Category: Learning Chinese Online

Dec 30 2009

Chinese Proverbs, Sayings and Idioms

This is perhaps my most loved portion of Chinese language.  Every language has it’s unique proverbs, sayings and idioms, however Chinese is especially well known for it’s sayings.

Idioms (called “cheng4yu3” in Chinese) are generally 4 characters in length.  These short sayings pack quite a punch in meaning.  When used correctly they can highly impress your listener.  When I correctly use Chinese idioms people sing my praises like nobodys business.  They think I am an expert in Chinese when really I am just average.  By using chengyus correctly you can actually trick people into thinking that your Chinese is better than it actually is.  This is because they don’t expect early learners to be able to use such high level Chinese.  So I highly recommend learning and using chengyus anytime you get the chance.  Not that I try to trick people into thinking my Chinese is better than it actually is, it’s just that these chengyus are incredibly useful.  In fact, there are situations in English where I want to get my point across about something and the Chinese chengyu is perfect, however I must spend a few sentences in English explaining something that could be summed up in just 4 Chinese words.

Proverbs are slightly different but essentially the same thing.  They tend to be longer than chengyus but still pack the equivalent punch.  Again if you can use them correctly your Chinese friends will be well impressed.  Proverbs might be sayings of people like Confucious (Kongzi) or Laozi, ancient Chinese philosiphers who wrote books that still have influence on the culture of Chinese people.

The meaning of Proverbs tend to be a bit more obvious than that of Chengyus.  This is because the Chengyus are very short and use only parts of words whereas Proverbs tend to be complete sentences and phrases.

I have a section devoted entirely to Chinese Idioms and one for Chinese Proverbs that I know and encounter while living here.  There’s no point in learning idioms that are rarely used, so focus on the most frequently used ones.  I will post all the sayings I use on a regular basis and  continue to post new ones as I encounter and learn them myself in my day to day life here.

Dec 30 2009

Chinese Language Immersion

We all know that one of the best ways to learn or improve in a language is through immersion.  It’s why children who immigrate to other countries pick up the language so quickly.

I also took this step 2 years ago when I moved to China.  I had been learning Mandarin for 3.5 years already when I hit a plateau or bottle neck in my language progress.  This is something that happens to everyone on a regular basis when learning any language.  So I thought the best way to break through this bottle neck was to move to China in order to be immersed in the language.

Of course I personally haven’t noticed much of an improvement over the past 2 years, but if I were to return home and talk to my Chinese friends I am sure they would sing my praises and be blown away with my improvement.  This is because we never notice our own improvement in language learning, especially after the first few years are over.  It becomes a very slow gradual process the same way in which our body grows.  Children growing up don’t actually notice themselves get taller but if they see someone whom they haven’t seen in a while then that person notices how much taller they are.

So if you are considering re-locating to China for a short or long time I would certainly recommend it for your Chinese learning.  There’s no doubt that being fully immersed in the language helps you to reach the goal of fluency.  However with that comes a lot of other problems like home sickness and culture shock.  I have sure had my fair share of Chinese culture shock and may write about it in the future.  I miss home a lot, but I know being here is the best thing for my Mandarin learning and reaching the eventual goal of being a simultanious translator.

So if you are thinking of coming here it’s quite easy.  There are tons and tons of English teaching jobs.  You would have no trouble getting work and living here is quite cheap.  In fact your standard of living would likely be higher than at home and you would only need to work about 15-20 hours per week.  The work however is something I personally hate but others love it.

If you have any feedback or comments feel free to leave them below.

Dec 21 2009

Learn Chinese for Free

There is no need to pay any money in order to learn Mandarin Chinese.  There are many ways in which you can learn this language for free.

I personally haven’t gone to any schools or paid any fees to learn.  Granted, I have paid some money to buy some books and an electronic dictionary, so perhaps it will be a lot more difficult to learn Chinese without spending a single penny, however there is no need to break the bank or even take a class.

I personally started out learning because a friend of mine was learning as a hobby.  He was plugged into the local Chinese community and spent time with them regularly.  Many of them were bi-lingual so we were able to pick their brains as to how to say certain things in Mandarin.  We also had ample opportunity to practice what Mandarin we already knew.

So this is an excellent free tool that you can use which is highly effective.  Try to get plugged into your local Chinese community.  Make friends with Mandarin speakers and try to learn as much as you can from them.  It won’t cost you anything and is much more enjoyable than sitting at a desk in a classroom with a bunch of other people.

There are also many free resources on the web, this website being just one of them.  Therefore you will be able to learn quite a bit without spending any money, however there are some things that are worth spending your money on.

Eventually I recommend making friends with someone who barely speaks any English at all.  This is something I did and it was really helpful.  There’s nothing like being thrown in at the deep end and being forced to communicate only in Chinese.  Why do you think children who move countries become fluent within a year ? Complete immersion.  So try to create an environment where it’s “sink or swim” and your Chinese will improve dramatically.  This the main reason I decided to move to China.

Dec 20 2009

Chinese Writing Translation

Here at howtolearnchineseonline.com we offer a Chinese writing translation service.   We work closely with  bi-lingual native Chinese and bi-lingual native English speakers to provide high quality translation services.

If you are just looking for the translation of 1 or 2 words you can easily find online translators on the web that will do this for you.

However, if you need a whole document translated then these online translators aren’t any good.  They translate words and not ideas.  Especially with Chinese being such an idiomatic language there are many proverbs and idioms used that cannot be easily translated

For example I just translated “san1ren2xing2,bi4you3wo3shi1” into 2 different online translators and they gave me this meaning :

Three human of lines must have my teacher

Three-line must be my teacher

Both of the online translators gave a similar translation, however the correct translation is :

If 3 people are walking together at least one of them is good enough to be my teacher in some subject.

However even the correct translation doesn’t fully convey the correct meaning.  The meaning of the above expression is :

Nobody has the monopoly on knowledge.  There’s always someone out there who knows more about something than you do.  You can always learn something from others.

This is merely one simple example.  If you cut and paste any Chinese document into an online translator you will also see the translation reads horribly.  Not professional at all.

We offer both English to Chinese and Chinese to English translation services.  If you have need or interest in this service please send an inquiry through our Contact Page

The fee varies depending on the content and what level of translation you want.  It’s essentially based on time spent in translation.  If the document is very specific to a certain field like Medicine or Law then it will take more time to translate and cost more.  Further, you can have a quick basic meaning translation (cheaper) or a completely accurate word by word, proof read multiple times and fully checked perfect translation (of course more expensive).

Please feel free to send us your inquiry to discuss your needs via our Contact Page

Dec 18 2009

Mandarin Chinese Irregular Verb List

Here is a list of all the irregular verbs in Mandarin Chinese :

…..

That is the end of the list.

I am just having a laugh here really, as Mandarin doesn’t have any irregular verbs thank goodness.  Just one of the many reasons this language is so easy to learn.  You just learn 1 rule and it applies to the entire language.  Unlike English and many other languages that have many irregular verbs.  Something I found challenging when learning French.

Dec 18 2009

Is Learning Mandarin Chinese Impossible ?

Growing up as a child I had been brainwashed into believing that Mandarin Chinese was impossible to learn.  In fact at that time I just called it “Chinese” having no idea there were many different Chinese dialects and languages.

Seeing all those pictographic characters and knowing that I could change the meaning of a word just by changing the intonation was enough for me to believe that this language was impossible.

However, when a friend of mine started learning the language I thought “why not ?”

Initially I was just learning Mandarin for fun, something to keep the brain active after leaving school, you know ?  But once I started learning I actually started to get good at it.  I started to see that it wasn’t impossible to learn Mandarin Chinese.  I admit it hasn’t been ridiculously easy, but I have certainly found it much easier than any other language I have learned.  I would even go so far as to say it must be one of the easiest languages to learn if you exclude the reading and writing part.  As spoken languages go, I think it has the most simple grammar I have ever seen.

For example Mandarin doesn’t have regular and irregular verbs.  That’s because all verbs follow the same rules without exceptions, unlike English and other European languages.

Yes there are the tones that the language requires.  You can change the meaning of a word just by changing the tone.  However, you don’t need to freak out about that.  I know many people who’s tones are always off but they can still be understood.  However, it isn’t impossible to master the tones.  There are only 5, imagine learning Cantonese which apparantly has 9 tones ?!?!

Dec 08 2009

Why Learn Mandarin Chinese ?

When I first started learning Mandarin it was only as a hobby.  But after I started getting good at it I started to think of the practical uses being proficient in this language would bring.

China is quickly becoming a power house on the world scene.  It’s economy continues to grow even with the world experiencing economic crisis, China’s economy continues to grow (all be it at a slower rate than before).

Further when you look at the minorities in various countries around the world, which minority has the largest amount of people ?  Is it not the Chinese ?  At least that’s what I have noticed.

Moreover, have you not noticed that more and more schools are offering Mandarin courses and even some middle schools have made Mandarin mandatory ?  What does that say about the government’s view to this language ?  What that tells me is they are realizing the value and importance of this language.

As a result I am very happy I started learning Mandarin when I did.  I somewhat feel like I am a little ahead of the pack now and I am confident I will be able to use this skill in the future working as a translator/interpreter or even a Mandarin teacher.

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