Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

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  1. What important words are missing from HSK?

    HSK is not only a popular test, it’s also used by many students as a guide for which words to learn. But the HSK lists don’t contain all common words, so it raises the question which words are missing or delayed in the HSK word lists. This article gives one answer to this question, showing that certain categories of words are missing entirely, such as profanity, place names and names for things foreign in China. As a student, you probably want to learn these, so browsing through the list of missing words could be helpful!

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  2. Improving your Chinese while watching TV shows

    Watching TV is a great way to learn languages. It combines lots of useful Chinese words and phrases while providing rich context because of the visual nature of the medium. This article introduces ideas for how to learn, as well as recommended TV shows for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners.

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  3. Chinese reading challenge, July 2020

    It’s time for a reading challenge! It starts on July 10th, so enrol, set your goal and read as much as you can before the end of the month. This article contains more information about the challenge, some important things to keep in mind as well as some advice about improving reading ability in Chinese.

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  4. Training your Chinese teacher, part 4: Writing ability

    Writing ability is largely determined by how much you read, but there are many areas where a teacher can help you through valuable feedback. This article looks at this process, discussing what activities to engage in and what role your teacher can play.

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  5. Should you learn to speak Chinese before you learn Chinese characters?

    The question of whether or not to delay learning Chinese characters in favour of the spoken language is an interesting one many arguments in favour of both approaches. For most people setting out on their Chinese learning journey, focusing on important aspects of the spoken language, such as pronunciation, is certainly more important than learning characters.

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  6. How to get honest feedback to boost your Chinese speaking and writing

    Feedback is important because it can show you how to not use the language and highlight things you hadn’t noticed before. But getting honest feedback when learning Chinese is not as easy as it seems. This article starts by looking at why feedback is necessary, and continues by discussing how to get honest feedback.

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  7. Chinese mimicking challenge, June 2020

    Let’s improve our speaking ability together! Mimicking is one of the best ways of improving pronunciation, prosody and even vocabulary and grammar when speaking. Enrol, pick a model to mimic and see how close you can get/how much you can mimic before the end of the month!

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  8. Are mnemonics too slow for Chinese learners?

    Mnemonics are very effective for certain types of learning, but how effective are they for learning Chinese? This article is the first of two that looks at the effectiveness of mnemonics, focusing on the question of speed. Are mnemonics too slow to be really useful in the context of using a foreign language?

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  9. Learning Chinese words: When quantity beats quality

    Any teacher, student or researcher will agree that vocabulary is important, but how should you go about it? What’s the goal? This article argues that a common problem for learners of Chinese is that they spend too much time learning too few words, and that they would be better of aiming for quantity over quality in many cases.

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  10. When spaced repetition fails, and what to do about it

    Spaced repetition software, like Anki or Skritter, can boost your vocabulary learning significantly, but there are situations where it just isn’t enough. The idea is to delay each review as long as possible without forgetting, which leads to a great increase in efficiency. This sounds good in practice, but when it comes to learning languages, just being able to recall what something means often isn’t enough!

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