Chineseblast screenshot

While surfing, I discovered a promising new website for learners of Mandarin Chinese: Chineseblast (“collaborative learning engine for Chinese”). The site revolves around users’ “projects” (which usually means translation projects). The community contributes to projects both in adding and editing the translations themselves, as well as in adding comments and questions.

It very much reminds me of manga/anime fans’ community efforts at translating Japanese, but in the case of Chineseblast, the content translated isn’t so concentrated on one theme. Furthermore, different forms of media are covered by the projects:

1. Text Lessons – often similar to textbook offerings, but with audio (example: Joining the Revolution)
2. Video – often hosted on YouTube (example: Taiwanese soap opera)
3. Podcast – native Chinese shows (example: Princess Remy)

I like the variety — variety of content, of media, of language. You get audio and video, you get Mandarin and Cantonese, you get Taiwanese Mandarin and mainland Mandarin, you get traditional and simplified characters. I also like the way the video pages are designed, allowing you to scroll through the script as you watch a video. The small, gray literal translations above the more natural translations are also a nice touch.

It seems that most of the content is aimed at intermediate-level users. If that’s you, check it out.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Wow… I like this a lot. I’m really a fan of using natural media to learn, and this seems to have done a lot of the grunt work for me.

  2. Immediately made me think of a site somebody recently mentioned on my chinese blog: The DIO stands for “do it ourselves”. English news articles go up, then users come and translate them into Chinese. If you click on an article, you see the original and the translation side-by-side, so presumably like chineseblast it is intended as a learning tool. The translations are collaborative: you can edit them if you think they are inaccurate.

    It’s actually a really cool idea, isn’t it? And from what I can tell, the site has become quite successful.

  3. Thanks for that!

    The literal translations would be an idea for Chinesepod, actually.

  4. On reflection, I think I should add that although and are interesting examples of online collaboration, I don’t actually think that reading an original text and its translation side-by-side is a good way to learn. I support the idea that what a learner needs is “roughly-tuned input” (as Krashen puts it): input that is roughly at your level of ability, or just above. If you can’t understand a text without seeing a translation, then you are reading above your level. If you can understand most of the text yourself (possibly with the aid of a dictionary), then why look at the translation? That will just reinforce the bad habit of mentally translating everything into your mother language (and vice versa).

    In my opinion, a better learning tool is something like (and its sister, where you can move your mouse over a vocabulary item which you don’t know and the definition pops up.

  5. Todd,

    I agree with you. If you’re the one doing the translating, though, then you’re getting great practice.

    Also, if someone really likes studying a language that way, even if it’s not the most effective, then it’s better than nothing, right? Hopefully it wouldn’t be the only method. I think it could serve as just one small part in an effective study regimen.

  6. Ben,

    You’re right. The idea has been out there for a while…

  7. Thanks for the kind words John and everyone else, I’ve been a reader of this website for a while myself!

    Two quick things: I’m about to add (as early as tomorrow) a new quiz function which will automatically choose random words from a project and quiz you (e.g. it shows you 電腦 with 5 possible meanings, and you have to choose “Computer”.. or you see “我” and have to choose “wo3″…). I want to make this site so useful as a self-study tool that posting projects for your own personal use is very much worth the effort, letting alone benefit to the community.

    Secondly, one of the greatest potential benefits of this site lies its search function. As the amount of content on the site grows, the search becomes in a sense a living dictionary of how words are actually used in Chinese media, complete with translations. There’s nothing like that out there for any language as far as I know – but I think it could be huge.

    Now we just need to convince more people to start learning Chinese! 🙂

  8. How come the site only uses traditional characters?

    Although it would be very good for me to learn traditional……

  9. ash,

    We welcome both simplified and traditional characters – the choice is up to the originator of each project. Additionally I’m going to be implementing an automatic traditional to simplified converter which will make changing between the two scripts as easy as one click.

  10. Personally, I’d rather see a site that puts side by side, not words or paragraphs, but “ideas” and “context”. Adsotran is helpful with translating word for word, and this site is translating whole articles or paragraphs. I’d like to get a FEELING of the comparison between the two, of course as much as possible.

  11. One point to add, DIONEWS obviously goes both-ways. It’s half-half, so it can also be used by Chinese as a tool to learn English.

  12. Good resource

    However, I was just looking at … the pinyin is horribly off, I guess it will get better over time though

  13. actually there is a similar website which contains the transcript for BBC or VOA news programs and it can be edited by people too. They get the rule for editing so it’s easier for user to get the latest/more correct script. It’s called I think.

  14. Chinese blast seems like a big wiki for geeks.

    Actually, I like having content with translations and pinyin. The material is too difficult to fit in with Krashen’s idea of input at a level of i+1, but it still has some use as a vocabulary building tool. Believe me, I’m a big proponent of extensive reading, but I think some intensive reading is useful as a vehicle for vocabulary and grammar building. The other thing that’s good about this is that we can see authentic materials. Sometimes the real world just won’t give you i+1 level input.

    Adam, I think it’s a great idea to have a traditional to simplified converter. As I’m sure you know, any traditional character can be converted into one and only one simplified character, but the reverse is not always true. One of the biggest problems that I’ve had with Adsotrans is that it’s all simplified on the back-end. People add more and more simplified definitions, but there’s no fully automated way to convert them to traditional characters, the traditional character dictionary is relatively weak.

  15. The license, on the other hand, sucks ass.

    Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use only and may not be used, copied, reproduced, distributed, transmitted, broadcast, displayed, sold, licensed, or otherwise exploited for any other purposes whatsoever without the prior written consent of the respective owners.

    And then a bit further down:

    You hereby grant Chineseblast a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the User Submissions in connection with the Chineseblast Website and Chineseblast’s (and its successor’s) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Chineseblast Website (and derivative works thereof) in any media formats and through any media channels.

    Translation: It’s a “community” site, but all your contributions are belong to us and we aren’t sharing. We might sell your contributions and line our pockets if they’re good enough, though.

  16. The owner noticed what I wrote on the Chinese Forums and changed the license to an open-source Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. Way to go!

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