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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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One Car in Flames and An Army of Ten Thousand Keyboards – The Anatomy of a Chinese PR Disaster

It was a very hazy and smoggy day in Beijing, seemingly just like any other. I was just sitting in my office in the middle of the city, doing a bit of light editing work. A couple of reports about small middle class issues, cooperation between Mainland China and Taiwan, and a bit of finger-pointing […]

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Why it’s easy to learn Chinese

When I say that it’s easy to learn Chinese, I don’t mean that you can become fluent in a few weeks or without effort, but that getting to a functional level reading and speaking Mandarin Chinese is in fact fairly straight-forward. Let me explain why. Learning to speak Firstly, Chinese is simply a set of […]

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How to get past a beginner / intermediate level in Chinese

I got an email a couple of days ago from a blog reader who wrote “I watched your video where you spoke Chinese and would say I understood about 75% of it, however I know I would have no chance of replicating it if asked to speak.  How often have you encountered people like me […]

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101 Reasons Why Learning Chinese Is Easy

Is learning Chinese hard? An age-old debate among language learners is whether Chinese is exponentially more difficult to learn than other languages. Here are 101 reasons why it is easy to learn to understand, speak, read and write Mandarin Chinese, why there are actually a lot of things in your favour and how there are […]

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