Those Chinese characters that are really easy to get mixed up

Chinese characters are made up of components, which means that you just have to get used to writing the different radicals and parts. But sometimes, when different characters contain the same components, it can make things more confusing rather than easier.... Here are some of the characters that I have found the most 'confusing' characters. I'm explaining them here so you can identify the ones you might have seen, and prevent potential confusion in the future! Don't look at the Continue Reading

How I learnt Cantonese

I’ve received a couple of requests after I did the video on how I learnt Mandarin to talk about how I learnt Cantonese, so I’ll talk about that in this post. I’m interested in Chinese culture in general and a variety of dialects, not just Mandarin, but I wanted to concentrate on Mandarin first, because more people speak it than the other flavours of Chinese. Resources for English speakers At the beginning I used courses for English speakers, including Pimsleur Cantonese, which really Continue Reading

How I learnt Mandarin Chinese

This post is about how I learnt Mandarin Chinese and my own experience. Before I had even left school I had decided that I wanted to study Chinese and I was lucky enough to be accepted by the University of Cambridge to study Chinese full time. I had a few hours of Chinese classes every week, on top of learning about Chinese history and other aspects of Chinese culture, but this wasn’t the only thing I was doing to study Chinese. I also did a lot to boost my study outside classes, which I want to Continue Reading

How to read a Chinese menu (Part 2)

In this post, I’m going to introduce you to a few characters that you will see a lot that tell you how the dish is cooked. They all have the same part on the left 火 which means fire. You will see that in most of the characters for cooking methods. 炒 means stir-fried and is probably the most widespread cooking method for Chinese dishes. 爆means flash-fried 烤 means roasted or baked and 红烧 means braised or simmered in a dark soy sauce. It’s a popular way of cooking meat and fish. Here are a Continue Reading

How to read a Chinese menu (Part 1)

One thing that a lot of people learning Chinese want to know is how to order food and how to read a menu, but I’ve found that a lot of Chinese textbooks barely talk about food at all. If you’ve ever seen a menu that’s all in Chinese with no pictures and freaked out, then this video is for you. In the next couple of minutes, I’m going to teach you some basic things to help you start to find your way around a Chinese menu, and avoid any nasty surprises! The first thing to say is that in China, Continue Reading

How to use Chinese handwriting recognition on the iPhone/iPad

For iPhone / iPad users learning Chinese, it is possible to enter characters simply by writing them on the screen. You don't even have to write them exactly right, even if you get the stroke order wrong or it doesn't look pretty, the software can usually recognise what you write - and if you use this method to enter characters into a dictionary app like Pleco or a dictionary website like nciku, then it makes looking up characters much much easier than using a regular dictionary. Some apps Continue Reading

How to access the Chinese dictionary on the iPhone/iPad

Another great feature for Chinese learners which is built in to the iPhone is the dictionary. Sure, there are a number of dictionary apps that you can install that have much more advanced capabilities, but for the convenience of looking up words in any application, this is a useful feature! Ever use your phone to read websites or books in a foreign language, but find it impossible because there are too many words you don’t know? Now you can look up words as you go, and do a little reading Continue Reading

The History of China in Less than 20 Minutes

Learn the history of China in both English and Chinese, in under 20 minutes! If you can't see the subtitles, move your mouse over the video and click the 'CC' button at the bottom.   Update May 27, 2014 :   Chinese text added. Translation courtesy of  Wen Guo, Ed.M., University at Buffalo The Chinese often say that their country has a history of more than 5000 years. 中国人常说他们国家有五千多年的历史。 The exact length is open to interpretation, but the earliest archeological records Continue Reading

How to Learn Chinese Fast – My Best Way to Learn Mandarin

Here is my new resource for everybody: how to learn Chinese fast. In the video I  talk about three things. 1)       What resources do you need to study Chinese? 2)       How should you start to learn? 3)       How can you progress?   What resources do you need? A lot of people want to learn Chinese fast, but they pay too much attention to what books, CDs or software they start with, when the most important thing is always getting started. Still, my advice would be try to Continue Reading

Effective foreign language study: Active learning – part 2

This guest post comes from a reader of this blog, Semaj Richardson, who contacted me to express his thoughts about effective foreign language study from his own experiences. Semaj also runs, a website about language learning strategies and personal development. The post below is fact a follow-up to an article I wrote some time ago called Making Your Foreign Language Study Effective: Active Not Passive Learning - you might want to check it out first for some background Continue Reading