10 of the most unusual English brand names in China

A light hearted post today. Since I came to Beijing this time, I have noticed changes in branding in China. I have seen just how many Chinese retail brands are on the rise and how many Chinese clothing and household shops can be seen in trendy shopping malls, alongside familiar Western brands. Brands in China are starting to use English names as well, but maybe not in the way that you might expect. Here I've compiled a Top 10 list of some of my favourite experimental 'English brand names' in Continue Reading

How persistence will get you to an expert level in Chinese

Yesterday, I published a guest post on 'Fluent in 3 Months', a language learning website that I have been a fan of for a long time. I am very grateful to Benny Lewis, the 'Irish Polyglot' for hosting me! Head to the homepage of his travel and language learning blog to find out more. Recently, a number of readers have asked me about what it was like when I first starting learning Chinese, when I started a university course in Chinese back in 2006. I have documented some of the challenges at Continue Reading

TV in China – What TV Stations and Shows Are Popular?

I have written already on how to watch Chinese TV online. Watching TV shows can be a great way to improve your language skills, increase your listening comprehension in a language or pick up the latest slang, all in a very relaxed way! It is worth saying that watching TV in China is a very popular pastime. Even when I am visiting friends in China, the TV often on. There are TVs in the buses, and in some taxis and public places. TV is everywhere. In this article I am concentrating on TV in Continue Reading

Should you learn simplified or traditional Chinese characters?

A common question I get asked by beginner Chinese learners is: should I learn simplified Chinese characters or traditional Chinese characters. Do I need to learn both? Should I learn one type first and then the other? Before I answer the question, let me start with some facts. 1. Simplified Chinese characters are mainly used in Mainland China, and also in some overseas Chinese communities. 2. Traditional Chinese characters are used in Hong Kong and Taiwan, they don't use simplified Continue Reading

How to Watch Chinese TV Online

Watching Chinese TV online is a great way of increasing your knowledge of China and improving your language skills at the same time. Learners who don’t have so much exposure to the language can watch Chinese TV to keep the language in their heads and make sure they don’t get rusty. Gone are the days when watching Chinese TV online was almost impossible abroad due to buffering and slow speeds. Online streaming services have improved a lot over the past year or so. Here are some websites that I Continue Reading

Can you learn a language just by living in the country?

Many people believe that they can learn a language or 'pick it up' simply by spending time in a place where it is spoken and being around the language all the time.  Is it possible to learn a language through ‘osmosis’ or through total immersion? The answer is both yes and no. Let’s look at the no part first. If you travel to a country with no basis in the language and make no effort to study the language actively, and just count on ‘picking it up’, then it is unlikely to be very Continue Reading

How To Read Chinese Texts Easily Using Software

Reading Chinese texts is a significant obstacle for any Chinese learner. Beginners will often have worked through a textbook that has introduced some characters, and they may be able to recognise or read a few. They may also have looked through flashcards to get to grips with basic characters. However, learners of any language often find that reading 'real texts' requires so much vocabulary than they have learned at the beginner level, and reading can often be slow or require a lot of looking up Continue Reading

Review of Beginner Mandarin Chinese Courses

I have mentioned that different courses are suitable for different people, and suit different study methods. I am developing my own course, Survive in Chinese, an intensive course for the independent language learner to gain a rapid foundation in Mandarin, however I often like to work through several beginners courses in detail, in order to build a solid base, revise key elements, and gain confidence in using the language. Here are some Mandarin courses that I like: FSI Chinese: A Modular Continue Reading

How to Learn to Speak Fluent Mandarin Chinese – Step 2

Laying a Solid Foundation in Chinese After you are familiar with Chinese pronunciation and how Mandarin is represented in the Roman alphabet using the Pinyin system, you are ready to start the core of your study. There are a number of beginner’s courses that you can use, and each has its strong and weak points. Different courses will be more suited to different people, and I will talk about some in another post. You might like to try a few out and see which one you like. However, at the Continue Reading