Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Chinese writing challenge, February 2021

This is not yet fully updated for the 2021 writing challenge. More information about prizes and more up-to-date recommendations will be added later.

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 29th

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!

What should you write?

Anything you like! The important thing is that you write and that you get feedback on your writing. I have written a few posts already about solving different writing-related problems, so take a look at any of the following articles:

One way of making yourself more accountable is to start a blog in Chinese and share it with your Chinese-speaking friends and/or your teacher. Commit to writing something at least three days a week (doesn’t matter how short it is) and ask people to check if you’re doing that and to leave comments.

I would also advice you against trying to write something which is at or over the level of the Chinese you can read. If you need to look up more than one word per sentence, you’re probably aiming too high, and when asking for feedback, you’ll see more red ink than is good for you motivation. Take it easy!

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.

My challenge: Writing a text game for Chinese learners

I’m writing a new WordSwing text game. You crash on a mysterious island with your hot air balloon and have to learn about the island and it’s secrets to survive and eventually repair your balloon so you can go home. I will probably not be able to finish writing the game during the challenge, but I’ve set a goal of working on it for 10 hours.

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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