Mandarin Weekly (每周中文) #119, with 20 resources to improve your Chinese

Hi, there! This is Mandarin Weekly #119, a free newsletter read by more than 16,000 students of Chinese around the world.

If you enjoy Mandarin Weekly, please share it with others. And don’t forget to take advantage of our list of discounts for students of Chinese.

To receive Mandarin Weekly every Monday, sign up Every Tuesday, we go up on Facebook, at, Medium, at, and Twitter, at @MandarinWeekly.  Please like, share, and retweet us!

If you offer products or services aimed at students of Chinese, and want to sponsor one or more issues, then please contact Reuven at

Traditional characters

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:

Twitter: @WrittenChinese

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?

Twitter: @HackingChinese

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:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

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:

Twitter: @DigMandarin

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:

Twitter: @ChinesePod

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:

Twitter: @WorldOfChinese

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?

Twitter: @FluentU

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:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

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:

Twitter: @ChineseLanguage

Learning Chinese

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:

Twitter: @ECLSchool

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:

Nonstop chatter

Intermediate How can you say that someone is talking nonstop? How about 喋喋不休 (dié dié bù xiū):

Twitter: @eputonghua

Dinner party

Beginner A short story about a dinner party and making conversation:

Twitter: @imandarinpod

Classic literature

Advanced A short conversation about some of China’s most famous literary works:

Twitter: @imandarinpod

What could have been

Intermediate How can you construct a sentence in Chinese that talks about what could have been, or would have been?

Anyone? Someone?

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?

Also published on Medium.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *