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Does everybody in China speak Mandarin?

Standard Mandarin is taught in every school in China. Children have to speak Mandarin at school, wherever they are in the country, even if they speak a local dialect at home. Also, almost all the radio and TV in China is in standard Mandarin. What’s more, both teachers and radio/TV presenters have to pass special […]

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Which first? Simplified or traditional Chinese characters?

This is a question which I get asked a lot. Very strictly speaking, it is more logical to see how traditional Chinese characters have been simplified than to start with the simplified versions then go back to the original characters. If you have an academic interest in Chinese then this may be a good strategy. […]

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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 livefluently.com, 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 […]

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How long does it take to learn to speak Chinese fluently?

I have been speaking Chinese for 7 years and this is one of the questions I get asked most. The simple answer is: it depends on how much effort you put into it. I’m not going to pretend that you can learn to speak Chinese fluently in a week, it does take time to get […]

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How many Chinese characters do you need to know?

A lot of people are put off learning Chinese because there are a large number of individual characters you have to get familiar with. The largest dictionaries in Chinese history contained almost 50,000 different single characters. The good news though, is that most of these characters are very rare, historical characters that are almost never […]

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Should you learn to speak Chinese before reading and writing?

This is another big question that I get asked. Often, when people start to learn Chinese it seems like a huge burden to learn to speak Chinese and to read and write characters at the same time. My advice is, if you are learning Mandarin, start your studies by learning Pinyin, which is the sounds […]

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Does Chinese have grammar?

It is a common perception from people who have never studied Chinese that because it uses individual characters instead of words that Chinese does not have grammar. Written Chinese is a standard language across all the dialects of Chinese. It has no singular and plural like English, it does not have tenses in the Western […]

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Learn Chinese Through Songs #19 – Friends

Friends (朋友), by Emil Chau (周华健). This song is a staple at karaoke bars across China. When I look at the lists of the most popular songs, this one is always on the list. I learned it because I heard it so many times at karaoke that I ended up picking it up. Emil Chau […]

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Learn Chinese Through Songs #20 – In My Song

In My Song (我的歌声里), by Qu Wanting (曲婉婷). This is a very passionate and emotional song, which has become very popular. Qu’s slightly husky voice gives the song a distinctive style, and it’s not too difficult to sing either. Like some of the other songs in this series, this song has become even more popular […]

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Learn Chinese Through Songs #18 – Mouse Loves Rice

Mouse Loves Rice (老鼠爱大米) by Yang Chengang (杨臣刚). This song is another favourite among Chinese learners. It’s also been reproduced across Asia in a number of different languages, including English (it really doesn’t work in English!) The music and the lyrics are sickly sweet, so it’s not exactly going to be a song you’re going […]

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