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5 Benefits of Learning a New Language

5 Benefits of Learning a New Language

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.” - Charlemagne

Learning a new language is an achievement anyone can be proud of and it’s exciting and beneficial at all ages. It offers many practical, intellectual and aspirational benefits. A wave of new research shows the incredible psychological benefits of learning a second language. These benefits extend far beyond being able to order a cup of coffee abroad or ask directions to your hotel.

1. Learning a Foreign Language Boosts Brain Power

Medical studies have shown the positive effect learning a second language has on the brain. A foreign language is a whole new system with distinct rules, etymology, and meaning, which are just a few of the complexities of a language. Learning a new one puts the brain to work by recognizing this new language structure. As the brain works out meaning and makes full use of this new arsenal to express ideas, it sharpens its reading, negotiation, and problem-solving skills. The fact is, language centers in the brain actually grow in the process of learning a second language.

Boost your brain power!

2. Stave off Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Knowing a second language can postpone the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 4.5 years. This is significantly better than the best Alzheimer’s drugs, which can only delay symptoms by 6-12 months. Brain scans have found a noticeable difference in the brain activity of bilingual seniors. Their brains work much more efficiently, more like those of young adults. Scientists believe these seniors’ brains have more reserve brain power that helps compensate for age-related memory loss.

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3. Improved First Language

As we go about our everyday lives, we rarely give a second thought to our own grammatical structure and vocabulary. However, when learning a new language, many people find they have a greater understanding of their first language. Learning a foreign language draws your focus to the mechanics of language: grammar, conjugations, and sentence structure. This makes you more aware of language, and the ways it can be structured and manipulated. These skills can make you a more effective communicator and a sharper editor and writer.

4. Boost Your Memory

We know that people who speak more than one language fluently have better memories and are more cognitively creative and mentally flexible than people who are monolingual. The more the brain is used, the better its functions work. Learning a new language structure entails becoming familiar with vocabulary and rules, and applying this memorized information to communication. This strengthens your memory because your brain’s ability to associate information with mnemonics has been boosted, and it is better at retaining information.

5. Improve Understanding of the World

A language is a doorway to a particular culture. Learning a new language enables a person to have a broader understanding of that culture. You will have access to a whole new array of film, music, and literature, and a greater understanding of the history and culture of the nation – and ultimately, a better understanding of the way the world works, including politics and international relations. You will be able to connect through books, TV, and the Internet and converse with a whole country’s worth of people, which broadens your horizons, interests, and views. A whole new world will be open to you.

Click here to learn new and unique Chinese vocabulary and phrases with FREE Vocabulary Lists!

Open up to a while new world.

Top 5 Mistakes to Avoid for Chinese Learners

Hey everyone today we are going to show some common mistakes that Chinese learners make so that you guys know what to look out for!

Common Error #1:
Incorrect word order when forming questions:
English speakers tend to use English word order when forming questions with question words. In English, the question word comes at the beginning of the sentence. In Chinese the question word comes at the end of the sentence.

Common Error #2:
Making verbs past tense:
getting the particles 了 and 过 mixed up. Put in a simple way, 了 is used for a completed action. 过 is used to indicate previous experience.

Common Error #3:
Negating verbs:
Getting the 不 and the 没 mixed up. Put in a simple way, the 不 is used to negate action verbs in present, future, or when speaking about habitual actions. 没 is used when the action either did not happen, or isn’t complete yet.

Common Error #4:
In an attempt to be polite, using too many words:
A lot of Chinese learners, in an attempt to translate what is polite in their own language end up adding too many words to their sentences, confusing the people that are listening. One tip we have is to Listen to how a Chinese person who is learning English tends to speak and try to follow that pattern in Chinese.

Common Error #5:
Being so afraid about having a standard accent or the correct tones:
Some beginners are too afraid to speak because they are afraid of making mistakes, but the best way to fix this is by practicing! Chinese is a hard language so don’t be afraid to make mistakes! You will improve!

We would love to hear your stories and any other mistakes that you guys think are common for students of Chinese! Feel free to leave us a comment and share!

Top 5 Tools for Learning Chinese

Today we are going to give you our top 5 recomended tools to help you with mastering Chinese.
1.ABC Dictionary by John DeFrancis

This is a great pinyin dictionary with great definitions and easy lookup system

2. Adsotrans

This is a really good online super-dictionary, found at www.adsotrans.com. Just paste in any Chinese text and let Adso analyze it. Mouse over the results to see what the words mean in English, and how to pronounce them. There are numerous other features that come with this dictionary as well. Check it out!

3. Chinese Pera-kun

A firefox plug-in that lets you get translation for Chinese text by putting your mouse over the word.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3349

4. Flashcards

Try our flashcards on the site, chineseclass101.com. Simply add words from any of our lessons to your word bank, then go to the flashcards tab and they will be automatically populated for you.

5. Google’s Character Writing Software

Use pinyin to input Chinese characters. Google’s intuitive software will predict what words you want to use, and will allow you to string along sentences.
http://www.google.com/ime/pinyin/

6. Pinyin Chart

Come to www.chineseclass101.com and use our pinyin chart with audio for each of the sounds of Chinese to familiarize yourself with the pronunciation of pinyin as well as to perfect you own pronunciation.

Ok, I know we said top 5, but we thought all 6 of these products were so good we would include them all! If you guys have anymore ideas please leave a comment and let us know!

Chinese Society

Hey everyone, today we are going to be discussing the social structure of China.

Beijing

Beijing is also a city of contrasts.  The political, educational and cultural center of China, the history of Beijing can be traced back over 3,000 years.  With such historical relics as the Forbidden City, the Ming Tombs, and the Great Wall in close proximity, Beijing is a place one can get in touch with the China of old.  However, with the recent economic progress and the frenzy of new construction and infrastructure for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing is now a changed city.

Family Life

Introduction: Families in China are generally still quite traditional, and the family is a focal point of life. Most holidays center around family gatherings and meals, and filial piety is an important and still is a very valid part of Chinese society.  In many cases, adult Chinese children will live with their parents (if their parents live in the same city), with the parents aiding them with household duties such as cooking and parenting.  Thus, though China is modernizing very quickly, traditional family values are still very strong.

Work Culture and Economy

Introduction: China’s economy is ranked number 3 in the world and is strong in manufacturing, being called by some ‘the world’s workshop’.   Almost every major multi-national company not only has an office in China; they deem China as vital to their global corporate strategies.  Though foreign companies account for a lot of business in China, the State-owned companies continued to dominate the list of the biggest companies in China, taking the top ten spots. Some well known multinational companies in China are Boeing, Volkswagon, Microsoft and Nokia.

This is just some of examples of what Chinese society is really like today! Be sure to explore more about this society to understand it more!

Chinese Cuisine part 2

Last week we discussed the basics of Chinese cuisine, well this week we are back to talk about our favorite subject some more, food! This week we will be discussing dishes we strongly recomend, and some other dishes that we recomend for the brave!

Top Chinese Foods to Try

  • 小 籠包 (xiǎolóngbāo) - Probably the most famous Shanghai dish: these small steamed dumplings are steamed in a basket and stuffed with meat and a tasty broth inside. The connoisseur bites a little hole into them first, sips the broth, then dips them in dark vinegar (醋 cu) to season the meat inside.
  • 油条 (yóutiáo) lit. oil stick - Long, deep-fried donut. A very popular breakfast in China. Typically consumed in the morning with soy milk (dou jiang 豆浆), the youtiao is a long, deep-fried stick of dough.
  • 羊肉串 (yángròu chuàn) Barbecued meat skewers (Typically from street vendors) - Generally made from lamb, these Xinjiang-style meat kebabs are delicious.
  • 拉面 (lāmiàn) Lanzhou-style lamian - Fresh hand-pulled noodles; look for a tiny restaurants with staff in Muslim dress. These fresh noodles have a flavor very atypical of most noodle dishes you will find in China.
  • 点 心 (diǎnxīn) Cantonese / Guangzhou / Hong Kong-style Dim Sum - The small snacks usually eaten for lunch/breakfast in these southern regions of China and in Hong Kong are a highlight.

Top 5 Chinese Foods for the Brave

  • Stinky Tofu - Locals will forever be asking you if you’ve tried this fermented tofu specialty, so you might as well cave and do the deed. Think ‘french cheese’ rather than ’smelly socks’ and you just might enjoy it.
  • Century Eggs - They’re not really a century old, though they do look it. Black, gelatinous, strong salty flavor… these delicacies are preserved in salt and ash for 100 days.
  • Drunken shrimp - Shrimp marinated live, and served live. Watch out for the splashing wine. You eat them after they drown.
  • Seahorse - Though it feels somehow wrong on many levels to eat cute animals that feature in Disney cartoons, at least you’ll have something to write home about.
  • Bird’s Nest Soup - Don’t let the saliva base of this broth turn you off from this healthful aphrodisiac.

Chinese Cuisine part 1

The focus of this lesson was to teach about Chinese cuisine
Basics of Chinese Cuisine

  • Many people are surprised on their arrival in China to find that what they thought was Chinese food is nowhere to be found.
  • Another challenge is that the names of Chinese dishes, even in Chinese, can be very cryptic, making ordering a challenge, even if you find a menu with English translations. Chinese dish names are generally completely irrelevant to the ingredients.
  • Rice is generally a staple of the south, with noodles featuring in as well.
  • Northern China features dishes made with wheat flour, such as noodles, dumplings, steamed buns, and thin pancakes.
  • Where meat is often the focal point of many western meals, it is the starch-rice or noodle-that is the starting point and palette for Chinese meals.

Regional Cuisines

  • There are 8 main regional cuisines in China; the flavors vary from hot and spicy, to sweet and oily, even pungent and sour.
  • The main cooking methods employed are stir-frying, deep-frying, steaming and stewing.
  • Chinese kitchens rarely have an oven, though there are various specialties that are roasted.

Famous Seasonal Dishes

  • The Hairy Crab of Shanghai comes into season in October/November. A local delicacy that is exported around the country and beyond. One of the most savored parts of the hairy crab are the sperm in the males, and the eggs in the females.
  • Hot pot is a warming food that is popular in the winter. A large pot of broth is set to boil, and the diners cook their own meats, vegetables and seafood by boiling them in the soup.
  • In mid-to-late September, the mid-autumn festival is celebrated. Mooncakes are ubiquitous at this time of year, and are gifted and re-gifted amongst friends, relatives and from employers to employees.
    • Mooncakes are round, like the moon, and have a pastry-like crust with a flavored filling; from lotus paste to sweet red bean; even salty egg yolks.

Table Etiquette

  • Chinese food is generally prepared in bite-sized pieces that can easily be picked up with chopsticks. A knife at the table is considered barbaric.
  • It is a demonstration of utmost hospitality and respect for the host to dish food onto his guest’s plate. Often, this will be done repeatedly, despite futile pleads on the eater’s part to being full.
  • It is fine to leave some food in one’s plate, as if one cleans the plate, it is a signal to the host to put more food onto it!
  • In China, dishes are served communally, and there are no serving spoons. The diners all use their own chopsticks to dip into the dishes.
  • Never stab your chopsticks into your rice bowl and leave them there. This is the worst of all Chinese dining faux pas, as it is related to a funeral tradition.

Food as Medicine

  • From bird’s nest soup to deer antlers, Chinese food therapy dates back as early as 2000 BC.

Well thats all we have for today! What is the most unique Chinese food you have ever eaten? Please leave us a comment and let us know!

Top 5 MUST-Know Chinese Phrases

The following are 5 essential phrases guaranteed to be the best thing you ever learned in Chinese!

谢谢 (xièxie)  “Thanks.” The Chinese aren’t big on ‘please’, but they love thank you so much that they’ll often hit you with a barrage of it, ‘xiexiexiexiexiexiexiexie’.

听 不懂 (tīngbùdǒng) “I don’t understand what you are saying.” This phrase is going to be your best friend, go-to and solace.

你好 (nǐhǎo) “hello” If you don’t know it yet, we don’t know where you’ve been.

不 知道 (bù zhīdào) “I don’t know.” You may hear this phrase more than use it, however learn from the Chinese how to bu zhidao every situation you wish to evade, play dumb about, or avoid.

不好意思 (bùhǎoyìsi) “Sorry.”  Buhaoyisi literally means ‘bad feeling’, and can be used to apologize to all the dainty toes your oversized foreign feet will step on in the crowded subway, to repent over some cultural faux pas you likely don’t know you’ve committed, or to just curry favor, in general.

让 一下 (ràng yīxià) “Let me through.”  Buhaoyisi’s slightly stronger cousin. Use this when you’re trapped in a subway car and can’t get out, or stymied in your efforts to crowd-worm through a city of 18 million people.

We know we said top 5 phrases but all of these words are so important and usefull, we thought we would include all 6!

Learning Chinese Pronunciation Part 2

There are only six vowels used in pinyin, but they are combined to produce a lot of different sounds. we have a pinyin chart with clickable mp3 records of each of the sounds, to aid you in perfecting the pronunciation in the full lesson on ChineseClass101.com.

One of the more difficult Chinese vowel is the ‘u’ vowel sound. This ‘u’ sound is quite a nasal sound. It is said to be similar to the French ‘u’ and is made by pronouncing an ‘i’ when rounding the mouth.

Chinese has four different tones they are, five including the neutral tone:

  • The first tone is high and steady: ‘mā’
  • The second tone is a rising tone: ‘má’ and has intonation similar that that used in English to indicate a question, i.e. ‘huh?’
  • The third tone dips down slightly in the middle: ‘mǎ’. You can feel a slight vibration at the base of your throat when you are doing it correctly.
  • The fourth tone is falling, and falling fast. Sounds slightly angrier than the rest. ‘mà’.
  • Then we have the Switzerland of tones, being the neutral tone. Which is a relief, because it’s just… well. Neutral. No tone. ‘ma’.

There are some special circumstances that occur with certain combinations of tones that are together in a compound word or sentence. When two or more third tone characters occur in a row, the last of these remains a third tone, while the one(s) before it change to the second tone. If there are more than two third tones in a row, the final third tone in each series
remains a third tone, while the rest become 2nd tone.

Learning Chinese Pronunciation Part 1

The focus of this lesson is to learn about Chinese pronunciation.

Each Chinese character can be said to be a syllable. These syllables can be a stand-alone word, or they can be grouped together to make compound words. Each syllable, or character, in Chinese is made up of an initial and a final sound. These intials and finals can be combined to make up around 400 unique word sounds in Chinese.

Chinese uses a phonetic system called ‘pinyin’ to aid learners of Chinese in pronunciation. This pinyin uses Romanized letters to represent the sounds of Chinese. There are 21 initials in Chinese. This is the sound the word starts with. There are about 38 combinations of final sounds.

Some of the letters used to represent the sounds of Chinese are similar in pronunciation to their English counterparts. However there are some that are different. The ones that give some people trouble sometimes are as follows:

Z - the difference with the english ‘z’ is that this sound is made with your tongue touching the back of your upper teeth. This results in a more ‘dz’ sound.

C - sometimes confused with the ‘z’ sound, the ‘c’ is aspirated whereas the ‘z’ is not. Aspirated means that you let air out when producing this sound.

Zh -to make this sound the tip of the tongue is raised against the back of the gum ridge. It has a similar sound to the English ‘j’, but the retroflexive nature makes it much thicker.

CH - is similar to the English ‘Ch’ however the tip of the tongue is raised against the back of the gum ridge, as it is in the ‘zh’.

SH - is similar to the English ’sh’ however the tip of the tongue is raised against the back of the gum ridge, as it is in the ‘zh’ and ‘ch’.

X - it also seems similar to the English ’sh’ but it is in fact produced quite differently. You raise your tongue up and let the air squeeze out.

Q - it is in the range of the English ‘ch’ but different in that it is also produced in the same way as the x. you raise your tongue and let the air squeeze out.

R - this one is tough. Nothing like the English ‘r’, don’t be fooled by the use of the letter ‘r’. again, curled tongue, a zee-ish phenomenon.

Learn the Chinese Writing System

Today’s All About Chinese lesson focuses on the origins of written Chinese–the only writing system that has been in use continuously for over 3,000 years.

All characters are made up of smaller ‘picture’ elements within the character. Some of these smaller pictures within the character give a hint as to meaning and pronunciation (though not always). The first Chinese characters were simple objects like “human”, “hand”, “foot”, “mountain”, “sun”, “moon” and “tree”. Then logical combinations of the simple characters followed. These simple characters also sometimes serve as the root of a more complex character, and are called “radicals”.

Most linguists believe that writing was invented in China during the latter half of the 2nd millennium BC. The earliest recognizable examples of written Chinese date from 1500-950 BC (Shang dynasty).

The traditional form of Chinese characters was widely used up until the mid-20th century. Most of the simplified Chinese characters in use today were the result of simplifications made by the government of China in the 1950s and 60s. The simplified characters have a lot less strokes and certain parts of some characters were completely eliminated. The simplified characters are also used in Singapore, but in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and Malaysia the traditional characters are still used.

The workable literacy in the Chinese language only requires a knowledge of between three and four thousand characters.

Elements that make up a Chinese word
Chinese verbs and adjectives generally consist of one character (syllable) but nouns often consist of two, three or more characters (syllables).

When written on the page, each character is given exactly the same amount of space, no matter how complex it is or how many strokes it contains. There are no spaces between characters and the characters which make up compound words are not grouped together.
Pronunciation
Pinyin is a phonetic system used to teach standard pronunciation of Mandarin Chinese, to spell Chinese names in foreign publications and to enter Chinese characters on computers.

Initials and finals are the elements that make up a word in pinyin. Nearly each Chinese syllable are spelled with one initial sound followed by one final sound. There are only about 400 different combinations of initials and finals in Chinese, of course each Chinese character can also have four possible tones, so that adds to the amount of individual sounds.