Mandarin Weekly #93

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

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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?

Also published on Medium.

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