Mandarin Weekly #84

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #84, links and information for those of us learning Chinese.  My apologies for getting this out late tonight, but I just arrived in Shanghai on business, and didn’t get a chance to put out the newsletter before my flight.

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Word order

Word order is crucial in Chinese. And yet, many of us (myself included) get it wrong. Here’s a game from ChinesePod designed to help you improve:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Using 又

In yet another amusing video, teaches us how to use 又 to describe things:

Twitter: @Chelseabubbly

Telling time in Chinese

What time is it? And can you ask that in Chinese? You’ll be able to, after reading this article:

Twitter: @FluentU

Which two to use?

Chinese has two versions of the number “two.” The character 二 (èr) is the number two, whereas the character 两 (liǎng) is for counting things. When you use each is usually easy to understand, with some exceptions:

Twitter: @DecodeChinese

Making phone calls

How do you make a phone call in Chinese? Here is a primer in how to make such calls, and conduct basic conversations:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Stirring up a hornet’s nest

This common phrase in English has a Chinese equivalent, which can be used similarly:

The tree radical

The tree radical shows up in many things made of wood, or associated with wood, as in these examples:

Lucky dog … umm…

One way to say that something is lucky in Chinese is to say it’s like dog excrement. Don’t believe me? Read this interesting (and somewhat disturbing, to my eyes/ears) take on it:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Learn by transcribing

One of the hardest tasks in learning a language is to understand native-speed speakers, and Chinese is no exception. Transcribing Chinese that you hear can thus help you to improve your listening, and to turn those sounds into characters you can read, as described here:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Chinese Olympics events

How do you say the names of Olympic events in Chinese? Here is a surprisingly long list:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Back and forth

Want to describe a back-and-forth dispute in Chinese? Here’s an explanation of the phrase 拉锯战 lā jù zhàn():

Cooking dumplings

I absolutely love dumplings; when I am in China, I have them very often — and perhaps too often! If you buy pre-made dumplings, how can you cook them? Here are instructions, along with lots of useful Chinese vocabulary, from

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Learning via scenarios

Trying to memorize oodles of vocabulary is always difficult, as well as less effective than learning words in context. Consider working on your vocabulary in the context of scenarios, as described here:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

How do you use 了?

One of the most common questions asked by students of Chinese is how to use 了(le) to indicate tense, or something similar to tense. This discussion breaks it apart with some understandable examples:

When do you not use 了?

And of course, there are some verbs that cannot be used with 了(le). What does that mean, and how is 了 different from 过 (guò):

Reading a book

There are two verbs that you can use to describe “reading,” 看 (看) and 读 (读). What is the difference between them?

完 vs 到

Both 完 (wán) and 到 (dào) can be used to indicate that an action is complete, but they aren’t the same. What is the difference?

Using 也 (yě)

We often learn that 也 (yě) means “also,” but it can have slightly different meanings, as we see here:

Sometimes, another “always”

How do we say “always” in Chinese? It depends on the precise version of “always” we’re trying to say:

Republic years

If you see the date 民國74 年, what does it mean? Hint: It most certainly does not mean 1974. An interesting view of time and years in Chinese:

Types of expressions

You might have heard of “chengyu,” four-character expressions that are common in Chinese. There are other types of expressions; how are they different?

Non-native accents

I have a strong American accent in every language I speak, including those in which I’m fluent. And I’m sure that I’m not alone; it’s normal to have at least some traces of your native language. This discussion addresses the question of whether native Chinese make fun of foreign accents:

Nobody’s perfect

What’s a good Chinese expression (cheng yu) to describe the idea that nobody is perfect?

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