Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Articles in the ‘Distinctively Chinese’ category

  1. Chinese listening practice with 锵锵三人行

    锵锵三人行 is one of the few Chinese TV programs I actually like. It’s also one of the best ones for language learners too, mostly because of it’s heavy focus on talking, availability of transcripts and variety of both guests and topics. This should be a key component of any immersion effort, but you probably need to be upper intermediate or above to benefit.

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  2. Learning Chinese by playing Mahjong 麻將 (májiàng)

    Playing games is a wonderful way of learning Chinese and 麻將 (májiàng) is one of the simplest games around. Apart from the numbers 1-9, you only need a handful of extra words to play. The game is extremely popular and as such, it can open up many doors, both cultural and social.

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  3. How focusing on intent can help you learn Chinese characters

    What you intend to write is more important that what you actually write. With the right intent, more practice will take you far, but with the wrong intent, no amount of practice will help. Fortunately, a small mental trick can help you learn to write characters more effectively.

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  4. 24 great resources for improving your Mandarin pronunciation

    In this article, I list 24 great resources for learning pronunciation. Naturally, some of them are limited to Mandarin Chinese, but many are more general in nature and works for other Chinese dialects or even other languages. Resources are sorted into Basic sound references, Pronunciation explained, Advice on learning pronunciation and Useful software and applications.

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  5. How to find a suitable Chinese name

    Finding a suitable Chinese name can be hard. If you care about your name, you should make an effort to find a good one rather than accepting what’s given to you. This article is about names in general, how to choose a name (and how not to), as well as my own personal story about my own Chinese name.

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  6. Focus on initials and finals, not Pinyin spelling

    Instead of worrying too much about Pinyin spelling and what sounds each letter represents, students of Mandarin should zoom out a bit and focus on initials and finals as whole units. There are only around 60 of them and focusing on them will pay off handsomely.

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  7. Is Chinese difficult to learn?

    Is it difficult to learn Chinese? It depends on what you mean by “difficult”. In this article, I discuss two types of difficulty, both in general and as related to learning Chinese. I think learning Chinese is difficult, but not in the way most people think.

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  8. Why you should think of characters in terms of functional components

    Learning about the structure of Chinese characters can help enormously when learning the language. This article is an in-depth look at functional components, i.e. parts of characters that give the whole character either its meaning or its sound. It’s also a discussion about why we really shouldn’t talk so much about radicals when learning Chinese.

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  9. Learning to write Chinese characters through communication

    How much of your character learning is done through communication? It should be a significant part, but I think this is very rare, both inside and outside classrooms. This article is about using communication to make character writing more fun, meaningful and effective.

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  10. 7 ways of learning to write Chinese characters

    There are many ways of practising writing Chinese characters and they all have their pros and cons. In this article, I discuss seven different ways of practising and what advantages and disadvantages they have for you as a learner.

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