Chinese Characters Explained (2) Ones That Represent Meanings

In the first part of these new series explaining Chinese characters in detail, I talked about Chinese characters that look like things. The second major type of Chinese characters are what I call 'ones that represent ideas'. These characters are not pictures of things. Instead, they represent concepts such as 'up' or 'down', 'middle' or so on. These characters are sometimes also called 'ideograms' or 指事字 zhǐ shì zì. Here are some examples of Chinese characters that represent ideas: 上 Continue Reading

Learn Chinese Through Songs #17 – Listen to the Sea

This song Listen to the Sea (听海) by Taiwanese singer Zhang Huimei (张惠妹) is about somebody suffering from a break-up and who is waiting to hear from their lover, against the backdrop of the sea. It's a popular karaoke classic, and Zhang was also once a judge on the reality TV show - the Voice of China. Here is the video with the full lyrics and translation! xiě xìn gàosu wǒ jīntiān 写信告诉我今天 Write me a letter to tell me hǎi shì shénme yánsè 还是什么颜色 What colour the sea is yèyè péizhe nǐ Continue Reading

Chinese Character Bites – #16 – 国

Our character for today is 国 Simplified Chinese character: 国 Traditional Chinese character: 國 (The simplified character has 玉 inside, whereas the traditional character has 或 inside) Pronunciation: This character is pronounced guó in the 2nd tone.   What it means: 国 means country or kingdom. It's used in a lot of words for countries, such as 美国 měiguó - America and 中国 zhōngguó - China (the middle kingdom) Let’s break it down: The simplified character is 国, which Continue Reading

The essential Chinese character components that you should learn first (Part III)

In Part I and Part II, I introduced some of the top Chinese radicals and some key examples of how they are used. In this part, I'm going to finish off our quick tour of the components of Chinese characters that often indicate an area of meaning. Sure, there are other radicals, but many of them are more difficult to explain in terms of how they affect the meaning of a character. Others, like 十, which is a cross and卩 (seal?) are much more abstract, and it doesn't really make that much sense Continue Reading

The essential Chinese character components that you should learn first (Part II)

In the first part of this series, I introduced some of the basic components of Chinese characters that often indicate meaning. In this part, I'm going to continue with some more of the essential radicals that every learner should know. Let's get stuck in. Animals 犭this component is a variation of the character for dog. You'll always see it on the left hand side of a character, and it is used in a number of characters for animals, such as 猪 (pig) 狗 (dog) 猫 (cat) 狼 (wolf) and also in 猛 Continue Reading

Break Through Chinese Pronunciation 16 – The Q and Ch sounds

Hi everybody this is Chris, for part 16 of Break Through Chinese Pronunciation, the video series that helps you to improve and tune up your Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and tones. In this video we're looking at the 'Q' and 'Ch' sounds in Mandarin Chinese. The Q in Pinyin is another sound that doesn’t exist in English, so it’s misleading to say it is LIKE anything in English. It is most similar to the English Ch, but again, the position of the tongue is different. When you say the Continue Reading

Break Through Chinese Pronunciation 13 – The Pinyin ‘r’

Hi everybody this is Chris, for part 13 of Break Through Chinese Pronunciation, the video series that helps you to tune up your Mandarin Chinese pronunciation and tones. In this video we're looking at the 'r' sound in Mandarin Chinese. The r in pinyin is actually completely different from the ‘r’ in English, so it's quite confusing that it is written like that. A lot of beginner learners will just pronounce it like the 'r' in UK or American English, and while native speakers can usually Continue Reading

How to remember the tones in Chinese, forever

If you're just getting into Chinese, one of the first things you'll hear about are the tones. And it makes sense, because 'tones' are one of the most essential and distinctive parts of Mandarin. Mandarin actually has fewer sounds than many other languages, and so the language 'makes up' for that by having four different ways in which you can pronounce any given syllable. There are also some syllables which are unstressed. They are always the second or third syllable of a word and they Continue Reading

3 things you need to master Chinese

Everybody has their own methods of learning a language, but we can talk about some general principles to guide your language study, however you like to study. I've identified 3 crucial things you need in order to learn a language to a high level. 1. A lot of input - both listening and reading To put this simply: the language has to be in you in order to come out of you, therefore you will need as much exposure to the language as possible in order to learn key vocabulary and Continue Reading

How ‘talking to yourself’ can boost your ability to speak a language

One exercise you can do to build up fluency in Chinese is practising on your own by grabbing a voice recorder or your phone, and recording yourself talking about different topics. It may sound strange to 'talk to yourself,' but it gives you a great 'controlled environment' to make mistakes and get more disciplined at speaking for longer, even if you don't have native speakers of the language around you who you can practise with. It's a great exercise to choose a different topic each time Continue Reading