Studying the Outlier dictionary with Pleco

Posted on April 15, 2023

In this short blog post I will give some step by step instructions for how you can set up Pleco to study the Outlier Chinese dictionary.

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Duolingo (Brazilian) Portuguese Level 2: Verb Conjugations

Posted on August 13, 2022

This is an overview of the verb conjugations required for Duolingo Level 2 (Brazilian) Portuguese.

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Handwriting samples for the HSK curriculum

Posted on June 8, 2019 (last updated January 13, 2020)

Learning to write Chinese well is a long process, and I will provide some references below that can help. However, the most important thing is to learn by copying handwritten characters, preferably characters written by a respected calligrapher. Most foreigners who learn to write Chinese characters learn by copying printed characters. This is not a good idea: you will not develop good handwriting.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many suitable learning materials available for foreigners. Chinese bookstores have practice materials available in just about every style imaginable, but these are not so easy to get outside of China (Amazon does have some, though beware: in China they only cost a few euro). More important than availability, however, is the choice of characters: these practice books seldom target the HSK curriculum. On the other hand, Chinese textbooks for foreigners often don’t include handwritten characters.

Fortunately, there are free online calligraphy dictionaries that we can use to lookup handwritten characters by famous calligraphers. Of course, doing that manually for all of the HSK characters would be very laborious, so I wrote some code to do it. The resulting document contains all of the HSK characters, organized by HSK level, as written by 田英章.

Download the HSK handwriting samples (regular script, 楷书)

Download the HSK handwriting samples (semi-cursive script, 行书)

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ChinesePod dialogues for HSK 5

Posted on April 2, 2018

ChinesePod is a website for students of Mandarin Chinese. It offers dialogues organized by level (from newbie to advanced); each dialogue is accompanied by an explanation, a list of vocabulary, etc. It is an excellent resource, which I can highly recommend, especially to improve your listening skills.

The only minor downside is that the dialogues offered by ChinesePod are not organized by HSK level, nor are they particularly designed to cover the HSK vocabulary. I therefore previously constructed lists of dialogues to cover the HSK 1, HSK 2, and HSK 3 levels; these lists are now also available directly from ChinesePod. I previously also constructed a list for HSK 4. This new post introduces a list for HSK 5.

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The Rules of Calligraphy

Posted on August 23, 2016

My calligraphy teacher made me memorize and recite the rules of calligraphy as they have been formulated in the Four Strength Method of Chen Xiang (陈翔四力法). The rules are rather cryptic though so I spent some time trying to coming up with a reasonable translation and some explanations. Note that I’ve translated the spirit rather than the letter of these rules. The rules appeared in print in 快速掌握汉字间架结构的方法 (语言文字报, 2014-11-10), and can be found in Chen Xiang’s books as well (see below).

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Resources for Learning Chinese

Posted on February 15, 2016 (last updated July 8, 2019)

An exhaustive list of all the resources that I use and have created for studying Chinese. Note: the links below are associate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases; if you purchase these books through these links, you will be supporting this website.

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ChinesePod dialogues for HSK 4

Posted on January 17, 2016 (last updated January 23, 2016)

I previously constructed a list of ChinesePod dialogues for HSK levels 1, 2 and 3. This blog post provides a list of dialogues for HSK level 4.

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ChinesePod dialogues for HSK 1-3

Posted on October 17, 2015

ChinesePod is an absolutely excellent resource for students of Chinese. It provides tons and tons of dialogues at all levels, from Newbie to Advanced; each dialogue is accompanied by an explanation (in English at the lower level, in Chinese at the highest levels, and in a mixture of English and Chinese at the intermediate levels) as well as a vocabulary list, grammar exercises, etc. I can highly recommend it.

However, although the dialogues are organized by level, those levels do not correspond to the HSK levels. Coming up with a list of dialogues per HSK level is a non-trivial task; ideally such a list would satisfy a number of requirements:

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Western Mind-Chinese Grammar

Posted on June 27, 2015

Chinese grammar hurts my head.

I have a rather classical education. Did Latin for 6 years, (ancient) Greek for 3; studied English, French, and German. The first two years of high school we had a subject that focused exclusively on grammar (albeit in the context of Dutch). As part of my computer science degree I studied formal (mathematical) grammar. I thought I understood language structure.

Then I started learning Chinese.

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Studying Chinese with Pleco

Posted on January 16, 2015

I don’t use the setup I outline in this page anymore. It’s not wrong, but it’s time consuming. I’ve outlined my new setup on the Pleco forums.

Pleco is app with high quality Chinese dictionaries; it is an absolute must-have for any serious Chinese student. It also features a flashcard system, but although it is highly configurable I could never quite make it do what I wanted so I never used it. However, the integration between the flash card system and the dictionary finally tempted me to try again and I’m very glad I did because it works great; I only use Pleco now for study. On this page I will describe how I’ve set things up.

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