Hacking Chinese

A better way of learning Mandarin

Why you should start blogging in Chinese today

Why you should start blogging in Chinese todayWriting practice is an important part of learning Chinese for all learners except perhaps true beginners and those who have chosen to focus only on the spoken language.

Writing can work as stepping stone to more advanced speaking, as well as a less scary way of trying out new words or expressions. It can also help you figure our where you have problems with grammar and vocabulary. When you write, your errors become obvious, which is good because you can then do something about them. Read more about learning to write in Chinese here.

In this article, I’m going to suggest that you start blogging in Chinese. This will make it easier for people who want to help you and you can also use it as benchmarking later. It doesn’t matter how much  you write or what you write about, just do it!

Some benefits of blogging in Chinese

I’ve spent a lot of time blogging in different languages (including this website) and I think there are several advantages of doing so:

  • Structure and routine – Set a schedule and stick to it. Don’t be too ambitious, but be strict when it comes to following the schedule. Writing once a week is a reasonably minimum. This doesn’t mean that you acan’t write more if you want, it just means that you set a decent level of minimum output.
  • Feedback and comments – You should of course try to get as much feedback as you can from friendly native speakers or other people who are interested in helping youout. I have used Lang-8 a lot for this. Having the text online makes it easir to refer to and you know you have your texts in one place.
  • Accountability – This is an important part in getting things done. If you announce your schedule to someone who cares about your progress, you will feel a healthy social pressure to actually post something. If you write interesting things or know a lot of people, this might happen of itself, but don’t hesitate to ask friends or family to hold you acountable even if they can’t read Chinese.
  • Communication – While writing a blog is mostly a unidirectional activity (you write, someone else reads), there is a difference between writing on your own computer and publishing online. The fact that someone might read it increases the requirements to write clearly. Naturally, you might also get comments or questions from readers.
  • Benchmarking – When you have studied Chinese for awhile, you will enter the “intermediate plateau”, where it feels like no matter how much youstudy, you don’t really learn much. You do, thugh, it’s just that you might not notice. One way of getting around that is to benchmark properly. Writing a blog makes tht a lot easier and is indeed a form of benchmarking in itself.

Start your own blog in Chinese

Starting a blog is easy and free unless you want a fancy solution. I’m not going to go into the details of how to set up a blog on your own (check this article or this website), but make sure whatever service you choose is accessible in China if you plan to show your blog to people there.

If you start a blog to practise your writing, why don’t you let us know about it by leaving a comment below? Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to look back on your progress a couple of years from now? I’ve run a blog in Chinese since 2008, so let’s use that as an example.

My Chinese blog

I started a blog to practice my Chinese writing when I moved to Taiwan in 2008. I wrote about 75 articles over the course of five years but haven’t published anything since 2013. This means that it’s possible to see what I wrote during this period. Here are a few selected articles if you’re curious:

I had honestly forgotten about half of these articles, so writing this post took twice as long as expected because I got stuck reading through them. Naturally, you don’t need to make your blog publicly available if you don’t want to! Just don’t give out the address or password protect your posts if you want to.

What and how to write

There are many ways to improve writing ability in Chinese. Starting with reading is a good idea because it gives you the language you need to write. If you think it’s hard to get started, make sure you break down the task into smaller chunks. Doing something is always better than doing nothing. I have written a few articles about how to improve writing ability:

As you may have noticed, there is a writing challenge this month. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so here:

Chinese writing challenge, May 10th to 31th

This is a great opportunity to start your blog (or restart it if you already have one). If you do, don’t forget to leave a comment. Good luck!

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  1. Brendan says:

    Somewhat on topic: I just realised recently that there is a perhaps a new medium succeeding the blog these days: the Youtube channel. I don’t mean anything so extreme as replacing the blog, but I have seen a few Mandarin speaking YouTubers that have created a style of video editing to create fast paced personalised bloglike video channels. I hope to start my own in Mandarin when I’m good enough. For example:

    1. Olle Linge says:

      That’s certainly a good idea, even though it does of course target a different skill. You wont’t improve your writing by recording spoken language in the same way that writing will only indirectly improve your speaking. I would consider video to be the analogous activity for speaking practice, although I think only a few learners will feel comfortable recording their beginner Mandarin (as you say, you want to wait until you’re good enough, whereas I suggest starting a blog NOW). Thanks for the suggestions, though, I think this is excellent for people brave enough to do this! 🙂

      1. Brendan says:

        Yeah, although for my personal idea, I wish to discuss advanced topics that I have pondered for a long time, so I will likely write out an essay first, post it somewhere like lang-8 or show a friend, then make the video. For example, having read Fact and Fantasy by John Defrancis, I think that chinese characters are actually not necessary at all, but that speakers or learners of languages that use chinese characters adopt this “fantasy” that they are necessary. E.g., Japanese and Korean are very similar languages, but Japanese uses Chinese characters and Korean uses a phonetic script without issues. So I’m also reading 思考,快與慢 in Mandarin in order to discuss those ideas. (Sorry, I’m kinda using my posting here to help give myself a commitment to going through with it).
        Here are some native level short stories written in pinyin: http://www.pinyin.info/readings/pinyin_riji_duanwen.html

  2. Dhananjay says:

    Writing,definitely is a great and to the point way of improving Chinese as a whole, because you are so intensely concentrating to make fewer mistakes than when you do while speaking.
    Sometimes though,translating using a dictionary is quite tricky. Synonym study becomes a very important,as a result that it may even hamper the actual process.

  3. Sam Dean says:

    If a person is thinking to start learning Chinese, then he must definitely go fir it, learning Chinese and mastering it opens doors to nearly one-fifth of the world’s population as well as to one of the strongest economy of the globe. I appreciate your efforts in writing such an amazing article. Keep up the good writing. Cheers.

  4. sahiba sheikh says:

    This article is very helpful.
    please keep it up.

  5. Delsh says:

    “Why you should start blogging” has a lot of reasons. However, when is all upto you. When you can commit yourself to blogging, is the time you start blogging.

  6. Jason says:

    Thanks for the article! A lot of good points here.
    Would you recommend any hosting service in particular for mainland China?

    1. Olle Linge says:

      No idea, really. I mean anything works, as long as it isn’t blocked, of course.

      1. Jason says:

        Ok, thanks for your reply! My concern is the loading speed. I know that many websites based in Europe or America are extremely slow when visited from mainland China because the data has to go through the firewall processing. I’ve heard websites located on HK, Taiwan or Singapore servers tend to be faster, though I’m not sure if it is a fact or just a fake marketing assertion spread by the Asian hosting service providers. I’ll keep investigate 😉

  7. Debora says:

    Hi, I realize this question might sound kind of dumb, but what would I blog about? I am a beginner, so I don’t really have the language skills to tackle anything too big.

    1. Olle Linge says:

      Just write things very close to yourself and your life, such as what you’re doing, what you think about that, and so on. A diary of some kind works well and can be written at almost any level of proficiency!

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