Chinese Winter Challenge

Winter break is the perfect time to make some significant progress in Chinese. No homework, no tests on the horizon, just some free time where one can better oneself. This is a follow-up piece to my Chinese Summer Challenge. I made a lot of progress during that time, but there were some kinks that needed to be worked out. For the Chinese winter challenge, I will be using modified versions of Skritter and Anki flash cards (Skritter and Anki can both be used on your smart phone or online via your computer). You can read about how to use these apps and what makes these apps such powerful language learning tools here. For the more engaging and fun aspect of the challenge I will be playing Chinese language computer games.

But first I need to catch up on my Skritter and Anki flashcard reviews. Because Skritter and Anki use the powerful spaced repetition learning system, they self-schedule review cards. Which means it’s easy to get far behind during busy times. Over finals week and dead week I built up many reviews. But no worries, this can be overcome quickly in a week by setting clear goals. For my first week I will review 1177 Skritter Cards and 400 Anki Cards:

Skritter Anki
Number of Review Cards to Begin With 1177 400
Day 1 1009 343
Day 2 841 286
Day 3 673 229
Day 4 505 172
Day 5 337 115
Day 6 169 58
Day 7 1 1



I use a modified version of an incredible pre-built deck called Spoon Fed Chinese. The deck consists of about 8,000 sentences, one side in English, and the other side with Chinese characters, and pinyin. After you answer each card an audio file is played with a native speaker pronouncing the sentence in Chinese. The deck starts with very simple phrases and each card ads one, or no new words. From my experience a new word is added every 2 to 5 sentences. My goal for Anki is to add 20 new sentences per day, this will allow me to memorize 320 new phrases in only 16 days!

I have modified the deck to meet my needs. Like many people who learn a language in an academic setting I am becoming literate, but I have a difficult time speaking and understanding spoken Chinese. If you download Anki’s PC application, you can modified your deck in a way that best fits your needs. If you need help modifying your own deck, comment on this post and I will assist you. For the modified deck I use, I first hear the spoken native audio file without the Hanzi, pinyin, or English definition. On the back side I have the Hanzi, and the English translation and the audio file plays again. I don’t use the provided pinyin because I am focusing on character recognition, however pinyin is a great tool and depending on your goals you may or may not want to use it. First I listen to the audio file to see if I can understand it, and after I flip the card I listen to the audio file again while reading the characters in my head, then I read the characters aloud mimicking what I have just heard.



I have modified my Skritter flash cards so they only give me flash cards for stroke order and tone. This reduces the amount of flash cards by half. It also eliminates redundancies as I learn pronunciation, definition, and character recognition from my Anki deck.

There are many great Premade Skritter decks for popular textbooks, HSK vocabulary, and decks made up of commonly used words. I prefer to use a custom made deck (made of vocabulary from my Anki sentences), together with a premade deck of the 1000 most common Chinese nouns. I think this works well because Anki and Skritter work together to create a strong neural network, and nouns are the easiest words to plug into any sentence, without having seen their usage first. My goal for Skritter is to learn 200 new words, or 13 words per day!

Video Games

For my Chinese winter challenge, I am going to play video games in Chinese for five hours per week. I often worry when I am playing video games that I should be doing something more productive. Playing video games in a different language is a great compromise! I can enjoy an exciting digital world without guilt, as I immerse myself in Chinese.

There also other benefits, such as building a strong neural network of experiences, images, and spoken and written vocabulary. A good RPG will have a lot of spoken and/or written content with an engaging story. Most video games allow one to control the flow of dialogue, this is great if you often feel overwhelmed by the speed of dialogue in Cinema and Television. Lastly it’s easier to play videogames for hours at a time, than it is to pour over a textbook. Below is a chart of games available on Steam:

Text Voice Acting Voice Acting with Subtitles
Gate of Firmament


To The Moon


Half Life


Half Life 2


Rise of the Tomb Raider


Portal 1


(traditional characters)



Memory of Oblivion Box


Home Behind


Tales of Wuxia




Talos Principle


Diablo 2


Legend of Merchant



There you have it! Comment below and tell me about how you are challenging yourself to improve your Chinese this winter break! If you need help setting one up, leave a comment and I will be happy to set you with a program that will fit your needs. Nothing beats class time with a professional Chinese teacher. We have incredible instructors! Comment below or Email us at to find out more!


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