You, Chinese Learner, Deserve Better

And Why I'm Determined to Help

Before we start, give yourself a pat on the back. Learning Chinese is hard and you are one of the few, the brave, the proud. But you're also one of the unfortunate, overlooked, and overworked. One of the principle reasons learning Chinese is difficult is there are not enough people studying it.

What? Confused? Don't be. Think about this: the market for English learners is 250 million people in China alone. There are 6 million Spanish learners in just the USA. How many Americans study Chinese? In 2009 the number was only 60,000 - and that was a 300% increase from 1990.

Given this, it's no wonder we have so few useful study applications. Our applications are splintered, simple, and few and far between. The most successful among us got there by hacking our way to success. There's nothing wrong with this, in fact it's quite admirable. But must learning Chinese be such an endeavor?

On May 30, I hope to make it less of one. I, your fellow Chinese learner, have decided to create an app to make our lives easier. The idea for the app stemmed from a personal need, and I hope that it will help resolve yours as well.

The app is called Earlyworm. In a phrase, it makes reading Chinese easier. We all have our favorite Chinese in-text reading software (mine is Perapera). Most of us also probably use Anki or Pleco for flashcards. And more than a few of us wonder where good Chinese language online content is hiding.

Earlyworm is my attempt to put flashcards, in-text reading software, spaced repetition software, and reading recommendations all under one roof. In my eyes this solves quite a few problems we Chinese learners face on a daily basis.

  1. Who likes making hundreds of flashcards or searching for the perfect Anki deck?
  2. Who looks up a word using in-text lookup, only to forget it tomorrow?
  3. Who wishes she could read more Chinese text, but doesn't know where to look?

With Earlyworm, your flashcards are customized to your skill level and what you're reading. How do we do this? After you pick what you want to read, we count how many times each word appears in the text. Then we eliminate all the words you know. Lastly, we use a secret method to get words that fit the below criteria the best:

  1. Useful to understand the text you're about to read
  2. Useful outside of the text
  3. Useful to you, based on what you've read previously
These are real screenshots from the app itself

Through this filtering system, Earlyworm presents you with a truly customized set of flashcards to optimize your study time.

And this is only the beginning. Earlyworm's first beta test is going live on Mary 30, but we still have more to add before we're ready to officially launch.

We're going to host some of the best content available for purchase in-app to help you find those awesome Chinese texts that are hiding in the corners of the interwebs. We also plan to add some groundbreaking text-summarizing and search features that will help you to read longer texts with ease (think research papers and novels).

If this sounds interesting, please support us and sign up for a beta testing account. It's free, you get to be the first to try out this new app, and I think we might come up with some special deals for our testers in the future ;)

Thanks, and if you think this would be helpful to other Chinese learners, please share it on Twitter and hit the recommend button below!

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