Mandarin Weekly #93

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #93, with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

More than 3,500 people from around the world now subscribe to Mandarin Weekly. If you enjoy it, please share it with your teacher and/or fellow students! This newsletter will always be completely free of charge.

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Giveaway: Five one-year subscriptions to Zizzle App!

This week’s giveaway is a one-year subscription to Zizzle App, a new smartphone app for learning to read Chinese. Five readers of Mandarin Weekly will receive a free subscription, for either iOS or Android!

ImageEveryone who has learned Mandarin knows that Chinese characters are a unique challenge: For reading fluency, a staggering amount of 3000 characters is required, each character with its own shape, pronunciation, meaning and tone. And to complicate things even more, it is hard to infer this information just by looking at the character.

The developers of Zizzle App have experienced this problem first-hand while living in China. They try to solve this dilemma by turning Chinese characters into engaging visualizations and memorable short stories. For every single Chinese character, Zizzle creates a mnemonic story that employs techniques like association, visualizations and linkwords. Furthermore, Zizzle breaks down complicated Chinese characters into components to help you understand the structure of the Chinese language. The effectiveness of the Zizzle method was independently verified by the University of Munich.

Five readers of Mandarin Weekly will receive free, one-year subscriptions to Zizzle for either iOS or Android. But it gets better — for each friend of yours who signs up for the giveaway, you get another three entries! So if three of your friends sign up, you get a total of 10 entries in the giveaway.

Enter the giveaway by going here:

When you don’t know the character

Intermediate If you’re like me, then you often find yourself faced with a character (or word) that you cannot read. Here are some excellent strategies for getting around this problem:

Understanding 过

Intermediate The character 过 (guò) not only means “pass,” but also indicates that the preceding verb happened in the past. At the same time, it’s not quite the past tense. In this video from, we get an introduction to 过, and a better understanding of how and when to use it:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Mimicking native speakers

Want to improve your pronunciation, and sound more like a native Chinese speaker? Of course! But how can you do that? In this post, we get some tips for sounding like a native by listening to natives:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Tone changes

Beginner You’ve probably be taught that 不 (bù) is always pronounced with a 4th tone, right? Well, that’s mostly true. Sometimes, though, its tone changes. Here’s a fuller explanation:

Twitter: @ninchanese

Bad news

Intermediate You need to say that something is unfortunate, or a shame? 真不巧 (zhēn bù qiǎo) is a good phrase for you:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Better memory, better Chinese

From, we get the second installment of a video interview/discussion with memory master Simon Reinhard, whose tips can help us (I hope!) to learn more Chinese, faster:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

What to see in Xi’an

Traveling to Xi’an? This ancient city has lots to see and do. Here are some highlights of what you can expect to see, including useful vocabulary:

The story of 平 (píng)

Beginner The character 平 is an ancient one; tracing through its history can give you some interesting insights into modern form and usage:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Or vs. or

Beginner There are two forms of “or” in Chinese: One, 还是 (hái shì), is for asking questions, and the other, 或者 (huò zhě), is for describing two things in a statement. Here’s a fuller explanation and introduction to these words:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly


Beginner We think of the term “often” as a single idea, but Chinese actually uses two different words to express it: 常常(cháng cháng) and 往往(wǎng wǎng). How are they different, and in which context should you use each one, is explained here:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Famous people

Chinese history is long and full of many people. But some of those famous people stick out in particular, even becoming part of everyday conversation. Here are some names you should know, and how (and when) you can drop their names:

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

A famous chef speaks

Advanced In this 4.5-minute video, chef and restaurant owner 吴国平 (Wú Guópíng) introduces himself, as well as his philosophy of cooking and managing restaurants:

None of your business!

Intermediate The phrase 不关你的事 (bù guān nǐ de shì) means, “It’s not your matter,” or (more colloquially), “It’s none of your business.” Here is a fuller explanation:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Just kidding!

Beginner Did you make a joke in Chinese? Did your friends not realize that you were joking? Perhaps you should clue them in, by telling them you were only joking:

Twitter: @ninchanese

Making jokes

Beginner For me, one of the fascinating parts of learning Chinese is how characters come together to make a word — and that word often describes the bigger idea. Here’s an example, the word 玩笑 (wán xiào), to make a joke:

Twitter: @ninchanese

Dial “I” for “incomprehensible”

Intermediate This is a fun little Web page: It starts off with a large number of fairly well-known characters. But using a slider, you can replace any number of those characters with obscure ones, dialing yourself a custom level of (in)comprehensible text:

Some, not one

Beginner When should you use the word 些(xiē) to describe some things? Is it mandatory?

Children’s TV

Beginner Looking for Chinese-language children’s TV shows, either for yourself or for young students of Chinese? Here are some useful suggestions, both of native Chinese shows and some (e.g., Peppa Pig) that have been dubbed:

Differentiating between consonants

Beginner Chinese has some sounds that don’t exist in Western languages, and which sound similar to others. For example, “ch” and “q” are similar, but distinct. How can you pronounce these — and how can you train yourself to hear the differences?

It depends

Intermediate How would you say “it depends” in Chinese?

Throwing money away

Intermediate This short discussion was based in part on a typo in someone’s book, which used the term 废 钱 (fèi qián). However, I found it useful to learn about the character 废:

Let’s talk later

Intermediate To chat is 聊天 (liáo tiān), but if you want to chat later, where does the 天 go? A short conversation about word order:

Pining for the fjords

Intermediate In English, we can say “passed away” as a softer version of “die.” How can we express the same softness in Chinese?

How much?

Beginner We can ask quantity questions with either 几 (jǐ) or 多少 (duō shǎo). When is each appropriate?

Mandarin Weekly #92

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #92, with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

More than 3,000 people from around the world now subscribe to Mandarin Weekly. If you enjoy it, please share it with your teacher and/or fellow students! This newsletter will always be completely free of charge.

Full archives are at, as is our list of discounts for students of Chinese.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the box on our Web site, at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly! We’re also on Facebook, at

Reading Chinese

Beginner Some people say that reading Chinese is so difficult that it’s better to learn just to speak it. But reading Chinese brings numerous benefits, above and beyond being able to read signs in China and write to your friends and colleagues there. Here is a summary of the benefits, along with strategies for improving your reading:

Twitter: @FluentU

I want it!

Beginner There are two words that express wanting something in Chinese, 想 (xiǎng) and 要 (yào). When do we use each? This video, from, provides some good examples, to help us distinguish between them:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Tone problems

Ah, tones! They are so important in Chinese (because they affect a word’s meaning), but they’re so hard for non-native speakers to use. Even when you remember a word’s tone perfectly, instincts from your native language may creep in, affecting your tones. Here are seven tone problems, and some suggestions for how to avoid them:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Ongoing action

Intermediate How do you express ongoing action in Chinese? In English, we would use a verb ending with “ing.” In Chinese, it’s a bit more complex, but this video and post explain it quite well:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

How are you doing?

Beginner How can you ask someone how they’re doing in Chinese? There are a variety of options, as demonstrated in this short video:

Twitter: @MandarinHQ

New forum

Want to discuss Chinese in Chinese? Check out YapChina, a new forum in which people learning Chinese can try out their language skills:

Science fiction

Beginner How do you say “science fiction” in Chinese? Learn this, and about famous Chinese science fiction author 刘慈欣, (Cixin Liu), here:

Twitter: @ninchanese

Everyone complains about the weather…

Intermediate It’s typical for new students to learn the words for “rain” and “snow,” as well as “hot” and “cold.” But what if you dislike the weather? How can you complain about it in Chinese? Here is a useful guide, with vocabulary and examples:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Autumn foliage

Intermediate It’s autumn in China, which means that in many places, the leaves are turning colors. Here is a collection of beautiful autumn photographs, with the place names and descriptions in Chinese:

Surfing the waves

Intermediate How do you say “surfing” in Chinese? Not only does this give you a chance to learn a new word, but you can also see how words are formed:

Twitter: @ninchanese

You rock!

Intermediate A new, fun expression — and a cute story about how it was created:

Twitter: @ninchanese

Why? Because!

Beginner A short, but good, introduction to the construct 因为 (yīn wèi). . . 所以 (suǒ yǐ):

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Try your luck

Intermediate Do you feel lucky? If you want to try your luck, you can use the phrase 碰碰运气 (pèng pèng yùn qì):

Measure words

Beginner What are measure words? How do we use them? And what are the most common measure words? This short video introduces the idea, and some examples:

Twitter: @HanbridgeOnline

的, 地, and 得

Beginner These three characters are all pronounced “de,” and they all help to modify other words. But how do we use each of them?

Twitter: @HanbridgeOnline

Stood someone up?

Intermediate Did you fail to show up for a meeting? Here’s a great phrase in Chinese that you can use to describe it:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Working in Chinese

Many people learn Chinese so that they can use it in their work. But what do you need to do in order to get to that point, to have enough Chinese fluency in order to use it every day, in a job? An interesting collection of experiences:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

80% comprehension

Advanced We might think that at the 80% comprehension level, we can figure out the rest from context. But it turns out that if we don’t understand 20%, we are missing out on a lot, as John Pasden demonstrates:

Visiting Xi’an

Traveling to China? You might want to stop in 西安 (xī ān), an ancient city with many interesting things to see. Here’s a photo tour with Xi’an-related vocabulary:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Ticket scalpers

Beginner How do you describe scalping tickets in Chinese? As oxen, of course! The full story, along with examples of how to use this word, are here:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Chinese languages

Is Chinese a language? A set of languages? A family of dialects? These questions are common among newcomers to Chinese, but also among natives. What’s not debated is the fact that there are many dialects, each of which is spoken in a different area of China. Here is a map and discussion of where each dialect is spoken, and some details about it:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Improve your memory, improve your Chinese

Learning Chinese requires memorizing a lot of stuff. If you can improve your memory, then your Chinese will probably improve as well, right? In this video from, a memory master suggests some ways that you can improve your recall, and thus improve your Chinese more quickly:

Twitter: @ChinesePod



“in” vs. “ing” endings

Do native Chinese speakers distinguish significantly between the “in” and “ing” endings? If so, where and how?

Saying “again”

Intermediate The words 再 (zài) and 又 (yòu) both mean “again,” but are used differently. How?

Bothering you

Beginner Why would I use the phrase 麻烦你 (má fan nǐ)?

哥 or 哥哥?

Beginner The word 哥哥 (gē) means “older brother,” but you can also say just “哥.” What’s the difference?

Using 成语

Intermediate 成语 (chéng yǔ) are four-character expressions. They can be interesting and even poetic, but how often are they really used in conversation?

Computer words

Intermediate If you work in the computer industry and want to know technology-related terms, here is a discussion of where you can find them:

Words your teacher never taught you

What are some cool words you’ve learned, but which you aren’t likely to learn in class? This discussion raised some fun ones:

Mandarin Weekly #91

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #91, with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

More than 2,500 people from around the world now subscribe to Mandarin Weekly. If you enjoy it, please share it with your teacher and/or fellow students! This newsletter will always be completely free of charge.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the box at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly! We’re also on Facebook, at

Giveaway: “Hacking Chinese” ebook

Our latest giveaway is for Olle Linge’s “Hacking Chinese” book.  Want to enter? Just go to our giveaway page!

There are lots of resources out there for learning Chinese. But resources aren’t enough: You also need a strategy. A direction. A way of prioritizing your use of learning materials, so that you can achieve the greatest degree of fluency in the least amount of time.

Enter Olle Linge, whose site ”Hacking Chinese” is one of the best known, and most consistently excellent, sources for such strategies. Linge has learned Chinese, and has also learned how to teach Chinese — and along the way, has discovered and written about numerous techniques that can make your Chinese-learning experience faster, smoother, and more productive.

In his ebook, also called ”Hacking Chinese,” you get hundreds of pages full of practical advice for structuring your Chinese learning. How should you approach characters? How can you surround yourself with Chinese, even if you’re living outside of a Chinese-speaking country? What is the best way to practice your listening comprehension?

I learned a great deal from this book, and am sure that no matter what level of Chinese you have, you’ll gain a great deal from it, as well. That’s why I’m delighted to announce that we will be giving away three copies of the “Hacking Chinese” ebook.

If you’re already learning Chinese, but want to improve how you’re learning, then this is a great book to get. As with all of our giveaways, you get additional chances to win for every friend you get to enter! Share the giveaway with your friends, and increase your odds of getting this book.

If you want even more than the book, there’s a full-blown ”Hacking Chinese” video course. As an extra offer on top of this giveaway, Olle is offering Mandarin Weekly readers a discount of $10 from the course through Thursday, October 13th; just use the coupon code MANDARINWEEKLY to get the discount.

The giveaway ends on Monday, October 17th. Go to the giveaway page, and enter to receive one of three copies of the “Hacking Chinese” book.


Intermediate Have you seen what he’s wearing? Or how she talks about herself? Or what about that show-off in the marketing department? We all love to gossip, and with this vocabulary list, you’ll be able to gossip in Chinese in no time:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

Come again?

Beginner So, you’ve learned some Chinese, you go to China, you start to speak with someone, and then (horrors!) they answer you. The problem? They are so impressed by your Chinese, that they speak at native speed, with word you haven’t yet learned. How can you ask someone to slow down, or tell them that you don’t understand?

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Using 了 (le)

Beginner The use of 了 (le) can be difficult for many people learning Chinese. In this video from, we get additional insights into when and how to use 了 — this time, in describing things that are “too much”:

Twitter: @Mandarin_Monkey

Small talk

Intermediate When your Chinese gets good enough to start having simple conversations with friends and coworkers, you’ll need a stable of words and topics to include (and avoid). This post provides an introduction to small talk in Chinese:

Twitter: @YoYoChinese

Business etiquette

Going to have a meeting in China? Make sure you’re familiar with Chinese etiquette — what to say, who to greet (and how), and not to offend anyone by mistake. And of course, use the appropriate Chinese phrases:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Internet slang

Intermediate The Internet is, of course, causing many changes throughout the world. In China, one of those changes is the rapid introduction and use of new words. Here is a list of new words that have taken hold online:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Using 就 (jiù)

Beginner The word 就 (jiù) has many uses and meanings, and learning to use it can take some time. In this video from, we get an explanation and examples of how to use 就:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

Character challenge

Olle Linge has a new challenge: Work on learning and reviewing as many characters as possible! Learn more, and sign up, here:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Improving your reading

How can and should you approach improving your Chinese reading?

Twitter: @HackingChinese

Other than that…

Intermediate Ever want to answer a question with a two-part answer? That second part will often start with, “besides…” In this post + video, we learn how to use 再说 (zài shuō) to connect two thoughts in this way:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Add oil!

Beginner A phrase that you’re likely to hear is 加油 (jiā yóu). This literally means to “add oil,” but it is really used to talk about encouraging someone, or rooting for your favorite team. More on 加油 here:

Using 把 (bǎ)

Intermediate For many people learning Chinese, the 把 (bǎ) structure is daunting. How do we use it to alter the standard subject-verb-object word order?

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

“Erhua” words

Intermediate The Beijing dialect often adds an 儿 (er) sound to the ends of words. But which words? Here is a list of 100 words that end with 儿, which can help you to sound a bit more native:

Chinese calendar

You often hear about the “Chinese New Year” and “lunar months,” but what do those really mean? And why don’t they align with the standard (Gregorian) calendar we use? Here is an explanation, along with vocabulary to understand it better:

Twitter: @NihaoHello

Love in spring

Intermediate It might be autumn in the northern hemisphere, but here’s a song about love and springtime — with a video, pinyin, characters, and translation:

Twitter: @ChineseToLearn


Intermediate While Chinese verbs aren’t inflected, they can take a number of complements — characters and words that come afterward, which describe the action’s time, quantity, or direction:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly


Intermediate The words 周 (zhōu) and 星期 (xīng qī) can both mean “week.” What’s the difference between them?


Advanced What’s the difference between 摆 (bǎi) and 放(fàng)?

Chinese book club

Advanced Looking to read more in Chinese, and to discuss the book with others? This month, the Chinese book club is reading 蒙着眼睛的旅行者 by 朱岳

Only speaking Chinese

Beginner Is it possible to learn Chinese only as a spoken language, without learning to read and write it?


Beginner How can we say that we want to pour a liquid? As always, there are multiple ways to describe this action:

What mistakes do natives make?

Those of us learning Chinese make mistakes all of the time. But what mistakes do native speakers commonly make?

Using 刚 (gāng) and 了

Advanced If you want to say that you “just did X,” do you use 刚 (gāng) and also 了? Or is 刚 sufficient on its own?

Natives learning tones

Do native Chinese speakers learn the tones at school, at home (via conversation), or both?

Mandarin Weekly #90

chinese-learning大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #90, with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

More than 2,000 people from around the world now subscribe to Mandarin Weekly. If you enjoy it, please share it with your teacher and/or fellow students! This newsletter will always be completely free of charge.

To receive Mandarin Weekly in your e-mail inbox every Monday, just use the box at Or follow us on Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly! We’re also on Facebook, at


ImageThe Chairman’s Bao is the first online Chinese newspaper, written and simplified for students of Mandarin. With an archive of over 1,300 HSK (3-6+) graded news-based lessons, with up to five more published daily, TCB has four times more content than any other Chinese news-based reader. Throw in cross-platform access and synchronization – website, iOS and Android apps – as well as a whole host of exclusive features to aid language learning such as: comprehensive grammar points, live dictionary, and intelligent flashcard system, TCB is the ultimate Chinese learning companion. Learn in a way that’s compelling, engaging and current. I highly recommend this resource, especially if you wish to really improve your reading and listening skills in a fun and contextual manner!

Happy National Day!

Beginner If you’re in China, then you’re celebrating “National Day” this week. Here are some words and phrase, from, s to describe National Day and what’s happening then:

Twitter: @chineseclass101

Say “ahhh”

Intermediate Don’t feel good? Need to go to the doctor in China? Here are some useful words and phrases that’ll help you get through your visit in Chinese:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese


Intermediate The word 烦 (fán) means to “annoy,” and can thus be of great use when dealing with anyone from salespeople to friends — either to tell them that they’re annoying you, or that you’re sorry for annoying them with your request:

So long, farewell

Beginner How do you say “goodbye” in Chinese? The simple answer is 再见(zài jiàn), but there are other words and phrases you can use, as well:

Twitter: @ninchanese

Biggest, best, lesson ever

Intermediate How can you say that something is the most, the biggest, the most extreme? This video from describes useful Chinese terms for this:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

Not too short, please

Intermediate I’ve never gotten a haircut in China — partly because I’m sure that I’ll say something wrong, and end up looking different than I want. Here’s a video with some useful haircut-related vocabulary that can come in handy, to ensure you get the look you want:

Twitter: @MandarinHQ

US elections

Advanced The US presidential election is in full force. Don’t depend on people in China for great political punditry, but this article includes some interesting reactions from Chinese citizens who watched the debate, and described their thoughts in Chinese:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Lucky and unlucky numbers

Intermediate If you visit China, you’ll quickly discover that people love the number 8, and hate the number 4. (On my first visit to China, my client very excitedly told me that their office was on the 8th floor.) Why do numbers have this significance, and what else should you know about it? has a video that’ll explain all:

Twitter: @LearnChineseNow

From all over

Intermediate How can you say “from everywhere” in Chinese? The phrase 五湖四海 (wǔ hú sì hǎi) is what you want:

Very convincing

Intermediate Are you sure about something? I mean, really sure? I mean, completely convinced? If so, then you are 心服口服 (xīn fú kǒu fú):

Simple dialogues

Beginner Here are some simple, two-sentence dialogues, along with questions, to test your reading ability and vocabulary:

Driving in China

Beginner It’s hard enough to cross the street in China; driving there takes true nerves of steel. As if that’s not enough, you need to know some Chinese words and phrases about driving:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Snakes with feet

Intermediate A children’s story about snakes and feet, from

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Using 在

Intermediate To newcomers to Chinese, zai (zài) can be confusing. That’s because it can be used in a number of ways, including as both a verb and as a preposition. This post and video give numerous, useful examples:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Movie words

Intermediate Want to see a movie? Want to make a movie? Here are some useful film-related terms in Chinese:

Twitter: @Chelsea_bubbly

Useful idioms

Intermediate As you become more fluent, you’ll want to express increasingly complex ideas using idioms. Here are several that you can already start to incorporate into your speech:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Learning via board games

Intermediate It’s often said that you can (should) surround yourself with as much Chinese as possible, to improve your fluency. Here’s an idea: Play board games in Chinese! You’ll not only have fun, but improve your language skills:

Twitter: @HackingChinese

What’s the point?

Intermediate How do you describe percentages, and/or the decimal point, in Chinese?

Character origins

Intermediate Chinese characters have evolved over time, and the history of their forms can be fascinating. Where can you learn about this history?

Using 当

Intermediate The character 当(dāng) can be used in a number of ways, and helps to make your sentences richer. Some examples:


Beginner How can you say that something tastes good in Chinese? Here are a variety of words and phrases that get this idea across:

Twitter: @chinese4us


Advanced What’s the best way to talk about surviving a natural disaster?


Advanced The verbs 喝 (hē) and 飲 (yǐn) both mean “to drink.” What’s the difference between them?

Traditional Chinese readers

Advanced Where can you find readers (i.e., books for learners) in traditional Chinese?