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About this blog

Notes from the meetings of the Chicago Mandarin Conversation group. Now meeting every Saturday night at 7 pm CST on Clubhouse: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/club/芝加哥汉语聊天社

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We made a club on Clubhouse


Here's the link to our club: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/club/芝加哥汉语聊天社. Anyone on Clubhouse can follow our club.


Our regular meeting is now on Saturday evenings at 7 pm CST. If you want to become a member, please attend a meeting and ask to be added as a member. Membership gives you the right to open a room on behalf of the club, which will automatically notify all other members of the club. It possibly notifies followers as well, but I'm not sure about that.



How to hold a meetup on Clubhouse


We've done a total of 3 "audio meetups" on Clubhouse and I have some thoughts on how to run a Chinese meetup on Clubhouse. Note that Clubhouse is a continually evolving social media platform, so this post will likely age badly.


You should have some ground rules to make things go smoother:

  • Don't invite people on stage if they haven't raised their hand. Some people just want to listen in for a while, and that's fine. Unless it's a friend, inviting them up on stage can give them unwelcome pressure.
  • Don't automatically give moderator privileges to anyone who comes up on stage. There should be at least 2 moderators, but there doesn't need to be much more than that. Being a moderator implicitly comes with a bit of responsibility, so it's more relaxing to not be a moderator (I personally prefer not to be moderator, if I can help it). I think it might make sense to periodically rotate moderator responsibilities during the course of a meeting.
  • Every meeting should start out as a closed room. I'm not sure there's much value in allowing random strangers into your room when your own conversation is still warming up. Once everyone has run out of things to say, it might make sense to open up the room. Although at that point, I suspect it makes more sense to close the room and explore the many other Chinese rooms on Clubhouse, perhaps even as a group.
  • When discussing a topic, fluent speakers and near-fluent speakers should always go last. Because they speak more easily, they often have more to say and can easily take up a lot of the time. Less-advanced speakers might have less to say but they sometimes need more time to say it.
  • If you need to leave for a short while or answer a phone call, it makes sense to go back into the audience so that people know you are temporarily unavailable. Otherwise it looks weird when people address you but you aren’t responding.

Some random thoughts:

  • Clubhouse lets users create clubs within the app now, but I still can't create a club with my account. I suspect it's because I haven't opened that many chatrooms myself.
  • I suspect the calendar feature of Clubhouse is still too broken to rely on. Sometimes not all invitees can see the event inside the app, and it’s not clear if you can even start a closed room from a calendar event.
  • There are a lot of game rooms on Clubhouse, it might be nice to try playing some during a meetup. Although this is where the audio-only limitations of Clubhouse really start to feel like a nuisance.
  • After the first round of introductions, it probably doesn't make sense for everyone to introduce themselves every time someone enters the room. It's probably OK for the moderator to do a very concise set of introductions instead.
  • A cool feature would be if a moderator could see how long it's been since someone spoke last. When I'm in rooms with native speakers, I might have something I'd like to say but the flow of the conversation is so fast that I feel like I can't get a word in. So it can be nice when a moderator occasionally steps in to check on someone who hasn't said anything in a while.

February 27, 2021 - A new beginning

After a long absence, the Chicago Chinese Meetup has been revived on Clubhouse! Actually, our first meeting was last week, but we were still getting used to the platform.


Today we had 4 old members of the meetup show up, as well as several friends from Montreal, plus a smattering of curious strangers who came and went.


We had two suggested topics, but in reality we talked about a lot of random things.


Topic: 你疫情中最喜欢看的连续剧


Topic: 最打动你的情歌


Next week’s meeting: https://www.joinclubhouse.com/event/PQ2WGdv8


Looking back on a decade of posts

Shockingly, I've somehow been on this forum for more than a decade and have posted more than 1,400 times. I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and review everything I've posted that got a like. And in the process, assemble a list of my favorite posts, because it's clear that I love making lists.


I found several somewhat random posts that I've pretty much forgotten about, but reflect some weird interest or opinion of mine at the time I wrote them.


Recommendations, March 2019

Terrace House is a pretty big hit on Netflix, but did you know that there are already three Chinese clones of Terrace House? The latest one, 遇见你真好, set in Shenzhen, is definitely the best one yet.


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:








March 6, 2019 - Chicago Language Cafe

Attendance: 6


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:

  • There's no guarantee that there will be a Chinese table. Apparently, there usually is, but it's completely dependent on who shows up on a given night.
  • Advanced speakers might not get the practice they need to maintain their current level. The casual nature of the event means that most participants will switch directly to English instead of checking their dictionary. This is not, and probably will never be, an immersive language event.
  • This is not a centralized platform for hosting Chinese-specific events. So the Chicago Language Cafe FB group and Meetup site are not really appropriate platforms for posting things specifically related to Chinese language or culture.




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.


February 16, 2019 - Chicago Chinese Study Group

Attendance: 2


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.


Recommended reading, February 2019

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.


















Chinese Study Group: Plan for February Meeting

  • Announcements
    • We encourage you to sign up for events on Meetup.com
    • Any specific feedback on previous months’ activities?
    • Would someone else like to try taking notes?
    • We welcome feedback!
      • Comments to blog posts are fine
      • Private messages through Meetup.com or WeChat work as well
  • Review of last month's meeting
  • Introductions at 1:30 pm
  • Q&A
  • Activity: Intro to WeChat
    • vocabulary: 加我吧,请加我,发信息,发微信,发短信,微信群,把我加到群里吧,你想加入我们的群吗?, 请扫我,你来扫我吧,我来扫你吧,发语音,翻译
    • WeChat functionality (15 minutes):
      • Scan someone
      • Let someone else scan you
      • Add someone to group by letting them scan the group QR code
      • Translate message
      • Send voice message
      • Create group
      • Mention: switch interface to Chinese, export to email, people nearby, shake
    • How to ask for help in WeChat group (15 minutes):
      • Simple question: expect a direct answer
      • Non-question: how do I say this?
      • Question in quotes: how do I ask this in Chinese?
      • Voice message: how is my pronunciation?
    • Answer questions in WeChat group (30 minutes):
      • 你最喜欢吃什么?
      • 你上次旅游的时候去了哪里?玩了什么?
      • 请你描述一下你很喜欢的电影的情节,但不要暴露电影的名字哦!
      • 请你给我们推荐一个跟中国或中文有关的作品
  • Play a round of Werewords if there's time
  • Optional Mandarin corner for 15-30 minutes (set timer)


Notes for future reference:

  1. wechat in chinese
  2. webcomics (pair up)
  3. dictation (google translate)
  4. translation (poem, song, dialogue)
  5. partial verses
  6. interview
  7. art museum
  8. madlibs
  9. text adventure

Chicago Chinese Study Group - January meeting cancelled

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.




December 15, 2018 - Chicago Chinese Study Group

Attendees: 3


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:


Pepper & Carrot

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






Passing the Torch

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):

  • Meetup mailing list
  • WeChat group
  • Blog
  • FB page
  • Twitter

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.


Chinese Study Group: Plan for January meeting (out of date)

  • Announcements
    • Thank you for the pens! (hopefully)
    • We encourage you to sign up for events on Meetup.com
    • This meetup is somewhat experimental, some experiments will be more successful than others
    • Last month's activity was probably too hard, will focus more on production activities
    • Any specific feedback on previous months’ activities?
    • Would someone else like to try taking notes?
    • Should we change the location to a place with guest wifi?
    • We welcome feedback!
      • Comments to blog posts are fine
      • Private messages through Meetup.com or WeChat work as well
  • Review of last month's meeting
  • Introductions at 1:30 pm
  • Q&A
  • Introduce WeChat
  • GIF poems activity
    • Everyone pick a noun or verb (perhaps related to season or what you’ve done today)
    • Use that word to search for related GIF images
    • Use the GIF image as the basis for a simple poem (30 minutes)
      • Poem does not need to include your key word
      • Focus on the vocabulary you know
      • Use your dictionary
      • Ask for help
      • See example below
    • Everyone shares their poem (30 minutes)
      • Corrections
      • Suggestions
  • Play a round of Werewords if there's time
  • Share your recommendations! (Chinese- or China-related content)
  • Optional Mandarin corner for 15-30 minutes











Notes for future reference:

  1. wechat in chinese
  2. webcomics (pair up)
  3. dictation (google translate)
  4. translation (poem, song, dialogue)
  5. partial verses
  6. interview
  7. art museum
  8. madlibs
  9. text adventure

November 17, 2018 - Chicago Mandarin Conversation

Attendees: 6


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.


We ordered:







Recommended restaurants in Chicago:




Recommended restaurants in suburbs:


状元楼 (炒码面,豆苗扣肉)



Feihong: Interview with diplomat Chas Freeman (part 1 of 3)

Durwin: 一本好书话剧系列:三体

Kevin: 晓说节目:对谈张艺谋

Marianne: 和你在一起

Ming: 文茜世界周报


Some chengyu:





November 17, 2018 - Chicago Chinese Study Group

Attendees: 7




Get divorced:




Get married:




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.


To chat:




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.




Feihong: Interview with US diplomat Chas Freeman on Sinica podcast (part 1 of 3)

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

Yunyi: 蓝精灵, Chinese version of the Smurf theme song

拇指姑娘 快乐的小王子.mp3


Chinese Study Group: Plan for November meeting

  • Announcements
    • We now have a blog on Chinese-forums.com (google "Chicago Chinese meetup blog")
    • This meetup will run through August 2019
    • Dinner event this evening at Shine (Shanghainese restaurant in Lincoln Park)
    • Can you please bring an extra pen next time you come? (I'm slowly losing pens)
  • Review of last month's meeting
  • Introductions at 1:30 pm
  • Q&A
  • Song activity for 快乐的小王子
    • Listen to all 8 verses
    • Distribute a verse to each member to translate to English
    • Each member explains their verse
    • We discuss the meaning of the song as a  whole
  • Play a round of Werewords if there's time
  • Share your picks! (Chinese- or China-related content)
  • Optional Mandarin corner for 30-60 minutes

October 20, 2018 - Chicago Mandarin Conversation

Attended: 4


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.



October 20, 2018 - Chicago Chinese Study Group

Attended: 6


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!


September 15, 2018 - Chicago Mandarin Conversation

Attended: 9


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?


September 15, 2018 - Chicago Chinese Study Group

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.


Pleco points:

  • Switching between simplified and traditional
  • Switching between English and Chinese (when ambiguous)
  • Turning on handwriting input

We went over a couple of short monologues about life, extracting the general structure for other members to customize to their own particular situation.


Original monologues:











August 18, 2018 - Chicago Mandarin Conversation

Attended: 6

  • We played Werewords for the first time. It was pretty good, but I don't think we need to do more than a couple of rounds.
  • We talked about the miraculous liquid (which we've all ingested at some point) that can be used to cure a dog's eye infection.
  • Feihong recommended Vox's Today Explained podcast.
  • Miho introduced the topic of embarrassing situations at work
  • Feihong recommended the "Street Cupid" series of videos on YouTube. Here's a good one to start with.

August 18, 2018 - Chicago Chinese Study Group

Attended: 7


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:

  • 是不是noun?
  • 是noun吗?
  • 它有没有noun?
  • 它有noun吗?
  • 可不可以用它verb noun?
  • 可以用它verb noun吗?
  • 跟noun有关吗?

We also practiced answering yes/no questions by mirroring the question and reformatting it, e.g.





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