Mandarin Weekly #45

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

When you don’t understand anything

If you’re learning Chinese, you’ll likely encounter situations in which someone is talking, and you don’t understand them at all. What do you then? Chris from Fluent in Mandarin offers some suggestions for getting through such situations, as well as encouragement, reminding us that this happens to everyone:

Twitter: @FluentInMandarin

Tone strategy

How can you keep the tones straight in your head? Chris, writing at Dig Mandarin, has some suggestions:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Snow White, in Chinese

Love the story of Snow White? Or just looking for some good beginner-level reading material? Here’s Snow White, in simple Chinese:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Choosing the right font

I have always used the default Chinese fonts on my computers and phones. But in this article from Olle Linge, we see that fonts can affect our reading ability, and reflect different styles and locations:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Watch TV, and improve your Chinese

If you need listening practice, then watching Chinese television can be helpful. But what shows should you watch? Chris from Fluent in Mandarin offers his suggestions for the most interesting shows, including an indication of the difficulty:

Twitter: @FluentInMandarin

Beijing tourist attractions

Beijing is full of great tourist attractions. How do you say their names in Chinese? This post, from Warp Speed Chinese, will tell you:

Twitter: @WSChinese

Thanksgiving vocabulary

This week is Thanksgiving in the United States. William, from Learn Everyday Chinese, offers a vocabulary list to describe the day, what you’re doing, and what you’re most likely eating:

Twitter: @learnchinese88

Work vocabulary

Decode Mandarin has a short list of words having to do with the workplace:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Hair and skin care products

In this video from Emma Xue, she reviews the hair and skin care products she has bought, describing them both in English and in Chinese.

HSK3 to HSK4 in three months

The HSK examinations certify how well you know Chinese. Is it possible to go from HSK3 to HSK4 in just three months? In this blog post on Speak Up Chinese, one student describes his experience trying to do so:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

HSK4 in eight months

Along the same lines as the above link: Timo Horstschaefer, a physics student in Switzerland, managed to do it in only eight months of part-time study. His techniques might help you to achieve a similar goal:


How do you say “brainstorm” in Chinese? Crazy Fresh Chinese has the answer:

Improving your tones

If your tones need improvement, what can you do? Some suggestions on how to make them clearer and more accurate:

Difficult sounds for English speakers

What Chinese sounds are the hardest for English speakers to learn to say?

“Spelling” a character

Chinese doesn’t have an alphabet, and has many homophones. How do native speakers indicate which character was their intended meaning?

Get lost!

How do you say that you’re lost in Chinese? Several words can be used, but they have slightly different meanings and use cases:

Vacant taxi

How do Chinese taxis indicate that they don’t currently have any passengers? (Not that I’ve seen this myself very often, I must admit!) They use the phrase 空车 (kōng chē), as described here. The discussion then continues with the uses and pronunciations of 空:

I’m cold; put on a sweater

How do you tell someone to put on warmer clothes?


How do you say “modest” in Chinese? There are several terms you can use, each with its own connotation:

Multiple adjectives

Is there an easy or accepted way to describe a word with multiple adjectives? Some ideas on the subject:

Mandarin Weekly #44

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

Most common character components

Chinese characters aren’t random drawings; they are the result of combining components in different ways. Recognizing and understanding these components can really help you to improve your reading. In this post, Carl Gene Fordham introduces a chart that he recently (and exhaustively!) made, describing the 800 most common components in an organized fashion.

Twitter: @carlfordham

How to think about the third tone

The third tone tends to give people problems. How can you think about it, to pronounce it more accurately?

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Chinese children’s books are for Chinese children

If you’re learning Chinese, then you might think that a great way to practice your reading would be to read children’s books in Chinese. After all, the level is probably low, right? John from Sinosplice reviews a number of Chinese children’s books, and comes to the conclusion that this probably isn’t a good idea — and reocmmends some alternatives

Most common measure words

Measure words are an essential part of Chinese grammar. This blog post includes a link to a chart of the 37 most common measure words, and what sorts of objects they describe:

Twitter: @MasterofM2015

Written vs. spoken Chinese

Every language (at least, the languages that I know) has differences between its written and spoken forms. Spoken language is generally less formal and more fluid, with more assumptions that the listener is expected to fill in. Chinese is no different, although the distinctions between oral and written Chinese are more precisely defined. In this article from Written Chinese, Hollie tells us about many of the differences, and how they can help us to speak and read better, as well as to understand the evolution of Chinese language.

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Variant characters

You are probably familiar with the differneces between simplified and traditional characters. But there are variations beyond these that you should recognize in characters. This post, by Ollle Linge at Hacking Chinese, explains:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Expressions with money

A quick review of the things we can do with money (in Chinese, of course):

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Practice exercises in Chinese

This blog post at JustLearnChinese describes a new Internet-based Chinese practice system known as Cloze Cards. From the few minutes I looked at it, this appears to be an interesting and useful resource:

Twitter: @graceJLC

Feeling bad

This list of negative emotions is useful for when you’re feeling down… or when you are feeling good, and just want to learn how to describe being uncomfortable, bored, or upset:

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Chinese pick-up lines

Want to out on the town, and perhaps even ask someone out in Chinese? This guide introduces all of the vocabulary you need to have a great time out:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Southern accented Chinese

If you’re like me, then your Chinese teacher has been giving you something of a northern accent. But that raises the question of what a southern Chinese accent sounds like. This article by Angel at Mandarin HQ provides some insight, as well as videos, to answer that question.

Improving your Chinese via film

One way to improve your Chinese is by watching movies. Of course, the speaking might be quite fast, but this blog post from FluentU provides not only movie recommendations, but also summaries of the plots, vocabulary, and reason to watch these films:

Twitter: @FluentU

How do kids learn tones?

A discussion of how (and when) Chinese children learn tones, and why adults who learn Chinese seem to have such issues with them:

Where does 我 come from?

The pronoun 我 means “I” or “me,” but how did that character come to have that meaning?

Combining “soon” and “fast”

You might know that you can use 快 (kuài) .. 了 to express something that will happen soon. How can you say, without sounding weird, that someone will soon run faster than you?


Which is more appropriate, or formal, to describe seasons — 季 or 天?


How do you call the server in a Chinese restaurant? The answer is more complex than you might think, and depends in no small part on where you are:

How do you say “pizza”?

It turns out that there are many ways to say “pizza” in Chinese:


How can you describe someone as a “newbie” in Chinese?

Mandarin Weekly #43

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly!

Chinese-learning strategy

How should you learn Chinese? It will take a while to become fluent, or even close to fluent — so you should plan accordingly. The strategy outlined in this post at Sensible Chinese strikes me as very reasonable, aiming to maximize motivation and a sense of accomplishment long before you’re fully fluent:

Twitter: @FluentChinese

Jump-starting your Chinese

In a similar vein to the above article about long-term Chinese-learning strategy, this blog post from Written Chinese provides a short-term strategy to give yourself a boost — learning characters, improving your vocabulary, and some tricks for improving your understanding:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Keeping up the learning motivation

And in yet another article that combines motivation with strategy, Chris from Fluent in Mandarin describes how he managed to work on his Chinese for nine years, and in so doing to become fluent:

Twitter: @FluentInMandarin

Useful phrases for common situations

Michael at FluentU has put together a list of useful phrases for when you’re traveling to China or living there. Whether you’re in a restaurant or a train station, you’ll want to look through and practice these phrases:

Twitter: @FluentU

The two “twos” in Chinese

Why do we have two different ways of saying “two” in Chinese? Rita from Dig Mandarin explores the issue, and the use cases:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

War in Chinese

The character 战 (zhàn) means “war.” The history of this character, and the ways in which it can be used, are detailed in this long blog post at the World of Chinese:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Using 场 as a measure word

Did you know that 场 has two pronunciations (cháng and chǎng), and that each pronunciation has a different meaning (and is used as a mirror word for two different types of noun)? This short chart from Decode Mandarin Chinese makes it clear:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Hey there, good looking!

How can you say that someone is good looking in Chinese? The latest slang, according to Sarah at Speak Up Chinese, is to say 颜值高 (yán zhí gāo). More about this phrase, with examples, are in the post:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Learning tones with Morse Code

Tones are hard to learn — hard to hear, and hard to say. But Warp Speed Chinese has an interesting idea, thinking about Morse Code (you know, dots and dashes) to improve your tones and pronunciation. The first of this series is here:

Twitter: @WSChinese

They learn how many?!?

How many characters do Chinese children learn to read in school? And at what age? This short anecdote, from Joel and Jessica about their six-year-old, certainly put me to shame:

Twitter: @ChinaHopeLive

Addicted to phones

In China, as elsewhere, some people cannot go without checking their phones all of those time. Such people are known as 手机控 shǒu jī kòng, as described in this eChineseLearning blog post:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

North American countries

You might know how to say “United States” in Chinese, but how about other country names? This list, from Sasha at Transparent Language, should help you to tell people where you’re from, or where you’ve never visited:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Ways to build

Three different verbs — 盖 (gài) ,修 (xiū ),and 建 (jiàn) — can be used, in various ways, to describe building or fixing. How are they similar and different?

Uses of 先 in a sentence

The word 先 can be used to mean “first,” but has a few other uses, as well:

Sitting in a chair, a grammatical exploration

How, in Chinese, can we say that someone is sitting in a chair? The discussion of which sentence is correct leads to a discussion of the 者 (zhe) construct, which (sort of) turns a Chinese verb into a gerund.

Established in …

How can an organization say that they were established in a certain year? A question with multiple answers.

Studying by yourself

What’s the difference between 自习 (Zì xí) and 自学 (Zì xué)? Both involve self-learning ,but slightly different types:

Learning computer-related words

What are the best ways to learn computer-related words, so that you can use (or just talk about using) your computer in Chinese? This discussion points to several resources, as well as some of the differences between the vocabularies of different types of Chinese relating to computers and technology:

Nothing to lose

How would you say “I have nothing to lose” in Chinese? Some suggestions:

Using 了 to soften a sentence

Why was 了 added to the end of a sentence? To soften its impact somewhat:

Using 和 to link nouns

When you learn about 和 in Chinese, you hear that it’s not the same as “and” in English. This discussion explores the issue a bit:

Mandarin Weekly #42

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) Welcome to the latest Mandarin Weekly, with yet more links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

Please tell your Chinese teachers, fellow students, and others about this free resource.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the subscription box on the left side at

Learning characters vs. words

Should you learn Chinese characters, or words (which often contain more than one character?) Chris from FluentInMandarin provides us with some interesting insights into how and when to focus on each one.

Twitter: @FluentInMandarin

How to read Chinese

Before learning to read Chinese characters, they look like a random jumble of scribbles. But after a while, you can see the patterns. This article by Michael Cruickshank describes how radicals and components fit together, and the different types of characters that you will encounter.

Latest and greatest

How can you say “the latest” in Chinese? In this article by Sarah Soulie in DigMandarin, we learn a few of the phrases that we can use to describe the most recent things we’ve done and seen.

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Listening resources

What online resources exist to help you with your comprehension of spoken Chinese? Sensible Chinese lists a number of sources for Chinese audio that can help to improve your understanding

Discussing hobbies

Want to talk about your hobbies in Chinese? This article, from Speak Up Chinese, will show you how to ask about someone else’s hobbies, and also how to talk about your own.

Shopping in Chinese

In this video from Emma Xue, she narrates her experience shopping in the supermarket before Halloween. There isn’t any English or Pinyin — so if you’re at more than a beginner level, this might provide you with great listening comprehension review.

Pronunciation via the IPA

Most of us learn to pronounce Chinese using Pinyin. But in this article from Hacking Chinese, Olle Linge suggests that it’s worth learning the IPA pronunciation, which is more precise and standardized.

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Short stories

These short stories from Miss Panda Chinese, meant for children (but we won’t tell if you listen, too), are good for listening practice.

Double objects

What are double objects, and how do we use them in Chinese grammar?

Asking for things

When you’re in China, how can you ask for something from (for example) a restaurant?

Regional accents

What accents do you like (and dislike) in Chinese? Which are easier and harder to understand?

Listening to too-hard podcasts?

Is it worth listening to podcasts that are at a more difficult level of Chinese than you currently know?

One or two?

When can you use a single character, and when do you need the entire two-character word? This question on Reddit asked about 或者 vs. 或, and resulted in an interesting discussion