Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Articles in the ‘Vocabulary’ category

  1. Should you learn the names of the strokes in Chinese characters?

    Some teachers insist on teaching the names of the strokes that make up Chinese characters, but is learning them worthwhile? In general, the answer is no, but there are certain cases where learning the names of strokes makes sense!

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  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. 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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  5. Diversify how you study Chinese to learn more

    How is it possible to spend 80 hours a week learning Chinese? And what can you learn from that, even if you find it hard to find any time to study whatsoever, with work and family taking up most of your time? This article aims at widening the scope of what it means to learn Chinese, and shows you ways you can learn that you probably haven’t thought of before!

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  6. What important words are missing from TOCFL?

    TOCFL is the standard test of Chinese proficiency in Taiwan. The official lists cover a total of 8000 words spread over 6 levels, but what words are common, yet missing or delayed in these lists? This article strives to answer this question. As a student, you probably want to check the missing and delayed words to plug holes in your Chinese vocabulary!

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  7. 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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  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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