Chinese Characters Explained (4) Meaning + Pronunciation Component

This is the 4th and final part of my new series explaining how Chinese characters work in depth. Part 1 was about Chinese characters that look like physical objects or animals. Part 2 was about Chinese characters that represent ideas. Part 3 was about characters that are a combination of two or more 'idea components' put together. And this time, I want to teach you about the most common type of Chinese characters out there: around 80-90% of characters work like this, so if you only read Continue Reading

Review of ‘Cantonese Conversations’

I’ve written about my interest in Cantonese on this blog before, and how I went about learning Cantonese, but it’s not a topic I normally talk about on this site very much: after all, Mandarin is the most widely spoken Chinese dialect and this site is called Fluent in Mandarin! However, Cantonese is what’s spoken in Hong Kong and Macao, so if you live there or you are interested in either of these two places, then Cantonese is what you will want to learn. Contrary to what people say, Continue Reading

Building Fluency in Chinese – A Review of Glossika

[Disclaimer: this post contains affiliate links] When I was learning Chinese, it was clear that just working through the beginners’ textbooks wasn’t going to be enough; I needed more practice to build up fluency. So, I devised all sorts of methods to force myself to get out of my comfort zone and start thinking in Chinese as much as possible: I thought up example dialogues in my head, and practised thinking of what I would say in different situations. I would try to interpret what friends Continue Reading

8 Things to Look For When Choosing a Chinese Teacher

Choosing a good Chinese teacher is one of the key factors that will determine whether you can be successful and persist in learning Chinese, or whether you just end up giving up or becoming demotivated. If you are in China or another Chinese speaking area, at first it can seem like you have an unlimited supply of teachers. After all, you are surrounded by native speakers, who could all potentially help you to learn their language. You might even get offers of help with your Chinese, in return Continue Reading

How do you write foreign or English names in Chinese?

If you’re on this site and reading this, you probably don’t need me to tell you that Chinese has no alphabet, but the writing system is instead made up of thousands of different characters. Each individual character has its own pronunciation, and corresponds to one syllable, if you are reading aloud. Chinese works in a different way to Japanese, because Japanese has two sets of syllabaries (almost like alphabets) in addition to individual characters, and one of the syllabaries, Katakana, Continue Reading

What to do when you feel that you can ‘barely understand anything’

Whatever language you’re learning, you’re always going to have times when your motivation is low and you feel pretty down. And one of the big causes of this is when you’re practising Chinese listening or you’re trying to have a conversation in the language and you just feel that you can ‘hardly understand anything.’ Have you been there before? I remember back in the day this used to happen to me quite often. In 2007, I went to Taiwan to study for a couple of months, after studying Continue Reading

14 of the best Chinese TV shows to improve your Mandarin

When I was studying Chinese at university I used to watch a fair number of Chinese TV shows, with the aim of improving my spoken Chinese and listening ability. It can be a pretty light-hearted way to keep the language going, even when you can’t face a full page of Chinese characters, or if you’re feeling tired and you’re not in the right frame of mind to practise speaking. When you first start watching Chinese TV shows, you may not be able to understand a lot, but it will give you exposure Continue Reading

15 of the best Chinese movies you won’t want to miss

Watching Chinese movies is a great way to relax if you're learning the language. It's also a great way to get more in tune with Chinese culture, and get into the rhythm of the language. BUT, it isn’t the most effective way to learn Chinese.. Chinese films can also be really hard to understand. The dialogue is often really fast, and there is often a mix of different accents and a lot of slang that beginners wouldn't normally learn. I found them really tough to understand for a long time, Continue Reading

Skritter Review – A Fun and Effective App to Learn to Write Chinese

To try the app out for yourself, follow this link, then click 'log in', then 'create an account' to sign up and get a 14 day free trial (instead of the usual 7 days), then download the app on your phone and log in. When I was studying Chinese at university, I was always also quick to catch on to any gadgets or new pieces of software that might be able to help me learn Chinese – especially reading and writing characters. I had various pieces of flashcard software, including Anki, which I Continue Reading

How to get your iPhone/iPad to read out Chinese texts

You might not know this, but all of the recent iPhone/ iPad and iPod Touch models (with iOS 6+) have a Mandarin and Cantonese text-to-speech function built in. Or to put it another way, you can highlight any section of text on the screen and have your device read aloud for you in standard Mandarin or Cantonese. You can get text read from any application, and you can even slow down the speech as you go so you can keep up and read along. For Chinese, there are three voices built in, a Continue Reading