How I use Hack Chinese Spaced Repetition Vocabulary Software

Kevin Huang Kevin Huang Oct 06, 2021 · 7 mins read
How I use Hack Chinese Spaced Repetition Vocabulary Software
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Why do I use Hack Chinese?

Hack Chinese has been an incredible tool for me in my journey of learning Chinese. Growing up, I never thought I would be able to speak Mandarin Chinese. Speaking to my family primarily in English, they replied to me with ‘Chinglish’, - a mixture of English and Teochew, which is a very, very niche dialect of Chinese, bearing little resemblance to Mandarin.

I started my Chinese learning adventure in September 2020, taking weekly private lessons with a native Chinese teacher, with the goal of being able to express myself to my family and friends. In these lessons there was incredible progress while we conversed in simple sentences like what my age was, what my favourite foods were, and what I had done over the weekend. I would revise the simple dialogues via reading the notes my teacher had written, and progress was amazing!

However, as weeks went by, I had found myself lacking the vocabulary to convey my stories with more depth, as each lesson became more of asking my teacher ‘how to say X word’, taking away from time actually speaking the language and learning it’s nuances.

I felt stuck and at a plateau - I needed an efficient way of learning AND retaining old and new Chinese words outside of class time so that I could spend my weekly lessons actually speaking Chinese, absorbing sentence structures and utilising words in new ways. I was lucky to find Hack Chinese in a news article, as it helped me endlessly in breaking this plateau.

What is Hack Chinese?

Hack Chinese is an amazing system of flashcards and spaced repetition for learning new characters and pinyin, creating a very efficient way of expanding your vocabulary and putting new words into your long-term memory. This is really important to me as a lazy student balancing full-time work.

I love being able to just study during my short commute to work and back home, and then come to class retaining not only old words learnt, but as well as banking 10 new words to fuel my story telling. Hack Chinese has been my primary vocabulary learning tool, allowing me to memorise over 1000 characters over the past 6 months.

Hack Chinese logo
Hack Chinese logo

How do I use Hack Chinese?

Every morning on the way to work, I open my Hack Chinese webpage which brings me to this dashboard.

Hack Chinese Dashboard
Kevin's Hack Chinese dashboard

I can see how many ‘weak memories’ I have to revise today, which are words that are on the brink of forgetting. Hack Chinese test these memories, so that when you correctly revise them, they stay in your memory for longer until they are in your long-term memory.

The next section shows ‘Study Consistency’, which shows how consistent you’ve been studying. Each bar represents a day. Green colour means you have studied at least 5 minutes that day, orange means at least 2 minutes, and dark colour means you did not study. It is a great motivator to try and get the whole month green and maintain it, as consistency is key to language learning. Vocabulary growth shows your growth over time, which is also very motivating.

Selecting the top right ‘Study’ button shows a series of study options, including a typical ‘Everyday’ mode optimized for long-term growth, and ‘Custom’ modes, for your style and specific situation. Every morning I will select the Everyday session, where I can then select a study session from 2, 3, 6 or 10 minutes long.

Hack Chinese Study Mode
Hack Chinese Study Mode

From here your words will appear one a time, without any prompts. You then follow the prompts given at the bottom of the screen, first recalling the pronunciation of the word, and then it’s meaning.

Hack Chinese Study Mode
Hack Chinese Study Mode (Pronounciation)
Hack Chinese Study Mode
Hack Chinese Study Mode (Definitions)
Hack Chinese Study Mode
Hack Chinese Study Mode (Definitions)

Once you’ve successfully remembered the word’s pronunciation and definition, the application will categorise this word into a ‘strong’ memory, and will not pop up in your scheduled study sessions until it becomes ‘weak’ again after time. This process repeats indefinitely, eventually showing up very occasionally having being implanted in your long-term memory. This is a very efficient way of memorising words for the time studied, allowing me to retain many words over time.

Challenges in language learning

One of the toughest aspects of learning a new language is the need to constantly revise new content over and over. You first need to come across the new content, put it into your supposed notes, and review it in a way that challenges your brain to recall it- over and over.

Hack Chinese has a great database of predetermined word lists that mimic many textbooks, standard HSK learning lists and even community lists which focus on popular vocabulary relevant in modern society. It makes finding new content near effortless, incorporating a great flashcard system which incorporates useful audio cues to help with pronunciation.

Hack Chinese Word List
Hack Chinese Word Lists

Consistency is a very important part of learning a new language. Learning a little a day is so much more effective than putting in a couple hour blocks every week. The Hack Chinese system encourages daily work with an aesthetic and gamified dashboard, showing visually your vocabulary growth accumulating over time.

It shows how many words left of a particular word list you have to learn, and offers a visual ‘study consistency’ bar to encourage at least 5 minutes of review a day. Even if you do not review for an extended period of time, words you do recall after coming back will be placed into your long term memory category, so the system will not ask you to recall it for an extended period.

This is the most efficient way of memorising lots of new content – instead of having to go through all 1000 words a day, it surfaces the ‘weakest’ memorised words first, which will get shown only when you are about to memorise it.

About Kevin

I am a 23 year old Australian-born Chinese. Living in a single parent home, growing up I had very little exposure to Chinese. I spoke to Dad in English while he replied with a very niche dialect of Chinese. I could not comprehend my friend’s parents, when visiting their homes, could not give directions to Chinese people on the street, or communicate with my extended family. I felt insecure and was quite embarrassed.

Then I made a decision to connect closer with my family and relatives by learning Chinese. Learning Chinese has been a really fulfilling hobby. I want to say, if you want to learn a new language, you can do it!

If you have any questions, feel free to follow me @kevinxhuang on Instagram with a DM.

I’d like to share a big thank you to Culturestride for helping me connect with my native Chinese tutor Angela. She has been amazing at helping me with my Chinese language journey.

Culturestride x Hack Chinese Partnership

Culturestride has teamed up with Hack Chinese to help Chinese learners across the world better achieve their language proficiency goals.

Hack Chinese students receive unlimited free access to unfilled Practical classes (if you have taken at least one paid class in the last 30 days).

Culturestride students receive XXX discounted subscriptions to Hack Chinese vocabulary software.

Kevin Huang
Written by Kevin Huang
Culturestride Mandarin student since 2020