I'm a huge fan of 中国好歌曲, the music competition where artists sing their own songs, and now there is finally a spiritual successor in 这！就是原创. Two episodes in, here are some of my favorite performances:
I'm a huge fan of 中国好歌曲, the music competition where artists sing their own songs, and now there is finally a spiritual successor in 这！就是原创. Two episodes in, here are some of my favorite performances:
The Chicago Mandarin Conversation group will now be part of Chicago Language Cafe!
Chicago Language Cafe is a biweekly, multi-language event where each language gets its own table, as long as 2-3 learners or practitioners of that language are present. There is always an English table for people who don't know a foreign language or want to practice their English. The emphasis is on having a fun, casual event, and is held at an English pub in the lovely neighborhood of Lincoln Square (their spotted dick is excellent). Participants are encouraged to move around to different tables if they want to practice different languages or take a break from their foreign language of choice. The organizer, Katy, is super friendly and helpful, and as a bonus, she takes great photos!
I think this is the ideal environment for a Chinese meetup in Chicago. Mandarin is a very niche language here, so having it be part of a larger group makes a lot of sense. Most learners of Mandarin come in with a fairly limited vocabulary, so being able to go to a designated English table (where your contribution will be much more appreciated) is a great option. Katy has cultivated a relationship with a downtown English school, so some native speakers who currently attend classes there will occasionally show up.
That said, there are a couple of downsides to this format:
David will appreciate this folk song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMtbOGrUsqQ
As a side note, I will be deleting the existing Chinese meetup groups on Meetup.com at the end of March. I don't plan to host any more events for them, so there's no longer any need for them to exist.
There's not much to say about this meeting. I've decided to switch to a different format: weekly, unhosted meetings. Let the meetup site be a platform to help people who are studying Chinese to find help and support in real life. Maybe the community itself can self-organize and keep the meetup going.
Lately I have been reading a lot of webtoons (条漫). A lot of it has been in preparation for our latest project, Awesome Chinese Webcomics, which is still in the incubation stage. Occasionally, I come across a webtoon that I really like, but it doesn’t qualify for the list because they fail the legibility test. So I decided to make a blog post to bring attention to these works.
Notes for future reference:
The meeting scheduled for January 19 has been cancelled.
As of this writing, there are almost no signups, and I'm also quite busy this week, so I can't really justify holding the meeting. Hopefully, there will be more interest in February.
Not enough members showed up for me to do the original activity, so I did a mishmash of things I've been thinking about for future sessions. I've rescheduled the GIF poem activity to January.
We went over how to use the text-to-speech feature of your smart phone. In most cases, the quality of the voices is pretty good, and you can set the rate at which it reads.
On iOS, you can turn on the Speak option in the text selection context menu by toggling Settings > General > Accessibility > Speech > Speak Selection. On that same screen, there are many interesting options, including Typing Feedback, Voices, and Speaking Rate. For voice, I'm using Ting-Ting, but perhaps Siri Female is better? In general, female voices are easier to understand than male ones.
We also covered the dictation feature of smartphones. If you already set up international keywords on your phone, then tapping the microphone icon on your keyboard should activate it. You may need to tap the globe icon to set the language to Mandarin.
In order to input punctuation, you must actually say the name of punctuation words.
逗号 - comma
句号 - period
叹号 - exclamation mark
Challenge 1: Write or copy a piece of Chinese text into your text editor, then try to get your phone to speak it.
Challenge 2: Try to reproduce the piece of text by using dictation.
Challenge 3: Write a simple self-introduction in Chinese and then read it out loud to Google Translate. See how close the translation comes to your intended meaning.
Challenge 4: Write a daily journal for a week, using only dictation.
I introduced a few simple Chinese webcomics:
Has the advantage of being a multilingual comic, available in both English and simplified Chinese (and many other languages). One possible approach:
1. Read Chinese version (not bothering to look up new words on first pass)
2. Read English version
3. Re-read Chinese version (to fill in the gaps from your first reading)
Short episodes. Most episodes aren't dialogue-heavy.
Four panel comic, probably for kids. Very easy language, but font is a bit cartoony so less legible
I plan to start a thread about this later, but I made a public spreadsheet for bilingual Chinese and English webcomics: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ymZMPPfccv0dfnkvUfmQ99_OsjLQwPzktcOgQjwAF8c/edit#gid=0
How to ask the for the bill: 结账，买单
Earlier this year, I decided to step down as organizer of the Chicago Mandarin Conversation meetup. As for why, I've been hosting Mandarin conversation meetups in some form or another since fall 2013, and I've simply lost interest (but I will continue to host the Chinese study group for a while). Fortunately, Kenneth has decided to take my place, starting in January of next year. We had a nice WeChat call just now about how to run the meetup, and these are my notes from that meeting.
Should we merge the two groups? (Chicago Mandarin Conversation and Chicago Chinese Study)
I'm slightly against this idea. One is for all levels and the other is for advanced speakers. It does make some things easier, but the problem is that with a mixed membership the advanced group will almost certainly get more beginners showing up. Remember that people don't read event descriptions!
I fairly strict about membership requests, requiring applicants to write a coherent introduction in Chinese. You can decide to be more lax on this front, and just accept any applicant that completes the profile (which is what I used to do). You have to accept that some beginners might slip through, and when they show up, you can refer them to the all-levels group if it's clear they don't belong in the advanced group.
Try to keep a good record of no-shows. If someone with a history of no-shows signs up, you'll know that they likely won't attend, and they can be automatically kicked off a waiting list if there is one.
There have been rare occasions when a member brings their child to a conversation event. I think this is OK if the parent is taking part in the conversation themselves, and the child is just hanging out. But if the parent tries to leave their child there, kick them both out! Meetup is not free babysitting.
When I started out, it was just me and my friend Aaron, and it was weeks before we got a third attendee. Even though it was a very small gathering, it was easy to host because I had a co-host and friend who I could count on to be there more-or-less on time every week. Definitely try to recruit your friends and coworkers to come, and keep a mental list of people who can step in for you when you're absent or running late.
There are a lot of people who claim that they would like to host a event. Do not believe them! If they actually name a place and time and show up at that place and time, that's when you can believe them.
Big announcements should be published on these platforms (in order of priority):
Normal announcements should just go on the mailing list.
Posting pictures to meetup.com helps a lot with promotion. It's better to have the picture taken on your own phone so you can just upload it yourself.
Another good way of promoting the meetup is to encourage people to write positive reviews.
You should send out a message to the mailing list introducing yourself and explaining that you will be organizing the group from now on. There are probably some members who still believe that this meetup group is dead. Remember to change your profile to indicate that you're now an organizer!
Having a recurring event helps convince people that this is a stable, active meetup. I recommend having at least one event that always occurs on the same relative day of the month at the same location and same time. You can schedule additional events at different places and times to spice things up.
Expect that about 50% of the RSVPs will actually show up.
If the event is at a restaurant, make sure to schedule the meetup 30 minutes in advance of when you want to take a seat. This avoids a lot of problems, like having to be reseated because the expected number of people didn't show up. If at all possible try to schedule at the edge of busy periods. For example, instead of scheduling for noon, choose 11:00 am or 1:00 pm. If you can avoid it, don't make reservations ahead of time since it's hard to estimate the number of attendees.
You don't need to announce it, but you should always have a backup plan. For restaurant events, you might show up to find that the restaurant is full or it's suddenly closed down for renovation or failed health inspection. Backup restaurant should be one that you're familiar with and which is generally not busy. For Chinatown, I think the underground cafeteria is a decent backup venue.
Try to avoid cancelling events if at all possible, even if the number of RSVPs is really low. Sometimes people will show up even if they didn't RSVP. If you do need to cancel an event, announce it the day before, especially if there are guests who would be coming from out of town to attend. The best backup plans account for the event where no one shows up (hopefully that never happens to you).
Since the average level of attendees is likely to be lower from now on, you should consider announcing discussion topics ahead of the event. Intermediate speakers tend to be more passive conversationalists and need more prodding. When you encounter an awkward silence, that's your cue to introduce a topic.
Prefer venues that are quieter, less crowded, and have lazy susans on their tables.
When ordering at a restaurant, the host(s) should always order for the group. Always remember to ask about dietary restrictions. Do not allow more than 20% of the dishes to be "adventurous" (e.g. chicken feet, jellyfish, duck's blood, etc). Do not let every attendee order one dish. Instead, ask every attendee what kind of food they're most looking forward to eating, and take everyone's wishes into consideration. If an attendee has special knowledge of a restaurant's cuisine, let them order.
When dishes are brought to the table, ask the server which dish it is and what ingredients are in it. This is useful for people who aren't very familiar with the cuisine.
Make sure to take a picture of the receipt so that people know what you ordered. Better yet, take pictures of the dishes and post them to meetup.com.
If I'm the host, I prefer to pay the whole bill and ask everyone to pay me via Venmo or cash.
Sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior
If a member reports another meetup.com user (not necessarily a member) for abusive messages, report them to meetup.com. The admins can see the messages on their side and hopefully they'll take the appropriate action. Keep in mind that for every abusive message you hear about, there are many more that aren't reported. Women receive a crazy amount of creepy messages online.
Kick spammers out and block them from rejoining.
IRL abusive behavior should be shut down immediately. Kick the offender out of the meetup group right away. If they want to rejoin the group, they'll have to talk to you before their membership request can be approved.
Things I have kicked people out for: homophobia, trying to use the group to sell pot, and trying to recruit members into one of those Chinese pyramid schemes.
You cannot kick someone out for looking like a creep. You can, however, pull female members aside and advise them not to accept free car rides from creepy-looking men.
We used to have a code of conduct. We should bring it back as a blog post and put a link to it on the meetup.com description page.
It's good to maintain a WeChat group so that it's easier for attendees to add each other. Just scan the group instead of scanning each other. The group is also useful for announcing events to existing members.
Any person who is spamming the group should be kicked out immediately. They can rejoin if they agree to stop spamming.
Currently, the requirement on the WeChat group is that no English is allowed. In practice, the group is really low traffic so I don't think that this is a necessary rule. I will transfer ownership of the existing group to you.
You should periodically clean out the WeChat group of members who haven't shown up in a long time. It's harder to find the people you want to add if the group has a lot of members.
We used to have a Facebook Group, but I don't think it's a viable option anymore now that the FB Groups app has been pulled. Using FB Groups from the main Facebook app is a way worse experience than just using WeChat. Also, I don't think FB Groups has the translate feature.
You will eventually be contacted by a recruiter who wants to post job ads to the group. It's your call whether to allow it, but I sent out a survey to ask the members if they want to see job ads through the meetup, and the response was mostly negative. In truth, only a few members have the language skills that qualify for the jobs I've seen. I think the best way to handle this is to ask the recruiter for the Chinese version of the job ad and post it in the WeChat group. Or just ignore recruiters entirely.
Events at your home
On occasion, you might want to host an event at your own home, like a potluck, game night, or movie-watching party. This is a great idea, and a wonderful opportunity to torment your friends with your indie music collection (ahem). Do not post the event with your exact address, the street corner or closest El station is good enough. You can message your phone number and address to confirmed attendees the day before the event. You may want to enable a waiting list whose size corresponds to the size of your apartment. Exclude inveterate no-showers from RSVP'ing. You may also want to limit the number of guests that you haven't personally met before.
It is not a big deal if your place doesn't have enough chairs for everyone. In practice, people are happy to stand for 2 hours if they're having a good time. If it really bothers you, then clean your floor and people can sit on that.
If you invite a total stranger to your home, you don't have to give your phone number and address to them right away. Remember that this person might not even show up! You can add them on WeChat/Facebook, and tell them to send their location to you when they get within a mile of your location. Once you've confirmed that they're actually coming, you can send them the relevant information.
Other types of events
Here are some events I've hosted or attended, and what I think of them.
Exhibition of Ai Weiwei's photos: It was really nice to chat while browsing the exhibition. I don't think this type of event needs to be limited to exhibitions of Chinese artists.
Mandarin Mingle in SF: This was held inside a hotel bar and everyone stood the whole time because there was no seating in that area. An absurd number of attendees, RSVPs were capped at 70 and maybe half showed up. I enjoyed it, but I wonder how long it would take to set up in Chicago.
Chinese chess and conversation in Montreal: People really seemed to like the vibe of chatting while playing a board game. After the meetup proper they went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Experience was marred by the organizer being a really creepy guy who didn't speak a lick of Chinese and who threatened to expel a female member who wouldn't give him her number (he was only there briefly since he had nothing to contribute beyond being creepy).
Mahjong and hotpot: I thought this was an interesting combination. Worth the effort if you have the equipment and some people willing to help you out with chopping and cleanup.
Watch a Chinese movie at a film festival: I don't really recommend this as a meetup event. It's fine to watch a movie with friends, but watching a movie with other meetup members is pretty much the same as watching it with random strangers. In practice, no one stays around after the movie to discuss it.
Language exchange: Maybe I'm bad at managing this type of event but I've never seen it go well. After the switchover from Chinese to English, the conversation tends to just stay in English.
Picnic in a park: This was fun, and we got some exercise to boot. We chatted while eating unhealthy snacks. We spent most of the time playing that game where you draw a card and put it on your forehead, and you lose if you say the number on your head. Loser has to do a challenge (usually something physical, like running to the library and back or getting a photo taken with a passing dog).
Friendsgiving at Sun Wah BBQ: Kind of an annual tradition that we skipped this year. I don't usually like hosting events at restaurants but this is somewhat of an exception. It's interesting how this event tends to attract people who show up just for this and never come back.
Notes for future reference:
We went to Shanghainese restaurant Shine for our 告别宴会. There should be one more event in December, but date and place are yet to be decided.
Recommended restaurants in Chicago:
Recommended restaurants in suburbs:
Get a haircut:
Sign a contract:
张 is the measure word for flat things:
Exception: You cannot use 张 with plates! You have to say 一个盘子.
I like to spend time with friends
How do you address people on the street?
Somewhat close to your age: 美女, 帅哥
Older than you by 20+ years: 阿姨, 叔叔
Much older than you: 大爷
Different examples of using 了:
Note that the 了 is a character with multiple pronunciations and meanings. See 了解 (understand), 了结 (finish), and 知了(cicada).
Here is a list grammar patterns using 了, from Chinese Grammar Wiki: https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/了
Anna asked a question about how people remember characters. Wenlin is an excellent academic desktop application for learning about etymology and character breakdowns (phonetic and signific), but is very expensive and not recommended for the average learner. A more affordable and more convenient tool is the Outlier Chinese character dictionary add-on for Pleco.
Kid's song: 儿歌
快乐的小王子 (The Happy Little Prince)
Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, buzzing buzzing
Biting children so they're covered with bumps
I wish to become a toad
To eat them all up
My clothes are rough
My reputation is not as good as a frog's
The children all don't like me
I'm not sad, nor am I vexed
This song can be thought of as a satirical reaction to this famous kid's song: 虫儿飞 (Bugs flying), although the bugs are clearly lightning bugs, even if not explicitly stated
Sentences with similar grammar patterns:
愿 is short for 愿意, expressing "I wish", as opposed to "I want" (我想)
It's more natural to say 我愿意为你(do something) over 我想为你(do something)
Two ways to express comparison:
You can find Chinese kid's songs on iTunes Podcasts, and especially on the Chinese podcast app 喜马拉雅.
Anna: Jay Chou's movie 不能说的秘密
Ethan: ADVChina Youtube channel. Is it Stupid to Move to China in 2018? might be a good episode to start with.
Richard: Theme song from Jackie Chan movie The Myth, Endless Love
Tom: The book AI Superpowers by Kai-fu Lee
We talked about recent travels, things we ate, and things we would like to eat. And some other random stuff. There is no one who wants to host this event anymore, which means it might be toast. That's too bad, but nothing lasts forever!
We talked about the possibility of having some dining events. Reservations are the bane of meetup organizers because you never know how many people will show up. But maybe we can avoid the problem by scheduling dining events between 3-5 when there aren't many customers. We also need to find some interesting new restaurants to go to.
The restaurant we talked about in Chinatown is called MCCB (Modern Chinese Cookbook). Perhaps we should schedule an event to go there together some time?
Wow, we covered quite a lot today! If you have some specific questions, you can write them as a comment on the event page so you don't forget to ask them later.
We reviewed common phrases for giving directions.
We covered how to express over and under.
We went over how to give commands using 把 preposition.
We went over measure words. Ge4 is the generic measure word that you can use anywhere. But you can optionally use other measure words depending on the noun.
一只猫 (zhi is for most animals)
一条狗 (more common)
一条鱼 (tiao is for things that are long and thin)
We reviewed the words for morning, noon, and afternoon.
早上 (morning over)
中午 (middle noon)
下午 (under noon)
You can certainly say 下午好 to someone, but maybe it'd be better to say 你吃了吗？in the afternoon.
We discussed when to say er4 and when to say liang3 for 2.
两个人 (liang with measure words)
2:00 两点钟 (liang for time of day)
2012 二零一二 (er for years)
Special colloquial term for 两个：俩
We discussed the 被 preposition.
We did a couple rounds of collaborative storytelling, where everyone takes turns contributing a sentence to the story.
我很喜欢旅行。I like to travel.
我去过中国。I've been to China.
我的朋友住在台湾，他酿啤酒。My friend lives in Taiwan; he brews beer.
我喜欢中国菜。I like Chinese food.
我叫飞鸿。My name is Feihong.
Huang Feihong is a very popular character in Chinese history and film. Jackie Chan's most famous turn as Huang Feihong featured one of his most iconic fight scenes. There is also a famous actress named Yu Feihong, who may be China's most famous spinster.
你的名字很漂亮。Your name is pretty.
我非常感谢你，是我老师起的。Thank you very much, it was chosen by my teacher.
我在微信看到你。I saw you on WeChat.
我们一起喝杯啤酒吧。Let's have a beer together. (Note that you could also use 瓶, 听, or 桶 for the measure word)
我知道附近有一家很棒的酒吧。I know an excellent bar nearby.
Questions, corrections, thoughts? Leave a comment!
Introduction: name, where you're from, representative dish from your place of origin.
Topic: Cultural differences between Japan and China.
Topic: Have you seen Crazy Rich Asians? What did you think of it?
Topic: What is something you like that most people don't like?
Attended: 5 (2 advanced)
Introductions, how long have you been studying Chinese and why?
Went over basic functionality of Pleco, encouraged members to continue looking up new words as we go to get more familiar with the interface.
We went over a couple of short monologues about life, extracting the general structure for other members to customize to their own particular situation.
Introductions. Why are you learning Chinese and how long have you been studying it?
I recommended Pleco as the best software dictionary, and we discussed some of its useful features.
We played Werewords. I think this worked pretty well because the game is fairly simple and it allows players to practice some common patterns of asking yes/no questions such as:
We also practiced answering yes/no questions by mirroring the question and reformatting it, e.g.