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Showing content with the highest reputation since 11/17/2018 in all areas

  1. 3 points
    Earlier this year, I decided to step down as organizer of the Chicago Mandarin Conversation meetup. As for why, I've been hosting Mandarin conversation meetups in some form or another since fall 2013, and I've simply lost interest (but I will continue to host the Chinese study group for a while). Fortunately, Kenneth has decided to take my place, starting in January of next year. We had a nice WeChat call just now about how to run the meetup, and these are my notes from that meeting. Should we merge the two groups? (Chicago Mandarin Conversation and Chicago Chinese Study) I'm slightly against this idea. One is for all levels and the other is for advanced speakers. It does make some things easier, but the problem is that with a mixed membership the advanced group will almost certainly get more beginners showing up. Remember that people don't read event descriptions! Members I fairly strict about membership requests, requiring applicants to write a coherent introduction in Chinese. You can decide to be more lax on this front, and just accept any applicant that completes the profile (which is what I used to do). You have to accept that some beginners might slip through, and when they show up, you can refer them to the all-levels group if it's clear they don't belong in the advanced group. Try to keep a good record of no-shows. If someone with a history of no-shows signs up, you'll know that they likely won't attend, and they can be automatically kicked off a waiting list if there is one. There have been rare occasions when a member brings their child to a conversation event. I think this is OK if the parent is taking part in the conversation themselves, and the child is just hanging out. But if the parent tries to leave their child there, kick them both out! Meetup is not free babysitting. Co-hosts When I started out, it was just me and my friend Aaron, and it was weeks before we got a third attendee. Even though it was a very small gathering, it was easy to host because I had a co-host and friend who I could count on to be there more-or-less on time every week. Definitely try to recruit your friends and coworkers to come, and keep a mental list of people who can step in for you when you're absent or running late. There are a lot of people who claim that they would like to host a event. Do not believe them! If they actually name a place and time and show up at that place and time, that's when you can believe them. Marketing Big announcements should be published on these platforms (in order of priority): Meetup mailing list WeChat group Blog FB page Twitter Normal announcements should just go on the mailing list. Posting pictures to meetup.com helps a lot with promotion. It's better to have the picture taken on your own phone so you can just upload it yourself. Another good way of promoting the meetup is to encourage people to write positive reviews. You should send out a message to the mailing list introducing yourself and explaining that you will be organizing the group from now on. There are probably some members who still believe that this meetup group is dead. Remember to change your profile to indicate that you're now an organizer! Scheduling Having a recurring event helps convince people that this is a stable, active meetup. I recommend having at least one event that always occurs on the same relative day of the month at the same location and same time. You can schedule additional events at different places and times to spice things up. Expect that about 50% of the RSVPs will actually show up. If the event is at a restaurant, make sure to schedule the meetup 30 minutes in advance of when you want to take a seat. This avoids a lot of problems, like having to be reseated because the expected number of people didn't show up. If at all possible try to schedule at the edge of busy periods. For example, instead of scheduling for noon, choose 11:00 am or 1:00 pm. If you can avoid it, don't make reservations ahead of time since it's hard to estimate the number of attendees. You don't need to announce it, but you should always have a backup plan. For restaurant events, you might show up to find that the restaurant is full or it's suddenly closed down for renovation or failed health inspection. Backup restaurant should be one that you're familiar with and which is generally not busy. For Chinatown, I think the underground cafeteria is a decent backup venue. Try to avoid cancelling events if at all possible, even if the number of RSVPs is really low. Sometimes people will show up even if they didn't RSVP. If you do need to cancel an event, announce it the day before, especially if there are guests who would be coming from out of town to attend. The best backup plans account for the event where no one shows up (hopefully that never happens to you). Topics Since the average level of attendees is likely to be lower from now on, you should consider announcing discussion topics ahead of the event. Intermediate speakers tend to be more passive conversationalists and need more prodding. When you encounter an awkward silence, that's your cue to introduce a topic. Restaurants Prefer venues that are quieter, less crowded, and have lazy susans on their tables. When ordering at a restaurant, the host(s) should always order for the group. Always remember to ask about dietary restrictions. Do not allow more than 20% of the dishes to be "adventurous" (e.g. chicken feet, jellyfish, duck's blood, etc). Do not let every attendee order one dish. Instead, ask every attendee what kind of food they're most looking forward to eating, and take everyone's wishes into consideration. If an attendee has special knowledge of a restaurant's cuisine, let them order. When dishes are brought to the table, ask the server which dish it is and what ingredients are in it. This is useful for people who aren't very familiar with the cuisine. Make sure to take a picture of the receipt so that people know what you ordered. Better yet, take pictures of the dishes and post them to meetup.com. If I'm the host, I prefer to pay the whole bill and ask everyone to pay me via Venmo or cash. Sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior If a member reports another meetup.com user (not necessarily a member) for abusive messages, report them to meetup.com. The admins can see the messages on their side and hopefully they'll take the appropriate action. Keep in mind that for every abusive message you hear about, there are many more that aren't reported. Women receive a crazy amount of creepy messages online. Kick spammers out and block them from rejoining. IRL abusive behavior should be shut down immediately. Kick the offender out of the meetup group right away. If they want to rejoin the group, they'll have to talk to you before their membership request can be approved. Things I have kicked people out for: homophobia, trying to use the group to sell pot, and trying to recruit members into one of those Chinese pyramid schemes. You cannot kick someone out for looking like a creep. You can, however, pull female members aside and advise them not to accept free car rides from creepy-looking men. We used to have a code of conduct. We should bring it back as a blog post and put a link to it on the meetup.com description page. WeChat It's good to maintain a WeChat group so that it's easier for attendees to add each other. Just scan the group instead of scanning each other. The group is also useful for announcing events to existing members. Any person who is spamming the group should be kicked out immediately. They can rejoin if they agree to stop spamming. Currently, the requirement on the WeChat group is that no English is allowed. In practice, the group is really low traffic so I don't think that this is a necessary rule. I will transfer ownership of the existing group to you. You should periodically clean out the WeChat group of members who haven't shown up in a long time. It's harder to find the people you want to add if the group has a lot of members. We used to have a Facebook Group, but I don't think it's a viable option anymore now that the FB Groups app has been pulled. Using FB Groups from the main Facebook app is a way worse experience than just using WeChat. Also, I don't think FB Groups has the translate feature. Recruiters You will eventually be contacted by a recruiter who wants to post job ads to the group. It's your call whether to allow it, but I sent out a survey to ask the members if they want to see job ads through the meetup, and the response was mostly negative. In truth, only a few members have the language skills that qualify for the jobs I've seen. I think the best way to handle this is to ask the recruiter for the Chinese version of the job ad and post it in the WeChat group. Or just ignore recruiters entirely. Events at your home On occasion, you might want to host an event at your own home, like a potluck, game night, or movie-watching party. This is a great idea, and a wonderful opportunity to torment your friends with your indie music collection (ahem). Do not post the event with your exact address, the street corner or closest El station is good enough. You can message your phone number and address to confirmed attendees the day before the event. You may want to enable a waiting list whose size corresponds to the size of your apartment. Exclude inveterate no-showers from RSVP'ing. You may also want to limit the number of guests that you haven't personally met before. It is not a big deal if your place doesn't have enough chairs for everyone. In practice, people are happy to stand for 2 hours if they're having a good time. If it really bothers you, then clean your floor and people can sit on that. If you invite a total stranger to your home, you don't have to give your phone number and address to them right away. Remember that this person might not even show up! You can add them on WeChat/Facebook, and tell them to send their location to you when they get within a mile of your location. Once you've confirmed that they're actually coming, you can send them the relevant information. Other types of events Here are some events I've hosted or attended, and what I think of them. Exhibition of Ai Weiwei's photos: It was really nice to chat while browsing the exhibition. I don't think this type of event needs to be limited to exhibitions of Chinese artists. Mandarin Mingle in SF: This was held inside a hotel bar and everyone stood the whole time because there was no seating in that area. An absurd number of attendees, RSVPs were capped at 70 and maybe half showed up. I enjoyed it, but I wonder how long it would take to set up in Chicago. Chinese chess and conversation in Montreal: People really seemed to like the vibe of chatting while playing a board game. After the meetup proper they went to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Experience was marred by the organizer being a really creepy guy who didn't speak a lick of Chinese and who threatened to expel a female member who wouldn't give him her number (he was only there briefly since he had nothing to contribute beyond being creepy). Mahjong and hotpot: I thought this was an interesting combination. Worth the effort if you have the equipment and some people willing to help you out with chopping and cleanup. Watch a Chinese movie at a film festival: I don't really recommend this as a meetup event. It's fine to watch a movie with friends, but watching a movie with other meetup members is pretty much the same as watching it with random strangers. In practice, no one stays around after the movie to discuss it. Language exchange: Maybe I'm bad at managing this type of event but I've never seen it go well. After the switchover from Chinese to English, the conversation tends to just stay in English. Picnic in a park: This was fun, and we got some exercise to boot. We chatted while eating unhealthy snacks. We spent most of the time playing that game where you draw a card and put it on your forehead, and you lose if you say the number on your head. Loser has to do a challenge (usually something physical, like running to the library and back or getting a photo taken with a passing dog). Friendsgiving at Sun Wah BBQ: Kind of an annual tradition that we skipped this year. I don't usually like hosting events at restaurants but this is somewhat of an exception. It's interesting how this event tends to attract people who show up just for this and never come back.
  2. 2 points
    I worked in Dalian for 13 months from 2004 to 2005, and worked and studied in Shanghai from 2006 to 2015. In terms of convenience of living, Shanghai was very good. When I had enough free time, I went travelling, so did, on occasion, get to experience some of the less developed parts of China. That China is developing very quickly is, of course, well known, but to actually have lived through much of this change makes one appreciate it that bit more. For the people of China, the modernisation and increase in standard of living (for those, at least, that it has reached) is undeniable. From the point of view of a (western) foreigner though, I feel that the days of "the authentic China experience" à la Peter Hessler, for example, are going, if not gone. Of course, anyone going to China will have an experience, every bit as authentic, but different, of the new, modern China. As a foreigner, you will still stand out. But, in my experience, you draw much less attention now than, say, fifteen years ago. Maybe it's because I'm not as young and handsome as I was then. But I feel that, with smart phones, connection to the world-wide-web (restricted though it is), more affluence and opportunity for Chinese people to travel abroad, and a greater number of foreigners in China and foreigners that can speak Chinese and so appear on television, the penetration of foreigners into the Chinese consciousness is such that the curiosity towards foreigners has diminished substantially. Strangers will still be curious, and will still compliment you on your Chinese, but gone are the days where, for them, it's like meeting an alien, and the utter disbelief that a foreigner could even conceivably speak Chinese. China now, in many ways, has surpassed the west. The development of infrastructure is mind-blowing. Compared with the UK where it takes decades of arguing and toing and froing to build a new railway line, or even just add another runway to an existent airport, China has developed the world's greatest network of high-speed railway, built from scratch numerous airports and, by far, has the largest number of metro systems of any country. Cash has also become more-or-less obsolete as people pay for everything with their smart phones. This is, in contrast to a country fifteen years ago, where, for example, getting from Hangzhou to Shanghai was a coach ride of several hours, or, by train, even longer (as opposed to the 45 minutes now possible by high-speed rail). A country where many towns were only accessible by dirt track. A country where you would get a wad of banknotes in change after buying a bottle of water. (Who remembers the 1 fen banknotes?) So, in summary, I really enjoyed my experience in China, and I'm glad I had it when I did. I still visit China frequently, and if I had the time, I'd definitely like to go back for longer, but for me at least, it's not same as how it used to be.
  3. 2 points
    It's to discourage "squatters", who may choose to balance precariously with their feet on the toilet rim.
  4. 1 point
    To my knowledge, the Sesame score (which is in the pictures you are posting) is not the same as the government-rated social credit score. So talking about 六四 and buying diapers instead of booze goes into two different systems with two different scores.
  5. 1 point
    Hello everyone, It has been a while since I last updated my blog. There were a couple of reasons for this - My eyes My vision was deteriorating quite a lot and last November the decision was taken to under go cataract surgery. As this was in the UK and on the NHS the wheels grind (no complaints it just the way it is) and eventually I now have 2 new lenses and can see better than I have been able to for many years. I found it was becoming increasingly frustrating trying to read characters with bad eyes and magnifying glasses are a pain, hard to scan pages with one. I am still in recovery, it is only the third day after my second eye so slowly slowly does it. My intention is to return and update my blog with my new learning schedule and updates as to my successes and failures and hopefully help myself and others to progress with learning Chinese. Just wanted to update anyone who was interested that my hiatus from learning is now turning slowly into a return to learning.
  6. 1 point
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  8. 1 point
    I'm blown away! That is also incredibly useful! YouTube is a whole new world to me now. Thanks!
  9. 1 point
    Attendees: 7 Q&A: Get divorced: 我离婚了 我们离婚了 Get married: 我结婚了 我们结婚了 Get a haircut: 我要去一次理个发 Sign a contract: 我签了工作合同 我签了一张工作合同 张 is the measure word for flat things: 一张桌子 一张纸 一张扑克牌 Exception: You cannot use 张 with plates! You have to say 一个盘子. I like to spend time with friends 我喜欢和朋友一起玩 How do you address people on the street? Somewhat close to your age: 美女, 帅哥 Older than you by 20+ years: 阿姨, 叔叔 Much older than you: 大爷 Different examples of using 了: 我吃过了。 你吃了吗? 我吃了。 我还没吃。 你考完试了吗? 我喝咖啡了。 我喝了咖啡。 Note that the 了 is a character with multiple pronunciations and meanings. See 了解 (understand), 了结 (finish), and 知了(cicada). Here is a list grammar patterns using 了, from Chinese Grammar Wiki: https://resources.allsetlearning.com/chinese/grammar/了 Anna asked a question about how people remember characters. Wenlin is an excellent academic desktop application for learning about etymology and character breakdowns (phonetic and signific), but is very expensive and not recommended for the average learner. A more affordable and more convenient tool is the Outlier Chinese character dictionary add-on for Pleco. To chat: 闲聊 聊天 Kid's song: 儿歌 快乐的小王子 (The Happy Little Prince) 蚊子蚊子嗡嗡叫 Mosquitoes, mosquitoes, buzzing buzzing 咬得小朋友都是包 Biting children so they're covered with bumps 我愿变成一只癞蛤蟆 I wish to become a toad 把他们都吃掉 To eat them all up 我的衣服很粗糙 My clothes are rough 也没有青蛙名声好 My reputation is not as good as a frog's 小朋友们都不爱我 The children all don't like me 我不难过,也不烦恼 I'm not sad, nor am I vexed This song can be thought of as a satirical reaction to this famous kid's song: 虫儿飞 (Bugs flying), although the bugs are clearly lightning bugs, even if not explicitly stated Sentences with similar grammar patterns: 小狗汪汪叫 知了吱吱叫 树叶掉得满地都是 打得人都是伤 我愿读这本书 我愿唱一首歌 愿 is short for 愿意, expressing "I wish", as opposed to "I want" (我想) It's more natural to say 我愿意为你(do something) over 我想为你(do something) 这些东西,他们都不想买 大家都爱美食 我不要咖啡,也不要茶 我不要吃饭,也不要睡觉 把活都干完 把衣服都洗好 我的妹妹很漂亮 你的皮肤很光滑 我的菜没有他的好吃 Two ways to express comparison: 她比我快 我没有她快 You can find Chinese kid's songs on iTunes Podcasts, and especially on the Chinese podcast app 喜马拉雅. Picks: Feihong: Interview with US diplomat Chas Freeman on Sinica podcast (part 1 of 3) Anna: Jay Chou's movie 不能说的秘密 Ethan: ADVChina Youtube channel. Is it Stupid to Move to China in 2018? might be a good episode to start with. Richard: Theme song from Jackie Chan movie The Myth, Endless Love Tom: The book AI Superpowers by Kai-fu Lee Yunyi: 蓝精灵, Chinese version of the Smurf theme song 拇指姑娘 快乐的小王子.mp3
  10. 1 point
    Here is the first installment of my blog on doing a Masters course in Translation and Interpretation (Chinese) at Bath University in the UK. Seeing as it is reading week, I've found I finally have time to do an update on how things are going, I guess I will probably do the next update when we break up for Christmas in December. There's really no time to do anything else except study and class prep in normal term time. Well I've been on the course for six weeks now, and it has been as intense as expected. Despite being at a UK university, I am the only westerner on the course, with 23 students, mainly mainland, but also a few Taiwanese and HK too. There is actually a Taiwanese American student who has taken English as his mother tongue (with all due right), but having been bilingual and living in Taiwan for the last 20 or so years, I feel like we're not really in the same boat. I am clearly bottom of the class in terms of relative language ability, as expected. Being surrounded by people who have studied English for decades, my 5/6 years of Mandarin stands out as particularly bad. I am so used to speaking Chinese colloquially, I am frequently lost for words when asked to interpret English speeches into Chinese using the right register. Anyway, onto the course content. All parts of the course have a two hour class slot that meets once a week: Simultaneous interpreting: we have a dedicated lab with fully equiped professional booths that all face into a bigger room with a conference table in the middle. The set up accurately mimics a real simultaneous interpreting situation, and the tech available is fantastic. Classes are very active, with every student having a chance to practice every class at least twice (practicing skills taught by the teacher in the lesson). I was placed on an internship at a UN week-long environmental protection meeting two weeks ago in London, to get in some valuable practice time. We used the real booths used by the pros for a week (with our mics switched off of course). We did shadowing and interpreting (almost exclusively from English into Chinese) for around 8 hours a day for a week. After this week something clicked in my brain, and now I can keep up with my peers in this class now. Not only that, but my professional Chinese has improved a lot as a result of the E-C direction. I have also discovered that in many cases working from English into Chinese is more often than not EASIER than Chinese to English. Why? I personally feel like the sparsity of phrases 'like' 成語 in English, plus the terseness of professional Chinese means you've always got enough time to think and interpret. Chinese to English is so much harder than I expected, to put it lightly. For example, 授人以魚不如授人以漁 was said in a speech during class a few weeks ago; not only had I not heard the phrase before, but I had no time to guess the meaning (多音字嘛 I thought the person had said the same thing twice by a mistake...), and by the time it was already too late the interpreting student had already interpreted it into "better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish". I mean, that makes more sense than what I was able to offer (which was just silence). So, simultaneous as a skill, I can do. But the sheer amount of knowledge you need at your fingertips is insane, and I am still far from being at a professional level yet. Consecutive interpreting: This class is largely centred around memory skills and note taking. Most of my peers have already studied interpreting in some form or another before starting this course, and many are already able to acurately remember speeches of five or more minutes long using some quite fantastic symbol-based systems. The teacher does not teach us a system, but rather teaches us how to build our own personal system effectively. I have found that using English keywords and acronyms has helped a lot, but really don't get too much of a kick out of arrows going everywhere and houses with dollar signs on them etc. As a little side hobby, I've taken up learning Pitman shorthand (new era) mainly for fun, but also with the hope that /some/ of it may come in handy with consec. note taking at some point in the future. This class is by far the hardest, and the teacher seems to enjoy choosing incredibly difficult speeches from people with non-standard accents. Very difficult, very embarassing for me, as most students have no issues in this class. What can you do when you didn't understand, or have forgotten what was said, and have no way to ask the speaker to repeat/clarify? This class makes me so nervous. Liaison interpreting: We have a mock conference/meeting every friday and are expected to prepare for it in the preceding week. The class is split into two groups: Chinese side, English side, and interpreters. The two sides discuss a topic for 2-3 hours whilst the interpreters take it in turns to sit one-by-one in between the two groups and act as a liaison interpreter. The pressure is noticeable, as the whole course is there watching you, and everyone is able to discern how good or bad your interpreting ability is (unlike when you're in the sim. interpreting booths, secluded and safe). Again, note taking is a skill that many of the students here employ. I would say to any westerner thinking about taking on a course like this, aside from having a very, very strong and well-rounded ability in Chinese, you should almost certainly also be practicing note-taking on speeches both in English and Chinese BEFORE starting a course (evidently with Chinese students in particular it would seem). I regret being under the impression I was going to learn note taking skills ON this course; I now know this of course is not the case, as pretty much everyone is already able to do this. Translation: We have both 'Chinese to English' and 'English to Chinese' classes. This needs no real explanation, its pretty much exactly what you would expect: teacher teaches theory, sets translation piece for homework, you translate it, get feedback, rinse and repeat. C-E very relaxing, the teacher seems to enjoy literary translation (lately lots of 紅樓夢 talk), E-C also ok but a much slower translation process for me. The translation process is private, however, so there's no real embarrassment to be had on this part of the course (so far...) All in all? I am loving the course, my classmates are fantastic people, very intelligent, hard working, inclusive, not 'immaturely' competitive if you understand what I mean, and importantly, very supportive as a community. Nobody treats me like a foreigner at all, I'm just another student. In that respect, theres not much leeway given, and as a result I feel like I'm ALWAYS being pushed to get up to their standard rather than being forgiven for being a 'foreigner'. Teaching is top notch, facilities are fantastic. And the fact that the course DOES have English-Chinese direction (as well as C-E) is a massive bonus if you ask me. My Chinese has improved rapidly, I can now read news probably 2-3 times faster than when I started the course. Why? Because I now read (mostly outloud, under my breath) for about 4-5 hours a day (as opposed to about 1 hour before the course). As you may be able to tell, I now live, breath and sleep in a world of studying speeches. I would not recommend this course for anyone who 'wants a life'. I feel obliged to say "sorry for the wall of text" - see you all in December.
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