2021 Annual Survey now Live!
The first-ever Annual Survey is now live. We would greatly appreciate it if you took a little time to fill this out in the next few days. We will let the survey run until early January.
New Setting: Distinguish Hard Words
When we detect words that are challenging for you to remember, they are presented in the color red while you are studying. This is meant to alert you that you may wish to allow yourself extra time to recall the word's pronunciation and meaning.
Some students have told us that this indicator is frustrating and unhelpful, so we've now made it an option which you may toggle this off in Settings.
Announcing: Custom Notes
Many of you have asked for the ability to add notes to the words you are studying. You've given numerous reasons why this would be helpful, including:
To add a note to word, navigate to that word (from a list or via search), and press 'Add a Note'. Any notes you add will show up inside your study sessions alongside the word's definitions.
Is this the best way to add notes? Are there other places you'd like to see these notes? Please hit us with your feedback! email@example.com.
You may be wondering if you will lose your notes if you stop using Hack Chinese. You will not -- as we will be building a function to enable you to export your notes.
Coming soon: End of Year Survey
This week, we will be launching our first annual "End of Year Survey."
Our aim is to get your thoughts on what we are doing well, and more importantly -- where we need to improve. We would be very appreciative if you would plan time next to take this survey when it is announced (about 6 minutes). Thanks!
Vocabulary lists for all 2,000+ Du Chinese lessons
The best way to increase your retention rate of words in Hack Chinese (and in real life) is to read real Chinese content with the words you are learning.
Which is why we’ve partnered with Du Chinese to bring you vocabulary from their entire catalog of 2,000+ lessons (updated automatically as Du Chinese publishes new lessons).
Learn more about Du Chinese our Collaborations page, or check out the Du Chinese Lessons in our List Catalog.
New Algorithm Setting: Memory Decay
Today we have launched a new Algorithm Setting : Memory Decay, which has two modes:
Students with a consistent study habit know that tens (or even hundreds) of words come due for review each day.
Some students (when they are about to enter a period of time when they will be unable to study at all) reach out and ask if there is a way to prevent their memory strength from getting weaker over time (in order to prevent the buildup of reviews due).
We have always pushed against this idea. Our SRS algorithm creates a model of which memories in your actual brain are weak and in need of review. The more accurate our model is to what is actually happening in your brain, the more efficient you will be when using Hack Chinese.
Although it's easy to "freeze" memories on Hack Chinese, we aren't able to do the same in your actual brain.
If we freeze your memory strength in Hack Chinese, we are distorting the model - making it less likely to feed you the optimal order of reviews that keep you at the efficient frontier of retaining strong memories and learning new words. While it may feel good to see memories staying strong (and waiting longer than usual before you review), you are then more likely to forget -- and restart from scratch -- any individual word.
Having said that, when enough students request something, we give it more thought.
Although we still don't think freezing your memory strength is a good idea, there are benefits to being able to manage your SRS experience in a way that fits your life. As with Account Resets, the mathematically optimal way forward isn't always the "best" solution when designing software for humans.
Dictionary Cleanup: Part 1
Today, we made two changes to our database of words.
First, we merged words together if they had the same character, pinyin, and tone. For example, we merged 张 (zhāng: classifier for flat objects, sheet) with 张 (zhāng: surname Zhang).
It may seem odd that these duplicates existed at all (and you may never have run into an issue). They existed because some words were in the dictionary more than once if they had "specific" meanings (like a surname, or a particular person, place, or event -- sometimes known as a proper noun).
This type of duplication can be confusing, because you may know both "definition sets", but it's really only one word. And when you're being tested, which one do we mean? Today, most of this confusion goes away. (Interestingly, there are about 15 words that have the same simplified forms, but different traditional forms - so these have been left as-is for now.)
Second, we've identified when a word has a "specific meaning". Most of the time, these could be considered 'proper nouns' -- but we know not everyone remembers the linguistic terms they learned in grade school. See an example: 中
We still have more work to do: Identifying parts of speech like verbs (actions), nouns (things), adjectives (descriptions), etc. And there are still other word pairs that can cause confusion. For example, 行 could be háng or xíng -- and there is currently no way to know which we mean when you see 行 in a study session.
Why bother cleaning the dictionary? So we can bring you awesome new features, like a brand new search experience (with a fast list-building mode), a public import tool, as well as pave the way for API-based integrations.
Introducing our Referral Program
If you love Hack Chinese, we'd love if you helped spread the word!
Every person you refer will receive an extra two months of free access. And as a special thanks, you will receive two extra months as well!
Learn more and and get your unique link here: Referral Program.
Set your first action after log-in
The default when you first log in to Hack Chinese is to bring you to the study session setup screen. We think most students want to get in, study, and get out (to spend more time with graded readers, TV shows, Chinese classes... or maybe just go outside?).
However, some students have told us they always head to their dashboard first, to check their progress and number of reviews due. If that's you, head to Basic Settings and change your first action after log-on.
We've joined forces with GoEast Mandarin!
Since 2012, GoEast Mandarin has taken a modern approach to language education with initiatives like continual teacher training, dedicated language consultants, and a focus on the technical aspects of speech production.
To learn more about GoEast Mandarin and learn how to get a free open class, head to our Collaborations page!
We've partnered with Culturestride!
After receiving extremely positive feedback from students who took advantage of Culturestride's free conversation classes this past summer, we've decided to make the partnership official!
To learn more about Culturestride and learn how to get unlimited free access to their conversation classes, head to our Collaborations page!
Every so often, a student will reach out to us with some variation of this story: "I can no longer spend as much time studying each day. With a slower pace, my number of reviews due are overwhelming. What can I do? Can you reset my account?"
The truth is, the optimal way forward mathematically is to just slow down and let your number of weak memories exist for a while (and not learn new words).
But we get it. We're humans. A huge pile of reviews can feel overwhelming.
And being overwhelmed might lead you to stop using spaced repetition, even though it's still working. Not so optimal anymore!
In the past, we've helped these students by manually resetting their accounts. But starting today, account resets can be performed in Settings.
There are four Account Resets (with increasing degrees of severity).
Learn more in Settings > Account Resets.
All 'Imagin8' Lists now available
Graded readers provide reading material of increasing ‘grades’ of language proficiency, and are invaluable for students at all levels.
Imagin8 Press rewrites classic Chinese novels and short stories (like “Journey to the West” and “Mulan”) with simpler language that retains all the depth and power of the originals.
We think books by Imagin8 are special for three reasons:
Here is how we recommend consuming Imagin8 books:
Drag & Drop Lists to set priority
You can now save time when setting list priority on your Queue: just drag and drop them into position. Note: this only works on desktop devices.
Lists can now be deleted
You can now truly delete your lists from Hack Chinese. From you Queue, first pause a list, and then a new 'delete' option will appear.
Dictionary Page Redesign
We've re-organized the dictionary pages a little bit to make space for a few exciting new features coming soon :)
Now on Hack Chinese: Slow Chinese
Andrew Methven is a British national who first went to China nearly two decades ago. Over the years, he has been an interpreter for prime ministers and CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies.
Andrew now publishes the incredible ‘Slow Chinese’ Newsletter which is the Internet’s best source for real-life Mandarin, from slang to Internet words to business phrases — perfect for intermediate and advanced students looking to ease their way into native content.
And, of course, we have all his content loaded onto Hack Chinese. But don't just load these lists -- the insights and analysis can only be found in the Slow Chinese Newsletter. Highly recommended for China watchers and Intermediate+ students!
An Interview with our Founder
Mischa, a user of Hack Chinese and blogger who is documenting his Mandarin-learning journey, invited our founder Daniel Nalesnik to his podcast to chat about his experiences learning Mandarin and creating Hack Chinese
Podcast Interview of Daniel: Listen Now
We're on Instagram!
We aren't going to be your typical Chinese Language Learning App IG account. ;)
Follow: Hack Chinese Instagram
Hack Chinese has partnered with ExcelMandarin!
Over the course of the summer, we worked closely with ExcelMandarin, an online Mandarin school that has re-invented the learning wheel.
Their unique game-based curriculum focuses almost entirely on spoken Chinese — which is why they had us engineer a new audio-focused review mode ("Excel") — and why they spent countless hours in the studio recording native audio for their curriculum in Hack Chinese.
To find out more about ExcelMandarin and learn how to take advantage of our partnership promotion (as well as see promotions from our other partners), head to our Collaborations page!
Slow and Fast Audio
We've finished the migration to new audio. As of today, we've re-enabled the 'voice speed' setting, so you can choose to hear words and sentences played at a slow, medium, or fast pace.
Some students told us that the new audio was spoken a little too quickly, so we've defaulted everyone back to 'slow'. You can change this in Settings. We feel like the slow setting is just right for beginners, but the 'medium' setting might be a little bit too fast for the intermediate student. Let us know what you think!
Study Session Updates
Fixed an issue that let blocked words into CRAM sessions.
Sentence audio is online
Audio for sentences is now enabled.
A reminder that audio for sentences only plays automatically for new words. For review words, you must click the sentence (or press [up] on your keyboard) if you wish to hear the audio for the sentence.
We've been tweaking a lot of code related to audio as we clear out the last bugs from our new audio implementation (see updates from Jul 18, 24, and 28), so please shout if anything appears to be breaking.
Yesterday, we doubled the computing power and memory of our systems. We believe this will help alleviate server timeouts that cause crashes. We will continue to monitor any errors that occur and address them as soon as possible.
A Note for Users in China
A special thanks to the users in China who helped test a 'Chinafied' version of the website in the last few weeks.
Unfortunately, we have decided to throw out the test results, as there were too many variables in July (unexpected server crashes, a loss of our main audio source, etc.)
We plan to run the test again near the end of August. If you're in China and would like to participate, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dark Mode is Back!
One of the most requested features has finally returned: dark mode!
We've spent a good amount of time making sure everything looks great, but let us know if you think something needs another look. If you'd like to give it a try, you can find the toggle in the menu dropdown, or head to Settings.
An update on audio and server crashes
Please read the two updates below (from Jul 18 and Jul 24) for more background on our recent audio issues.
Audio is coming online!
Please read the update below (from Jul 18) to see the background on our audio issues.
What a week!
The technical differences between our old audio TTS (text-to-speech) source (Baidu) and our new audio TTS source (Microsoft Azure) were greater than we imagined. We had to convert a lot of our data into a format that Microsoft's TTS engine would understand, and then find a new solution to store all of our fancy new audio files.
As of right now, all of the new code is in place, and all that is left to do is finish the audio file creation & upload. This is happening now with no further input needed from us. However, given the size of our database, this takes a long time: ~50-70 hours. As of noon (Hong Kong time) today, this process is about 35% done.
Fortunately, you don't need to wait until the entire process completes before you start hearing audio for the words that are finished. We expect to have full audio coverage for words in the next day or two.
Audio for sentences will be created after all of our word audio has been created. Our sentences database is much smaller so that should only take a few hours to complete.
Thanks for all of your patience as we worked through this. We will have a final update on this once we are 100% finished with the switch.
An update on Audio issues
Right now, there is no audio in Hack Chinese. We expect to have it back online by July 23.
Updates to Study Sessions
"2-click" Study Mode
Up until today, all reviews have required answering four questions:
These questions are intentionally focused on a single, specific part of a word. We think these focused questions are great for students who are new to the practice of active recall -- and need to be reminded to test themselves on each individual component of their review words.
But after gaining some experience, most students find that they do the entire review in their head as soon as they see the character. Which means they are forced to click, press, or tap through four questions, even though they no longer read each question individually.
For these students, we are introducing, "2-click" mode. It asks the following two questions:
This may seem like a small, unimportant change, but we think it will make a big difference for those of you who log hundreds of reviews per day. It's faster, requires less action, and is more in-line with what your mind is doing anyway.
If you're interested in turning this on, head to Basic Settings and turn on "2-click" mode now!
Audio for Sentences
Our Interactive Guide to the New HSK
As you've probably heard, the HSK (China's official Chinese proficiency exam) is changing.
We dived deep into the data to see what's new, and discovered a few things we don't think you'll learn about anywhere else!
Check it out here: Interactive Guide to the New HSK.
All 'Mandarin Companion' lists now available
Graded readers provide reading material of increasing ‘grades’ of language proficiency, and are invaluable for students at all levels.
Mandarin Companion is one of our favorite graded reader series, and their books come in both physical and digital formats.
Here is how we like consuming Mandarin Companion readers:
New Process: Add words to the dictionary
Previously, if you searched for a word that wasn't in our dictionary, you were kind of out of luck.
You could email us (to have words added), but few people took the extra steps to do so. And that's understandable, because who wants to write an email just to have a single word added to the dictionary?
Starting today, if you search for a word and it isn't in our dictionary, three things will happen:
This is a new system. We expect it to be really great in the long run, but we will need time to iterate on the design until it is as simple and effortless as possible.
Since we turned the system on this morning, we already realize we'll need a way to reach out for more info if we can't figure out what word a searcher was looking for. We probably also want to automatically put these into a searcher's list, so they don't need to search for it again. And maybe you'd prefer in-app notifications, not emails?
Hopefully after enough searches and lots of feedback, we'll land on a system that feels great to use. Have thoughts already? Let us know! email@example.com
Lists for Rosetta Stone
If you've studied with Rosetta Stone before, you can now assume knowledge of everything you learned there while continuing on Hack Chinese.
Efficiency is a core value of ours. So it should come as no surprise that we love keyboard shortcuts. Today, we're introducing a few new ones.
Try these now! (desktop only):
Inside the study session setup screen, you'll have access to these additional shortcuts:
Did we choose the right keys? What other functions do we need to assign hotkeys to? Let us know! firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hack Chinese has partnered with LTL Mandarin School!
In the last 14 years, LTL has earned an overwhelmingly positive reputation as a leading Mandarin language school in China.
To find out more about this new partnership and learn how to get three free classes (as well as see promotions from our other partners), head to our Collaborations page!
We work tirelessly to make studying with Hack Chinese seem simple. But what goes on behind the scenes is anything but.
In order to help you get the most out of your Hack Chinese account, today we are launching our brand new Study Guide, which provides in-depth explanations for how Hack Chinese works.
We have many articles online already, but a few big ones are still being polished. Stay tuned!
The new HSK lists are online and can be added to your study plans here: HSK 3.0 Lists
We will leave the existing HSK lists online as well.
A new study-session duration option is now available: 20 minutes. If you're interested in longer sessions like this, please try it and let us know if you encounter any speed issues. 20-minute sessions require a lot of words to be loaded, so we are watching performance closely.
The slowest-to-load pages on Hack Chinese have alway been viewing large lists (like the HSK 6 with 5,000 words). We just completely re-wrote the code that prepares these pages, and we are pretty pleased with the results so far! We'll keep an eyes on this in the coming weeks and see what further improvements we can make.
In recent weeks, we have witnessed unconscionable acts of violence towards people of Asian heritage.
We must come together and state loud and clear that violence will never be tolerated. Which is why, for the next 30 days, we will be donating 5% of our sales to stopaapihate.org, an organization dedicated to standing up to racism against Asian Americans.
Read more about this on our blog post.
In recent weeks, we have been working hard to decrease the amount of time it takes to load various pages. Special focus has been given to dashboards (which have dropped from an average of ~5s load time to ~1s) and your study queues (which should be faster for people who have many lists queued).
We will continue to work on this, as speed is a first-class priority going forward. We consider page loading time to be integral to having a positive experience with Hack Chinese.
Along with the regular study mode that forces you to refresh weak memories before learning anything new (which we now are tentatively calling 'Everyday' mode), we have added 5 more study modes:
Note that you will only see the study modes that you can perform. For example, if you have no words assumed known, you won't see the 'Assumed' mode. If you don't have any words with weak memories, you won't see the 'Refresh' study mode.
Along with this update, we've made two changes to the way new study sessions are started.
The HSK proficiency exam has officially been updated. While there are a ton of changes, the main thing everyone is talking about is the increase to 9 levels (from 6), and the increase to 10,000 total words (from 5,000) in the highest level.
We have a lot more news on this coming soon, but for now, know that a) the new lists will be on Hack Chinese soon, and b) we will keep both the old and new lists online for the foreseeable future.
Up until today, you could only 'assume knowledge' of an individual list.
Now, you can assume knowledge of an entire textbook volume, an entire textbook edition, and all the 'parent' lists for third party apps, too.
Find the volume, edition, or third party in the List Catalog, and then use the ellipsis button () to get started.
We now have all of the vocabulary from Duolingo.
If you've completed Duolingo (or are somewhere in the middle of their curriculum), you may want to mark their vocabulary as assumed known. This will allow you to focus on new words faster, without worrying about gaps in your knowledge persisting.
Thank you for the many bug reports after the last update. Keep the emails coming!
Thank you for the many bug reports after the last update. Keep the emails coming!
We've given Hack Chinese a complete revamp with three major focuses:
A special thank-you to all the amazing feedback we've gotten. Please don't stop telling us what you wish Hack Chinese could do... your feedback plays a huge role in driving our development!
Lists have been given a radical new look:
The Status view now shows you exactly which words are strong, weak, unstudied, or assumed known.
The Date view (for Personal and Teacher lists only) has new stats and is easier to navigate to.
Introducing an all-new "Details" view, which shows you the SRS data for each word within a list
Dark Mode and Chinese Interface have both been temporarily disabled. We wanted to finish these in time for this update, but decided to release what we have done first, and take another few weeks to re-implement these beloved modes.
Something look silly? Some function feel broken? Wish something was better? (Think the new design rocks?) Tell us! With big updates like this, there are bound to be a few bugs. The faster they are reported, the faster we can fix them. Thanks!!!