Hack Chinese (2020 Review) – A Great Resource for Remembering Chinese Characters
We’ve unearthed a gem folks! Take a bow, Hack Chinese!
I instantly fell in love this with this software as it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.
WHAT IS HACK CHINESE – A database of Chinese characters (on desktop or phone) where you practice, practice, practice characters over and over again until they stick. A very simple concept, but a very powerful one.
The websites homepage instantly makes two claims:
The most efficient platform to master Chinese.
Learn over 500 words per month with our proven study techniques.
After merely 5 days of using Hack Chinese I am a genuine believer those statements are true.
Of course, everyone has a preference. This isn’t about flashy imagery, cute games or speaking with natives… this is simply about learning pinyin and hanzi as quickly as possible through repetition.
Not for everyone, sure, but, on the contrary something every Chinese learner needs to attack at some stage.
My problem recently has been seeing the same character over and over and over again, every few days and ALWAYS forgetting it.似乎，稳定，价值 being three examples of words I just always forgot the pinyin/meaning to.
Already, in 5 days, Hack Chinese seems to be ironing out those problems and I must say, the feeling is great. I feel I’m making genuine progress again after perhaps stalling for a while.
Hack Chinese – An Introduction
Hack Chinese – Getting Started
Hack Chinese – The Dashboard
Hack Chinese – How Do I Learn with Hack Chinese
Hack Chinese – Personalise It
Hack Chinese – Is Hack Chinese Free?
Hack Chinese – Any Negatives?
Hack Chinese – Final Thoughts
Hack Chinese – End of Trial – How did I Fare?
Hack Chinese – FAQ’s
I actually discovered Hack Chinese because their founder, Daniel, dropped me an email.
Around a week ago I’d never heard of Hack Chinese.
Nevertheless we got to talking and, as we are providing you, our readers, with loads of new reviews, I thought I’d give it a go and write about my experience.
Hack Chinese isn’t actually an app – you do not download it via the Apple Store or Google Play.
This is a program you use in the browser. I quite like this actually.
The reasoning behind this is that it allows them to roll out updates without you having to download the newest version again and again.
This means they can provide their users with cool new features every week, and nothing needs to be done by the user.
So quite simply it’s a case of signing up… and getting involved.
Daniel advised me, if I study more on my phone normally (which I do) to try the desktop version, and likewise, if you are a desktop user try the phone.
I never really considered this a factor but I do believe using the desktop has given me a new wave of motivation. Why, I really do not know, but having the information on my screen, in a bigger format, has really helped. I like desktop learning a lot.
With the wide range of stats, graphs and numbers available, it’s cool to see your progress on a bigger screen.
I recommend you try the same when using Hack Chinese.
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How to get Started
It’s all pretty simple, head over to hackchinese.com and follow the instructions.
Everything is laid out very precisely and it couldn’t be much easier to follow.
As is crucial with apps, adhering to every users level is imperative, and Hack Chinese does just this.
You are asked how many Chinese characters you roughly know to date. Of course, it’s pretty tough to pin an exact number but I feel my level is around towards HSK 5 with reading.
It seems they got it pretty much spot on because the level is exactly where I’d put myself. Knowing your current ability is therefore important.
If you feel you know 100 characters already, I’d still recommend starting from scratch. It does no harm to drill home those first 100 Chinese characters at all.
If you aren’t sure exactly where you lie, hopefully this table helps you out a little:
|Ability / Level||HSK 1||HSK 2||HSK 3||HSK 4||HSK 5||HSK 6|
|Characters you should know||178||349||623||1,071||1,709||2,633|
|Words you should know||150||300||600||1,200||2,500||5,000|
Once all the formalities are out of the way you’ll be faced with a screen similar to this if you are on desktop.
So the screen above is where you’ll being your journey with Hack Chinese (note I switched mine to dark mode, the default setting is white).
Being an avid fan of numbers and stats, this appealed to me instantly. Upon starting your data will of course be blank, but the screenshot above represents 4-5 days worth of data.
Some notes to run through
STUDY CONSISTENCY: This is a cool feature I like a lot. It shows your study breakdown per day. Before clicking on it, you will see 30 bars (representing a day each, a month in total). The bar can turn 3 colours and this depends on how much you have studied each day.
Green means I have studied more than 5 minutes each day, which is a solid start for me personally. There is another colour for 1-5 minutes of study, and then again for no study at all. So you can see how often you are studying and how much each session.
I plan to hit the green target everyday for the considerable future. I find things like this hugely motivating (similarly to Duolingo’s push notifications) as it keeps you consistent, that’s the key with memorizing Chinese characters – CONSISTENCY.
PROGRESS HISTORY – Shows your progress by the day, how many words you should know, how many are weak, and how many are strong. This of course depends on how often you get them right and wrong.
If you keep slipping up on the same word, it’ll fall into your weak zone, and Hack Chinese will cleverly target you with these words more often than not until it sticks. A technique I like a lot.
It was all too easy on other apps to keep saying “ah I always forget this one”… and never do anything about it.
Hack Chinese removes that element and effectively throws it your direction everyday until you get it.
VOCABULARY INSIGHTS – a place where you can see all the latest words you have learnt and also ones you slip up on.
You can hover over each word to see it’s meaning.
I like the way those awkward characters you just never get right are all thrown together. It’s a one stop area for you to focus on ahead of anything else, until they stick.
How Do I Learn with Hack Chinese?
OK, so we’ve checked out the main screen and we are ready to start learning Chinese characters.
To do this we simply click STUDY at the top of the screen. You are then given the option how long you want this study session to last.
TIME – you can choose anything from 2 minutes to 10 minutes. I much prefer the short snappy sessions compared to committing to a 30-45 minute session. As a full time worker I feel this allows me to study in morning, at lunch, and in the evening, no strings attached.
Simply put, there are no excuses to not study, even if you go in for 2 minutes, it’s better than nothing.
My default setting is 6 minutes, you can change this to match your needs in the SETTINGS menu.
Now we’ve chosen our study time, we are good to go…
In essence Hack Chinese is a series of flashcards. You’ll be faced with a character, it’s pinyin and the hanzi to start. Take it in and click next, the process continues.
As you go it’ll throw the same characters back at you every so often.
Your job is to state whether you know the pinyin and it’s meaning or not.
CLEVER FEATURE – Hack Chinese implements keyboard usage (see the arrows on the screenshots above), which they state is 30% quicker than using a mouse. It’s another smart feature I quite like and I do believe it speeds up the content you absorb. Utilise it if you are on desktop.
You continue over and over. As you go Hack Chinese will start to discover where your strengths lie and which words you are weaker at. It will use this data to determine how often to show you each character.
That’s it – all very simple but as already stated, incredibly effective in my opinion.
Once you finish your lesson you will get a summary similar to the below:
So in my two minute session here I picked up 6 new words and didn’t review any previous characters.
In my next session I will be reviewing the characters I just learned alongside other recent discoveries. Repeat, repeat, repeat and your database will expand.
I have picked up 100 new words in 5 days at the time of writing.
You have plenty of options to personalise you studying here, because we are all different, right?
An example – you have a LIGHTING ROUND where you can study quickfire if you want to squeeze in a session. You can edit the length of time this lightning round is.
As I also mentioned before, I like the dark mode settings in apps, so I changed this. You can also change whether you view pinyin and hanzi or just hanzi, whether you want to hide really hard words and your preferred speed of learning.
All these things can be edited in your STUDY PREFERENCES by clicking the ⚙️icon at the top of the screen.
Another very useful feature is the ability to add and edit lists to your vocabulary. A list, for example can be the HSK 5 (or any level) vocab. You can add these to your personal lists and study those set lists.
There are lists for textbooks too, so if you are studying certain textbooks at school, you can get all the vocab from that book as a list on Hack Chinese – very smart.
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Is Hack Chinese Free?
For 20 days, yes, then it’s a paid platform.
You can either pay up front for the year at a cost of 96USD, or pay monthly which totals a more expensive 144USD for the year.
Is it Worth it?
Honestly I really believe so but the age old question with every app – how serious are you about learning Chinese and/or improving your Mandarin?
If you are semi-serious or above, there’s no doubt this is a great investment. If you are more casual, try the 20 day trial and see how you get on.
The good thing is there is no need to add card details with the trial which puts a lot of people off normally.
Very few in truth.
If you are hoping to practice your speaking then this isn’t the app for you, likewise if you want to get better at writing Chinese characters, look elsewhere.
I’d also say some might find it a bit boring and too repetitive, not me for sure, but I can see how people might feel this way as it’s the same thing over and over.
Otherwise though, I find it hard to pick any faults at all.
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I’m genuinely excited to be able to share this app with you because when you see results yourself, it’s exciting… it gives you a buzz, and as we are all after the same end goal, I want you to feel that as well.
As language learners we all go through peaks and troughs – ups and downs.
It’s easy to hit brick walls but when you start to propel skywards again it gives you a new lease of life with the language and Hack Chinese has given that to me.
Give it a whirl, see how you like it.
If you are a member already, what do you think? Do you like it as much as me or are there some shortcomings you’d like to see ironed out? Comment below and let’s chat it out!好好学习天天向上
UPDATE – End of 20 Day Free Trial
So, 20 days in, how has Hack Chinese fared, and how have I fared?
There are some fantastic things to note here:
- I spent 10 hours and 50 minutes using Hack Chinese in these 20 days
- I learned 565 new words (I started on 1,200)
- I had 104 separate study sessions
- I studied anything between 11 and 50 minutes in a day
There are many more stats you can delve into here but the crux is this.
Hack Chinese is THE SINGLE best tool I have used to absorb Chinese characters, period.
My confidence has rise so sharply in these 20 days, and my skillset likewise.
Sure, I have to keep revising, I have to keep pushing but this is the most excited I’ve been about a Chinese language app for a very long time!
If that’s not proof of the quality of this app, I don’t know what is.
NOTE – Hack Chinese also has a version for teachers which we’ll look at in some detail in the near future.
Hack Chinese – FAQ’s
In a nutshell, Hack Chinese is a database of Chinese characters (on desktop or phone) where you practice, practice, practice characters over and over again until they stick. A very simple concept, but a very powerful one
For 20 days, yes, then it’s a paid platform. You can either pay up front for the year at a cost of 96USD for the year, or pay monthly which totals a more expensive 144USD for the year.
Hack Chinese isn’t actually an app – you do not download it via the Apple Store or Google Play. You use it through your web browser.
No this app is solely for helping to memorize Chinese characters.
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