Introducing the AllSet Learning Chinese Grammar Wiki

AllSet Learning has just made its Chinese Grammar Wiki project publicly available. It’s been accessible to clients in Shanghai for some time, but now we’re proud to share it with the rest of the Chinese-learning world as well.

Why a Grammar Wiki?

Web-savvy learners of Chinese have known for some time that there’s no single comprehensive grammar resource for Chinese grammar on the entire internet. Sure, there are some very helpful pages out there, but they’re not comprehensive or interlinked, or at least not publicly available.

We initially created the wiki to scratch our own itch. AllSet Learning provides highly personalized study plans for its clients, making use of a variety of materials, often including such disparate sources as ChinesePod lessons, textbooks, magazines, online articles, blog posts, and Weibo posts. While offering a variety of materials is great for keeping learners interests high, it does create a problem for tracking progress. How can we keep straight what our clients have studied, and what they still need to study?

The Chinese Grammar Wiki is our solution to the grammar part of this issue. Tracking client progress in grammar started with static lists of grammar points, and gradually involved into the current Chinese Grammar Wiki. We tried a number of approaches, but realized that the ideal solution needs to be online, easily edited, easily expanded, and heavily interlinked. Wikipedia was the obvious model for such a resource, and the Chinee Grammar Wiki is powered by MediaWiki, the same software that powers Wikipedia.

Organization of the Chinese Grammar Wiki

As much as possible, we’ve tried to follow the principles laid down by the Wikipedia editing team. These rules are well thought-out and debated, and also nicely documented online. Because the Chinese Grammar Wiki is much narrower in scope than Wikipedia, however, it has also implemented the following principles:

  1. Organized by Level. The Chinese Grammar Wiki was designed to be useful to learners of all levels, but with special consideration for the beginner. A beginner has special needs. Pointing him to a huge list of all Chinese measure words, for example, probably isn’t the best way to introduce the concept. It’s better to start with a smaller, usable grammar point and build from there. The Chinese Grammar Wiki organizes grammar points by level, and then also ties them all together with lots of links.
  2. Organized by Book. AllSet Learning has built up a decent library of Chinese textbooks and grammar books. These are the books cited as references when editing the wiki. Where possible, we’ve also tried to link textbooks’ contents back into the Chinese Grammar Wiki content. This makes it easier for an owner of a book to expand upon his book’s explanations by jumping right into our wiki’s relevant articles.
  3. Always Referenced. By always citing the sources our editors use, we’re not only adhering to standard academic practices; we’re also doing our part to publicize the most essential books on Chinese grammar, such as Mandarin Chinese: A Functional Reference Grammar and Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar: A Practical Guide. It may be the Internet Age, but there’s no denying that most of the most useful information on Chinese grammar is still to be found printed on dead trees.

Current Issues

We don’t mean to pretend that a project of this magnitude has already been fully completed by our modest team. The Chinese Grammar Wiki is still very much a work in progress, but it is now complete enough to be useful to learners all over the world.

There are a few issues which we should point out to new users of the wiki:

  1. No Anonymous Editing. We’re a small team with limited resources, so we can’t spend a lot of time managing new users, fighting spam, or monitoring quality. The Chinese Grammar Wiki is not just a pet project created for fun; it’s already being used on a daily basis in AllSet Learning clients’ studies. We invite interested potential editors to contact us, but there’s no automatic approval.
  2. No Universal Pinyin and Translations. This was a very tough call to make, but in order to accelerate the creation of the wiki content, we have decided not to manually add pinyin or English translations to the many words and sample sentences contained within the wiki. This is not only because it’s a time-consuming process; it’s also because there are now free browser extensions and free tools like Google Translate which make the burden of manually editing pinyin and translations largely unnecessary. Please view the wiki’s Tools page to install free browser extensions which provide pinyin, translations, and even conversion to traditional characters.
  3. Search not yet optimized. The more content the wiki contains, the more important a powerful search function will be. The Chinese Grammar Wiki is currently using MediaWiki’s default search engine, but there are plans to improve it through extensions. In the meantime, we’re still working on article content.
  4. Many articles are still unwritten. Part of the beauty of a wiki is that it’s infinitely editable, always expandable. While we’ve already got 500 articles in the wiki, there are still many yet to be created. Furthermore, many of the articles are still rather minimal. We know there’s more work left to do, and we’re committed to getting it done. If you’d like to help, that’s great too!

Thank You!

We at AllSet Learning would especially like to thank our interns Lucas, Hugh, Greg, and Jonathan, whose many hours of hard work helped make this project possible. We also welcome anyone interested in helping to contact us about becoming an editor.

Finally, we’re very grateful to all of you out there who take the time to explore the wiki. It would mean a lot to us if you could:

  1. Help us spread word of the Chinese Grammar Wiki by linking to it on your blog or website
  2. Like us or share our news on Facebook
  3. Retweet our news or follow us on Twitter

Happy Year of the Dragon!