Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Extensive reading challenge, November 10th to 30th

Last month, 139 learners spent a total of 924 hours improving their listening ability in the October extensive listening challenge. The reason I launched Hacking Chinese Challenges roughly a month ago was of course that challenges help me get more things done, and it’s great to see that many of you seem to agree!

As I said in the launch post, I’m going to run one challenge every month, starting around the 10th and ending on the last day of the month. In November, the focus of the challenge was listening, so now it’s time to turn to the other major passive skill: reading.

Just like last month, the idea is to set a reasonable goal and read as much Chinese as you can before the end of November. You can compete against yourself or against others, it’s completely up to you!

Join the extensive reading challenge

Joining is easy:

  1. Sign up or log in (using your e-mail, Facebook or Twitter)
  2. View current and upcoming challenges on the front page
  3. Join the extensive reading 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 and resources in the comments

The challenge starts on Monday (November 10th) and lasts until the last day of the month (Sunday, November 30th). That means that you have three weeks to read as much Chinese as you can. Even though the challenge title is “extensive reading”, you can read anything you want. I like quantity when it comes to improving reading ability, but don’t let that stop you from focusing on quality if that’s what you want.


Setting a reasonable goal

Reading requires time of a higher quality than listening so you shouldn’t expect to be able to read as much as you listened last month if you participated in that challenge. I think ambitious learners with lots of time on their hands should go for at least an hour per day.

I’m going to be busy with real-life events this month and will opt for half an hour per day, or 10 hours for the entire challenge. That’s still five times more than I’ve read recently, so I expect a boost to my Chinese reading time.

Set a goal you feel comfortable with. It should be within realistic reach, but not so easy you would have achieved it without really trying.

Choosing reading material

I’m going to publish an article with suggested reading resources early next week (just like I did for the listening challenge, see The 10 best free listening resource collections for learning Chinese), but I’ll offer a few quick suggestions here to get you started (you can also head over to Hacking Chinese Resources and select reading resources for your particular level):




There are of course more resources out there, but if you have any particularly suitable for beginners, please let me know! If you want an invite to share on Hacking Chinese Resources, just leave a comment.

Learning how to read in Chinese

Becoming literate in Chinese is along and sometimes difficult journey, but there are many things that can make it easier and more enjoyable. I have written a lot about this already and here are some of the most important articles that might help you in this challenge (and in general, of course). If you want more, just check the reading category.

  1. The importance of knowing many words – Any teacher, student or researcher will agree that vocabulary is very important, but few of them will go as far as I will in this direction. I don’t simply believe that vocabulary is king, I believe it’s god emperor as well. Learning many words enables you to communicate and it also makes you learn other areas of the language faster.
  2. Benchmarking progress to stay motivated – When we set out to learn Chinese, everything we learn is new and we can feel that we improve for each day that goes by, for each time we are exposed to the language. We know this because, in relative terms, we’re learning so much. As we progress, this feeling weakens. In this article, we look at benchmarking and how it can help us stay motivated.
  3. Reading manga for more than just pleasure – This article is about reading manga (comics) in order to improve your Chinese. Manga serves two important functions apart from being enjoyable in itself. Firstly, it gives us access to language we would otherwise hardly ever see in written form. Secondly, it lowers the threshold for reading books in Chinese. Reading manga just for fun is fine, but if you think about it, you’ll see that it can be very useful as well!
  4. Reading speed: Learning how to read ten lines at a glance – Reading quickly is useful when taking tests and in any situation where you want consume large volumes of test. However, simply reading a lot is not the most efficient way to reach high speeds, you actually need to focus on reading speed to do that. In this article I discus various methods, tips and tricks, along with some thoughts on goals and problem analysis.
  5. Learning simplified and traditional Chinese – Learning traditional characters if you know simplified or vice versa is a lot easier than beginners tend to think. Generally, you don’t need to worry, because at an advanced level, learning both is quite easy. This article is about simplified/traditional and how to learn both.
  6. A language learner’s guide to reading comics in Chinese – This article is a guide to reading comics in Chinese, suitable for beginners as well as those who already have some experience. Reading comics is an excellent way of attacking the Great Wall of Chinese (the daunting effect of seeing a whole page of text and not knowing what to do). It’s also fun, which is arguably the most important thing.

That’s it for now, see you in the challenge!

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  1. 乖囡 says:

    Nice! It will be nice to have the challenge to force me to read an hour a day, and hopefully I can keep the habit afterwards.

    (A question, why does the challenge state that it goes on for 20 days instead of 21? Or does it stop on midnight the night from Saturday to Sunday?)

    1. Maybe for the same reason that most people didn’t realise that the new millenium didn’t actually start until Jan 1 *2001* – a count starts with the number 1, not 0. Just a simple error. 🙂

  2. I’m joining in, but I would like to amend my goal. How do I do that? Do I need to wait until it begins?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Yes, that might be the case, but it’s certainly possible to change it!

      1. It’s begun now, but I still can’t find the way to change it. Can you help at all??
        Thanks, tak, 谢谢。

        1. Olle Linge says:

          You change the goal by going to your statistics. On the right side, below your pictures, score and so on, your goal is displayed, and below that it says “update goal”.

          1. Elizabeth Braun says:

            Nope. Nothing there this time. I remember doing it last month, but I can see nothing at all below the goal section.

            1. Olle Linge says:

              That’s very strange. Try logging in and out, restarting the browser, perhaps? I just created a new user and I can update the goal as described. I can do the same with my normal user for which the goal was set before the challenge started.

  3. I am excited about this challenge. Also thanks again for setting up the challenge section of your website. It works really well for me.

    In a future update of the challenges section could you add some sort of generic 2nd measurement we could log? Something we could fill in and put a numeric value for it. That way depending on the challenge and our personal goals, we could flexibly measure aspects of our progress.

    For example, with this new reading challenge, I would love to log pages, or characters read as well. Doing characters over time spent all in the system would give me an indication of my reading speed, and how it improved during the challenge. Someone else might want to differentiate between the time they spent looking up words against their overall time.

    Again, Thanks for the already great system!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hi! This is actually already there, but I haven’t tested it enough to include it yet. Hopefully, we’ll get it sorted out soon. The idea is that challenges can focus either on time or units (or both), but we decided to start with time, both because it’s easier and because it’s better in most cases. I do agree that counting units is useful as well, though!

  4. 马智宁 says:

    Olle, my man, been encounterin’ some difficulties. 502 Bad Gateway, and stuff. Have any idea why?

    Awesome challenge by the way!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Sorry, something broke, thanks for notifying me, we’ll try to fix it again as soon as possible. And by the way, you have spent a crazy amount of time so far. I mean that in a good way. 🙂

      1. 马智宁 says:

        Great. Thanks for that comment, it boosted my motivation up a notch. Oh, and we’re compatriots by the way. 🙂

      2. 马智宁 says:

        Up again! Brilliant.

  5. Kai Carver says:

    Hi Olle, thanks for organizing this challenge!

    A request: I wish the progress log comments were displayed directly in the page, not just as hover text. My own comments are useful for me to remember where I was at in my reading. And other people’s comments are useful to discover other reading sources and get inspiration from details on how they are progressing.

    For me, finding something suitable to read has been one of the toughest parts of meeting these challenges. Your recommendations and the Hacking Resources site have been very helpful. I’m currently happily reading previews of the Mandarin Companion Readers, and will probably buy one or two, ’cause they are enjoyable to read. Too much Chinese reading is interesting but painful and not really fun.

    1. Kai Carver says:

      PS: Also, the leaderboard could include each person’s last comment alongside their name and rank. It would make the leaderboard even more interesting to check out.

    2. Olle Linge says:

      I agree, they should be more prominent (and, above all, easier to copy if people write names of resources or even URLs). I will add this to the to-do list!

      1. Kai Carver says:

        Exactly! I’m glad you will add this, I think I can learn a lot from what other people are doing.

        Also, fyi, two small bugs:

        1. Progress log items from different days are sorted in reverse chronological order, but items from the same day are sorted in chronological order.

        2. I’m not sure how it happened, but my last progress report was duplicated. Maybe I tapped twice by mistake? Or went back, which logged the progress a second time? Don’t know, but I would need a delete option to correct it.

    3. Olle Linge says:

      Now you can click the little question mark and a window pops up with the text. Easy to copy!

  6. Smurfett820 says:

    Are there good ebooks websites?

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