Mandarin Weekly #59

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

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Sentence types

In Chinese, word order is extremely important, determining (in many ways) the meaning of the sentence. Knowing how to structure your sentences can thus help to make your Chinese more fluent and natural:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Quick guide to Chinese grammar

It’s often said that Chinese grammar is simple. However, that doesn’t mean Chinese lacks grammar, or that you can ignore it. On the contrary, the terseness of Chinese means that you need to be careful of what you say, and how you say it. In this video, we get a short (under 10 minute) video guide to Chinese grammar, which should help to improve your sentence structure:

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Learning and reading characters

Can you learn Chinese characters without learning to speak the language? Yes, but you’re making life harder on yourself, since the characters generally offer hints as to their pronunciation. In this past, Olle Linge describes how and why to learn characters while you’re also learning to speak:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Feeling hot and cold

Traditional Chinese medicine can describe someone as being too hot or too cold. What Chinese words are being used here, what are the traditional remedies, and (most importantly) what can this possibly mean?

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Just about

There are several different ways to indicate that something is “roughly” or “just about” or “approximately” in Chinese. This post explores several of them, also indicating when each is appropriate:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

The “walk” radical

The “walk” radical (辶) is used in a large number of characters, generally indicating travel, walking, or distance. This post introduces a number of the more common characters using 辶:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

It’s a mystery

In this latest description of a Chinese phrase (chengyu), we are introduced to the phrase 莫名其妙 (mò míng qí miào), which means that something is completely baffling or puzzling:

And and and

There is more than one way to say “and” in Chinese, but when do you use each kind? In this short video from LearnChineseNow, you’ll get introduces to each of them:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Tomato eggs

A common Chinese breakfast dish is stir-fried tomato eggs. This post gives you the recipe, and lots of other useful cooking words, in Chinese characters, pinyin, and English translation, as well as an audio track you can use to test your listening ability:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Top Chinese music

Here are 10 popular songs (and videos) that can improve not only your Chinese, but your ability to discuss popular culture with your Chinese friends:

Vehicle radical

This post collects a number of characters containing the vehicle (车):

I know you’re busy

This post and video introduces a short phrase, 你先忙吧 (nǐ xiān máng ba), which basically means, “I know that you’re busy.” A useful one to use with your hard-working Chinese friends and colleagues:

Twitter: @SpeakUpChinese

Come over here

A catchy song (对面的女孩看过来, duì miàn de nǚ hái kàn guò lái) from Taiwanese singer Richie Ren, with characters and pinyin. If your grammar and vocabulary are still at a relatively basic level, you might be surprised by how much of this song you can understand on your own:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Wifi passwords

This short video from CrazyFreshChinese is extremely practical — how do you ask for the Wifi password when you’re in a restaurant or café in China?

Good flashcards

Many peopl e use flashcards (on paper, or on the computer) to practice their Chinese vocabulary. What is a good strategy for creating, and then using, these flashcards so that you’re most likely to remember them?

Twitter: @ChineseBoost

How are you?

When I first started to learn Chinese, I was delighted that I knew how to say 你好吗, or “How are you?” Fortunately, I quickly learned that this phrase is almost never used by people in China, as discussed here:

Word games

Given how many homophones there are in Chinese, we would expect there to be many word games, puns, and language-related jokes in the language. Are there?

Calculators vs. computers

Two words 计算机 (jì suàn jī) and 电脑 (diàn nǎo) can be used to describe a computer. When is each appropriate?

Past tense

Is it possible to use 有 (yǒu) to indicate past tense? If so, when and how do you use it?

Using 了

One of the trickiest things about Chinese is the use of 了. How does it turn a sentence into the past tense, and where should we place it?

Going somewhere

Three words — 到 (dào),出 (chū),and 去 (qù) — can be used similarly. How do their meaning differ?

Flipped characters

What is the difference between 前面 (qián miàn) and 面前 (qián miàn)? The meanings would seem to be similar, but not identical, when the character order is reversed:

Wanting it all

How are 所有的 (所有 的) and 全 (quán) different, and are they interchangeable?


What is the difference between戌, 狗 and 犬 — three different characters for dog?

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