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All There is a long-standing debate over simplified vs. traditional Chinese characters, one which has political as well as linguistic dimensions. This post assumes that you’re learning simplified characters (as are used in mainland China), and wonder why anyone would learn traditional ones. There are numerous reasons, it turns out:
Two ways to learn
All What sort of listening should you do, in order to improve your fluency? There are two different approaches, “comprehension-based listening” and “deep-end immersion.” Which is right for you, and how should you go about using them?
Don’t play garlic
Intermediate Are you playing dumb, pretending not to understand? In Chinese, that would be 装蒜 (zhuāng suàn), as described here with examples and (of course) an origin story:
It’s off to work we go
Intermediate Do you work hard? Do you value hard work? If so (and even if not), then here are 12 traditional Chinese sayings about hard work:
Improving your tones
Beginner Tones are one of those aspects of Chinese that everyone knows they need to get right, but which are tricky for many non-native speakers. Here are some tone basics, as well as suggestions for how to learn and remember them:
Two words for “thing”
Beginner Why does Chinese have two words for “thing”? You can say 东西 (dōng xi) to mean “a tangible thing,” or 事 (shì) to mean “an intangible thing.” Here’s an introduction to the two, and the issues it can cause:
Online translation bakeoff
All Which online translation service can handle some Internet slang the best? An amusing look at the difficulties online translations can give:
Chinese immersion, from anywhere
All One of the best ways (if not the best) to get better at a language is to immerse yourself in it. How can you do that with Chinese? What resources are available to see, read, and hear Chinese all around you, even if you’re not in China?
Steve Jobs, the Chinese biography
Advances The story of Steve Jobs, in Chinese:
On the airplane
Beginner So, you’re flying to (or from) China! How can you communicate with the crew, as well as understand their announcements? Here’s a short guide to some common expressions:
At the airport
Beginner You’ve arrived at the airport in China. You can expect to be asked many questions — and you might have questions of your own, too! Here are some useful phrases to know, both to hear and speak, before you head off:
Beginner A short, graphical guide to learning Chinese in China — what to expect, how much you’ll pay, and what cities (and countries) you can/should visit:
Getting a Chinese cellphone
Beginner If you are planning to spend a long time in China, you’ll want a local cellphone plan. Here are some tips and vocabulary for doing so:
Should you take the HSK?
All The HSK (levels 1-6) is the standard test of Chinese given by the Chinese government. Many people work to pass the HSK, but is it worthwhile? Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t worry about it too much:
Intermediate How can you say that someone is talking nonstop? How about 喋喋不休 (dié dié bù xiū):
Beginner A short story about a dinner party and making conversation:
Advanced A short conversation about some of China’s most famous literary works:
What could have been
Intermediate How can you construct a sentence in Chinese that talks about what could have been, or would have been?
Intermediate How can you ask questions in Chinese using the equivalents of “somebody” and “anybody”?
Refrigerator vs. freezer
Intermediate If both “refrigerator” and “freezer” are translated into Chinese as 冰箱 (bīng xiāng), then how can you distinguish between them?