Articles by me published elsewhere: May 2015 round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

Not everything I write about learning Chinese ends up here on Hacking Chinese. Some things will be available later as Hacking Chinese articles or projects, but much is written for other websites.

I have updated my bibliography accordingly, and here are all the new articles published before the start of May:

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
April, 2015 – About.com

These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1. How to learn and remember more words in Chinese – The best tools and methods
  2. Chinese character simplification – Four methods making Chinese easier to write
  3. Why you should practise reading Chinese digitally – How modern technology will help you learn Chinese
  4. Using HanziCraft to learn Chinese characters – A quick way of breaking down characters
  5. Chinese characters vs. Chinese words – What’s the difference? How do I look them up?
  6. The second round of Chinese character simplification – What characters would have looked like if simplification went further
  7. Improving reading speed in Chinese – Tips and tricks for second language learners
  8. Introduction to the tones in Mandarin Chinese – What you need to know about the four tones (plus the neutral tone)
  9. The fourth tone in Mandarin Chinese – Common problems and their remedies

Hacking the most difficult Chinese characters (with examples)
April, 2015 – Skritter

This blog post is about learning difficult characters and brings up three examples based on which characters Skritter users have most trouble with. They all happen to be semantic-phonetic compounds, so this further stresses the importance of understanding such characters.

That’s it for now! I will keep posting one article round-up every month, collecting the articles from the previous months. If you like Hacking Chinese or what I’m writing in general, the best thing you can do is to share! Donations are also more than welcome. If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read the first monthly round-up. If you want to view all articles written by me but published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

Articles by me published elsewhere: April 2015 round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

Not everything I write about learning Chinese ends up here on Hacking Chinese. Some things will be available later as Hacking Chinese articles or projects, but much is written for other websites.

I have updated my bibliography accordingly, and here are all the new articles published before the start of April:

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
March, 2015 – About.com

These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1. Using graded readers to improve reading ability: Going beyond your textbook
  2. Getting a Chinese character tattoo: 7 do’s and don’ts to consider if you want a Chinese-character tattoo
  3. Chinese characters: A basic introduction
  4. Common Mandarin learner errors: part 6: Not enjoying yourself
  5. Common Mandarin learner errors: part 7: Not knowing where you’re going
  6. Useful idiomatic phrases in Chinese: Yi mu yi yang: Expressing that two things are identical
  7. Chinese characters and stroke order: Why you should make sure to write characters the right way
  8. Learning traditional Chinese with the MoE dictionary: The best online reference for traditional characters
  9. Correct pronunciation and stroke order in Chinese: What does “correct” mean? What’s the standard?

Understanding Chinese characters: Components and radicals
March, 2015 – Skritter

It’s common for beginners and sometimes even more advanced students to lack an understanding of how Chinese characters are structured. This includes misconceptions about radicals and other types of components. In this article, I address some of the misconceptions I have encountered as a teacher and as the “Chinese Guru” at Skritter. What different kinds of character components are there? What’s a radical?

Can you pronounce these Chinese words correctly?
March, 2015 – Skritter

This post contains five words in Mandarin that are tricky to pronounce correctly. Sometimes the standard pronunciation is different from how many natives speak, sometimes including people from Beijing! Do you know how to pronounce these words: 背包, 打烊, 尽快 (儘快), 下载 (下載), 一模一样 (一模一樣)?

That’s it for now! I will keep posting one article round-up every month, collecting the articles from the previous months. If you like Hacking Chinese or what I’m writing in general, the best thing you can do is to share! Donations are also more than welcome. If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read the first monthly round-up. If you want to view all articles written by me but published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

A minimum-effort approach to writing Chinese characters by hand

waysofwritingI remember what it was like to write my first Chinese characters. It felt like writing runes with magical powers, they were exotic and beautiful, closer to art than language. I still like Chinese characters, so studying Chinese for years hasn’t destroyed that feeling completely. Still, I have to admit that I don’t find writing characters by hand very fun in and of itself. I prefer typing and reading.

A minimum-effort approach to handwriting

If you love writing Chinese characters by hand, this article is not for you, but if you feel that you want to learn to write Chinese characters, but that you don’t want to spend more time than necessary, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, I will discuss my minimum effort approach to handwritten Chinese. I have already talked a lot about how to learn characters elsewhere, so this is more about the bigger picture. If you want to read more about character learning in general, this article offers a good overview: My best advice on learning Chinese characters.

The goal: Legible, not beautiful

Before I go into any details about the strategy itself, there are a few words to be said about the goal. My goal is to be able to write most things by hand that I can already type on a computer. That means that vocabulary, grammar and so on isn’t part of what I’m talking about here. This is about the difference between being able to read, type and perhaps say something, and being able to write it down on a piece of paper by hand.

Why would you need to be able to do that? There are many reasons, but personally, I think that not being able to write the language you are learning is a serious deficit. How serious it is depends on why you’re learning. Your friends finding out that you can’t write is one thing, but it will be harder to convince native speakers that your Chinese is good if you struggle with filling in a simple form during a job interview. I have written more about the importance of handwriting here: Is it necessary to learn to write Chinese characters by hand?

I also want to say a few words about what I don’t need:

  1. I don’t care about writing beautifully. That clearly doesn’t fit into a minimum effort approach.
  2. I don’t need to be able to write quickly. This is also a minimum effort consideration, I merely want to be able to write, even if it takes a little time.

The strategy: Four components

The four components in my strategy are reading, typing, spaced repetition software and communicative handwriting. I’ll discuss them one by one and explain how they help me reach the goal described above:

  • Reading ought to be the start of any endeavour to be able to write. Passive understanding of something is the foundation for active knowledge and without it, it’s hard to get a feel for how the language is used. Constantly looking at Chinese characters also teaches you what they look like and which characters belong together. You will not learn to write all characters by hand simply by looking at them, but reading is still the foundation of writing.

  • Typing keeps your vocabulary and grammar up to par. Typing basically includes everything that handwriting does, minus moving a pencil across paper by hand. This means that if you can type something, you generally only need character knowledge to be able to write it by hand as well. If you use phonetic input (such as Pinyin or Zhuyin), you also make sure that you know how to pronounce what you’re typing, which increases the chance that phonetic components will remind you of how to write the characters as well.

  • Spaced repetition software is crucial for any minimum effort approach because it’s by far the most efficient way of maintaining large amounts of knowledge. These programs will help you schedule each review, putting it off for as long as possible to save you time while not delaying it so long that you forget the information. It’s possible to build a large vocabulary this way with less effort than most other methods. I prefer Skritter because it gives me immediate feedback, but you can use any program.

  • Communicative writing refers to writing Chinese characters with real communication in mind. Most of the practice that takes place in classrooms is not communicative (such as translating sentences, doing exercises in the workbook or dictation). For writing to be communicative, communication needs to be the main purpose of writing. It can be with other people, such as leaving a note for a friend written in Chinese or chatting with someone online using the handwriting input on your phone, but it could also be with yourself, such as writing shopping lists, memos or blog posts in Chinese. The point with communicative writing is that it’s realistic and makes sure you constantly drill the high-frequency words you need to be able to write well. If you neglect this step, you will likely find that you forget even common characters when forced to write by hand, simply because you never write them and spaced repetition software isn’t very good at spotting weaknesses in knowledge you’re supposed to know really well.

By combining these four elements, its possible to reach the goal of being to write by hand most things I can already type on a computer. I haven’t found a way of removing any of these components, so this is why I call it a minimum-effort approach.

Conclusion

This strategy is the result of a lot of thinking about how to learn what I need without spending too much time. I have used a similar approach for a few years and it has served me well. I can write Chinese when required to and I seldom forget characters or words. I don’t spend much time focusing on only writing characters, it’s all integrated into other activities that are either communicative or meaningful in other ways.

Even if my typed Chinese is superior to my handwriting, that’s mostly because of differences between word processing and handwriting in general, such as speed, ease of editing and so on. This is at least partly applicable to any language, so I would find it harder to write this article by hand than typing it in a text editor. Thus, I still prefer typing Chinese, but I’m not really afraid of writing by hand. The only drawback is that when required to write something lengthy, the muscles in the hand aren’t really up to the task and get tired easy, but I can live with that.

What strategy do you use to learn to write by hand? Are you like me in that you want to learn it, but not more than necessary, or do you genuinely enjoy writing characters by hand?

Articles by me published elsewhere: February 2015 round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

Not everything I write about learning Chinese ends up here on Hacking Chinese. Some things will be available later as Hacking Chinese articles or projects, but much is written for other websites.

I have updated my bibliography accordingly, and here are all the new articles published before the start of February:

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
January, 2015 – About.com

These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1. How to learn Chinese grammar:Sentence patterns, particles and conjunctions
  2. The second tone in Mandarin Chinese: Common problems and their remedies
  3. Aspiration in Mandarin Chinese: What it is and why you want to get it right
  4. From big to small, background to foreground: Sorting information in Chinese
  5. Spaced repetition software and learning Chinese: What SRS is and why it’s good for you
  6. How to use spaced repetition software to learn Chinese: Spreading out your reviews, designing flashcards
  7. Common problems when using SRS to learn Chinese: Things to avoid when using spaced repetition software
  8. He – “harmony” – Chinese character profile: A closer look at the character He (“harmony”), its meanings and usages
  9. Common Mandarin learning errors, part 3: Learning on your own

Confusing Mandarin pronunciation, part 1: The final “-ing”
January, 2015 – Skritter

In this article, I discuss the final “-ing” in Mandarin. It’s a final that causes a lot of trouble for learners who focus too much on Pinyin and too little on the way this sound is actually pronounced. If you think that “-ing” is simply “-in” with an added “g”, you should definitely read this article.

Understanding the neutral tone in Mandarin
January, 2015 – Skritter

The neutral tone is difficult for many learners, partly because it changes according to the environment, but also because it’s seldom properly explained by teachers and textbooks. This is an attempt at explaining the neutral tone in Mandarin and how it works. What does “neutral” really mean? What’s the difference between a neutral tone and any of the other tones? Why doesn’t Mandarin have five tones?

That’s it for now! I will keep posting one article round-up every month, collecting the articles from the previous months. If you like Hacking Chinese or what I’m writing in general, the best thing you can do is to share! Donations are also more than welcome! If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read the first monthly round-up. If you want to view all articles written by me but published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

Articles by me published elsewhere: January 2015 round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

Not everything I write about learning Chinese ends up here on Hacking Chinese. Some things will be available later as Hacking Chinese articles or projects, but much is written for other websites.

Here’s what I wrote up to the beginning of January 2015:

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
December, 2014 – About.com

These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1.  Learning intonation in Mandarin Chinese: Tips and tricks for learning intonation in a tonal language
  2.  One Chinese character, multiple pronunciations: How to learn the pronunciation of tricky Chinese characters
  3.  How to spell and pronounce Tai Chi / Taiji: One pronunciation, many spellings
  4.  Learning Mandarin? Start here! Suggestions on how to get started learning Chinese
  5.  Pronouncing the first tone in Mandarin Chinese: The basics plus some common mistakes
  6.  Four great dictionaries to help you learn Mandarin Chinese: All the dictionaries you need, both for mobile and computer
  7.  Learning Chinese with Zdic.net: Why Zdic.net is a great dictionary for learning Chinese
  8.  Common Mandarin learner errors, part 1: Staying in the classroom
  9.  Common Mandarin learner errors: part 2: Aiming for 100%

When small changes make a big difference, part 1
When small changes make a big difference, part 2
When small changes make a big difference, part 3
December, 2014 – Skritter

These three articles deal with Chinese characters that look almost the same and differ only in the slope or length of one single stroke. The first article contains a short quiz and the two following articles contain explanations of all the characters in the quiz. Beginners probably needn’t worry too much, but if you care about correct handwriting, you should know about these characters.

That’s it for now! I will keep posting one article round-up every month, collecting the articles from the previous months. If you like Hacking Chinese or what I’m writing in general, the best thing you can do is to share! Donations are also more than welcome! If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read the first monthly round-up. If you want to view all articles written by me but published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

My best advice on learning Chinese characters

handwritingThis month’s challenge is about learning characters. In fact, my desire to launch Hacking Chinese Challenges came partly from wanting to arrange challenges more smoothly and with more participants without collapsing under the load of manually dealing with everything. Last week, I published an article with a brief summary of the challenge as well as some useful tips for how to improve character learning.

In this article, I’m going to go into more detail. I have already written about many of these topics before, though, so this is meant to be a summary and an overview rather than a comprehensive discussion, which would be way too long. Therefore, I will try to include the essence here and then link to other articles for those who want to read on.

Understanding Chinese characters

Learning something meaningful is easier than learning something that seems to be random, even if there is a pattern you don’t see. This is because we can associate meaningful things with each other, something that is much harder for meaningless things (but it can be done, of course). This means that understanding how Chinese characters are constructed and how they work can help enormously when learning them. I would go so far as to say that it’s almost impossible to learn thousands of characters without understanding how they work. You can either gain this understanding through learning a lot of character or you can take a shortcut by avoiding some problems second language learners typically have.

Here are some important articles you should check out:

  • Creating a powerful toolkit: Character components – This is the first article in my toolkit series. It explains some basics about character components and radicals, as well as some tools for learning these. In general, the point is that you have to learn the smaller building blocks of characters if you hope to learn a large number of characters. Combining old knowledge is easier than trying to learn something completely new! The advantage with learning Chinese is that (almost) everything means something and that something is much more accessible than in, say, English.
  • Four main types of Chinese characters – I wrote this article for About.com, introducing the four main types of Chinese characters (pictographs, simple ideograms, combined ideograms and phonetic-semantic compounds). Most students think that pictographs and ideograms are the most common types, but even though they do make up a significant part of basic, nature-related vocabulary (tree, mountain, stone), a huge majority of characters are neither pictures nor ideograms. Knowing about the common ways in which Chinese characters were constructed will help you understand them.
  • Phonetic components, part 1: The key to 80% of all Chinese characters – This article explains why understanding phonetic components is important. If you don’t understand how they work, you don’t have access to an incredible useful memory aid for characters and their pronunciation. Chinese isn’t phonetic in the sense that English is, but most character still have clues about how they are pronounced (or if you know how they are pronounced, there are clues to how to write them). You just need to know where to look. This concept is further developed in part two.
  • Why you should think of characters in terms of functional components – This is a guest post by John Renfroe who knows much more about Chinese characters than I do. He stresses the importance of understanding the function of components in Chinese characters. As we have seen in earlier articles, components have different functions, some give the character its sound, others its name. By focusing on the function each component has, we can understand how the character actually works, which ultimately aids learning and memory

How to learn Chinese characters

Now that we have some basic understanding of how Chinese characters work, it’s time to look at how to learn them. When I say “how”, I mean it in a very practical way. You have a list of characters that you want to learn. What should you do?

  • How to learn Chinese characters as a beginner – If you’re new to learning Chinese, this article is for you. It goes through the very basics of what you should do and what you should not. It’s not meant to be in-depth, but try these suggestions out if you haven’t already. Most beginners start out with horribly inefficient methods of learning characters. Most people refine their method over time, but if I were to recommend one article about learning characters for beginners, it would be this one.
  • Handwriting Chinese characters: The minimum requirements – This is a guest article by Harvey Dam, who talks about how to write characters by hand. This kind of information is extremely hard to find online today, and by reading through and applying what you learn here, your handwriting and your understanding of it will improve. There are five parts in all and they contain lots of pictures of handwritten characters combined with advice and information.

How to review Chinese characters

Let’s say that you have already learnt a few (tens, hundreds, thousands) of characters. In order to be able to use Chinese properly, you need to remember the words you have learnt. But how? There are many ways of reviewing and many tools you can use. Again, I’m not going to go into details here, but I am going to give links to the best advice I can offer and a brief summary of said advice:

  • Spaced repetition software and why you should use it – Reviews spread out over time are much more efficient than when they are massed together. Algorithms and computer programs can help us calculate the optimal intervals between each review, meaning that we always study the words we’re about to forget, rather than those we don’t really need to review. There are many ways of using spaced repetition software, but you should definitely use it in some form. I suggest using either Skritter, Anki or Pleco (see last week’s post).
  • Boosting your character learning with Skritter – Since we’re talking about learning characters in particular here, I want to mention Skritter. It offers the best solution for people who want to combine spaced repetition and handwriting. Other programs and apps offer only passive training, but Skritter allows you to write actively on the screen and corrects your handwriting. This is not only more fun, but also more likely to help you improve than if you only do manual checks of the characters. Don’t forget that there is an extra week’s free trial and a 6-month discount if you sign up with the coupon code for the challenge (SENSIBLE2015, has to be used on sign-up on the website).
  • 7 ways of learning to write Chinese characters – Apart from writing on a screen, there are many other options. Have you tried writing with your fingertip on your palm? What about mental handwriting? In this article, I go through seven ways of writing characters, along with their pros and cons for language learners.
  • Learning to write Chinese characters through communication – After all this talk about reviewing and studying, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that that’s the only way you can learn characters. That’s not true! I believe that the most powerful way of learning anything is to learn it while using it for the purpose it was meant for. This means writing Chinese in order to communicate with native speakers! Since sending snail mail isn’t really in vogue these days, you can use handwriting input on your phone or computer to achieve similar results.

Remembering Chinese characters (and other things)

Last but not least, I have published a range of articles about memory and memory techniques, mostly in relation to learning Chinese. Here are some of them:

Conclusion

This is the information I wanted to include in last week’s article about the challenge, but which took up too much space. It also took longer than I thought to compile, but I hope it will prove helpful to anyone who has joined the challenge! If you haven’t already, it just started a few days ago, so it’s not too late to join! Read more about the challenge and how to join here.

Sensible character challenge, January 11th to 31st

bulbThe first challenge I ran on Hacking Chinese was the sensible character challenge that started more than two years ago (Towards a more sensible way of learning to write Chinese). It became much more popular than I thought with more than 100 participants. Last year, I ran another challenge, this time for 100 days, which also went well.

Since then, I have launched Hacking Chinese Challenges to better handle many participants and challenges in general. After running a few other challenges focused on listening, reading and translation, it’s now time for a character challenge again!

If you have participated before, you know roughly what to expect. If you haven’t, don’t worry, I’ll explain both how the challenge works and what sensible character learning is.

Prizes on offer for this challenge

This is what I have to offer at the moment (it’s likely to increase later):

  1. 5 months of free Skritter, randomly given to people who finish the challenge
  2. A two-week trial and a 33%discount for six-month  on Skritter for new users (create an account, select “alternative payment methods” and then enter the coupon code SENSIBLE2015)
  3. Character posters from Hanzi Wallchart, randomly given to people who finish the challenge
  4. Books from Tuttle Publishing (this one and this one)

For new Skrtiter users, If you want to offer prizes that are suitable for this challenge or if you know someone who might, please contact me! My definitions of “finish the challenge” is to have reported progress throughout the challenge and posted about it either here, your own blog or social media.

The challenge

Is your vocabulary lagging behind? Can’t you write all those basic characters you really ought to know? Is your limited vocabulary holding you back? I think most of us would answer “yes” to at least one of these questions and that’s why I think character challenges are so useful. The procedure is easy:

  1. Sign-up (using your e-mail, Facebook or Twitter)
  2. View current and upcoming challenges on the front page
  3. Join the sensible character challenge
  4. Set a reasonable goal (see below)
  5. Report your progress on your computer or mobile device
  6. Check the graph to see if you’re on track to reaching your goal
  7. Check the leader board to see how you compare to others

In previous character challenges, we haves set goals in terms of absolute numbers, such as “learning X new characters”. However, this doesn’t always work out very well, especially for beginner and intermediate students who aren’t familiar enough with vocabulary learning to know what a reasonable goal is. Moreover, vocabulary learning tend to accumulate, so it’s very hard to set reasonable goals.

Therefore, we’re going to measure time in this challenge rather than characters or words. It’s easier to estimate how much time you can or want to spend on an activity such as vocabulary learning. The challenge engine can actually handle other units than time, but we’ll explore than in future challenges!

What is a reasonable goal?

I would say that 20 minutes per day (including weekends, words don’t care about which day of the week it is) is a reasonable goal for people who are not studying full-time. You can find 20 minutes per day just by reviewing and/or learning vocabulary on your phone while commuting, waiting in a queue or in the bathroom, it needn’t influence your other activities too much. If you study full-time, an hour isn’t unreasonable!

I’m going to go for ten hours, which is roughly half an hour per day. My main goal is to battle down my enormous review queue in Skritter. I’ve been to busy to actually study much vocabulary recently, so I have around 2000 reviews due. I probably won’t be able to kill the entire queue in 10 hours (that would mean slightly more than 20 seconds per review, which isn’t enough if we include some editing of definitions, example sentences and so on).

Sensible character learning

So what’s “sensible character learning”? I started using this term a few years ago because I felt that most character learning done by students (native and non-native speakers alike), isn’t very sensible. It often involves horribly inefficient methods that require much more effort than more sensible methods. I’m going to do a recap of sensible character learning and vocabulary acquisition in general next week, so let’s focus on some key points here:

  1. Reviewing and learning are two different processes – When you learn a character or word, try to understand it as much as possible. Learn it in context (use sentences or common collocations). Approach the character or word from different angles. Study carefully. Reviewing is much quicker and should actively probe if you remember the character or word (see below).
  2. Active learning is better than passive learning – Reviewing by just looking at the characters is almost useless, you need to actively ask questions and recall the information before you see the answer. This is why flashcards are so good. You can use fill-in-the gap phrases or sentences, or translation.
  3. Diversified learning is smart learning – Don’t do all your reviewing in one go or in one place, spread it out. Using a smart phone to learn is really important because it moves studying away from your desk, the library or wherever you normally study. Do small bursts of a few minutes when you have time to spare throughout the day.
  4. Spaced repetition is better than massed repetition – Reviewing the same character or word several times in a row is not efficient, it’s better to wait between reviews. Exactly how long to wait can be hard to know, but fortunately, there are lot’s of programs that do this for you (see below).
  5. Rote learning isn’t good, understanding is essential – Rote learning Chinese characters works only for a comparatively small number of characters or if you spend a very long time writing characters (the compulsory education of native speakers). It typically doesn’t work very well for second language learners. Rote learning works well for basic characters in the beginning, but its usefulness dwindles as you learn more characters.
  6. What vocabulary you learn matters a lot – I subscribe to a “the more the merrier” attitude towards learning characters and words, but it matters greatly which character or words you learn. Make sure you learn common and useful words first. Keep an active attitude towards your vocabulary: delete and edit more than you think you should.
  7. Don’t go on tilt – When using spaced repetition software, don’t go on tilt when you encounter words you ought to know but actually don’t. Some words you learn automatically, but others refuse to stick. The worst thing you can do is to try to hammer these words into your head. Ban/mark/suspend these cards and deal with them separately instead! Add context, study the character, create mnemonics.

I will write more about learning characters in a proper overview article next week. For now, just join the challenge!

What program or app should I use to learn characters and words

Even though there are many programs and apps (perhaps too many) out there for learning Chinese characters and words, it doesn’t really matter which one you use as long as it has proper spaced repetition and fulfils your requirements in other areas. I usually suggest three programs, so if you have no idea, see which one of these suits you best:

  • Skritter is the ideal app for learning to write characters. It’s the only app that allows you to write characters on the screen and offers you feedback for each stroke, such as if you put it in the wrong place or write it in the wrong direction. If you register with the code SENSIBLE2015, you’ll get an extra week of free trial and then a six-month discount if you want to continue using it. I should mention that I work for Skrttter, even though I started using it well before that.
  • Pleco is one of the best apps for learning Chinese in general and it also has a flashcard module that integrates well with the dictionary. The basic dictionary is free, but the flashcard module isn’t. If you just want one single app for your Chinese learning, Pleco is your best bet.
  • Anki is much more versatile than any of the above apps and you can do almost anything you want, including cloze test, very advanced card editing, picture/video/audio flashcards and detailed control of how the cards are displayed. It’s somewhat harder to use than the above, but still one of my favourites. Anki only costs money on iOS, it’s completely free elsewhere. Do make sure to get Chinese support (a plug-in).

That’s it for now, I will publish more about character learning next week!

Articles by me published elsewhere: December round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

Not everything I write about learning Chinese ends up here on Hacking Chinese. Some things will be available later as Hacking Chinese articles or projects, but much is written for other websites.

Here’s what I wrote up to the beginning of December 2014 (I originally intended to publish this article before the new year, sorry for the delay!):

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
November, 2014 – About.com
These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1.  The neutral tone in Mandarin Chinese: How to pronounce the neutral tone in different contexts
  2. Four main types of Chinese characters: Learning characters by understanding them
  3. Pictographs – Chinese characters as pictures
  4. Chinese character type: Simple ideograms
  5. Chinese character type: Combined ideograms
  6. Chinese character type: Semantic-phonetic compounds
  7.  Zi – “child” – Chinese character profile: A closer look at the character Zi (“child”), its meanings and usages
  8.  How to pronounce Beijing, capital of China: Some quick and dirty tips and an in-depth explanation
  9.  How to choose the right Mandarin Chinese course: What to look for when choosing language courses

Tending your vocabulary garden
November, 2014 – Skritter
In this article, I use the analogy of tending a garden to explain what a healthy attitude towards vocabulary should look like. In short, it involves being active, regarding the words you learn and have learnt as an organism that keeps growing, but which also needs tending and trimming. More isn’t always merrier and what words you learn certainly matter more that how many you know sometimes.

That’s it for now! I will keep posting one article round-up every month, collecting the articles from the previous months. If you like Hacking Chinese or what I’m writing in general, the best thing you can do is to share! Donations are also more than welcome! If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read the first monthly round-up. If you want to view all articles written by me but published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

Articles by me published elsewhere: November round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

Not everything I write about learning Chinese ends up here on Hacking Chinese. Some things will be available later as Hacking Chinese articles or projects, but much is written for other websites.

Here’s what I wrote up to the beginning of November:

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
October, 2014 – About.com
These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1. Asking for directions in Mandarin Chinese: Finding your way in Mandarin
  2.  Learning Mandarin Chinese through immersion: Changing your environment to improve your learning
  3.  Music Mandarin: Eason Chan – “Ten Years”: Learn Mandarin by listening to music and studying the lyrics
  4.  Mandarin multitasking with “yibian… yibian…”: A sentence pattern to express simultaneous activities
  5.  Tone changes of the character “yi” (one): How the tone changes in different contexts, with examples
  6.  Tone changes of the character “bu” (not, no): How the tone changes in different contexts, with examples
  7.  Yi – “one” – Chinese character profile: A closer look at the character Yi (“one”), its meanings and usages
  8.  How the rule of three can help you learn Chinese better: Learning more by avoiding perfectionism
  9.  Youdao – An excellent free online Chinese dictionary: How and why to use Youdao to learn Chinese

What should you do when you forget a word?
October, 2014 – Skritter
We all forget words when learning a language, but what should you do when you forget a word? Ignore it? Take decisive action? There are numerous things you can and should do when you forget a word when using spaced repetition software, and in this article I discuss some of them. I also mention some things you should avoid doing when forgetting a word.

How to Speak Chinese Well: 5 Simple Tips for Extraordinary Fluency
October, 2014 – FluentU
Learning to speak Chinese requires a lot of practice, but it does matter how you practice and there are some tricks you can use to learn more and faster. The title of this post obviously isn’t chosen by me, but I still think the article’s main arguments are well worth sharing.

That’s it for now! I will keep posting one article round-up every month, collecting the articles from the previous months. If you like Hacking Chinese or what I’m writing in general, the best thing you can do is to share! Donations are also more than welcome! If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read the first monthly round-up. If you want to view all articles written by me but published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

Articles by me published elsewhere: September round-up

Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco
Image source: freeimages.com/profile/ilco

I divide my time between different projects, such as the next version of the pronunciation check, my upcoming book and writing articles about learning Chinese for other companies.

If you like Hacking Chinese and want me to be able to keep develop going, the best thing you can do is share posts and projects with your friends. Donations are of course also welcome! If people donate more, I will spend more time here and not somewhere else.

Please support Hacking Chinese!

If you want to read more about my different roles on Skritter and About.com, please read last month’s round-up. If you want to view all articles published elsewhere, check my bibliography page.

Here’s what I wrote up to the beginning of September:

Various articles about Mandarin on About.com
August, 2014 – About.com
These articles were all published on About.com through my role as Mandarin expert writer there:

  1. Qixi Festival – Chinese Valentine’s Day – The story of the Weaver Maid and the Cowherd
  2. Improving your Chinese with podcasts – Three podcasts to increase your listening ability
  3. How to learn Chinese characters efficiently – Learning and remembering words
  4. How tone pairs can improve your Mandarin pronunciation – Mastering tones and tone changes in Chinese
  5. Improving reading ability in Chinese – Two reading strategies for language learners
  6. How to speak Mandarin fluently – Short-term and long-term strategies for increasing fluency
  7. English loanwords in Mandarin – Making sense of words borrowed into Chinese
  8. How to learn to understand spoken Chinese – Overcoming common problems with listening ability
  9. Learning to hear the different sounds in Mandarin – Distinguishing between Chinese sounds and tones

Using mnemonics to learn Chinese and Japanese, part 1
Using mnemonics to learn Chinese and Japanese, part 2
August, 2014 – Skritter
These articles are a basic introduction of why and how to use mnemonics to learn Chinese and Japanese. They are meant for students have little or now prior knowledge of memory techniques and want to know what all the fuzz is about and how to get in on it.

Learning with Native Mandarin Chinese Audio: A No-Nonsense Guide
August, 2014 – FluentU
It’s necessary to spend a bit of time listening to learner-oriented audio, but at some point you need to turn to real, native audio. In this article, I discuss this step in general as well as some steps you can take to make it easier and/or more enjoyable.

9 Bold Strategies to Improve Your Conversational Chinese
August, 2014 – FluentU
In this article, I go through nine strategies (which may or may not be bold) for how to improve your conversational Chinese, mostly while you’re in the conversation. In other words, these are things you should pay attention to while you practice speaking Chinese.

A Complete Guide to Learning Chinese with the News
August, 2014 – FluentU
In this article, I talk about learning Chinese through the news and I discuss various strategies to use when trying to understand news both in spoken and written form. I also bring up benefits of using news articles and broadcasts as learning material for advanced learners.

That’s it for now! I’m still a bit behind schedule, so I will publish one more article like this at the end of the month and then there will be one each month, provided I keep writing articles I want to share, but that looks very likely. Stay tuned!