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How to Start Thinking in Chinese

Learn 4 tools and techniques to stop translating in your head and start thinking in Chinese

Going through Chinese lessons is enough to get by and learn the basics of Chinese, but to truly become fluent you need to be able to think in Chinese. This will allow you to have conversations with ease, read smoothly, and comprehensively understand natives. To do this, you need to go beyond just completing daily or weekly lessons.

We naturally translate in our heads because it’s viewed as the easiest way to learn the definitions needed when learning a language. This way of learning can actually hinder your skills and fluency later on. If your brain has to make neural connections between the word you’re learning, what it means in your native tongue, and the physical object the connection will not be nearly as strong. When you bypass the original translation between Chinese and your native language then there is a more basic and strong connection between just the Chinese vocabulary word and the tangible object.

start thinking in Chinese

In this blog post, you will learn the 4 important techniques to easily and naturally begin to speculate about the daily occurrences in your life. The best part is all of these techniques are supported and can be achieved through ChineseClass101.com.

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1. Surround yourself with Chinese

Surround Yourself

By surrounding yourself with Chinese constantly you will completely immerse yourself in the language. Without realizing it you’ll be learning pronunciation, sentence structures, grammar, and new vocabulary. You can play music in the background while you’re cooking or have a Chinese radio station on while you study. Immersion is a key factor with this learning process because it is one of the easiest things to do, but very effective. Even if you are not giving the program your full attention you will be learning.

One great feature of ChineseClass101.com is the endless podcasts that are available to you. You can even download and listen to them on the go. These podcasts are interesting and are perfect for the intention of immersion, they are easy to listen to as background noise and are interesting enough to give your full attention. Many of them contain stories that you follow as you go through the lessons which push you to keep going.

2. Learn through observation
learn through observation

Learning through observation is the most natural way to learn. Observation is how we all learned our native languages as infants and it’s a wonder why we stop learning this way. If you have patience and learn through observation then Chinese words will have their own meanings rather than meanings in reference to your native language. Ideally, you should skip the bilingual dictionary and just buy a dictionary in Chinese.

ChineseClass101.com also offers the materials to learn this way. We have numerous video lessons which present situational usage of each word or phrase instead of just a direct translation. This holds true for many of our videos and how we teach Chinese.

3. Speak out loud to yourself
talk to yourself

Speaking to yourself in Chinese not only gets you in the mindset of Chinese, but also makes you listen to how you speak. It forces you to correct any errors with pronunciation and makes it easy to spot grammar mistakes. When you speak out loud talk about what you did that day and what you plan to do the next day. Your goal is to be the most comfortable speaking out loud and to easily create sentences. Once you feel comfortable talking to yourself start consciously thinking in your head about your daily activities and what is going on around you throughout the day.

With ChineseClass101.com you start speaking right away, not only this, but they have you repeat words and conversations after a native Chinese speaker. This makes your pronunciation very accurate! With this help, you are on the fast path to making clear and complex sentences and then actively thinking about your day.

4. Practice daily

If you don’t practice daily then your progress will be greatly slowed. Many people are tempted to take the 20-30 minutes they should be practicing a day and practice 120 in one day and skip the other days. This isn’t nearly as effective because everyday you practice you are reinforcing the skills and knowledge you have learned. If you practice all in one day you don’t retain the information because the brain can realistically only focus for 30 minutes at most. If you’re studying for 120 minutes on the same subject little of the information will be absorbed. Studying everyday allows you to review material that you went over previous days and absorb a small amount of information at a time.

It’s tough to find motivation to study everyday, but ChineseClass101.com can help. It’s easy to stay motivated with ChineseClass101.com because we give you a set learning path, with this path we show how much progress you’ve made. This makes you stick to your goals and keep going!

Conclusion

Following the steps and having patience is the hardest part to achieving your goals, it’s not easy learning a new language. You are essentially teaching your brain to categorize the world in a completely new way. Stick with it and you can do it just remember the 4 tools I taught you today! With them, conversations, reading, and understanding will become much easier. The most important thing to remember is to use the tools that ChineseClass101.com provides and you will be on your way to being fluent!

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3 Reasons Why Successful Students Learn Chinese In the Car

Not only is it possible to learn Chinese in your car, there are 3 great benefits that will help you master the language faster and with less effort.

With everyone so pressed for time these days, it might seem like a daydream to believe that you could learn Chinese in your car—but it’s not! Thanks to a wide range of new technologies and resources, learning a language in your car is easier than ever. Not only is it easy to learn a language while driving, there are actually a number of benefits, especially if the lessons are part of a structured learning program like ChineseClass101. Here are three specific benefits to learning Chinese or any other new language in your car.

3 reasons why successful students learn chinese in the car

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1. Transform Downtime into Progress

How much time do you spend commuting to and from work? Learning a language in your car transforms your commute time into tangible progress towards your dream. So instead of being stressed over how much time you are “wasting” on errands and daily commutes, you can decompress and have some fun while you learn Chinese in your car!

2. Daily Exposure Leads to Passive Learning

Practice makes perfect and learning a new language is no different. The daily exposure you get when you learn Chinese while driving helps improve listening comprehension, pronunciation, and of course helps build vocabulary and improve grammar. Don’t worry: You don’t need to memorize everything as you listen in Chinese while driving. Just having continuous exposure to a foreign language helps you improve your vocabulary, learn faster, and ultimately retain more through passive learning.


3. Learning While Driving is Fun

Learning a new language does require a serious commitment, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun! When you learn Chinese in your car, you get to take some time away from the PC or smartphone and immerse yourself in the language instead of just “studying” it.

Plus, there are a number of “fun” activities that you can do and still learn in your car, such as:
- Singing Along with Chinese Songs
- Playing Word Games or Trivia
- Just Listening Along and Seeing How Much You Can Pick Up and Understand

Want to Learn How to Get Angry in Chinese? Pick-Up Lines? Our Vocabulary Lists are Made for You!

Yes, you can learn a language while driving and have loads of fun doing it. Now let’s take a look at some specific things you can listen to while driving to help you learn a new language.

BONUS: 3 Ways to Learn Chinese in Your Car

-Listen to Podcasts: Typically designed to focus on one topic or lesson, podcasts are a great way to learn a language while driving. Unfortunately, podcasts are rarely at the same listening/comprehension level as the language learner so listeners may not get their full value. But at ChineseClass101, our podcasts are created for every skill level so you don’t waste any time on material that isn’t relevant or suited to your exact needs.

-Sing Along to Chinese Songs: Remember, just immersing yourself in a language can create passive learning and improve your pronunciation. Plus, with ChineseClass101, you can sing along and memorize the lyrics, and then look the words up and add them to your personal dictionary.

-Playing Word Games or Trivia: There are audio games available online that you can download to any media device and listen to on your commute. Although we recommend this option for more advanced users, games are a fun and productive way to learn Chinese in your car because they require listening and comprehension skills.

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You won’t recognize or understand every word you hear in a Chinese song, podcast, or game—but that’s ok. The daily repetition and immersion in the language leads to passive learning that gradually increases your knowledge of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. And the greater your foundation in grammar and vocabulary, the more you’ll understand and learn from the audio lessons, podcasts, or whatever you listen to while learning Chinese in your car.

Yes, you can learn Chinese while driving because it leads to passive learning via daily immersion in the language. Although you may not understand all or even most of what you hear at first, the exposure helps improve pronunciation, vocabulary, and even grammar over time. Learning a language while driving also helps transform your commute into exciting “exotic adventures” that secretly teach you Chinese in the process. Podcasts, songs, and even games can all help you learn Chinese in your car while eliminating the “boring commute” in the process!

At ChineseClass101, we have more than 2500+ HD audio lessons and podcasts for every skill level that you can download and use to learn Chinese while driving!
So don’t forget to sign up for a Free Lifetime Account on ChineseClass101.com to access tons of FREE lessons and features to become fluent in Chinese!

4 Reasons Why Chinese Slang Words Will Make You Fluent

Learn 4 honest reasons you need Chinese slang words and why they are so vital to truly learning and mastering the language.

Teachers may normally cringe at the thought of their students learning Chinese slang words. After all, slang words and phrases are typically defined as being grammatically incorrect. So why would your teacher want you to spend time learning the “wrong way” to speak Chinese? Here are 4 of the top reasons why you should study slang words and expressions when learning Chinese or any new language.

reasons to learn chinese slang words

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1. Native Speakers Use Slang Expressions in Everyday Conversation

If you are going to study a foreign language and plan to use it to speak with native speakers, then you have to learn slang words and expressions. Otherwise, just using formal expressions and grammar may alienate you from native speakers and make it more difficult to establish a real connection. So it is best to at least learn some common slang words and expressions if you’re planning to meet or speak socially with someone.

2. Slang Words Are Used All Throughout Chinese Culture

If you turn on any popular Chinese TV show, listen to any song, or watch any movie, you are quickly going to see the value of learning Chinese slang phrases. Just like everyday conversations between native speakers, Chinese culture is filled with slang phrases and expressions. Without at least some knowledge of the more common slang phrases, popular culture and most conversations will be very confusing and potentially alienating.

Want to Amaze Native Speaker? Be a Good Lover? Our Vocabulary Lists are Made for You!

3. Slang Expressions Help You Better Express Your True Thoughts and Feelings

Only relying on formal grammar and vocabulary is very limiting, especially in social situations. Just like in your native language, using the appropriate Chinese slang words can help you express a broader range of emotions, thoughts, and feelings.

4. Proper Use of Slang Makes You Sound More Natural

We’ve all met foreigners who technically used formal language perfectly but still sounded odd and well….foreign. But when you use the right slang words and expressions, you will sound more natural and like a true native speaker. If you notice, even most politicians include a sprinkling of slang expressions and words throughout their speeches to help them sound more natural and to better connect with the audience.

The Dark Side of Slang Expressions

Learning Chinese slang words can indeed help you sound more natural, better understand the people and culture, and make integration much easier. However, there is a dark side: using the wrong slang expressions can also make you look foolish, uneducated, and potentially disrespectful.

But how do you know which slang words or phrases to use and when?

The truth is that you can’t learn the most modern and appropriate slang words in textbooks or formal classroom settings. By the time the information gets incorporated into a formal curriculum, it’s already outdated and no longer in use by actual Chinese people. And while you can learn current slang expressions from Chinese TV shows, movies, songs, and games, you may not understand the context. If that happens, you may use the right Chinese slang words but in the wrong situation and still look like a fool or possibly even offend someone.

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So where can you learn current slang expressions and the right context in which to use them?

At ChineseClass101, native speaking instructors create audio and video lessons that can include slang expressions and words. Our instructors provide context and examples for all the Chinese slang words used in any lesson to make sure students understand the right time and place to use them.

Chinese slang words and expressions may be grammatically incorrect but they are vital to truly understanding and immersing yourself in the culture. In fact, it will be very difficult to fully understand any movie, TV show, song, game, or even 1-on-1 conversation without knowing a few of the more common slang expressions.

However, it is important to learn the proper context and use of even popular slang expressions or you may come across as confusing, disrespectful, or uneducated.
At ChineseClass101, you’ll learn how to use slang phrases and words to draw the right attention and avoid these problems.

Don’t forget to sign up for a Free Lifetime Account on ChineseClass101.com to access tons of FREE lessons and features to become fluent in Chinese!

Mini Chinese Lesson: Titles for People

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In this mini lesson, we teach you some  ‘titles’ you will frequently come across in Chinese.

Some titles are used for family members.  The reference point for those older or younger is oneself.  Other titles are used for people with certain positions or occupations.  Others are more like terms of endearment.  This week we started with family members:

  • In the family:  ‘lil bro:  弟弟  (dìdi) – younger brother
  • In the family:  big bro:  哥哥  (gēge) – older brother
  • In the family:   big sis:  姐姐  (jiějie) – older sister
  • In the family:  ‘lil sis:  妹妹(mèimei) – younger sister
  • In the family:  mommy dearest:  妈妈 (māma) - mom
  • In the family:  dad knows best:  爸爸 (bàba) - dad
  • In the family:  not kissing cousins:  表哥(biǎogē) – older male cousin

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Test Your China Knowledge

The focus of this lesson is to test your knowledge about China. This lesson will build your basic knowledge of China by quizzing you on 5 areas of Knowledge: Geography, Pop Culture, Travel, Economics and Myth Busting!! Are you ready?

1)What percentage of China’s 1.3 billion people live in urban areas?
A) 10% 
B) 40%
C) 50%
D) 90%

2)China has the following number of provinces:
A)22
B)23
C)34

3)Following are three famous Chinese people. One is a famous singer, one a politician, and one a sports star. Match the person with their profession:
王菲 刘翔 胡锦涛
(Liú Xiáng)(Wáng Fēi) (athlete) 
(Hú Jǐntāo) (politician) (singer)

4) Rank in correct order the most popular travel destination in China:
Shanghai Beijing Xi’an 

5) What year did the economic reforms that transformed China’s economy into a market-oriented economy take place in?

6) Fortune cookies originated in China. True or False? Read the rest of this post »

Top 6 Must-Know Phrases (one for getting out of trouble…)

The following are 6 essential phrases guaranteed to be the best thing you ever learned in Chinese!

  1. 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’.
  2. 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. 
  3. 你好 (nǐhǎo) “hello” If you don’t know it yet, we don’t know where you’ve been.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

There you go.  Just don’t blame us if #4 doesn’t work ;)

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 Chinese Direct from Beijing with ChineseClass101.com

Dear Chinese Students,

Today we’re pleased to announce the launch of ChineseClass101.com. This is a joint project between Popup Chinese and the folks at Innovative Language Learning.

If you’re familiar with the Innovative Language approach to teaching, you’ll know the strength of their materials has always been tight, step-by-step progressive lessons for beginners. At Popup Chinese, we’ve historically geared our materials towards more advanced students, so when we had the chance to cooperate with the Innovative team and work together to build something that could take advantage of the powerful system they’ve already built we leapt at the chance, and began work designing a focused and stepwise program for Mandarin instruction.

Although a few hints leaked out (*ahem*), for the past few months we’ve worked somewhat stealthily to build the best team possible for the task. You’ll find our progressive beginner lessons hosted by none other than the famous Frank Fradella. Other big names on our roster are Amber Scorah and of course everyone on our existing team like Echo Yao and Brendan O’Kane. This is a great team and I can say with confidence I’ve never worked with a stronger one. With more than 100 lessons on the new site, our content is off to a good start too. As Frank said once after a marathon recording session, “our first twenty lessons here teach more than I learned in a whole year studying elsewhere.”

We think this is a great step forward and look forward to hearing your feedback and thoughts as well. It is definitely a major step forward for Chinese language education online. There’s never been a better time to learn Chinese, or a better way to learn it online. Regardless of whether you’re an advanced independent learner or a total newbie, we hope you’ll enjoy the work we’ll be doing both here and at ChineseClass101. Thanks for your support, and 加油 everyone!

Best from Beijing,

David Lancashire

Best from New York,

Amber Scorah