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!

NEW Chinese Videos!

Nihao Chit-Chat Followers!

I am back and with a vengeance! I am beginning to create video lessons for learners, starting with this intermediate conversation lesson. Here I am chatting with a friend (all in Mandarin) about the Mandarin Meetup group I run in San Francisco.



YOUTUBE LESSON: What are Mandarin Meetups? (intermediate level)


VOCABULARY LIST AND FULL TRANSCRIPT included in each lesson (always pinned to the top of the comments in Youtube). Check it out and let me know what you think. Also taking theme suggestions. Go on send some my way!





My Favorite Vague Chinese Words: Part 2

#4 怎么样? zěnme yàng ?= “How’s it going?”; “How’d it go?”; “What’s it like?” “What’s happening?”; etc.
You probably have already come across this one. Very useful, very vague, and very multi-purpose. From “Wha’s up, yo?” to “How’d it all go?”. Find yourself unsure how to plug in a follow up question? No need to look further than“zěnmeyàng

Example: 纽约怎么样?
Niǔyuē zěnme yàng?
How’s New York?/ What’s New York like?

#5 不好意思 bù hǎo yìsi = “How embarrassing”; “Whoops, thanks”; “Oh thanks, I could have gotten that”, etc.
You drop something on the floor; someone is doing you a favor; you need help with something and it is obvious: These are all bù hǎo yìsi moments. Literally it is “not + good + meaning”, but its really used in moments we might say in English “oh, thanks”, or “ oh, I could have done that….”.

#6 随便 / 随便你 suíbiàn / suíbiàn nǐ = “It’s up to you”; “You decide”; “Whatever you want”
Don’t feel like ‘taking the bull by the horns’? I’ve got just the expression for you: suí biàn nǐ. Leave it up to the other person with this expression. It is as vague as it comes, litereally “casual + you”. You are

#7 无所谓 wúsuǒwèi = “It doesn’t matter to me”; “I don’t care”; “Either way is fine with me”
You don’t have much of an opinion about the matter; you’d like the questioner to make the decision; you simply don’t care which choice is made: These are all excellent wúsuǒwèi moments. Someone asks if you prefer to order a chicken dish or a beef dish, and either are fine with you, just simply answer wúsuǒwèi.

Stay tuned for Part 3…

My Top-Ten Favorite Vague Chinese Words – Part One

Vague words are awesome for language learners. Keep a few in your pocket and you can pull them out any time you’re in need of “beating around the bush”, or you simply can’t find the specific word in Mandarin. These same words native speakers also use to talk around a subject or get out of giving the details.

#1 有事 yǒu shì = to have some matters (to tend to)
Man, I love this word! You can use it for almost anything. You can’t make it to a party; you cancel an appointment; you want ‘out’ of doing something; any time is a good yǒushì time. In Chinese, this is a universally accepted vague answer:

Usage: Subject + yǒu shì.

Example Sentences:

对不起, 我不能来,因为我有事。
Duìbùqǐ, wǒ bù néng lái yīnwèi wǒ yǒu shì.
Sorry, I can’t come, because I’ve got something going on.

Wǒ xīngqīwǔ wǎnshàng bù xíng yīnwèi wǒ yǒu shì.
Friday night isn’t possible for me; I’ve got something going on.

#2 这样(子) Zhè yàng (zì) = like so, as such, in such a way, things like that
I remember the day I discovered the “zhè yàng” trick and have been a “zhè yàng zì” addict every since. It is so non-specific you can use it in many situations from responding vaguely to something someone said to showing somebody how to do something (without having to say the details):

The “like so” zhè yàng
Nǐ kěyǐ zhè yàng zuò.
You can do it like this.

The “In that a way” zhè yàng
哦, 结果你是这样做的。
O, jiěguǒ nǐ shì zhè yàng zuò de.
Oh, so in the end that’s the way you did it.

“oh, so that’s the way it is” Zhè yàng zì
(in response to something someone said)
Zhè yàng zì.
“Oh I see” / “So it was like that”/ “Ah that’s what happened”/ “So that’s the way it gonna be.”

“things like that” Zhè yàng
Zhè yàng de shìqing zhēn ràng rén shēngqì.
Things like that really can make a person angry.

“like that” Zhè yàng
Rú nǐ zhè yàng zuò wǒ bú huì bǎ nǐ dāng péngyǒu.
If you are going to do it like that, then I’m not going to be your friend.

#3 那个,那个 nà ge, nà ge = ummmm (expression to buy time while speaker thinks)

Need time to think because the Chinese isn’t flowing out of your mouth at the moment? Look no further. Just like our “ummmm” in English, this word can be repeated two or more times to show you are searching for the word or to not leave blank air time during your conversation.


他说他要请我吃饭, 然后带我去… 那个,那个,那个… 新的博物馆。
Tā shuō tā yào qǐng wǒ chīfàn , ránhòu dài wǒ qù … nàgè ,nàgè ,nàgè … xīn de
He said he wants to take me out to dinner, and then take me to that new, ummmm, museum.

More to come… stay tuned for Part Two

Does Chinese Suck?

If you are a learner of Chinese and have “hit” the proverbial “wall”, you may have wondered: “Does Chinese suck or am I the one who sucks?” Few things are more humbling than trying to learn Mandarin. Maybe you even have studied for a year or two, but when you open your mouth native speakers look at you as if you were speaking gobbly-gook. So what’s up with Chinese? Am I just stupid or is this language stupidly difficult? (One hilarious rant I read online about “Why Chinese is So Darn Hard” made me think of this topic. ).

First of all, let’s not pretend: Chinese is not easy, nor is there some fast method that will make you fluent. However, Chinese is also not impossible to learn, and really anyone can do it. You have to have patience and perseverance, but you WILL learn. You should pace yourself and organize your learning well. Expect to learn in stages (check out Sinosplice’s definition of the 5 stages of learning Mandarin “The Five Stages to Learning Chinese” ).

Learning Chinese is a bit of a good-news, bad-news affair. First the bad news:

• Tones: There are 4 main tones (one neutral), a pretty trippy concept to get used to.
• No Cognates: Other than kāfēi for “coffee”, or shāfā for “sofa”, you are on your own. No freebies here.
• Non-alphabetical language: Need I say more?
• Unusual Sounds: Mandarin contains some sounds difficult for learners to pronounce such as the reflexive zh-, ch-, sh-, or the ü umlaut sound, and many more.
• “Out There”: Chinese is “out there”; it is generally just really, really different from English.

Now for the good news:

• No Verb Tenses: Once you learn a verb you’ve learned all its forms: that being only one. No conjugation here.
• No Articles: No complicated articles as you might find in a European language.
• Simple grammar: Compared to Arabic, Japanese and even some European languages, the grammar is pretty bare bones.
• Logical: Chinese has always been Chinese, so the language fits together in a logical fashion with few exceptions. Once you are past the beginner stage, you will see how the morpheme pairs and the grammar all fit together beautifully.

Tell me the good and bad news from your learning. Stay tuned for tips on learning Mandarin.