February 10, 2019

Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese

Here is the list of resources I use or have used when learning or maintaining Mandarin Chinese. I tried to list them all so if something is not on this list, it means I didn't use it or used it and didn't like it. When it comes to resources, I try to look for efficiency, i.e. why have 15 pretty good ones if a few very good resources will do the job? :)

  1. Dianhua dictionary (for iOS only)
    • https://goo.gl/ZA5sp5
    • An electronic dictionary for offline smartphone usage.
    • Very powerful in conjunction with character handwriting input.
    • Allows you to search characters by pinyin and automatically looks up all characters or words with the pronunciation you are looking for. This is very convenient since frequently you only know the pronunciation and not the characters of the word you are looking for.
  2. Google translate
    • https://translate.google.com/
    • Contrary to what many people say, it is the most powerful dictionary out there if you use it correctly.
    • Good for online copy-paste translations.
    • Offers the feature to scan characters with your phone’s camera.
    • Very advanced speech recognition.
    • Very good for contextual search (expressions and sentences), less preferable for non-contextual search (individual words).
  3. Zhongwen pop-up dictionary plugin for your browser
    • https://goo.gl/e5eRGV
    • Move the cursor over a character on your screen and a translation will pop up.
    • Very useful when reading texts online

December 21, 2018

Understanding Chinese characters is a book that compiles years of Chinese character study in a concise and understandable way for the learner. Learn to understand Chinese characters for what they really are with a book that is easy to use, combining the best modern Chinese character academic research with the best learner experience.

Written by Vladimir Skultety, a graduate of Chinese studies specialized in Chinese character etymology and a polyglot speaking 15 languages working as an interpreter of Mandarin Chinese, English and Slovak.

Buy PDF for € 24.99 (+VAT)

Free Character practice sheets included

Download a FREE 50 page preview

Key features
  • suitable for anyone looking to understand and learn Chinese characters quickly and effectively
  • simple enough for beginners, detailed and accurate enough for advanced learners
  • characters in the book cover up to 70% of most modern texts written in Chinese
  • contains both Traditional and Simplified characters 
  • free printable character practice sheets with correct stroke order included
  • based on years of extensive and very detailed academic research, but written in a way which avoids academic clutter
  • high quality color images
  • custom designed illustrations
  • custom painted Oracle bone characters
  • licensed beautiful Seal Script font
  • 273 pages

December 14, 2018

The most complex Chinese character

What is the most complex Chinese character?

When it comes to the character with the greatest number of strokes and the greatest number of elements I was able to find, it is this character, which is pronounced dhō, with 341 strokes:


It supposedly means “Impossibly complex pictogram-based writing system that takes a person a thousand thousand years to learn.” This character however should not count in my opinion for a number of reasons. The only reference to it I was able to find was on the Uncyclopedia website, which is a website where you can: “Discover, share and add your best comedic writing!” So dhō is thus very probably just a recently invented character invented for fun, where the author took several very complicated existing and non-existing characters, added them together, added a few non-standard strokes, called the character dhō and gave it the meaning I mentioned earlier.

November 24, 2018

Frequently asked questions

Hello everyone,

by surpassing 35 000 subscribers on Youtube, I thought it would be finally time to make a few long overdue videos which I really hope to do soon, but in the meantime, I decided to give my podcast a little restart as well. I made a podcast recording answering some of the questions asked in the comments recently:

How to maintain several languages.
How to regain motivation after losing fluency in languages once spoken at a B2/C1 level.
Resources you recommend for learning Mandarin from scratch.
What happened to your podcast with 天一?
How old were you when you started learning Chinese?
Is it important to study grammar?
Learning two languages at the same time?

Many thanks to my friend (can't say his name:)) for making the sound in the recording sound professional.

October 06, 2018

Some thoughts on the reliability of 說文解字

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35309
Disclaimer: This article will be very technical and very probably very uninteresting if you are not
familiar with Chinese character etymology. My apologies in advance. 

I got into a debate with someone online under one of my videos recently. The video was about the 辡 character phonetic series. In the beginning of the video I argued that 辡 was a character formed by two 辛 characters. According to my sources, 辡  means 'litigation' and one of the older meanings of 辛 was 'criminal' and that 辡 'litigation' is a semantic compound character with one 辛 'criminal' and another 辛 'criminal' pointing to its meaning (two criminals litigating in front of a court).

Since 辛  doesn't mean 'criminal' today, someone correctly asked in the comments, what my sources were.

I wrote:

(I am) Inferring (that 辛 had the meaning of criminal) from the following:


And the existence and ancient interpretation of characters like 宰 辠 and 辜


To which the person argued, that the 說文解字 dictionary is not a reliable source and that it regularly misinterprets characters, among other things also because it uses an extremely limited data set and that not a single entry in the entire work makes use of 甲骨文 data (due to it being unavailable).

A debate ensued which went on ad infinitum and produced enough material to be published as a small article:

August 27, 2018

Sun c' Umenie Vojny | Sun Zi Art of War (slovenský preklad)

Sun c’ - Umenie vojny

Preklad: Mgr. Bc. Vladimír Škultéty

Osnovanie plánov

Bambusová verzia knihy Umenie vojny zo zbierky
cisára Čchien Lunga
Sun c’ povedal: Vojna, je výsostne dôležitou záležitosťou pre štát, cestou prežitia a záhuby a jej zákonitosti musia byť podrobne preskúmané. Pri robení plánov a chápaní jej podstaty, je v najzákladnejšej rovine dôležité brať ohľad nasledovné: 1. Morálny princíp Tao 2. Nebesá 3. Zem 4. Generálov 5. Systém zákonov Fa.

Pokiaľ ide o morálny princíp Tao, vďaka nemu budú mať vojaci rovnaké ciele ako ich vyšší dôstojníci, budú ochotní za nich zomierať, ochotní pre nich žiť a nebudú sa báť žiadneho nebezpečenstva. Pokiaľ ide o nebesá, tie ovládajú Jin a Jang, chlad a teplo a štyri ročné obdobia. Pokiaľ ide o zem, pri nej rolišujeme to, čo je ďaleké a blízke, nebezpečné a bezpečné, široké a úzke, v čom je život a v čom nie. Pokiaľ ide o generálov, tí môžu byť múdri, dôveryhodní, ľudskí, smelí a prísni. Pokiaľ ide o systém zákonov Fa, ten sa týka organizácie armády, správneho nastavenia systému hodností a kontroly výdavkov.

Nemal by byť generál, ktorý o vyššie spomenutých zákonitostiach nikdy nepočul. Ten, ktorý ich pozná dobre, vyhrá a ten, ktorý ich nepozná, prehrá.

Pri robení plánov a našej snahe pochopiť podstatu vojny, by sme si mali klásť nasledujúce základné otázky: Ktorý vladár koná najviac v súlade s morálnym princípom Tao? Ktorý generál má viac schopností? Komu žičia nebesá viac? Kto dokáže lepšie vynucovať zákony? Koho armáda je silnejšia? Koho vojaci sú lepšie vycvičení? Koho systém odmien a trestov je prozreteľnejší? Ja osobne na základe odpovedí na tieto otázky viem povedať, kto bude víťazom a kto porazeným. Generál, ktorý bude počuť moje rady a použije ich, musí vyhrať. Takého generála si treba nechať. Generál, ktorý bude počuť moje rady, ale nepoužije ich, určite prehrá. Takého generála sa treba zbaviť.

July 05, 2018

Sorma by Sezen Aksu | Cover by Peter Jendrichovsky and Vladimir Skultety

Hello everyone,

I just wanted to share a little piece me and my friend recorded in his house in the north of Slovakia. It is our cover of the beautiful Sorma song by Sezen Aksu. It was impossible to play it as nicely as the original, but we tried :)

My friend used to be one of the best classical guitarists in Slovakia and it was an honor to have him as my teacher when I was young as well as playing this song with him now. I've been playing the guitar since I was 14, almost completely stopped at one point but I am slowly starting to practice again and hope to completely get back into it again someday.  

Have a nice day,


May 01, 2018

My student's key takeaways

Hello everyone,

even though I try hard in my videos and in the articles I write to explain how I am learning languages, I don’t always succeed:) The reason is I’m too deep in the whole process and have been learning languages for so long that everything seems natural and when someone asks me to tell that person what I do, I start explaining stuff from the middle, talk about things I find important and do not necessarily transfer the key premises or elements my learning is based on.

That is why I love when there is someone else who can summarize what I do :) There is a nice Chinese idiom for this


“Those, observing from the side see things more clearly (than those involved in whatever they are doing).”

March 29, 2018

Interview for gaudeo.sk

We all know what the word polyglot means. Do you consider yourself to be a polyglot? When did you find out that you have a talent for languages? What is your motivation when it comes to language learning? Is language learning something that fulfills you?

A polyglot is a person who speaks several languages, so technically a polyglot is already someone who speaks two. In reality, since there are a lot of opinions on how many languages and at what level a person has to speak in order to be considered a polyglot, it’s more complicated. I think that the lower limit is six languages at a C1 level.

For me personally, the word polyglot was always also associated with praise and to this day I have a problem to talk about myself like that. 

When it comes to when I realized I had a talent for languages, again, it’s a complicated question, because to talk like this about yourself is not easy, but I think I discovered it very early. Probably when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My motivation is most probably interest in foreign languages and foreign cultures in general.

How long does it take you to learn a new language? Lets say an easier one. How do you choose which language you are going to learn next?

February 04, 2018

Never give up

Two years ago, when I was probably at the lowest point in my life due to my back injury a friend of mine, Alex Voloza, asked me to answer a few questions for his project about motivation. He was probably hoping to get a lot of positive answers to questions like how to be and stay motivated and just overall long-term dedication, but I was very sad at that time and couldn't give him answers like that even if I tried. 

I was in a situation where I wasn't able to walk for 4 months, immobilized in bed, it was winter, I was home alone most of the time and all I did was think about everything I had learned about my life to that point. 

To give you some background on the injury, I was suffering from chronic back pain for about 10 years. I was gradually giving up on more and more of my activities that were bringing me so much joy, to one day when I completely tore my intervertebral ligaments and couldn't walk without excruciating pain. Doctors were sending me to invasive surgeries resulting in a very decreased quality of life and an almost certain inability to do sports later. Furthermore, the outcome of these surgeries was questionable and I wanted to take my time to make the decision.