The Joy of HackChinese.com

The other day, I wrote about Imagin8 and comprehensible input. Specifically, I was looking at how having the vocabularies available on HackChinese.com meant you could start learning the words as you read the story, so that you had a way of simultaneously growing your vocabulary and having comprehensible input. Today, I’d like to say just a few words about the flashcard app where you can pick up the vocabulary for Imagin8 books.

One of the fusses of learning a new word list is it’s often littered with words you already know. And if you’re looking at wordlists to work your way through a set of related stories – even if all that binds them is they were written with HSK2 or HSK3 vocabulary, you’re going to keep getting the same words over and over for each story. In this, HackChinese.com is genius. While you can add lists to learn, they’re added to the databank of words you already know. If you’ve done all the characters in HSK1 and HSK2, when you add a new lists that includes some of those words, they won’t be added to your new learning. Sure, they’ll cycle in for periodic review, just like all the words in your databank. But that’s just it: with HackChinese.com, everything you add grows the vocabulary you’re maintaining, but nothing makes you duplicate your efforts unnecessarily. And this leads to the second wonderful point. When you go to the queue of lists you’re learning, it shows you how many words you know and how many are left for each list. But it’s constantly updated. This means that as you learn the vocabulary for one story, you can see the unknown vocabulary for later stories shrinking each time you learn a word that appears in multiple stories. As a result, the closer you get to knowing the 300 words you need for one intermediate story, the less work you have for later stories that assume at least an HSK4 vocabulary. And you can see the size of your task shrinking every time you work a little further into your current list.

I’m sure there must be other apps out there that work like this… it’s too ingenious an idea for everyone to have missed. But for the moment, HackChinese.com is what I’ve found, and if you’re learning Mandarin it’s marvelous to see the learning of lists turn into seriously growing your overall reading vocabulary. If keeping tracks of all those Chinese characters is a challenge, especially with those you know you’ve seen someplace else recently, give this a look. (P.S. They also have the wordlists, chapter by chapter, for Heisig’s Remembering the HanZi.)

About G Barto

Geoffrey Barto has been teaching language and culture for more than twenty years. His focus is helping people use language to achieve their goals, both for personal growth and in building their careers. The right words can make all the difference in the world!
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