ANKI will show that card again the next day. If on day two you get it right again, it won’t show it again until day four. If on day four you still remember the information, it will wait until day eight to display the card again, and so on. With each right answer the time interval is doubled. This allows you to spend more time learning the information you don’t know and less time is wasted reviewing material you remember easily. Also included on the website are tutorials on what ANKI is and how to use it as well as access to sets of flashcards or decks that other users have uploaded to the site.

To use the Mandarin and Vietnamese food word decks that I uploaded to the shared decks, first go to the website and follow the instructions to download ANKI. Next in ANKI under file/download/shared decks, search for “Vietnamese food words” or “Mandarin food words” and download the deck to your computer. You can then add or delete cards to suit what you want to learn.

Try it and let me know how it goes.