The Basics

My name is: Kendra Schaefer (My personal site)
Follow on Twitter: @KendraSchaefer
I live in: Beijing
Age: 40
In China since: 2002
My day job: Tech policy research

The Backstory

I got my BA in Mandarin at a university in Beijing, and though I’ve been out of school for a while, reading Chinese is one of the few things I never get bored of, probably because no matter how long I study, there’s always more to learn.

I originally became interested in learning Chinese primarily because I wanted to read the language. And though reading textbooks is important, I found the readings outrageously boring. I wanted to read important works of Chinese fiction, Chinese news, Chinese fables and myths – in other words, I wanted real reading, something a Chinese kid might read in school or online.

But I soon found that tracking down reading materials was difficult and frustrating. Everything I picked up tended to be too long, too short, too easy, or too hard, and I ended up spending more time looking for something that was suitable than actually doing any reading. I wanted something challenging, and was willing to work to understand it, but every time I found something new to read, I never knew if I would be able to finish it. I’d often get through a few paragraphs only to hit a phrase I couldn’t decipher and, with no one to ask, would have to put the reading aside.

Once I did get to a place where my reading level was high enough to get through most pieces, I started this site to keep my own skills fresh, and to pay it forward for those students who are in the same spot I was.

How I Classify Reading Levels

Nothing on this site is truly beginner reading. If you just picked up Chinese yesterday, or if you’re at HSK 1 or 2, even the beginner stuff is going to be a rough ride for you – I only have found a couple of pieces that HSK 1-2 might be able to tackle. This is because for any story, article or essay to really take shape, it usually has to have some higher-level grammar or vocabulary mixed in. This is why most truly beginner textbooks stick to dialogs (你好! 你好吗? 我很好!) as opposed to actual stories. And the truth is, truly fluent native readers read at well above HSK 6. And, in the real world, many pieces of writing are mixed-level; the first few paragraphs might be intermediate, with an advanced paragraph thrown in. So, my classifications are the same classifications you might apply to a native speaker, not a learner. I also don’t classify by HSK level. But, as a general guideline, on this site:

Beginner: HSK 2-4
Intermediate: HSK 5-6
Advanced: HSK 6+

The idea is not to give you something you can read without difficulty, but something that is an appropriate challenge at your reading level. So, I try to put texts into the lowest level at which someone, with a little work, might be able to figure the text out. So if, for example, you’re at HSK 4, there are some pieces in the intermediate section you should be able to get through with some work. And if you can’t figure something out, post in the comments. I’ll try to answer you.

About the Translations

Most of the translations on this site are done by me. I am not a linguist, and I translate for readability. I don’t post anything unless I’ve checked it several times, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t made a mistake. Do feel free to comment if you see anything that ought to have a better translation – it won’t be taken amiss.

How did you do those pop-up Chinese hover effects?

Thanks to Alex, the coder behind Mandarinspot.com, Chinese Reading Practice now has pop-up translation on Chinese texts – hover over any mandarin word in the reading text to see the definition. If you’d like to implement something similar on your own blog, you can head over there and grab his Javascript file / annotations API.

Unfortunately, the pinyin and definitions generated by the script is not always right. It can’t be – it’s trying its best, but it can’t understand the context of the sentence, so sometimes when a character has more than one pronunciation, it’ll choose the wrong one. Sorry!

Commenting rules

I try to maintain a pleasant learning environment, so abusive (you idiot!), pointless (I am Groot.), or unhelpful (Hi.) comments will be deleted. I will also delete links from your comments unless those links are very relevant to the post. For example, it’s fine to link to a Wikipedia page that’s relevant to Chinese or to the content of the translation, but if you link to your own site, I sadly don’t have time to verify if it’s a phishing link or malware or inappropriate content so I’m just gonna take it out. I don’t always manage to catch all the spam that slips through, though, so apologies if there’s some clutter.

Enjoy, and good luck with your studies.