Latest Updates

September 19, 2022

Podcast Discussion

On the latest episode of the, “I’m Learning Mandarin” podcast, Mischa Wilmers invited our founder Daniel Nalesnik and Professor Karen Chung (a linguist with decades of experience working at the National Taiwan University) to explore the following question:

Does Stephen Krashen’s Input Hypothesis & Comprehensible Input Work for Learning Mandarin Chinese?

From Mischa Wilmers’ of the “I’m Learning Mandarin” Podcast / Blog:

“Professor Stephen Krashen has arguably had more of an impact in the field of modern language education than any other academic linguist.

His Input Hypothesis - a group of five hypotheses developed in the 1970s and 80s, argues that comprehensible input is the key component required for successful second language acquisition.

Language education in schools and universities has traditionally been based on the belief that practice speaking, vocabulary memorisation, repetition drills and grammar rules are the keys to learning a second language.

According to Krashen, however, studying information about languages in the form of grammar rules and practicing speaking through repetition drills are of marginal importance. Instead we acquire languages when we understand messages through reading and listening to our target language.”

Now, grab your headphones and a large iced coffee and have a listen!

https://imlearningmandarin.com/2022/08/22/does-stephen-krashens-input-hypothesis-comphrensible-input-work-for-learning-mandarin-chinese/

Hotfixes

A few updates:

  • Words are now underlined in the sentences they occur in while studying. This was present before our big update a few weeks ago, and is now back.
  • Fixed a bug that caused account resets to fail in certain situations.
  • We've attempted to fix a situation where the "undo" animation (a tall blue line) would be ever-present on the side of the screen on some devices. This happened to very few people, but was very annoying . Let us know if this is still happening for anyone.

We have a bunch of developments in store for the coming weeks, stay tuned!

September 12, 2022

Hotfixes

Thanks to your emails, we've made a few more updates in the past few days:

  • Block / Boost / Memorize now registers all taps and clicks, and should be working as intended.
  • 'Learn Pinyin only' mode now works as intended.
September 7, 2022

Hotfixes

Thanks to your emails, we've made a few more updates in the past few days:

  • Setting your 'New Word Limit' to 'unlimited' should now work as intended.
  • Fixed a bug related to displaying pinyin in study sessions when using the 'spoken' tone setting.
  • The 'tone' settings are now available in the settings menu on mobile devices.
  • We've changed the new word limits to more accurately reflect our suggested paces. (Previously 5-25, now 3-20).
August 30, 2022

New Setting: New Word Limiting

You can now set an upper limit for how many new words to learn each day. The default is 10 new words per day, but you can change this in Settings.

New Setting: Color Characters & Pinyin by Tone

Pleco and other apps have popularized the coloring of elements according to their tone. Given the widespread adoption, we have elected to use the same coloring scheme. (If you can think of a great reason why other color schemes should be available, let us know!) Update: We are having trouble with using the correct colors for light mode / dark mode. Stay tuned.

New Setting: Toneless Pinyin

If you turn on coloring of Pinyin or characters, you now have the option of displaying Pinyin without any tone marks.

Updated Settings Screen

We've redesigned our Settings screen in order to make each user-configurable option more discoverable and easier to understand. We are also playing with the idea of giving it a more prominent spot in the interface: right on the top navigation bar (previously it was in the dropdown menu). We found some students never discovered the previous settings page, which is a shame, as some very important decisions can be made there. Let us know what you think!

August 18, 2022

More hotfixes

Thanks to your emails, we've made a few more updates in the past few days:

  • If you have dark mode enabled when starting a study session, the background (behind the study session interface that zooms in) is now black instead of white.
  • Pressing the spacebar will now un-pause a study session (as well as pause it). We introduced this bug with our last update. Oops!
  • All Custom Study modes now appear in the Custom Study Mode menu, even if they are not valid. (For example, if you have no weak memories to refresh, the "Refresh" mode is not valid). If a mode is invalid, the reason why the mode is invalid will be displayed if you hover your mouse over the button. This is done so students are aware of all 5 custom modes, even if they only check the menu once.

We have several updates that relate to the character set (simplified vs. traditional) that you can choose in Settings:

  • End of study-session screens now respect the character set you have chosen. (Previously, they would display the 'simplified' character set regardless of which character set you were studying.)
  • Dictionary pages and interface popups now respect the student's choice of character set.
  • If you have character set set to "both" but the simplified and traditional characters are the same for a given word, the word will only be displayed once. This is to avoid situations where you see something like: 你好 followed by the same: 你好.

We also fixed two bugs:

  • Fixed a bug in the # of new words learned on the 'New Words Learned' end-of-study-session screen.
  • Students can no longer select a 'Refresh' study session if they do not have weak memories to refresh. (This was causing a white screen).
August 16, 2022

More hotfixes

Thanks to your emails, we've made a few more updates in the past few days:

  • Card faces are now scrollable, in the event there are many definitions / word notes / etc. that hide under the response buttons.
  • Blocking words now works as intended. Unfortunately, if you blocked any words in the last few days, you'll have to block them again.
  • You can now un-memorize a word on a desktop. Head to Words > Memorized, hover your mouse over a word, and click the '100' to 'un-memorize' a word.
  • On desktop machines, you can now highlight characters / Pinyin / example sentences even when the study session has been paused.
  • You can now scroll down to see all of the "Forgotten" and "Newly Learned" word lists that appear after completing a study session.
  • You can now make characters and Pinyin five additional levels "smaller" using the size adjustment widget.
August 12, 2022

Hotfixes

Thanks to your emails, we've identified several areas that needed some extra polish after yesterday's big release. Here's what we've fixed so far:

  • The shortcut keys for manually replaying audio have changed from w/s to up/down. This makes it easier to keep your hand in one spot for the majority of your study sessions (near the arrow keys). The shortcut key for "I'm finished studying it" is now (the right arrow), which is the same key used for, "I think I know" and "Yes". There might be some muscle memory adjustments to make here, but we think this is probably the better way forward. Have strong feelings about this? Let us know.
  • For students using the 'Excel' review mode: Personal word notes now correctly appear when they should, and English definitions only display after you've had a chance to quiz yourself.
  • The 'X' to close out of the 'Start a new study session' modal has been put in the corner after behaving naughty and causing a ruckus in the middle of the screen.
  • We've added a second 'I'm done studying it' button to the tablet layout, for balance on the left and right.
  • We've given more space for the 'Number of weak memories refreshed' to be visible on the study results screen on very small mobile devices.
  • For both users who have turned example sentences off ;) the user setting to prevent example sentences from being displayed is now respected.
August 11, 2022

More Speed, New Features

TLDR: We have rewritten our study session code from the ground up. Audio dropping and interface lag on mobile devices should be eliminated. We've also added many exciting new features.

Ahh, finally. We've launched what we've been working on for the last few months!

Typically, we launch new features every couple weeks, so waiting over 5 months for this update has been challenging. We thrive on feedback from the community and without updates to share, we received little feedback. It was tough! Here's the story:

Last year, we realized we had three major issues.

First, the interface could become laggy when studying on mobile devices. It got to the point where some students reported issues in every study session, sometimes resorting to studying exclusively on desktop machines. Bummer.

Second, after interface lag would appear, audio could become very fragile: sometimes it would no longer play in a study session, or it would play sporadically. Not ideal.

Finally, the code that powered our study sessions was becoming unmanageable. When we launched Hack Chinese four years ago, we used a Javascript library called jQuery because it was simple to learn and easy to code in, which helped us move quickly when we started.

Today, Hack Chinese is much more advanced, and jQuery is no longer the right tool for the job. It was hard to create the experience we wanted to: We needed something that would help us write cleaner, more manageable code, while delivering the speed you expect from a modern web application.

So, in the last few months, we've re-written our entire study-session codebase in React, an ultra-modern Javascript library created by Facebook. It not only delivers better performance, but it also makes adding features in the future a lot easier. Win win!

In the process of recreating our study session code, we encountered countless situations where we had a choice: recreate a feature that we knew needed to change eventually, or just change it now. Every time, we opted for the latter. Which gives us a whole bunch of exciting new features to announce today alongside the rollout of our new study sessions.

More than ever, we're super excited about the future of Hack Chinese. We have a clear understanding (from communicating with you!) what features we need next, and you'll start seeing some of these roll out in the coming weeks. If we can help it, we'll try to stay away from the big multi-month rewrites so we can return to delivering a steady stream of micro updates to keep everything fresh and new.

Reminder! With all updates (and especially gigantic ones like this!), there will be bugs. Let us know about them, and we'll fix them. Thanks so much for your patience!

Now... onto the new features!

  1. More reliable audio (especially on mobile devices)
  2. Performance increases to reduce/eliminate interface lag (especially on mobile devices)
  3. Significantly decreased loading times for new study sessions
  4. End-of-study-session "results" screens now load instantly (no redirect to a new page) and have been completely redesigned to display more information
  5. You can now limit your study sessions by number of words (or choose the original limit: # of minutes)
  6. You can now choose from several Chinese fonts in settings. On Mac OS and iOS, we recommend system default cursive.
  7. The study interface has been redesigned on both mobile and desktop devices with a familiar feel but more readable labels & buttons
  8. Advanced responses (block, boost, memorize) are now more discoverable (always present on desktop, easily accessible on mobile) and thus easier to use more regularly. (We have removed the 'hide' advanced response for now as it was not frequently used. Let us know if you miss it!)
  9. Words can now be marked "memorized." This state acts like "blocked" in that memorized words will not appear in your study sessions. However, they will be treated forever as 'known' words and are counted in your statistics. This is just one of several planned improvements to help reduce the "review burden" that hardcore SRS practitioners fear most ;)
  10. On desktop machines, you can now toggle the display of audio replay buttons. On mobile, sound replay buttons are permanently visible.
  11. Audio has been added for 100% of the words in our database. (Previously, words added with the 'add-new-word' process did not receive audio). Going forward, audio is created constantly at the time of new word introduction.
  12. You can adjust the font-size of characters, pinyin, and definitions. These adjustments are stored per device.
  13. You can now study both simplified and traditional character sets at the same time (available in settings).
  14. You can now show original tone marks, in addition to the original two options: "spoken" and "both."
  15. You can now toggle automatic copying of words to your device's clipboard as you progress through your study sessions. This will be useful for those of you who pause your sessions to do additional research on other websites.
  16. Sentences can now be viewed in the traditional character set.
  17. Line breaks in custom notes are now preserved while studying.
  18. After a cram session, you will return to the list you were cramming from so you can more easily see the progress you made within that list.
  19. On your dashboard, you can now toggle retention rate by the same ranges as learning velocity (7-day, 30-day, 90-day, and lifetime).
  20. A few changes to aesthetics around the app, which will match a redesigned landing page coming in a week or two.

We've also fixed several bugs:

  1. We've changed the way we keep track of time during study sessions so there is no longer any "time drift" (i.e. 10m sessions that take 10m 30s to complete).
  2. Intra-session spacing of words has been improved.
  3. We've removed the hotkeys that trigger a study session, as it was interfering with the dictionary search functionality.
  4. We've fixed a bug that prevented some users from starting 'repeat' study sessions.
  5. Clicking on 'Lists' from the dropdown menu on mobile devices no longer opens a new window.

I also want to extend a special thanks to everyone who offered to help beta test. We sent an email to our users asking for 10 volunteers, and within 24 hours we had over a hundred volunteers. In the end we asked ~35 to participate, and received invaluable feedback that helped us squash a few dozen bugs. Thank you, thank you!

Mar 4, 2022

Link your Du Chinese and Hack Chinese accounts

Last year, we partnered with Du Chinese to bring you vocabulary lists from their entire library of 2,000+ articles (available in our List Catalog: Du Chinese Lists).

This year, we’ve integrated our services to make learning with both tools even more convenient.

Connecting your accounts takes about a minute, and enables some powerful abilities:

  1. Words saved in Du Chinese will be added to your ‘Du Chinese Sync list’ on Hack Chinese.
  2. The sentence the word appeared in (in Du Chinese) will be added to your custom note for that word (in Hack Chinese) - so you can remember how the word was used when you first saw it.

Special thanks to the incredible team at Du Chinese who worked closely with us in order to make this integration possible.

To learn more about this new integration and get started, check out the Du Chinese Sync page.

Feb 14, 2022

The 'Slow Chinese' Membership

Andrew Methven's free 'Slow Chinese' newsletter is probably the Internet's best source of modern Chinese language (slang words and phrases trending on social and traditional media).

Earlier this year, Slow Chinese launched a paid membership option with several enticing extras that we think are pretty awesome.

Learn more about Slow Chinese and their new membership option on our Collaborations page.

Feb 13, 2022

Hack Chinese on the 'You Can Learn Chinese' podcast

Our founder, Daniel Nalesnik, sat down with Jared Turner (of the “Mandarin Companion” graded reader series) to discuss:

  • Deciding to study Chinese full-time in China
  • Generating motivation to continue learning
  • The importance of reading
  • Daniel’s favorite study resources
  • And more!

Search your favorite podcast app for "You Can Learn Chinese" episode #81 or listen now.

Jan 20, 2022

Hotfixes

  • Fixed a bug where words would show up in simplified form in study session prompts, even when the traditional character set was selected.
  • Fixed a bug that covered the last row of words in a list at certain screen resolutions.
Jan 13, 2022

New List Type: Frequency Lists

Frequency Lists are vocabulary lists that sort words according to how often they appear in a given “corpus” of text.

For example, to create a frequency list based on Chinese TV dramas, one would first analyze the subtitles of hundreds of TV episodes (like this guy did) and then count how many times each word was used.

The more times a word was used, the earlier it appears in the list. If you then study from that list, you're learning the most frequently-used words first, and being ultra efficient in the process.

We’ve added two popular frequency lists to start, and are looking forward to your suggestions for which lists to add next.

  • Netflix - Word frequencies based on Netflix dramas (created June 2021).
  • SUBTLEX-CH - Word frequencies based on film subtitles (created 2010).