Hacking Chinese: blog review

It’s Diane. I wanted to share about a blog I enjoy: Hacking Chinese by Olle Linge.

Olle is Swedish and has been living in Taiwan for years. He writes in English about the process of learning Chinese, including helpful attitudes to adopt to increase success and helpful resources online and otherwise. He’s not teaching Chinese, but providing support to those who are seeking fluency in it.

Olle is not necessarily aware of distinctions between acquisition and “learning”, and he writes with a self-motivated, independent learner in mind (as we know quite different from most of our students). So while I’m not sure how much he knows of Comprehensible Input-based teaching, his discussion does often add supporting evidence to Second Language Acquisition hypotheses such as those of Stephen Krashen. In particular, Olle reminds readers that acquiring Chinese needs to be enjoyable for success to occur and he spells out ways to make that possible. I occasionally hand one of his articles to parents of frustrated children: Chinese is fascinating and exciting, not weird and stupid. The attitude of the learner is a huge factor in acquiring language. Helping students to lower their affective filters is a huge step.

Olle also has shared a number of excellent online resources. Some of these resources are helpful for beginners (such as this gem: Chinese Reader Revolution). Some are more helpful for learners at upper-intermediate ability and up (such as, in my opinion, Lang-8). He reviews online dictionaries and their strengths and weaknesses in great depth: Essential Dictionaries and Corpora for Learning Chinese.

For those interested in theoretical aspects of Chinese language and Chinese linguistics — let’s call us the four-percenters per Susan Gross’ term — his blog has material to offer. I find his article on Chinese/Western thought and language differences including a book review of The Geography of Thought fascinating. I won’t be using it with my students, but for me, it’s great fun! For me, reading articles at Hacking Chinese is refreshing, like those the equivalent of talking with a fellow bilingual friend about Chinese. I think that some native Chinese teachers would also enjoy the opportunity to see a fluent, non-native Chinese speaker’s perspective. Olle interacts often with those who comment and read his blog, too. He responded on the same day to an email I sent him earlier this year.

So: a good blog to watch for resources that can be helpful in our Chinese classrooms, and as a chance to think about Chinese language and the process of gaining fluency in it.