Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Chinese reading challenge, March 2020

Chinese reading challengeReading is one of the most important skills when learning a language. It’s an excellent way to expand vocabulary, learn grammar and improve your 语感/語感. Yet many students don’t read enough, and when they do it, they do it in the wrong way.

The most common mistake is spending all reading time on intensive reading, meaning that you read relatively difficult texts and try to understand everything. Advancing in your main textbook is one example of this. The total amount of text you see in Chinese is extremely limited, and this is a problem.

What you ought to do in addition to that, and in much larger quantities, is to read texts that are at or below your current level. You need breadth. You need diversity. You need to read characters and words over and over in different, meaningful contexts. You need to solidify and become more familiar with what you have already studied. You need to read more to gain fluency. You need extensive reading!

Hacking Chinese extensive reading challenge, March 10th to March 31st

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, you will be able to learn more!

This how you sign up and join the challenge:

  1. Sign up (using your e-mail, Facebook or Twitter)
  2. View current and upcoming challenges on the front page
  3. Join the reading challenge
  4. Set a reasonable goal (20-60 minutes per day depending on your situation)
  5. Find suitable learning materials (see below)
  6. Report your progress on your computer or mobile device
  7. Check the graph to see if you’re on track to reaching your goal
  8. Check the leader board to see how you compare to others
  9. Share progress, tips and resources with fellow students

Please note: The challenge starts on March 10th, so even if you can join now, you won’t be able to report progress until then.

How should you read?

I’ve written about how to read before, so please check the following articles. I’ve put the most important posts first, so if you just have time to read one, check out the one about extensive reading!

Adventure text/audio game Escape is completely free to play

If you want to try a more active form of reading, check out the text games I’ve been creating with Kevin over at WordSwing. One of our games, Escape, is free to play for everybody.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a text and audio adventure game where you choose your actions and the story develops depending on what you choose.

In the story, you find yourself locked in a room but you don’t remember how you got there. You have a bad feeling about this and decide to escape before something even worse happens. In this game, you will need to use both your Chinese and your wits to escape!

Read more about adventure text games for Chinese learners over at WordSwing

What else should you read?

Start by looking here:

  1. The 10 best free reading resource collections for learning Chinese
  2. Chinese adventure text games for Chinese learners

You should also check Hacking Chinese Resources, which contains 113 resources tagged with “reading”. Many of them are resource collections where you can find hundreds or even thousands of texts.

If you have other resources that aren’t shared here already, please leave a comment or contact me in any other way. If you want an invite for Hacking Chinese Resources so you can post your resources directly, just let me know.

Here are my favourites, sorted by level:




Your challenge: Setting a reasonable goal

Set a goal which is as high as possible without feeling unreachable. How much time do you normally spend on reading?

For the duration of the challenge, I think it’s reasonable for part-time students to spend 30 minutes per day, which will mean roughly ten hours over the entire challenge provided that you have no major events coming up that will keep you busy. Full-time students can aim for twice that or even more, depending on your situation.

Preliminary challenge schedule for 2020

Here is a preliminary list of challenges for 2020, 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 lasts 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: Vocabulary
  5. May: Listening
  6. June: Speaking
  7. July: Reading
  8. August: Translation
  9. September: Listening
  10. October: Vocabulary
  11. November: Reading
  12. December: Pronunciation

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One comment

  1. Andrei says:

    My adventure with Chinese has always been on and off, for some reason I just cannot keep it steadily up. In this recent “wave” I have been reading a real proper Chinese science fiction novel “The three body problem”. A few of my friends have read it in Russian and been recommending it to me, and I decided to try reading it in Chinese. It has chapters where I feel more or less comfortable, but also there are chapters where I have to grind through walls of unknown words which is daunting. If anyone is interested then google “三体 疯狂年代” and you may find a version online. I use browser extensions for one-click translations, otherwise this reading would be nearly impossible.

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