An editor that will check you're only using words a nascent Chinese student would understand.

Some people think that being plainspoken makes us use language imprecisely, forgoing specialized tools to pander to a lowest-common denominator. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 

First, the lowest common denominators aren’t ill-educated native speakers. It’s curious and often diligent foreign language learners. 

Second, while a rich and complex vocabulary promises us nuanced and subtle conversation and writing, very few people take the time when writing to be that precise, and nearly no one is intelligent enough to speak so well. The thought and care to choose the perfect word is often paid for by the terrible price of not being understood very well at all (the second experiment of the study in particular interests me – when people don’t understand something, they assume the writer is dumber). Every delightful instance of poetry is an opportunity to leave even the most well-read communication partner guessing nervously at an appropriate meaning for an unfamiliar word. 

Using only the most straight-forward words, terms, phrases and idioms leaves us the best chance of giving a high-fidelity image of our true meaning to others. It also gives us the best chance to be understood by people who would otherwise be separated from us by the truly profound array of minor inconveniences that troubled communication presents. 

I struggle with this, but no more so than when I am using a language foreign to me, or trying desperately to grasp at meaning in a foreign tongue. Chinese is no fool’s hobby – only the lonely desperation to connect that drives all small children or the fanatical drive of a curious adult could possibly lead to its mastery. This is a bit of a shame – I’ve grown to appreciate the language as a true thing of beauty, and while appreciated daily by many Chinese people, there are surely many other non-Chinese people would could appreciate the language and the deep and thoughtful culture the language opens up to them (also, Chinese game shows are frequently a lot more entertaining than American game/reality television shows – this part is neither deep nor thoughtful, but I have seen two adult men trying to terrify a duck competitively, and that’s not nothing). 

So I’ve made a tool to help begin limiting the scope of study for potential learners, and elucidate the casual challenges to understanding native speakers introduce in their writing. I’ve seen some similar tools for English, but I had a vision for a Chinese version that could be useful as well. You’d be surprised as how many things aren’t in HSK, though. I’d say most of the things marked ‘too complicated’ are probably comprehensible without any substantial chance of confusion.