Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Chinese listening challenge, January 2021

Hacking Chinese Challenges are about building language skills through daily practice and friendly competition.

By focusing on one specific area of learning over a limited period of time (usually three weeks), you will be able to learn more!

I regard listening as the most important skill when learning Chinese. It has more positive carry-over to the other skills than anything else, and improving listening ability also makes it much easier to socialise in Chinese. A poll I did earlier also strongly suggested that listening is actually the hardest part of learning Chinese.

This is your chance to ramp up your Chinese listening practice!

Chinese listening challenge, January 2021

The previous record of most listening practice done is almost six years old. In March 2015, 87 participants practised Chinese listening for  a total of 1,255 hours. We can beat that!

Join by following these steps:

  1. Sign-up (free)
  2. View current and upcoming challenges on the front page
  3. Join the listening 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
  8. Share progress, tips and resources with fellow students

Please note:  The challenge starts on January 10th, so even if you can join before then, you won’t be able to report progress until the challenge starts!

Prizes and active listening content from WordSwing

Together with Kevin Bullaughey, I have created a number of text adventure games for Chinese learners over at WordSwing, but few people realise you can use them for a very engaging and active form of listening practice. In short, these games work like choose-your-own-adventure games, where you are presented with descriptions of what happens and what people says, and you then choose what you want to do based on the information you have. These games have an audio-only mode that is awesome for listening practice. I just published a video about it here, so check it out!

There are two ways you can use these games during the challenge, even if you don’t have a subscription:

  1. Play 逃出去 (Escape!) which is completely free, including the audio
  2. Play with other learners on Twitter (one update per day, majority vote decides what to do)

WordSwing also sponsors this challenge with prizes, so I will randomly select eight active participants who will receive a three-month subscription to WordSwing (worth $24 each). The more active you are in the challenge, the more likely you are to win. Active here does not mean that you log a large number of hours; all type of activity is counted, provided that I know about it, of course. If you talk about the challenge on social media, please mention me so it’s easier for me to notice!

Winners from last month’s challenge

Last month’s challenge focused on pronunciation and was sponsored by… me! I offered one slot in my upcoming pronunciation course, along with feedback on pronunciation for three other participants. Here are the winners:

Wins slot in upcoming pronunciation course:

  1. Sarah莎芮

Wins feedback on pronunciation:

  1. Kevin Lee
  2. jacenba
  3. Esther

Congratulations and well done!

What should you listen to beyond that?

Start by looking here:

  1. The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese I wrote this article in connection with the previous challenge. It’s a collection of podcasts, radio shows and much more. Note that I have excluded any paid resources in this post.
  2. Hacking Chinese Resources The resource section of Hacking Chinese currently contains 116 resources tagged with “listening”. Many of them are resource collections, where you can find hundreds or even thousands of clips. First select your proficiency level and then listening.

If you have other resources that aren’t shared here already, please leave a comment or contact me in some other way. Here are some recommendations:

Beginner

Intermediate

Advanced

How and why you should listen

I’ve written a lot about improving listening ability in Chinese. Most importantly, you should check my series about listening strategies:

I have also written a few articles about listening more, which is a challenge worthwhile taking seriously. It’s perfectly possible to fit a lot of listening into an already fairly busy life, but you have to use the right method and spend some time finding solutions that work:

Your challenge: Setting a reasonable goal

It’s hard to know what a reasonable goal is for you, but i think anyone who’s interested in joining should aim for at least 10 hours of listening. That’s  about 20 minutes per day.

If this isn’t your first challenge or you spend a significant amount of your time learning Chinese, double or triple that, so twenty or thirty hours. That’s still “only” about an hour per day, which isn’t that much if you spread it out.

How high you want to go is up to you, but an hour per day on average is doable for most people. In previous listening challenges, some participants have clocked over 100 hours in one month! Can you beat that? Post your goal in the comments below and let us know how you plan to achieve it!

My challenge: 21 hours of listening

My New Year Resolution is to participate in all challenges in 2021, spending at least 15 hours for challenges of this type. I think I can handle more than that, even though I will be busy launching my pronunciation course. In recent listening challenges, I’ve been focusing mostly on audio books and fiction, but this time, I’m going to mix it up more. I’ll go through as much of 李永乐老师 as I can, as well as look for other science and technology related content, both on YouTube and elsewhere. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment! I’ve also been recommended two series focusing on Chinese history called 王立群读《史记》and 蒙曼说唐:武则天, so I will check those out too.

Preliminary challenge schedule for 2021

Here is a preliminary list of challenges for 2021, but I’m always open for ideas. Based on user participation, surveys as well as my own opinion, reading and listening challenges are particularly helpful for a large number of people, followed by those focusing on vocabulary. These will recur more often throughout the year, with other, more specific challenges spread out in-between.

Challenges last for roughly three weeks. They always start on the 10th each month and last until the end of that month. Three weeks is enough to get a significant amount of studying done, but not so long that people lose focus. This also leaves ten days of breathing space between challenges.

  1. January: Listening
  2. February: Writing
  3. March: Reading
  4. April: Speaking
  5. May: Listening
  6. June: Vocabulary
  7. July: Reading
  8. August: Pronunciation
  9. September: Listening
  10. October: Translation
  11. November: Reading
  12. December: Vocabulary


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4 comments

  1. fay says:

    Apologies for the typos in my original request for clarification… 不好意思! Here it is again written correctly:
    So I am clear on future challenges…. does the challenge end the evening before the last day of the month? i.e. It is currently the last day of the month in China, May 31 and this morning I could not input any data into the Listening Challenge. Thanks!!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      You should be able to report progress today. I just tried and it worked fine! I can also see many other people reporting progress today (May 31st). When exactly did you try to report your progress? Could it be some time zone issue? Sounds weird. It’s 21:24 server time on May 31st when I posted this, and just a minute ago, I was still able to report progress, so it seems to work, at least for me!

  2. 文佰川 says:

    I can’t wait for this challenge. Listening is one of the aspects of the language that I am actually able to spend the most time on due to the nature of my work. I can just listen to content all day, but I am ready to challenge myself and double the input I’m getting. I’m currently a Chinese pod intermediate listener so my goal is to get to Upper Intermediate at the end of this challenge.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      One thing you should try is to listen to upper intermediate or even advanced, but avoid the dialogue themselves. They are often filled with vocabulary you don’t really need and sometimes feel added just so that there are some new words to learn (this is at least true for old ChinesePod, not sure about recent content). The point is that the chat between the hosts, which is entirely in Chinese on the more advanced levels, is more valuable than the content they have prepared! You should also try out Learning Chinese through Stories; they are pretty good at speaking in only Chinese.

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