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Showing content with the highest reputation since 02/12/2018 in all areas

  1. 8 points
    I have resolved the issue in-country. Fortunately I had a trip to China coming up anyway. I bought a Chinese phone number at the airport (needed this anyway). Went to the bank with my three passports (two old ones and the current one), my bank card and my new phone number. It took an hour and a half to change the passport, the phone number and my PIN (which I had forgotten). By that time the higher-ups in the bank were concerned it really was still me, but fortunately it was. I still have a little money in that bank account, I have another week left here to decide whether to take it out or leave it in to use on Weixin. I attached the phone number to my Weixin account. This was not difficult, but unfortunately it was not enough for real-name registration. I don't know if I did something wrong or it's just not enough. I then added my bank card to my Weixin account. This worked. I received a few text messages with codes to verify that it was really me and my phone and my bank account. Fortunately, it still was really me, and then I was a verified user and I could finally join the big group I so badly wanted to join. Writing this update in case someone else ever has the same issue. It appears that coming to China is the only real solution.
  2. 7 points
    It has rained a lot over the last week; our rainy season 雨季 has started with a bang. Clueless tourists will be stranded in mud slides before even making it to the entrance of Tiger Leaping Gorge. In Kunming we know about weather and adapt to it, and when the rain clears, like it did this morning, we jump fast to take full advantage. The sun was out by 9 a.m. and I was in the wet market 菜市场 with my shopping list by ten. It was bustling and busy like a Sunday. The aunties 阿姨 and grannies 奶奶 had large baskets and cloth bags to take home a portion of the bounty. I made a beeline to where the most people were grabbing stuff; this produce was bound to be the freshest, cheapest and best. Most locals are savvy shoppers and I imitate them. I loaded up with crispy green long peppers, the pointy kind, not sweet bell peppers. Thought I would make an old standard, green peppers and lean pork stir fry 青椒肉丝。But then I noticed the abundance of mushrooms. It's too early to eat the wild ones 野生菌 just yet, there is too much chance of unpleasant toxins 毒 Later in the season the wild ones are safer, so I usually wait another month or so. With that in mind, today I bought cultivated ones instead 人工香菇。 Swung by the stall that features "black pork." That designation puzzled me for a long time, until I finally figured out that 黑猪肉 doesn't mean black meat, it means the meat from pigs that have black hide. Supposed to be a little more tasty. They are raised in the hills in large pastures, sort of "free range," instead of being confined to cages or pens. Purchase a nice piece of lean loin meat 猪里脊。This cut is not marbled and it can be tough; but proper technique can make it delicious. Came out real good, so I thought I would share. Here's how I put it together. (Remember, you can click the pictures to enlarge them.) Clean the mushrooms and cut off the stems. Slice the caps thin. Wash the long green peppers and cut off the stems. These are spicy, have a nice bite, but are not fiery hot. I leave most of the seeds but remove the pith near the base. Cut some of them into circles instead of slivers. Why? Because it looks good. Locally these go by the name of 青辣尖叫 some of the time. You can find red ones as well, same shape and basic flavor profile. Peel down the outer leaves of a few spring onions and snap off the root end. Slice them into small rounds, using all of the whites and some of the greens as well. Wash and finely chop some cilantro. Stems as well as leaves. Assemble the vegetables. Turn your attention to the meat. I had put it in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes while prepping the vegetables to let it get firm and be easier to handle. The goal was to slice it thin across the grain, into slivers 肉丝 or very small pieces 肉片 so it would cook fast. This piece weighed only 150 grams; less than a fourth of a pound. It doesn't take much: a dish like this is mainly about the vegetables. The meat is just in it to enhance the flavor, to give it a little more punch. Marinate the cut meat in corn starch and cooking wine for 30 minutes or so. Makes it more tender. Fire up the wok. Use high heat. You want these ingredients to sear, cook fast and get a little color without actually scorching. If the flame is too low they will stew and be soggy. This is the part of the process that requires your full attention; don't play with your phone or look out of the window. If you don't stir fast enough, something will burn. Start with the meat; cook it about three-quarters through and scoop it out while it is still faintly pink. Then cook the mushrooms, stirring and flipping 翻炒 them constantly. The idea behind a process like this is to start with the ingredients that take more time to be done. Mushrooms take longer than peppers. When the mushrooms have released their moisture and wilted, add the peppers to the center of the wok. That is the hottest part. Let the peppers get soft and even begin to get slightly brown before adding the spring onions. Last of all, add the cilantro leaves and stems. At each step along the way I add a sprinkle of salt, instead of waiting until the very end. It's easier for me to judge the right amount that way, though it isn't essential to follow that strategy. Return the cooked meat to the pan and cook it all together for a minute or so to blend the flavors. At this stage I added a splash of soy sauce 生抽 and a few spoons of a corn starch slurry 水淀粉 to thicken the juices. If you like a pinch of MSG 味精, this is the time to put it in. (I use it, but realize not everyone can.) When the juices have been absorbed into the dish and all these harmonious flavors marry, in only a minute or so, it's ready to serve. Don't want to overcook things like this; the vegetables still need to have some crunch. That's part of what distinguishes real Chinese food from what you get for $5.98 at Golden China Buffet in the strip mall on the loop in small-town Texas where I spend part of every year. Plate it up. Goes well with plain steamed rice. Goes well with sunshine after a week of rainy days.
  3. 5 points
    You can adjust speaking speed a few different ways: 1) If you're playing a digital file, your digital file player might have the ability to slow down the speed of the file. 2) Pick a speaker or genre who speaks more slowly. Newscasters always speak really fast, for example. They would be a bad choice. Shadowing also shouldn't be done with new material all the time. Shadowing material you're extremely familiar with is beneficial, because you can then work on what you actually want to improve. Working with material you're unfamiliar with means that you're never sure what the speaker is saying next, so you're expending more brain-effort/energy trying to guess what comes next. Working with material you're familiar with means that you can anticipate what the speaker is going to say next, so you can spend more effort focusing on whatever it is you are trying to correct (e.g. saying your 3rd tones, collocation, etc). When I was shadowing I would spend one whole week working only one 30 minute speech. In some practice sessions, I would only be working on 5 minutes of the speech on repeat. You don't need a large quantity of new material to do shadowing. You just really need about 1-2 hours of appropriate material, and just keep using it on repeat. I've spent an entire hour-long practice session just working on a 1-2 minute segment of the speech, because it contained certain things that were particularly problematic for me. So I isolated that section, and just shadowed it on repeat while recording myself, and then listened to the recording, noticed what I did badly in comparison, and then repeating the process all over again. For speeches where the speaker was way the hell too fast for me to shadow word-for-word, I would practice the following things: summarizing the meaning of what they said in Chinese (probably only useful if you are learning interpreting, like I was) only picking out word collocations or grammatical connectors. e.g. which words go together. So I wouldn't necessarily shadow the whole speech, but rather speech structures or parts of speech. For example, 因为……,但是…… (cause-effect, grammar);奠定……基础 (verb-noun collocation)...... the choices are endless. When you're working on #2, it's really difficult to do with brand new content, because you have no way to anticipate what the speaker is saying. It's better to do that with an audio or video file that you are familiar with. Also, it's better to just work on a small section of audio or video at a time. In this case, quality of study is definitely prioritized over quantity and variety of material.
  4. 4 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.
  5. 4 points
    @colcodePerhaps I wasn't clear enough. The FSI's explanation, though elaborate, is groundless. It's just an attempt to rationalize, to make sense of, an irrational situation. There's nothing subtle about the "e" in "uei". "E" is the nucleus, the central vowel, the loudest part of a compound final; "i" is the coda, the subtle and smooth off-glide. Occam's razor, a well-known principle in science and philosophy, tells us that the simplest solution tends to be the right one. When evaluating competing theories, one should prefer the simplest theories with the fewest assumptions. Have you ever considered why dozen of other sources didn't mention this phenomenon? Perhaps because it doesn't exist? (I can't access the Google Books preview Jose linked to, but a cursory glance at Jerry Norman's biography makes me wonder whether he was the author responsible for the FSI coursebook.) The original 汉语拼音方案 document simply stated that “iou,uei,uen 前面加声母的时候,写成 iu,ui,un,例如 niu (牛),gui (归),lun (论)。” (When preceded by an initial, iou, uei, uen are written as iu, ui, un.) without giving any explanation. But there is a simple explanation why 'iou' is abbreviated to 'iu' (and why a standalone 'ü' syllable can be written as 'yu'): because the combination /iu/ doesn't exist in Mandarin Chinese -- therefore it won't cause much trouble to native speakers who already knew the pronunciations backward and forward and who are merely learning to read and write. Like I said, the difference you hear between Yǒu and Yōu, Liǔ and Liú is due to the fact that a third-tone syllable in isolation is significantly longer than usual -- so much so that the nucleus and the coda end up clearly on different pitch levels. It's quite interesting that they didn't use a forth-tone example in the video. A forth tone wouldn't work. You can test it yourself. Listen to the pronunciation of 牛 (niú). Does it sound like the English word "new (/nju:/)"? Or 推 (tuī). Does it sound like "tweet (/twi:t/)" minus -t? Do you still believe the NUCLEUS of a syllable can be so subtle that it's safe to ignore it? (Sorry I used all caps to hammer home the significance of the word "nucleus".) As for the rhyming issue, I'll just say this: It is true that the 1st/2nd tone doesn't rhyme with the 3rd tone. But it's not because the vowel qualities are different. It's because, well, they have different tones. Tone is as much a part of the syllable as consonant. Different tone, different rime. Simple as that. (The 4th tone also doesn't rhyme with the 3rd tone in the strictest sense. The 1st tone and 2nd tone are lumped together in rime books because they were written before the Middle Chinese level tone split into two.) For more technical details, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tone_(linguistics)#Origin
  6. 4 points
    No, apart from an old army general called 林木森 who sprang to mind, though I did like the comment at the bottom of your link: 这真是一方水沝淼㵘土圭垚㙓养一方人从众
  7. 4 points
    I would also add that "umph" may have been 嗯 (en in pinyin, sounds like "un"). This is the laziest and most common way to say "yes" or "I see" (in acknowledgement of sth) in Chinese. It is pretty much the only way I say yes after learning Chinese many years. So if she said sth like "that's my teacher" it would be likely her dad would reply with this utterance.
  8. 4 points
    I can read Chinese novels with ease, and though I do encounter plenty of words I don't know I can infer their meanings from context or the characters they are made up 90%+ of the time. What helped to learn reading 1. Learned lots of characters at the beginning. Wrote most new characters and new words 5 times each to help me do this. This enabled me to enroll in Language classes at Yunnan Normal at an intermediate level 2. The textbook for my intermediate level reading course at Yunnan Normal was entirely in Chinese, even the instructions for exercises and definitions in the glossary, so I was pushed to learn reading just in order to do my homework each day. 3. I bought a dated graded reading series from the bookstore in Wenhua Xiang, and spent plenty of time at the French cafe and Teresa's Pizza going through it (this was before Salvador's) 4. I slogged through articles in 读者 magazine, dictionary in hand. The variety of articles exposed me to lots of different vocabulary. 5. I read several "novels" from a kids' series (3rd grade level?) about a boy named 马小跳, that was just the right level for me. 6. I cut and paste novels such as 边城, 骆驼祥子,and 平凡的世界 into NJStar word processor and used the mouse over pop up definitions to make flash cards in SuperMemo (before smart phone flash card apps) Does it correlate to speaking? 1. I agree with above posts that it improves your vocab which has a connection 2. I read the first volume of the 平凡的世界 trilogy along with an audio book recording - I feel like this was an enormous benefit to my speaking since it helped with rhythm, intonation, etc. My speaking was a lot more fluent and natural after listening to/reading that book. 3. Until recently I usually read aloud. This has helped my intonation and accent tremendously. It does slow you down, though, so I rarely do it now unless I haven't spoken for awhile and I feel like my tones and accent are getting sloppy. 4. I disagree slightly with "train what you want to learn" in some of the above posts. I would contend that while reading is not the best help for speaking, listening is a huge help. Probably listening to audio books is not as helpful as listening exposure through TV shows where people use 口语, since as imron mentioned above written and spoken vocabulary can be very different. Listening helps you internalize the way native speakers speak and gives you confidence for your own speaking.
  9. 4 points
    Definitely best time of the year for good Chinese green tea! Yesterday evening I bought a package of 蒙顶柿花 and 蒙顶甘露, both came from Sichuan and hit the shelves here in Europe. Tea shops in Europe get their teas first from Sichuan, the second batch comes from Yunnan and then from the eastern coast. Both 蒙顶 are great, although for pre-Qingming teas I'm recommending a more Japanese-like approach and using a slightly lower temperature water (around 65 Celsius degrees) and longer brewing time compared to "normal" green teas, in order to bring the best flavors out of the fresh leaves.
  10. 4 points
    This probably isn't as much use as it would have been ten years ago, but may still be useful. Pressreader.com has 265 simplified Chinese publications and 50 traditional Chinese ones. There are some known names in there - Sanlian Shenghuo, October, Yanhuang Chunqiu, I think I saw Caijing, plus lots of specialist stuff - martial arts, cats, angling. Some local stuff (Wuhan: The Magazine!) There are also the 'digest' type magazines which provide lots of short fairly straightforward readings, 今日文摘 for example. Pressreader isn't free, but you may well have free access already through a university or library login - I get it via my local library.
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