Creating a new word list

How to create a new word list to use with SpeakGoodChinese.

Creating a word list

Word lists can be created by any text editor that can produce plain text files (.txt) and by spreadsheet or database programs that can export to tab-separated-value (.tsv) tables.

Very simple word lists

The easiest and simplest way to create a word list is to create a pure text file (.txt, or DOS file). The file should have the name of the word list and the extention should be .txt. Each line should countain a single pinyin word.

Example: SGC2example1.txt


Simple word lists with characters and translations

Characters and translations can be added to the simple, text based word list descibed above. Again, create a pure text (.txt, or DOS file) file with the .txt extention. Each line should start with a pinyin word. Next, follow the pinyin by a tab or ';' character and the characters that correspond to the pinyin, again a tab or ';' character and the translation in free text. Translations can be in any language. For instance, 吃 can be entered as to eat, कालो, 食べる, ჭამა or any other transcription in UTF8.

Example: SGC2example2.txt

chi1;吃;to eat
ta1;他;he, she, it
huan1ying2;欢迎;to welcome
duo1shao3;多少;how many

Audio files can be added in the same manner. Just add an item with the extention of an audio file to the line (between tabs or ';' characters). For instance, chi1.mp3 will be interpreted as an audio example.

These simple word lists do not contain information about the order and nature of the items. There can be errors in distinguishing characters, translations, and audio examples.

Word list tables

Simple word lists based on text files can lead to errors in the values of the items. Large lists with both characters and translations should be constructed as tab-separated-values (.tsv) tables. These can be exported (Save as) from a spreadsheet or database program. The file extention of such a file should be .Table or .tsv.

A SpeakGoodChinese wordlist table is a tab-separated-values table that starts with a header line which contains the column headers Pinyin, Character, Sound, Translation. Then the column values are written on a line with tabs separating them.

Example: SGC2example3.tsv

Pinyin Character Sound Translation
chi1 吃 - to eat
ta1 他 - he, she, it
jin1tian1 今天 - today
can1ting1 餐厅 - restaurant
huan1ying2 欢迎 - to welcome
zhong1guo2 中国 - China
duo1shao3 多少 - how many
zhi3you3 只有 - only

Word lists with associated audio files

These word list distributions are simple ZIP files with the name <list name>.sgc. They contain a list of all the words in pinyin with the name wordlist.txt or wordlist.Table, as discussed above. Except that the name of the word list file itself should be either wordlist.txt or wordlist.Table. Other names are not allowed. The sound files should be named <pinyin word>.ext, where <pinyin word> is the pinyin transcription, eg, sheng1zi4, and .ext the sound extension type (eg, .wav). Note that SpeakGoodChinese uses Praat to process the sound files. So only those sound files recognized by Praat can be used (see Praat: [Read from file...]). SpeakGoodChinese will use WAV (.wav), Flac (.flac), MP3 (.mp3), and Speex (.spx) files as examples if they are present.

Don't forget to include a LICENSE.txt file with the copyright and licensing information. If you use one of the Creative Commons licenses or the GNU GPL, we might be willing to put your list on our web-site.

It is possible to use SpeakGoodChinese to record example audio files for wordlists and student evaluation. On the Settings page, press the Save Audio button and select a folder to store the recordings. A blue dot will be displayed in the lower right corner of the Main page as long as recordings are stored. The recorded files have file-names constructed of the pinyin spelling of the word and the extention .wav. Every recording will overwrite existing recordings of the same pinyin word. The storage of recordings can be terminated by pressing the Save Audio button again. Select those recordings you consider good enough as examples and copy them to the target wordlist directory for inclusion in the distribution. When available, SpeakGoodChinese will display the stored recordings for evaluation until a new one is recorded.

Word lists with "real" Pinyin

It is often inconvennient to compile lists using a number scheme for pinyin. SGC2 will recognize standard UTF8 pinyin.


Pinyin Character Sound Translation
chī 吃 - to eat
zhǐ​yǒu 只有 - only

However, in this type of pinyin, the syllable boundaries can be ambiguous, as in the combination "nán​gōng" or "xīngān". To prevent errors in SGC2, place a '-quote at the boundary, e.g., "Xīng'ān".

Word selection and Lessons

Students can select the words to practise on the Main page. When they click the Words button on the right between the buttons to navigate the word lists, a form with a list of all the words currently available will be displayed. Students can add words from other word lists or by hand. They can select words based on tones and the lesson Part. The wordlist table can contain a collumn with the label Lesson and a lesson number for each line. The words are sorted and displayed with lesson numbers in the word selection window. The student can select the lessons to study when starting.

Example: SGC2example4.tsv

Pinyin Character Sound Translation Lesson
chi1 吃 - to eat 1
ta1 他 - he, she, it 1
jin1tian1 今天 - today 1
can1ting1 餐厅 - restaurant 1
huan1ying2 欢迎 - to welcome 1
zhong1guo2 中国 - China 2
duo1shao3 多少 - how many 2
zhi3you3 只有 - only 2

The entries in the Lesson column do not have to be numbers. Any string is allowed, Lesson 2, पाठ 2, レッスン2 and 第二课 are all valid lesson labels.

Global installation of word lists

The wordlists a user installs are placed in her local settings directory:

To install wordlists for all users, place them in:


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© R.J.J.H. van Son, September 1, 2014