大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #111, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
Beginner If you’re a vegetarian, then you’ve probably discovered the hard way that in China, even vegetarian food can contain some meat. (“It’s just a little bit…”) How can you tell people that you’re a vegetarian? Here is some background, and some suggestions:
Intermediate Spring is almost upon us, and it’s thus time to start thinking about cleaning our homes. Here are some words and phrases having to do with cleaning, to ensure that your house sparkles and that you can describe such sparkling in good Chinese:
Don’t call your wife an old hag!
Beginner There are numerous terms for “wife” in Chinese. One of these is 老婆 (lǎo po), which you might think means you’re calling your wife old. But the truth is more complex:
Beginner Planning to shop in China? Here are some useful, basic phrases that you can use to try out your Chinese:
Long noodes, long life?
What do people eat on their birthdays in China? One common food is long noodles, representing a (hoped-for) long life:
I had long heard about Chinese chess, but never really thought about how it worked as a game. Here’s a great introduction to it, including the vocabulary you’ll need to describe and play:
Little by little
Intermediate The word 越 (yuè) can be used in two different patterns to describe things changing over time:
Advanced The poet 徐志摩 (Xú zhìmó) was killed in a plane crash. Here is a short story about his descendants:
What is comprehension-based learning, and how can it help you to improve your Chinese? Moreover, what are the factors that make it so successful?
It’s all relative
Beginner How can you make comparisons? The expression 比较 (bǐ jiào) lets you say that A is better than B:
La La Land music in Chinese
Beginner In this video from YoYoChinese.com, you can learn an original, easy Chinese song set to the music from La La Land:
Intermediate Here is a short story about dating, advice, and relatives:
The many uses of 在(zài)
Intermediate The word 在 can be used as a verb, preposition, and more. How can you separate and classify these different uses?
Why is a week 星期 （xīng qí）？
Advanced The character 星 (xīng) means “star,” but what does that have to do with weeks?
大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #110, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
Giveaway: Five one-year subscriptions to Zizzle App
It’s time for another giveaway!
Everyone who has learned Mandarin knows that Chinese characters are a unique challenge: For reading fluency, a staggering amount of 3000 characters is required, each character with its own shape, pronunciation, meaning and tone. And to complicate things even more, it is hard to infer this information just by looking at the character.
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Liking some, all, or no sports:
Intermediate In this video from ChinsePod.com, we learn not only how to talk about certain sports, but also how to say that we like some, all, or none of them:
Beginner Using time in Chinese sentences can be a bit tricky, because the phrasing (and order) is set. Here are some sample sentences you can use, both to learn the vocabulary and get used to the structure:
Chinese tournaments on WordSwing
Intermediate Want to improve your reading, and compete with others as well? WordSwing makes it possible, as described in the latest from Hacking Chinese:
Lantern festival legend
Intermediate Here is an intermediate-level story about the Lantern Festival, which took place earlier this month:
Lantern festival legend
Intermediate Here is an intermediate-level story about the Lantern Festival, which took place earlier this month:
Beginner How can you wish people well in Chinese? Here is a collection of 10 common phrases that you can use to wish your friends, family, and colleagues a good weekend, holiday, or just a good day:
Where should you learn Chinese?
Beginner There are many places to learn Chinese, in many different Chinese cities. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of each area?
Get a bad job, put on weight
Intermediate A short essay with characters, pinyin, and audio about how your job can affect your health and weight:
What is 风水 (fēng shuǐ)?
Even people who don’t visit China or learn Chinese have likely heard of 风水. What is it, and how much influence does it have in modern China?
Advanced The An Lushan rebellion was a huge event in world history; read about it in Chinese:
Beginner When you read your native language, do you hear a voice in your head? How about when you read Chinese? That voice, known as subvocalization, is an indication of less than fluent reading. For more details, and suggestions for getting rid of it, read here:
Beginner You go to a restaurant in China, want to use your Chinese, and — well, now what? This short guide to ordering in restaurants will hopefully give you some confidence:
Oodles of noodles
Beginner When you think of Chinese cuisine, one of the first things you think about is noodles. But there are many types of noodles, and each has a different name. Here is a summary of different noodle types and dishes:
50 ways to love your lover
Beginner With Valetine’s Day increasingly celebrated in China, this is a good time to give you lots of ways to say “I love you” to the special person in your life:
What to read?
Beginner One of the best things you can do to improve your Chinese is read, and read extensively. Here is a great summary of what to read, how to read it, and why it can help, along with suggestions for reading material for learners:
Listening practice: Choosing a bank
Beginner Which bank is best for you? This video from ChineseClass101.com asks you to answer that question based on a short story:
Using 份 （fèn）
Beginner The measure word 份 is used in a variety of places to indicate a “part” or “portion” or frequency:
Giving comfort (sort of)
Intermediate When something in life goes bad, you often want to hear helpful words from your friends and relatives. Here are some phrases you can use to try to make someone feel better — or at least feel somewhat less bad:
Serial verb phrases
Advanced When you have three verb phrases in a row, is there an implied dependency or timeline?
Types of republics
Intermediate A “republic” is a certain kind of country. Do both 民國 (mín guó) and 共和国 (gòng hé guó), which translate as “republic,” mean the same thing?
Intermediate In trying to understand the character 相 (xiāng), we discover a four-character idiom:
Using 消费 (xiāo fèi)
Advanced Why and how can you use the term 消费?
Making things stricter
Advanced A translation request leads to a discussion of 加严 (jiā yán):
大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #109, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
Sponsor: Du Chinese
Use grammar to improve your comprehension
Intermediate Perhaps you think that learning Chinese grammar is a waste of time, but in this article, we see the advantages of internalizing Chinese sentence structure and rules:
Intermediate Slang exists in all languages; knowing how to understand it (and use it) gives you a greater sense of comfort with the language. Here are some useful slang terms, some of which you should use more frequently than others:
Beginner How can you describe how someone looks? Here are a bunch of useful Chinese words and phrases:
Fine, but what are they like?
Beginner Now that you know how to describe people’s physical appearance, how can you describe their personalities?
Proverbs about love
Intermediate It’s Valentine’s Day, which means that it’s time to talk about love. Why not do so in Chinese? Here are some traditional Chinese proverbs about love:
All about Confucius
Intermediate Confucius (孔子, or Kǒngzǐ) is an extremely famous Chinese thinker from the 6th century BCE. Here is some history of him and his thinking, as well as some vocabulary you can use to discuss him:
Which way did he go?
Intermediate Wondering why there are several ways to indicate direction in Chinese? This video from ChinesePod.com will teach you the difference between 向 (xiàng), 朝 (cháo), and 往 (wǎng):
Intermediate Many Chinese are unhappy with the shape of their eyes, and get cosmetic surgery to “fix” things. Here is a description of this phenomenon, along with the vocabulary to understand it:
Beginner It’s now the Year of the Rooster, part of the 12-year cycle of Chinese years. Here is an introduction to the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, and what each year traditionally represents:
Practice makes perfect
Intermediate Practice makes perfect, we day in English. In Chinese, we can say 熟能生巧 (Shú néng shēng qiǎo), as introduced in this story:
Beginner What do you want to say to the people you love? Here, to the tune of “Happy Birthday,” are some new (and somewhat sappy) Chinese songs:
More loving words
Intermediate Want to express love and affection for someone else? Here are some useful words and phrases to make your feelings clear, assuming the person listening knows Chinese:
Dealing with people
Beginner Do you have to deal with people in your work? In your family? Here’s a useful word to use when dealing with people, 打交道 (dǎ jiāo dào):
Intro to Chinese languages
Beginner Even if you’re learning Chinese, you might not know about the family of Chinese languages, and where each is spoken. This video from LangFocus.com might fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge, with an interesting comparison of the grammatical differences:
Intermediate A short story about the Forbidden City and Chinese city walls:
It’s beautiful here
Beginner A short story in simple characters, talking about a beautiful location:
Chinese writing, Western punctuation
Why does Chinese use Western-style punctuation?
Beginner The particle 了 is confusing for many of us. Here is (another!) description of how it works, and how it can be used to describe the state of an action:
Talking about things
Intermediate It’s often helpful to be able to say, “I want to talk about ___,” referring to a subject. How do you do that in Chinese?
The Lantern Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the lunar month, just took place in China. But how should you call it?
大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #108, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
Sponsor: Du Chinese
Intermediate It’s the Year of the Rooster, and thus rooster- and chicken-related sayings are all the rage. Here are some phrases and idioms you might want to use, all of which include the use of chickens:
Creating your own intermediate course
Intermediate Do you already have the basics of Chinese down, and want to get even better? Here are some tips for improving your speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension:
Why is Chinese hard?
A humorous (and encouraging) essay about what makes Chinese hard to learn for native English speakers (and for many other foreigners):
Intermediate Here are some traditional Chinese proverbs about the family, along with English translations — including the equivalent English proverb, if one exists:
China’s lunar calendar
Why is Chinese New Year always on a different day? It’s actually on the same (first) day of each year — but only if you’re using the Chinese lunar calendar. Here’s an explanation of that calendar (which is, FYI, quite similar to the Jewish calendar in its calculations):
It’s bustling here!
Beginner If a place is noisy — in the bustling, full-of-life sense — then it’s called 热闹 (rè nao):
Buying and selling
Beginner The character for “buy” is 买 (mǎi). What are its origins, and how is it related to the character for “sell,” 卖 (mài)?
Trump’s two names
How do you say “Trump” in Chinese? There are actually two different ways, which can lead to some confusion:
What employees think
Beginner Employees returning from the Spring Festival don’t want to return to work, and dream of having their own company — because after all, the boss doesn’t have to work, right? A short, simple story:
Spring is in the air
Beginner Now that the Spring Festival (i.e., Chinese New Year) has passed, we can learn some simple sayings about this time of year:
Intermediate If you’re studying Chinese, and you aren’t yet able to comprehend people at native speeds, then you should be practicing your listening. This month, Hacking Chinese has a listening challenge. Go and listen to as much as you can:
The egg and the rock
Intermediate What happens when a rock and an egg meet? A short story:
The hedgehog family
Intermediate A short story about a family of hedgehogs:
A beautiful day
Beginner Is it a clear and sunny day where you live? If so, you can say it’s 晴朗 (qíng lǎng):
It’s not allowed
Intermediate If you’re ever in China, you’ll see all sorts of signs (and sometimes hear announcements) telling you what is and isn’t allowed. But there are several phrases for such warnings; what’s the difference between them?
The Art of War
Advanced The classic “The Art of War” is written in Chinese as 兵法 (bīng fǎ). Why isn’t it called 武術 (wǔ shù)?
Your Chinese is so good!
Intermediate Even if your Chinese is terrible, if you try to speak in China, you’ll be told that it is excellent. (Take it from my personal experience!) How should you respond to someone giving you an undeserved compliment?
大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #107, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
Beginner Around this time of year, you’ll hear lots of Chinese New Year greetings. But there are lots of greetings in Chinese, and lots of ways to wish people well. Here is a long list of what to say, and how to say it, for numerous occasions:
About the 鸡 (jī)
Intermediate This is the Year of the Rooster. Why a rooster? Here is a story that describes its origins and usage:
Year of the Cock?
Beginner Some say “chicken,” some say “rooster,” and still others might say “cock.” Are you giggling? Well, you won’t be alone, since there are similar connotations in Chinese:
Chinese New Year traditions
How can you celebrate Chinese New Year? Here is a list of traditional ways to celebrate, including the appropriate characters and pronunciation:
Gods of the Chinese New Year
Beginner Around Chinese New Year, you’ll hear about traditional gods. What are these gods, and how do Chinese factor them into their celebrations?
Beginner China has many holidays, and every holiday has its own traditional foods. Here is a whirlwind tour of the edible Chinese calendar:
Happy New Year Teeth
A short, funny, pun in a Chinese advertisement for a dental clinic:
How to bargain
Intermediate Buying something in China? It’s always worth bargaining with the shopkeeper. It’s a popular (non-Olympic) sport in China, and is a great way to practice your vocabulary. Here is a video from ChinesePod.com, describing how to bargain:
How to use 了 (le)
Intermediate One of the hardest things for Chinese learners to understand is the use of 了. Part of the issue is that it’s unlike anything in other languages, and part of the issue is that it’s used in a number of ways. Here is an explanation, with many examples, that can help you:
Learning from everyone
Intermediate An expression from the Analects of Confucius, indicating that we have something to learn from everyone, in a short story:
Must-eats in 广州（Guǎngzhōu）
Beginner Traveling to 广州？ Here are some local foods you should know about, and maybe even eat:
哈尔滨 (Hāěr bīn) in winter
Beginner The northern (and cold) city of Harbin can be an interesting place to visit, particularly during the winter. Here are some things to do there, as well as vocabulary to describe the most common sites:
Intermediate How do you say, “in short,” or “to make a long story short” in Chinese? There’s a phrase for that, of course:
Using 连 (lián)
Intermediate The word 连 can be used in a few ways, one of which is “even,” and another is “connect.” These examples make it clearer:
Advanced Looking for Chinese TV shows to watch, and improve your language skills, cultural understanding, or ability to chat with friends about shared favorites? Here is a list of interesting Chinese TV dramas:
Serial verb phrases
Intermediate I did THIS to do THAT is a pretty common type of sentence. In Chinese, we can use “serial verb phrases” for this kind of sentence, as described here:
Chinese in 50 minutes
Beginner Can you really learn Chinese in 50 minutes? Of course not — but perhaps this 50-minute video, incorporating many previous ones from ChineseClass101.com, will help to improve your vocabulary and grammar:
What do you do?
Beginner What sort of work do you do? Here’s a list of common occupations in Chinese, useful when you introduce yourself to others and also when applying for jobs:
I’ll do X, then I’ll do Y
Intermediate If you want to express that you’ll do X, and then immediately continue to do Y, you can use the 一X就Y (yī X jiù Y) construct, as described here:
Why no measure words?
Intermediate Most words in Chinese require a “measure word” when you’re quantifying them. But some, like 天 (tiān) don’t. Why not?
Two ways to smoke
Intermediate There are two words that mean “to smoke,” 抽烟 (chōu yān) and 吸烟 (xī yān). How are they different?
大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #106, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
As of this week, more than 10,000 people from around the world now subscribe to Mandarin Weekly. Thanks so much for subscribing; and for your feedback. If you enjoy Mandarin Weekly, please share it with your teacher and/or fellow students. The best way you can say “thank you” for Mandarin Weekly is by encouraging others to subscribe.
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Why celebrate Spring Festival?
Intermediate Why do people in China celebrate the Spring Festival (aka Chinese New Year)? Here is a story, in characters (with pinyin and translation), which describes the legend:
Celebrating Chinese New Year
Beginner How do Chinese people celebrate Chinese New Year, which starts later this week? Here are some celebratory traditions to get you in the mood:
One, two, three, travel!
Intermediate Enormous numbers of people travel for Chinese New Year, which means that just about every form of transportation is clogged at this time of year. Here is a description of the mad rush that ensues, and what different people can do about it:
Intermediate It’s the year of the rooster! Here are some sayings and expressions that use the term “rooster” or “chicken” in them:
A song for spring
Intermediate A music video for 春天 (Chūn tiān), from famous singer 汪峰(Wāng Fēng):
WeChat (微信, wēi xìn） vocabulary
Beginner You might use e-mail, Web browers, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, but most Chinese people use a single app, known as 微信. Here are some basic vocabulary words for using this super-app:
Intro to Chinese characters
Beginner Chinese characters often seem daunting to learn: There are so many, and they all look so similar! But with a bit of practice, you can identify the differences between them, and start to read them, as well. Here is a video intro from ChineseClass101.com:
Mainland vs. Taiwanese Chinese
Intermediate How is mainland Chinese different from Taiwanese Chinese? They both speak “Mandarin,” but there are differences, as described in this video from YoYoChinese.com:
Advanced Looking for some television shows to help your children (or you; we won’t tell) to improve your Chinese? Here are 10 series watched by native Mandarin speakers, which might well help:
Serial verb phrases
Intermediate You can combine verb phrases to communicate complex meanings, as described here:
What’s for lunch?
Beginner What do people have for lunch in China? Here are some examples, with characters and pinyin (as well as some photos):
Suggestions and recommendations
Intermediate How can you suggest something, or make a recommendation? Here are some suggestions and recommendations for doing so, in a video from ChinesePod.com:
How to flirt
Beginner How do you flirt with someone in Chinese? Here are some words and phrases that you can use:
What to eat in Shanghai
Beginner Heading to Shanghai? Don’t forget to have some of the local delicacies:
Intermediate You can often double words in Chinese to change the meaning somewhat. What does it mean to double a classifier (i.e., measure word)?
The sounds of old Chinese
Chinese is an ancient language; we have many written texts that are thousands of years old. However, what did ancient Chinese sound like? After all, we don’t have ancient recordings! However, as this posting describes, there are some old pronunciation guides that can be of help:
Intermediate The phrase 无所知 (yī wú suǒ zhī) means “to know nothing,” and allows you to describe your ignorance with elegant Chinese:
Trolling in Chinese
Beginner If you have ever let your temper rage on the Internet, then we might say you’re “trolling” in English. In Chinese, the word is 怼 (duì):
About the Analects
Advanced Confucius (孔子, kǒng zǐ) is China’s best-known ancient scholar, and his book 论语 (lún yǔ), known as the “Analects,” is still studied. Here is a short dialogue about these books and their place in society:
Advanced Learn a poem by 李白(Li Bai), a poet from the Tang dynasty; if classical Chinese is new to y ou, then this might be a good place to start:
Cats and dogs
Intermediate Why do both 狗 (gǒu) and 猫 (māo) use the “dog” radical?
Advanced The word 感冒 (gǎn mào) means to have a cold , but what does 冒 mean in that word?
Beginner How do you say “spouse” as a general term? And which of the (many) terms for “husband” and “wife” are most often used in Chinese?
大家好！ (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #105, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.
Thousands of people from around the world now subscribe to Mandarin Weekly. If you enjoy it, please share it with your teacher and/or fellow students:
More about comparisons
Beginner ChinesePod.com is back with another video about how to comparisons, this time aimed at beginners:
Different types of “later”
Beginner How do you say “later”? We have words such as 后来 (hòu lái), 以后 (yǐ hòu), and 之后 (zhī hòu), but when should each be used?
Understanding 了 (le)
Intermediate A video series from MandarinMonkey.com continues, describing new ways to use 了 to describe complex ideas — in this case, doing different permutations of “doing X and then doing Y”:
Intermediate No, “existential sentences” have nothing to do with philosophy. Rather, they describe a situation in which something exists, appears, or disappears, and have a slightly unusual syntax:
HSK3 grammar videos
Intermediate Interested in preparing for the HSK3 exam? These videos (part of a larger, paid product) can help you out. I viewed several, and enjoyed them; you might, too:
I did it!
Beginner If you want to indicate that you have done something in the past, you can use 过 (guò) after the verb. Here are some examples of how to use 过:
Chinese New Year song
Intermediate Here are the music and lyrics (in characters, with Pinyin if you hover your mouse cursor) for a popular (ad catchy!) Chinese New Year song:
Tough for you
Beginner Did someone do something for you that was particularly tough? You can use the phrase 难为你了 (nánwéi nǐ le), which means “tough for you”:
Describing your online habits
Intermediate Do you go online a lot? Do you use social media? Here are some Chinese words and phrases you can use to describe what you’re doing:
Intermediate Numbers can be used in Chinese phrases to represent ideas, not just the numbers themselves:
What food to order in China
Beginner When you get to a restaurant in China, you might be overwhelmed by the number of options. Here are some suggestions for what to get:
It’s a mess
Intermediate The word 乱 (luàn) means “messy,” but not just in the physical sense. You can have a messy room, but you can also speak or think in a messy way, as described here:
Advanced A recent Chinese blockbuster, 湄公河事件 (méi gong hé shì jiàn), makes for a good movie, as well as good practice:
Chinese tongue twisters
Intermediate Can you say these tongue twisters quickly? Whether you can or not, they are still fun to say:
Using spaced reptition
Spaced repetition is a common technique used in learning languages, including Chinese. How can you use it, and how can you use it beyond traditional flashcards?
Slang to try
Beginner Know any hipsters? Want to know how to describe them in Chinese? Here are explanations for this and other slang terms:
Beginner Numbers in China have significance, and knowing the good ones vs. the bad ones can be important in conversation and gift giving, as this article states:
Advanced What does the phrase 五十步笑百步 (Wǔ shí bù xiào bǎi bù) mean? Here is an explanation:
Chinese book club
Advanced This month, the book club is reading and discussing “1988：我想和这个世界谈谈” by 韩寒. Want to join the group, read the book, and discuss it with others? Go here to learn more:
Radicals and components
Intermediate What are the names for radicals and components in Chinese characters?
Beginner How do you address and send a letter in China? I know, I know; who sends letters when we have e-mail and WeChat? But assuming that you do want to send a letter (or package), here are some guidelines:
Time in Chinese
Intermediate For many foreigners learning Chinese, the lack of a past tense is odd and difficult. The answers to this question try to put time usage into context in Chinese: