The scope of most articles on this website reaches far beyond the Chinese language. They deal with strategies for language learning, or indeed other things connected to learning in general, such as planning, psychology and productivity. However, the website is still called Hacking Chinese and everything I write is related to learning Chinese in some way. This category is for articles dealing with topics that are distinctively Chinese. It might be about learning characters, tones or dealing with Chinese dialects, but all articles below contain information, tips or tricks regarding the Chinese language itself. Here are some examples:
How difficult is Chinese?
Many people have asked this question and many have tried to give an answer. Depending on the angle of approach, I think that it can either be argued both that Chinese is fairly easy and that it’s really hard. These articles are somewhat contradictiory, so I leave it to you to form your own opinion of the difficulty level of learning Chinese. The most important thing is that Chinese is not impossible to learn. It’s only weird, stupid and difficult if you regard it as such. A positive attitude will take you a long way.
Are there any special tricks for learning Chinese compared to other languages?
Yes, there are, and this is partly the reason why I think Chinese isn’t as hard as all that. The most important thing to realise when studying Chinese is that all words consist of characters and that characters typically consist of several components. In the short term, it will take you longer to learn each word if you also learn the individual characters, and likewise it will take you longer to learn the characters if you have to learn the components as well.
In the long term, however, all time spent on learning individual characters and their components will pay of handsomely. Since learning Chinese is definitely a long-term project, I strongly suggest that you start expanding your knowledge of the building blocks of the Chinese language. This knowledge is essential, regardless if you’re learning simplified or traditional Chinese (or both).
What about pronunciation?
Chinese pronunciation is perhaps the most difficult part for most learners. Mastering the tones is difficult and there are many sounds in Chinese that doesn’t exist in English. My best advice on this front is to be diligent from the very start (see my beginner tips here). You should avoid perfectionism in general, but pronunciation is an exceptions. Tones doubly so.
Here are some more articles dealing with topics that are distinctively Chinese:
- Chinese listening practice with 锵锵三人行
- Learning Chinese by playing Mahjong 麻將 (májiàng)
- How focusing on intent can help you learn Chinese characters
- 24 great resources for improving your Mandarin pronunciation
- How to find a suitable Chinese name
- Focus on initials and finals, not Pinyin spelling
- Is Chinese difficult to learn?
- Why you should think of characters in terms of functional components
- Learning to write Chinese characters through communication
- 7 ways of learning to write Chinese characters
- How to Approach Chinese Grammar
- Handwriting Chinese characters: The minimum requirements
- Learn to read Chinese… with ease?
- Sensible Chinese character learning revisited
- Asking the experts: How to learn Chinese grammar
- Focusing on tone pairs to improve your Mandarin pronunciation
- A language learner’s guide to wuxia novels
- Wuxia, a key to Chinese language and culture
- 25 books I read in Chinese last year
- Learning to read aloud in Chinese
- How to learn Chinese characters as a beginner
- 5 websites to help answer your questions about Chinese
- Reading aloud in Chinese is really hard
- Phonetic components, part 2: Hacking Chinese characters
- Phonetic components, part 1: The key to 80% of all Chinese characters
- Standard pronunciation in Chinese and why you want it
- Do you really know how to count in Chinese?
- Dealing with near-synonyms in Chinese as an independent learner
- Boosting your character learning with Skritter
- Adding tone marks (w/o Pinyin) above characters to practise tones
- Learning the right chengyu the right way
- 21 essential dictionaries and corpora for learning Chinese
- Horizontal vocabulary learning
- Don’t use mnemonics for everything
- How to create mnemonics for general or abstract character components
- Sensible character learning: Progress, reminders and reflections
- Towards a more sensible way of learning to write Chinese
- You can’t learn Chinese characters by rote
- Is it necessary to learn to write Chinese characters by hand?
- A guide to Pinyin traps and pitfalls
- The importance of tones is inversely proportional to the predictability of what you say
- Extending mnemonics: Tones and pronunciation
- Kickstart your character learning with the 100 most common radicals
- Review: The Phonology of Standard Chinese
- Understanding regionally accented Mandarin
- Learning simplified and traditional Chinese
- Learning the third tone in Chinese
- Creating a powerful toolkit: Characters and words
- Creating a powerful toolkit: Individual characters
- Creating a powerful toolkit: Character components
- Learning Chinese is easier than you think
- Chinese is fascinating and exciting, not weird and stupid