Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Chinese writing challenge, February 2021

It’s time for a Chinese writing challenge! This is a great opportunity if you want to improve your written Chinese. If you’re like most of us, you probably don’t spend as much time on this as you should.

Writing here refers to composition, i.e. how to write texts in Chinese rather than how to write individual characters, but feel free to write by hand if you want. There will be a separate challenge focusing on characters and vocabulary later!

Hacking Chinese writing challenge, February 10th to February 28th

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 writing challenge
  4. Set a reasonable goal (see below)
  5. Start writing!
  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 (if you want)
  9. Share progress, tips and resources with fellow students

Please note: The challenge starts on February 10th, so even if you join now, you won’t be able to report progress until then. I post this article today so you have a few days to prepare!

Improve your writing with Journaly and win prizes

To put it briefly, Journaly is a new foreign language journaling platform for exchanging feedback with native or advanced speakers, and building community around shared interests and languages. It’s created by Robin MacPherson, who some of you might know from his YouTube channel where he talks about learning languages. Here’s his introduction to Journaly:

Let’s try Journaly for this writing challenge! To collect all our efforts in one place, Robin has created a topic called “Hacking Chinese Challenge”, which you can attach to your posts so that we and others can see them. I started by introducing Hacking Chinese Challenges to those who aren’t familiar with them already and did so in English since it’s meant to reach all learners, not only those who are already fluent in Chinese. Check it out here:

Hacking Chinese Challenges – Building language skills through daily practice and friendly competition!

Journaly will soon have extra premium features, and that’s what’s on offer as prizes in this month’s challenge: Among active participants, five students will be randomly selected to receive one month of premium access to Journaly. Please note that “active” does not only include logging many hours, but also being active in the challenge in other ways.

What should you write? How should you write?

Both what you write and how you write depends a bit on your level and your goals for learning Chinese. I have summarised my best advice about improving writing ability here:

20 tips and tricks to improve your Chinese writing ability

Your challenge: Set a reasonable goal

Set a goal which is as high as possible without feeling unreachable. For the duration of the challenge, I think it’s reasonable for part-time students to spend half an hour, three times per week, which will mean 4-5 hours over the entire challenge. Full-time students can aim for at least twice that.

Winners from the January listening challenge

In January’s listening challenge, eight 3-month subscriptions from WordSwing were offered as prizes to active students. Here are the winners:

  1. character
  2. Bill
  3. Kelin
  4. Victoria
  5. Adiel
  6. YanaLee
  7. Esther
  8. Juan Diego (俊伟)

Congratulations and enjoy playing the text adventure games! Maybe something to focus on for next month’s reading challenge?

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: Translation
  9. September: Listening
  10. October: Pronunciation
  11. November: Reading
  12. December: Vocabulary


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