Other Chinese Learning Resources

The following resources are what we at Speedy Vocab highly recommend as supplements to our HSK vocabulary learning system.

 

Where to start

 

Speedy Vocab – Our first recommendation is to sign up to Speedy Vocab’s course which will allow you to master the first 3 levels of HSK vocabulary (just over 600 Chinese words) in less than 3 months. This will give you a solid foundation in Chinese and kick start your ability to read, listen and speak.

 

Check out our “Beginners guide to Chinese” blog section for info if you’re a complete beginner.

 

Essentials

 

Pleco – An absolutely essential tool for all Chinese learners is the Pleco mobile app. Pleco is a dictionary which allows you to type words using pinyin, or by drawing the characters into your phone. Contains explanations of each word, example sentences to study how they are used and audio to hear pronunciation.

 

Google Translate – another very handy tool if you want a quick translation, in particular for whole sentences. Can contain mistakes so use with care.

 

Chinese Grammar Wiki – free online resources with succinct explanations of Chinese grammar structures, categorised by HSK level.

 

Chinese learning info

 

Hacking Chinese – The best website I’ve come across for tips on learning the Chinese language. Very easy to spend hours browsing articles on listening, speaking, reading, writing and vocabulary, as well as articles for beginner, intermediate and advanced learners.

 

 DigMandarin is a learning resource platform which contains comprehensive articles on Mandarin Chinese learning skills along with case studies, reviews of the latest popular Chinese textbooks or tools, and advice direct from the professional Chinese language experts.

 

Language learning articles by Speedy Vocab. We aim to add more of these in the future, so stay tuned!

 

Listening practice

 

Chinese pod – for a small monthly subscription, you can gain access to several thousand Chinese podcasts. The most common format is a spoken dialogue, followed by explanations and breakdowns of key words and phrases, mixed in with friendly banter and good humour. Different levels available depending on your skill level.

 

Youtube – great place to browse Chinese videos of all levels. One tv series I found particularly useful when I was learning is a Taiwanese based children’s cartoon called The Adventures of Qiaohu.

 

Additionally, there are hundreds of Chinese movies on YouTube, some with English subtitles and almost all with Chinese subtitles.

 

Graded readers

 

The Chairman’s Bao – small monthly subscription gives you access to their database of news articles, with vocabulary varying in difficulty according to HSK levels. All articles come with audio, an explanation of difficult vocabulary and grammar tips.

 

Mandarin Companion, Chinese Breeze and Graded Chinese Reader series – these type of books which contain a limited amount of vocabulary are an excellent way to continue your Chinese learning journey after Speedy Vocab. See our article on graded readers to find out more.

 

Writing

 

Skritter – while Speedy Vocab will teach you how to recognize a large number of words, if you want a fun app to help you practise writing, Skritter is a great place to start.

 

The Chairman’s Bao also has the functionality to practise character writing.

 

Speaking

 

Italki – is a great place to find online tutors. Online tutors post their hourly rate and you pay through the website. If you’re after something more casual (and free) you can find language buddies to help practise your Chinese, in exchange for you teaching them English (or any other language).

 

Local clubs and activities – most cities will have Chinese clubs or other activities you can take part in and make Chinese friends. Chinese people are generally very friendly and will help correct you when you make mistakes.

 

HSK

 

HSK Standard textbook – another great resource to help you prepare for the exam, with many practice questions and example dialogues.

 

Social Media

 

WeChat – a messaging and social media app used by almost all Chinese speakers. If you’re learning Chinese, WeChat is a must to communicate with people in China.

 

Weibo – can be useful if you have lots of Chinese friends that use it, however I’ve found that the majority of people just use WeChat.

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What Is The Best Way To Learn Chinese Vocabulary?

When it comes to learning a new language, where do you even start?

Any time you’re exposed to the target language is an opportunity for you to pick up new words – or solidify your understanding of words you’ve come across before. But navigating the landscape of vocabulary acquisition tools can be tricky. How do you figure out what the most efficient learning method is?

 

Linguistic research claims that in order to adequately comprehend any foreign language text, you need to know at least 95% of the vocabulary shown. With Chinese being one of the more time-consuming languages to learn, it’s important to choose a programme that optimises the vocabulary learnt. Key methods in which to do this include flashcard systems and graded readers.

 

Flashcard Systems

 

Flashcard systems generally consist of a word or phrase written on one side of a card, and a definition or explanation on the other side. These explanations often contain tips, component information, and example sentences. This allows the learner to form an association between the two sides, thus making it easier to acquire the vocabulary.

 

 

With so many words to learn, online flashcard systems are much more convenient than creating your own flashcards (although there are benefits to writing the characters out by hand). It quickly becomes a nightmare trying to keep track of 500+ hand-written flashcards, then figuring out which ones need revising and which ones don’t.

 

Spaced Repetition

 

Flashcard systems often follow spaced repetition logic. This allows for efficient memorisation by scheduling reviews of each flashcard at increasing intervals to ensure long-term acquisition. 

 

While it is crucial to develop an extensive vocabulary, focusing solely on memorising vocabulary can result in a lack of understanding of grammar structures and how that vocabulary is used in context. As a result, a learner may not understand a given text, even when they understand each of the individual words.

 

Graded Readers

 

A graded reader is a book or short story that contains simplified vocabulary, catered specifically to beginners. Graded readers can be an excellent way of solidifying the vocabulary you already know, and learning more about how these words can be put together in a meaningful way.

 

Graded readers are often based on the frequency and usefulness of vocabulary. This means that they tend to focus on vocabulary that is used most frequently in everyday conversations and the written language. The Mandarin Companion series and the Graded Chinese Reader series are two graded readers that I highly recommend.

 

Although graded readers are useful for learners with large existing vocabulary bases, how does one obtain this knowledge in the first place? While some learners may simply take the list of vocabulary used in the graded reader and memorise it beforehand, others will read the graded reader before they are anywhere near the 95% mark, thus not getting the full benefits.

 

Intermediate to Advanced Learners

 

Once you’ve covered the basics – roughly level 3 or level 4 of the HSK – you’re going to find yourself reading and listening to more material that actually interests you. You’re going to come across a lot of words you don’t know, so the question is, what is the best way of approaching new words you encounter?

 

The first thing I would recommend is to not try and memorise every single unknown word you come across. This is a sure way to bore yourself to death, and really isn’t the most efficient way of approaching the problem.

 

When I come across words I don’t know, I go through the following thought process:

 

 

Other Methods

 

Jotting down new words as you hear (or read) them – This can be highly effective as long as you have some way of revising them (either through a flashcard system, or by repeating them in conversation).

 

Copying words out of a dictionary – Not recommended unless you want to fall asleep.

 

 

So what is the best approach?

 

While there is no “one size fits all” approach that will suit everyone, it is certainly clear that there a smart ways of approaching vocabulary learning, and not so smart ways. What’s important is that you find a method that works for you.

 

 

At Speedy Vocab, we’ve designed a course which takes advantage of both flashcard systems and graded readers, as well as using spaced repetition. The idea being that you learn the vocabulary initially though flashcards, then revise what you’ve learnt using sentences activities. The sentences only contain vocabulary that you have already studied, so it’s like a graded reader that’s constantly adapting to your current level.

 

Using our “Smart Sentence” activities not only helps strengthen your memory of previously learnt vocabulary, but also gives you exposure to grammar and sentence structures at the same time!

 

 

To explore Speedy Vocab’s unique learning system, click here for a FREE TRIAL.

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What is Spaced Repetition?

 

 

Studying a new language can be daunting – especially when it’s a language like Chinese, with thousands of squiggly little characters to remember! Fortunately, there are many techniques that you can use to memorise Chinese characters and ensure that you retain them in your long-term memory.

 

One commonly used technique is Spaced Repetition. Spaced Repetition is a method that utilises the way your brain processes and recalls information to allow for more efficient memorisation.

 

When you learn something for the first time (for example, a Chinese character), your brain stores the information in your short-term memory. While initially safe, the information becomes more and more difficult to recall over time.

 

Studies show that after learning a new word, it should be reviewed again soon afterwards;

“Useful vocabulary needs to be met again and again to ensure it is learned. In the early stages of learning, the meetings need to be reasonably close together, preferably within a few days, so that too much forgetting does not occur. Later meetings can be very widely spaced with several weeks between each meeting.” (Nation and Newton, Teaching Vocabulary, 1997)

Actively retrieving the information before it leaves your short-term memory enables you to strengthen your brain’s neural pathways. This lengthens the amount of time before you’re likely to forget the information again.

 

At Speedy Vocab, we have incorporated the Spaced Repetition technique throughout our course. Following the Flip-Shuffle-Test flashcard stage, you are given Smart Sentences to interact with and use the vocabulary you have just learnt. With an extensive database of Chinese sentences based on HSK vocabulary, we can ensure that each word you memorise continues to appear in sentences throughout the course.

 

By reintroducing vocabulary at increasing intervals, Spaced Repetition builds on what you know, making it easier to recall the words you have already learnt. Furthermore, you are exposed to unique sentences each time the vocabulary item is repeated, providing you with a large database of sentences to inform a deeper understanding of grammatical structures.

 

Click here to try Speedy Vocab’s Spaced Repetition method for FREE.

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