Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Articles in the ‘Distinctively Chinese’ category

  1. How to not teach Chinese characters to beginners: A 12-step approach

    This is a guide for how to not teach Chinese characters, based on more than a decade of observing terrible teaching and worst practices. Which of these have you seen?

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  2. Review: The Outlier Linguistics Dictionary of Chinese Characters

    Outlier Linguistics Dictionary of Chinese characters is an excellent tool to help you understand and thereby learn Chinese characters more effectively. This is an in-depth review, covering the two versions of the dictionary, essential and expert, as well as other related products provided by outlier. There is also a 25% discount code for those who want to try the dictionary!

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  3. All the resources you need to learn and teach Chinese stroke order

    Stroke order for Chinese characters is something most beginners struggle with to begin with, but it’s also a problem that quickly fades away over time. This article collects all the resources you need to understand stroke order, look it up when you need to, and provides you with the practice you need.

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  4. 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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  5. Chinese is fascinating and exciting, not weird and stupid

    Languages are neither negative or positive in themselves; it’s all in the eye of the beholder. But does it matter what you think about Chinese language and culture? Is it harder to learn Mandarin if you think the language is weird and stupid? This article looks closer at this question, and argues that deliberately adopting a positive approach will lead to better and more enjoyable learning.

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  6. Dealing with Chinese characters you keep mixing up

    The more Chinese characters you learn, the harder it becomes to keep similar characters distinct. If you’re not careful, a pair or group of characters can generate a lot of extra work and frustration. The solution is to trace your errors and figure out why you get the characters wrong and, then deal with them decisively!

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  7. Skritter review: Boosting your Chinese character learning (2020 edition)

    Skritter is a modern tool for learning ancient characters. It combines research-based methods, such as active recall and spaced repetition, with great Chinese-specific tools and content. Skritter is the best character-learning app available, and in this review, we look at why and how you can use Skritter to get the most out of your character learning!

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  8. 5 levels of understanding Chinese characters: Superficial forms to deep structure

    How much do you need to care about the actual composition and meaning of a Chinese character when learning it? In general, better understanding means it’s easier to learn, but is there a limit to how closely you should stick to actual etymology? This article explores the spectrum from using superficial images to real etymology from the perspective of a language learner.

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  9. Does using colour to represent Mandarin tones make them easier to learn?

    Some learning materials, apps and tools allow you to add colours to show Mandarin tones, but is this really helpful? This article discusses the ins and outs of using colour to learn and remember tones, along with some practical considerations.

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  10. How to look up Chinese characters you don’t know

    Looking up an unknown character in Chinese is much trickier than looking up unknown words in most other languages. This article discusses various ways of looking up Chinese characters, including paper dictionaries, handwriting input, OCR and more.

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