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    I've been in Taiwan studying Chinese on an independent basis. I'll be slowing down now, so I thought it's a good time to share what I've found while I still have all details fresh. The flexibility you have studying independently has many advantages, but I know that for me, it also created many questions when I was considering if and how to start out on my own. So I tried to write up here many details about pragmatic issues which could be helpful in planning such as process, progress, prices, tips. There are lots of posts about "here's how I got started learning Chinese", both on this forum and elsewhere on the internet. This is just another one to add one more perspective and info. Hopefully it can be useful for beginners who are thinking of studying independently. ----- ----- ----- Summary I'd always thought about learning Chinese to a good level. I got lucky that things recently worked out personally and professionally that I could live in country and devote most of my time to studying intensively. I started overseas on my own for several weeks using resources I found on the internet and a grammar book I had. I then spent 4 months in Taiwan. While in country, I had 3 ways of studying: Private tutors For the first month, private tutors were around 40 hours per week. As my level increased, I was able to talk longer and longer with locals, so I gradually reduced the tutor time. Recently, I've had around 10-15 hours per week with tutors. Conversation with locals I study in cafes, restaurants and parks all day. I always find people to talk to for very long periods. I now have 20-30 hours of one-on-one conversation each week with a really wide range of locals. Self-study All the rest of my time. In terms of study time, I've been working on Chinese 70-80+ hours each week during the whole period, so something around 1600 hours total. Independent study vs. organized program There's no one right way to study a language: goals, circumstances, interests are all different. I decided to study on my own, not in an organized program, for many reasons: I like the flexibility of independent study. I've studied several languages before, including 2 non Indo-European languages to advanced levels, so I have a good idea of what works for me. There are numerous resources to study Chinese available on-line. Studying on my own with the help of private tutors is significantly more efficient for me compared to being in an organized program. Pace of learning, difficulty of material, and focus all match my interests and level. I don't care about a degree. I'm studying Chinese out of my own interest only. Study resources Introductory materials I downloaded some introductory materials from internet textbooks when I started out just to get going the first few weeks while overseas. Grammar I used Modern Mandarin Chinese Grammar, by Claudia Ross. It covers a broad range of grammar patterns and usage situations, and has several example sentences for every grammar explanation. When I first started learning, I put every Chinese sentence from the book into an Anki deck, then revised so I could produce word-for-word each Chinese sentence when prompted with the English translation. This was my main source of both grammar and sentence structure when I started, as well as vocab. Once in country, I paid a native-speaker to record audio for these sentences, so when I was revising them in Anki I would hear the sentences spoken and mimic. Frequency word lists of vocab I used frequency word lists and worked through them on Anki, English-to-Chinese. Memorizing context-less words is just a way to build a base of vocab as fast as possible. Once in country, I kept working through frequency lists, but new vocab gradually came more from words I encounter in the context of daily life: conversations, newspaper articles, media, menus, etc. Conversations with native speakers I record as many conversations as I can, and later put native speakers' sentences into Anki (the audio of the actual sentences they say plus the written transcription) and memorize. TV shows as source of example sentences for new vocab Around month 2, I started with TV shows and documentaries as a source of sample sentences for new vocab, based on a great idea suggested by Tysond here. Before, I was finding sample sentences for new vocab from the big on-line Chinese-language sites for foreigners... but when I used those sentences, native speakers would often tell me that they sound weird or just wrong. So, I converted a bunch of shows and movies into an enormous database of pre-made SRS cards. Then every time I learned a new word in real life, I searched for it in this pre-built database. Almost always I was able to find several usages of the word. The advantage is that the sentences are from real (i.e., native speaker for native speaker) sources, as opposed to the weird-sounding made-for-foreigners sentences. So when I come across a new word or phrase I want to learn, I instantly have several pre-made cards, complete with audio, of the word used in context. Because it's pre-built, it also is a huge time-saver. Sometimes I have to stitch together a few consecutive cards into one so I get the full context of the word, but that's not much time; otherwise, it's a very fast and efficient process. Then I throw the vocab word with the audio of it used in context in the TV shows into my main study deck for memorization. Character recognition To get started, I used the same list of frequency words in Anki that I used for memorizing vocab, but in the direction of Chinese character-->English meaning and pinyin pronunciation. I also memorized the most common 100 radicals first, then eventually all the radicals. I found understanding character composition helped a lot (hanzicraft.com is great for this). But it's still just brute-force at first. I found it's really a slog for the first few hundred, but it does get much better after 600. Anki really is ideal for this. Reading Reading is a lot more than just character recognition. For reading, I just started by trying to decipher the sentences in the grammar book. After finishing the book, I started with newspaper articles, taking one topic at a time and reading many articles on that topic, then moving to a new topic. After month 2, I started doing a lot of timed reading-speed drills, including drills for reading-aloud. I found this idea of imron to be very effective. The whole process of reading with a stopwatch reminds me of running wind sprints in track training, but it's really worked and I plan on continuing it. Memorization I've found that memorizing full sentences for everything at the beginning helps internalize the language more than just learning words and grammar rules separately. In my case, conscious study of rules is necessary and helpful for some parts of language. But I've found that for me, the best way to learn everything to an acceptable level of naturalness is to memorize as much as possible, effectively drilling at the same time many different areas: vocab, grammar, intonation, etc. Just repeat what I know over and over and over until it's internalized to the point that I'm always getting it right, then riff on them by changing different parts. I don't often use the exact phrases I've memorized in spontaneous speech, but I find that I've internalized their constructions and intonations well enough that I can then easily build my own sentences quickly and in a more natural way when speaking. I know that memorizing lots of sentences isn't for everyone. I just find that for me, there's too much going on in a language to really study every part consciously. Real linguistic analysis to a very deep level is incredibly complex; the "rules" that a foreign learner sees in a textbook are just a fraction. Moreover, it's utterly arbitrary. Natural languages are unsystematic, illogical, inexact, redundant. We only occasionally notice it in our native language, but we're constantly confronted with this arbitrariness when we learn a new language as an adult. I always want to ask "why"... but in most cases, there's just no good answer. So I memorize as much as I can. I use Anki; it's a great tool for memorization. My sentence memorization is always from English to Chinese; I find Chinese to English doesn't drill it in as well. I try to put audio recordings of native speakers into every Anki card I have. In my case, I've found that I learn the sentence in a deeper way by hearing and repeating the audio than if I focus only on the writing/reading. If that's true for everyone, I don't know. Scientific understanding of the brain and language is extremely limited, and I'm pretty wary of many claims of different foreign language learning methods. I just know that based on my experience learning several foreign languages in different ways, I find that, for me, hearing and memorizing audio of full sentences works well to internalize all the subtlety and arbitrariness of a language. Tutors I meet with tutors each day in Taiwan. All communication with every tutor was 100% in Chinese from the very beginning. It was silly at first to try to communicate in Chinese because my vocab was so basic and I couldn't read or write. Simply sending a text to arrange the first meetings took hours of pretty inefficient googling to compose the message and then understand what they responded. But I wanted to be clear from the beginning that we would never use English. In the beginning month, tutors were my mainstay. Each day was from 3 to 8 hours with 2 to 4 tutors. I spent around 40 hours per week with tutors. As my level increased to the point of being able to have conversations with real people, I gradually spent less time with tutors and more time talking with locals I meet in cafes, restaurants, and the internet. Most days have been quite pleasant weather, so I usually meet the tutors in parks. In bad weather, we met in cafes. Potential tutors are everywhere: supply massively exceeds demand. I had nothing arranged before coming but never had a problem finding tutors. I met for tutoring with uni students, unemployed office workers, a professional musician, a writer, a real-estate agent, and retired high-school teachers, as well as several professional Chinese tutors. In total, I worked with about 20 different tutors over the 4 months. At the max point, I had around 10 on rotation. The good and bad of independent study is the flexibility and variety of different tutors. It's definitely an organizational challenge to interview, schedule, and manage tutors. If I were in a structured learning environment like a uni or private school, all the selection and scheduling would be taken care of. On the other hand, doing it myself I get to pick exactly who seems best for my needs at that point. It offers intense exposure to a huge variety of backgrounds, accents, word usages, etc. And the process of doing it all in Chinese - finding, hiring, scheduling, firing, etc - has actually been very beneficial both for language and cultural understanding. As an independent learner, you really have to think in advance about what you're looking for in your tutors. The characteristics I find make the best tutors for me are: Tutor's role I've found that until I reach advanced levels in a language, the tutor is not "teaching" me the language directly. For me, a tutor's value is as a native speaker willing to talk with me for hours, drill me with new vocab, listen very closely to my speech, correct every error I make, and answer my questions about word usage. Grammar explanations At these beginning levels, I don't find it useful to hear explanations from a tutor about grammar. I need the tutor to point out errors I make, but that's it. A good grammar book is enough, and usually better, than any tutor at helping me understand, and memorization and rapid drilling is what internalizes the grammar for me. Experience Everyone will have their own views about experience requirements. But in my case, I personally have found that experience teaching Chinese to foreigners is unnecessary. In fact, I generally found that it is a negative. One problem is that the tutor has learned a certain way of teaching and is often locked into his/her method. And the methods they showed me weren't my thing. But even when I found experienced-but-flexible tutors, I found that the tutor is simply too used to foreigners learning Chinese: s/he understands bad pronunciation and grammar, is more accepting of errors, is accustomed to foreigners learning at a slow pace, and holds me to low foreigner-standards rather than native-standards of accuracy and natural sentence construction. I found the "good enough for a foreigner" mentality is hard to fight in any Chinese native speaker I talk to as a learner, but tutors who have spent lots of time enduring struggling foreigners are particularly bad. People less used to foreigners were significantly better tutors for me. Level of Chinese I've found that when I've reached advanced levels in a language, the tutor's knowledge of the language becomes important. For example, a professional interpreter can be a great tutor because s/he is extremely focused on the details of language. But at beginning levels like I'm at in Chinese, I've found that most native speakers are fine; the difference in quality between tutors depends much more on their personal characteristics rather than on their language skill. Reliability Reliability is key. I had constant issues with tutors cancelling or showing up late. Tutors I worked with over the 4 months had lots of "human resources" type of issues which affected their reliability: a divorce, a few break-ups, problems with parents/children/spouses, a pregnancy, a motorcycle accident, unexpected situations with friends, etc, etc, etc. Some of the issues were real, but some were laughable: one tutor's "broken leg" healed in 4 days, another tutor's dead dog had a miraculous reincarnation when I happened to bump into her and the dog in a park a week later, etc. I found there was no way to predict in advance a tutor's reliability. There was no correlation with age, experience, profession, marital status, gender, nothing. One person I thought might be a flake was by far the most reliable; the most unreliable person turned out to be a full-time professional Chinese teacher with an impeccable CV and references. Independent tutoring is a tough job. Unsteady hours, low pay, no fixed contract, uncertain long-term prospects. And I wouldn't pretend that it's a thrill to listen to an idiot foreigner like me babbling away for hours in bad accent and broken grammar in their native language. So I was always happy to find someone reliable. I also was lucky to find 2 tutors who were flexible and "on-call". When a regularly-scheduled tutor cancelled 1 hour before our meeting, I would contact the "on-call" tutors, and usually one of them would have time to meet. Concentrated focus on my speech and willingness to correct me I want a tutor to listen to what I say and correct literally every mistake I make in grammar, word choice, pronunciation... everything. It's very, very hard to find someone who can do this to the standard I want. It takes a lot of concentration to listen for several hours to a foreigner speaking in your native language and identify every single error s/he makes. And it takes a certain person to be able to then constantly interrupt the flow of conversation to correct that foreigner. Issues I've found: people's focus falls off, they figure my speech is "good enough for a foreigner", they feel bad about correcting me constantly, they think my level is too low to strive yet for better accuracy, they think that errors are acceptable if the meaning can still be understood, they think it's better to let me keep talking rather than stop to correct me, they are interested in the conversation itself and don't want to stop it. But I'm very, very insistent that I want the tutor to correct literally every single error I make. Otherwise, I have no way of knowing and I will reinforce errors. Constantly correcting me made conversations very, very slow when I was starting out. But that's fine with me. I know some people emphasize that in learning a language, it's better to just speak freely and errors will eventually fix themselves or can be corrected explicitly later. But for me, my goal is to speak as correctly as possible. I can have free-flowing speech with acquaintances, random people in cafes, or talking to myself. My purpose in meeting with a tutor is to have a native speaker confirm for me that everything I say is correct according to native-speaker standards. When you're learning a language, you have no way of ever really knowing if you're right... you might think you said it correctly, but you don't have the same instinct which you have in your native language. You simply can't judge yourself. But if I know that every mistake I make is being corrected by the tutor, then I also know that what's not being corrected is good.... and that gives me a confidence in the accuracy of my Chinese which I wouldn't otherwise have. Conversations with locals I spent a lot of time in conversations with locals while I was staying in Taiwan. I don't know the exact number, but I'd guess there were at least 70 separate people I met randomly with whom I talked for at least an hour straight. Based on the hours of conversation I've recorded, I'd guess that it's probably in total around 125 hours of conversations in the last months. I studied every day in public places which have lots of people, cafes and parks mostly, in order to create chances to find people with time to talk at length. In the first month in country, the conversations were only a minute or two: "where are you from" and that's about it. Or I just stopped people on the street to ask directions to places I already knew and tried to figure out the response. I just didn't have the ability to do much more in real-world situations. I could barely understand them, and they could barely understand me lol. So almost all my conversation practice came with paid tutors. Around the 2 month point I was able to start having real conversations with locals who aren't accustomed to speaking with foreigners. From then on, as my level improved, I gradually reduced the number of hours with tutors and spent more time with locals. It was a wonderful confidence boost to see that I could have real conversations with real locals and that I sounded passable enough that they were willing to talk with me a long time. I never have trouble now finding locals to talk with for very long (1-3 hours) conversations every day. In fact, my problem is the opposite: sometimes I can't escape to study on my own lol. I've been speaking with people from a really wide range of ages, interests, professions and (very noticeably) accents. I record most of the conversations using the computer or a pocket digital voice recorder. Afterwards, I go through the recordings, drill new vocab and constructions, and analyse their speech. I pick out interesting sentences, snip them out, and then practice mimicking each sentence. People have really been incredibly good to me. They are so friendly, so helpful, so interested in my well-being. Many people have invited me to meet again for meals, several have invited me to parties, corporate events, to meet their families, New Year's activities, taken me to the countryside, taken me hiking. Even apart from the great language practice, it's really been an incredible opportunity to meet people and learn about their lives and culture. Language exchange I met with about a dozen language exchange partners. The "exchange" is funny. When we first meet, I start speaking in Chinese. I suggest an hour of English, then an hour of Chinese. But they always have some reason not to speak English. Sometimes they directly say that they aren't good enough or are nervous, sometimes they have some excuse (my favourite: "I was sick last week, so I don't think my pronunciation is good right now."). But whatever their reason, we just continue speaking only Chinese for 2-4 hours. A few of them have turned into essentially 24/7-available online chat partners as well (all in Chinese). I've gradually stopped meeting with new language exchange partners and mainly chat with existing friends or new people I meet in cafes for conversation practice. The language exchange meetings were a crutch for a while as I was transitioning away from tutors, but it's not necessary anymore as I've progressed. I have more conversation opportunities than I have time for now. Language wars I've read of many foreigners having "language wars": the foreigner wants to speak Chinese, the Chinese-speaker wants to practice English. But for me, I've never experienced anything like it. People talk to me in Chinese, always. Even from the beginning, when my knowledge was a few weeks' worth of self-study. In stores or restaurants, the employees almost always start with me in Chinese. Very occasionally, they start in English... but when I open my mouth to speak Chinese, they instantly switch and the conversation is 100% in Chinese. I'm in parks and cafes all day. People approach me to chat in Chinese, but no person has ever approached me to speak in English. Even the "wow, you can use chopsticks!" type of people all speak to me only in Chinese (I've found that they strongly believe that using chopsticks well is more impressive than, say, learning the Chinese language lol). Young, old, male, female, all socioeconomic levels... everyone speaks Chinese to me, always. As I wrote above, even language exchange partners didn't speak to me in English. I really don't know what's behind the difference between my experience and that of other foreigners. I thought that maybe the "language warring" could be a China thing and not present in Taiwan, or perhaps it's because I'm not in a university environment. But Forumosa (a forum for expats in Taiwan) is rife with stories of language-wars in Taiwan (there are hundreds of posts about it). Even this forum has a thread of foreign complaining about language wars in daily-life in Taiwan... All I can say is that for me, it was never an issue. Level I'm now at what I'd call "advanced survival" level: Spoken Hours-long, one-on-one conversations about most topics with native speakers who are not used to foreigners. Language problems don't impede too much for normal topics. Unknown words and areas can be explained with known vocab. Group conversations significantly more difficult, i.e. sitting at a table in a group of 4 native speakers. There are linguistic nuances of group interaction, social and cultural cues which are different, overall speed, inability to slow down and get explanation when I don't understand, and the fact that I'm not directing half the conversation. Even when I understand, it's hard to keep the flow. I'd say I'm at best only at 30% in ability to understand and participate appropriately, i.e. able to read the group dynamics, jump into the flow of conversation at the right time, keep things moving and not slow it down, etc. I can understand to a decent level TV talk shows (unscripted dialogue) that deal with topics I'm familiar with. For unfamiliar topics, the unknown vocab is sometimes too much and I'm scrambling to stay up with what they're saying. I've focused a lot on news programs recently: I can understand a lot of what is said... but the parts I don't understand are usually the most important so I often don't know what's going on until I look up unknown phrases and then go back and listen a second time. Regional mainland accents are totally incomprehensible to me. Homophones are a bigger problem than I'd have imagined. I've found the issue in speech is that if I take too much mental time figuring out one homophone, then I'm scrambling to catch up in the rest of the sentence. I often find it difficult to differentiate similar words based only on context, or to figure out where one word ends and another begins. Also, I usually hear the correct tones now, but it's definitely a mental lag and the tone doesn't yet provide my non-tonal brain as much of an instant clue as it should in distinguishing differences. I'm now doing homophone drills specifically now and should have focused more on this from the beginning. Accent I found that it's significantly harder to have a good accent in Chinese than I'd initially expected, or that I've found in other languages. I probably did 200+ hours on pronunciation alone and have now reached the point where I have good tones and overall pronunciation, and everyone tells me that I sound extremely clear and easy to understand... but I know that my sentence intonation is stilted and formal except for sentences I've memorized and massively pre-practised. I wrote a separate post about accent work. One issue I've noticed is that teachers of Chinese, or other native speakers with lots of foreigner friends, have so much exposure to bad, wrong-tone accents that they gain the skill of figuring out what the foreigner is saying. As a foreign learner, if your only contact is with people who are used to foreigners, you can be lulled into overestimating your pronunciation. It's hard to break out of that cycle, because in many cases most people you speak with at the beginning will be people used to foreigners. Register I have very little understanding of style, level of formality, register. For most words I know, I have a basic sense of which are more written language and which are more spoken. I know how to appropriately use a few polite request phrases on the one hand, and I know and can use a few modern, young-person slang expressions on the other hand... but otherwise, my ability to vary my speech based on the circumstances of the conversation is very limited. Reading I work on newspapers a lot. Each week, I choose a few topics and read lots of articles only about them. Once I've learned the topic-specific vocab, I can read new newspaper articles on that subject with minimal look-ups. Serious newspaper articles on most unfamiliar topics are impossible to read without many look-ups and are still just vocab-building exercises for me. I focused a lot on menus. I'm now able to understand around 80% of menu items in local neighbourhood restaurants, i.e. know both the meaning of what the menu item is as well as every character in it and the pronunciation. I've found that I understand significantly fewer of the menu items in higher-end restaurants, both because they have a wider variety of food and because their descriptions are more flowery rather than literal. For most emails and texts I receive now, I usually understand easily with at most a few look-ups. Overall, reading is tiring for me. I can do it, but it's not yet enjoyable. Fwiw, I've been learning both traditional and simplified at the same time. I practise reading texts in both formats. I found it's really not too bad if you start out doing both. The only issue was just to maintain the motivation to keep up on simplified while being surrounded by traditional. Writing I'm able to write emails and text messages with few mistakes, but the correct use of particles (e.g., 啊,哦,喔,恩) is still too complex. For anything more sophisticated than emails and texts, my written skills are still too elementary. For practice, I've been writing an article a week and having a tutor correct. My "grammar" is decent, which is the benefit of no morphological inflections in Chinese. But my written language is too simple, too spoken-form, and too awkward. So many times the tutor tells me that what I write is understandable and nothing wrong with the grammar per se... but that it's just not how a Chinese person would say it. I've realized that after already memorizing a grammar book, there are still countless more syntatic patterns that need to be learned. Give me highly-inflected morphology and free word order any day! ;) Testing The descriptions I wrote above of my level are a more complete assessment than just a one letter ranking, but I know some people who are considering independent study also need to think about testing results when they're planning out if and how to get going, so here's what I found. I signed up for hsk5. I didn't need it for work or study. I just did it for fun, to gauge myself and especially as motivation to keep up with simplified characters despite living in Taiwan. There are tons of great hsk write-ups, I have nothing insightful to add. I'd only emphasize reading speed as being paramount for doing well on the test. I started with sample hsk4 tests after 2 months; I found they were ok, but reading speed was rough. I spent the next 2 months drilling reading speed, but even then it was still the hardest aspect for me in the actual hsk5. Based on my experience, the hsk measurements overestimate language competence. I understand that the test has its uses, but it's a very artificial and limited measure which tests not just language ability, but test-taking skill as well. Real-world language use can be very different. I've seen situations where hsk5 is listed as the requirement for native-environment opportunities in university or a job. Everyone is different, but in my case, I know that I'm just "getting by": I'm not close to being able to consistently participate in an intelligent, adult way in daily life, let alone in an academic or corporate environment. As for CEFR... There's been lots of discussion about hsk-CEFR correspondence. Based on my own experience, I think the Hanban claim that hsk5 corresponds to CEFR C1 is a massive overestimate. It's tricky to apply CEFR to Chinese because the writing presents such different issues and there are no cognates or shared base of vocabulary. Engineering, chemicals, biology, pharmaceuticals, social sciences, philosophy... many words in all those areas are similar in most Indo-European languages and many non Indo-European ones as well, but they're different in Chinese. Names of countries, names of companies, names of current and historical foreign political and business leaders... many of those are also very different in Chinese, and it's a non-trivial amount of work as a beginner to learn enough of all that to understand serious written material. I've found that it's one thing to be able to read articles which are designed for foreigners and mainly use only heavily-restricted vocabulary; it's another to read wide-ranging material written by and for educated, adult natives and "understand the main ideas of complex text on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialisation" (CEFR B2) or "understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts, and recognise implicit meaning." (CEFR C1). So if I hold it strictly to CEFR's actual descriptions for both oral and written skills, then I'm B1. In general, I've found that constant undeserved praise from locals combined with the assessment inflation from Hanban make it easy as a foreigner to overestimate language skill. It's obvious, but passing a test is one thing, using Chinese is another. In the real world, the only thing that matters is your true language skill, not a test grade. Handwriting People differ about whether a foreigner studying Chinese today should learn to write by hand. This forum has some posts about it here, here and here. For me, I learned to write some characters by hand just because I think it's cool in a way that typing them isn't. I can write with certainty from memory 800 characters (I know that exact number because it's the size of my Anki handwriting deck right now). Plus probably another few hundred where I'm less certain. All the other characters I know are recognition only. I found it was a huge benefit to memorize radicals brute force as fast as possible from the beginning, then really understand character composition (I use hanzicraft.com). Knowing them well made it much easier to remember a character than "this squiggly line goes here" or "this looks like a circle and a hand of a man smiling". I'd say that writing by hand helped me learn characters and improve reading speed. I think I "know" those characters I can write from memory more deeply than those I can just recognize. But I don't know if it's really necessary. Knowing character components is important, but I could imagine that it's more efficient to not bother with the mechanical skill of writing. It really takes a huge amount of rote repetition to learn to write by hand. I did it late at night when I was too tired to study more vocab, so I felt that I wasn't taking away time that I could put to more productive study use. Fwiw, everyone tells me my handwriting looks like a 10-year old. That's an improvement, at least - when I started, they told me it looked like a 5-year old Expenses I put all prices here in U.S. dollars. Tutoring Expenses The main expense directly related to learning was tutoring fees. As two reference points: the minimum wage is a bit under $4/hour a local university offers private Chinese tutoring at $15/hour. The rate at which independent tutors initially quoted me ranged from $4 to $16 per hour, with most initial quotes from $5-10. The more experienced/professional tutors usually quoted initial fees toward the high end of the range, but always dropped their rate when they realized how many hours I want to study and that I didn't want them to do any preparation outside "class" hours. The average rate I actually paid tutors over the period worked out to about $5 per hour of actual "class" time. Additionally, many days after "class" I also went with the tutors for lunch or dinner. We always kept talking Chinese. I would pay for the meal but not for their time. Between direct payments to tutors plus all the meals I bought for them, my total tutoring costs over 4 months was about $2200 for 500 hours of one-on-one time. All payments were cash. The grammar book I bought cost $40 overseas. Otherwise, I didn't have any expenses directly related to learning. Living expenses Everyone will find different living situations, but this is just to give some idea of what rough ranges I found as of February, 2014 for someone looking to study Chinese in Taiwan. In Taipei, a room in most shared apartments can be found from around $225 to $400/month plus expenses. An apartment on your own can be any price obviously, but you can figure around $350-600 for a small-ish standard place. Cities outside Taipei are cheaper. Depending on the city, a room in a shared apartment: $150-325, an apartment on your own: $250-$500. Basic meals in neighbourhood restaurants: $2-$5. Nicer local restaurants double that. Higher-end restaurants $20-30. Estimates I've seen on university websites budget $250 for monthly food expenses, which seems reasonable for most students. Phone is about $30/month for unlimited internet use on a month-by-month pre-paid basis, i.e. no contract. Everyone uses the app Line, which has unlimited free chat and calls, so there are usually no per-call or per-sms phone costs beyond internet service (unless you want to buy Line's stickers lol). The phone carriers' internet speed and coverage are very good. Most people now use their phone as a wifi-hotspot, so at-home internet service is unnecessary. In general, I found most other cost-of-living expenses in Taiwan to be cheaper than Western Europe, the US or Australia. Plus, I was studying pretty much all the time, so I wasn't spending much money anyway. Total So in total, I figured about $1100-1400 per month for accommodation, meals, and 125 hours of tutoring. Conclusion I'm just a beginner myself, but I hope some info here from my initial stages might be useful for someone else starting out who's thinking of studying independently and comes across this post. As for me, I can't keep spending 80+ hours per week studying Chinese, it's time to get back to real-life. My conversation skills unfortunately won't progress as much anymore, but I will focus on vocab, more advanced/professional reading, and TV shows. My goal by start next-year is to understand most TV news, enjoy reading a full newspaper and not get a headache, really get into 相声, and - finally - to understand all menu items in restaurants... although I've found that understanding the language on the menu still doesn't always mean I can predict what exactly the restaurant will serve! This is a great forum. In the months I've been studying Chinese, I really have read hundreds (thousands maybe?) of posts on this forum going back 10 years. It's been an incredibly helpful font of information, tips, experiences, and motivation as I learn the language, and I'd like to express my gratitude for an amazing resource.
  2. 25 likes
    Basically, in my opinion it involves doing a ton of boring and hard work, with lots of drilling and repetition, things which I know have kind of fallen out of favour in language learning circles, and I used to feel much the same way - until I started doing it and seeing positive results from it. The vexing part is actually just making the decision to bite the bullet and do the grunt work. My thoughts on improving various different skills below: Reading and listening Speaking Reading speed Vocab acquisition Memorising characters
  3. 17 likes
    I took the HSK 5 last weekend in Lanzhou on December 4th, 2016. To my surprise, I found the study process to get ready for the exam both rewarding and educational. Quantitatively, I learned 400 new words (over 50 hours of Anki), completed seven practice exams, and studied roughly three to four hours per day for the month prior to the exam. I say it was a surprise that it was rewarding and educational because prior to the exam I had always written it off as a test that more-so tests my ability to take a test rather than my Chinese ability. I did, however, spend a significant time just learning how to take the test. At times, this was frustrating. I hated having to learn to skim for answers rather than read and be tested on my comprehension -- but not I'm finding my reading speed is faster and I can more easily skim a text, which is a valuable skill in and of itself. I also hated some of the logic in the questions, like two people discussing living together, one male and one female, which obviously implied they weren't friends but lovers. And yet, looking back, that is the same logic I see my students employ, regularly. The writing section, though, was likely my favorite. It was the biggest challenge, but it finally gave me a reason to practice writing. Being somewhat of a writer in English, it was a skill I'd never manage to transfer to this new language. I still haven't, but now I'm one step closer. I liked the first writing part where I needed to reorganize the words because it forced me to recognize the many errors in my current Chinese grammar, mostly the placement of simple words that I thought I had down, already. I also learned several new grammar patterns from them. The second part that had me look at pictures and write about 80 characters was challenging for a whole other reason--restricting my writing to a mere 80 characters. Previously, teachers had always applauded me for writing extra, but a side-effect of this has been that I was not economical in my word usage, nor was I very clear in my logic. I supplemented both with extra phrases and paragraphs, asking my reader to pull my meaning out of the extra content. The 80-character limit demanded I think fully through from beginning to end. Furthermore, the part that provided me with several words for which I needed to create a full idea with, in 80 characters, give or take, pushed me to take the time to actually practice writing sentences with the grammar patterns I know but never use. Previously, I would do the whole "I know it when I see or hear it, therefore I know it" fallacy. The wake-up call was when 即使 was one of the words, a word I considered I knew and quickly found I didn't. The fear of that happening on the test pushed me to practice writing sentences with all the different grammar patterns I learned. Though, my girlfriend is very tired of correcting my sentences, now. In order to learn the vocabulary, I put the HSK vocab list into Chinese Text Analyser and went through the whole list. If I had even a moment's doubt, I would not mark it as known. Then I exported all words up to HSK5 that I didn't know and put them in Anki. Then, after filling in the blanks with Pinyin Toolkit, I would study them religiously (40 new and all reviews). I would choose less sleep over missing a day. When I ran into a word I really didn’t know, then I’d add a sentence from Jukuu, Zhonga, or Pleco. The process of finding the sentence(s) helped deepen my understanding of the word. I’d also aim for a sentence that included a good grammar pattern or another word I wanted to practice. When I studied them, I always wrote down the word and sometimes I’d also write down the sentence. Even better was if I could remember the sentence before I even flipped the card. Having stock sentences for a lot of vocabulary helped me a lot on the writing part. Throughout the month, I studied a practice test once a week or so. This was a constant reminder that I wasn’t perfect and there was still a lot to be learned. I didn’t do what many friends did and try to learn any words they didn’t know on the practice test. Instead, I just stuck to learning the 400 I’d already added to Anki (it’s good to have limits). I finished learning all the new words one week before the test. I did this intentionally and had set my daily, new-words limit accordingly. I spent the last week doing as many practice tests as time allowed. The last tool I used was Audacity. I put the audio file for the listening section in it and “Truncated Silence” (under the effect menu) to remove the pauses. I also cut out the intro. Then I put them on my phone and listened to them whenever I had time. I’d also try to repeat what the man said whenever he spoke. During the practice tests, I scored a pretty consistent 37ish/45 for both the listening and reading sections. I would always write question marks next to questions I wasn’t sure about when I wrote the answers. This let me know that the spots where I “felt” confused at were often where I was actually confused. The feedback loop was helpful and helped teach me to gauge my own knowledge. Based on that, I’m confident that I did better than any practice test I took. Lastly, I decided on the written form. The audio section was played over a loudspeaker in the whole room. No headphones. But, the test booklet included all three sections. So, once we were done with the listening section, during the 5-minute break to ensure all boxes were filled in, I could move on to the reading section. Additionally, after I finished the writing section early, I could go back to the reading section and double check some answers that I marked. All this said and done, while I went into the HSK 5 test prep process as a skeptic, I'm leaving as a believer. I recognize that it does have its failures, but preparing for it was a boon for my Chinese. It pushed me to study more and recognize the holes in my current Chinese ability, while simultaneously motivating me to fill them. My biggest take-away, though, was that the HSK should not be my sole goal. I will continue reading, studying and living the language and after maybe another year I will switch into HSK-mode and focus on learning the HSK 6 vocabulary and grammar. EDIT: The book I used that includes answer keys, explanations for every question, transcripts for the audio sections, and a sample answer to every essay question https://world.tmall.com/item/524202182648.htm#detail? The links I used for HSK test info http://www.chinesetest.cn/goKdInfoOrPlan.do?zhou=1&guo=1&kdname_name=%E5%85%B0%E5%A4%A7&kdType=0&xm=0&km=0&yf=0 http://www.china.org.cn/english/MATERIAL/105469.htm http://confuciusinstitute.asu.edu/files/application/HSK.pdf http://www.chineseathome.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=355%3Ahsk-idioms-list&catid=66%3Ahsk&Itemid=202〈=en https://www.umb.edu/confucius/tests/hskk
  4. 16 likes
    Well, I've been here ten years now. Here is my accumulated wisdom (disclaimer and confession: I did NOT do 1-3): 1. "Follow" imron, bookmark this post of his, follow the links from there, and find the strength to carry through. Many other good ideas around, but I don't think anybody is *better* than this. 2. Pray that you've accepted sound judgment, and then STOP shopping for tools/materials/methods. 3. Find reasons to work hard, then either work hard or quit. 4. Love - for someone in the present or for someone who might appear in the future - is a powerful motivator, but be careful with that; friendship works too. 5. No matter what your age you should feel some urgency (as I don't think it has helped much with age-related mental decine, in my specific case). Better hurry up while you can. 6. Other than that I've posted a lot of words in almost a thousand posts. My own "theory" posts are almost completely worthless, just hot air, unless you aim to commiserate. At this point I'm that very old guy you see shuffling through a marathon. Among those who do finish, I will be last. Too late to quit, as I have acquired love and friendship; told you to be careful. :-)
  5. 16 likes
    I've been meaning to write something like this for some time, as a complement to Wushijiao's earlier advice for beginners. A few weeks ago there was a small rash of 'where do I start' topics, so I actually started writing it, and today the Internet wasn't working for a few hours, so I finished it. Feel free to pull it to pieces and suggest changes, but as it's already up against the 1,000 word limit you can't put anything new in without taking something else out. Assumptions I’m aiming to give solid, generally applicable advice for the new student of Chinese, in one thousand words. I’m assuming you are not enrolled on a full-time course, have not done any significant language learning before, and aim to reach general fluency and competency. Not everyone will agree with my advice. A course A structured course to follow is essential. Currently that means a paper-and-ink textbook, and the associated audio and video resources. Online and CD-ROM courses aren’t there yet, although they may make sound supplementary materials. Which actual course is less important – that will depend on what is available, what you like the look of, costs, etc. Some sound options: a. Integrated Chinese b. New Practical Chinese Reader c. Chinese Made Easier Follow one of these carefully and you can avoid the trap of focusing on what you find easier or enjoy, and as a result developing imbalances across the four core skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) or letting either grammar or vocabulary fall too far behind. Supplement with other resources, but never forget that structured backbone. Teachers and Tutors An evening class, private tutor (online or off), instant messaging buddy or willing Chinese-speaking friend is an excellent way to practice and build confidence. But be aware that native speakers are not necessarily able to teach, and may find it difficult to provide explanations – ask any English speaker if the ‘th’ in ‘thumb’ is voiced or unvoiced, or the difference between ‘I’ve seen it’ and ‘I saw it’. Chinese people often assume Chinese is virtually impossible for foreigners and hence heap praise on minor error-ridden achievements. Accept no compliment without criticism – insist on knowing what your most intrusive fault is, as there will surely be one. Pronunciation Bad pronunciation habits are more easily acquired than lost, so don’t acquire them. You’re going to be reliant on pinyin for quite some time, so learn it early and often. Remember pinyin letters do not have the same pronunciation they do in your native language – the pinyin wǒmen is not the English women. Listen intently and repeatedly to the audio for your course, and use Audacity or a similar tool to record yourself and compare. If you have any time with a tutor or native speaker, spend the bulk on pronunciation and speaking. Tones are often taught poorly or not at all by teachers and textbooks. But a student of Chinese cannot overlook the tones any more than a student of English cn ovrlk vwls. Do not ‘worry about them later’; you will not ‘pick them up over time’. You probably won’t produce tones accurately in conversation at first, but work from recognition to production in single syllables, to words, to sentences. Make sure you know the tones for every item of vocabulary you learn - if you don’t know the tones you don’t know the word. Further reading It’s like playing the guitar or tennis – frequent, repetitive practice is key. Characters Characters are the most visibly different aspect of Chinese, and it’s easy to get hung up on them. Don’t obsess about how many characters you know, or how many you need to know – put words first. You will need to learn to at least recognize characters. You may decide early on that you will not learn to write by hand - fine, you can get by with pinyin input on computers and mobiles. But not learning characters at all leaves you illiterate and devoid of study resources past the most basic of levels. You’ll need to decide whether to study simplified or traditional characters. The usual choice will be simplified but if you have a good textbook which uses traditional, plan to spend lots of time in Taiwan, or just think they look better, learning traditional is fine. Once you’ve learnt one set, the other is well within reach. Methods for learning characters range from brute force with flashcards and repetitive writing to the use of elaborate mnemonics. In any case, an understanding of the components that characters are made up of is essential. Vocabulary Use flashcards. You can make your own out of card, buy them, or use electronic flashcards on your computer, phone or PDA. Look at products such as Anki, ZDT and Pleco. Opinions on whether your flashcards should feature characters, words or sentences differ, but everyone agrees you should have them. Technology Make full use of technology. Flashcard programs simplify the grunt work of vocabulary learning. Podcasts and an mp3 player automatically delivers you daily listening material. A pop-up dictionary decodes that problematic sentence. Even the least computer-savvy learner will profit on time invested figuring these tools out. Don’t over-rely on electronic aids. You can't copy and paste an argument with a policeman into an online translator. Practice If you’re a movie buff, watch Chinese movies or TV. You’ll need subtitles, but picking out words and sentences is a huge confidence boost and eventually the subtitles get turned off (or swopped for Chinese ones). Bookworms should obtain a set of graded readers to use until they can start simpler authentic texts. Chatterboxes can find people to chat with over Skype. Chinese music, video games – it’s all out there. Initially authentic Chinese materials will seem inaccessible, but seek out the simpler ones and keep plugging away. You’ll get there, and it’ll feel great. Spend Money You can learn Chinese for free, but money spent may save you time and errors. Textbooks, a good dictionary, tutors. It’s still cheaper than golf, and much less pointless. Discipline Be rigorous. You’re not just self-studying, you’re self-teaching. It’s your job to make sure you complete the exercises at the end of every chapter, revise those words from three weeks ago, check the grammar in the passage you wrote, pull yourself up on pronunciation, find explanations for the stuff you don’t understand. Doing all that yourself isn’t simple - that’s why we’re here. But if you don’t care how good your Chinese is, your Chinese won’t be any good.
  6. 9 likes
    IMHO speaking and listening are infinitely more important than writing or reading. Learning a language requires you to 'internalise' it. It's like learning to ride a bike. A really really difficult bike. You can't "study" it in the way you can say chemistry. The problem is, most people "study" the language more than they "learn" it. And most "study" material is based around reading - as are all academic subjects. You can't internalise a language through reading; you can't read your way to fluency. I can read Chinese novels or newspapers without much trouble. This has had little to no cross over to my ability to understand or speak Chinese. It's like this because learning to read is an easy task that mainly involves memorisation and learning some rules. Learning to speak and listen however requires large amounts of practice (as opposed to memorisation), that can be hard to get. It's hard to get this practice because unlike learning to read, you need to be brave, able to deal with embarrassment, and with pressure. Learning to read Chinese is a safe and cognitively non-intense exercise. As adult second language learners we're already mad good at the kind of memorisation needed for literacy. But we're a bit sucky at the endless practice and bravery needed for spoken fluency. Chinese characters create the illusion that this is the most difficult part of the language. Native speakers - because they don't remember learning their own language - who only remember the difficulty of learning characters would probably help reinforce this idea. This is wrong. Whenever I read stuff on the internet about "Chinese is easy. The grammar is simple. You just need to master the tones and the characters" I generally get the feeling that they haven't learnt Chinese to a high level. It sounds like a beginner's/outsider's perspective. In short, yes, prioritising listening and speaking is an absolute must. The struggle for most people isn't coming to this conclusion, but actually prioritising it.
  7. 9 likes
    What you do for fun is only part of the transcribing-as-a-learning-method process, namely, looking up unknown/unfamiliar words. You may also need to use search engines for proper nouns -- names of individual persons, places, organizations. Transcribing allows you to attack materials way above your current level. As a result, new words are inevitable. And believe me, words learned this way have a better retention rate than usual. The cause of not understanding natural speech I think boils down to A) speed -- the input rate exceeds your brain's processing rate; B) content -- you wouldn't understand it even if it were written down; C) accent -- and other deviations from the "standard" such as reduced pronunciation, omission of certain words, etc. These all can be learned or trained for. And transcribing is a good way to go about doing it. The immediate goal is to produce a transcript as accurately as possible -- to break down the flow of audio signals into words and phrases and reassemble them into grammatically correct and logically coherent sentences. So hanzi or pinyin doesn't really matter as long as they are meaningful to you as a text that carries meaning rather than a representation of sound syllables. (Speaking from my experience with Cantonese and Japanese, the relatively simple syllable structure and the extra layer of a phonetic IME make it easier to type characters/words you don't even know how to read -- I'm not sure whether it's a good thing or a bad thing though.) To achieve the immediate goal you can use any tools available, loop as many times as you think is worthwhile, sentence by sentence, word by word, slow down if necessary, use dictionaries/thesauri, the internet, anything -- as long as it's not a speech recognition software -- yup, that would be cheating. But sometimes perhaps you should limit the tools and resist the temptation of being able to understand a very challenging piece through transcribing. The best approach I think is to find something at or even below your level (try speeding up instead of slowing down hehe) and work up the ladder gradually. I always say the most important thing in listening is not the ear. It's the brain. A language user at a higher level can spot a simple mistake and correct it by reading the transcript without even listening to the audio. That's the ultimate listener. If you don't believe me, consider this: If I write "a US piece core member" you will know immediately it's a mishearing of "Peace Corps" -- the listener either does not know the word, or has only seen it on paper without realizing that "ps" is silent. Similarly If you write "攔驢老少" I will know too that if it's not a word play then it must be a mishearing of "男女老少" -- the speaker has an accent that does not differentiate l and n, probably from Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi. There's a joke in the AI circle, "How to wreck a nice beach? You sing calm incense!" (How to recognize speech? Using common sense!) In successfully transcribing a passage you need to actively apply all the knowledge you possess about the language, the culture, the subject matter. So in a sense it's not merely a listening exercise and also why I consider it a very powerful technique. And intensive studying should always be supplemented by extensive studying. Can't understand news broadcast because of its tortuous sentence structure? Then read more news articles. Find some news radio streams and put them on as background music. The guy at HackingChinese also mentioned transcribing Chinese audio as an active form of listening practice. But contrary to his advice, my approach emphasizes *daily* drilling over a *sustained* period of time (in imron's words). It's a very demanding task, so don't bite off more than you can chew. Start from 5-minute audio clips. If it's still too much, try 2- or 3-minute ones. But you should do at least one hour of transcription exercise everyday for let's say three months. It worked for me, but it's not guaranteed to work for everybody. If it doesn't work for you then I presume you know better than to 在一棵樹上吊死.
  8. 8 likes
    Alright, I have reached a conclusion after much deliberation: There is nothing wrong with 在未……之前. It is the correct usage and serves an irreplaceable function. It has its roots in the ancient language and has been used by great intellects. Any arbitrary rule against it is misguided. I’ll try and explain in detail how I reached that conclusion. Let’s first start with establishing two facts: 1) 在未……之前 and 在……之前 are not semantically equivalent; 2) 在未……之前 and 在未……時 are not semantically equivalent. This should be obvious. Because otherwise there wouldn’t be an “or” in the proposed solution by the opponents of 在未……之前: namely, to remove 未 or 之前. The guys who came up with this solution must be aware that you cannot always remove 未 from a sentence, because of 1); and you cannot always remove 之前 from a sentence either, because of 2). Hence the awkward two-pronged attack. Easy to demonstrate through examples (all taken from Google search “在未*之前”): a) 在未判罪之前,刑事訴訟必須保障疑犯免受監禁、逼供之苦、享有緘默及不自證其罪(或稱自我指控)的權利…… (Hong Kong Human Rights Commission's document) Obviously, if you omit 未, this ill-formed sentence *在判罪之前,刑事訴訟必須保障疑犯免受監禁、逼供之苦…… would end up implying that in criminal cases, conviction is but a matter of time. (This should also answer @Tulee the OP’s question concerning “the reason for 未 in the sentence at all”) b) 在未燦爛之前就已凋零 (title of online fiction) The 未 in this sentence is a key word, therefore cannot be removed. *在燦爛之前就已凋零 is wrong on so many levels I’ll leave it to those who have better math skills than me. 未燦爛就已凋零 This could have worked, if the rhythm were not off by, let me see, 1, 2, 3 syllables, thus turning poetry into rap. c) 在未遇见你之前,我不愿将就 (random essay) The essay is sloppy nonsense (你 means Mr. Right) but the sentence is interesting. Try removing 之前: *在未遇見你時,我不願將就——哦,一遇見我你就願意將就了。 Try removing 未: *在遇見你之前,我不願將就——哦,遇見我之後你就願意將就了。 Either way, you’re willing to 將就 once you meet your Mr. Right, which doesn’t seem right to me. d) 爱在未死之前 (fan fiction title) This one, no matter how I wrack my brains, just can’t seem to work: *爱在死之前 *愛在死前 *愛在未死時 *愛在未死 *愛死不死 BRAINS! BRAINS! BRAINS! We’ve investigated a few cases where one of the two words (未 and 之前) may not be readily removable. Let me confine myself to saying that what seems to be a genius solution does not work well with titles. Next step. What about the possibility of both words being unremovable? What about legal documents? Good questions. Let’s examine two UN documents, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR, Chinese version here), and The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, Chinese version here). UDHR, Article 11. (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. ㈠ 凡受刑事控告者,在未经获得辩护上所需的一切保证的公开审判而依法证实有罪以前,有权被视为无罪。 ICCPR, PART III, Article 14 2. Everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law. 二、凡受刑事控告者,在未依法证实有罪之前,应有权被视为无罪。 When it comes to the use of 在未……之前 these two documents seem quite consistent. I chose them not only because they are important documents that have been translated into many languages, but also because I believe the wording of these documents must be precise, being worked out carefully by a bunch of legal experts and professional translators (rather than a bunch of armchair grammarians). The ICCPR text is concise. Let’s see if we can “correct the mistake” by removing 未 or 之前. Firstly, removing 未 is out of the question. Same reason as laid out in Example a) above. Can we remove 之前 then? No. “……者,未依法證實有罪,應有權被視為無罪” is simply not good Chinese. Even if you throw in a 經, “未經依法證實有罪,應有權被視為無罪” is still wrong. Because in the original text, “until proved guilty according to law / 在未依法证实有罪之前” is a temporal clause, while 未經依法證實有罪 is a conditional clause. The difference may be trivial to some people, but I believe it’s unacceptable to experts. The UDHR text is much wordier. Parsing it is difficult even for a native speaker. Whether 未or 之前 can be eliminated safely, you be the judge. ==========我是華麗的分隔線========== When I was scouring the internet, lost in the labyrinth of semanticity, a thought hit me. Why does 在未……之前 even exist in the first place? Where did it come from? (Okay, that’s two thoughts.) After wracking some more brains, I seemed to have found an answer: 未……之前 is the direct descendant of the Classical Chinese phrase 未……之先 (variant 未……之初). Examples abound. 子春忍愧而往,得錢一千萬。未受之初,憤發,以為從此謀身治生,石季倫、猗頓小 豎耳。錢既入手,心又翻然,縱適之情,又卻如故。不一二年間,貧過舊日。——唐傳奇《杜子春》/宋・《太平廣記》(878) 或曰:「蓋古之人於材有以教育成就之,而子獨言其求而用之者,何也?」曰:「天下法度未立之先,必先索天下之材而用之;如能用天下之材,則能復先王之法度。能復先王之法度,則天下之小事無不如先王時矣,況教育成就人材之大者乎?此吾所以獨言求而用之之道也。」 ——北宋・王安石《材論》(1021-1086) 蕭何能知之於未用之先,而卒不能保其非叛,方且借信以為自保矣。——南宋・陳亮《陈亮集》(1143-1194) 苟遇知己,不能扶危為未亂之先,而乃捐軀殞命於既敗之後;釣名沽譽,眩世駭俗,由君子觀之,皆所不取也。——明・方孝孺《豫讓論》(1357-1402) 明哲則中心無所惑,而灼有所見於善惡未分之初;定靜則外物不能動,而確有所守於是非初分之際。—— 明・邱濬《大學衍義補》(1421-1495) 物不幸而為人所畜,食人之食,死人之事。償之以死亦足矣,奈何未死之先,又加若是之慘刑乎? ——清・李漁《閒情偶寄》 (1611-1679) 古人未立法之先,不知古人法何法;古人既立法 之後,便不容今人出古法。千百年來,遂使今人 不能一出頭地也。師古人之跡,而不師古人之 心,宜其不能一出頭地也,冤哉!——清・石濤(1642-1707) 【I love this one particularly. If anyone thinks this is a mistake, I challenge him to correct it!】 古人文章似不经意,而未落笔之先必经营惨澹。——清・吳德旋《初月樓古文緒論》(1767-1840) 『你去把野獸帶來,做成美味給我吃,我好在未死之先,在耶和華面前給你祝福。』——《聖經》創世記 27:7 現代標點和合本 『你去為我打些獵物回來,給我預備美味的食物,讓我吃了,在我未死以前可以在耶和華面前給你祝福。』——新譯本 【This is becoming interesting. I didn't expect to find a direct proof to support my claim that 之前 evolved from 之先. Now we've entered the Baihuawen (Written Vernacular Chinese) era.】 未出殯之前,有人來說,他有一穴好地,葬下去可以包我做到總長。我說,我也看過一些堪輿書,但不曾見那部書上有「總長」二字,還是請他留下那塊好地自己用罷。——胡適《我對於喪禮的改革》(1918?) 第一,未講之先,提出一個標準來,——標準就是“為什么?”——“女子不為后嗣”。——胡適《女子問題》(1921) 你的病未好之前,《新青年》決不要你做文章,你就是做來,我決不登出,請你勿怪。 ——陳獨秀力勸胡適戒煙的信札(1920?) 「下等人」還未暴發之先,自然大抵有許多「他媽的」在嘴上,但一遇機會,偶竊一位,略識幾字,便即文雅起來:雅號也有了;身分也高了;家譜也修了,還要尋一個始祖,不是名儒便是名臣。——魯迅《論「他媽的!」》(1925) 當還未做鬼之前,有時先不欺心的人們,遙想著將來,就又不能不想在整塊的公理中,來尋一點情面的末屑,這時候,我們的活無常先生便見得可親愛了,利中取大,害中取小,我們的古哲墨瞿先生謂之「小取」云。——魯迅《無常》(1926) 然而文藝據說至少有一部分是超出於階級鬥爭之外的,為將來的,就是「第三種人」所抱住的真的,永久的文藝。——但可惜,被左翼理論家弄得不敢作了,因為作家在未作之前,就有了被罵的豫感。——魯迅《論第三種人》(1932) 林佩珊佯嗔地睃了她表哥一眼,就往小客厅那方向走。但在未到之前,小客厅的门开了,张素素轻手轻脚踅出来,后面是一个看护妇,将她手里的白瓷方盘对伺候客厅的当差一扬,说了一个字:“水!”接着,那看护妇又缩了进去,小客厅的门依然关上。——茅盾《子夜》(1933) 在我以先,母亲生过两个哥哥,都是一生下就夭折了,我的底下,还死去一个妹妹。我的大弟弟,比我小六岁。在大弟弟未生之前,我在家里是个独子。——冰心《我的童年》(1942) 在这里我可以奉劝诸位有志于写作的青年,切不要着急的将自己的作品在未成熟之前就发表,要多读书,而且要多读世界名著。——老舍《創作經驗談》(1944) 在我們未老之前,看過了過多由於那些先前若干世紀老年人為一個長長的民族歷史所困苦,融合了向墳墓鑽去的道教與佛教的隱遁避世感情而寫成的種種書籍,比回憶還更容易使你未老先衰。——沈從文《廢郵存底》(1975?) And a poem by 殷夫《在死神未到之前》(1927) I deliberately chose some famous names, especially the Baihuawen writers, whose works are what the grammar of Modern Standard Mandarin is based on. To say they are wrong is preposterous. (Incidentally, pre = before, post = after, preposterous = in reverse order 本末倒置) Then one has to ask, why somehow it feels wrong and illogical. The answer is, because Chinese is not English. ==========我是華麗的分隔線========== There is one small fact that we all learned at one point or another but is too often forgotten. In Chinese, words donating directions, i.e. 前, 後, 上, 下, 左, 右, are nouns. They are not prepositions (or postpositions for that matter). Some coverb phrases such as 在……之前 functions as a circumposition. But at the core is still a noun. And when it comes to Classical Chinese, you better abandon the concept of preposition altogether. The correct way to analyze 未動之先 is as a noun phrase. 先 is the head word. 未動 is a verbal phrase that modifies 先 through the use of particle 之. If on the time axis, the event 動 is at (0), then 先 is (-∞ →0) and 後 is (0→∞). 未動 describe the state of 先. 既動 describe the state of 後. 先, what 先? 未動之先. 後, what 後? 既動之後. This is how Classical Chinese works. The noun phrase 未動之先 can be used adverbially to mean 'during the time when the event hadn't happened' => 'before the event happened'. Or it can be used as a noun, for example, in the phrase 於未動之先 where 未動之先 is the object of the verb 於. Unfortunately 之先 fell out of use during Lu Xun's time and was replaced by 之前, and with the widespread use of 在……之前 it looks increasingly like a adpositional phrase. But it still retains some classical characteristics. For example, you can't use 的 to replace 之, right? It's a fixed expression. When you want to say "before V" you use 在未V之前. There may be stylistic variations, but 在未……之前, contrary to some people's belief, is actually THE correct way to say it. You feel it's wrong because you're using European grammar to analyze Classical Chinese, is what I'm saying. Last but not least is the philosophical argument. Yes, many such sentences containing 在未……之前 can be rewritten. But just because you can doesn't mean you should. (Man, I love this construction, so pithy yet not strictly speaking grammatical.) To use two or more patterns to replace one perfectly fine and commonly used pattern, why? Because a few laowai learning Chinese couldn't wrap their head around it? With due respect, that's not a valid reason. It's confusing. Confusing to whom? Everybody knows what it means. It's illogical. Natural language IS messy and illogical. If it weren't so illogical, we would've long been ruled by machines and with half the forum members without a job. So, I hereby revoke my previous admonition. The new advice would be: Laowaimen, 在未……之前 USE IT DON'T ABUSE IT! ========== EDIT: Out of curiosity, I dug around the Four Great Classical Novels: 《水滸傳》(Water Margin) No occurrences of 之先/之前. 《三國演義》(Romance of the Three Kingdoms) Two occurrences of 之前 preceded by a verbal phrase, both in the negative. No 之先 found. (第二十三回)嵩回見表,稱頌朝廷盛德,勸表遣子入侍。表大怒曰:「汝懷二心耶!」欲斬之。嵩大叫曰:「將軍負嵩,嵩不負將軍!」蒯良曰:「嵩未去之前,先有此言矣。」劉表遂赦之。 (第二十八回)正行間,忽見周倉引數十人帶傷而來。關公引他見了玄德。問其何故受傷,倉曰:「某未至臥牛山之前,先有一將單騎而來,與裴元紹交鋒,只一合,刺死裴元紹,盡數招降人伴,占住山寨。……」 《西遊記》(Journey to the West) Tow occurrences of 之前 preceded by a verbal phrase, both in the negative. No 之先 found. (第十一回)十王聞言,伏禮道:「自那龍未生之前,南斗星死簿上已註定該遭殺於人曹之手,我等早已知之。但只是他在此折辨,定要陛下來此,三曹對案。是我等將他送入輪藏,轉生去了。今又有勞陛下降臨,望乞恕我催促之罪。」 (第十二回) 靈通本諱號金蟬,只為無心聽佛講。 轉托塵凡苦受磨,降生世俗遭羅網。 投胎落地就逢兇,未出之前臨惡黨。 父是海州陳狀元,外公總管當朝長。 《紅樓夢》(Dream of the Red Chamber) Five occurrences of 之先 preceded by a verbal phrase, four in the negative. The non-negative case is a stative verb. (第18回)那寶玉未入學堂之先,三四歲時,已得賈妃手引口傳,教授了幾本書、數千字在腹內了。 (第38回)黛玉道:「據我看來,頭一句好的是『圃冷斜陽憶舊遊』,這句背面傅粉。「拋書人對一枝秋』已經妙絕,將供菊說完,沒處再說,故翻回來想到未折未供之先,意思深透。」(This is clearly a noun) (第65回)興兒道:「……又還有一段因果:我們家的規矩,凡爺們大了,未娶親之先,都先放兩個人服侍的。二爺原有兩個,誰知她來了沒半年,都尋出不是來,都打發出去了。……」 (第98回)寶玉一到,想起未病之先,來到這裏,今日屋在人亡,不禁嚎啕大哭。 (第55回)每於夜間針線暇時,臨寢之先,坐了小轎,帶領園中上夜人等,各處巡察一次。 Two occurrences of 之前 used "correctly" in one paragraph not written by Cao. (第120回)士隱道:「非也。這一段奇緣,我先知之。昔年我與先生在仁清巷舊宅門口敘話之前,我已會過他一面。」雨村驚訝道:「京城離貴鄉甚遠,何以能見?」士隱道:「神交久矣。」雨村道:「既然如此,現今寶玉的下落,仙長定能知之。」士隱道:「寶玉,即『寶玉』也。那年榮、寧查抄之前,釵、黛分離之日,此玉早已離世。……」 More complicated than I thought. But I am still of the opinion that traditionally 之先/之前 requires a stative verb (not doing something is a state), and the modern/western-style usage is a late comer. If anything is wrong, it is not the former.
  9. 7 likes
    Hi everyone! I'm not sure if anyone is interested in this topic but I thought i'd open it up since I started an internship recently. I'll keep it vague and if anyone has any questions you can feel free to ask. I decided to do an internship because I was bored and had nothing better to do than to accompany my friends to open recruitment day at a hotel. I also thought it would probably help my resume as I have never worked a real job in my life besides tutoring English. So things people should be aware of when applying for an internship: 1) It's incredibly easy to find an internship if your chinese is up to par (depending on your internship just a basic knowledge of chinese is okay). This is my second job interview for an internship, the first one I refused because the hours were too long and the pay was too low, that internship was at a tech firm in need of English speakers to help their App, which included translation, fact checking etc. My current one hired all of my friends (4) and we had our first and second interviews the same day. 2) The pay is low and the hours are long. The terms of my current internship were much better than the first job offer I had but the pay is basically the same. The only bonus with this one is that I get 2 meals. ie: internship (x3 a week/8 hours per day)= 2000 rmb/month vs. tutoring english (once a week/2 hours) = 800, after one month (8 hours total) = 3200 3) It's great practice for chinese. I learn something new every day, the other day I learned the words for 'stapler'(钉书机) 'shawl'(披肩), and then I also had a girl teaching me sichuanese and bad chinese (according to my assistant manager who told me my chinese would get worse if I learned from her haha). 4) It can be fun. I'm not going to lie, its hard work, I work as hostess at the hotel so it's a lot of me standing around with nothing to do after seating people. But I have fun chatting with my coworkers, there's usually about two or three girls around with me and they all have very different personalities. My assistant manager takes me and my friends for training usually between the time after lunch and before dinner since there's nothing to do, and I've learned how to make latte's, cappuccino, espresso. Sometimes my coworkers will pull me aside and we'll sneak a few bites of the desserts from the buffet in the storage room gossiping. 5) Depending on your position or job it might not be so flexible. I'm lucky that my manager is really nice and understandable, so when I told her I couldn't come in at 7 on Friday because i have class until 10 she didn't mind changing my shift and kept it in mind for the next week. My other friend however is having trouble getting his summer vacation off (my manager said yes to me though). 6) overtime work sucks and you don't get paid for it as an intern. I'm lucky that my manager and the assistant managers usually let me off early or when the shift is over they shoo us away. But my friends have worked overtime with no pay. Hum. That's about it. Hope this helps anyone.
  10. 7 likes
    There are a few TV shows on YouTube with good quality text-based subtitles. You can download both video and SRT subtitles for listening/transcribing practice with LAMP player, VLC or even straight on YouTube. Shows with well-synced SRT subtitles allow you to do all sorts of tricks: -Automatic popup translation -Jump directly to a line, automatic pausing after each line and easy replay of a line -Automatic generation of flashcards. -Generation of vocabulary lists with Chinese Text Analyzer or Chinese Word Extractor Right now, I see the following available. Please report broken links, as YouTube takes down some videos due to copyright claims. Also, please share other shows with soft subtitles you might find on YouTube. Even better if they're good shows. Shows: Dramas: (ordered by views of first episode) * 新兵日記 (Rookies' Diary): Military drama. Traditional hard and soft subs: 4M views: https://youtu.be/RyX0ZfPiMss * 我的老師叫小賀 (My teacher is called Xiaohe): A high school drama with a pretty teacher. Traditional hard and soft subs. 2.3M views: https://youtu.be/d2m7StPgmeU * 冰与火的青春 (Ice and Fire of Youth): Soft simplified + English subtitles. 138K views: https://youtu.be/LSl4hPhGH3c 警界線 (The Borderline): Only soft traditional subtitles. 49K views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81LW_qvaViE 美好年代 (A Good Day): Hardcoded traditional subs and soft traditional subs. 43K views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JVJAbYXCRk&index=38&list=PLeuPaltH7SfES1rS8gpRYg4961NP94sC- 讓愛飛揚: (Let It Fly): Also hard traditional and soft traditional subs. 40K views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSVIDLPDc2w&index=40&list=PLeuPaltH7SfFcH2521UHvZezz9ezUFis5 開腦儆探 (Second Life): Only soft traditional subtitles. 27K views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qssbp6Yx0SA 大嫁風尚 (Great Marriage): Only soft simplified subtitles 17K views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWDMjhNysno 解密 (Decoded): Both simplified Chinese and English subtitles available 12K views: https://youtu.be/Oqt_J1yUnQU?list=PL-qn-eiR753coJhhOZRU8n3dMfZvddIuX 三面形醫 (Hidden faces): Only soft traditional subtitles 12K views: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntoMnLZyFHA Talk Shows: 麻辣天后傳, The Queen's Legendary Show: (thanks to Bad Cao Cao) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-z9BI8hMHNPrvnccyWgjyg If You Are The One (thanks to Bad Cao Cao) https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=江苏卫视官方频道&lclk=cc&filters=cc Language Learning: 快乐汉语 (Happy Chinese with Susan, hybrid drama/language learning, work in progress): Simplified soft subtitles https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUopoMgYFRYnhkzcTxA7_wHqYb55BVRI4 Or here for the full series (with less than perfect synchonization): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLiNe_bumx_AX4RA-Wa-rRZo082f4mdzu6 Channels *FTV Drama, a treasure trove of Taiwanese dramas: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiMiEL1XRXANaypB2wEdr5w HKTV Network: https://www.youtube.com/user/HKTVNetwork/playlists?shelf_id=0&view=1&sort=dd Huace Global Fun channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9M9sV3sGmutY26H4LNBTww/playlists DaAiDrama (this one has some stuff in Mandarin and other in a language I don't recognize): https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWiS6QxFGFK-LKwwHzSsmHQ/playlists Please comment if you find any of the shows actually interesting, or if you know of another show on YouTube with soft subtitles. How to find content Search YouTube for: 第一集. In filters, choose "CC" and >20 min. Try different "sort by" methods. Most results will be for shows with soft English subtitles. Some might even be Korean dramas with Chinese subtitles. Keep exploring the results and you might find something actually in Chinese and soft-subtitled in Chinese. If you find a show, check the channel, too. It might have more. Follow related videos down the rabbit hole. Another possible search is: 完整版 (full version), using the same filters mentioned above. Watching directly on YouTube If YouTube subs are traditional and you prefer Simplified Chinese: You can watch it right in YouTube with Simplified Chinese subtitles. Go to subtitle selection > Auto translate > Simplified Chinese. Adjusting soft subtitles to cover the hardcoded ones: Useful if you want to watch a Taiwanese show with Simplified Chinese subtitles. Click on the gear icon in YouTube > Subtitles > Options. Font size 300%, background color black at 100% opacity and same settings for window color and opacity should do the trick. If you feel like it, you can watch with Kaiti-style subtitles by selecting "cursive" from the font family. Use YouTube's keyboard shortcuts for easy playback control: https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/going-google/accessibility/google-keyboard-shortcuts---youtube Watching offline How to download the videos: If you use Chrome or Firefox, go to the Chrome extension store or Firefox add-ons store, and search for a Youtube downloader. This should add a download button below the video. Or use this: http://www.clipconverter.cc/ How to download the subtitles in SRT format: Past the video URL here: http://downsub.com/ How to play with VLC Once you have both the mp4 video and srt subtitle file in the same folder and with the same file name (except the extension), you can watch in VLC. If VLC is only displaying squares, go to Tools > Preferences > subtitles and select Microsoft YaHei as the font. If your SRT file is in traditional and you prefer simplified Right click > Open with Notepad. Ctrl+A to select all, Ctrl+C to copy, paste the text here: http://www.khngai.com/chinese/tools/convert.php Copy the result into a new Notepad file and save with UTF-8 encoding. Change the filename to be the same as the video, with "SCH" or something added at the end so you won't confuse it with the original SRT. Change the extension to SRT. I would not try this from Simplified to Traditional because it's more error-prone. If Notepad opens messy subtitles, it's better to open with Notepad++. If you want subtitles with pinyin, upload your SRT file here: https://easypronunciation.com/en/chinese-pinyin-phonetic-transcription-subtitle-converter How to hide the hard coded subtitles with VLC Tools > Preferences > Show all settings > Video > press on "Filters" and you'll see a bunch of checkboxes. Tick the box for "Video cropping filter". Now choose "Cropadd" in the left and in "pixels to crop from bottom" enter 80 as value for videos you downloaded as 720p, or 120 for videos downloaded as 1080p. If this is not enough, experiment with other values. Remember to uncheck "Video cropping filter" afterwards or you'll think you're going crazy when you play other videos. How to get rid of the hard coded subtitles with Handbrake This is necessary if you're going to be working with LAMP or other players. In Handbrake, the first open tab is "picture". Here, in "Cropping", select "custom" and input the value you found with VLC. Name the destination file and hit Start. Please share any other shows with soft subtitles or tips you might find, or at least try watching the above-mentioned shows. The idea is to only keep the best shows in this list. Thanks!
  11. 7 likes
    roddy

    A useful parallel (and sometimes translation) is the word 'get' in English, I think. It has a huge range of informal uses in phrasal verbs and substituting for other verbs. You can get your hair done, soaked in the rain, the car fixed, in to the team, upset, into a terrible state, him with a difficult question, and so on and on. The only way to get your head round these, I think, is to get over the idea this is a word you get all at once - get used to the idea it'll take time, note the usages you get in daily life, get yourself a good dictionary (if it doesn't have a long list of examples, get out of here with your shoddy dictionary) and eventually you'll 弄清楚。 It's a fool's errand to try and 'learn' 弄 in one go. Add in the different usages as you come across them.
  12. 7 likes
    There really isn't much to talk about. My English was rubbish as you would expect from an average college graduate in China who isn't an English major. I started to transcribe newscasts (VOA), documentaries (NatGeo/Discovery), movies (The Matrix), hoping to improve my listening skills around 2000. That was the dial-up, pre-Google era and before transcribing became known as a "method" among English-learning Chinese students (鐘道隆逆向英語學習法). I did it again in 2007-08, this time on a language-learning website built around the idea of "crowdsourced transcription." I stopped when I felt I had reached a level where transcribing became too time-consuming and less efficient. Overall in my experience, materials for transcription can be arranged in order of difficulty like this: educational stuff (which I skipped) < Special English < standard news report/public speech < documentary/cartoon < interview/talk show < TV/movie. During the same period I read a lot of books, starting from 30 or so of Agatha Christie's detective novels. I also did some intensive reading: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (which turned out to be too long I couldn't finish it). It was before SRS went mainstream so I just kept my vocab list on paper flashcards. Reading enlarged my vocabulary like no way before. And a large vocabulary makes everything easier. Bam! virtuous circle. And that's about it. If I'm to learn a new language today, this will be how I plan to do it: Get the script and pronunciation down quickly. Grab a grammar book, read a couple of times, not to remember everything, but to know where to find the answers. Find a 5000-ish vocab list with sample sentence audios and cram it like mad using SRS. Then just read, read, and read some more. Do the transcribing at the same time until it feels like a waste of time. As for the production side? Well, output will come naturally when you have enough input -- hopefully.
  13. 7 likes
    If the question is whether you can pass the HSK5 in just one year of intensive studying, then the answer is yes, you can. There are always a lot of 留学生 all over China every year who go there without any knowledge in Chinese, struggling to pass the HSK5, and the majority of them can succeed. The problem is that this knowledge is shallow, lacks fundament, and does not make anybody capable to have a decent Chinese knowledge. But you will have a nice paper as a memory of passing the exam
  14. 7 likes
    https://www.chinesetalkeze.com/ His website seems to be his account name. It also seems he is just getting going and there aren't previous episodes to listen to. But let me save you a few clicks. He is selling the "The Simplest Chinese Course: A Chinese course designed to help busy English speakers to achieve fluency FAST." which, in summary, skips right to speaking. What makes him a qualified creator of such a course is having studied English himself and being a native speaker of Chinese as well as this snippet: Emphasis added. I would have to question what he means by the traditional method? Grammar-translation, perhaps? Communicative Language Teaching is the go-to way to teach English in most of the US now, does that make it traditional? The traditional way of teaching language in China? Because that is certainly not the traditional way in most other places in the world. His first blog post is useful: https://www.chinesetalkeze.com/ni-hao-ma/ His poll asks people how to translate a phrase and then says they are wrong for giving the literal translation over the figurative translation. He probably could have skipped that and just gone right to his solid explanation of how to greet someone when you meet them for the first time in China. He offers lessons (the first is free) but you have to create an account to see more info about the pricing structure. I didn't create an account.
  15. 7 likes
    Hey Everyone, I got my MTCSOL degree at Dalian University of Foreign Languages in 2014, and has been working as a non-native Chinese language teacher ever since. Our requirement for admission was HSK 5 and HSKK 中级, and the school had us pass HSK 6 and HSKK 高级 sometimes by the second semester, some foreign students didn't pass, but it was no big deal, everyone managed by the time of graduating. Since they needed the rooms for the short term language course attendees in January and July, DUFL made us move out for the winter and summer holidays, but they had a big, closed underground storage area for our stuff where all our books and clothes got nice and mouldy during the winter. Not fun. Anyways, everyone went home for the summer, and stayed, because the third semester was 实习 or internship at your home country. The teachers at DUFL told us that the Chinese students of the same Master's degree have to do the practice teaching in China (wherever they want) and the foreign students should go home and do it in their respective native language environment. If you'd be really, really hopeless in finding any educational facility (the local Con Institute, any elementary or secondary school, any language school or university, even something like a "Chinese Club"), then they might help and put you somewhere in China. Our classmates had no problems, some people just stamped their papers at their previous university, some of us actually did the practice teaching. I asked about 3 of my former uni teachers and one of them told me to ask a local Chinese elementary school, and they were really happy to let me teach the kids for one semester. I don't really remember, but required minimum teaching hours at DUFL were about 30 (which you can do in a week), I had fun so I stayed for four months. We had our residence permits extended before the end of the second semester so we would be able to re-enter the country in the following January. Upon arriving back for the last semester, we had to register again to prove that we would continue and finish our studies and then got the September-February worth of stipend in cash for some reason (that was the biggest wad of 100 yuan bills I have ever seen in one pace ), and had to start writing our theses. Having no classes to attend, I strongly recommend everyone to look for a hobby - China can be a really boring place if you're stuck on a university campus on the outskirts and the one thing you have to do is to sit in front of your computer for five months. Anyways, we finished writing, had a terminal exam which was basically talking about your topic in front of a committee, and everyone got their diploma. One thing about graduating - the paper you get at the end is ONLY IN CHINESE, I was beggig then try to bribe them to print an English version, but they just wouldn't. The only thing I managed after three weeks of banging on different office doors is to get an official DUFL seal on the English translation of my Transcript (that I made myself.....) then gave it to my classmates to translate it into Japanese, Russian, Mongolian, etc. and had those stamped as well. Before coming home they told us if we ever get stuck in looking for a teaching job, we should contact Hanban, because they can help the MTCSOL graduates in finding schools to teach Chinese. If we chose to be delegated by Hanban, our salary would come from them and not the institute we'd we working in. In 2014, they told us this would be 800 USD (I have no idea based on what), but since they couldn't answer for how many teaching ours a week, I wasn't sure if this was such a great deal. Having 3 Chinese classes on Mondays and getting 800 USD a month for it is nice, but teaching 40+ hours a week for the same amount is a lot less interesting. I'm not sure if there is still such an option, I've never confirmed with anyone. Besides, out of my 16 foreign classmates, I'm the only one actually teaching Chinese, most of them just wanted a Master's degree in whatever, obtainable in just 2 years. About the 5-year "follow-up": No one has ever came looking for me whether I'm teaching or not, not from Hanban and not from DUFL. About a year and a half after graduating I might have gotten an e-mail from our Confucius Institute about "hi-ex-scholarship-student-please-fill-out-this-questionnaire", but I'm sure I've completely ignored it and no one has ever came banging on my door. Some of my classmates stayed in China working at travel agencies, as freelance translators, some of them went back home and continued their PhD studies (in some completely different field), or started their own start-up companies, and some of them started families and are busy being moms right now. Not many of us are doing anything with Chinese, let alone teaching it and no one is in jail so far. So if you're concerned about signing the "5-year contract", don't be. It doesn't mean ANYTHING at all. I can't say anything about those countries with lots of Chinese people teaching Chinese while speaking the local language (English, German, French and maybe Spanish), but in a small European country like Hungary (where I'm working) I didn't have any problems looking for a job teaching Chinese. The elementary school wanted me back first for a one-year contract then indefinitely, I just didn't want to, because teaching kids aged 6-10 is HARD. Especially 30 of them in a closed space. I went to two language schools (the ones for adults, classes before or after working hours and on the weekends), both of them hired me on the spot. I'm also private tutoring, sometimes translating, somehow everyone seems to think that you have to at least try to learn Chinese, because it is some sort of key to success, or a different dimension, or I don't know. Anyways, with this many people booking classes all the time, I'm never out of work. I've also tried to teach Chinese at a University for a year, but as in many other countries, it is also mandatory in Hungary to have a PhD degree (or be in a PhD program) to get to teach classes at a University, and I found the PhD program to be a time investment too humongous only to get another degree so I left. I'm just saying this because with an MTCSOL degree (and some further studies) an academic career is also a great option! I just like teaching classes better than researching, that's all. Sorry for the very long post, I just thought to share my experience since graduating this program. Ps.: Having attended three different Chinese universities for various amounts of time, I honestly don't think there's any big difference, you should chose a city in which you'd like to spend two years and there will be nice and so-so teachers everywhere.
  16. 7 likes
    It'd be a lucky first-time language learner that hit the ground running this fast... I thought about the "luck" issue. No adult who learns a foreign language is a blank slate. Everyone has their own unique combination of experiences, knowledge, abilities and attitudes which will affect how s/he learns. I think that having as a child significant exposure to the language is clearly the biggest advantage. The next best advantage would be exposure to a language in the same family; the more related to the target language, the better. But for people with no prior exposure to the target language or a closely-related language, what really matters? In the case of Chinese, I'd see two situations which are directly "lucky": Knowledge of characters. Japanese learning Chinese have a phenomenal advantage over students who have never seen a character in their life. Of course, Japanese have their own learning issues with Chinese, the characters aren't a perfect correspondence, a Japanese student might over-rely on character-recognition to the detriment of spoken ability, etc. But the overall advantage in learning is massive. Music ability. There's a lot of research showing that the ability to discriminate pitch variations in music facilitates the ability to perceive pitch variations in foreign languages. And then we need the physical ability to reproduce those pitch variations accurately to actually speak the language. So musical background and abilities matter to some extent in any language. In Chinese, because the lexical tones are so crucial, when we're starting out musical expertise definitely will have an impact on how quickly and accurately we can understand and speak. As for whether it's "lucky" specifically to have studied other languages, particularly non Indo-European languages...? I think that on a direct basis, the benefit of knowing languages unrelated to Mandarin is extremely small. Perhaps these benefits: The one direct benefit I found in my case is that I'm very used to subject-object-verb (SOV) constructions. Chinese is a bit tricky to pin down; it generally seems subject-verb-object (SVO), but has a very strong SOV feeling in limited situations: relative clauses, certain noun phrases, 把 constructions, etc. So my knowledge of SOV constructions perhaps gave me when starting out a better "feel" for those forms in Chinese than someone who has never encountered SOV forms. And languages can be kinda SVO, kinda SOV; for example, German and Dutch use SVO in main clauses, SOV in subordinate clauses, which I imagine would be as beneficial when starting out learning Chinese as knowing a more strictly SOV language. So all in all, I think that whatever direct benefit I got is very small. But someone might disagree if s/he believes that the SOV form of these certain constructions creates enormous, long-term difficulties for learners. Having studied other languages could also have the direct benefit of similar pronunciation. The more sounds of Chinese which are in languages you already know, the easier it will be to pronounce. In my case, I think maybe the ü is easier than it would be if I only knew English. Otherwise, I don't see many pronunciation benefits of languages I know when studying Chinese. I would also say that knowing a tonal language, even if unrelated, would help as well. And within tonal languages, I'd imagine it would be more helpful to be familiar with a language which uses pitch contours to distinguish meaning, rather than pitch register or pitch accent only. But I don't know any tonal languages of any sort, which is a pity lol. Other than those areas, I don't see any direct benefits of knowing totally unrelated languages. I think it's harder to evaluate the indirect benefit of having learned languages. It's a really tricky question for many reasons. Scientific understanding of language and the brain is very limited, so we're just stabbing in the dark. Language incorporates so many cultural and societal issues in addition to language itself. It's tricky just to even define what we're talking about. What counts as "having learned a foreign language" for purposes of conferring indirect benefits in learning a new language? Is it only if you've studied a foreign language to an advanced level? How closely related or unrelated must the language be to one you already know? Similar writing systems or different? Most people learn a foreign language at some point in their education; I'd guess that very few people on this forum are truly "first-time language learners" who never in their lives studied at all another foreign language before Chinese. So does it count if you started learning at a very young age, as many Europeans do for English? Or does it only count if you start after late adolescence, as most of us here probably have with Chinese? Everyone will have different opinions about all this. Personally, I think the real indirect advantage of having studied other languages is in understanding the process and realizing how much work is involved. We all have different backgrounds, abilities and circumstances. I have no music background and can't sing; as I wrote in this post, it was 200+ hours of work for me to overcome this problem. To take an example of a famous foreigner who speaks jaw-droppingly impressive Chinese, I imagine that Julien Gaudfroy was able to tackle this area much more easily than me because of his musical background: he studied at the Paris Conservatory (CNSMDP) and worked as a professional cellist until age 20. So he's "luckier" than me. But how much luckier is he? It's crazy to think that his music ability gives him that much more of an advantage; he spent thousands and thousands of hours year after year learning words, sentences, characters, practicing vocab, reading, writing, etc. It denigrates all his hard work and dedication to think that what he accomplished is because he's "lucky" due to his musical background. It also serves as a way to create an excuse for myself to not achieve what he has: "He's really good at music, but I suck at it, so there's no way I'll ever get to his level of Chinese". But worse than me at music are people who are truly tone-deaf. Their pitch perception is so bad that it affects their ability to perceive emotion and emphasis in their own native language (research here). I'm horrible at music and singing, but I'm not truly tone-deaf. So in comparison to Julien Gaudfroy, I'm unlucky. But in comparison to truly tone-deaf people, I'm lucky. And then going further along the spectrum, there's people who are hearing impaired who learn Chinese. I read this story by rmpalpha, Meng Lelan's stories like this and this.... It's awe-inspiring. I can't imagine what that must be like. It really puts into perspective my own "bad luck" because of my lack of music ability relative to someone like Julien Gaudfroy. And it all emphasizes what everyone has in common. People come from different backgrounds, abilities and circumstances when starting to study a totally unknown, unrelated foreign language. But everyone has the potential to learn that language. The "key" isn't whether you've studied a lot of other languages, including non Indo-European ones. Or have music ability. Or have any type of luck. I was very lucky to have the right personal and professional circumstances to be able to devote 1600+ hours, essentially all of my waking hours, in the last few months to studying. That's my luck. And that's a luxury which I know that not everyone has. But I hope that no one who's considering independent study of Chinese and reads this thinks that there's any other luck involved. Everyone who is able to put in a few thousand focused hours, even over a longer period, will definitely see really strong results. As for what to do, the techniques aren't secret or proprietary. They're public and available for everyone; it doesn't matter what your background or experience is, you can find what you need. Everyone has different tricks and tips that work best for their own circumstances, but the common denominator through everything is hard work and lots of time. There's lots of realistic, solid advice out there from people who have already walked the path to reach a high level. There are many foreigners I know of, including many on this forum, who've reached phenomenal levels and really inspire me to keep going. This website alone is a goldmine of information and techniques; it's given me much motivation and tips while I've been studying, and I'm very grateful that it exists. And modern technology like SRS, pop-up lookups, etc, doesn't eliminate the work required to learn the language, but it definitely can make it more efficient. There's a lot of misinformation about learning Chinese. Some massively exaggerates the difficulty to the point that you'd think only literal geniuses could ever manage to get there. Some massively underestimates the time required; the "Chinese in x months" people who OneEye mentions are particularly inane examples and are rightly derided for absurd claims. The truth about learning Chinese, or any language for that matter, is much more prosaic: it's a lot of hard work, a lot of time, but it's quite do-able for all of us. We all have the ability to learn a language. It's not luck. Insofar as there's any key, the key is hard work. And the determination, motivation and discipline to keep up that hard work, over and over, for hundreds and thousands of hours.
  17. 6 likes
    This is a guide about how to find a job teaching at a university in China without going through a job agency or advertisements. I'm writing this up so that those who are going through something similar as to what I did will know what to expect. Note that universities in China recruit foreign teachers from March to July each year for teaching positions that start in September. The earlier you start making enquiries the better, as it can take a while to find a suitable school and get all the paperwork finalised. Make a school short list To get a job as a foreign teacher (外教) in China, you should first make a short list of which universities you would like to apply for. You could consider the following things: 1) University ranking in general: If you want to work at a university which ranks well internationally, you can find out the ranking of different Chinese universities on Wikipedia. The highest ranking universities in mainland China are concentrated in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou - outside of those are a handful of prestigious universities in each of the other major Chinese cities such as Hangzhou, Suzhou, Nanjing, Xi'an, Tianjin, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Changsha, etc. Generally, the better a university is ranked, the more resources it will have, which in theory means a better working environment for you, and more opportunities for personal and career development. 2) University ranking in terms of discipline: You may also want to find out which universities in China rank well for the discipline you teach. If you speak Chinese, the best way to do this is to search on Baidu, or ask your Chinese friends or colleagues on WeChat. In many cases, schools which do not rank well overall often have very reputable programs for specific fields of study. 3) Living environment: If air pollution concerns you, you should know that there are only a few cities in China that have relatively clear air while also boasting decent universities. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are Xiamen, Dalian, Qingdao, Suzhou, Guilin and Kunming. 4) Cost of living: If you want to take advantage of a lower cost of living (lower rent, cheaper food, etc.), then you may wish to consider second or third tier cities. This would be especially beneficial if you want to have a completely English-free environment to practise Chinese, or you are not pursuing an academic career. Find out more about the schools After you have written up a short list of universities, you can start thinking about what questions you would like to ask them about what it would be like teaching there. Remember that the "waijiao" (foreign teacher) recruitment system is completely different to that of local teachers - most universities don't have "vacancies" per se, but instead will take on any teacher that approaches them and meets all the requirements (more on that later). Ideally, you should go to the universities directly and enquire in person. You will want to speak directly with the dean (院长) of the school you wish to work at. In some schools - especially the prestigious ones - you may not be able to track the dean down, in which case you can simply talk to the administrative staff at the personnel office (人事处), or similar. If you are unable to get to the university in person, the second best method is to email them a list of questions - though this should be followed-up by a phone call, as many universities in China do not respond to emails. If you can speak Chinese, I highly recommend you ask them in Chinese. If you don't speak Chinese, you can try in English. Even better, you could find a Chinese friend to help you communicate with them. You should ask about the following matters: 1) What is the salary range (before tax) for foreign teachers at your university? For most universities, this will be 7,500-9,000 RMB a month. Make sure you ask for a figure that is before tax, as some schools won't specify. The only way to get a higher salary would be if you have a doctorate degree, are well-known in your respective field or are applying for a private training provider (i.e. not a public university). 2) Does your school pay for foreign teachers' flight back home? If so, how much will the school reimburse? Most schools will reimburse foreign teachers' flights back home, but the exact amount they are willing to pay will vary from school to school. It's a good idea to get a clear figure for this. 3) Does your university provide free accommodation for foreign teachers? This can be a real deal-breaker, especially in first-tier cities, as renting can be very expensive. If the school does provide accommodation, ask them what it is like - e.g. what is its condition, is it on campus, do I get my own room? etc. 4) How many hours a week would I have to teach? This can vary, but in most cases you would be teaching roughly 10-14 class periods (课时), with each period lasting 45 minutes. That's 7.5-10.5 hours a week. This is, of course, one of the advantages of teaching in a university in China - the pay may be low, but the teaching load is low as well, so you will have plenty of other time to take on other jobs, or pursue personal interests. 5) What subjects would I be teaching, specifically? If this is a concern for you, you could ask about this. Apply for a work permit To get a work visa, you need a work permit. To get a work permit, you will need to provide about a dozen different documents. There are four that are particularly troublesome that you should start preparing as soon as possible: 1) Authentication of highest qualification (最高学历证书认证). You will need to supply a copy of your highest qualification (e.g. Master's diploma) that has been authenticated by the Chinese government (for diplomas from Chinese universities) or a Chinese embassy (for diplomas from non-Chinese universities). If you are currently in the middle of a Master's program, ask if you can supply a certificate from your university to satisfy this requirement. The policy is getting stricter now though, so you may not be able to do this anymore. 2) At least two years' teaching experience (两年以上教学经验). You will need to provide a certificate from the school that hired you, proving that you worked there for at least two years. Some universities will strictly require that that experience be at a university level, and won't accept experience teaching at a high school, training school or similar. Note this experience requirement can usually be waived if you have a TEFL/TESL certificate. 3) Criminal record check (无犯罪记录证明). This should be authenticated by the Chinese embassy of your home country. If you have lived some time in China, you may be able to simply get a check from the Public Security Bureau instead. 4) Health certificate (健康证明). This should be issued by a Chinese embassy or from an international travel healthcare centre in China. It's basically just a physical examination (体检). After you have received offers from a number of schools, you can start narrowing them down. You may find that salary and teaching hours are more or less the same for most schools, so you may want to consider only schools that offer free accommodation, though you should find out what that accommodation is like beforehand. Once you have decided on a school, you will be dealing mostly with the administrative staff to get all the paperwork in time for the work permit so you can apply for a work visa. Note that if you are already in China on another visa, you will not be able to apply for a work visa from within China - the government requires that you apply for it in your home country. Well, that's all of the important things I can think of. I hope someone out there finds this useful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away, though I think some of the other users on this forum will be able to do a better job at answering them than me. Remember that everything in this post is just a rough guide - things are always changing in China, so it is best to confirm with the school directly should you have any concerns.
  18. 6 likes
    I think I have engaged this issue with people before by talking about the size and legitimacy of out-group (as opposed to in-group) I am willing to be considered as part of. That is, I feel that I am willing to be considered a Canadian, because that is my nationality and I accept that nationality is "a thing". I am willing to be considered a man because I accept gender can be a thing and I identify with that. So if someone was like you men are so manly, I'd be like lol well I don't know that I fit that stereotype but I do not fundamentally disagree with the category of men existing. But then you get "foreigner", which makes sense in a context where you are talking about citizens vs foreign nationals. Like yes, of course I am a foreigner in China. I'm a foreigner anywhere that's not Canada. It only gets iffy if I try to talk about foreigners to Canada in any context other than citizenship/immigration policy, or some topic that tries to make meaningful use of the distinction between foreign/local. Enter 外國人, which despite its dictionary definition, is colloquially used outside of foreign affairs contexts by virtually everyone to mean a non-Chinese person. I think the tension there comes from the unwillingness to be part of an out-group that you feel is constructed based on a negative existence (not belonging, non-Chineseness, as opposed to belonging, yes-Canadian-ness). Nobody identifies as a "non-meateater", they call themselves vegetarians. Just like that, I think it's tough for people to positively identify with a term that means "non-Chinese".
  19. 6 likes
    I'm reading 《中国的好女人们》 欣然 , I read this book in English sometime last year (The good women of China by Xinran) and decided to read it in Chinese. It's a collection of short stories that the author (former broadcaster) who once ran a call-in radio segment that brought awareness to many issues that women faced in China. The collection of stories detail what the author heard, but also involves some of her own investigations on stories. I think all of the stories are true and I didn't feel any were particularly exaggerated. The stories are very touching and the one about the women in the village still breaks my heart. It's an old book (2002) but still worth a read in my opinion. It's not too difficult, I read the first 50 pages relatively easy so if you feel like taking on the chinese version feel free to
  20. 6 likes
    The Three-Body Problem (Book I) is quite boring too in my opinion. But it gets much better in Book II and III, even captivating shall I say. It was recommended to me by a friend many years ago but I couldn't find an excuse to open a sci-fi book written by a Chinese writer -- until it won the Hugo Award in 2015. The Cultural Revolution theme may be a novelty to Western readers. But boy is it old. The science part isn't exactly shiny either. The frequent reference to historical figures in the computer simulation game feels particularly cheap and amateurish. When I first read it (I mean Book I), I found it indistinguishable in many respects from similar stories by amateur writers, of which you can find many on sites like 起点中文 or 幻剑书盟. (网络文学 seems to be a pretty unique Chinese phenomenon. The closest I can think of is fan-fictions in the West. But they're mostly derivative and cannot compete in scale or influence.) So judging solely from the first book, one would say the author is no better than an average 网络写手 and the work definitely not Hugo Award-worthy (I've read the English translation, which is the award-winning version I presume, a pretty faithful rendition of the original work except for the rearrangement of several chapters). But that impression changes when you open the sequels. Now I consider the first book a boring but necessary background story. Overall I greatly enjoyed reading the series. As a native speaker I'm not in a position to comment on the vocabulary and such but it's interesting to hear what others have to say
  21. 6 likes
    There was some demand for this. I know much less cursive than I do regular script, but I'll try not to BS. First, I'm calling 行書 "cursive" as I feel it's the most appropriate translation and its execution is closest to Latin character cursive. 草書 is more like shorthand, which I'll reluctantly call "supercursive." Others might call 行書 "semi-cursive" and 草書 "cursive". (My everyday handwriting, and example of cursive. It sucks, but it's not wrong.) In order to learn cursive, you must learn regular script. Cursive is 90% regular script, and its quality will depend on the quality of your regular script. In any fluent writer, cursive script is a reflection of their regular script, so the two scripts will not be significantly different unless they have deliberately made it so. The first step to learning cursive is to solidify your understanding of regular script. If you need to, read my series on regular script starting here. Here are some examples of what you need to look out for: Stroke order. Cursive stroke order is almost identical to that of regular script. For example, in Part 5 of my regular script series, the last item on the quiz was about stroke order. You need to get that right in order to understand what’s going on here: (Ouyang Xun 《千字文》) You can read about finding regular script stroke orders here. Correct stroke order is also essential for developing an ability to make structurally correct characters. Below I have written "左右" in a correct and incorrect stroke order, demonstrating the effect of stroke order on structure. Incorrect examples are marked with dots on the right. Yes, there are some instances where cursive stroke order differs from that of regular script. Most of these instances will be because you're writing an abbreviation of some sort. The only case I can think of where the same component is written differently in cursive and regular script is a component where vertical strokes pass through two or more horizontal strokes without passing through the last one, like 土 and 隹. In general, if there is a horizontal stroke at the top, it is written first, then the vertical is written before the other horizontals, unless in 土 above other components (like in 寺) or to the left (like 地) where it resembles regular script stroke order. This only applies to 土. The top of 青 is still 一 丨 一 一. Stroke type. For example, if you are in the habit of ending 羽 with ㇀, you will not only be writing regular script wrong, but impeding your cursive with awkward strokes that don't go anywhere, and if you have this habit, then you are used to awkwardness, and these awkward strokes will go unnoticed. Below I write 羽 alone and as a component in another character with correct and incorrect stroke types. The blue arrows show the writing instrument direction. Width relationships. Cursive permits a wider range of possible width relationships, but in most cases, the only correct one is identical to the regular script one. When you know the correct way(s) to write a regular script character, the cursive character will come naturally. Below, I show correct and incorrect width relationships in regular script, and their effect if translated to cursive. (Verify: 宋, 春, 安, 無, 事, 耳) Most common variants. When writing regular script, you can get away with only knowing an orthodox variant, but if the orthodox variant isn't also the most common variant, you will need to learn the most common variant, because the most common form in cursive is almost always based on the most common variant in regular script. Below, I have written (from right to left) an orthodox variant, the most common variant, and cursive. It is rare to find these characters written in orthodox form, and rarer to find them written in cursive based on the orthodox form. (Verify: 明, 來, 所, 此, 能) Common abbreviations. Many abbreviations found in regular script, often making the difference between the orthodox and most common variant, are also found in cursive. Below I write a character in orthodox form, and again employ some abbreviation(s), and then all of them in cursive. (Verify: 若, 後, 從, 雖) Notice that the abbreviation of 艹 in 若 is the same as the abbreviation of 从 in 從 and 來. Abbreviations will overlap like this, and will never be used in a context that would create ambiguity. Once you are confident with these things, you will have established regular script, one extreme in the range of cursive. From this, simply writing regular script fast enough that inertia overpowers your willingness to maintain a clean line will result in a cursive effect. The other extreme of cursive is supercursive (草書). Cursive exists somewhere between these two. For now, because you (probably) don't know supercursive, your cursive would lean toward regular script. Later, if you learn supercursive, you will be able to add supercursive features to your cursive, therefore pushing it more toward supercursive. For example, the way I wrote 隹 in 雖 is a supercursive feature because supercursive draws more on clerical script (隸書) than regular script. If I wanted to, I could also turn 彳 into 氵 or 冫 or 丨, which would be another supercursive feature. Cursive also has its own unique features, such as an abbreviation of 門 rarely seen in supercursive and never in regular script. The best way to pick up these features is to read other people's handwriting. The best examples of cursive are from Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Zhao Mengfu. I recommend that when practicing someone else's cursive, only aim to reproduce the major features instead of producing a precise copy, as precision is not a primary goal in cursive. As for resources, I've linked to a 書法字典 (search in Simplified Chinese) numerous times in this post. Whole documents can be found here. One particular publication that has helped me a lot is 《王羲之行書字典》. It's about 400 pages of cursive characters. If you take half a day to look through that, it will beat going over the various ways different components are written in cursive.
  22. 6 likes
    This might be my favorite post ever on this forum. It's like you crystallized everything I've come to learn and realize about how to learn a language since moving here and put it all into one post. The "Chinese in X months" people out there could learn a lot from this post. This is how it's done, folks.
  23. 5 likes
    Now is the time to look for some of this year's crop if you like Chinese green 绿茶 and white tea 白茶。 The best of the best is picked right before Qingming Festival 清明节, which this year fell on the 4th of April, only two weeks ago. The slightly less expensive second picking is on the shelves and in the markets now. I bought a bag of real tasty Yunnan Biluochun 碧螺春 and a bag of Yunnan White Peony or Bai Mudan 白牡丹 from a bulk dealer nearby. She scooped me out about a hundred grams of each. These are teas that need to be enjoyed now; they won't be much good after about a year, so it's best not to overbuy. I've told you about Yunnan Biluochun before, so today I'll give you a look at Bai Mudan. (Link to biluochun: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/48546-how-to-brew-green-tea-with-a-gaiwan-盖碗/ ) The most famous White Peony tea comes from eastern and northern Fujian; ours today comes from Simao 思茅区, the district in south-central Yunnan that also goes by the better-known name Pu'er 普洱。It is plucked early in the year, one long silver bud and usually two tender leaves. After being harvested (by hand) it is air dried and withered 萎凋 in thin layers under indirect sun for a day or two. Then it is raked into small piles 堆 and left that way to partly ferment for only a couple of hours. Last of all, it is carefully baked 烘焙 just enough to dry it and retard spoilage. The leaves are handled gently, they don't go through the rough "rolling" operation 揉捻 or wok drying 杀青 to which some other teas are subjected. This preserves the gentle flavor of the leaf, but means that it is a perishable commodity. Unlike green tea, it is lightly oxidized. Here's what it looks like. If you enlarge the first picture and look closely, you can see that the long silver buds/shoots are covered in a fine, almost fluffy white down. This bag contains about 100 grams, the tomatoes and the textbook are for scale. Cost me 75 Yuan. Would have been cheaper per unit had I bought a larger amount or bargained more aggressively. I store it in a cool, dry living-room cabinet out of the sun and away from the stove, but I won't put it in the refrigerator. Let me show you my favorite way to brew it. You can use a teapot 茶壶 or gaiwan 盖碗 (covered tea bowl) of course, but the simplest way it to just make it in a tall glass. This glass method is especially good if you are just brewing for yourself or yourself and a friend. The one I'm using today holds 240 ml. The smaller glass beside it holds 200 ml, and is also OK. (Pencils and chopsticks for scale.) Don't use boiling water; it will "kill" the tea and make it taste somewhat sour and faintly bitter. Instead, use water that has been brought to the boil and allowed to cool down to 80 or 85 degrees Celsius. If you are in China and using water from your home water dispenser 饮水机,you can get the temperature about right by drawing water from the "hot" side of your dispenser in one pre-warmed drinking glass, and simply pouring it directly into your pre-warmed tea-making glass. No thermometer needed. Drop two or three generously large pinches of tea leaves right on top of the water. If you have a small digital tea scale and like to measure things, then use 5 grams. But with a little practice it isn't difficult to "eyeball" the quantity. Rule of thumb: if in doubt, use more leaves. Rule of thumb for the water: if in doubt, use cooler water. The water, however, needs to be of good quality. If it tastes nasty from chemicals or rust, the tea will not overcome that flaw. Tea leaves are said to be the father of a good cup; but water is the mother. After a couple of minutes, when leaves are starting to drift to the bottom, you can strain it into a small pitcher 公道杯 if you have one, or perhaps into a coffee cup. (This vessel needs to be warmed.) Then redistribute it to small drinking cups 品茗杯 for yourself and your guests. The leaves can be brewed 3 or 4 times. For best results don't let the brewing glass get empty; replenish it's level with more hot water when it gets down to a third or a quarter. Brewing tea this way, by dropping the leaves on top of the hot water, is referred to in tea lingo as 上头发。 This tea has a gentle flavor and a pale green-gold color; not a lot of caffeine; about a tenth as much as a cup of medium coffee. Most batches, if made right, will have a faintly floral note and a slightly sweet aftertaste. It isn't really made with peony flowers 牡丹花, despite the picturesque name. It isn't a tea which is actually scented with flower blossoms such as jasmine tea. Over the years it has become one of my favorite Chinese teas. Easy to make; easy to enjoy. Not overly rare or expensive. The experts tell me that the best time to drink it is in the middle of the day, late morning and early afternoon. Chinese tea lore suggests having it after you have eaten a light snack instead of on an empty stomach. Best enjoyed in spring and early summer. After you have finished brewing and drinking, take a minute to examine a few of the leaves. One long, thin bud 嫩芽 and a couple of small leaves in each complex: 一芽两叶。 If you have a gaiwan 盖碗 and a set of tea tools, it is fine to use them to make your White Peony tea. Again, use plenty of dry tea. These leaves are bulky, not compressed. This isn't Lipton's, cut up and crushed into tiny pieces. Suggest filling the gaiwan about a third full; loose leaf tea of this sort does not lend itself to measuring with a teaspoon. I would refer you to an earlier post for details of how to do the actual brewing. (Link to using gaiwan: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/48546-how-to-brew-green-tea-with-a-gaiwan-盖碗/ ) Hope you will try out some of this year's spring tea now while it's at its best, in peak season. If in doubt about what kind to select, consider Bai Mudan, aka White Peony.
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    I first heard about this show last week when it appeared as a topic on 锵锵三人行: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6MQER7DsEw Although I'm sure it'll end up showing the CCP as a virtuous organisation dealing with a few bad apples it makes a nice change from the usual Chinese drama fare. I think it's also a good opportunity to learn some party-speak in an interesting way. Anyway, watching two episodes has convinced me that it will be worth going through in detail and producing a vocab list for. I should be able to stick to a schedule of at least 2 episodes per week. Episode 1 vocab 处长 chùzhǎng department head / section chief 反贪 fǎntān anti-corruption (policy) 科长 kēzhǎng section chief / CL: 個|个 科级 kējí (administrative) section-level 惩治 chéngzhì to punish 叛徒 pàntú traitor / turncoat / rebel / renegade / insurgen 物业 wùyè property management 搜查令 sōuchálìng search warrant 部委 bùwěi ministries and commissions 串通 chuàntōng to collude / to collaborate / to gang up 物色 wùsè to look for / to seek / to choose 实名 shímíng real-name (registration etc) / non-anonymous 局长 júzhǎng bureau chief / CL: 位, 個|个 受贿 shòuhuì to accept a bribe / bribery 涉案 shè'àn (of a perpetrator, victim, weapon, sum of money etc) to be involved in the case 协同 xiétóng to cooperate / in coordination with / coordinated / collaborate / collaboration / collaborative 省委 shěngwěi provincial Party committee 厅 tīng office / provincial government department 局级 jújí (administrative) bureau-level 迟缓 chíhuǎn slow / sluggish 先斩后奏 xiānzhǎnhòuzòu first decapitate then present your trophy (idiom); act first, report later 清贫 qīngpín poor but upright / destitute 对付 duìfu to handle / to deal with / to cope / to get by with 手续 shǒuxù procedure / CL: 道, 個|个 / formalities 指挥 zhǐhuī to conduct / to command / to direct / conductor (of an orchestra) / CL: 個|个 出洋相 chūyángxiàng to make a fool of oneself 但凡 dànfán every single 磨叽 mòji (dialect) to dawdle / to waste time / also written 墨跡|墨迹 常委 chángwěi member of standing committee 存折 cúnzhé passbook / bankbook 打铁还得自身硬 辜负 gūfù to fail to live up (to expectations) / unworthy (of trust) / to let down / to betray (hopes) / to disappoint 中伤 zhòngshāng to slander / to smear 廉政 liánzhèng honest or clean politics 劳模 láomó model worker 黄花菜都凉了 huánghuācàidōuliángle lit. the dishes are cold (idiom) / fig. to arrive late / to take one's sweet time 通融 tōngróng flexible / to accommodate / to stretch or get around regulations / a short-term loan 恩师 ēnshī (greatly respected) teacher 纰漏 pīlòu careless mistake / slip-up 走漏 zǒulòu to leak (of information, liquid etc) / to divulge 风声 fēngshēng sound of the wind / rumor / talk / news / reputation 氏 shì clan name / maiden name 扶持 fúchí to help / to assist 驾驶员 jiàshǐyuán driver 矿产 kuàngchǎn minerals 会议室 huìyìshì meeting room / conference room 一向 yīxiàng always (previously) / a period of time in the recent past 区域 qūyù area / region / district 市委 shìwěi municipal committee 厅长 tīngzhǎng head of provincial PRC government department 确凿 quèzáo definite / conclusive / undeniable / authentic / also pr. [que4 zuo4] 行贿 xínghuì to bribe / to give bribes 拔出萝卜带出泥 one caught criminal to implicate another 集合 jíhé to gather / to assemble 挂帅 guàshuài to be in command(fig.) 贿赂 huìlù to bribe / a bribe 规 guī to plan / to scheme 稳妥 wěntuǒ dependable 公事公办 gōngshìgōngbàn to do official business according to the official principles (i.e. without involving private interests) 化身 huàshēn incarnation / reincarnation / embodiment (of abstract idea) / personification 行情 hángqíng market price / quotation of market price / the current market situation 包庇 bāobì to shield / to harbor / to cover up 慎重 shènzhòng cautious / careful / prudent 不宜 bùyí not suitable / inadvisable / inappropriate 掉链子 diàoliànzi to let sb down / to drop the ball / to screw up 一针见血 yīzhēnjiànxiě lit. to draw blood on the first prick (idiom) / fig. to hit the nail on the head 切磋 qiēcuō to compare notes / to learn from one another / to swap pointers 审核 shěnhé to audit / to investigate thoroughly 触景生情 chùjǐngshēngqíng scene which recalls past memories (idiom) / evocative of the past / reminiscent / to arouse deep feelings 明码 míngmǎ non-secret code (such as Morse code, Chinese telegraph code, ASCII etc) / plaintext (cryptography) / (of prices) clearly marked 标价 biāojià to mark the price / marked price 新来乍到 xīnláizhàdào newly arrived (idiom) 底细 dǐxì inside information / the ins and outs of the matter / how things stand / what's up 相机 xiàngjī at the opportune moment / as the circumstances allow 视察 shìchá to inspect / an investigation 反腐倡廉 fǎnfǔchànglián to fight corruption and advocate probity 大失所望 dàshīsuǒwàng greatly disappointed 栽跟头 zāigēntou to fall head over heels / (fig.) to come a cropper 翻船 fānchuán to capsize / (fig.) to suffer a setback or defeat 廉洁 liánjié honest / not coercive / honesty / integrity / incorruptible 服气 fúqì to be convinced / to accept 较劲 jiàojìn to match one's strength with / to compete / more competitive / to set oneself against sb / disobliging / to make a special effort 未经 wèijīng not having undergone / without (having gone though a certain process) 通气 tōngqì to keep each other informed / to release information 违纪 wéijì lack of discipline / to break a rule / to violate discipline / to breach a principle 核实 héshí to verify / to check
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    Adobe/Google have followed up on their earlier collaboration on the open-source Source Han Sans Hei-style Chinese font with a new Song-style font, appropriately titled Source Han Serif: https://github.com/adobe-fonts/source-han-serif/ Perhaps not the prettiest Song font ever, but with 7 weights and support for a whopping 64k characters (including regional variations), it should nonetheless be extremely useful for those developing Chinese language apps / websites / study materials / etc or who simply want another Song font to play around with. (we're going to see about offering this as a free add-on for Pleco on iOS in one of our next few dotdot updates - on Android of course you can install whatever Chinese font you like via Settings / Fonts)
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    Or, killing 2 birds with 1 stone, "蒙娜丽莎的丽莎"
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    Learn Chinese at advanced levels and you’ll eventually have to write a paper, or design something, with Chinese text. I’ve written a paper or two, and so I’ll summarize my preferences regarding Chinese typefaces. BTW, in this blog entry “typeface” refers to a set of glyphs in many variations in weight, width, Italics or Roman, etc. “Font” refers to a variation. Adobe Garamond and Monotype Garamond are two different typefaces. Adobe Garamond Bold and Adobe Garamond Bold Italic are two different fonts, but the same typeface. These terms are being blurred lately, so elsewhere you’ll probably see them all called fonts. The three most common Chinese type styles are, in chronological order, regular script (楷書體), Ming (明體), and sans-serif (黑體). You can read a history of these styles (in Chinese) here. To summarize: The first moveable type was from the Song Dynasty, using ceramic tiles in regular script. Compared to most modern regular script typefaces, Song Dynasty regular script typefaces have straighter lines and lower variation in line width. This is what is commonly called imitation Song (仿宋體), although it is still a regular script type style. The Ming style appeared in the Ming Dynasty as a result of straightening regular script lines. I’m not sure why. It was not created to compensate for wood grains. Regular script can be properly carved out of wood. Also, in Mainland China this style is called Song (宋體), which is a bad name at best as there is no evidence of this style appearing before the Ming Dynasty. There have been xenophobic explanations made up in an attempt to support this bad name. This has created a mess of analyses and theories trying to explain the difference between Ming and Song as if they were two different things. Sans-serif Chinese typefaces appeared in the late 19th century, first in Japan, probably from Latin character sans-serif typeface influence. Use of these type styles depends on medium. On paper, for body text, you’ll most likely see a Ming typeface, although sans-serif is also appropriate and not rare. On screen you’ll most likely see sans-serif. This makes sense as until recently, printers have had a higher resolution than displays. Sans-serif typefaces, with their low contrast, large counters, and frame-filling glyphs, allow for high legibility at low resolutions. Ming typefaces have characters that are more distinct, and a little less legible, but the popularity of Ming typefaces on paper is probably more due to the tradition of using it for printing body text since the Ming Dynasty. Regular script typefaces’ characters are most distinct, but least legible at small sizes, and can occasionally be seen in body text but probably not at small sizes and not smaller than about 48 pixels high, unless the designer has bad taste. Below I have an example of Chinese text in (from right to left) regular script, Ming, and sans-serif typefaces. Notice that the Ming and sans-serif examples fill each square more than the regular script example. That is because regular script requires certain strokes to extend out far from the body of the character in order to look right, requiring the body of the character to be smaller in order to fit in the frame. Therefore, I have some guidelines for Chinese typeface usage. This is my opinion. No more than 2 different typefaces in one document, unless you have a good reason. You can have different fonts but use them appropriately. If you have almost exclusively Chinese text, prioritize vertical orthography, allowing Chinese to be displayed in its natural direction. On screen, prioritize sans-serif typefaces. No Ming typefaces less than 24 pixels high. No regular script typefaces less than 48 pixels high. On paper, prioritize sans-serif and Ming typefaces. No Ming typefaces smaller than 10 points. No regular script typefaces smaller than 18 points. Also, do not shear Chinese glyphs in order to fake an Italic font. Emphasis should be done with emphasis marks, and titles should have 《》 or wavy lines to the left or below. As for recommended typefaces, I rarely type in regular script. Most modern regular script typefaces are quite objectionable in that there are too many wrong characters and they are too obvious. Just pick one. DF-KaiSB included in Windows doesn’t suck as much as most others. If I absolutely must type something in regular script, I have Morisawa’s 欧体楷書, which has much fewer wrong characters than anything else I’ve seen, whose glyphs I edit as I need to. For Ming, if you want frame-filling glyphs and large counters, Founder’s 博雅方刊宋 is good. If you don’t require counters that are that large, and have the patience, you can use Kozuka Mincho included in a lot of Adobe software and use the glyphs panel to select alternate glyphs when the default one is too Shinjitai for you. If you don't want to deal with glyph selection but want multiple weights, Founder's 雅宋 is one of the few acceptable typefaces. Of course, Ming and sans-serif typefaces contain just as many wrong characters as regular script typefaces, but since it isn’t regular script, it’s less noticeable. If you’re using sans-serif, you probably want legibility and even texture. Microsoft’s YaHei and Founder’s 蘭亭黑 are the best I’ve seen. The former is based on the latter, tweaked to be even more frame-filling and with extensions to the first and second stroke of boxes to make them more distinct (in the regular font. The bold and light fonts lack these extensions.). You can read more about their design here. I find that YaHei can look crowded and slightly messy with the extensions on boxes, while 蘭亭黑 looks simpler. Ideally I would use 蘭亭黑 most of the time and YaHei in sizes below 8 points and on low-density displays. Microsoft JhengHei, done by Monotype, is far inferior to either. If you can read Chinese, blog.justfont.com is a Chinese typography blog whose author(s) are much more familiar with and anal about Chinese typography than me. Read it and you'll probably become a better typographer.
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    @steveh: First of all, thank you for your elaborate answer, it really helped me a lot. Well, as it turned out I was awarded the MTCSOL scholarship at the Dalian University of Foreign Languages. I'm pretty thrilled to study in China again, so here are some updates and few of my experiences, in case anyone reading this is thinking about applying. About the program - it takes two years to complete this degree program, the first three semesters are actual studying and the last semester is internship teaching. The school encouraged us to do the internship at our native language country as they cannot provide opportunities for everyone to teach in China. Some students of the previous years told us though, that you can stay in China to teach your own native language and that also counts as a teaching internship, but I honestly think having casual speaking English or Korean classes and teaching Chinese have absolutely nothing in common, so I'm not entirely sure about this option (not to mention if your native language is so obscure as mine and nobody wants to learn it... ). In some of our classes, we study together with the Chinese students, the rest is only for the foreign students. The classes cover a wide range of topics, from history, literature and culture to geography and contemporary society studies. We have the actual Chinese language course only once a week, but the rest of the classes are all held in Chinese too, so that makes it up for the tingli practice. I'd be lying if I said I liked all of my classes, it really depends on the teacher. Some of the teachers engage us in discussion about any given topic to hear the opinion of people from so different cultural backgrounds, while some of them would just whip out a ppt presentation and summarise the textbook for us. My funniest class is definitely the "Chinese cultural heritage and art", it's like an afternoon workshop, where we actually learn to do Chinese paper-cutting and that Chinese knot coiling-entangling thing. We won't have many exams, most of the classes require to write an essay by the end of semester. Oh, and the 50-30-20% rule is true, and we're all terrified about it. They're alterning the deal, now everyone is supposed to take the HSK level 6 exam too, if they don't pass, they don't get the scholarship for the second year. We pray they don't alter it any further. About the university - contrary to popular belief, the Dalian University of Foreign Languages is not situated in Dalian anymore (as I found out upon registration) but moved to Lüshun, a small suburban city, which although is part of the Dalian Municipal Area, is about one and a half hours drive from downtown Dalian, depending on the traffic. There's a regular coach service commuting between the Old Campus in Zhongshan district and the New Campus in Lüshun, about once an hour. The Lüshun campus is pretty neat, all the teaching buildings are brand new and well-equipped, trees and flowers everywhere, and satisfying sports facilities are also available - track and field, tennis, basketball, badminton, etc. And of course, an open beach is about 8 minutes walk from campus, and from any building from the fourth floor and above you can see the sea (okay, I'm coming from a landlocked country, so that's a big thing for me ). About the accommodation - all the foreign students are provided with accommodations in the new apartment buildings, every apartment has three bedrooms (each for two people), two bathrooms, two balconies, a kitchen, a dining room and a living room and a small storage compartment where we can lock our stuff in during the winter and summer holidays. We're not allowed to stay here during the holidays, as they lend out the apartments for the short-term program participants, but scholarship students have the opportunity to move to the old campus until the next semester starts. I estimate these apartments are at least about 180 square meters, so there's plenty of room for six people (all girls or all boys). We have to take care about most of the furnishing though, for instance bed linen, fridge and cooking equipment. All in all, I'm happy and content with my current situation, if there's anything I can help with about the application process, the registration or life in general in Dalian, please let me know.
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    The key to securing a China-related position is to think outside of the box - corny I know, but my recent career change is proof that it works. Forget searching online through job sites. In my experience, the only results you'll get for Mandarin/China searches are - as you have found - poorly paid and limited in scope. Combine this with the fact that several dozen native-speaking students will be making the same searches in the hope of securing employment after their university courses finish, then you are wasting your time. Once I had eliminated this avenue as a route to securing China-related work, I then began to directly approach companies or businesses whom I knew were involved in China. In the area where I live (fairly rural) the scope for these opportunities is somewhat still limited. I came up with ideas such as a local fireworks shop (who I knew imported from China) and a private school who educate pupils from China and Hong Kong (among other countries). The latter is now my current employer. I simply approached them, told that I could speak Mandarin (by no means to an advanced level), had lived in China, understood a fair bit about the culture, and had a Chinese wife/family in China. The school hadn't been actively recruiting but were thinking about expanding more into China - which is where I now fit in. I now travel to China five times a year recruiting students in a position I really enjoy. The school could have employed a native speaker, but they wanted a Western face (their words, not mine) and having seen the difference between the crowds of students a Chinese person and non-Chinese pull at education exhibitions, I understand why now. One example of a benefit I have brought to the school is by using my family out there to get promotional material at Chinese prices - as opposed to inflated prices for foreigners, as they had been paying. So think about your hometown, for example. Who deals with China/Taiwan there? Who may import/export from or to China/Taiwan? Think about how your skills could benefit a business and create an opportunity for yourself. They do exist; you just need to seek them out.
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    You can't be serious... their education system here, at least with regards to English, is awful. I teach English here and I can tell you that there's no way that's going to happen. Consider that anyone under the age of 30 or so already had to take many years of English in school. Guess what, >95% of them can't even carry a conversation. Most of their English education consists of memorizing obscure terms, skimming passages quickly, and regurgitating grammatical patterns which even their teachers do not know how to use properly. If you want one example of how horribly broken their English education system is, consider the abomination known as the CET. The CET, or College English Test, is the government's method of evaluating English for college students. It is basically a massive vocabulary test, multiple choice, covering such useful and essential English words as "cardiologist" and "dandelion". (Really, I'm not making this up). To study for this the kids just cram lists of thousands of English words and then practice speed-reading passages while barely understanding their contents. I have met students who passed CET-6 who looked at me with confusion when I asked them "How are you doing?" You might get the idea that I'm exaggerating if you've only been to Beijing and Shanghai, but rest assured in most of China it is rare to meet anyone with decent English. I teach English here and I can assure you that the English education is quite bad. Considering that and the fact that most of the population has no use for English, I draw the opposite conclusion that you did, that while the English level here may get better over the years it's never going to be spoken by a large portion of the population. At best the upper classes and the well-educated will speak it to some level... but it'll never be how it is in Singapore. Having said that there will still be more than enough English speakers here to take all the jobs that require English/Mandarin bilingualism... sending hundreds of millions of people to English class every day is going to result in couple hundred thousand who are really good at it.
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    I think this is an acceptable reply to your comment. Nobody learning Chinese writing cannot not study calligraphy. Either that, or one should more correctly understand me if one thought I was not talking about calligraphy. (By now I'm getting the impression that it would be better just to say I never ever talk about calligraphy.) Also, to call your point of view contemporary and functional implies that it is more contemporary and functional than something else. I'm guessing that you mean it's enough for newbs to just write legibly with whatever stroke order they want. However, I think it is still better to prescribe something (as language instruction cannot work without some prescription) and people are doing so already, as I said in the blog post. What is different between their prescriptions and my prescriptions (excluding Japan to an extent) is that mine describe something that exists or existed. Most of their standards come from nowhere. What makes it seem more functional to follow the standards is that their information is more widespread (and newly spread among the newly literate), while information obtained from research has been kept among a few people who already knew how to write anyway. Before the Republic, most people who could write wrote with correct stroke orders. Standards with errors caused the majority of the population to learn errors. This is where the new "right" comes from. Taking pre-Republic Chinese writing into account, they are more prescriptivist than me. I feel like I'm rambling....
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    There's already a thread on this book (from way back in 2005), but since this is going to be an extra long thread (I'm going to posting a chapter by chapter vocab list) I thought it would be best to post a new one: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/6093-book-of-the-month-oct-2005-兄弟-brothers-by-余华-yu-hua/ I don't normally spend so much time looking up vocab when reading books, usually only stopping to search when I really don't understand something. For example, when I read 余华's other famous book,《活着》, a while back, I only noted down a few new words, instead concentrating on building up my reading speed. I actually listened to 《兄弟》 in audiobook form before starting reading and felt that I had a pretty good grasp on the plot and characters. However, I also felt that I was missing out on some of the finer details and so decided to really drill down on the vocab. There's a part at the beginning of the second part of 《兄弟》 where one the characters, the short-sighted 宋钢, puts on a pair of glasses for the first time and is amazed by how clear everything looks. That's how I feel now after having really thoroughly gone through the book in this way. Hopefully the vocab lists here will be useful to anyone looking to read the book, saving them the drudgery of having to look up the words themselves. Although my vocab list will be different from everyone else, I have cast a very broad net when adding vocab. Of the over 100 words in chapter one alone, there are only a handful which I really couldn't work out from the characters used and the context, and I have included a lot of words which I already know, but that I feel I don't use enough in my own writing and want to pay particular attention to. In fact, the whole purpose of this exercise is as much to improve my writing by using words I often ignore or forget as much as it is to improve my reading comprehension. I will be using the book as a basis of a lot of little writing exercises, writing chapter summaries, character profiles etc (pretty much like I used to do in English Literature classes back at school). I'll be posting a new vocab list every couple of days or so as I go through the book a third time. I hope that others find it useful. Oh, and it's a pretty good book, mixing humour and tenderness in between some pretty gruesome torture scenes (the first part of the book takes place during the Cultural Revolution). Well worth a read.
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    I'm not saying this is the best way but : I have easily bought via the website ctrip.com, has an English version, in advance or quite last minute. I paid with credit card. Used passport number as ID. It offers to have the tickets delivered but I've never tried that, instead I've collected them from the station. Chinese people with a Chinese id card can collect prebooked tickets from the machines but foreigners can't I think, because the machines require a Chinese ID card. So instead you have to queue, which can take a while, then show the Pickup number (取票号) at the counter, along with passport. This at least has been very smooth and easy so hopefully it's reassuring. But I'm guessing there are easier ways too, like for instance getting tickets delivered to a hotel, or picking up tickets from an authorised office in town. Ticket Pickup Train tickets for pickup can be booked on Ctrip's website or app. After your tickets have been successfully purchased, go to any railway station or authorized ticket office within mainland China with a valid ID (this should be the same as the one used for your booking) and your ticket pickup number, which is the letter E followed by a series of numbers. Tickets are issued — Within two hours if purchased from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. — Before 09:00 a.m. if purchased from 10:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Ticket Refund Requests 1) Ticket refund request hours: 06:00 to 22:55. 2) Ticket refund requests must be made at least two hours before scheduled departure time. 3) For refund requests between 22:55 and 06:00, please visit your nearest railway station. Ticket Refund Handling Fee 1) 15+ days prior to departure: free 2) 49 hours-15 days prior to departure: 5% of ticket price 3) 25-49 hours prior to departure: 10% of ticket price 4) Within 25 hours before departure: 20% of ticket price. *Booking fee is non-refundable for successful bookings. Refund amount is subject to the railway authority. Ctrip cannot change or cancel tickets that have already been picked up; please go to the railway station's refund window with your ticket and valid ID (this should be the same as the one used for your booking)
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    A little embarrassed to notice I haven't updated on my progress since the first post - perhaps should have been predictable given how far down my list of priorities it this blog sits, but all the same... On the other hand, the challenge is still going strong - 74/112 days completed now, none missed so far! My method for keeping track of this, and motivating myself, is the old but classic crosses-on-a-calendar method. I've tried some phone-based "don't break the chain" apps in the past, but none of them have quite the same impact as keeping physical track of my progress. It's gotten to the point that, when planning excursions or family days, my first thought is often "how can I plan my hours around that to guarantee I don't miss a day?" That's not to say it's become easy. I've almost never felt like the 2 hours were effortless. It's just without this motivation I'd probably do less and less every day until I stop altogether. Anyway, if you're struggling with motivation to keep a daily habit (as I often have), I can definitely recommend buying a cheap calendar and just marking it off every day. Super effective. So what have I learned over the 46 hours of Chinese since I last updated this blog? Firstly, just as intermediate learners often observe, the rate of progress feels slower every week. I'm still on the boundary between intermediate/upper intermediate on ChinesePod, and when I listen to hard dialogues I downloaded three weeks ago, I don't feel like they've become any easier to decipher in the intervening time. New stories and dialogues introduce just as many new words now as they did two months ago, and I'm getting a visceral sense of just how vast a task learning a language is. The number of near homonyms makes this no easier, and I'm constantly confusing the meanings of words that to a Chinese speaker sound nothing alike. On that topic, tones in particular continue to frustrate me. I'm not exactly tone-deaf - a few weeks ago I tried Olle Linge's tone training - 100% on the initial level placement - and John Pasden's tone pair drills - no problem there either. But I still often make comprehension mistakes in full sentences due to tones, and still can't reliably predict the tones of an unfamiliar word when spoken as part of a larger utterance. Even when hearing a tone isn't necessary to understand a sentence (at my level context is still mostly enough) it feels like full comprehension is slower than it should be, I'm using grammar/context as a crutch, and the other shoe is going to drop when I try to advance to native materials. It seems like there's a big gap in the market for intermediate tone training - forcing students to listen for tones until this habit is fully internalised. Does such a product already exist? I'm also quite curious what others think about this problem, and whether it's really an issue - particularly from those who have learned Chinese to a very high level of proficiency. On the other hand, I do feel like I'm currently developing in three related areas. "Chinese subconscious" - occasionally in the past two weeks I have found myself following some non-trivial material without actively concentrating on the language at all, just thinking about the subject material. This is one of the things I had been hoping to achieve through mass listening, and it's good to feel it might eventually pan out. I have very limited stamina to fully concentrate on spoken language (I can't maintain 100% concentration for more than a few minutes!) so this is very necessary in the long run. This point might seem trivial to many here, but it's a big breakthrough for me! Speed of listening. The 4th level of the Chinese Breeze books has helped with this, as the narrators have stepped up the speed a bit for this level, forcing me to internalise more of the very high frequency words and grammatical structures. (I'll give a more complete review of the Chinese Breeze books later if I can find the time) Ability to learn. The more words I learn, the easier it seems to be to remember new words, and the better I can distinguish between similar words. And because I can listen faster, I can hear more words and grammar structures in 2 hours. It feels like entering a virtuous cycle. Of course because I've properly hit intermediate level now, it still feels like my rate of progress has slowed in spite of all of this. Finally, I've entirely dropped SRSing of new words in isolation. I've just found it a drain on my mental energy with seemingly little-to-no gain. The SpoonFed Chinese Anki deck is doing a great job of introducing me to new words in context, and providing regular reminders. I re-listen to ChinesePod episodes at regular intervals when they have lots of new vocabulary (is there SRS software that can schedule this for me more conveniently than Anki?) The graded readers use the same words so often that there's no need to SRS them. And best of all, all of these activities are simply more fun than grinding Anki decks of words (well SpoonFed isn't much fun, but is definitely more effective). The only thing I'm losing here is the ability to recognise characters of words I'm learning, but given that all of my learning material currently comes with pinyin, this is something I can tolerate (and will probably fix through extensive reading after the challenge is over)
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    GUYS, I wanted to update you that I passed both HSK 3 AND HSKK. I got 274 and 82. Thank you for the nice tips. Best wishes.
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    One day lil' Zen and his teacher passed by some flowerbed. Some woman's like wow these flowers are real pretty, I bet it'd look real cute if I put one on my head; hey mister can I pick a flower? Dude says nuh uh. Some dude's like wow these flowers are real beautiful, just looking at them makes me feel all good inside; hey uncle how 'bout you sell me a flower? Dude says no sell no sell la. Wah, so pretty, uncle just one flower, just sell one flower; yeah, yeah! No. Sell. Some dudes are like yeesh, what's his problem, it's just one flower amiright? Yeah. So lil' Zen's like hey uncle everyone likes these flowers so much, how come you won't sell one to them? Uncle's like PFFT they don't like the flowers, they just like what the flowers can do for them. They don't have a clue how to treasure them. Flowers... Y'all just hold on to your most beautiful self and give it to someone who really loves you. "May you at your most beautiful meet the one who loves you the most" ** This has been a super lazy translation brought to you by 缺德的陳聰 **
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    If you like learning through word lists, I'd recommend you to use Chinese Text Analyser from now on: 1. Choose a Chinese novel you want to read (活著 is perfect for a first read). 2. Search that same novel in .txt form, download it and analyse it with CTA. It will tell you the percentage of words known in that text, and will give you a list of the unknown words ranked from most to least frequently used within that novel. 3. Study the most frequent words until you reach a comfortable level of comprehension (between 95% and 98%, ideally). 4. Enjoy your read! Studying the words before reading the novel is fantastic, you don't have to pause your reading every third word, you forget about dictionaries and when you encounter what you already studied being used in context, it helps you to reinforce the concept and understand the usage nuances.
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    I did, but the reason I left China was not because I couldn't find suitable work, but because I didn't want to live in China (and Beijing) any more. If I was still in Beijing then yes my Chinese in combination with my programming skills would have helped with my employability, but that combination back in Australia doesn't make much of a difference. So it's lucky my motivation for learning Chinese was not related to employability.
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    I wasn't sure which forum was best for this post but I think Visa is better than others. Some maybe have differing opinions but I think this is a good list for those of you wanting to travel while in China I used to live in China and did lots of traveling while living there. For those of you in the states you need to understand two things.... You will do LOTS of walking and you will not find a Laundromat. Walking: American's don't understand how much walking people in other cultures actually do. And that is probably why 80% of American's are over weight. While living in China I would walk 6 miles every day going to and from work. And I lived in a house close to my office. When on vacation I think you can expect to walk 10-15 miles per day!!! On my last trip to China we rode planes, trains, taxis, motorcycles, boats, subways ... oh and my favorite, high speed trains. But between each an everyone you need to walk more than a mile carrying your stuff! Things to take: - Calluses This is import! My first day in China my feet were bleeding. My mothers first day in china her feet were bleeding, and I warned her. - 25 liter backpack. I love the osprey, because they leave an air pocket between you back and the bag. Everything you own needs to fit in this small backpack!!! - synthetic athletic clothing It has nothing to do with the exercise. It has to do with Laundromats. You won't find any and you don't want to waist time trying to get clothing dry cleaned. Every night when you enter your hotel room wash yesterdays clothing. If it is synthetic it will be dry by the morning. If you brought cotton, well you are screwed. Also think of ways clothing can be dual purposed, for example swimming suits that double as underwear. Or shorts that double as a swimming suit. - 2 days worth of layered clothing 2 synthetic convertible pants. 2 synthetic t-shirts. 2 synthetic long shirts. 2 synthetic underwear. 2 fast drying socks (this is hard, you may have to buy more). - synthetic belt with hidden money pocket - Good broke in walking shoes - 1 jacket preferably water resistant - 1 unlocked smart phone When you get to china buy a new sim card with internet access ($50). Also because of your language barrier you will be using your GPS a LOT! - 1 large portable phone charging battery China uses 3G which is more power hungry. Plus your GPS usage I was running out of electricity 3 times per day. Plus if you ride a sleeper train you may not get to charge your phone (or wash your clothing). - VPN service in the united states, so that you get on facebook - watch - passport - Cash Cash is king in China. They are slowly moving to credit cards but most merchants refuse to pay Visa 2%. I would take 1000 RMB and 1000-2000 USD. Then when you get there go to a bank and ask for RMB. Chinese banks are by far the cheapest place to exchange money. They will need your passport to do so. If you stay at nice hotels they will also do this for you. - 2 debit cards, with cash in it, and they know you will be traveling. My credit union only worked 1/2 the time. Thus I always carry two. - deodorant when I first moved to china you couldn't buy it. Now big cities sell it but why bother. - Camera with extra batteries and SD cards - a USB multi-port charger - 2 camera chargers - head phones - movies/books on your phone - iPad - iPad SD card reader. - iPad photo manipulation software - drugs (advil, zantac, cipro... ) - small Kleenex bag things (to wipe your butt) Things to NOT take - new shoes - laptop (if possible) - too many clothes - too much camera equipment. - a roller suitcase (you may be walking 16 miles with rain ... think marathon) - fancy clothing Suggestions - take the trains, especially the sleeper trains. It is about $100 but you get a good nights sleep and you don't need a hotel. I will plan my trip as such. Take a sleeper train to the city (lets say Xian) then the best way to get to the clay soldiers is from the train station taking a bus. You will wear your backpack while seeing the sights. Then when you get back to town look for a hotel. The bell tower hotel is amazing and only costs $110/nt. Spend the next day seeing the muslim quarter, spend the next day hiking with your stuff, then take a sleeper train to the next city. You have to carry you stuff. - have a chinese friend translate some cards if you don't speak chinese. "I want to go ____" "I want a soft sleeper bed to ____ city" (train) - apps to bring - translation apps - gps apps - games - photo manipulation apps - books on tape / movies - eat the food (lamb kabobs, Sichuan boiled fish, liang fen, liang pi, islamic food, nan) - don't be offended if the local hotels don't allow you to live there. They just don't want to do the paperwork. - try the "ru jia" national hotel chain if you want to save money. - go to the islamic street in xian. - keep you wallet in your front pocket. - people will lie and cheat you but not mug. - when you see something you want look around there are probably 10 others stores with the same crap. Use that to your negotiation advantage. - If you buy clothing look for back stitching and KKY zippers. If they don't have them remember the clothing will fall apart in days. - when you enter a taxi go things in this order. Place family, then bags, then get in the front, take picture of his license, then tell them where to go, then tell them to turn on the meter. - keep business card of every hotel you go, just in case you can't find your way home. - subways are they easiest way for foreigners to get around. - If you see beautiful girls wanting to have tea or beer with you, don't let them choose where you go. You choose. - get two room cards. leave on in the room so that your camera can charge while you go eat. - you can't buy train tickets online. bigger cities have corner stores that sell them, but smaller one you must buy them at the train station. - Learn to use a squaty potty. Toilets don't get cleaned, and you don't want you butt on a toilet. Spread you legs far apart over a squaty so that when you drop your pants they don't drop past you knees in into the toilet. Then squat using your hand to hold up the crotch of your pants so that you don't piss on them. Then let loose. Using your kleenex to clean up.
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    Yes but you have to know about them and how to use them and also you need to want to access them. I think it keeps the casual surfer away from these things. If its not immediately available, lots of people won't bother. Its a bit like putting a velvet rope round an exhibit, it doesn't really pose a barrier but keeps most people away from the item.
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    @baihua: There's a huge difference between recognising a string of words and quickly deriving semantic meaning from a complete sentence. The former is possible with study, but I really think you can't force the latter. Some of your difficulty is due to the time it takes for our brains to physically adapt to the new language. Here's an article on neuroplasticity that should give you plenty of hope. The way to conquer your block is to keep going. Stick with material at your level, repeat material you can grasp, and stop when you're tired. Give your brain the chance to adapt physically. I endured your hell for years (hence the existence of this thread), and I can attest that it does get better.
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    I am starting to find this out as well! The language is becoming easier and easier for me day by day when I spend majority of time simply listening to dialogues. Its hard to sit there for 30-45 minutes just listening over and over, but it is definately helping. Speaking is becoming easier and easier. I think your brain naturally adjusts to the language as you listen more. I know how this is! I am in the stages where it feels like no progress is being made, but you know there is. I remember that in the beginning just saying "My name is...." was a success!
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    I took the HSK 5 last December. I wrote about this extensively, here. I agree with what others say about reading speed. If you take the physical version (stead of on the computer) depending on how strict the person is that proctors your exam, you may be able to jump around a bit. Since my writing speed was faster than what the test demanded, I had enough time to go back after reading and review some quesitons I had marked as difficult. Not something to count on but to think of as a possibility. Also, for the listening part, the biggest challenge wasn't comprehension as much as focus. I know I get a few questions wrong simple because I spaced out or got distracted when someone came and knocked on the door (the person proctoring it opened the door and talked to them! grr). That little thing broke my rhythm. To avoid this, considering studying for the listening part in a distracting environment to get used to that. The listening was done over loud speaker not via headphones. They played it loudly which distorted the sound quality. Be ready for this. Regarding resources: The book I used that includes answer keys, explanations for every question, transcripts for the audio sections, and a sample answer to every essay question https://world.tmall.com/item/524202182648.htm#detail? The links I used for HSK test info http://www.chinesetest.cn/goKdInfoOrPlan.do?zhou=1&guo=1&kdname_name=%E5%85%B0%E5%A4%A7&kdType=0&xm=0&km=0&yf=0 http://www.china.org.cn/english/MATERIAL/105469.htm http://confuciusinstitute.asu.edu/files/application/HSK.pdf http://www.chineseathome.com/index.php?option=com_content&id=355%3Ahsk-idioms-list&catid=66%3Ahsk&Itemid=202〈=en https://www.umb.edu/confucius/tests/hskk
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    Not your typical China resident 71, but of the slightly hardy kind. Shall I relate my recent experiences? Now in Buding jiu dian 布丁酒店 in Kunshan near Shanghai Hongqiao and also near Suzhou - 75rmb per day, basic, but bearable. Desk is small and chair is a plastic stool. I have to nag to get hot water, just bearable for a shower in early spring cold. Be sure to bring your own towel wherever you go. I started in an Airbnb place in Kunshan. 6th floor, no lift, old building, cold and dark - a masochists palace! Then moved to a fair hotel in a commercial desert. Moved again to Buding, but no laundry facilities - it costs more to wash socks than to buy new ones. The streets here are dedicated to xitang 喜糖 or 电脑 HSK3 results came out, and as expected passed HSK3 but just soso - my listening is almost perfect, but reading is too slow. HSK4 next month.
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    Had a blind massage this afternoon. Large room with 5 tables side by side; no partitions or curtains. Everybody fully clothed. One female therapist, three male therapists. Guy on one side of me was snoring. He would wake up every few minutes and ask for it to be harder "重一点" then drift back off to sleep. Guy on the other side was moaning and groaning like he was being killed, "啊呀, 我疼死了。“ I was somewhere between the two extremes. Must confess that some parts of the process hurt, especially places where I was real tight. I kept reminding myself that I will feel better tomorrow. 90 minutes, 90 Yuan. Good, no-frills Chinese massage is something I really miss when back in the US, though I readily admit it is an acquired taste.
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    @Angelina Hi! I was planning to write about aspect particles more from a practical "teaching-it" point of view rather than from a purely lingustic approach, but choosing three 动态助词 (了、着 and 过) was too much, so after some consideration (and very serious time management issues) my supervisor and I decided to only focus on 过 and leave out the other two. There are no such components in my native language as aspect particles, so making my students understand just how do they work in Chinese is different and difficult. Basically my final version was about what kind of problems should you expect if you were to introduce 过 in a lower-intermediate Chinese class for Hungarian people and through what steps can you help your students get a better grasp on using it. Since I abandoned my first script and started writing again almost from scratch, by the end the time left almost wasn't enough. Personally, I wasn't satisfied with my own thesis, it felt really rushed. That's why I advised everyone to listen to their supervisors and pick a topic that's managable - It shouldn't be too simple, because hey, it's a Master's degree, but if you shoot for something that would better suit a book or a PhD thesis, than you're gonna have a bad time. Even if you finish your research (which is an oxymoron, you never finish research) and start writing while doing your internship, you still only have about 8 months. And it goes by way quicker than you'd expect. Good luck with your studies! /sorry for being off-topic
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    @Sharon_Too No problem. About your further questions: 1. HSK6 and HSKK - one of my classmates had already passed the HSK6 before enrolling (she already finished another MA in China), and they had her take the exam as well, and also in the second semester, so while most of us have two HSK6 and HSKK Advanced certificates, she actually has three. So I guess unless you have some very elaborate reason why you wouldn't want to take the exams again, they will make you sit through it again. 2. Internship in China - only one of the "foreign" classmates had his internship in China, quotation marks because he IS Chinese, just obtained his Canadian citizenship about 3 years prior to enrolling. I think he just didn't want to leave his Chinese girlfriend and go to Canada. So I'm not sure if they'll let you (as a foreigner) teach university-level Chinese if you haven't got a PhD degree yet. Generally speaking (and based on my experience), foreign students in China would rather choose a language teacher of Chinese nationality over a foreigner no matter how good of a teacher they are, But I guess if you're really enthusiastic about it, and your teachers permit it, anything can happen. 3. Thesis and supervisor - you choose your supervisor and your topic in the second semester. The topics aren't limited, you just have to ask the right teacher, for instance I chose my linguistics teacher, because my thesis was about grammar, but if you're doing intercultural/social research, then go to your teacher responsible for culture classes. Your supervisor will help you narrow down your research and generally follow you through the writing process - AGAIN, nice teachers and so-so teachers everywhere, so ask your upperclassmen whom do they recommend. Super strict teachers may seem daunting, but by the time of graduating I started to have second thoughts about choosing my favourite teacher, who was busy with her own PhD AND expecting her first child at the same time. Not many chances for consultations. You should probably chose a topic not too obscure and wide (like I first did with "Aspect Particles in Modern Mandarin Chinese" waaaay too big of a topic), or something that doesn't look like a joke (like my classmate: "Comparing Animals in Chinese Chengyu and Russian Expressions" uhh... what?), but again, your supervisor will help you chose a title and edit an approximate table of contents. You will have a presentation called 开提报告 by the end of the second semester introducing your topic to your classmates and faculty teachers. 4. The 50-30-20 rule and classroom morale - I hope I don't sound too conceited, but I was never really concerned about this rule. First of all, one of the scholarship awardees never showed up from the beginning, and I also had a classmate who came to register for the first semester, then went back home for "medical examinations" (she told us she got pregnant between getting the scholarship and arriving in China but temporarily didn't want to let the school know). She would have been back by the end of September, but the CIS council somehow found out and terminated her scholarship at once, BECAUSE she was pregnant. We kept e-mailing for a while, she was devastated and feeling really hurt and unjust about this. Coming from a place where it's perfectly okay to attend university while pregnant I found this decision really harsh, I don't know if it's because they didn't want her to have her baby in China, or to bring it to China, but she got kicked out nevertheless. So my advice for the ladies: don't get pregnant during the period of this scholarship, they are the least forgiving bunch I've ever met. Anyways, with the pregnant student and another one leaving for different reasons, we already had the 20% who wouldn't be coming back for the second year. I know this sound super-racist and seriously not politically correct, but since I'm European (and let's say it out loud: WHITE), they made me participate in every. single. university. huodong you could think of. This pretty much "booked" my place for the second year, because they needed someone who speaks fairly good Chinese and looks very distinctive on the pictures of the Christmas Party Gala. I'm sorry for saying this but it's true, being a Westerner in China comes with a whole lot of different strings, sometimes they put you in a position very unfair to the students of other regions. Luckily in the end, since the total number of foreign students was too low, everybody got the full scholarship for the second year as well. And there will always be students whom you may never really figure out just WHY are they in China if they won't study or do anything, but being this passionate about teaching is a power in itself, so even if I'm just some random person from the Internet I'm honestly rooting for you to get the scholarship and make the very best out of it! Cheers and good luck!
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    Thanks for the kind comments about this post. @Laurenth - Yeah, recording is tricky. People definitely change their speech when they know they're being recorded, so I've found recording using the computer better than a pocket digital recorder. It's just because of my circumstances. I study all day in cafes and parks. I'm already sitting there with the laptop open. So when I meet someone and start recording our conversation using the computer, it seems more natural than placing a digital recorder between us. The digital recorder is a constant reminder that it's being recorded, but people pretty quickly forget if it's just a computer with no visible sign that it's recording. The downside is that the computer recording quality isn't so great. But since it's for just my own purposes, the recordings are more than good enough to be able to review later, analyze tone contours, and use as samples for shadowing. The biggest issue I've found is that, regardless of whether or not they're being recorded, Chinese speakers don't necessarily speak in the same way to foreigners as they do to other native speakers. This is true in any language, of course; everyone regulates his/her speech based on perceptions of the listener's language skills. But it seems to me that Chinese is particularly noteworthy for several reasons: Broad category of issues I'd lump under "cultural issues": lack of experience ever speaking Chinese with a foreigner, perceptions of foreigners, experiences with other foreigners, etc, etc. It affects different people in different ways, of course. But many people just don't talk the same when they're speaking to a foreigner as they do when speaking with a Chinese native speaker, much more than I think is common in European languages. Of course, eventually at some point the people could revert to their normal speech patterns, but it could take quite a long time, depending on the circumstances. As a foreigner, the combination of tones and overall sentence intonation, mood, and emphasis is really tricky, so that's what I'm really interested in analysing and mimicking from the conversations I record. But that becomes complicated if people are changing or exaggerating their tones all the time when speaking to me. I've read some research on this topic. One interesting paper explores the difference between speech directed at adult native speakers, babies, and foreigners. It found that Chinese speakers "expanded Fo patterns in time and Fo range" when speaking with foreigners as compared to with other adult native speakers. Chinese speakers change and exaggerate tone contours in a very unique way when explaining concepts. From what I've found, it seems many, if not all, speakers do this. I've found that it's notably different than how English-speakers, for example, change their speech when explaining ideas. In my case, since in many conversations native-speakers are explaining their history and culture to me, and since that also tends to be when I now encounter new words and sentence structures, I found that I ended up studying more of this "citational", "explanatory" speech form quite a lot. It definitely was giving a "citational" feel to my speech which I'm still working on fixing. (I wrote about it a bit in this post). I'd be quite interested in your experiences. What do you think about all this? What have you found?
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    There don't have to be many opportunities, most people are satisfied with 1 job. Only very few have more than 2 or 3 jobs. In my perception however language alone is a fairly useless skill. There are extremely few jobs that only need language skills and generally they're paid poorly. As you noticed yourself, any serious language is spoken in huge numbers and consequently there's plenty of competition. So little reason to pay a big salary. The right language skills however may give you huge leverage if combined with other skills. There are a billion people speaking Chinese. Maybe there are 50 million (just a random number, no debate please) people speaking Chinese and English. I doubt there are more than a handfull of PhD's in biochemistry that know English and Chinese at a decent level. If you're one and find a company that needs one you're pretty much settled. Essentially it's simple. If you've common skills there's a lot of competition and only low paying opportunities. If you've a very specialised skill set there will be few opportunities that make use of all the skills, but if you find one there will be fairly little competition and you'll be able to negotiate a decent salary. If you don't insist on using all skills there are more opportunities for less pay. The above mentioned PhD will qualify for most biochemistry PhD positions but probably won't be able to negotiate the salary that he could for a position where Chinese is essential.
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    Knowing Chinese won't make you rich; only you can make yourself rich. In fact, being too interested in learning Chinese is liable to make you poorer on average, I'd bet