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New eyes - Renewed enthusiasm

Hello everyone,

It has been a while since I last updated my blog. There were a couple of reasons for this - My eyes:shock:


My vision was deteriorating quite a lot and last November the decision was taken to under go cataract surgery. As this was in the UK and on the NHS the wheels grind (no complaints it just the way it is) and eventually I now have 2 new lenses and can see better than I have been able to for many years. I found it was becoming increasingly frustrating trying to read characters with bad eyes and magnifying glasses are a pain, hard to scan pages with one.


I am still in recovery, it is only the third day after my second eye so slowly slowly does it. 


My intention is to return and update my blog with my new learning schedule and updates as to my successes and failures and hopefully help myself and others to progress with learning Chinese.


Just wanted to update anyone who was interested that my hiatus from learning is now turning slowly into a return to learning.


edX Mandarin level 3 Lesson 6

Welcome to lesson 6, the last lesson in this level. We find Pipe and Lily talking on campus.. is Pipe going to get lucky?


Pipe asks Lily how she did on the last test 考试. She says not bad, I got 拿到an A, How about you? Pipe replies C I got a C. I need 得 to work harder like you do. You always get good grades 成绩. Lily reassures him and tells him he is actually 其实 very smart 聪明 and all he needs to do is practice more and he will do very well on tests. Thanks says Pipe adding does Lily have any plans 计划 for the weekend. Lily tells Pipe that she always goes swimming on Saturday mornings but after that she is free 没事. Lets meet up Lily suggests. Pipe thinks to himself -  Perfect, I have finally 终于 got Lily to go on a date!! He says they can meet Saturday afternoon and he will call her later.


At the restaurant:

Lily remarks that this a really good restaurant but she is not sure if it is a good 适合 place to study. Pipe says he thought it would be ok if they ate dinner and chatted 聊 a bit first to get to know each other better and then we can go for a walk 散步. Lily is confused - eh ok? Pipe starts talking excitedly about how he always wanted to visit this restaurant but felt it was more for couples 情侣 and he would feel strange being here on his own 自己...what kind of person do you like dating 约会? Lily starts to say I ....... Pipe interrupts and tells her he likes women who are caring  温柔 and smart, physical appearance 外表 isn't everything 一切 but he prefers women who are shorter 矮 than him and she needs to have similar 共同 interests - he then asks Lily what her interests are?  Lily tries to say I normally ...... Pipe carries on speaking saying he likes playing basketball and to swim a lot because it is good for his body. He tells Lily her figure 身材 is good so she is probably interested in exercise too. he then gushes - If I could find a girl like you that is that perfect 完美 it would be too good to be true. Lily's phone rings, looking at her phone she tell Pipe sorry 不好意思 it is my boyfriend, I need to go now! see you next week. Pipe hope's dashed, he sits there stunned and says huh? wait a moment...


So poor Pipe has been dumped before even he got started!!


One thing I noticed that may be a mistake or just a usage I am unaware of, Lily says  不好意思 which is translated as sorry but to me means not interested. I would have expected it to be 对不起 for sorry, excuse me, pardon. I think it has been translated incorrectly, or else she was trying to let Pipe down gently!!


The vocabulary and the supplementary vocabulary is all to do with dating and romance.

There are 4 grammar points this week:-


1)  其实  means actually, in fact or even- to be honest. The examples show it being used t the beginning of sentences.

2) 是不是 can be used to confirm your speculations.

3) A比B + adj this pattern indicates a comparison between two things  (一点/ 的多) follows an adjective indicating to a smaller or higher degree.

4) 像。。。。的 + noun specifies the details of modification to a noun:- like....., such as ......


This was the last lesson in this level. I did well on the quiz and got 100% I also did well on the final exam and scored an overall mark of 99%.


I hope these little summaries are helpful.

I am going to do the same sort of thing for my NPCR lessons starting with lesson 15. I am going to be trying to study both simplified and traditional at the same time but concentrate on learning to write simplified. Looking forward to this new challenge. Feel free to join in with comments or corrections:) Look out for the first one in a couple of weeks or so.



edX Mandarin level 3 Lesson 5

Welcome to Lesson 5, this week Pipe asks Ben to help him choose a phone and service provider.


Pipe asks Ben if he is busy 有事later, Ben says no he doesn't have anything to do later. Pipe tells him he is looking for a phone but doesn't know which telecommunications company 电信公司 to choose 选. Ben is surprised Pipe still doesn't have a phone. Ben asks him if he prefers Apple 苹果 or Android 安卓. Pipe says that as long as he can make calls 电话, use Facebook 脸书and play games 玩游戏 then it is good enough. Ben says he uses Taihua Telecom 台华电信, they should go there first and have a look. Pipe agrees and asks if it is really far away. No, says Ben, there is a branch 分店 straight ahead. Come with me.


In the store they are welcomed 欢迎光临 by a store assistant. Pipe says he wants to buy a cell phone. The shop assistant tells him they just happen to be having a sales promotion 促销 this month that is very favourable 优惠 for the customer. As long as you sign 签 a 2 year contract 合约, you can have unlimited 无限制地calls and internet access 上网. You can also choose from the latest models.新型机型

Pipe grabs the newest model, The shop assistant tells him that it is usually 通常20,000NT, but right now you need only pay 付 999NT per month and then you can take the phone home for free.免费 Pipe likes the phone and wants to know if he can select the number 号码? Of course replies the shop assistant. Pipe thinks this is very convenient and wants to get started.


The supplementary vocabulary had more useful words to do with cellphones and getting a contract.


There 4 Grammar points this lesson:


1) This ........就够了 literally means "it's enough"


2)一点都/也不 means "not at all" it suggests strong negation.


3) 只要。。。。。就   as long as....."the condition is met"    the consequence follows.


4)才   a given action or certain amount should be met before it is ok to proceed to the next step.


Once again I did the quiz in time and got 100%. I will being doing the review for lesson 6 soon which is the last lesson for this course.




edX Mandarin level 3 Lesson 4

Welcome to Lesson 4. This week we hear Pipe deciding to do some exercise.


Pipe speaks to Estella on the phone and hopes that she will be able to help him 帮我的忙 start exercising as he feels lately 最近 he has been lazier than normal and has become fat 发胖。. Estella asks what type of exercise 运动 Pipe wants to do. Running 跑步, swimming 游泳, riding a bicycle 骑脚踏车, or doing yoga  做瑜珈? Pipe says he would like to play basketball Estella's brother plays basketball so she gives Pipe his phone number to contact 联络 him.


Pipe meets Estella's brother at the park's basketball court.

Pipe introduces himself to Estella's brother Eddie. They discuses playing basketball and Pipe says he wants to exercise more by playing basketball and try out some new kinds of sports. Eddie says that in this park you can see people running跑步, playing soccer 踢足球and tennis 打网球and there are also people doing Tai Chi 打太极拳 and dancing 跳舞. Pipe is surprised that a park would have this many people exercising in it. Eddie says that's how big cities are! He then suggests they have a game of one-on-one 一对一and then take a stroll 一对一around the park. Pipe agrees and they go off to play basketball.


The vocabulary and the supplementary vocabulary are mainly to do with games, exercise, and sports.


There are 4 Grammar points this lesson:


1) We are introduced to separable verbs- this term applies to verbs that are 2 characters and can be separated with a subject ie: 帮我的忙 .


2) 的话 means if - sometimes you will hear 如果 before the sentence. They are both optional.


3) The pattern 对。。。。有兴趣 means to be interested in something or doing something.


4) This pattern is very useful if you want others to give you something. 把。。。 (verb) 给.


There is one mistake or confusion in this lesson. Estella's brother is introduced as Ben in the text but he introduces himself as Eddie in the video and the text. I am not sure if this is a mistake or there is some good reason he has 2 names. I am confused because neither of them seem Chinese so that doesn't explain it. If any one knows why It would be nice to understand.


I got the quiz done in time, it was touch and go as I had been busy and just managed to finish it before the deadline. I got 100% again and I was pleased with that.


I have realised that doing these little lesson summaries are very useful for me, I am finding that having to explain it to others really means I have to understand and remember what is going on. I think I will continue to do this for my NPCR lessons which I will restart after the final edX lesson next week. I hope they help others too. Feel free to comment, discussion is helpful.




edX Mandarin level 3 Lesson 3

Welcome to lesson 3. In this lesson we go for a health examination for a student visa.


Pipe goes to the hospital 医院 information counter and asks where he needs to go for the exam 检查 and is given directions to the Physical Examination Centre

He is given a form 表 and ask to fill  填 it in and then hand it in and take a number ticket 号码牌

His number is called and he is asked by the nurse 护士 to take off 脱掉 his shoes and he is weighed 体重 and his height 身高 is measured by the nurse. He is then instructed to go and have an X-ray 找X 光 and blood drawn 抽血. He returns from this and the doctor 医生 asks some questions about his health, if he smokes 抽烟 or drinks 喝酒. He is asked to breath in 吸气 and out 呼气 while the doctor checks his chest. The doctor says he is in very good health and everything is normal 正常 and to return 以后 in a week for his report 报告。


The main and supplementary vocabulary contains more health and hospital terms.


There are 4 grammar points:

1) The use of 完题 to indicate the completion of an action.


2) 把 is used to say something about a known object by the subject AND what happened to the object.


3) We learn the difference between 以 后 a period of time later and 以前 a period of time ago.


4) We learn how to say to do something first and then do something later using the 先。。。。。再。。。。。。 pattern.



I completed the quiz on time and received full marks. Lesson 4 coming soon:)




edX Mandarin level 3 Lesson 1 and 2

Welcome back to edX Mandarin Level 3.

I will be writing up the lessons every couple of weeks to give people an idea what the online lesson are like and to help me consolidate my learning.


Lesson 1 - Watching a movie.


In this lesson we learn about going to the movies, the types of movies and the chinese names of some famous actors.


The two friends, Luke and Pipe meet in the street and start discussing their weekend.

Luke took his girlfriend to dinner  and then to a movie - 电影。 She wanted to watch a horror movie - 恐怖片 but Luke was too scared and wouldn't dare - 敢 watch it so they ended up - 后来 watching a romance movie.爱情片.

Luke found the 爱情片 boring, not interesting 没有意思。

Pipe said he liked to watch comedies and action movies - 喜剧和动作片

We learnt the names of actors in chinese, for example Johnny Depp 强尼戴普。

Luke and Pipe decide to go watch a movie after class.


We also learnt a lot of associated vocabulary to do with movies and actors.


Grammar included learning about 了 - "is used to mark the completion of the action, it is usually followed by some quantity describing the object." This one of the uses of 了, I am sure we will come across the others in the future

Time duration + 没。。。。了to express that you haven't done something for a period of time.

How to express whatever using 什么 twice in a sentence.

本来。。。。后来。。。。to show the contrast between what one thought before and later.


I have only given a brief outline of the grammar points, you can view the lesson in full on the edX site, it is free.

Hope this is of some help.


I did the quiz and got a 100% pass, I always surprise myself with how well I do with the listening comprehension and then completely crumple at having to listen and then write what I heard, seems there is a difference between just listening and understanding and writing down what you hear either in pinyin or characters. I kept getting the wrong tone using pinyin and writing the characters just drew a blank.


Lesson 2- Studying Chinese

This lesson introduces us to measure words 量词.

Lily and Pipe are discussing the the fact that chinese class has become harder.

Pipe asks why and Lily says because characters such as 的 and 了 have more than one pronunciation. 的 can be di or de and 了 can be le or liao.

Pipe agrees and says that there is also grammar to learn. He remarks that some people say that chinese doesn't have grammar but how is that even possible? Lily also says that she is "afraid of two articles of clothing" .

Pipe works out what she is talking about is measure words and tells her yes you will have to practice that.

Lily says she is also having trouble remembering the stroke order for writing characters. Pipe agrees and recommends taking time and practising and you will see improve.

Lily jokes that having a Chinese boyfriend will improve your chinese. Pipe is astonished she would say this but then realises she is joking. we learn the useful phrase I am just kidding 我是 开玩笑的。


There are 4 grammar points this week:

1) For example 比如说 it is used very much like you would use it in English.

2) To suggest doing something more or less put 少 or 多 before the verb.

3) 还是 is used to express that things will remain the same.

4) To reassure others use the pattern 会。。。。的 usually appearing with the adverb 一定。


The vocabulary reflected the dialogue's content about learning Chinese and words to do with language, So we learnt, amongst others, 量词 measure word,   笔画 stroke order,   发音 pronouciation,   语法 grammar, syntax and the very useful 目的 objective, goal. Our 目的 should be to practice 练习 ,to understand 了解 and not forget 忘记 the 笔画。


I did the quiz but only managed 90% as I just couldn't do the 2 listening and writing questions in time, I spent too much time listening and not enough time writing:conf


So that was lesson 2, I am going to give each lesson it own topic so it it easier to keep in order.


Hope this was of help.










edX Basic Mandarin Level 2- Lesson4

This week we learnt to make appointments and meet at arranged places. The arranged meeting is by the subway entrance, and then on to the night market where we can buy lots of things "food, clothes, shoes, toys, even adult products" !!

The vocabulary covered the things you would need to arrange a meeting and then go shopping, How to say hello on the phone - wéi 喂. I have been told this comes from the days when telephones were not very good and an awful lot of wéi wéi ing would happen to ensure the connection had been made. It is also used to catch someone's attention for example walking down the road and you see a friend on the other side of the road, you call wéi wéi to them and then you can stop and chat :)

Estella was concerned Ben had misheard on the phone and had gone to the wrong number station but all was well, he went to the right one.

Ben tries on some t-shirts and discovers the difference in sizes for Asian people and western sized people. So we learn how to express too big, too small. too tight etc. We find out Ben's favourite colour - light green.

Grammar points were:

1) 约 yuē make an appointment/schedule a time. - 约 yuē is usually followed by the time or place of the appointment.

2) ...V + 到 dào / ...V + 不到 bú dào - attached to the end of the verb, to express that a certain state or result can be reached.

3) 连。。。都/也。。。 lián....dōu/yě - means even but it is not used in quite the same way as in English, it is a pattern used to emphasize something unexpected or surprising or to confirm one's opinion about something.

4) 因为。。。。所以 yīnwèi......suǒyǐ ....because..../....so.... - used to link up clauses to indicate cause and consequence. In Chinese the cause almost always comes before the consequences.

So armed with all this we should be able to buy what ever we need from the night market even "adult products" whatever they might be :)

I got 100% on the quiz and 3 points for the Prollster question which was - what do you know about china? I replied that I knew it was a big country with wonderful scenery and lots of people.

Lesson 5's summary coming soon, till then study well.


edX Basic Mandarin Level 2- Lesson3

Lesson 3 took us to a shop selling many daily items. Things like shampoo, soap, towels, tooth brushes, toothpaste "daily necessities" . The vocabulary was mainly names of this type of item and how to compare prices.

The grammar points were:

1) 跟 gēn - with - usually used before the companion you would do something with.

2) 比较 - bǐjiào - more, like adding er to a word. It is a Implicit Comparison - 今天比较热 - Today is hotter.

3) 差不多 - chàbùduō - almost the same- if you do a literal translation it makes good sense "lacking not much" there is not much between them.

4) 对。。。。来说 - duì.....láishuō - As far as.......is concerned. Fairly straight forward but as always use is slightly different usage than you might expect. As for me, breakfast in that place is too expensive. 对我来说。。。。。

Estella and Ben go to a store to buy "daily necessities" and find some shampoo on sale which makes it a bargain and choose between 2 brands of facial cleaner. The toothbrush is also a bargain as it is on sale too.

We then learn how to ask for telephone numbers and how to arrange to go shopping tomorrow for some clothes. They decide to go to the night market tomorrow evening.

The Prollster question was "What was the last lie you told" well my reply was I don't lie. :)

I got 100% on the Quiz again this week so I am pleased.

Doing these little summaries helps me consolidate the lesson in my head, so it helps me and I hope it is interesting to others.

Look out for Lesson 4 summary soon.


edX Basic Mandarin Level 2- Lesson2

This week, as last week, the format was much the same. We went through the new vocabulary and as usual Estella reminded us of the importance of tones and went over them again.

The vocabulary was mainly about some types of jobs and things to do with having a baby and twins, and about family connections and relationships. As you may already know chinese has a specific term for each member of the family. This lesson we learnt 20 different terms for family members.

This week's grammar points were:

1) 。。。。当 。。。。 dāng to be/become as in to become a doctor or to be president

2) 。。。。又。。。。又。。。 ...yóu....yóu..... not only.....but also.../....both....and.... something that has two qualities.

3)是。。。。。德 shì......de this is one of the more complex grammar patterns and a quick summery here will not do it justice so have a look at the grammar wiki or similar for a full explanation.

4)快。。。。了 kuài.......le about to something is about to happen ie: it is going to rain soon.

The dialogue is about families and occupations. We learn Estella's little brother is about to graduate from university and wants to become a model. Ben's (Estella friend) parents are teachers and his older sister is a lawyer. There is some discussion about jobs and careers.

We also learn that Ben's older sister gave birth to a pair of twins, one boy, one girl. Estella tells Ben this is good because the chinese word for good is made up of the character for girl and the one for boy so a pair of twins of one of each = good - 好

This week's Prollster question was "Why did I want to learn chinese?" The answer had to be 2 sentences in pinyin or characters.

I got 100% on the quiz and 3 points for answering the Prollster question.

So now I am looking forward to lesson 3.


edX Basic Mandarin Level 2- Lesson1

This week I started the second level in the edX Basic Mandarin course. Once again I am pleasantly surprise at the learning materials provided with this free course.

This term a "Vocabulary Book" has been added which consists of audio files for each of the new words in the lesson with the meaning, pinyin, and characters (simplified and traditional)

There are videos for the vocabulary where Estella explains some etymology about each of the characters and goes through the pronunciation very thoroughly. Estella is very good at ensuring that you learn your tones correctly. As I have said before she is a stickler for correct tones. This is good for me as I lack any kind of structured speaking lessons and this helps me pin down my pronunciation and tones.

This week's lesson takes us to Old Street 老街 where we explored a shop that sold some very interesting but expensive crafts and found out the that famous delicacies on the street are plum juice and iron eggs.

There were 4 grammar points

1) ....xian.....zai..... 。。。。先。。。。。再。。。 construction which is ...first ...and then...

2) ..V+bu qi / V+de qi 。。。。V+ 不起 / 得起 construction which is can't afford / can afford

3) sui ran...dan shi/ke shi 虽然。。。但是/ 可是 construction which is even though/although.../...but....

4) if....then... 如果。。。。就 construction which is if...then...

These are all useful grammar constructions.

An explanation of relative clauses completes the grammar for week one.

There is another addition to the course this term and that is a group activity that counts towards your final mark. This is done using Prollster, this is new to me so I followed the clear instructions and easily registered and created an account. Every week there is question asked in Prollster that you have to respond to in chinese, pinyin or characters are acceptable. This week the question was "What two things would you take with you on a desert island?"

I replied I would like to take my chinese dictionary and my music. I used characters and earned 3 points out of a possible 6, if you get a reply or comment to your post you can earn the other 3 points, so we will see what happens.

I took the quiz which follows the same format as last term and I got 100% which I was very pleased with.

Interesting I encountered the use of 起 in both its variant forms which we discussed here http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50715-difference-between-2-similar-characters/ and if I hadn't asked the question before the course, I would have been confused.

I posted a quick note about it on the course discussion board and a couple of other students were grateful for the explanation, so thanks again Chinese Forums.

I am now going to start lesson 2. I will post a summary in about a week when I have finished it.

If anybody wants to join this course its not too late yet, have a look here https://www.edx.org/course/basic-mandarin-chinese-level-2-mandarinx-mx102x


My Learning Materials and Resources - Summary

As suggested by Chong I will list the materials in my earlier blog My Learning Materials and Resources.


New Practical Chinese Reader (NPCR) textbook

NPCR workbook

Schuam's Outline of Chinese Grammar

Flashcards (paper):

Tuttle Chinese in a Flash Vol. 1 - 4

Tuttle A Chinese Character a Day Practice Pad

Elementary Chinese Reader Flashcards

Apps (android)



Pinyin Puzzle


Go Keyboard

NPCR audio mp3s

Youtube for NPCR videos

Computer Programs (windows):

Hanzi Grids


Hope this helps clarify the things I use for learning chinese.


My Learning Materials and Resources

I am a big fan of New Practical Chinese Reader, I use this as my core textbook.

I am using the first version of NPCR, one reason I like it is that when I first started studying I used the Practical Chinese Reader and got to know Gubo and Palanka very well :) So it seemed natural that I should choose the NPCR when I decided to start from the beginning as I felt my many years of some private lessons, some University evening classes and lots of self study had left many holes and confusion.

NPCR has textbooks, work books, audio mp3's, and videos available on youtube (I don't know if they are available on youku) I have described how I use NPCR in an earlier blog.

I use Hanzi Grids for character writing practice, this is a good little program that allows you to input you words/characters and choose a font, colour and style of grid. You can also choose simplified or traditional, how many characters you show in light grey to trace over, and how many blank squares. I like this program because I really think actual writing with a pen and paper is the best way to learn stroke order and characters. It is a very reasonable cost, you don't have to pay but it is well worth the small sum to unlock all the features. You can have a look here http://www.hanzigrids.com/.

In addition to NPCR I use Schaum' Outline of Chinese Grammar to help clarify and help understand the grammar notes in NPCR. I did a review of this book when I did a comparison between this and Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar here post #84. http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46180-intermediate-chinese-grammar-online-edx-course/page-5


One of most indispensable tools is Pleco on my tablet , I feel having this has more difference to my progress this time round, I had Pleco on my old windows phone way back when it first came out, it was good but having it bigger on my tablet is really helpful. To get the best from Pleco you really need to have the full version, the free version is good to get an idea of how it looks and works.

I have a category for each lesson and put in all the words/characters from each lesson. This way I can learn and test on the current vocabulary without my "deck" getting too big. I can go back and review old lessons, which I do every so often. I test with each possible combination for each lesson for the first time and then for review only test remembering characters and their meaning, stroke order and handwriting. Pleco has so much I am sure I am not using it to it's fullest but the more I use it the more I learn.


I also use paper flash cards I use the Chinese in a Flash by Tuttle, I sort out the latest lesson's new words/characters and review these when I have a little bit of time. I do just go through them checking if I know the meaning and pinyin for each one. I also use them to play a sort of game, how many words and sentences can I make using the cards from the lesson. I also use the set of flashcards that accompanies the textbook Elementary Chinese Reader.


Tuttle also make a practice pad, A Chinese Character A Day Volume 1 and 2 so there are 730 that correspond with the flash cards so I use these to practice writing.


I have a few apps on my tablet that I use. I have Skritter but my subscription has lapsed but I can still practice the characters I have already.


I have WeChat, I had hoped to use this to practice speaking/writing chinese but I don't seem to be able to find anyone to talk to. But I have got some Subscription Accounts (they are free) one is a news feed from CCTV with video and pictures and text in English with some chinese. The other is Learn Chinese from chinese times school. This has little snippets about grammar patterns, vocabulary and general interesting bits and bobs about china, and the chinese language. Its good for some "light" reading but keeping it chinese based. There is another one but it posts irregularly and seems to be about one school in particular, it's called MY Chinese study it has a wide and varied selection of articles from finding a job (networking) to voting for your favourite chat app.


There is the little app that came with the edX course I did (also did a blog about that too) it's called Pinyin Puzzle, it is to help you get your tones right and learn pinyin.


I have recently started using a great little app called HelloChinese - Learn Chinese Mandarin. It took me a couple of goes to find the right one, you need put in the whole name to get the right one.

This is good because each lesson is on a topic like food, or numbers or measure words etc. It teaches usage, grammar, vocabulary, speaking and writing. It allows you record yourself and it marks how well you have done or not. You can make one or 2 slight errors, it will tell you but you can move on but if it is really bad it makes you do it again till you get it. This is the most useful part as I have absolutely no speaking practice at the moment. Even if all it does it make you speak out loud its helpful :)

I also have Go Keyboard so I can write in chinese in notes to practise writing, I like to write little stories to use the new grammar and vocabulary and I use this to write using pinyin to characters, so I can concentrate on the grammar and vocab. It also has handwriting input so I can write directly in characters for more practice. I like to use a stylus for this and not my finger because its more like a pen and paper.


I understand that Playstore is not available in China so some of these apps will not be available to all but Pleco is available without the Playstore.

So that's about it for now, if I discover any new good apps or learning materials I will add them, I hope this is of interest or help for people. Feel free to comment, good or bad. Or suggest any good apps etc.

P.S. I also have WenLin which is a PC based Chinese dictionary, character etymology, character writing practice, translation of text and lots more that I have not explored yet.


Learning Schedule for NPCR

In this entry I am going to share my learning schedule and methods using the New Practical Chinese Reader.


I will also go into more details about my learning materials, books, practice aides, flashcards, dictionaries etc. in a later entry.


I will start with a brief overview of the materials I use, the first version of New Practical Chinese Reader (NPCR) textbook, workbook, audio and video. I also use Pleco, Hanzi Grids and occasionally Skritter. I listen to Pimsleur when I have time. I also try to watch and listen to CCTV 9 Documentary when possible, and expose myself to as much Chinese language and culture as I can.


My routine is to read through the dialogues for the lesson, read the notes and the grammar, then listen to the dialogue mp3 with the text in front of me, then listen to it again without the text a few times. Then I read the dialogue again, check I am happy with my understanding and do the same with the second dialogue of the lesson.

Then I put all the characters (words) into Pleco and spend some time reviewing and testing those. Then I start the exercises in the text book and work my way through them. I write as much as possible using characters, so for example the substitution and drills section I write out fully each one with all the different possibilities. This helps reinforce the new characters and the sentence structure.


I then watch the video, this can clear up some things I may have not quite understood, I usually watch them a few times more when I have a moment spare.

I then move onto the workbook and work my way through that.


Then I go back and cover up the pinyin and read the dialogues again and if I feel happy I have grasped the meaning I move on to the next lesson and start over again.


I will review and test the characters using Pleco and actual paper flashcards throughout the entire time I am learning that lesson, but also at other random times, in the doctors waiting room, waiting in a long queue etc.


I also practice writing all the new characters from the lesson using Hanzi Grids as well as the practice in NPCR.


I also like to write little stories, only a few lines, a short paragraph using the new words and new sentence structures and grammar, These I will write using pinyin on my phone or tablet so I can concentrate on the structure.


My weak points are lack of speaking and tones. I feel my strength is in learning characters and words. I am trying a new method of listening and speaking, recording myself reading the dialogues and listening back and comparing with the NPCR audio for the dialogues.


My one indispensable tool is Pleco and I really like using Hanzi Grids. I think the NPCR series is good for someone like me who is self studying, there is also an answer key so you can see how well you are doing :) .

It takes me about 2 weeks to complete a lesson, putting in about an hour and half to two hours a day. I study for pleasure and have no deadlines or exam dates so I may miss a day here or there.

I have in the past with one of my first teachers worked through the PCR books 1 & 2.


I decided to start again from lesson one with the New PCR as I felt I needed to fill in some holes in grammar and reading that I feel I have. So now I am on Lesson 10, and am enjoying being thorough with my learning and not moving on until I feel very confident I have understood and learnt everything from the lesson.

My next entry will be about my learning materials and how I use them. I will also, starting from Lesson 11, go through the lesson briefly and share my learning problems and successes.


Final Exam

Final Quiz

Today I took the final quiz and managed to get full marks :)

I was fairly confident about the written parts, the grammar, and the vocabulary parts but wasn't sure I would do as well with the listening comprehension, but it went really well, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I understood easily.

So now I am eligible for a certificate :D which I will proudly hang on my wall, well for a while anyway.

The next course is supposed start in September, I am looking forward to it.

I am going to go back to my NPCR studies now and hope to be able to do the two together from now on.

My next entry will be about my study routines and materials I use for study for NPCR.


Week 5 & 6

Week 5 we learnt the "not only/ but also this" 除了/还有 pattern, which is useful. We had our first meeting with guo 过indicating an action done, something you have passed through.

Another useful grammar pattern if/then 如果/要是 - 的话/就 there is a choice here of two sets of if/then, I am guessing it a Taiwan/China thing.

Also learnt 从/到from and to, fairly straight forward.

Our dialogues debated where to go for lunch and having settled on beef noodles we went on the bus to the beef noodle shop.

Week 6 introduced some more good grammar and the very useful 开玩笑 :)

We learnt bi 比 to compare and bi jiao 比较 comparatively. We also had the ever popular zen me yang 怎么样。

We had our beef noodles and discussed the difference between learning in Taiwan, Singapore and China, traditional characters appeared to be the reason the student (Calwan) decided to study in Taiwan.

Arrangements were made for Estella and Calwan to do some sightseeing at Danshui 淡水。

There has been some very useful vocabulary and as usual Estella is drumming into us the importance of correct tones.

So that is the first 6 weeks done and I am pleased to say I did well and got full marks all the way through, but as these are things I have already come across and learnt most of already I would have been disappointed with any thing less.

We now have till the 16/8/15 to complete the final exam, it is pretty much the same style as the quizzes but obviously covers all 6 lessons.

So I am going to spend a day or two doing some revision and then tackle the exam at the end of the week Friday/Saturday so I have a day or so in case :)

Will let you know how I do.


Week 3 & 4

Week 3 & 4

Well I had to cram 2 weeks into a few days because unfortunately I had help arrange and then attend my mother's funeral this last couple of weeks.

She had been ill for a while and was 81 years old so we were sad but not surprised.

******* ******** *******

Lesson 3 was about arriving at the hotel and booking a room with a broken air conditioner.

We learnt some useful grammar patterns and did battle with the 3 can's in disguise :)

能不能 可不可以 会不会

In lesson 4 we learnt the "although .........but......... " pattern. I had not come across this one before, very useful.

We went to the hotel restaurant and ordered breakfast. A Chinese omelet with the option of adding tuna and cheese and a cup of oolong tea.

Estella put in an appearance in the second video of lesson 4, she loses her purse and has it given back to her by one of the students on the Chinese course, this then leads to the arrangement of going for lunch later on =* ooh is romance in the air? Its just a bit of fun, and is so very obviously staged it made me laugh out loud.

Interestingly for me as I have been taking part in the brilliant tea topics by abcdefg, we were taught the names of several Chinese teas. Also something called 奶茶 - milk tea, never heard of that before, if anyone knows what it is, that would be interesting.

As always in each introduction video Estella again emphasises the importance of tones, as she says if you don't pay attention to your tones now you will be speaking not just wrong Chinese but bad Chinese. She has been a real stickler for getting tones right from day one.

The long awaited android version of the app that goes with the course is being promised soon. This helps with tones and characters from what I can tell from the demo.

I am enjoy the course very much, it fits in well with my life and adds some structure to my self study routine. I am going to also go back and take up my NPCR routine now that life has returned to normal. So I will post my progress for that as and when there is something interesting.

Two members of the forum have joined the course this week, glad to have them on board, be nice to have someone to bounce ideas around with about the course.


edx Chinese Language: Learn Basic Mandarin

This week I started this new course with edx. It is starting from the beginning which was fine with me as I feel I have, as a self studier, missed out on some basic things. I hope to plug these holes and learn some more grammar.

The vocabulary is fairly standard beginners level.

The teacher, Estella, is from Taiwan. Her English is very good so it is easy to understand her explanations. She has a nice smiley face (not that this has a direct bearing on the lessons but it helps :) ) and seems genuinely keen on teaching Chinese.

I am impressed with what you get, bearing in mind the course is free, there are texts, workbooks, the videos which are broken down into 1 or 2 for vocabulary and then ones for grammar and dialogue.

Each week there is a quiz and it needs to be submitted as it goes towards your final mark, 6 quizzes @ 10 points each and the final exam for 40 points making a total of 100 points. A minimum of 80 points is needed overall for a pass. This is an Honour course so there is no scrutiny of how you take the quizzes and exams but there is also no certificate. To get a certificate costs $50.00. Not sure what this is for or what it entails, not planning on going for a certificate so I don't know.

I have done week 1, the texts, workbook and watched the videos. I have taken the first quiz and got 100%. I must admit I wouldn't have expected anything less at this level but I am hoping it will get harder and I will start to learn some new things.

I also hope that if this course goes well and there is the interest she may do an intermediate level course in the future.

As I progress with the course I will update and add to this blog.

P.S. I should have also added that if anyone is interested in taking this course it started on July 6th and finishes on August 14th when the final exam is published (and you have a week to do it), but you can submit the quizzes at any time for all of the lessons so you can do it at your own speed and you can join in any time till August 14th but that might be a bit late :)

Week 2

This week we were sent an email with some additional information about the course and the news that they have released an app to go along with the course. At the moment it is only available for iOS but an android version is promised soon.

it seems to be a combination of flash cards and a matching game, but not sure as I am an android user and will have to wait.

I forgot to mention that the course also offers the opportunity to have a 30 minute tutoring session with Estella using Google Hangouts. As it is for many people from many time zones it is done on a lottery basis, you register that you want take part and what time zone you are in (from a list supplied) and then people are picked at random. This happens on Sunday ready for Thursday when it takes place.

She will then concentrate on your speech and correct your tones and mistakes.

Estella is very keen on getting your tones right, she stresses the importance of correct tones several times a lesson.

I have found out that Level 2 will start in September and they intend on doing 6 levels in total at the moment. Each level is 6 weeks long and as it seems like they leave about 2 weeks between courses it looks like it will last nearly a year. This is encouraging and make me really want to take advantage of this wonderful resource that is for free and I intend to make the most of the following year of Chinese lessons.

I would encourage anyone who wants to start learning Chinese or just as a brush up your rusty skills, this is a really good way of doing it. You can learn at your own pace but you do have some deadlines to help keep you from putting things off.

So I am off to hit the books, well the internet and see how much Chinese I can learn this week.

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