Why don’t we understand China?

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Why does the West still understand so little about China?

China and the West were historically very closed off from each other. China was largely self-sufficient and didn’t trade with distant nations. It was difficult for foreigners to enter the country and exchanges were few. These days, there are dozens of flights in and out of China every day, billions of pounds worth of business between China and Europe and the US, and information travels out of China fairly freely. So why do so many people in the West have only a basic understanding of China, Continue Reading

The Basic Strokes Used in All Chinese Characters

Types of Strokes This post is the first in a new series about how to learn to write Chinese characters. I'm not concentrating on simplified or traditional characters here, I'm just talking about the basic principles. Let's start right from the beginning. Each Chinese character is made up of different strokes. A stroke means a stroke of the pen. In other words, every time you lift up your pen and start to write again, you are starting a new stroke. Because you are writing strokes, you are Continue Reading

Anki – An Easy Way to Learn Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

Readers of this blog will know that I have studied multiple foreign languages, and one of the key concepts behind my approach to using language is utilising technology. One of the biggest ways I use technology during my language learning is by using flashcard software to get vocabulary to stick. The piece of software I use and that I would recommend to others is called Anki , which is available for both PC and Mac as well as iOS and Android. First go to the Anki website, click download and Continue Reading

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

'How long does it take to learn to speak fluent Chinese?' As somebody who has been studying Chinese for more than six years, this is a question that I am often asked. People often expect the answer to be 'a lot longer than for European languages', as Chinese is often perceived as a more ‘difficult language’. For a European or American learning the language, Chinese does indeed present more of a challenge that learning a different European language. Chinese is very different to these languages, Continue Reading

Why did I make a ‘British Westerner Speaking Fluent Mandarin Chinese’ video?

Why did I post a video of myself speaking 'fluent Chinese'? Some people will say I wanted to show off, some people will say I wanted people to pay attention, some people will be impressed, and as always there will be naysayers and critics. The video is far from perfect, there are going to be a few mistakes in tones, some expressions which don't sound authentic and so on. If I waited until I thought I could make a 'perfect' video, then it would probably never get done. I have been asked Continue Reading

How to Look Up Chinese Characters or Words Using a Smartphone App

This is a great little tip that I want to share with everybody. Smartphones are becoming great tools for organisation, learning and study. There are many different applications available for learning languages and many for Chinese. Pleco, however, is one of the best tools available for Chinese learners. It is a dictionary, a text reader and a flashcard tool. Pleco is available for iPhone / iPod Touch and iPad, as well as Android (so it works on my Samsung phone too). I have used this bit of Continue Reading


Welcome to fluentinmandarin.com – The Website for Learners of Mandarin Chinese This website has two purposes: 1) It is a blog, providing tips and helpful materials for learning Chinese, as well as the stories and experiences of those learning the language. 2) I have developed my own materials for learning Mandarin Chinese that I will present on this website. You can find more about my first project – Survive in Chinese – by clicking the link above. My aim is to make this the most Continue Reading