Mandarin Weekly #76

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #76, with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

If you enjoy Mandarin Weekly, please tweet about it by clicking here!

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Location and direction in Chinese

How can you describe the relative location of things, or in which direction you should move? The answers are related, and are answered in this excellent guide to directional words:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Simplified vs. traditional

Ever wonder what the difference is between simplified and traditional characters? This video, from, should make it more obvious, and help you decide which version to use:

Twitter: @chinese4us

It just happened

Want to say that something just happened? You can say either 刚刚 (gāng gāng) or 刚才(gāng cái). But are they really the same? Once again, it’s a video from to the rescue:

Twitter: @Chelseabubbly


Is your friend (or colleague) saying something that’s complete nonsense? ChinesePod has just the chengyu (four-character saying) to put them in their place:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Beating the AP test

If you’re an American high school student, then you might be taking the Chinese Advanced Placement (AP) test. Here are some useful tips for doing well on the test:

Twitter: @FluentU

Buying fruit

Want to buy some fruit in China? How would you weigh it? How would you ask how much it costs? In this video, teaches us these words?

Twitter: @Chelseabubbly


If you’re following the current football (soccer) games, then you are probably interested in knowing how to talk about them in Chinese. Have no fear; this article will give you everything you need to know:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Funny words

Some words are totally normal in Chinese, but weird in English. Here are a few such words that you can (and should) incorporate into your Chinese vocabulary:

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Graduation words

How do the Chinese celebrate graduating from university? What words come in handy at this time of year?

Twitter: @ninchanese


Everyone is talking about the Brexit vote, and so why not LearnChineseNow as well? In this episode, we learn some Brexit-related vocabulary:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

The 贝 (Bèi) radical

This radical is used in many different characters, often having to do with money or wealth:

Read more books!

A short Chinese story, with characters, Pinyin, and audio, about reading books

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

What’s the deal?

Want to ask your friends why something is so special? Here’s a phrase that can come in handy:

How hot is it?

It’s summer in the northern hemisphere, which means that it’s getting to be quite hot for some of us. How do you discuss temperature in Chinese? LearnChineseNow has a short video on the subject:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

It doesn’t matter

A beautiful song (with video, characters, and pinyin) that you can use to improve your comprehension:

Twitter: @ChineseAtEase

Body parts

In the latest video from, you can learn some basic body parts — head, shoulders, knees, and toes:

Twitter: @ChineseWithEmma

When 把 is forbidden

Using the 把 (bǎ) particle can be confusing. In which sentences is it OK, and (more importantly) where can we not use it?

13 o’clock

Want to call someone stupid? Here’s a great term for it: 十三点 (shí sān diǎn), or a “13 o’clock”:

Almost got it!

Playing a game, and almost made the shot? How can you say that you almost got it in Chinese?

My Chinese is worse than yours

Comparisons can be tricky in Chinese; how can you compare your Chinese with someone else’s?

Is pork the default meat?

If you use the word 肉 (ròu) for meat, does it imply pork?

You said it right

Should you use 的 or 得? A discussion of an important and confusing topic when trying to modify verbs:

Describing your job

What word do you use for “work” or “occupation” in Chinese, and when should you choose each one?

Six-packs of water

How would you describe a package of water bottles, or two such packages?


How do you describe different ages in Chinese? It’s a bit more subtle and varied than you might think:

Mandarin Weekly #75

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

If you find Mandarin Weekly useful, please share it with teachers and students. It’s always free, and we’ll never share your e-mail address with anyone else.

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, and on Facebook at Please retweet and share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!


Our latest giveaway, for a free premium year’s subscription to The Chairman’s Bao, has ended, and the winner will soon be notified by e-mail. Thanks to all of you who entered! More giveaways will be coming in the near future. If you know of an app, Chinese school, book, or other resource that might be useful, please contact us! We’ll contact the author/publisher, and see if it’s possible to have a giveaway.

Characters that look alike

Do you sometimes find it hard to distinguish between characters? Do you fail to notice the extra dots and lines that can change the meaning of a character? This guide to frequently confused characters is for you:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese


One of my favorite parts of visiting China is having a chance to eat dumplings . A lot of dumplings. Many different styles of dumplings. Want to discuss dumpling styles, fillings, and cooking methods? This post contains everything you’ll want to know:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Levels of emphasis

Is it good? Great? Super-amazingly terrific? In this video, shows us how to emphasize things in Chinese using different levels:

Twitter: @Chelseabubbly

Buddhism in China

Buddhism is one of China’s main religions. In this video from LearnChineseNow, you can learn some Buddism-related terms:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Mirror words

Mirror words are an important part of learning Chinese, and can frustrate many non-native speakers. This video from MandarinMonkey introduces these words:

Twitter: @Mandarin_Monkey

Phrases you want to hear

Do you enjoy being praised? Of course you do! Here are 10 phrases, from ChineseClass101, that are nice to hear — or, if you’re in a good mood, nice to say to others:

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Keep up your Chinese this summer

So, it’s time for summer vacation! If you’re taking classes at a school, then you might find yourself wondering how to move ahead even without your teacher’s help. Here are some ideas for improving your Chinese even when school’s out:

Twitter: @ninchanese


Everyone loves a discount, right? But in China, discounts are described differently than in the West:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Want fries with that?

How can you order a hamburger in China? Here is a complete guide, starting from the hamburger itself and continuing with the side dishes:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Learning via apps

Is it a good idea to learn Chinese via apps? As with everything in life, there are advantages and disadvantages. Here is a discussion of the trade-offs:

化 (huā) as a suffix

Did you know that 化is often used as a suffix, meaning something like “ize” in English? Here are some examples:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

About 约

What does the 约 character mean? This article introduces it, including the history and current usage:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Nouns with 着

The character 着 normally indicates that an action is continuing. But it can also be used in nouns, as indicated here:

Correcting John Cena’s grammar

John Cena of WWE fame gives a speech in Chinese; LearnChineseNow not only shows the speech, but points out some grammatical issues that many Westerners have:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Euro 2016 countries

Are you excited about the Euro 2016 tournament? If so, then perhaps you want to describe the teams in Chinese:

Twitter: @chinese4us

Consolidating your Chinese

Part of studying Chinese is to constantly be improving — your vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, reading, and other skills. But don’t forget to work on the skills and knowledge you already have:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Hard work

Chinese culture has long valued hard work, as evidenced in these chengyu (phrases):

Twitter: @DigMandarin


How can you say “I misspoke?” There are a few ways in Chinese, and this discussion mentions a few of them:

Pronouncing 这

How do you pronounce the 这 character? Is it always zhè, or are there other options?

Preparing for HSK6

What materials can (should) you use to take the HSK6 exam?

Distinguishing x, ch, and sh

These three sounds (x, ch, and sh) look different in Pinyin, but sound somewhat similar in Chinese. What are the differences, and how can you improve your listening and speaking skills with these sounds?

下vs. 下边

Which is the appropriate word to use when indicating “downward”?

Mandarin Weekly #74

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

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, and on Facebook at at Please share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!

Current giveaway: A free year of The Chairman’s Bao premium

Our giveaway, in which one lucky winner will get a one-year subscription to The Chairman’s Bao premium, is still going on. You have until June 20th to sign up (here) — and if your friends sign up thanks to you, you’ll get an additional three chances per person.  Get one full year of HSK-graded, easy-Chinese newspaper articles designed to improve your reading and listening comprehension in Chinese.

Sign up via our giveaway page, and remember that the more you share this giveaway, the greater your chances to win!

Dragon Boat history

Last week was the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. What is this holiday, and what are its origins? Here is the story in Chinese characters and pinyin (and also translation, if you get stuck):

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Dragon Boat phrases

Want to talk about Dragon Boat with Chinese friends? Here are some key phrases you can use to chat with them:

Dragon Boat vocabulary

Here are some more vocabulary words, descriptions, and sentences you can use around the time of Dragon Boat:

Twitter: @DuChinese

Zongzi and Dragon Boat

Why eat zongzi? How are they related to Dragon Boat? Learn all about it, as well as how to make zongzi, in this video from LearnChineseNow:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Chinese ebooks

Want to improve your Chinese reading? Perhaps some ebooks will be useful to you:

Twitter: @FluentU

Some common characters

This week, we have a video lesson from in which we learn all about how to use 是 and 很

Twitter: @Chelseabubbly

Mind your tones

There are countless examples of how tones can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Here’s a good one:

Homophonic poetry

Lots of Chinese characters sound the same, and many others sound the same except for their tones. This article presents a few poems whose words all have the same sound, albeit with some different tones:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Under the knife

The character 刀(dāo) means “knife,” and is used in a component of many other characters and words:

Cheaters never win

LearnChineseNow describes the GaoKao entrance examination for universities, and the lengths to which China is going to stop cheating:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Chinese in 140 characters

Addicted to Twitter? You can use it to improve your Chinese, with this list of high-quality Chinese-learning Twitter feeds:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

In the neighborhood

Can you describe your neighborhood in Chinese, including the stores and other locations? Here’s a useful list:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Pinyin is your friend

Most (all?) of us who learn Chinese do so with Pinyin, the Romanized version of Chinese pronunciation. Pinyin is crucial and helpful, but it can also be quite surprising and frustrating. Here are some hints for improving your Pinyin use and understanding:

The time bank

A short essay about our use of time, in Chinese characters (and English).

Crazy English names

Chinese people usually choose an English name, in order to work with the West. LearnChineseNow shares some of the odder ones they’ve found:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Chinese words you wish English had

Do you sometimes learn a Chinese word and say, “Wow, I wish English had that word”? This discussion provides many such examples:

I think it’s true…

How can you say “I believe,” but not in the sense of believing, but rather in the sense of not being sure?

Brown rice

True, rice in China is normally white… but how you would say “brown rice”?

Mistakes were made

How can you use the passive voice in order to indicate that something ws done, without indicating who did it? An interesting discussion of the passive vs. active in Chinese (and English):

Again vs. both vs. also

A number of characters have similar meanings, but are used differently. If you’ve ever wondered when to use each of them this discussion should help:

Less, please!

Want less sugar in your drink? Learn to ask for “less” in Chinese:

Improving your tones

How can you ensure your tones are as good as possible? Here is some advice:

Mandarin Weekly #73

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

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, or on Facebook at Please retweet and share our weekly postings, so that everyone can benefit from them!

Giveaway: One year of The Chairman’s Bao (an $80 value)

Do you want to improve your Chinese reading ability? Of course you do, but tcbwhat you can read? I’m often bored by the stories in my Chinese textbook — but my reading level isn’t yet good enough to read ”real” books and newspapers.

That’s why I was so excited when The Chairman’s Bao launched: It provided me with a mix of interesting (and often off-beat) stories written in easy Chinese, with tons of support for improving my vocabulary and grammar. Nearly every day, I read through at least one article in TCB, and there’s no doubt that my reading has improved dramatically as a result. The stories are tagged according to HSK level, so you can choose stories that are right for your current level of Chinese.

Oh, and TCB helps you with your listening comprehension as well; instead of (or in addition to) reading the story yourself, you can listen to a native Chinese speaker read it to you.

Now that TCB is out of beta, they’re starting to charge for this service, at a price of $80/year. By entering this giveaway, though, you’ll get a chance to get one year of The Chairman’s Bao premium — including written and spoken articles, vocabulary lists, and grammar patterns — for free!

Moreover: For every friend you recruit to join the giveaway, we’ll give you three additional chances to win. So if you get five friends to sign up for the giveaway, you’ll have a total of 16 chances to win.

The giveaway is running for two weeks; sign up today at

Discounts for Mandarin Weekly readers

I’ve been in touch with a number of online schools and resources for learning Chinese, and they have agreed to provide discounted services to readers of Mandarin Weekly. Check out our discount page for a full list and the coupon codes!

Shopping as a Chinese lesson

One of my favorite things to do in China is go shopping Not ony because it’s practical, but because it introduces me to vocabulary, and also because the interactions I have there let me practice my Chinese a bit. It seems that I’m not alone in thinking that shopping is a great way to improve your Chinese:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

History of written Chinese

Chinese is one of the most ancient forms of writing in the world. What are its origins and history, and how has that history affected the language?

Twitter: @carlfordham

Different strokes

Chinese characters aren’t just written; they are created from a variety of standard strokes, each of which has its own name. Learning these strokes can help you to identify characters, as well as write them yourself:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese


What are the Chinese signs of the Zodiac? Here’s a full list, along with sentences you can use to describe them:

Twitter: @DuChinese

About trains

Another video about taking the train in China; this time, concentrating on describing (and showing) the types of trains, and the differences between them:

Buying train tickets

Plan to take the train in China? Here is an introduction to how you can purchase train tickets in Chinese:

Twitter: @Fluent_Mandarin

Using 就 (jiù) and 才 (cái)

These two words add nuance and preciseness to your Chinese. Here are some hints for how to use them, and to take the mystery out of them:

That makes sense

How do you say “that makes sense” in Chinese? CrazyFreshChinese has a short video on the subject:

Accelerating your Chinese

There’s so much to learn in Chinese — and yet, our goal is often to become as fluent as possible, as quickly as possible. Here are some hints for doing so, including thoughts about what to read and listen to, and how to think about words:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Body parts

Ever wonder how to say various body parts in Chinese? Here’s a vocabulary list, including various parts that you probably won’t get in an introductory class:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Real Chinese food

What do people in China really eat? Here are some examples, along with vocabulary and pictures:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Four Chinese inventions

In this video from LearnChineseNow, we learn about four inventions that originated in China:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Using a Chinese compass

How do you use a compass in Chinese? LearnChineseNow provides directions for getting directions:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Measure words

A short introduction to measure words, a topic that surprises many newcomers to Chinese:

Ancient Chinese weapons

You probably (hopefully) won’t need to use any of these weapons — but if you do, at least you’ll know how to call them in Chinese:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Learning traditional characters

If you have learned simplified characters and want to learn the traditional forms, what’s a good method for doing so?

The hardest part

What’s the hardest part of learning Chinese — reading, writing, speaking, or listening?

Ignoring 的

Native speakers (and writers) seem to ignore, or drop, the 的 (de) particle on occasion. When is this acceptable?

Improving your listening skills

For me, at least, comprehending spoken Chinese at native speeds is the most difficult part of my studies. Here are some suggestions for improving your listening comprehension:

Different kinds of “almost”

几乎 (jī hū) and 差点儿 (chà diǎn r) both mean “nearly” or “almost,” but have different connotations:

Nerves and divinity

If 神(shén) means God or the divine, then why does 神经 (shén jīng) mean “nerve”?

Book titles

When writing book titles in Chinese, you’re supposed to use special punctuation. What are these called in Chinese (and in English, for that matter), and where are they appropriate?

A few days before

The phrase 前几天 (qián jǐ tiān) means “a few days before.” How can you use it?

Using 分钟 (fēn zhōng)

If you’re talking about minutes (in terms of time), then must you use the entire word? Or can you just say 分?