Long time readers are aware of my ups and downs with Chinese Mandarin. At the moment, I’m working on a bit of an up again. Some time ago, I worked my way through Jeff Pepper’s 23 Cats and Mulan. They are readers with a restricted vocabulary, but are not so tedious as the typical beginner reader where dad is always a doctor, mom is always a teacher and life never ventures from the HSK1 or HSK2. Then, as usual, I let things lapse again for a while. But I still keep looking at the Journey to the West readers. And so I clicked on a link at Imagin8 to find out what this HackChinese thing they were recommending was all about. HackChinese is essentially yet another flashcard app for Chinese that uses SRS. The nice thing is they have vocabulary lists for all the Imagin8 books. The better thing is the app builds a cumulative vocabulary for you. This means that when you start a new book, it doesn’t drill you on the vocabulary you’ve already learned from other books, only the vocabulary from that book that is new to you. If you are looking for a way to target comprehensible input for Chinese through reading, this isn’t a bad way to go: 1) Add the vocabulary for a book to your list, 2) Work the list till you know 70% or so of the vocabulary, 3) Start reading and continue working through the list and 4) Reread the whole thing when you’re through both the book and the vocabulary list.
Note that HackChinese also does have a bunch of word lists including textbook vocabularies, the HSK lists and other things. And the great thing is whatever lists you add, you never start over with a word you’ve already learned from one of the other lists. That said, because it mainly tests knowing the pinyin and meaning for given Chinese characters, I’d recommend it for reading more than conversation.