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Monthly Digest of Chinese Learning – May 2014

There is an abundance of wonderful Chinese learning blogs and articles on the Internet. Sometimes it is just impossible to filter through every single one. Don’t you wish you had someone to do it for you? Of course you do, and luckily for you, DigMandarin is always ready to oblige you. Here is our selection for best articles in the month of May.

1. What is the best way to remember characters


The most effective way to memorize characters, or anything for that matter, is association. The wider the scope of experience you incorporate in memorizing (e.g visual association, writing and/or sound) the better the characters will stick. You must also force yourself to learn radicals & how to write them.
You need:

  1. Clear goal – Size and scope of the goal helps define how seriously you use the next two pieces.
  2. Method for memorization – Heisig’s “Remembering the Hanzi” is recommended. Sites such as NCKIU and HanziCraft are useful to support this method but are not the method itself.
  3. An SRS tool – Skritter will correct your stroke order and help you with the fiddly bits.


“Fun With Chinese Characters” (It accompanies each character to be learned with an amusing story and graphic about it and stroke order for writing. After learning a few characters (like 10 or s0) you can then use flashcards with a program like Anki to study the cards you have learned, slowly progressing and increasing the flashcards as you learn them. )
“Skritter” (Since you will be somewhat forced to write in correct stroke order, you will end up with a muscle memory helping out remembering the character.)

2. 7 Superb Chinese Readers for Improving Your Chinese

The specific set of criteria to search with:

  1. These stories must be well written.
  2. Appropriate level. (stories at an intermediate level and written in modern Chinese)
  3. Well annotated. (These stories must be well annotated with explanations of words and grammar points that are worth adding to our repository of words. )
  4. Questions and exercises.
  5. Series. (a series of books usually indicate that they’re well received by Chinese learners.)
  6. Availability of both traditional and simplified characters.

Best Chinese Readers recommendation:

3. How and why to use television to learn Chinese

(Hacking Chinese)

Watching television is a healthy part of any language learners diet. Watching TV in Chinese provides an abundant source of native Chinese listening practice.

Content source:

For those inside mainland China, 优酷 ( and土豆 ( will service all your needs.If that’s the case, YouTube has a great deal of user generated content, as well as uploads of many popular television shows.

Gotchas and how to overcome them

1. English subtitles
The English subtitles act as a crutch that should be avoided as much as possible.

2. Character recognition

Chinese subtitles are a great asset. They let your brain associate the sounds of the language with their written counterparts.

3. Losing the plot
Even in the beginner phase, it’s still usually possible to follow the plot and get the gist of what’s going on, just by using the visual imagery.

4. Names
Using the plot descriptions, and pausing shows when names are used, to create cards with names for each of the characters. It’s very useful for all the rest.

5. Boredom
Learning Chinese with TV is a mostly passive listening exercise that only reaps benefits with massive exposure. Don’t ever fall into the trap of spending hours finishing a series you originally found fun but now find boring.

Add a dash of study

1. Spaced Repetition
In the beginner and intermediate stages it can be helpful to look up some of the interesting words that come up frequently in a show that you’re watching, and then add it to a formal system.

2. Shadowing
Shadowing forces you to focus on grammar and speech particles that your brain usually filters out, helps make you much more conscious of where breaks in speak and pauses between words should go, and provides good intonation and tone practice.

3. Complementary study
Watching television is a passive learning activity, and you’ll find that when you hear words (or see them in subtitles) that you’ve recently learnt in a more active study session, your brain will hone in on that word.

4. Fire Vocabulary


Here’s the list of relatively beginner-friendly nouns that start with the character火, some literal character-by-character renderings for fun, and the English translations of the words.


5. VPN for China: How to access Facebook and Youtube behind the Great Wall


This article explains what a VPN is and how can be used to access Facebook, Youtube and the other websites that are currently blocked in China.
There are many other blocked websites, and according to what you do it will be virtually impossible for you to work without a VPN (Virtual Private Network) from China. The most striking case is probably given by, which often returns an error message when used from within the Middle Kingdom.

The following is a comparative review of VyprVPN and StrongVPN:

  • If having Internet on your smartphone or tablet is a key feature for you, then you shall go forVyprVPN. Click here to read our article on VPNs for mobile devices.
  • If you’re looking for a user-friendly VPN, then VyprVPN is much better (installing and switching servers isn’t as straight forward on StrongVPN).
  • If you need a secure connection for transmitting sensible data, then you should go forVyprVPN, which offers more protocols including the Chameleon, especially designed for China, and the Nat Firewall for an extra layer of security.
  • If you need your VPN for two months or less, then the cheapest option is VyprVPN as with StrongVPN you must buy at least a three months plan.

We hope you enjoyed our selection of useful blogs for the month of May. Keep up the learning and remember that DigMandarin is here to help you find all the resources you could possibly need.

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Jing Cao is the chief-editor and co-founder of DigMandarin. She has a master's degree in Chinese Linguistics and Language Aquisition and has taught thousands of students for the past years. She devotes herself to the education career of making Chinese learning easier throughout the world.

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