Almost to the end of the Hello Chinese Tree


I had predicted on August 30 that I could finish the tree in a week and at this point I have two sets left. Should be doable.

44 sets out of 46 sets completed.

Some sets have been more useful than others for me for right now, so once I’m finished, I will go back and pick some of them to review.

One Week of Hello Chinese at Higher Pace

Hello Chinese allows you to set a daily goal of ‘coins’ from 10-50. But I set my own goal of twenty minutes and that has corresponded with approximately 100 coins/day. I went ahead and set my daily goal using the function of the app at 50 coins. It’s possible the final lessons will reduce my rate of completion if they are more difficult, but I imagine I’ll still be able to get more than 50 coins in 20 minutes.


After a week of working on the app for twenty minutes each day, here is my progress chart,


I have completed 36 sets of lessons, each set has between three and five lessons.

There are 9 lesson sets left. I finish approximately 1.5 lesson sets in a day, so I should complete the ‘tree’ in about a week.

There are also review sections which I’m not counting but which are useful.

For me, it seems like the speaking parts are the most useful, the variety of formats of exercises also helps, it makes you think about the language from slightly different angles.

The writing part has been the least systematic for me, but I have been recognizing more patterns within the characters by doing these exercises. It just doesn’t seem like a very effective way to learn writing.

Certain lessons in Hello Chinese seem more useful to me personally. So I’m going to finish the tree to unlock everything and then focus more on what I find the most useful.

Pacing with the Hello Chinese App

I have been doing a little bit of practice with ‘Hello Chinese’ most days for a little while now. Didn’t do any when I was on a trip last week, but starting to practice again.

I was doing two lessons a day and then switched to one lesson a day. But then I was thinking about whether that was really enough to learn much and I think it probably isn’t.

So today, I decided just to work on it for twenty minutes and see how far I could get.

I ended up getting 130 points. Had done about five lessons I thought, but at first, I wasn’t sure exactly what that had meant. Then I tried a couple of the lessons to see how the points system works. Basically, the speaking parts are 25 points and the normal lessons are 20 points. So I think I did two speaking parts and four normal lessons. I ended up doing two more parts figuring that out.

Sometimes you can get through the lessons very quickly and they also vary in difficulty, so I thought that practicing for a set amount of time could be better. Twenty minutes seems like a good starting point for now. There have been times when I have studied Chinese for much longer than that each day, but that seems like a good minimum.

With playing music, I also recommend for students to get at least twenty minutes in a day. The more important part is that the practice is daily. The same amount of practice spread across seven days can be much more effective than if it was crammed into a day or two. Part of that has to do with getting things into your long term memory instead of relying on short term memory which can fade faster.

And sometimes if you start something, you’ll want to continue longer than you planned, which can be a good thing.


Hello Chinese and Chinese Skill for learning characters

I have also used Memrise, one of the courses on radicals. Should probably go through that again.

As Joseph said, Skritter is supposed to be good, but I haven’t used it much.

There are two apps that can be helpful for learning to write characters and include stroke order which you can turn on and off.

They are ‘Chinese Skill’ and ‘Hello Chinese’.

Pretty similar in their systems, but slightly different.

Here is what Hello Chinese looks like,

Chinese Skill is similar,

It seems to me like the Hello Chinese app has a few more options. In each though, you can practice the characters with or without guidance.

Hello Chinese App Update ~1/3 Complete

I came back to using ‘Hello Chinese’, had mentioned it before on this website.

There were some bugs, some of which have been fixed. The main one that I have noticed is that the speaking exercises work (for the most part).

Here is my current status,


Basically, I have usually been doing one exercise each day which is “20 points”. When I first started, since I had already been learning Chinese for two years, the early exercises were not too hard, so I would do two sets of exercises each day.

Today, I also did two sets, including a speaking exercise set.

Unlike Chinese Skill, not every exercise is ‘graded’ so to say. You can make mistakes and keep going, it just takes a bit longer if you make mistakes.

The speaking exercises do give you a score though.


You get that score based on the individual exercises in the sets, for example


I missed two tones in that one, which is somewhat typical for me to miss a few.

Sometimes I get all the tones right (and this is according to the app, which seems to be somewhat accurate but probably is not perfect).


The final exercise set in a group of exercise sets is entirely speaking. You can choose to do them or skip them. It says something a little funny, “10 Minutes a Day, Fluency in 3 Months!”. Which is not especially accurate, but you can learn quite a bit in three months.


Hello Chinese places a bit of emphasis on writing. However, the characters you learn do not really seem to flow in an order that is easy to pick up. Some characters are fairly simple and others are quite complicated.

I like how they teach each individual character though. The direction for each stroke is shown and you can trace them first.


After you trace though, you need to write it from memory with the correct stroke directions.


At this point, if the character is simple, sometimes I get it right away. Other times, I get a few strokes right and then guess what might be next. If you do the wrong stroke a few times in a row though, the app shows you an outline of where it should be. So sometimes I just use brute force to get through the characters.

You can focus on any individual character and review it multiple times. That seems like the better way to actually learn them.

To do that, click on the left circle on the bottom for characters. You can also review words and grammar by clicking on those circles. (This is on the “Me” screen.


Overall, I like the app quite a bit and I think I will continue working through the rest of it. I have completed about a third of it now. Compared to Chinese Skill, it places more emphasis on speaking compared to writing with characters.

It’s not a bad place to start with learning Chinese I think. But what I used was the Pimsleur CDs with a lot of repetition. The repetition with the audio helped me a lot, but I imagine you could also simply repeat the exercises using this app. And seeing things visually can be useful.

I also did an exercise set in Chinese Skill just now and actually did manage to get a writing exercise correct. Those exercises were pretty difficult for me for a while, especially with longer sentences since you have to write entirely in characters and one mistake will get it marked wrong. Basically, I write using pinyin as I hear it and that is turned into characters. I recognize some characters, but definitely not all. So I’m partly relying on the the cpu to recognize what I’m trying to say, which it often does.


Let me know if you have any thoughts on either of these two apps!

How to Translate 加油 to English? (And how not to)

A common Chinese phrase, 加油,seems to often be translated into English in ways that do not really make sense.

Here are a couple of options that work, there are other ways to say something with a similar meaning as well.

Literally it means ‘add oil’ in Chinese.


How do you say “I speak Chinese” in Chinese?

Since you’re asking this question, I’m going to assume you don’t speak much Chinese. And since you asked how to “say”, I will give you some pinyin instead of just the characters.

I would say this


“Wǒ huì shuō zhōngwén”

You could say this


“wǒ huì shuō hànyǔ”

Check out Taizhi Lu‘s answer here for some more detail about the differences. Better explanation that I would give.

“How far do Chinese Skill and Hello Chinese get you in Mandarin Chinese?”

I have used both, got farther with Chinese Skill (got it first).

That depends on how much time you spend using them and how deep you go. Will those apps alone make you fluent in Mandarin? No. But can they teach you quite a bit? Yes.

I had heard the phrase  谢谢 (Xièxiè) long before I started learning Chinese. Could I be understood at that point if I said it? Yes. However, my pronunciation really wasn’t very good. I spent quite a while practicing it with feedback from a Chinese person and learned to keep my teeth closed and have my tongue positioned in a certain way and it got better.

Likewise, you can probably learn many of the phrases from the apps to a certain level. How high that level is depends on how deliberate and intent you are with your practice. In the end though, for your pronunciation, you are relying on your own ears when using the apps.

Even if you know what you are trying to say, the other person may not.

It can help a lot more with pronunciation to get feedback from a native speaker.

So you can listen quite a bit and learn some written language with the apps and even develop your speaking by copying what you hear.

You probably want to think about the apps as one of the tools you use when learning the language.

“Why do Chinese English students always believe that speaking with a native English speaker will somehow improve their spoken English?”

Question from Quora and my response:

Likely because it is something that can greatly improve their spoken English if done effectively. And will probably help some even if not done very effectively.

Of course, speaking with a native English speaker can also be done in a way that is not terribly effective at helping improve someone’s level of English.

You probably know people who practice things and do not seem to improve quickly. Or you may think about something people do frequently, for example driving, but also do not rapidly improve after the beginning stages.

Comfort vs Panic

If you mostly say and hear things that are familiar, you reinforce what you know, but may not learn a lot.

If you mostly do not understand what you hear, the situation becomes uncomfortable and frustrating.

Figuring out how to be in between those two states can help learning.

Patience on both sides is necessary.


If both people in the conversation are very aware of the other person, it can help.

Maybe one person is speaking too quickly. Slowing down might help a great deal.

Or maybe one person says too much at once. If the first part was not understood and the other person is still trying to figure it out, it’s unlikely they will understand more.

One way I practice language that can help quite a bit in earlier stages of learning is the game on this site. It has helped me be able to have conversations better and makes the conversations I do have more helpful.

12 Videos Across Two Years of Learning Mandarin Chinese

Started in March 2014. For nine months I listened quite a bit and repeated what I heard on the Pimsleur program. I got it from the library.

At that point I began to explore other options. I knew a few people who spoke Chinese and I began taking a beginning Chinese class. I also joined something called the ‘Add 1 Challenge’ with Brian Kwong. That is a group of people learning languages together.

The idea was to be able to have a conversation with a native speaker after 90 days. So having that goal in mind, I found ways to make it happen.

I started talking to people that I found through iTalki. Got some apps like Chinese Skill and HelloTalk. Read about strategies online, talked to people who also learned Chinese. Signed up for Chinese Pod for a bit. Did many different things and figured out what was effective for me at different points in time (that kept changing).

Even made up a game that helped me (described on this site).

I was working on learning Chinese every day. I had a bit of a strained 15 minute conversation at the end of the 90 days of the challenge. During the summer I kept working on it, but slowed down a bit. Then I joined the challenge again in the fall of 2015.

After another 90 days of working on Chinese pretty much every day I had a much more comfortable conversation for about thirty minutes.

Realized that I posted 12 videos showing my progress throughout the last twelve years.

12 videos through Two Years of Learning Chinese

January 7, 2015 (After nine months working through Pimsleur)

#Add1Challenge: Learning Mandarin

January 13, 2015

Add 1, Day Zero

February 13, 2015

Day 30 Add1 Challenge, Mandarin Chinese

March 15, 2015

Add1, Day 60, Speaking Mandarin

April 12 2015 (First Recorded 15 Minute Conversation)

Add1 Challenge, Day 90, Neal Speaking Mandarin for 15 minutes

July 29, 2015

Listen Speak Game Demo

August 29, 2015

#Add1Challenge Learning Mandarin, 90 Days, Round 2

September 7, 2015

#‎Add1Challenge‬ Day 0: Learning Mandarin in 90 days (Neal, Round 2)

October 10, 2015

Day 30 #Add1Challenge Mandarin Round 2

October 15, 2015 (Chinese teacher asked me to make a video for her class)

CHN 101 Chinese Class Talk, University of Oregon

November 7, 2015

Add1 Day 60 Mandarin Round 2

December 8, 2015 (Final recorded conversation for second round, 30 minutes)

A1C Day 90 Mandarin Neal Round 2