Today I have the great privilege of being able to introduce a renewed feature of Bunpro. Hints!
One of the biggest ongoing pain points over the last few years for users has been the dreaded ‘synonym hell’, where perhaps 10 different correct answers could work in any review, and the guessing game that results from this becomes a massive time sink.
What we have come up with aims not only to make synonym hell a thing of the past, but also to actually reinforce positive habits with each review. Let’s have a look at how and why we think it will work.
Overview of the system
In the past, the hint system has always given users a rough idea of what is required with things like ‘try something more polite’, or ‘seems like’. However, with the pool of potentially ‘more polite’ grammar points, or structures that could mean ‘seems like’ being quite large, this just led to frustration.
Now, we have written 1 unique hint for each grammar point on the website, which gives enough information to understand what is required. Moreover, this unique hint will not only appear in the nuance section of whatever is being reviewed, but will also be triggered when an incorrect or undesired grammar point is used, reinforcing the difference between grammar point (A) and (B).
Example - Let’s say that you are reviewing のように. Perhaps in a sentence like the following:
In this case, the following information will appear in the nuance section:
Nuance : A slightly formal expression that highlights that (B) is being done in the manner, or like (A).
From the use of ‘slightly formal’ and ‘manner’, you will be able to determine that this is a grammar point that uses よう. However, if みたいに is used, then the following hint will appear:
Hint : みたいに is a somewhat casual expression that confidently highlights the way something looks, or is acting.
Seeing both the nuance and the hint on the screen at the same time will allow you to compare and contrast the nuance differences in real time, hopefully leading to a higher success rate in the future.
As another example, if the review was for かえって, and むしろ is mistakenly used, the following would appear:
Nuance : A word used to express that rather than (A), (B). Can be seen as revoking or taking back the initial (A), due to (B) being more correct.
Hint : むしろ is a phrase used to say rather than (A), (B), often with the nuance that (B) is preferable.
Why we think this will work
With every grammar point now having its own unique nuance made clear each time it is being reviewed, this has allowed us to focus on using sets of key words that are repeated on each different grammar point that use the same structure. For example, all grammar points that use よう will have ‘manner’ in the hint, all grammar points that use う・よう will have ‘strong intent or mutual actions’ in the hint, all grammar points that use あまり will have ‘excessive’ in the hint.
We hope that and intend for users to become familiar with these word choice patterns over time, as we feel that memorization of these key words will help strengthen the understanding of core nuances within the grammar points.
What about hints for things like different politeness levels
Now that each grammar point has it’s own unique hint, this will also allow us to make a set of standard hints directed specifically at things like missing particles, politeness levels, etc etc. If you use the correct grammar point, but we are looking for the polite form, ‘Let’s try a more polite variation’ will appear. Specifically because each grammar point has its own hint, this will let the user know straight away that they are using the correct grammar point already, and just need to change its form, rather than misleading them that they need a different, more polite grammar point.
How will this system evolve in the future
Due to all of the new nuance based hints being stored in a local database, this will allow us to continue to polish them based on user feedback, until we eventually hit the perfect balance of what a hint should be, without making things too easy, or too hard.
Japanese translations - Although we have not started on this yet, the database of nuance based hints will also allow us to translate them into Japanese and other languages in future, allowing for a far more immersive experience for those that want it.
Currently, all of the direct hints are already live in the nuance section of the study questions. Over the coming weeks we will be continuing to add in the extra hints for when undesired or incorrect grammar points are used. In addition to this, we will also be continuing to add underlining on key words within the nuances, to increase clarity about which words are the ‘crucial’ part of the hint, such as here:
We hope that this is a change that will continue to evolve in a positive manner until ‘synonym hell’ is a distant memory in the abyss of our collective memories .
Please feel free to leave any and all feedback, and we hope that you all enjoy the new nuances and how they will act to positively reinforce your knowledge of differences between similar structures, and more literal meanings of some more obscure grammar points!
Hope you all are having a lovely weekend!