Mandarin Weekly #101

大家好! (Hi, everyone!) This is Mandarin Weekly #101, a free newsletter with links and information for those of us learning Chinese.

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How to use 了

One of the trickiest things for people learning Chinese is the use of 了, which describes a change in state — often associated with the “past tense” in other languages, but not quite. Here is an introduction to the use of 了:

Boiling water

Beginner How do you talk about boiling water in Chinese? It’s a bit more complex than you might think, as we see from this video from

Twitter: @ChinesePod


Intermediate The character 变 (biàn) refers to change, and is a part of many words that have to do with changes:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

Basic Mandarin mistakes

Beginner If you’re an English speaker learning Chinese, then you have likely made some or all of the mistakes described here. Fortunately, the explanations are simple and the remedies simple, too:

Better listening

One of the most challenging parts of learning Chinese is learning to understand people speaking. Between the high (natural) speed, the accents, and the tones, it’s often hard to understand what people are saying. Here are some hints for improving your listening comprehension:

Twitter: @FluentU

Touring Nanjing

The city of Nanjing offers a number of important and interesting historical sites, as well as some breathtaking natural beauty; I traveled there in 2015, and enjoyed it a great deal. Here is some information about what to see in Nanjing, including the characters and names for those locations:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Separable words: A uniquely Chinese kind of verb

Intermediate Some verbs are “separable,” meaning that they consist of a verb and a noun, and work differently from other verbs. How can you identify such verbs, and then use them? This in-depth article explains:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

Top Internet keywords

Intermediate Which Internet keywords were hottest in 2016? Which trends and slang terms continued to be used online? Here are a number of them, as collected by the World of Chinese magazine:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

I get it

Beginner When you fail to understand someone’s spoken Chinese, what do you tell them? Here are some ways to respond (and not), and then a discussion of the word 意思 (yì si), which can be useful in such cases:

Loanwords in Chinese

Intermediate Every language borrows words from other languages, and Chinese is no exception. But of course, those borrowed words in Chinese can sometimes seem a bit foreign:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

No tricks!

Intermediate Planning to play a mean trick on someone? Or deny that you have intentions of doing so? Talk about it in Chinese, by mentioning 搞小动作 (gǎo xiǎo dòng zuò):

Twitter: @eputonghua

The ant and the dove

Beginner A simple story, told with characters and pinyin by, about an ant and a dove:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

Princess Wei Young theme song

Beginner Princess Wei Young (锦绣未央) is a historical drama on Chinese television that started running last month. Here is the theme song from that series, with characters, pinyin, and translation:

Twitter: @ChineseToLearn


Beginner How can you ask someone to speed up what they’re doing?  Here are some good phrases to help you out?

Twitter: @eputonghua

Study habits

How do you study Chinese? For how long each day or week, and using what system? In this discussion, students of Chinese compared notes, technologies, and techniques:


Beginner The word 的 (de) is used for possession, but also for description. Many times, however, you’ll find that it’s dropped from places where you might think it should be. When and why is that allowed?

Slowly but surely

Beginner How can you differentiate between “slowly” and “gradually” in Chinese? As in English, there are two different words:

Eaten yet?

Beginner A common greeting in Chinese involves asking whether the other person has eaten. This actually has nothing to do with eating, which strikes many Westerners as strange. When did this become a standard greeting in Chinese?

Doing better

Beginner How can you say that something is much better?

Also published on Medium.

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