Mandarin Weekly #96

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #96, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

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Guide to Pinyin

Beginner If you’re learning Chinese, then you’re likely using Pinyin, using Latin letters to represent Chinese sounds. Here is a guide to Pinyin, including some traps into which many native English speakers fall:

Using 总 (zǒng)

Intermediate The character 总is used in many words, as well as on its own. Here is an introduction to this impotant, frequently used character:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Transition words

Intermediate How do you get an elephant into the refrigerator? It’ll require several separate steps. In this combination video and blog post, we learn what those steps are, and which Chinese transition words are most appropriate for describing them:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Big talker

Beginner Is someone you know bragging? You know, about winning the US presidential election, or something similar? Well, you can say that they are 吹牛 皮 (chuī niú pí):

Twitter: @eputonghua

Singles’ Day

Beginner Have you heard of “Singles’ Day”? It was on November 11th, aka 11/11, because of the four 1s in the date. It has become quite a shopping bonanza, thanks to the online sales. Here is some information, and vocabulary, about Singles’ Day:

Twitter: @HanbridgeOnline

Mimicking native speakers

One of the best ways to sound more authentic and fluent is to listen to (and then mimic) native speakers. In the latest Hacking Chinese challenge, we’re asked to try to engage in intensive mimicking, to improve the way our Chinese sounds:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Using pronouns

Intermediate Chinese pronouns are similar to those in English, but are used somewhat differently. Here are some examples of mistakes English speakers make when working with pronouns, and how to avoid them:

You paid how much?

Beginner If you’re shopping in China, then you’re probably looking for bargains. And many bargains aren’t advertised; you need to ask for them. How can you ask for a discount?

Twitter: @MandarinHQ

Lots of it

Beginner If you have a lot of something, you can use the phrase 多了去了 (duō le qù le), as described here:

Twitter: @eputonghua

It’s tough

Intermediate Are you having a dilemma? Unsure of what to do? The phrase 左右为难 (zuǒ yòu wéi nán) might well apply:

Twitter: @eputonghua

No 为!

Intermediate The character 为 can be pronounced in two different ways (no pun intended) — as wèi and wéi. What’s the difference between the two?

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Using 才 (cái)

Intermediate The character 才 can be used in a number of ways,

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Talking about sports

Beginner What sports do you play? In this video from, you can learn to talk about them in Chinese:

Twitter: @ECLSchool


Intermediate The word 够 (gòu) means “enough,” but it can be used in a variety of useful contexts:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese


Intermediate How do you say “drawers” (i.e., things in which you store things, such as clothing or papers)? The answer is more complicated than you might expect:

Withdrawing money

Beginner How do you talk about withdrawing money, such as from an ATM? There are, of course, several ways to describe this action:

生产 (shēng chǎn) vs. 产生 (chǎn shēng)

Intermediate What is the difference between these two words?

Why does Chinese still use characters?

An interesting discussion describing the good and bad points of Chinese characters:

Referring to family members

Intermediate How do you refer to family members? In particular, how would you refer to the husband of your maternal aunt in Chinese?

Simple jokes

Intermediate Here are some wordplay-related jokes that you can enjoy in Chinese:

Also published on Medium.

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