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SayJack Chinese Learning Materials

If you are an absolute beginner, please start your Chinese learning career by going over pinyin, the notations for Mandarin Chinese sound and tones.

We have hundreds of Chinese vocabulary lists. You may quiz yourself on each vocabulary list, and print flashcards for review. You may also compare your Chinese vocabulary power with other users. After becoming a member, you may create your own vocabulary list as well.

For those who want to learn Chinese characters, we have separate sections for traditional characters and simplified characters. We also have a tool for practicing writing them. It is one of our many tools of our language exchange platform.

If you don’t know how to type and input Chinese yet, be sure to check out our Chinese IME (Input Method Editor). You don’t need to install anything, as long as your computer can display Chinese characters. You may only input one character at a time for now, but we will extend the functions to allow input phrases as well.

Feel free to write a comment if you have any questions or suggestions. Please help SayJack become a better language learning website by actively helping others. Thanks!

Online Input Method Editor (Japanese, Chinese and Korean)

If you are interested in inputting Asian characters, for example, you want to create your own vocabulary lists, but you are not sure how to input the characters, or your computer does not have that capability, now you can use our online input method editor to do so.

I used to call this online IME a typewriter, but I guess not many of you associated a “typewriter” as something you can use to type Asian characters, and I hope by using the more technical term IME (Input Method Editor), you know what it is all about.

If you haven’t tried it out yet, please give it a try. Below I am setting the default to type Korean, but you can use it to type Japanese or Chinese by simply clicking on the corresponding radio button.

Once you click on the input area above, a little menu will show up on top of the area for you to choose either the input script (Japanese and Chinese) or the input method (Korean). Your choice will be remembered. It should be useful for those who need to type Chinese and Korean, as you don’t need to come back every time to choose traditional or simplified script for Chinese, or Revised Romanization or Dubeolsik input method for Korean.

The Korean IME should be as good as any desktop solutions (on your Windows or Mac machine). If you are not sure how to type, please refer to the legend on this Learn to Type Korean page. Basically if you are an absolute beginner and wanna input some easy Korean, e.g. annyeonghaseyo (how are you), you may do so by using the Revised Romanization input method, but make sure you are aware that, the romanization system does not attempt to represent the sound of the words, instead, it is an one-to-one correspondence of Latin letters to Hangul Jamo. You will have a lot of typos if you simply try to type according to how Korean words sound like. For more details about Revised Romanization, please visit this wikipedia page.

Dubeolsik (2-bul Layout) is the national standard for Korean keyboard layout. It worths your time to learn how to type using Dubeolsik, if learning Korean is more than just a casual hobby for you. Again, please refer to this Learn to Type Korean page for a quick legend and explanation of this input method.

The Chinese Pinyin IME is quite primitive, you can only input one character at a time. So far it supports about the most frequently used 2000 characters. Also you will probably need to wait a bit before the choices will show up (below the input area). For instance, if you type de, 4 words will appear under the input area, namely , if you hit spacebar, you are gonna choose the first choice from the list, or you can either click on the word to choose, or press the number associated with the choice to choose. If more users are using it, I will spend more time to make it faster, and to make it support multi-character vocabularies.

The Japanese IME does not yet support inputting Kanji. I know this is definitely a must-have if I want more advanced Japanese learners to use the IME… for now, if you only need to input hiragana and katakana, it should be as good as any desktop solutions, and no installation is required!

I put the IME on the front page so that when you come back to the site, you don’t need to navigate through the site to find the IME and use it. Also, this IME will show up on input areas (supposed to have Chinese, Japanese or Korean vocabularies) when you are creating your vocabulary list. I hope it will make you easier to create your own vocabulary lists.

Let me know what you like and dislike, and if you want to see any additional features, or any bug you may have found, just leave me a comment below. Thank you!

Strokes and Stroke Order of Chinese Characters

As I said before, I am not a big fan of insisting writing in the correct stroke order, unless you need to please your school teachers to get full credits of your homework assignment, or you are practicing Chinese calligraphy. On the other hand, it looks really bad to native writers if you try to show off your handwritten Chinese, but end up writing a horizontal stroke right to left, or writing the lower part of a character first before the upper part, they may even giggle when they see it, or at least confirm their belief that “foreigners do not understand Chinese language.” Therefore, before technology advances enough so that everyone types Chinese on a keyboard, you’d better pick up the basic rules of writing Chinese characters.

With the seemingly random composition of lines, how many different kind of strokes are there in Chinese characters? There are not a lot, namely, more than 20 different kinds of strokes in 4 main categories. When I say more than 20 but not an exact number, because you may ignore some of the subtle differences in different kinds of strokes in the official categorization by the ROC Ministry of Education. I couldn’t find an equivalent document from the PRC Ministry of Education, but the idea should be the same for writing either traditional or simplified Chinese characters. For the 4 main categories, they are dot (/), horizontal (/), vertical (/) and diagonal (). 2 basic rules apply for writing each stroke:

  1. From left to right
  2. From top to bottom

For each stroke, you almost always use the topmost point, and if there are more than one such point, find the leftmost of those points to start writing a stroke. The only exception is the diagonal stroke from bottom-left, such as the 3rd stroke of the radical (see below) for (shǒu: hand). Note that the little hook at the end of the 2nd vertical stroke, it is attached to the vertical line and considered one single stroke. The same applies to any “hooks” at the end of a stroke, as there is only separate single stroke for a dot, but not for a hook. Also the 1st horizontal stroke may look like a diagonal, maybe not in this case but in some other character/font combinations.

The 1st diagonal stroke of (: I, me) may demonstrate the frustration a bit better. If it is written more horizontally, you may get confused whether it’s a horizontal stroke or a diagonal one, or even if you know it’s a diagonal stroke, you are not sure whether it is the special kind of stroke to start writing from the bottom left. My general advice is, if you look at the character using the “standard” Chinese font comes with Windows or Mac, the horizontal stroke should be “very horizontal,” while the diagonal strokes are not. The diagonal stroke starting from the bottom left can not be a stroke on top of other strokes, so if you start writing a radical with a diagonal stroke, do not start writing from the bottom left.

We will talk about stroke order next.

SayJack New Site Design

Dear members,

I have just deployed the latest website design. From now on I can keep you posted about the development of the site and my learning language experience with this blogging feature on the site.  I am only writing in English for now, but if there are more important things I would try to translate them to all JACK languages.

Please feel free to write me comments for any questions or suggestions you have. Thanks!


Essential Concepts and Terms for Grammar Study


A verb is a word to convey an action (e.g. run, read, bring), or a state of being (e.g. is, has, live). We will call them action verbs and non-action verbs respectively.

It is an essential element in a sentence.


A noun is a word to represent an object (e.g. book), a concept (e.g. chemistry) and so forth. A pronoun is a word designated to substitute a noun (e.g. this, he, them). A proper noun is a noun representing a unique entity (e.g. London, John).

Pronouns are relatively few. The rest of the nouns belong to an open category, with new words emerged and added to the dictionary in a living language.


An adjective (e.g. big) is a word designated to modify a noun (e.g. house).

Notice that many nouns (including pronouns) can be used to modify other nouns (e.g. chocolate factory, our country). Some modified forms of verbs can also be used to modify nouns too (e.g. smiling girl, broken heart).


An adverb is a word used to modify adjectives, verbs, another adverbs, and even a whole sentence, but never used to modify nouns.

In English, an adverb often ends in -ly (e.g. happily). Other common example adverbs are: very, more, indeed.


A particle is a word used to indicate relationships between the word it tries to link (its object), and the rest of the sentence.

In English, it is usually called preposition (e.g. in, at, for), because it is used before its object. In Japanese or Korean, it is also called postposition or marker.

Modifying a Word: Conjugation and Declension

Conjugation is modifying a verb from its dictionary or principle form. Declension is the modification for nouns and adjectives.

In English, for example, goes is a modified form of the verb go, and men is a modified form of the noun man.


A phrase is part of a sentence which by itself is meaningful.

The most common types of phrases are noun phrases and verb phrases, which function like nouns and verbs respectively in a sentence.

Subject and Predicate

A complete sentence usually contains a subject and a predicate. A subject is a noun or noun phrase in a sentence, it is what the sentence is about. A predicate describes the subject in a sentence.

Running is a good exercise.
Running is the subject, and is a good exercise is the predicate.

Object and Transitive/Intransitive Verbs

An object which complements an action verb completes the verb’s meaning. It is always part of a predicate.

A direct object answers the question “what?” in a sentence, and an indirect object is usually the recipient of the direct object.

I give you a book.
book is the direct object and you is the indirect object

Not all action verbs take objects. Verbs that take objects are called transitive verbs, those do not take objects are called intransitive verbs. A verb can be both transitive and intransitive in different situations.

She breaks the vase.
break is a transitive verb
He jumps.
jump is an intransitive verb
I eat (apples).
eat is both transitive and intransitive
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