Recently I noticed our sister site Spanish SE has come up with a translation-golf game-type question.

There's a introduction/explanation for their translation-golf game on their meta site, which, in part, reads:

In a recent question in Spanish Language, and based on the Code Golf stack, I came up with the idea of creating a game-like type of questions in which the goal is to translate a text from another language into Spanish, using the least possible number of characters while respecting the original meaning of the sentence.

There are also a list of rules here.

This is an idea.

Based on character count it would pose quite a challenge, especially for Chinese.

Any ideas or opinions?

Other ideas? Concepts?

  • Great idea, although I think that unless we have strict rules about what language these should be answered in (example: only Standard Written Chinese, no 成語 references), some people would be tempted to use extremely short and obscurely constructed Classical Chinese phrases, and this kinda ruins the game for learners, especially since the whole idea was probably to educate readers in grammar.
    – dROOOze
    Jan 27, 2018 at 13:40
  • @droooze feel free to come up with some rules (we can make it a community wiki) and see if we can’t agree on them if you think it’s a good idea. The game is based on votes as well - not just content, so I can’t really imagine overly pretentious translations earning a lot of votes. That being said we could copy code golf in a way with users posting their used “language,” i.e.: learner, contemperory, literary, argot, classical - that might mitigate some differences in abilities.
    – Mou某 Mod
    Jan 27, 2018 at 14:06

10 Answers 10


One factor that you could use in scoring an entry is how simple the vocabulary is. Translating with a basic vocabulary would be good for new learners, and a larger vocabulary would be good for advanced learners. Either score higher for simpler vocabulary, or score in multiple categories.

I built a simple tool for highlighting the vocabulary level of Chinese text while you're editing it. I called it Pinyincushion, because naming things is hard. It's based on XKCD's Simple Writer.

  • I don't really understand how your tool works, particularly the whole highlighting the vocabulary level of Chinese text while you're editing it. How can I tell what the vocab level is?
    – Mou某 Mod
    Jan 28, 2018 at 9:20
  • The drop down at the bottom right sets your limit, @user3306356. Anything not in the top n characters gets highlighted.
    – Don Kirkby
    Jan 29, 2018 at 5:21

may i suggest "文言句讀"


in the past, before punctuation marks were introduced, text in chinese books were not interrupted by comma, full stop, or paragraph. students need to do the pause & stop by themselves (with helps from their teacher). it's one of the important methods to master the literary chinese.

here's an example:

question: how to 句讀 the following text, mark it


the possible answer would be:


i prefer text in vertical layout, cause, one must understand the meaning of the text, in order to "play" the game.

further, we may set up another question to ask about particular word's meaning.

have fun :)


Translation practice.

(Similar to translation golf, but hopefully less competitive and more about learning than minimizing characters.)

一。 Question: Take an interesting, relatively simple (jargonless) paragraph. Here's one from George Orwell's 1984:

He sat back. A sense of complete helplessness had descended upon him. To begin with, he did not know with any certainty that this was 1984. It must be round about that date, since he was fairly sure that his age was thirty-nine, and he believed that he had been born in 1944 or 1945; but it was never possible nowadays to pin down any date within a year or two.

Find an official Chinese translation (in spoiler space):


Together, these form the question.

二。 Answers contain two things:

  1. The answerer provides their own translation of the original snippet written without help from the official translation, nor any other answers. We trust them not to cheat.

  2. An answerer writes their own translation in spoiler space (without looking at the translation) and gives a self-critique after looking at the translations (what did you learn?), e.g.:

    • explain your decisions [word and grammar choices; writing style; whether you were faithful to the text or chose less-faithful but more frequently used Chinese terminology, etc.],
    • explain what you feel you did well, perhaps better than the official translation (and other answers),
    • explain what you feel you did poorly.

三。 Votes: We upvote answers which uncover important lessons (particularly those useful to future readers).

I haven't completely thought this idea through, but I think I would enjoy participating, and I feel like I would learn from seeing other people's answers: they're facing the same challenge. It might also help identify hidden weaknesses.


Reading club

Another potentially fun activity is a kind of "reading club", where we pick some text, topic, author, etc., and read the material together over a month or two, say.

This is comparable to Literature.SE which has a topic challenge...

For Chinese.SE, I'd suggest something like a short story [maybe just a few pages], to ensure most people can participate. Something without too much "uneducational language" (obscure idioms, grammar constructs, transliterated names, etc.).

  • Ça m'intéresse :) maybe we can have a vote of “most liked authors” first, then based on the results, select some of his/her articles for reading. imo, reading good articles from good authors would, improve learners’ ability. Feb 4, 2020 at 18:09

Contribute to CC-EDICT

(Not really a "game"...)

CC-EDICT is a free English-Chinese dictionary: you can download the whole thing from here. (You've probably seen it used in various places Yabla, Zhongwen Chinese Popup Dictionary, etc.)

Additions and modifications can be submitted by users, and are subsequently reviewed and corrected by editors prior to updating the dictionary. It seems like we could use Q&A here to contribute (create new definitions, and check and improve old ones), although we'd have to improve our answer quality---CC-EDICT has high standards. ("A random person on the Internet said XYZ" is not good enough.)

It was my motivation behind asking this question: Does the chengyu 话不投机 (huà bù tóu jī) mean "uncongenial speech"? I submitted the change, but it's still pending, so I expect there's a bit of a backlog.


Chat room: Chinese-definition bot

Back in the ol' IRC days, I wrote a trivia bot. However, I repurposed for learning biological terminology: it'd post a definition as a question, and whoever answered first "wins".

My bot was different in one important way: it simultaneously ran 3 questions. This way, (a) if there was a question you didn't know the answer to, you didn't have to sit around doing nothing; (b) you had to think quick [it was fast and fun], while there are distractions [not just a pristine learning environment]; and (c) the fastest typers didn't always win.

I feel like this should be possible in chat here. E.g. we could simultaneously run HSK-4, HSK-5, and HSK-6 questions: the "questions" are definitions, and the answers are the words in Chinese.

One downside is that bots are not really supported...

Well, more or less chats are a terrible terrible hack.
Journeyman Geek♦


Textbook paragraphs are boring---let's show them how it's done!

Chinese textbooks are boring. I mean really boring---so much so, I often think to myself "I feel like I could write better than this" (although I could be deluding myself). I'd be interested in reading more imaginative, vivid, and fun paragraphs. How can we do this?

An example challenge:

  1. The task is to write one paragraph in Chinese.
  2. You must only use HSK4 words. (Or words which are obviously at <=HSK4 levels, but not included in the list.)
  3. It must include the new words 大约, 餐厅, 纸袋, 袋子, 互联网, 进行, 错误. (This is the list of 生词 from the book 标准教程HSK4下, chapter 13, snippet 4.)

(Replace the "HSK4" restriction and the list of words as required.)

The challenge is to create more enjoyable and memorable paragraphs than the textbook. I.e., make it funny, give it an actual plot, include surprises, etc. Use your imagination and creativity.

I feel like having multiple alternative paragraphs would be of lasting benefit to future readers who are studying the same book.


"Complete the sentence" challenges

This idea is somewhat like "Cards Against Humanity". We construct a sentence with quirky constraints, and the challenge is to come up with imaginative (and hopefully hilarious) sentences satisfying the unorthodox constraints. Upvotes determines who wins.

As an example of what I have in mind:

It must start with one of...

  1. 核武器的扩散是... ("Nuclear proliferation is...")
  2. 回家之后我才发现... ("After returning home, I just then found...")
  3. 我的光屁股... ("My naked bottom...")
  4. 六年以前,张老师和我前男友... ("Six years ago, Teacher Zhang and my ex-boyfriend...")

It must contain one of...

  1. 性感 ("sexy")
  2. 钢琴家 ("pianist")
  3. ("poetry")
  4. 长颈鹿 ("giraffe")

It must end with one of...

  1. ...但他还活着! ("...but he's still alive!")
  2. ...所以我再也不会喝酒。 ("...therefore I won't drink alcohol again.")
  3. ...写完一本书。 ("...finished writing a book.)
  4. ...因此我穿上厚衣服。 ("...therefore I'm wearing thick clothes.")

There's a lot of Chinese language-learning crosswords appearing on Reddit at the moment (e.g. HSK4 Crossword)---I tried this one and it was reasonable, although I didn't completely finish it.

enter image description here

We could create our own similar crosswords and post those as questions. Or perhaps the author of these crosswords might be willing to post them.

(The ownership rights remain with the OP.)


I'm wondering if we could collaborate on writing a short story. E.g., we take turns writing a paragraph, and submit it as a question to the main site for . (Or use whatever other method.) And we add the paragraphs here on meta to form a short story.

I find the posts quite useful, especially for (a) finding answers to questions I hadn't thought to ask [or are not easily asked about], (b) identifying personal weaknesses I'm unaware of, (c) being able to compare opinions, and (d) learning about better word choices and phrasings.

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