Category Archives: Resources

Preparing for the HSK 2 exam

I’m currently preparing to take the HSK 2 exam later this month. In addition to the official current sample exams, I managed to get my hands on some old 2010 ones and thought it might be useful to see what changed in the 2012 revision. This way I wouldn’t have to worry if I wasn’t already familiar with certain words no longer needed for the test.

The HSK 2012 word list can be downloaded from the official site and I was able to find the 2010 word list on Below is a summary of the differences at each level.

HSK Level 1

Words added
10 in total: 上, 几, 号, 看, 说, 后面, 水果, 没有, 饭店, 一点儿
Words removed
8 in total: 日, 没, 零, 说话, 这儿, 那儿, 饭馆, 火车站

HSK Level 2

Words added
19 in total: 从, 女, 往, 日, 男, 累, 要, 近, 零, 一下, 事情, 宾馆, 知道, 说话, 铅笔, 面条, 火车站, 因为……所以……, 虽然……但是……
Words removed
15 in total: 号, 圆, 张, 船, 但是, 公斤, 回答, 因为, 女人, 所以, 欢迎, 水果, 男人, 马上, 自行车

Some of these removals may seem curious (for example, “没” was removed even though it’s quite a crucial character) but it needs to be taken in context of the entire word list (“没有” remains in the HSK 1 list).

The lists for the higher levels are a bit too long to add here, so I’ve created a page that has all the data on it: Word list differences between HSK 2010 and 2012.


Crowdfunding an app that teaches a true understanding of Chinese characters

Memorising a large number of Chinese characters is notoriously difficult and consumes and large amount of a Chinese learner’s time. Even after you’ve learnt a character, keeping it in memory is quite difficult. Experts generally agree that learning and understanding the functional components of characters is the best long-term, sustainable way to do this. There’s a crowdfunding campaign going on right now for a special add-on dictionary for Pleco that looks like it will be an excellent tool to achieve this.

The dictionary is called Outlier Dictionary of Chinese Characters, and it looks like it’s much more substantial and useful than a lot of the Chinese learning apps coming out these days (especially for those moving beyond the early beginner levels).

It includes the usual things like pronunciation, definitions, support for both simplified and traditional characters and stroke order. But some of the things it has that make it different include:

  • character form explanations,
  • original & derivative meanings,
  • component-by-component stroke order breakdown,
  • HSK/TOCFL stats,
  • character history (oracle bones, etc.) with explanations, comparisons & trivia, and
  • related characters by:
    • sound series,
    • semantic component (including corrupted components), and
    • dictionary radical

    Demo of dictionary

    You can view more details (including a demo video) and back the project on its Kickstarter page here.


Bing’s surprisingly good Chinese dictionary

A friend of mine recently showed me a new Chinese dictionary web site that’s actually really good: Microsoft’s Bing Chinese dictionary (

I’m not a fan of Microsoft generally but they seem to have created a very slick and useful tool here. The stand-out features are:

  • sample sentences that use the word you’re searching for in context,
  • parts of speech identification, i.e. whether the word is a noun, verb, etc.,
  • support for (some) ‘slang’ words, and
  • pinyin support for the sample sentences.

For example, a search for “八卦” yields the following:

Searching Bing for "八卦".


(There were some more sample sentences but I’ve omitted them for brevity.)

I think the sample sentences are where it really shines. Quite often when using other dictionaries, I would end up getting the new word I found and searching for it on to see if it’s used the way I expect (for example: to check it isn’t just literary). Bing includes sample sentences from many sources (including Jukuu). Some sample sentences have audio and/or video but these just read the sample sentence in English.

Another big gripe of mine that this dictionary addresses is the grammatical parts of speech that the word can be used as. For example, it’s easy to see whether a word can be used as both a noun and a verb or only one of these.

Note that this tool is a dictionary and not a translator. They do have a translator located at but I don’t think I will use it much because it doesn’t show the pinyin like Google Translate does (Google’s text-to-speech is much better too). A proper review of all the major translators out there is probably a topic for another post 😉