Mandarin Weekly #54

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!

Tone myths

You’ve heard that tones are important. But not everything you hear about tones is true:

Living-room vocabulary

This posting shows a living room full of objects… and they’re all labeled In Chinese, along witih sample sentences that can give you a better idea of how to use each term:

Picking up

The term “pick up” means different things in English. In this article, we learn about the differnet ways to use “pick up” in Chinese:

Twitter: @DigMandarin


Can’t do something? ChinesePod will tell you how to describe that in Chinese, asking for permission to do it:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

The winner is…

Want to improve your Chinese? Want to watch more television? You can do both at the same time, by watching the Chinese game shows:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Farm vocabulary

Even if you only spend time in Chinese cities, you’ll likely need or want to use some agricultural terms. In this article from DigMandarin, we get a list of useful farm-related vocabulary:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Speaking with grandparents

Want to improve your Chinese, and appreciation of Chinese culture? Consider speaking with, watching, or participating with Chinese grandparents, who take part in a variety of activities. This article introduces some useful vocabulary, and describes some of the activities you can expect to see:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

More character bites

Chris is back with “Chinese character bites” — this time, with 之 (zhī) and 过 (guò):

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Poetry lesson

LearnChineseNow teaches a classical Chinese poem, Ascending Stork Tower:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Breakfast food

What sorts of foods do people eat in China? This blog post describes some of them, with appropriate vocabulary (and even a quiz):

Twitter: @ECLSchool


Want to order food in a Chinese restaurant? Here are some sentences and vocabulary you’ll need in order to succeed, ensuring that your food will contain the appropriate level of spiciciness:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Yes, yes

One of the first things you learn when studying Chinese is that there isn’t a single word for “yes.” Why is this the case? And when do you use each version of “yes”?


Listen to this song, presented along with the words, Pinyin, and English translation:


What are some common animals in Chinese? DigMandarin has provided us with a list:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Making a long-term plan

You can’t learn Chinese quickly; you’ll need a long-term plan. In this posting from FluentU,we learn what you can and should do to create such a plan, and what aspects are less likely to be useful:

Twitter: @FluentU

It’s late out

What’s the difference between the characters 夜(yè) and 晚 (wǎn)? Both mean “night,” more or less, but can they be used interchangeably?

Using and pronouncing 着

What does the 着 character sound like, and what is its function?

Measure word for a pizza

Does pizza use 个 or 张? An interesting debate and discussion about measure words:

I’m so sorry

How do you indicate you’re sorry in Chinese?

Chinese continents

How do you say the names of the continents in Chinese? And are they classified the same in Chinese and in English?


If you make a mistake in Chinese, what do you say? “Oops” is a good term in English, but does it translate?


How can you describe being online, or watching an online video?

The strangest character

What’s the strangest Chinese character? It’s not a competition, but there are a lot of options to choose from:

Mandarin Weekly #53

Mandarin Weekly #53

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!

Sentence structure

Chinese sentences have a specific structure. In this posting from Hollie at Written Chinese, we learn about simple and complex sentence structure:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Chinese nouns

When we first start to learn Chinese, we assume that there are the same word categories as in other languages — nouns and verbs, for example. But it turns out that the categories aren’t identical. In this article, we learn more about nouns, and how Chinese nouns are a bit special:

Twitter: @MandarinWManu

The two uses of 让 (ràng)

The character 让(ràng) can be used in two different (and almost opposite) ways, which can be a bit confusing for Chinese learners. In this article from DigMandarin, Sarah explains the differences, with many examples:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Character bites

Chris, from Fluent in Mandarin, returns with more short introductions to Chinese characters: 自 (zì), 着 (zhe), and 去 (qù):

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Animal sounds

Every language represents animal sounds in a different way. What do Chinese animals sound like? This article from Winnie at FluentU, will tell you:

Twitter: @FluentU

Office vocabulary

Ever wonder how to describe simple office items in Chinese? LearnChineseNow provides a gentle introduction:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Hungry? Or full?

How can you indicate that you’re hungry in Chinese? Or, perhaps that you have had your fill? LearnChineseNow provides the vocabulary

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Exceptionally hungry? Or exceptionally full?

Yeah, but what if you’re really, really hungry? ChinesePod provides us with a way to make something super-strong:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

On the other hand…

How can we say “on the one hand… on the other hand…” in Chinese? It’s surprisingly straightforward, as we see in this article:


We can also complain, or refer to problems, using a different construct:

It’s all about the children (radical)

All About Chinese continues its list of characters based on certain radicals, this time showing us those based on 子:

Snowman in summer

A short story about a (naïve and/or optimistic) snowman who wants to see the summer, with audio, characters, and pinyin:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

The most difficult characters

Ollie Linge describes and analyzes several of the hardest-to-learn, hardest-to-remember Chinese characters:

Twitter: @SkritterHQ

Turbocharge your Chinese learning

A list of eight tools, each of which can help to speed up your learning of Chinese:

Twitter: @Lingholica

The Force is still getting up

Mania over the latest Star Wars movie continues, and with it, we have the following famous lines translated into Chinese:

Twitter: @DuChinese


How would you say that you want Beijing-style food? This discussion provides some insights:

地 and 的

These two characters are pronounced the same… almost. What is the real difference between the pronunciations, and how can we remember it more easily?

Using 吧 at the end of a sentence

How do you use 吧 (ba) in Chinese? Is it considered rude or informal?

The envelope, please

Red envelopes are a traditional way to give gifts in China. How does the phrase look and work in Chinese, and what does it really mean?

Another use for 是

The verb 是 (shì), before a verb, can somewhat alter the meaning of the verb. How and why, is discussed here:

More, please

How can we say that we want to have more of something, or add to what we have? This discussion should make that clearer:

Components of 你

The 你 character is is one of the most common. This discussion quickly turned into a fascinating exposition on character components:


Mandarin Weekly #52

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

It has now been one year since I started putting together Mandarin Weekly. Thanks so much to all you for your encouragement and feedback; it’s an amazing feeling to know that people around the world are enjoying this publication! Please continue to spread the word; if you know anyone else who is studying Chinese, please encourage them to subscribe to 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!

Du Chinese released

A new app, Du Chinese, has been released for Android; (it was previously available for iOS), and is meant to help you read Chinese more easily.

Twitter: @DuChinese

Asian country names

Planning to go to Asia? If so, then you can brush up on the Chinese names for countries in Asia, using this helpful list from Transparent Language:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Harps and cows

Trying to explain something complex, and the listener isn’t quite getting it? There’s a great Chinese saying that describes this situation:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Because… therefore

How do you use the common pattern 因为。。。所以 (yīn wèi … suǒ yǐ) to describe a reason and a consequence?

Both this … and that

How can you say that something is “both X and Y” in Chinese? You use 又。。。又 (yòu…yòu), as demonstrated in numerous sample sentences:

Remembering witih mneumonics

Trying to remember your characters? One method is mneumonics, in which you make associations between the characters and something you can remember. How helpful is it, and what techniques can you use to put this method to use?

Twitter: @ChineseBoost

Freezing to death

If you’re really cold, then you might say you’re “freezing to death,” or that it’s “deathly freezing.” Chinese has a similar expression, as described here by Rita from DigMandarin:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Using flashcards

Many of us use flashcards to practice our reading. But what are some good strategies for using flashcards? Olie Linge provides some insights:

Survival Chinese

So you’re going to China, and you need to learn some basic, “survival” Chinese before your trip? In this new video series, Alison Lau introduces some basic vocabulary that might be of use.


If you’re more advanced, then Alison (from the aforementioned videos) also offers some HSK4-level vocabulary, taking it apart and describing words and phrases.

Watching variety shows

Watching Chinese TV is a great way to improve your listening and vocabulary. What can you watch, though? One option is variety shows; in this post from Du Chinese, you can learn about some variety shows — both their names, and what they include.

Twitter: @DuChinese

Chinese character bites

Chris, from Fluent in Mandarin, is back with a variety of “Chinese character bites”, with the characters 会 (huì), 生(shēng),and 以 (yǐ):

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Brush your teeth

The latest video from LearnChineseNow tells us not only how to brush our teeth in Chinese, but the words we’ll need around that activity:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Order a pizza!

Want to order pizza? Great, but can you do that in Chinese? This listening practice from will provide you with the practice you need to get the pizza delivered:

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Confucius says…

Confucius, the famous ancient Chinese scholar, is known for many sayings. Here, from Hollie at Written Chinese, are a few of them:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Not feeling well?

How can you describe feeling ill in Chinese? And different types of feeling unwell? LearnChineseNow has a video which will tell you how to describe your current state of affairs.

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

10 favorite words

Yuting from ChineseClass101 introduces 10 words that students have said are their favorites. Do you know all of these?

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Talking to the mountain

A short story, offering listening and reading practice, about a boy and a mountain:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Apple watch

Emma, from ChineseWithEmma, has bought a new Apple watch. She opens the box and starts it up, describing her experience in Chinese. Perhaps not the biggest drama around, but cetainly good listening practice for Chinese-learning nerds!

Twitter: @ChineseWithEmma

Fun signs in China

If you have ever visited China, then you know that the English translations on the signs can be … challenged. (When I was in Shanghai last week, I enjoyed the sign in the subway telling visitors not to “pop off your heads” on the escalator. Here are some signs; how many can you read in Chinese, and then better understand the mistakes?

What does the neutral tone sound like?

When we learn Chinese, we learn about the fourth tone… and then we learn about the fifth tone, which isn’t a tone, or is called the “neutral” tone. What is it, and how does it sound?

Guessing the meaning

If you encounter a new word in Chinese, how can you guess its meaning?

Oohs and aahs

How often are “oh” (哦) and “ah” (啊) used in conversational Chinese? And what do they mean?

Don’t do that!

How do you indicate that something shouldn’t be done? You can use either 别 (bié) or 不要 (bú yào), but what is the difference between them?

Most of the time

How do you indicate that “most of the time,” something is true?

Non-phonetic place names

Most place names in Chinese reflect the pronunciation of the place. But in some cases, the Chinese name for the location has to do with the meaning, or some other aspect. A fascinating discussion:

Genderless, singular “they”

English doesn’t have a single word that reflects the idea of “he or she.” Actually, it turns out that we do; the pronoun “they” has now been given official status as a generless, singular pronoun. Does Chinese have a similar word? Or do we just reuse the existing pronouns?

Choosing a Chinese name

At some point, most students of Chinese will choose a Chinese name. But what should you choose, and who should help you? What considerations should you keep in mind when choosing a name?

If you’re called a “Laowai,” is that bad?

The term 老外 (lǎo wài) refers to foreigners in China. Is it disrespectful or bad?

Mandarin Weekly #51

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!

Tones are not optional

You know, tones are those things that you kinda sorta remember to tack on when you’re speaking Chinese, right? Well, they shouldn’t be; they are as important to the correct pronunciation, and thus to people understanding you, as vowels, Olle Linge argues in this posting:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Tone changes

Now that you’ve learned (or been reminded) that tones aren’t optional, enjoy this video from LearnChineseNow, which not only introduces the tones, but how they interact with one another:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

The mouth radical

Noticing the mouth radical in many characters can help to provide its meaning. Oksana from DigMandarin provides some examples and explanations:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

English phrases in Chinese

Chinese isn’t known for bringing in many words and phrases from English, but there are some. In this article, we learn about some such phrases and their possible origins:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Improve your Chinese, with Netflix!

Want to improve your Chinese? This article provides instructions for how to use Netflix to improve your Chinese, along with some suggested Chinese movees:

Twitter: @FluentU

No wonder!

SpeakUpChinese describes how you can say “no wonder!” in Chinese, in two different forms:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Set your goals for 2016

Planning to improve your Chinese in 2016? (If not, then why are you reading this?!?) You should try to set some goals for the year, and then for each month, as described by Hollie from Written Chinese:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Happy New Year!

Happy 2016! It might be a smidgen late, but here are phrases having to do with the new year, both in general and how it’s celebrated in China:

Twitter: @learnchinese88

New Year blessings

Here are some more phrases for the start of 2016, emphasizing the blessings and best wishes you can give to people in Chinese:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

The Little Mermaid

The classic children’s story, in Chinese (spoken, with characters and pinyin) to help you improve your listening:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Body parts

Here are some basic body parts that you should probably know in Chinese, along with the characters and some basic explanations for why they (might) look like they do:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Another one

When should you use 另外 (lìng wài), and when should you use 另 (lìng)? The distinction is made clear in this article from DigMandarin:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Are new characters created?

If Chinese needs a new word, is a new character created for it? Or are existing characters combined to form that new word? Or both? A short, but interesting, discussion:

Correct tone for 为 (wei)

Is it 2nd tone, or 4th? The answer is that it’s both, with different meanings:

Who decides on the sounds of characters?

Who decides on such things? The answers here are complex, but interesting:

The school bus is coming

What verb ending is appropriate to translate this idea into Chinese? The discussion here is good for anyone who is confused between 过 (guò) and 着 (zhe).