Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Sensible character learning challenge 2014: Milestone #1

We have now reached the first milestone in the sensible character learning challenge 2014! What does this mean? That depends on whether or not you’re already in the challenge:

  • If you’re in the challenge, read on and follow the instructions!
  • If you’re not in the challenge, this is an excellent opportunity to join!

challenge14-1Brief information about the challenge

The challenge was launched in this article, which contains all the information you need if you want to join. In short, the goal is to both improve the way we learn characters and learn to write a lot of characters together in the process. There will be prizes for active participants for each milestone, including character posters from Hanzi WallChart, free extensions to Skritter and free promo codes for Nommoc. Note that thee tripled extension period and six month discount is still available for new Skritter users (follow the instructions in the launch article linked to above).

There are currently 94 participants in the challenge, which means we haven’t beat the record from last year, but we probably will soon if you help me spreading the word!

If you want to join, go to the launch article and post your milestones and goals according to the instructions (you can also check my example, which is the first comment to the article). Naturally, since milestone #1 is now reached, new participants start with milestone #2.

Active participants will receive prizes

What counts as active depends a little bit on what the purpose of counting is, but joining the challenge, talking about it here, on your own blog and on social media all count, as do posting a progress report for this milestone (see below). I will give you until Sunday (my time) to update your progress, then the activity status will be reset, so everybody starts equal from scratch again!

The prizes will be given as follows:

  • Hanzi WallChart posters – Two sets worth roughly $50 will be distributed randomly among active participants. I will announce the winners on Sunday in this article and will also contact you directly through the e-mail you used to sign up for the challenge with.
  • Skritter extension – One week free extension will be awarded to all active participants, If you want your free extension, you need to have been active in the challenge, all you need to do is contact me in some way and i will make sure you get your extension. Note that the guys at Skritter can easily check if you have been active in the challenge!
  • Nommoc promo codes – Two free promo codes will be given to the first two participants who request a promo code, just leave a comment to this post. These codes will be given on a first come first serve basis and there are only two, so hurry up!

Your progress report

So, how’s it going? To set a good example and initiate a discussion, I will share my own progress below; I encourage you to share yours in the comments! There’s no fixed template, just write whatever you want to write in any way you see fit, but focusing on these things seems reasonable:

  • Have you reached your goal for the first milestone?
  • What (if anything) are you going to change?
  • What have you learnt by participating in the challenge?

Note that activity in the challenge is completely unrelated to whether or not you gave succeeded! Failing to reach your goal, thinking about why you failed and what you should do about it is perfectly normal. The opposite is also cool; this is what happened to me. Share your experience, help others if you can (providing input, encouragement and so on) and see how you can improve yourself for the next stretch of the challenge.

My progress report

This is what my commitment to the challenge looked like:

Starting point (March 22nd): 4000
Milestone #1 (April 8th): +300 (4300 total)
Milestone #2 (April 30th): +250 (4550 total)
Milestone #3 (May 31st): +250 (4800 total)
End of challenge (June 30th): +200 (5000 total)

How have I been doing, then? Pretty well, actually. I spent a lot more time learning characters than I thought. I might also have slightly underestimated how many of the due characters I had forgotten. In any case, I currently have 4733 unique characters in Skritter. However, we have to subtract the 150 banned cards I have (Skritter includes these in your total character count for some reason). My actual number is therefore 4583! This means that I have actually not only reached milestone #1, I have already achieved the goal for milestone #2! This is a clear indicator that I set a goal which was way too easy, even though I didn’t think it would be easy when I set it.

What am I going to change? I will be bold and add the rest of the “common” character list I’m using (total 5568 characters). Since I have a number of characters not on that list, the grand total will be 5775 unique characters. My update milestones look like this:

Current status (April 8th): 4583
Milestone #2 (April 30th):
+300 (4883 total)
Milestone #3 (May 31st): +400 (5283 total)
End of challenge (June 30th): +492 (5775 total)

What have I learnt? Well, the most obvious thing is that being really good at character components helps quite a lot. I often learn new characters simply by looking at the parts and associating them with the meaning of the character. Naturally, it takes some reading and reviewing to associate the character with a few words it occurs in, but I generally try to focus on meaning and writing as much as possible.

The routine I outlined in the first article seems to work pretty well. I study the characters for the first time (read more about how to do this here) using Pleco and once I have a passive understanding of them, I transfer them to Skritter and write the by hand there. The only thing that takes a lot of time is making sure I don’t mix up character with similar meaning and/or pronunciation!

Stay tuned…

There will be two updates this week. First, I will post an article related to character learning (probably on Thursday or Friday) and then I will update this article with the character poster winners on Sunday. Stay tuned, keep focus and 加油!

…and the winners are…

It’s now Sunday and it’s time to declare the winners. To make it clear and to the point, I will just list the prizes and the names of the participants who have won, along with instructions for what to do next (if any):

  • Hanzi WallChart posters: Teresa and 戴睿 (I have forwarded your info to the company)
  • Skritter free extensions: Everyone active is eligible, but you need to tell me that you want a code
  • Nommoc promo codes: Gerrityong and Xiaokaka (I have forwarded your info to the company)

There will be more prizes for the next milestone! I know people don’t participate mainly for the prizes, but I still hope it’s a small encouragement along the road. If you know someone who wants to give something away for the next milestone, let me know and perhaps we can even more prizes next time. Today, I also reset any data regarding activity, so everybody has an equal chance of doing well up to milestone #2!

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  1. Jamison Watson says:

    Hey, Olle!

    I’m giving my first update on milestone number one. My goal was to have mastered 25 characters (pinyin, stroke order, meaning) memorized for today. As of today, I have currently mastered about 50 characters completely, so I am a little ahead of my goal.

    What have I learnt?
    So far, I feel that my goal was a little bit too easy to accomplish. I have a much firmer grasp on some of the characters than I initially thought. I have been using Skritter to focus on the stroke order and the correct way to actually write out the characters. I have then been using the Pleco flashcard application to solidify my understanding of the meaning of the characters. Furthermore, I have also found it really helpful to use the characters in sentences, so I have been taking the characters I have been learning and forming sentences with them throughout the past few days. I have found this very helpful to not only understand the characters’ meaning, but also figure out how they are used in everyday speech/writing. I found a useful extension on Pleco, which gives a few hundred example sentences in English/Chinese using the HSK vocabulary, and I have found this to be the most useful.

    What am I going to change?
    I think from now on I will focus more on applying the characters I have learned in sentences. I also have not been focusing on speaking a lot of these characters, so I think this is something that I really need to change. I have a few friends at my university that are native Chinese speakers, so I am going to attempt to meet with them in the hopes that I can work on the pronunciation of the vocabulary that I am learning. Otherwise, I have found that Skritter and Pleco have helped me out immensely in memorizing how to write characters and memorize their meanings in English.

    My second milestone is to reach 100 characters. I think I will see how I do on the second milestone and adjust my goals accordingly based on how quickly I am able to reach this milestone. I will keep you posted on my progress! Thanks for organizing this, Olle! I have found that it is helping out a lot!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Finding suitable goals takes some time, I also misjudged my own learning and that happens all the time. Having a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick with it, but having a plan is still much better than not having one. 🙂 Good luck up to the next milestone!

  2. Rossi says:

    Skritter has been soooo helpful.

    My goals were:
    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 250
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 450
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 650
    End of challenge (June 30th): 850

    First goal: met. The Mandarin Companion readers have been very helpful in maintaining my interest. Skritter is very engaging but even so, it’s hard for random vocabulary learning to not start feeling a bit rote and boring after awhile. It’s nice to be pulled along by a narrative – even a simple one.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Well done! Graded readers are great. I have received a review copy of one of the Mandarin Companion books, but haven’t had time to check it out yet, but will surely do so soon.

  3. Kate says:

    Hi Olle!

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 105 MET!
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 192
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 280
    End of challenge (June 30th): 350

    I surpassed my first goal of 105 characters! When I first started studying, I figured I’d wait until later to begin learning the characters- now, I’m finding that learning the characters can be enjoyable, and I love recognizing the characters that I have learned.

    I’ve been studying using Tuttle’s “Learning Chinese Characters” and Chinesepod vocabulary. Previously, I never realized how much learning radicals would help me. Now that I’m slowly picking up the most common radicals, I find that I’m enjoying studying even more.

    Besides simply studying vocabulary, I’m also taking 3 lessons a week on italki. I’m able to input my new vocabulary from my lessons into my Skritter account and practice those words as well.

    The best thing about this challenge is that I spend some time each day working on my Chinese, even if the time is in 10-15 minute segments. I find that I am able to retain much more than if I studied 1 or 2 days a week, 2 hours at a time. Plus, I feel great that I’m able to incorporate my new vocabulary into my Skype lessons.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Sounds good! Keep it up and good luck for the next stretch of the challenge!

  4. Audrey says:

    Here’s another thumbs up for Skritter. I had never used it before starting this challenge, but it has been really good for me.

    My goal was to learn the 700 “second tier” most common characters according to the book Read and Write Chinese by the end of the challenger in June. For the first milestone (April 8), my goal was to learn 120 characters. As of today, I have input 184 of the characters into Skritter in my own vocabulary list, and, according to Skritter, I have learned 183 of these with a retention rate of 93.9% for writing and 96.1% overall (reading, definition, tones and writing).

    I am slightly ahead of schedule according to Skritter, but some of the characters still feel “shaky” to me. There are a few characters I tend to confuse, and I write those down on paper to study, side by side.

    I plan primarily to keep doing what I have been doing, which is writing the characters down, look them up in Pleco to learn words containinging the character, and then adding them to Skritter to study and practice. But, I am also going to spend some more time trying to read Chinese language material “in the wild, on the web.”

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great! Being slightly ahead of schedule hopefully means you set a reasonable goal (unlike me). Good luck!

      1. Audrey says:

        Thank you, Olle. I am not entirely sure if my goals are “sensible” , but they are at least a place to start. The goal of learning to reach and write Chinese seems overwhelming without some discrete, concrete goals like the ones created for this challenge.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          That is what sensible means, at least to me. 🙂

  5. Federico says:

    Hi Olle,

    my progress has been this:

    Starting point:March 29th
    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 80 (goal met at 70)
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 120 (200 total)
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 100 (300 total)
    End of challenge (June 30th):100 (400 total)

    The great thing is I have been able to meet my first milestone goal even though this is one the most hectic and stressful period of my working life.

    I think the main lesson here is finding the right patterns (semantic and sound components) linking one character with the others. This can help you leverage great economies of scale letting you achieve much more than by rote learning.

    Thanks for the opportunity to practice with method.



    1. Olle Linge says:

      I think finding pockets where you can include some micro-learning is mostly a matter of scrutinising one’s routines and establishing new patterns/habits. It’s great that you’ve been able to keep it up in spite of being busy. Good luck with the next stretch of the challenge!

  6. Daniel says:

    I must say that I am really enjoying this character challenge! Before this I hadn’t really tried to learn to write systematically, and I appreciate this nudge to give it a try.
    I have pretty much reached my first milestone of learning all of the basic characters as well as 30 character components in my textbook, though there are a few pesky ones that don’t seem to want to be remembered. Among these are words such as 与 and 发, neither of which I can easily put in a context. Until I can find a context, I am giving such words special treatment by adding them to my paper flashcards which otherwise had just been reserved for character components.
    For my next milestone, I’m looking forward to applying the basic characters and components to learn the 100 compound characters for the next milestone. I’ve already entered them into Anki and I’ve written out flashcards for the next 30 components. So far, so good!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Glad you find the challenge helpful and that you have reached your goal! Keep it up and good luck up to the next milestone.

  7. gerrityong says:

    Are the nommoc promo Codes already gone? If not, I’d love to receive one:)
    Since it’s 7 in the morning for me, I’ll still have to skitter a bit to reach my milestone 🙂

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I think you’re the first! I will forward your contact information as soon as the second code is gone, too. Good luck with your studying!

      1. Olle Linge says:

        Done now, let me know how it turns out!

  8. Jeremy says:


    I hit my first milestone. I blogged about it in the link above.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Looks great! Also, I love the title and subtitle of your blog. 🙂 Good luck for the next milestone!

  9. xiaokaka says:

    Goals before:
    Day 0: 1350 characters learned in Skritter
    Milestone #1 (April 8): 180 (1530 in total)
    Milestone #2 (April 30): 330 (1680 in total)
    Milestone #3 (May 31): 480 (1830 in total)
    End of challenge (June 30): 600 (1950 in total)

    I reached milestone 1 on April 1 but I was spending a lot of time Skrittering, making mnemonics and “researching” characters. Maybe a little bit (or a lot) more than I will have time to do the coming weeks so I will be keeping the initial goals.

    Updated goals:
    April 8: 1606 characters learned in Skritter
    Milestone #2 (April 30): +130 (1736 in total)
    Milestone #3 (May 31): +150 (1886 in total)
    End of challenge (June 30): +120 (2006 in total)

    I would be very happy if you contacted Skritter on my behalf for a free extension ☺️.

    1. xiaokaka says:

      PS. A nommoc code would be interesting, but since I already use Skritter I would prefer if someone else got a chance to try it out! In the unlikely event that no one else responds I would be glad to receive it.

      1. Olle Linge says:

        I have forwarded your contact information to Nommoc, let me know how it works out!

        1. xiaokaka says:

          Still haven’t heard anything from nommoc…

          1. Olle Linge says:

            I’ve sent an e-mail their way!

    2. Olle Linge says:

      spending too much time is actually a real problem, not if it’s instead of staring into a wall, but if it makes you practice other things less. I have a solution in the pipeline though, there will be more challenges later that focus on other things. 🙂

  10. 戴睿 says:

    Here’s my update:

    – Have you reached your goal for the first milestone? –
    Yes. Actually, I’ve passed it.

    My original goals were as follows:


    April 8: 80
    April 30: 190
    May 31: 345
    Jun 30: 500

    I’ve doubled the rate at which I’m learning characters (10 a day instead of 5). I’ve currently learned 100 (instead of 80).

    – What (if anything) are you going to change? –
    Because I’ve changed the amount of characters I study each day, I need to reassess my future benchmarks. My new ones will be as follows:

    April 30: 320
    May 31: 630
    June 30: 930

    Obviously, the difference between my newly selected goals and original ones is pretty massive!

    Another new thing I’d like to try is one of the ideas Ollie posted:

    “Ideally, it would be diseribale to learn characters before going to bed and then again the following morning,”

    So i’ll be making changes to my schedule accordingly.

    – What have you learnt by participating in the challenge? –

    I’m really excited about the progress I’ve made thus far. Instead of dragging my feet every morning trying to build up the motivation to study, I look forward to it. It’s funny, because my workload has increased, but so too has my motivation.

    I think that thus far the biggest lesson I’ve learned is the power of habitually studying. Having a highly effective “routine” it crucial. Furthermore, despite the fact my workload is rather large, I would point out that each of the new characters I learn our heavily contextualized. I remember very clearly where I first encountered them within NPCR, and review them constantly.

    I’m setting a much more long term goal that will extend past this challenge, because I want to see how long I can go at a rate of learning 10 characters a day.

    How’s everyone else’s progress going?

    1. 戴睿 says:

      Check out my forum post where I discuss this a little bit more in depth:


    2. Olle Linge says:

      I replied to your thread on Chinese Forums instead of replying here. 🙂

  11. 狄小可 says:

    Hooray! I can’t beleive I did it! My goals were:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 200
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 350
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 500
    End of challenge (June 30th):600

    As of two days ago, skritter had me at 114 new words learned, and I realised that it must not be adding the words I already know (i.e. get right on the first exposure). When I set the goals I was kind of relying on having some freebies, but I decided to push myself and hit 206 words just now! Thats a total of 391 characters, although many of those were freebies. I actually already know all these characters as sight words, and some of them I have written in the past, but still, I’ve done better than I thought I could!

    I still find character writing a bit tedious, but having goals and feedback helps a lot. Also, mnemonics! I’m really sold on skritter now that I’ve gotten used to the repetition spacing and the mnemonic system.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great! Try to make it less tedious if you can. I’ve found that timeboxing works quite well for reviewing characters (but not so well for learning new ones).

  12. gerrityong says:

    Starting point (March 22nd): 2895 characters total
    Milestone #1 (April 8th): +150 new chars
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): +250 new chars
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): +400 new chars
    End of challenge (June 30th): +500 new chars (3395 total)

    I reached milestone #1, now -according to Skritter – knowing how to write 3050 characters.

    The goal I set seems to be perfect, since I only managed to learn 5 characters more than estimated for milestone #1.

    According to the rules I looked up characters, which I didn’t know how to write, in Pleco, searched for example sentences, included some of those into my personal definitions within skritter and also created some new mnemonics for myself.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Sounds like you’ve set reasonable goals, keep up the good work!

  13. Georg says:

    Hi Olle,

    it’s a great experience to tackle those goals together with all the folks here! Finally, I seem to really get ahead with Chinese 🙂 Like others said before, Skritter’s been a great help so far.
    These are my goals:
    Milestone #1 (April 8th): completed HSK 2, about 100 characters
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): HSK 3 half way through, about 250 characters)
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): completed HSK 3, about 220 characters
    End of challenge (June 30th): 150 words of HSK 4, about 200 characters

    I met my 1st goal a few days early, yay. This gives me some comfort for achieving my next goal. I might even get a bit daring to challenge myself to do the complete HSK 3 vocabulary until end of April. If I manage this I’ll have to seriously review the last 2 mile stones 🙂

    Thanks again for this great challenge and to everyone participating for sharing.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I think that I underestimate the power of community learning. I myself feel a pretty strong motivational force pushing me in the right direction. This was the impetus I needed to get started with my own learning again and it’s great to hear that it’s working for others, too! 加油!

  14. 9thcrane says:

    I am a little behind my goal. I was supposed to be at 373 new characters but only made it to 317. I was able to visit a student’s home for the Qingming holiday and so lost three days of studying. But gained in the speaking, friendship, and culture departments! I should be able to catch up by the next milestone so I don’t think I will change my goals.

    I learn the new characters from my textbook, then study them in Memrise. Next I write them out on cards and also write them in skritter. Finally, I review them with Ankidroid. I find that using a variety of methods keeps my interest and helps me to remember better.

    I have learned that I can learn a lot of characters and do not have to just plod along at a very slow pace. Having the challenge is very motivating. Thanks!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Progress is still progress, being a little bit behind isn’t a big problem, I think, just as being a little bit ahead isn’t necessarily so good (it might mean that you spent too much time on this rather than something else, for instance). Good luck on the next stretch of the challenge!

  15. William says:

    Sensible character learning challenge 2014 Update:
    just exceeded milestone 1 at 122/107 characters.

    Goal 1 April 8th 107*
    Goal 2 April 30th 208
    Goal 3 May 31st 305
    End June 30th 428

    For sensible character learning, I have found Anki to be incredibly useful, it keeps track of all the characters I have and need to learn. One area where I have been struggling lately, is writing characters. I have found that handwriting characters that are hard for me to remember helps increase accuracy of remembering that character in the future.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Yes, handwriting definitely helps, mostly because it forces you to process the character in more detail. When just reading, it’s so easy to be complacent and think you know a character when actually you don’t. Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

  16. Luke says:


    My goal for today was to complete the HSK2 word list and the first four sections of HSK3 on Skritter. I’m pleased to say that I’ve completed 7 sections of HSK3, so I guess my goal was a bit easy. Not having done something like this before, I think I underestimated how many of the HSK entries are just combinations of characters you’ve already learned, which is so much easier than learning new characters. I’d also put some of it down to initial enthusiasm – I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the first few weeks. So I’m not going to change my goals at this stage, as I have noticed I’ve been tailing off a bit recently. I’ve also noticed more brain “leakage” as my list of “known” characters increases :). I think some of my mnemonics aren’t really substantial enough (something that’s discussed elsewhere on this site – “looks like a man wearing a hat”).

    Thanks Olle for organising this as it has been a very useful experience so far. It’s also emphasized for me how important it is to also use the vocabulary in a real context. I’ve been getting a lesson once a week and even though I’ve already studied the words, I often don’t initially make the connection when the teacher uses them.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      你好!Estimating how much is reasonable to learn without being familiar with the unit of learning is really hard, so don’t worry too much about it, that’s why there is a “what will you change”! I also changed my goals. 加油!

  17. Magnus says:

    I’m stumbling in over the goal line juuust barely. Mostly due to scheduling misunderstandings and a weekend vacation just when I could have used more studying time the most.

    I find that Skritter works better than I thought it would and I’m thankful that I found the HTML5 beta of it, enabling me to work offline as well.

    My goals remain the same:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 300
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 550
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 800
    End of challenge (June 30th): 1000

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great! I still haven’t used the HTML 5 version a lot, my phone is too old, but I look forward to doing so once I’ve laid my hands on a new phone (my old is sent for repair, hopefully they will tell me it’s beyond hope and give me some money).

  18. Jack says:

    Alright!! My milestones were thus far:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 150
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 300
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 450
    End of challenge (June 30th): 600

    According to Skritter, I’ve learned 207 characters over the last month, so my goals weren’t ambitious enough. Granted, a lot of these characters are review, and I’m still shaking the cobwebs out. I want to be aggressive about this, though, so I’m going to adjust my milestones as follows:

    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 400 (+200)
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 600 (+200)
    End of challenge (June 30th): 750 (+150)

    Thanks again, Olle, for organizing this! I’ve found that just exercising my Chinese muscle every single day improved my spoken Chinese with my family when I went to see them, even though I didn’t directly use any of the characters I was reviewing.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Stepping it up a bit sounds like a good plan, 加油!

  19. Kevin says:

    I’m off to a bit of a slow start. My first milestone was for 247 characters, and I only got to 101 so far. Luckily I have quite a bit of time to catch up. I got a late start and only studied 3 days so far, so I’m actually above my daily goal.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      It’s your average output times the time you invest that counts, Kevin. 🙂 加油!

  20. Nicole says:

    Milestone #1

    My initial goal was to learn 75 characters at this point. I’m currently at 90 and have added words and phrases as a separate count, which is 81.

    I’m using a combination of writing my hand, using Anki and Ankidroid. I’m taking characters I feel are essential while navigating the Chinese interwebs, and common words in news stories plus re-learning useful characters from textbooks.

    I’ve learned that it’s a reality to need motivation. I’m still in the process of finding new ways to change things up but I’m coming along with a good strategy so far, which was an important part of this challenge. I look forward to utilizing Skritter more.

    I’m in a good groove and am increasing my final goal to 400.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Yes, finding ways of staying motivated is an active process that is very important. I’m a firm believer in that motivation isn’t something we have or don’t have, but that it’s rather something we need to cultivate if we want to keep it for long (unless we’re really lucky). Well done and 加油!

  21. Jacob Job says:

    • Have you reached your goal for the first milestone?
    Yes 🙂 I reached my goal on the 8th. Being part of the challenge and having specific goals pushed me to get all 204 characters into my Skritter cycle.

    • What (if anything) are you going to change?
    I’m going to shoot to just do 10 to 15 characters a day, rather than doing longer hauls of 25 to 30 new characters a day. I know that I can do 25 to 40 a day, but approaching the task knowing that I just need to knock out 10 to 15. I would usually do a day or two with 25 to 30 new, and then have a couple days off.

    Plus, I want to start focusing more on vocabulary during the next month. 10 to 15 characters a day would be an easy habit to keep up for a year and could get me to a few thousand characters.

    • What have you learnt by participating in the challenge?
    I’ve learned 204 new characters 🙂 And I’ve relearning how fun it is to learn new characters and recognize them out on the street the next day.

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 204 (Chapters 28-33) REACHED!
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 354 (Chapters 34-38)
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 518 (Chapters 39-47)
    End of challenge (June 30th): 648 (Chapters 48-55)

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Good job, keep it up, 加油, etc. 🙂

  22. Oaht says:

    My progress report

    Goal: 3000 characters in Skritter
    Starting point (March 21nd): 2287
    Milestone #1 (April 8th): +125 (2412 total) DONE! +139(2426 total)
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): +155 (2567 total)
    Milestone #3 (May 31st):+220 (2787 total)
    End of challenge (June 30th):+213 (3000 total)

    How have I been doing, then?
    : Everything is going as plan actually. First, I exported all the words I haven’t learned from 3000 most common use charaters list, dropped them in Excel table and arranged the list by pinyin. In this way I could put together the characters that share the similar pronunciation or radical components (烂,栏,拦 for example), and make my daily lists out of it. Then I let Skritter added 7-8 new words everyday and reviewed around 30-40 minutes of Skritter time (probably like an hour per day in real life)

    What am I going to change?
    Continue doing what I have been doing. Do it more when I feel like to. Just in case there will be somedays that I am not in the mood of learning which happens quite often ,hehe.

    What have I learnt?
    Radicals, components, and learning the characters in chunck is a suitable method for me. For fellow Skritter users, try to switch the way you write between ‘on the screen’ and ‘pen and paper’ sometimes. You will be surprised to see it is quite difficult to do it outside Skritter context.



    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great, keep up the good work!

      About the last part of your report, have you turned on raw squiggles? You really should, because it’s much, much easier to cheat if you don’t and it will still feel like you’re learning. That would be one of the main differences between using paper and Skritter. I have that setting turned on and I haven’t noticed many differences between Skritter and paper.

      1. xiaokaka says:

        +1 on raw squiggles (I find it really weird that this is not on by default. Maybe newcomers are more likely to stay if it’s easier…). I also raised the difficulty of stroke order to maixmum.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          Yes, it’s strange, but I think it’s because it “feels better” to not have that function turned on. It makes it feel like you write better than you do. I will discuss this in a video which will come online soon. 🙂

      2. Oaht says:

        Hi Olle

        I always leave the raw squiggles on all the time (can’t cheat myself :)).
        I guess what I was trying to say was writing with pen and paper might be more difficult but somehow shows me my true retention rate. Also writing with pen requires a plan as the characters you produce are way smaller than the ones on Skitter screen, and there is no guideline to help you composing the right proportion of each character components to make nice and understandable characters.

        After the final milestone I will do my own test to see how many characters I can write with pen and paper. Let’s hope it won’t be too less. 🙂


        1. Olle Linge says:

          Hi! I have done a similar test and found that Skritter taught me almost everything I needed. I noticed no significant difference between writing on paper and on a writing tablet. I recorded a video about raw squigs that I will share in an article that will be published as soon as the video conversion is done. I’m curious how your test goes, be sure to let us know!

  23. Julia says:

    Hey everyone 🙂

    Have you reached your goal for the first milestone?

    My goal for the 8th was 120 characters. And according to Skritter I’ve learnt 305 so I’m pretty happy! Though I only just realised that I learnt so many, until I came to write this I thought I’d only learnt 55 or something but my friend just pointed out to me that’s only for the week… I’m an idiot…

    What (if anything) are you going to change?

    I think my ‘learned’ list might be artificially high because I’m starting a new course soon so I switched lists halfway through to prepare. So I’ll stick to the same lists.

    What have you learnt by participating in the challenge?

    That practising every day is a very good idea, haha.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great, keep up the good work!

  24. Teresa says:

    Hi Olle!
    I must admit I’m a little bit late on my challenge. I decided to learn 10 new words every day so I should be on the 180th by now, but I’m on 160 words.

    I used Skritter at the beginning and it proved to be useful, but I’m not a big fun of it. I can only use it on my laptop and it’s kind of hard to write the characters in the trackpad.

    So right now I’m using, Anki, Memrise and good ol’ paper.

    I’ve been updating my blog with the new words I study every day and publishing it on my Twitter (@tmoyatrad). I’ve been mentioning you and using the hashtag #Challenge101days I hope you don’t mind!


    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hi! I’ve noticed your tweets, of course, keep up the good work! Mentioning the challenge on Twitter is just good, of course, part of my goal is to get people together for this kind of activities and sharing definitely helps.

  25. Emily says:


    My progress: I’ve gotten to 730 so far – looks like my original goal of getting to 920 by the first milestone might have been a bit over ambitious. I’ve been having some skritter issues (for a couple days I wasn’t able to add new characters – it seems to have just resolved today) but I can’t really blame my low progress on that. I’ve been reasonably consistent, but like some others I’ve had a couple days without practice – mostly when I was off doing something else cool, though.

    What am I going to change:

    I hadn’t been looking new characters up in pleco, and I think I’m going to start doing so in addition to creating a mnemonic device and studying the components.

    What have I learned:

    It really, really helps me if I learn a character and then encounter it in a non-skritter environment – like a sign on the street, textbook or other book. I second the idea that sometimes if you just learn a character in skritter you can’t produce it outside of skritter. But it’s been fun to learn a character and then encounter (and understand!) it the following day in the street. Even though I’m just studying from the list of 3000 most common characters, it’s also helped in my current Chinese class.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I think what you said about non-Skritter environment is quite important and I agree. It’s of course very hard to create such situations on purpose, but it is possible in theory and I’m collaborating with others to address this. I won’t tell you more now, but I will probably talk more about this later. 🙂 Good luck with the rest of the challenge!

  26. Pnh says:

    Done but was not that ambitious first milestone!
    Off to the next.

    Thanks Skritter!


  27. How have I been doing?
    Not to swell. I have probably the smallest goal of the community, so it’s incredibly embarrassing to post an update at this stage, but I’m determined to keep going even though I feel miserable. I was doing really well to start and then went on vacation fully intending to do Chinese every day. I studied on my flight and haven’t looked at a single character since.

    What am I going to change?
    Well, I’m going to start working again today, and not let this hitch in my goals make me stop.

    What have I learned?
    I have to be intentional about learning, otherwise I forget that I’m even trying to learn. Also, not to let myself give up completely just because I haven’t been doing well.

    Current Status:
    If I tell you, you would laugh, posting an update when I’m not doing well is enough shame for the moment…

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I think it’s great that you post this anyway, hopefully it will increase the pressure a bit and improve your chance of succeeding in the near future. This is much better than just giving up and silently disappearing from the challenge…

      1. Thanks for the encouragement Olle!

  28. Xiaomai5 says:

    Hi all,
    Terrible start for me… aimed to learn 150 words and move my total to 1559. Instead I have learnt just 3! I’m struggling to maintain and having been finding long skritter sessions dull. Finding interesting reading material at my level has been the challenge. I have read all the mandarin companion bar one which is not available in the Uk. And now I can’t find much else I can read! Lots of others doing really well so well done that is fantastic! Hoping for a turbo boost to milestone 2! 小麦

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Hm… learning three words certainly means that you didn’t try, or that you had a huge backlog of other things to go through first? I mean, even spending one minute a day would probably have taught you ten times as many words?

      1. xiaomai5 says:

        I think it was probably the backlog..I can never clear my reviews.. I started with nearly 1,000 reviews. According to skritter I spent 7 hours over the 15 days. So I actually averaged around 28 minutes a day! 1 minute a day would just end up with loads of reviews, haha. I have to do at least 20 mins to break even on reviews.. maybe my skritter is set up wrong I don’t know.

        1. Olle Linge says:

          If you’re focusing on vocabulary at the moment, either because of the challenge or for some other reason, I think spending 30 minutes a day sounds okay, although that of course depends on how much you study in general. If you study a lot, you could possibly increase this quite a bit. However, 30 minutes per day on average without adding new cards rings an alarm bell in my head. How many cards do you have? What’s your retention rate? I had more than 20 000 cards in my Anki deck earlier and seldom spent more than 30 minutes a day.

          1. Xiaomai5 says:

            I try to do skritter as my base, other study is then a bonus. Mainly reading if I can. Using skritter not anki so not sure on the number of cards… Rentention around 85% so a bit low.

  29. Aaron says:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 150
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 275
    Milestone #3 (May 31th): 400
    End of challenge (June 30th): 500

    • Have you reached your goal for the first milestone?

    I believe so – if anything I reviewed and reinforced characters I already knew, but had half-forgotten. Reading a newspaper article every couple days really helped to put characters into context. I’ll need to keep better track of the numbers for the next milestone.

    • What (if anything) are you going to change?

    There was a learning curve for me in using Skritter. At the end of the day though, I’ve learned that I only like using apps and programs as secondary sources for my learning. For this second milestone, I will use Pleco and my own paper flashcard system – clunky, but I learned the bulk of my first 1000 characters that way. I’ll also try to use some of the other resources you have on this site, particularly your directory of dictionaries. Horizonital learning, for example, really intrigues me, and I hope will me parse out similar characters in the long run.

    • What have you learnt by participating in the challenge?

    If I don’t make character learning a daily priority, it’s going to fall to the wayside again. Some days I didn’t get to it at all, and other days I binged. Also, I like the idea of keeping track of my learning data (how many characters, how many to review, etc.), but the apps got in the way of my learning, instead of helping me along. I really have to use them as a secondary source. Also, using pencil and paper gives me the capacity to practice them during meetings, at my desk, waiting for the microwave, while procrastinating other things, etc.

    1. 9thcrane says:

      Aaron, I’d love to hear more about how you use paper flashcards. I use the apps a lot but I also like having a more hands on method. However, I have a big bulky stack of cards I’ve made but I don’t really know what to do with them.

      1. Aaron says:

        Yes, the big bulky stack is definitely something I try to circumvent. I actually use something akin to Skritter’s algorithm, but just with paper cards. Each time I practice, I create three stacks: characters I know well and have seen in writing and have used myself; characters I’m beginning to recognize but haven’t seen in writing or haven’t used myself; and characters that are still new to me. Then the next time I study, I do the same thing again, adding new cards into the mix. When I’m out and about, I take a small stack from whichever categories I feel like need the most review, and just study those during my free minutes in the day. I think the key is to really break down the cards into personal categories, so you’re not studying them all at once. Also, you need to connect those cards to real life texts or conversations to reinforce the studying – something that Ollie mentions many times on this site, correctly. Hope that helps!

        1. Aaron says:

          I mean Olle! Apologies.

    2. Olle Linge says:

      Great, keep up the good work!

  30. Jacob Gill says:

    Made it to Milestone 1, and produced the following results:

    Total Time Studied: 453.6 minutes (or ~20.632 min/day )
    Total Word Writing Learned: 556 words (or ~23.534 words/day)
    Total Word Definitions: 518 definitions (or 23.545 definitions/day)
    Retention: 92.5%

    Overall I’m rather happy with my results. My retention rate is good, but there are so many words that I simply forgot, or were hazy on. Also, I’m being hyper-critical of what I consider “good” for the challenge. Any time there is a hesitation, or a missed stroke, the character is marked wrong. I had a few days that I missed out on studying, but my real issue with not hitting the first milestone goal of 750 words was simply time spent studying. I’ve got a good rhythm going now, and think that I can get back on track for milestone 2!

    For those new to Skritter, for the challenge, welcome, and we hope you’re enjoying our app!



    1. Olle Linge says:

      Looks good, keep up the good work! 🙂

  31. 爱美 says:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th): 985 total EXCEEDED! 1004 Total
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): 1100 total
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): 1200 total
    End of challenge (June 30th): 1300 total

    I have been using a new combination of Skritter to learn (which I have been doing for about a year) and trainchinese to review and get some context. This has been working very well and I have added an extra set of words in the last week which has made me exceed my first milestone.

    Of course the real test is whether I can recognise them in context of a HSK4 exam… I will test this out in a few weeks time and let you know…

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great, keep up the good work and good luck! I seem to have missed you earlier and you weren’t actually in the list of participants, but you are now, sorry!

  32. Doug Stetar says:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th)
    Goal: 300 new characters/radicals
    Result: 221 learned

    First, the missed total: I’m not too worried about this as I front loaded a lot of characters, and I’ve been very busy with the end of the teaching semester here in Canada. I’m confident that I can make the missing 79 characters up by April 30.
    Second, I’m really liking Skritter. There are a few things I’d like to see improved, but overall, an excellent app.


    1. Olle Linge says:

      Still pretty good, I would say! About Skritter, I agree, I’m especially irked by the fact that you can’t change the pronunciation of characters.

  33. Nik says:

    Well, I’m a bit late with this progress report, but I’ll make sure to report the status of my challenge as it was on April 8.

    According to the goal that I set in the previous article, I had wanted to learn 35 characters by the first milestone (since I started participating in the challenge about a week before the first milestone).

    Amazingly, though, I noticed on April 8 that I exactly doubled that goal and learned 70 characters! I was very happily surprised by the results. I’ve been doing a pen and paper approach in combination with Anki, using a 2 lapse threshold for leeches, which then suspends the card and forces me to deal with it. However, I’ve been noticing greatly improved retention of characters which I can attribute to 3 things:

    1. Horizontal Learning: For the past month or so, I’ve been going through an Anki deck every day that contains all the phonetic character components listed on the HanziCraft site. I definitely feel this has helped in retaining how to write, even though I don’t actually write out the phonetic components when I go through that Anki deck.

    2. For the past 2 or so months, I’ve been going through a daily Anki deck for READING characters, with the aim of improving the number of characters I recognize (since the top 3000 are key). So some of the characters I’m now writing, I’ve been seeing on those flashcards at various intervals.

    3. I’ve been creating Skritter-esque flashcards in this Sensible Character Learning Deck, essentially replicating how Skritter presents the character to write (i.e. in a word, definition provided, and with a gap at the position of the character I’m meant to write), which is much better than how I normally used to try to learn how to write characters: in isolation on Anki cards. Presenting the whole word or 成语 gives me a bit of context to work with, which adds more personality and individuality to the characters I’m trying to learn.

    Since I’ve already gone well beyond my first milestone, I’m excited to see where I’ll be at the second!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Sounds like you’ve made a lot of progress, keep up the good work for the next milestone! 🙂

  34. Bailee says:

    I did reach my first goal/milestone! Although just barely. It got to be a little crunchy near the end.
    I’m going to try to be more consistent in this next bit, and review the words I’m learning a couple of time before I move on to the next one.
    I’ve learned a lot of new vocabulary, but I’ve also learned how quickly I forget characters. Sometimes the next day I’ll have already forgotten a word I learned the day before and thought I knew.

    1. Bailee says:

      Also could I please have the code for the skritter extension? That would be fabulous! Thanks. 🙂

      1. Olle Linge says:

        Just join the group Jacob linked to and he will take good care of you!

  35. Jocy says:

    I am starting now and it’s the first time I’ve done something like this, so I am not expecting to be on target with this challenge. I suppose, though, that one has to start somewhere.

    Current status (April 12th): 100
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): +100 (200 total)
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): +200 (400 total)
    End of challenge (June 30th): +200 (600 total)

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Good luck and welcome to the challenge, 一起加油!:)

  36. Teresa says:

    Thank you SO much!! I love the Hanzi WallChart posters. This gives me more energy to keep working hard.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Great, keep up the good work! 😀

  37. 9thcrane says:

    I’d like to get a Skritter extension code, please. Thank you!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I have sent you an e-mail!

  38. Rossi says:

    I would love a skritter extension as well, please. They have definitely hooked a customer in me as practicing my characters has become my subway commuting routine!

    1. Olle Linge says:

      I’ve sent you an e-mail!

  39. Jacob Gill says:


    I’ve created a Study Group on Skritter that you are all welcome to join. The url for the group is at:


    Once you join the group, just reply to my comment and I can quickly take a look at your account and apply the one week Skritter extension to anyone who qualifies!

    Best of luck, again, to everyone in the challenge.


    1. xiaokaka says:


      I’ve joined the group. See above for my goals. (I had +180 a first milestone but reached +256, using the character count in my public profile).

      1. Jacob Gill says:

        Awesome, Xiaokaka.

        太棒了,你呀! Way to go. I’m adding the extension on your account as we speak.



        1. Bailee says:

          Hi! I joined the group! 🙂

          1. Jacob Gill says:

            Your extra time has been added! Best of luck on the rest of the challenge

  40. Jacob Gill says:

    Quick update for those who’ve joined the Skritter Group, I’ve added time to all of your accounts using the coupon code!

    And, in case you were curious, since the start of the challenge the six people currently in the group have studied a combined total of 87.875 hours on Skritter. CRAZY!

    1. Rossi says:

      I tried to join but I’m not sure if I actually did … Is there way you can confirm?
      Thank you!

      1. Jacob Gill says:

        Yup, you’ve successfully joined the group and the extra time has been applied to your account. Thanks for checking in and best of luck during the rest of the challenge!

  41. Joaquin Matek says:

    I realize this update is overdue, but I’ll go ahead and post it anyways.

    Words learned: 3695
    My milestones for the next 101 days:

    Milestone #1 (April 8th):+364 words = 4059 words
    Milestone #2 (April 30th): +667 words = 4362 words
    Milestone #3 (May 31st): +970 words = 4665 words
    End of Challenge (June 30th): +1212 words = 4907 words

    Have you reached your goal for the first milestone?
    I did not reach my goal for the first milestone according to the generic percentage benchmarks, however I have reached (and slightly exceeded) my first milestone according to my stated goal of learning 12 new words each and every day of the challenge.

    What (if anything) are you going to change?
    The only change I will be making is to start using the skritter android version on the go to try to get a few more reviews in here and there. Otherwise, I plan to keep learning new words and characters, and most importantly, to continue making steady and consistent progress.

    What have you learnt by participating in the challenge?
    I will continue to treat intrinsic motivation as primary and essential, but a little bit of extrinsic motivation is certainly helpful, particularly when that motivation includes other people working on the same challenge. I wouldn’t consider this new knowledge, but I certainly have internalized it better than before.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Sounds like you’ve made good progress! That matters more than updating at the right time, I think. 🙂 加油 for milestone 2!

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