Latest Updates

December 12, 2019

Study Interface

The study interface has an updated aesthetic. Nothing drastic -- we've simply removed some unnecessary lines and colors, increased the tappable space for mobile devices, and increased the study space in all resolutions.

Mobile Interface

A new interface was introduced in July, which looked great on large screen displays, but wasn't as snappy on mobile devices (i.e. buttons that were hard to hit, menu choices without labels, etc.). We've tightned this up significantly, increasing button sizes, adding labels, and creating an all-new settings dropdown for mobile.

Focuses are now "Lists"

From the start, we've used the word 'Focus' to identify an area the student was studying from. It represented that student's current, er.. focus. But we've decided it's easier for new users to understand if we call them what they really are: vocabulary lists. As such, we have removed most references to 'Focuses' and are replacing them with 'Lists'. This shouldn't affect anything other than the terminology we use to discuss vocabulary lists within Hack Chinese.

New Lists

We've happy to announce we now have the full set of vocabulary lists for every chapter in the textbook series: 'Developing Chinese, 2nd Edition'. If you're studying from this textbook, you can now add entire chapters to your study queue with one click! Check them out here: Developing Chinese.

We also have the vocabulary lists for course L197 of the UK's Open University Chinese class. Book one is online here: Open University Course L197 Book One. Book Two is coming soon.

Overhaul of Assumed Known functionality


Many students start using Hack Chinese after they’ve learned some Chinese characters somewhere else.

To prevent these students from having to re-learn these characters from scratch, the onboarding questionnaire tries to identify a big chunk of vocabulary that the student 'probably' already knows.

These words are then "assumed known”, which means we won't force the student to learn all of those words from the beginning.

However, it is important that we still check whether the student does in fact know all the words we 'assumed' they knew. Otherwise, there could be big holes in the student's knowledge that persist over time. (It wouldn’t be fun to be studying for the HSK 5 and not remember a word you learned for HSK 2!)

Previous Approach:

Previously, we would artificially pretend that all of these 'assumed known' words were studied in Hack Chinese before. Each word would become due for the student to review, just like every word learned in Hack Chinese.

The problem with this approach was that, especially for students who join Hack Chinese after having passed an exam like the HSK 5 or 6, they would have so many reviews due so soon, it is hard to get past the reviews and start learning "new" words.

New Approach:

Each assumed-known word is identified, and then we only check your understanding of a few of these words each day.

Because these words aren’t “due” in the traditional sense, these “assumption checks” won’t accumulate over time (like words with weak memories needing review do).

When we check whether you truly know a word we assumed you did, there are two possible outcomes.

If you didn’t know the word, we’ll immediately treat it as a new word to you, with mastery of 0.

If you did know the word, we’ll give that word a mastery that reflects the average mastery of other words in your vocabulary. You will of course see this word again for review (that’s the way spaced repetition works, after all), but not for a while.

For students who don't have any assumed words (those who started with Hack Chinese knowing no words already, or those who have used Hack Chinese for a long time ), this change won't affect you at all.

For students who do have assumed words, you'll start seeing a new color on your dashboard's progress bars: purple, for that percentage of your entire vocabulary that isn’t' really "known", but "assumed known... and not yet checked".

Over time, the proportion of your vocabulary that is 'assumed known' will decrease, and those words will become truly ‘known’.

There is a new option in study preferences: Assumption Check Rate. From here, you can set how quickly you'd like to clear the list of words 'Assumed Known'.

August 5, 2019

Chinese Interface

A new option is available for students in the settings menu: a Chinese-language interface.

This will allow you to experience all of Hack Chinese in Chinese, perfect for getting you ready to use other websites on the Chinese Internet. Some translations are still being worked on, but give it a go and tell us what you think!

Teachers: The Chinese-language interface will now be the default for you. When we finish the translations we will provide the option for you to switch back to English, if you prefer.

July 13, 2019

MEGA UPDATE for Students

After 6 months focusing on features for teachers and schools, this update is exclusively for individual students, and it's massive! Let's go through the changes:

New Interface

The most obvious change is that the interface has been significantly updated -- especially for wide-screen/desktop users. Menu items have been re-arranged, the top navbar has been made less obtrusive, and colors have been changed in a few spots. The settings button is now consistent across mobile and desktop devices, and overall there is a more coherent placement of links.

Your 'Focus Queue' and the list of 'Focuses' are now consolidated into one top-level navigation item: 'Focuses'. We think you'll like how we've put this frequently-accessed-together information in one place. The list of Focuses has been renamed 'Focus Catalog'.

Next to the study button on the top navigation, you'll notice a new button with this icon: . This jumps you straight into a 'lightning' study session of pre-set duration, for those of you who frequently study for the same amount of time every time you study. (You can set this duration in 'study settings' -- more on that later).

Dark Mode. For those of you who study late at night, we are almost complete with implementing a 'dark mode'. You can test out what we have done already by clicking the 'Dark Mode' toggle from the settings dropdown.

Study Settings

From the settings dropdown, there is a page called 'Study Settings'. From here, you can wield considerable power over how Hack Chinese works for you -- allowing you to change small things like display preferences and big things like altering the scheduling algorithm:

  • Learning Scope lets you select whether you want to learn and be tested on characters + Pinyin, or just Pinyin. (This is the one study setting that existed before this update).
  • Pinyin Style lets you choose if you want to see original Pinyin (nǐ hǎo), effective Pinyin (ní hǎo - notice the tone mark on nǐ has changed from 2nd tone to 3rd tone per third tone sandhi rules), or both (like the Hack Chinese dictionary displays). The default has been effective, but some students have asked to be able to change this setting if they are already used to another display type.
  • Hide Really Hard Words, when enabled, hides words when the system identifies them as "Really Hard" for you." The process is like this:

    If you forget a word in 3 consecutive study sessions, it will be marked "Hard", and will display in red when you are quizzing, to remind you to slow down.

    If you continue to be unable to remember for 5 consecutive study sessions, the system will mark the word "Really Hard". At this point, if "Hide Really Hard Words" is enabled, the system will hide this word from your study sessions for two weeks, giving you a chance to be more productive with your time, learning words that come easier to you. After two weeks, the hidden word will reappear in your study session as a "new" word.

    Many students have reported being frustrated by a few words that they cannot seem to remember, and this automatic, temporary hiding should hopefully reduce that frustration. Considering that Hack Chinese is designed for long-term vocabulary growth, reducing frustration and keeping hard words out of your study sessions for two weeks shouldn't have any negative impact. Having said that, if you choose to CRAM from any Focus, it will override this setting and show you everything from that Focus.

  • Review Schedule gives you a new "smooth" option, which attempts to reduce the wild swings in # of reviews due each day. It works like this: if you have many more words due in the coming days than you have due today, we'll choose some of those words to review early, so your review schedule is flatter and more consistent. For some, 100 reviews per day is better than 50, 150, 50, 150, etc. We're excited to hear your feedback if you test this feature -- let us know how you think it's working.
  • Learning Speed lets you choose between 'normal' (the current default), which introduces new words from all of your chosen Focuses, 'slow', which introduces new words only from Personal & Teacher Focuses, and 'vacation', which introduces no new words during your study sessions. With all options, your reviews will be tested on a regular schedule.
  • Lightning Study lets you set the duration of 'lightning' study sessions from the top navbar.

Your Brain

Before, when you clicked into your 'memory quality' widget on the dashboard, it would bring up a table of every word you've ever studied along with its memory strength. While this can be fascinating information, it could make the dashboard a little slow to load for students who know thousands of words. So we've moved this to it's own section called, 'Your Brain'. From here, you can also click on 'Hard Words', to see a concise list of your 'Hard' and 'Very Hard' words.

Sharing Hard Words

From your Hard Words page (Settings > Your Brain > Hard Words), there is now a link that will let you send your list of hard words directly to a tutor via email. This makes it easier for your tutor to help you -- they no longer have to create a tutor account with Hack Chinese just to know what you are struggling with. If you have a tutor but haven't yet shared your 'hard words' list with them, we highly recommend it. Having targeted in-person practice with the very words that are tough for you is plateau-busting magic.


The dictionary display of words has been cleaned and updated. When logged in, you still have the option to 'Add to Personal Focus', but you now have a new option: Reset Mastery. It works like this: if your memory strength is high, but you just looked up a word anyway... maybe your memory strength isn't as high as the system calculated. So you'll have the option to reset your mastery back to 0, and see this word more frequently in your study sessions.

Bugs? Get in touch!

With so many changes, we wouldn't be surprised if we missed a few things... Please let us know if you see anything that looks out of place! Email Thanks, and happy studying!

June 16, 2019

We have audio!

From the beginning, the most requested feature to supplement quizzing has been adding audio pronunciations.

As of today, audio is now enabled for all accounts. During your quizzing, audio will automatically play when Pinyin appears.

Stay tuned: options for choosing the gender and speed, as well as adding audio to the dictionary, are coming soon.

May 24, 2019

Teachers assuming knowledge for students

Teachers can always 'assume knowledge' for their students if they are adding them manually from the 'all students' page. But what if the student joined on their own?

Now teachers can assume knowledge for their students even if they did not create the student account. Here is how:

  • From the student's dashboard, go to 'Focus Queue'
  • From the 'Assignable Focuses' column, assign the Focus you'd like the student to assume knowledge of
  • Once added, click into that Focus under the student's 'Currently learning' list of Focuses
  • Click 'Assume Known'

Students can always assume knowledge themselves, the same as before

May 9, 2019

Focus Improvements

Personal and Teacher Focuses are now sorted by 'Date Added to Focus'. This allows you to see when you (or your teacher) pushed words into your Focus -- perfect for remembering what you worked on last time you had class!

The regular known/unknown sort option is still available -- both sorts are now options on each Focus page.

When viewing a Focus, unknown words are displayed in English (to encourage you to learn more). An option to view these unstudied words as their Chinese characters is now available.

May 1, 2019


School favicons now replace the 'Hack Chinese' favicon. (Favicons are the tiny logos displayed on bookmarks or in browser tabs).

Teachers with whitelabeled platforms on their own websites can now see all students associated with their school, even if they are not following those students. In order to push vocabulary to a student, teachers must follow a student (use the 'Follow' button on the bottom right of their dashboard).


From a student's dashboard, in 'Focus Queue' (on wide screens), you can now see all exams, textbooks, and school-specific Focuses. (Previously only exams were asssignable from this screen). Selecting a textbook name reveals the volumes, selecting a volume reveals the chapters, and selecting a chapter assigns it to the student. Exams and school-specific focuses are assigned similarly.


A 'Cancel Subscription' button is now available in the student settings panel. This cancels your subscription, halting all future payments.

Other Fixes

  • Words always correctly identify the associated HSK level.
  • Student study history and memory quality was causing the underlying dashboard to "jump". This has been fixed for 99.9% of resolutions.
  • Many database optimizations have been made to make the application load faster.
  • Underlying hardware has been upgraded with more resources (CPU speed and memory) to handle more volume.
Feb 13, 2019

Remove Words from Personal & Teacher Focuses

If you've ever added a word to a Focus by mistake and wondered how to remove it, now you can. On desktop, right-click the word from your Personal Focus, and choose 'Remove'. This will remove it from your Focus and erase any study history you have with it. Teachers can also remove words from Teacher Focuses.

More mobile-friendly

Over 90% of study sessions occur on mobile devices. Because no one enjoys pressing tiny buttons with (relatively) big fingers, we've increased the size of buttons across the app.

Teachers: School Focuses

When assigning Focuses to your students from their Focus Queue, your school's custom Focuses have a red accent bar on the left for easy identification.

Feb 5, 2019

Hard Words

The speed at which words are removed from your 'hard words' list has been reduced. This will cause hard words to remain red (reminding you to slow down) for an extra study session or two, even if you remember them correctly. Just because you remembered something that was previously 'hard' for you, doesn't mean you aren't still struggling with that word. Leaving the word on your 'hard' list for longer will enable your teacher to provide additional targeted help as you overcome your difficulty with hard words.

Dictionary Word Display

When viewing a word, the content has been centered and de-cluttered. When viewing on a large-screen display (large iPad or desktop), the list of associated Focuses now includes only exams (not textbook chapters or private school focuses), and only the lowest exam level in which that word appears.

Teacher 'All Students' display

From a teacher's dashboard, your list of students are now ordered by how recently they studied. The HSK level estimate has been replaced with a label that shows when each student studied last.

Teachers: Pushing words when you have many students

As a teacher, when you view a word, your list of students appears at the bottom of the screen, enabling you to push words into your students' study queues. This list is now scrollable on mobile devices, allowing you to access all of your students.

Jan 25, 2019

New Teacher Control: Student Settings

From a student's dashboard, a new menu option 'Settings' will allow you to fine-tune the experience for that student. Currently, one setting is available: toggling on/off whether that student will learn characters or just Pinyin.

New Teacher Control: Adding Focuses to your Students

From a student's Focus Queue, you can now add new Focuses directly into that student's queue. This is only available on large screens (iPad and desktop).

Jan 18, 2019

New Teacher Control: New Student Details

From the 'All Students' page, the 'Add Student' dialogue now lets you set Display Name, Assumed Knowledge, and a Focus for each student you add.

Jan 17, 2019

New Teacher Controls: Focus Queue

When viewing an individual student, a new menu option is available on the top of the screen: Focus Queue.

When viewing a student's Focus Queue, you can see which Focuses your students are learning from, and manage their priorities. You can also remove non-custom Focuses.

New Exam Focus: IGCSE Foreign

For students hoping to take the IGCSE 'Foreign' examination, we have added a new Focus to help you learn the core required vocabulary.

Jan 8, 2019

Teacher Controls

The teacher interface has been completely redesigned to set the stage for significantly improved student management features coming soon.

Notable changes available now:

Transparency into student focuses

When viewing a student's dashboard, clicking into one of their Focuses enables you to see that Focus from your student's point of view. You are able to identify the words they have studied, and those they do not yet know.

"All-Students" view

Next to each of your students, you will see an estimated HSK level. This level is calculated as follows:

  • Once a student knows at least 70% of the required knowledge of any particular HSK level, they are estimated to be at that level. 70% is the threshold because students need a 70% score to pass an HSK. This level is just a guideline.
  • For example, a student who knows 104 words from HSK level 1 will be listed as a 'beginner' (because 104/150 = 69%).
  • Once the student knows at least 105 words, he will be listed as 'HSK 1'.
  • When the student knows 210 HSK words, he will be labeled 'HSK 2' (because 210 / 300 = 70%).
  • Only HSK words factor into these estimated level calculations
Jan 1, 2019

Happy New Year!

We wish our users around the world a happy new year. Hopefully your New Year Resolutions include making lots of progress with your Chinese! We'll be here to help you.

More accurate time recording

Previously, time spent studying (shown on your dashboard) reflected the time you set at the beginning of each session, regardless of whether you completed the full study session or not. We have changed the time recording to reflect actual time spent studying. This will result in a more accurate (lesser) number of minutes being recorded each day.

Difficult words identified during study session

Words you have difficulty remembering are now identified during your study sessions. You will be prompted to spend a little extra time with these reviews. We are testing this feature and welcome your feedback.

Faster dashboard loading times

We have optimized the way dashboards are calculated on the back-end, resulting in up to 50% shorter load times.