Beginner Mandarin Chinese Lesson 4

In this 4th lesson we get you started on verbs. Verbs are easy in Mandarin since there is no conjugation involved. You’ll get a dialogue at the end to tie everything together. Have a fun!

Beginner Mandarin Chinese Lesson 2

Hello, I am back with our second lesson in this beginning Mandarin series. Don’t forget to download chapter 1 of “Chit-Chat Chinese” here.



My Favorite Polyglot Bloggers to Follow

#1 Fluent in 3 Months 

I am not a fan of this blog’s title (more on that in another post), but am a fan of the blog itself. It’s written by a plucky Irish fellowBlog1 who travels the world every three months taking on a new language or language project. It’s the kind of exhausting endeavor I would never take on myself, but makes for a super entertaining read, all while providing morsels of language-learning tips and advice.

Good place to start: Language Hacks 



#2 The Linguist

The polyglot behind this blog, Steve Kaufman, is the real deal. No inflated claims or snake oil here; he offers up rock solid blog steveadvice on how to learn a language to mastery, something he has done with 9+ languages. He also created a language learning site called Lingq that has loads of authentic content with audio. You can also find lots of advice from him on YouTube.

Good place to start:  Home page 


#3 Speaking Fluently

Like Kaufman, this blogger (Richard Simcott) is a language tour-de-force. He is not quite as prolific as Kaufman in the blogging Blog polyglotdepartment, but still offers up great advice as he tackles yet another language. He sets realistic goals and lets the readers in on the nitty-gritty of how he is learning. He hasn’t written much lately on his website but continues to post on Speaking Fluently’s Facebook page.

Good place to start:  Language Learning Tips 


#4 I Will Teach You a Language  

This blog is about how to take control of your own language 28cab4631ecdcb1c5a17771894525a84_olly_main_photolearning and get results. Olly Richards is a polyglot, currently living in Cairo and learning Egyptian Arabic. The best thing about this site is its specificity. He breaks down the learning process, learning tools, online resources and other approaches to study in great detail so learners can benefit from what he has tried and seen that works.

Good place to start: Home Page


#5 Language Tsar

Conor Clyne is a polyglot who lives and works all around theblog tsar world picking up new languages as he goes. He is useful to follow since he is always testing out and reviewing online learning resources and handing out advice on what has worked for him. He frequently posts videos of himself interviewing popular online polyglots to get their advice and tips.

Good place to start: Learning Tips from Polyglots  


#6 Lingoholic 

This site is chock-full of great language learning resources and blog lingoholicadvice. Everything from “How to Turn your Facebook Feed into a Language Learning Machine” to “The Top Five Free Tools to Help You Learn a Foreign Language”. Each post is well researched with an eye on providing the reader with solid, practical resources.

Good place to start: Home Page 


#7 Polyglot Dream 

Luca seems to be everywhere in the polyglot blogosphere. He is widely admired for his Blog lucalanguage skills (9+ languages) and offers up lots of practical advice. This is a good site to go to for inspiration and to find out how someone takes so many languages to mastery.

Good place to start: Archives 



 #8 Learnlangs 

All right, I will admit it: I actually don’t follow this blogger. But I will.  It took some real digging around to find just one female polyglot who blogs. And this is the only one on my list so far. I gave her site a gander and it blog8looks like she has lot of interesting resources to share on general language learning and on the specific languages she studies. She also has an online learning Mandarin program in the works called, LearnYu, that looks great.

Good place to start: Online resources

So why are there so few female polyglots in the blogosphere? More on that in my next post…

Paralysis by Analysis

young man pulling funny face on white background

Paralysis by Analysis

Something dawned on me one day while saying goodbye back-to-back with one our particularly fussy students (who was having trouble learning) and then saying goodbye to a completely unfussy student (who was making great strides in her learning). I turned to our school director and said: “Have you ever noticed how the people who fuss around the least with their learning are the ones who are the most successful at actually learning?” It got me thinking about the habits involved that lead to success with language learning and those that don’t. It’s not what you would expect. Doesn’t it seem like the people who are detail oriented, careful and meticulous would be the good learners? They are the ones, after all, crossing all their t’s and dotting all their i’s. So what’s the deal?

It could be that the successful learners just do it; they don’t fuss around worrying about if their teacher is the best, if their books have the latest pedagogical methods, or what exactly is going to happen next in their program. They just show up for class, and do some studying outside of class. It’s that simple. They are not more intelligent, they are not better educated, nor do they naturally have some kind of gift for learning languages. They come in every shape and size, age, ethnicity and share just one thing in common: They don’t fuss around. So what is the rub with those prone to such a thing?

“Paralysis by analysis” I think is the answer. Maybe some people are so caught up in the “how” of learning that they never roll up their sleeves and get down to the business of actually learning.  Language learning can be scary, out-of-control business. Learning requires throwing oneself in and abandoning one’s ego, feeling like a stumbling toddler who lacks any of the cherub cuteness of an actual toddler. Learning foreign languages requires ceding control and trusting that the bumpy waters of learning eventually lead somewhere. It requires getting going and not overthinking the process. It doesn’t feel like it at some points, but you will get there, if you keep sailing ahead.

Take one of our students named Barbara.  She is a retired woman in San Francisco who had never learned a foreign language in her life (other than a bit of high school French decades ago). She came to our school to learn Mandarin, just for the heck of it. She takes lessons just once a week, she studies consistently outside of class and tries to never, ever miss a class. So, guess what…  three years later, she actually speaks Mandarin, and speaks quite well. She is a success story, from an unlikely demographic and someone with no pressing need to learn.

Now take Juliet, an educated young woman with a high powered job. She is married to a Russian man and has a strong desire and need to learn the language to communicate with his family. She did more than due diligence in vetting us as a school, asking to try two different teachers for her private lessons so she could pick the better of the two, ordering extra materials to be well geared up. But then there came the actual learning part. She cancelled many lessons since she hadn’t done her homework and she felt she wouldn’t “get the most” out of the lesson. She obsessed that the 3rd edition of the university textbook we were using wasn’t good enough because there was a 4th edition out there. She asked to switch teachers. There were many calls to the school to get advice and talk about her progress. But the thing is she never got down to the business of actually learning. Six months later she gave up convinced the conditions were not right for her to learn properly. She blamed the book; she blamed the teacher; she even blamed the husband.

Here is the thing: You can learn from any book, any teacher, any online program, anywhere and anytime. Yes, it’s great if any one or all of those are the “best” out there. But it won’t matter if you get in the way of yourself.

So you want to learn a language? Just do it. Pick a place (virtual is fine), choose a start date (sooner rather than later), attend your sessions religiously, and carve out a determined amount of time each week for studies. Don’t shoot for the stars (unless you have the money and time to become a full-time student in the country). Make a SMART plan: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound.

What would this look like for language learning? Here is an example:

Specific: I want to learn Spanish

Measurable: I want to become conversational at an upper beginner level

Achievable: 6 months is enough time to reach that goal in a non-immersion environment

Relevant: I choose Spanish because I live in a Spanish speaking neighborhood in San Francisco

Time Bound: I am going to join an online language challenge to make sure I reach my goals in time

How about you? Have you found success with learning? If so, how did you do it? Are you instead stuck and frustrated? What do you think is getting in your way? Post your complaints or success stories. Both are useful.

How to say “and” in Chinese: Part One

How to say “and”: Part One

Connecting words or phrases and clauses in Chinese is a tricky thing for learners. Teachers hear all the time students trying to force “hé” to serve the role that “and” would in English. Unfortunately, “hé” is only meant to connect nouns/pronouns and nothing else. The English “and” is a handy-dandy, multi-purpose word that can connect just about anything. It can even dangle in the air on it’s own when one is thinking of the next thought you want to connect as in “and, so…” And, so, westerners have a problem replacing this concept as we move beyond the beginner level in Mandarin and hope to string together more complex sentences. It is something I tackle in my textbook “Chit-Chat Chinese” (to be published by Far East Publishers in 2009) in two parts. (I also have a handy table I created with all the top connectors, but I can’t seem to upload it here). Here we go:

Conjunction Concept #1:

The “Skip It” Approach: Don’t use a conjunction at all

Here is a radical concept: In Chinese you can often just skip the “and” conjunction. Places where in English you are required to say “and” in Chinese you can often just skip. Here is how ‘skipping it’ works:

Example 1: 我爸爸妈妈去吃饭看电影。
Wǒ bàbamāma qù chī fàn kàn diànyǐng.
My father and mother are going out to eat and going to
the movies.

Example 2: 他不会看书不会写字。
Tā bú huì kàn shū bú huì xǐezi.
He doesn’t know how to read and doesn’t know how to write.

Conjunction Concept #2:

Use a popular conjunction to express “and”


Hé is commonly translated as “and”; however, it can only be used to connect pronouns, nouns and noun phrases. It may not be used to connect verbs, verb phrases and clauses, as you would be able to do with “and” in English.

Examples of how “hé” may be used

Tā bàba hé māma dōu shì měiguórén.
His mother and father are both American.

Tā huì shuō zhōngwén hé yīngwén.
He knows how to speak Chinese and English.

Example of how “hé” may not be used

 Wrong: Wǒ qù tā jiā hé chīfàn.
Wrong way to say “I go to his house and eat dinner”

To correct this simply use the “skip it” approach

√ Correct Wǒ qù tā jiā chīfàn.
I go to his house and eat dinner.

Conjunction Concept #3:

Use another popular onjunction to express “and”

You learned this conjunction in chapter 5 to mean “also have” (háiyǒu). It also can mean “and”

and, in addition, else, also have

Háiyǒu is similar to hé in that it is used to connect nouns; however, it is not commonly used to connect pronouns. Also, like hé, it may not be used to connect verbs and clauses. It has an additional use of expressing “and” as in the tag “And, what else?” or “And who else”:

Examples of how “háiyǒu” is used like “hé”

我有一个姐姐, 两个妹妹,还有一个弟弟。
Wǒ yoǔ yíge jiějie, liǎngge mèimei, háiyǒu yíge dìdi.
I have an older sister, two younger sisters and one younger brother.

Examples of “háiyǒu” expressing “And, (what else)…?”
Additionally háiyǒu may be colloqially used to express “And, what else?”, or simply “And?” as shown below:

Háiyǒu ne?
And (what else)?

Háiyǒu shéi?
And, who else?

Nǐ yǒu zhège háiyǒu shénme?
You have this and what else?

Conjunction Concept #4:

Use yě (also) to express “and”

The word “also” in Chinese can be used like the English conjunction “and”. This should be done to connect verbs and verb phrases only. Here are some examples:

Tā bù dǒng zhōngwén yě bù dǒng yīngwén.
He doesn’t understand Chinese and he doesn’t understand English.

Tāmen yào qù Běijīng xué zhōngwén yě yào qù shànghǎi wǎnr.
They want to go to Beijing to study Chinese and they want to go to Shanghai to have fun..

Summary –
Handy Rules of Thumb

• When in doubt just use nothing – you’ll often be right.
• When connecting pronouns at the beginning of a sentence use hé
• When listing things or people use hǎiyǒu

Stay tuned for Part 2!