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Showing content with the highest reputation since 05/25/2019 in all areas

  1. 29 points
    We got back to the UK And it was a crazy journey. First off, massive respect to the UK foreign office and local constituents for representing us, they managed to get a coach arranged only one day before the last flight out of Wuhan, which drove around 700km to pick up 4 British nationals in the far reaches of Hubei province and take us to the airport in time for the flight. I had completely given up hope, but was amazed to receive a phonecall only days ago saying there was a chance they had found a government driver that would be able to come find us. And he did. sort of. as is always the case in China, the smaller the town, the less contact with state and central government there is, and this was no different. when the coach arrived at the exit to come into our town, the police refused the driver entry point blank, saying he didn't have the right papers to enter the town. If we wanted to get on the coach, we had to come to them and walk across the ETC area by foot. okay. how do we get to him? there were three police checkpoints to get through, and the only thing the police would accept was their 枝江通行證 (turned out to be a torn in half A4 sheet with the above characters on it and a stamp…). I showed them all the embassy papers, the official notices from the provincial and city governments, but they just weren't good enough. I even called the foreign office, and was again told 'don't you have any guanxi?' In the end, it took over 2 hours, 5 pages of forms, 9 official stamps, a visit to the hospital and two government bureaus and a long argument between a yichang official and a zhijiang official who refused to stamp the final form (even though zhijiang falls under the jurisdiction of yichang). Seemed like noone wanted to be held responsible for letting us go... But more interestingly, this ordeal required us to run all across town to different departments, and it was our first time out of the house in three weeks. Cant really describe how eerie and quite frankly scary the place looked: familiar busy streets completely deserted, police cars driving around slowly, blaring messages to cover your face and stay indoors at all times, the hospital had people screaming hysterically at the entrances and (not even joking) doctors running inside with boxes with blood slopping down the side (i can only hope it was emergency blood transfusions). Nobody about except police and military, and the occasional government car. No word of a lie, it looked and felt like something straight out of I Am Legend or 28 Days Later. I really wanted to take pictures and videos, but all the police were not looking like they were in the mood for such antics. Once we finally left the city it was as expected: completely empty motorway for 3 hours. Only one month ago I day on the very same stretch of road in gridlock. Empty fields too. The whole province really is a ghost town. And it was so sad to see, because for me, Hubei is China. We made it to the airport after many police checkpoints and temperature checks, to find hundreds of passengers from a number of countries all trying to get onto three different flights leaving at the same time. It was one massive queue that lead into a single health check area. If your temperature didn't make the cut you couldn't get on the plane - found out later two of the Brits on our flight weren't allowed on and were sent back to Wuhan because their temperatures were checked five times and 1/5 times their readings were slightly above average. Terrible feeling. All in all, queued in a room full of facemasks and hazmats for about 7 hours. But thankfully for us we made it out, through the storm in the uk at the moment and landed in galeforce headwinds at a military base in the uk (scariest landing of my life). We are now in quarantine. Phew, cant believe it. As for family back in Zhijiang, we are happy we managed to get out for our own sakes, but also as it is two less mouths to feed over the next few weeks, which will make things a bit easier for the rest (still six mouths to feed all in one house now we've gone). The hoarding has already begun in many cities, and I know rations-style food distribution started in some of the 小區 near us started today. The local university has been converted into a quarantine centre, where student bunks are now hospital beds. Online classes also began today. A friend can't return home, as while they were outing buying food, someone in their building got diagnosed with the virus and now the whole block has been quarantined. People are saying infection rates are dropping, but at street level, I can say from first hand witness, the state of things near the centre of the outbreak is pretty dire to say the least… Cant believe I'm in the UK writing this right now, surreal. Just been swabbed for the virus, have to wait 48 hours for the result. Wish me luck!
  2. 18 points
    I recently completed 300 lessons on italki.com with my Chinese teacher, and it's been suggested that I write something up. I'll try to focus on lessons learned, as in: things I would do differently if starting again. Background When I started learning Chinese in Feb 2017 it was more or less from zero. I knew nihao and xiexie, and I could recognise a few Hanzi thanks to the beginner's level Japanese I've done twice in F2F evening classes. That was it. My motivation for learning was partly because I was living in Singapore at the time (and therefore seeing Chinese written on signs everywhere, so I was curious), and partly because I love learning languages, and Chinese to me always seemed like one of the great challenges to have a go at. I also had a vague idea about moving to China to work for a while, like many of us I guess. I knew I wanted to learn 1:1 online rather than having F2F classes, because I really enjoy the flexibility. I studied Hindi with a teacher on Skype when I lived in India and that had worked really well. I'd also done plenty of evening classes over the years and been dissatisfied with the rigidity of once-a-week, 10 weeks in a semester, and having to travel to a school somewhere to study after a tiring day at work. With 1:1 classes I appreciate being able to dictate my own pace, and with online I like the flexibility of being able to move classes around, re-scheduling to suit my situation when necessary. italki.com is useful like this as it basically acts a scheduling system for your lessons. I always keep going with classes even when I'm travelling or on holiday, so long as I have a decent Internet connection. Getting Started I went to italki.com, found a teacher with 5-star reviews and good qualifications, and we had a 30-minute trial lesson. It went very well, so we started having one-hour lessons once a week using Zoom or Skype... we've switched back and forth for various technical reasons over the years (and even used WeChat once I think although it doesn't support screen sharing). I like my teacher a lot — we're still together after more than 3 years — but in retrospect once a week wasn't enough to begin with, particularly in retaining vocabulary. We studied using pinyin and I made steady but slow progress for the first 6 months, using the Integrated Chinese textbooks to start with. (I was working a full-time job at this point btw.) After 6 months we decided it was time to move onto Hanzi, and shortly after that — around September — I decided to go for the December HSK 2 exam as a short-term objective. So we switched from the Integrated Chinese series to the HSK 2 Standard Course textbook and workbook, and eventually to the HSK 2 practice exams in the 3-4 weeks before the actual exam. HSK and HSKK I did the paper-based version of the HSK 2 exam in Singapore in Dec 2017. Sitting in a classroom surrounded by 10-year old schoolkids was a bit weird! My thinking was that going for Level 2 first would give me experience of the exam format, and something to aim for that wasn't too daunting. I scored 92% for listening and 99% for reading. Round about then I discovered these forums and started getting more motivated and more excited about what might lie ahead. 😎 I had lesson #65 a year to the day since I started, so that was an average of 1.25 per week in the first year, and by this point we'd done 5 lessons in the HSK 3 textbook out of a total of 20. We switched up a gear and I began having lessons 2-3 times a week, and conscientiously doing homework, both of which I found made a lot of difference with retention of material. My teacher is fond of this quote, which seems very apt: 学如逆水行舟,不进则退。 Learning is like rowing upstream; not to advance is to drop back. We finished the HSK 3 textbook in June 2018 and then moved onto exam preparation for HSK 3 and HSKK 初级 beginner level. I registered to do both the exams in Shanghai in July as part of a holiday in China — my first visit. (If ever you want to ruin the first few days of your holiday, just try spending them sitting in a hotel room doing mock exams!) This was also my first experience of doing the HSK on computer rather than the paper test, and I found it harder and slower to read the Hanzi as they were pretty low-resolution in a poor quality font. I wrote up the experience in detail on this thread: HSK 3 "internet-based test" — report. In the end my HSK 3 score was Listening: 88, Reading: 74, Writing: 92, total 254 (pass mark is 180, 60%). On reflection, I wish I had spent more time preparing for the reading section, because you have to be able to read very quickly, and it’s useful to have some tactics for answering certain kinds of questions, such as skimming the ones that are asking you “in general, what is this text about?”. For example I could have done more mock tests, but just the reading section against a timer. The HSKK beginner level exam was pretty painless and in fact I was the only person in the room, so it was very relaxed. I scored 78/100 (the pass mark is 60). Next we started the HSK 4 textbooks (two volumes) and I plodded along with those; meanwhile I also registered for the HSKK 中极 intermediate exam in Singapore in Dec 2018. We did some oral preparation for that in lessons in the weeks before. In the end this exam was a bit of a disaster, mainly due to the very noisy set-up in the room (as I described in another post) and I could barely hear what was going on. I only scored 53/100 for this (the pass mark again is 60). I left Singapore in Dec 2018, and 2019 was meant to be a "gap year" although it didn't really turn out that way. I continued with my online lessons though, apart from a 4-week break when I studied CELTA intensively. From May to December I ended up in Beijing teaching English to Chinese schoolkids, and obviously living in China for the first time made a big difference to my studies. Certainly by the time I was about to leave Beijing in December 2019 I felt like something was starting to "click" in terms of listening because I was just hearing Mandarin spoken a lot of the time, including from Chinese work colleagues and students. In April 2020 we finished the second HSK 4 textbook (4下) shortly after completing 300 lessons, after around 3 years and 2 months in total, and originally the aim would then have been to move into exam preparation mode. But meanwhile most of the world had become locked-down due to COVID-19 and exams were cancelled. So in the interim we've recently shifted to working on listening and speaking again, using photos as stimulus material and some bits of HSKK 中级 tests. So far this year we'd been doing 2 lessons a week as I was trying to save money, but I'm going to move it back up to 3 per week again now. I'd like to do the HSK 4 exam this year (2020) but this will probably be in China and I've no idea when I'll finally get back there. Lesson Formats Generally we follow a lesson format set by the teacher, although whenever there's something specific I want to work on, like revising certain aspects of grammar or pronunciation we'll switch to those for a while. My teacher always gives a full 60 minute lesson — no mean feat if you have back-to-back classes. We usually begin each lesson with a 5-10 minute chat about what I've been doing since the last lesson, talking about the weather or current affairs etc. I know some folk really don't like this, but I find it a good warm-up exercise... apart from anything else, I usually prepare some vocab for it which is useful since it's usually non-HSK vocab but directly relevant to my everyday life, so it fills a certain gap. After the chat we move onto the textbook or workbook. Mostly we've been working through the HSK Standard Course textbooks chapter by chapter, and each chapter has a set structure: Some new words and discussion of topic area for the chapter Dialogues and texts, with new words at the side Grammar points, examples and exercises For the dialogues and texts we'll go through the new words and then I'll try to read the text out loud. Typically then I'll read again but with the teacher reading first and me repeating, so we can focus on tones and sentence structure. Then my teacher will ask me a few questions to test comprehension, often leading into a broader discussion, asking my opinions etc., followed by some discussion of main grammar points. Finally we'll discuss any problems or questions I might have. For the grammar and exercises we'll work through the material together, skipping some stuff that's meant to be group-work. I've been pretty happy with this approach... it's good to have a structure to work with and I like the way that the new vocabulary is introduced in chunks in each chapter. We've also used the HSK Standard Course workbooks, in a fairly ad hoc way for HSK 3 but by HSK 4 we had settled on a pretty solid routine whereby after finishing each chapter in the textbook we would do the corresponding reading and writing exercises in the workbook. These are like cut-down versions of the HSK exam, but only using the vocab that has been introduced up to that point, chapter by chapter, so I've found they work very well. At HSK 3 level we did some of the listening exercises from the workbook, with the teacher reading out the text, but we didn't bother doing this for HSK 4... since the workbook comes with audio I can do this on my own when I finally start to prepare for the HSK 4 exam. The other lesson formats we've had have been preparation for the HSK or HSKK exam, which in the earlier days was going through the mock papers, but I soon moved onto doing these against the clock in my own time, and then making a note of any problems so we could discuss them in the next class. Tools and Resources I've found that the tools and resources I've used have changed over time. When I first started to learn Hanzi I began using the Skritter app and was focused on trying to learn radicals. I don't know how or where I came across this recommendation ("learn radicals first"), but in the end I decided it was pointless, especially learning their names. For me it was more important to be learning words. I ended up with a little poster stuck up in the kitchen with radicals and variants on it, and rather than trying to "learn" them I found it more useful just to browse this from time to time, while cooking for example, and to go and look at it when I noticed a certain radical was cropping up. Actually I think what made a lot more difference to me was thinking about components and how phonetic-semantic characters work. If I'm working on a laptop I often use MDBG.net or HanziCraft to look up a new character and break it down into components to help me understand what's going on, and to see if there's a pronunciation "clue" in there. I also use the ZhongWen pop-up dictionary extension for Chrome all the time, and that hooks very nicely into MDBG and Chinese Grammar Wiki. I liked Skritter — the method for learning tones is interesting — but I found that when using this app it was just taking me too long to learn the HSK vocabulary for the level I was at. Plus, my attitude to handwriting has always been that it's not essential and that I will come to it eventually. So in the end I cancelled my subscription. When I was working towards HSK 3 I was using memrise.com a lot, via the browser on my laptop rather than the app. I built my own multi-level deck for studying the vocab, organised in the order they're presented in the textbook, testing by audio. I built my own because there's one for HSK 2 which I had found useful. What eventually turned me off memrise is that it was full of mistakes and missing audio, one of the downsides of user-generated content. Plus I moved more to using apps on my phone for learning on the go, and I didn't like the memrise app. (Memrise seems to have changed a lot since then.) Eventually I moved onto using the StickyStudy app for vocab, and I hacked my own decks (available here) so I had one for each chapter in the HSK 4 textbooks. Again I found it better to break things down a bit — a single deck with 600 cards in it is harder to manage. Recently I was curious about Tofulearn after hearing good things here so I started using that as well, including using it briefly to go back to learning handwriting for HSK1 level, "for fun". Currently I'm mainly using Tofulearn on my iPad, drilling the HSK 4 vocab... it doesn't work well on my iPhone as I have the text set to be quite large (accessibility settings) and it doesn't fit on the screen properly. But on the iPad it just seems to hit the sweet spot for me. I hadn't really dug into it much until recently, but it also allows you to drill down into components, similar characters and so on. Since I've now finished the textbooks and covered all the vocab, the order of presentation doesn't matter any more — but in Tofulearn the 600 word deck is broken down into sets of 50 cards, so you can practice a smaller subset if you want. One thing I've found really useful and important with all these tools is being able to hear native-speaker audio (not synthesised text-to-speech) when I'm learning the Hanzi... this has helped me a lot with recalling tones, to the extent that I can subvocalise or "hear in my mind's ear" what many of these words sound like in the recordings. Of course there's also an enormous amount of content out there even just on youtube. I enjoyed watching the free ChinesePod videos from the "Fiona and Constance era" — I really liked the way they presented the Qing Wen series, especially when I was starting out and I needed some solid explanations of things like the differences between 的 - 得 - 地. I also found the XM Mandarin youtube channel to have a lot of useful videos relating to understanding and preparing for HSK and HSKK exams. Xiao Min's voice is very clear and well-recorded... I used some of her vocabulary playlists when I needed to revise but wanted a change or was feeling tired. Alan Davies @hskalan did some great analysis and clustering of HSK vocab along with visualisations at hskhsk.com which I've had fun with... things get a bit unwieldy at HSK 4 but looking at the common characters in HSK1-3 is really interesting and helped me consolidate my understanding quite a bit. I've tried creating my own visualisations using Gephi and the source files which is interesting but a but tricky. Finally of course there's Pleco, which I use every day. I've tried using the flashcards feature for revision but found it a bit basic compared to StickyStudy. Apart from that it's one of the best apps I've ever used for anything. Graded readers is one area I've not managed to get into properly yet... I read The Monkey's Paw last year and the story was a bit simplistic, but it's nice to be able to read an actual book. I have a graded reader sitting on Pleco too which I've not started yet (Legend of the White Snake), and again on the iPad it seems like it hits the sweet spot in terms of presentation and function, although I do find the mix of hyperlinks and underlined text too cluttered... it would be nice to be able to turn this off. Well that was a couple of hours of brain-dump on a Saturday lunchtime. I hope it's useful to someone.
  3. 18 points
    Hey ABC, if you don't know yet, there is a chance of snow in Dallas for the next couple of days. The TV weather report is saying travel is not recommended. (Just what you want to hear...) Yes, you are right, that's not what I was hoping to hear. Got to DFW (Dallas) last night from Los Angeles. Good flight. But this pilgrim is weary. Feels like I've been on the road forever. Lost my large checked suitcase somewhere along the way. Filed a "lost baggage" report. Chances are it's back in Hong Kong. Have rented a car, and in a couple hours will drive home. Should be able to lay my head on my own pillow tonight. A big thank you to all of you here on the forum who have been pulling for me to make it!
  4. 14 points
    update from quarantine here: - first lab test results are back, and the whole group has tested negative, which is obviously great news. - were going to be tested again this saturday, then again two days before the 14 day period is up, because apparently some symptomless carriers don't show up on early tests. - i am closing in on completing my written memorisation of 千字文, I have written it out so much now I am starting to really hate it…which is always a good sign, shows I'm definitely reciting it enough - hit the 30 mark for classical poems learnt by heart… - so bored ive ordered a neo geo to the quarantine centre so i can play metal slug. I literally never get bored of studying, but damnit if my brain doesn't need to unwind sometimes
  5. 14 points
    Im certainly no expert, but seeing as the title reads "what do you believe", I will share my opinion based on what I saw in Hubei in the last few days. Ive never seen anything like the level to which the cities have been locked down before, it was very extreme to the point where I was wondering, why are there so many roadblocks everywhere, when nobody even wants to go outside? People have been saying a lot about how the amount of flu deaths far exceeds this virus, even if it is super contagious, no need to panic blah blah. But we all know the Chinese govt puts economic development before pretty much everything, so shutting down a whole province all the way down to the movement of people out of their neighbourhood streets onto the main streets, which will inevitably have a deep impact on the economy long term, surely indicates that this is not only a serious problem, but the govt knows just how much more serious it might become if it doesn't put measures in place. But they can't really state this outright, otherwise the whole place will go into panic mode. So yes, I personally think numbers are being underreported and downplayed, judging from the actions bring taken at street level, and to me it makes logical sense as to why.
  6. 14 points
    I’m bailing out. Bought a ticket late last night that has me leaving this Friday, 31 Jan. Will fly via Hong Kong. Flights via Beijing and Shanghai are subject to long delays or cancellations. "Hub" traffic jammed up, especially in Beijing, where they are “breaking in” a new airport. In Hong Kong I will remain air-side if possible. I will have completed exit formalities at passport control prior to boarding in Kunming. I should be in Dallas by the afternoon of Saturday 1 Feb. Lock-downs and travel bans are becoming more widespread. Inter-city bus routes have been suspended, as has all group holiday touring. Most points of interest all over China are closed. The government has officially extended the holiday, so people don't need to be in a panic to get back home to their place of employment. Once people reach their actual homes, where they have jobs, I wouldn't be surprised if all (or most) domestic travel is halted. When no one is sure how much is enough, official over-reaction becomes the norm. Schools are suspended, all gathering places are sealed. Even the movie theaters have shut down. People are stockpiling groceries, especially non-perishables like rice and cooking oil. Canned goods were flying off the shelves when I was at WalMart this morning. If I were not to act now, I would face a real risk of being stranded here 3 or 4 more months before being allowed to exit the country. At least that is my main concern. Of course, nobody has a crystal ball. A second concern is that even though I am healthy, were I to get a benign ten-cent winter cold, the cough, runny nose, and slight fever from that would wind me up in some mandatory locked isolation ward, shoulder to shoulder with people who are "really" sick. I see that as a recipe for disaster; my policy is to stay far away from hospitals at times like this unless I’m on the caregiver end of the equation. So it's bye bye Kunming. I will definitely miss you. Promise to return as soon as it's safe.
  7. 14 points
    This is my last entry for this blog now that my course has finished (for those asking how the second year is going, it is only a one-year MA at Bath). I’ve been meaning to update for a while, just not had the time to sit down and write. Anyway, here it is: last thoughts on exams, dissertation, outcomes and achievements and of course what the future holds: Final exams As said in previous blog entries, translation and interpretation are totally different in terms of the skillset and workload requirements, and the same was true during exams. I got fairly good marks in my translation exams, which took the form of two unseen English articles to be translated into Chinese, and vice versa. The content for the E-C was fairly technical stuff on windfarms and medicine, the C-E was a clinical trial and an art exhibition (I’m working on some pretty hazy memory tbh, it might have been slightly different, but roughly in these areas). In E-C the biggest challenge was trying to keep up pace with the writing speed of my Chinese classmates. I didn’t finish the exam as a result, I translated the first article in full, but only 80% of the second (bad exam tactic: I drafted my translation in Chinese then wrote out in full in clear kaishu…then ran out of time…yeah). The C-E was a different story, I finished the paper with an hour to spare and walked out just after the amazing Taiwanese/American guy, which was a massive feeling of accomplishment for me. The mark I got was better than I had hoped for too, so that was a big plus. Interpretation was of course another story. Consecutive exams went okayish, I scraped through and got mediocre marks. My simultaneous exams all went terrible, I got so nervous I just froze up and stopped speaking in some of them, it really was awful. My marks were naturally very bad, surely the worst in the class I would imagine. Thankfully my average dragged me up overall, and all that really came of the experience was a harsh reminder that I am not able (nor do I ever hope to) do interpreting professionally. My own personal opinion is that interpreting really is for people who have lived in a bilingual environment for at least 10 years from a young age (starting from teen years at the very latest). I first started dabbling in Chinese when I was 20, and I think I am borderline. I believe I would be able to get to a professional level if I put in another 5-10 years from now (I am 31 as of writing). And I don’t really think I’m willing or able to give that time unfortunately. Dissertation I managed to make contact with a famous Taiwanese author and got the translation copyright for a final dissertation translation of a book on the history of Chinese calligraphy. It was an amazing project to work on, I learned a lot of in depth specialist knowledge, and has given me a lot of ideas for the future. I am very happy to say I got a distinction for the translation, and hope to get an English translation of the full book published at some point in the future. The future If I learned from my exams that interpreting wasn’t for me, I learned from my dissertation that translation…is! That being said, while the money is fairly decent, the way in which projects come at you randomly as a freelancer is not so much fun (sure many here can relate). As a result, I’m hoping to now go into education as a Chinese teacher here in the UK, with translation as a supporting income. The dissertation project has also thrown me in a new direction, with a current cooperative currently being set up with a group of fantastic artists and calligraphers I know from Hubei. I’m sure there will be more to come from this in the coming years too. Final thoughts For me – this was the hardest, most challenging year of my life. Regarding the change in my Chinese abilities over the last year: Pros - Speaking has become a lot more formal and adult like, less ‘cute’ and childlike. - Writing has become a lot quicker and again more formal in style, less ‘wechatty’ - Reading is rapid, I can now do sentence reading in 2-3 chunks rather than word by word now, and reading out loud with proper emphasis is much, much better now. Cons - Listening has become more difficult, as my brain gets frustrated when I am not 100% about every single word, tone, sentence level implication, etc. Although this might be a good thing in the long run. - I hesitate and stutter a lot more when speaking, as I am so much more aware of when word order/grammar/word choice is slightly off during the mental preparation of a sentence. I have learned too many new words over the last year, and not absorbed deep enough – as a result it causes me to stop for recall quite a lot now. If you are a native English speaker interested in doing a Chinese/English interpreting-translation qualification, I say be sure you know why you want to do the course. I was very clear that I wanted to do the course to see whether or not becoming an ‘English’ Chinese interpreter was possible for me or not. I found out it was not. But I met a few people along the way for whom it was, and that’s great! However, some people were doing the course to improve their language skills, and this kind of course will not necessarily do that – in fact it will require you to sacrifice language ability for codeswitching ability, particularly in the case of interpreting. Codeswitching is a skill that requires you to rewire the way in which your brain wants to access information – great for being ‘in the booth’, but not so much for playing mah-jong and general chitchat over some baijiu. I think quite a few students struggled to come to terms with the fact that they were being outperformed by students with worse English but better T/I skills. But as long as you are clear what your goals are before you start, a course like this can only be an asset to your Chinese in the long term. It will weed out every single one of your weaknesses and cracks in your knowledge and remind you of them all day every day until you tackle them. Its been a painful medicine to take, but I certainly don't regret it at all. Good luck to future translators and interpreters reading this!
  8. 14 points
    A few days ago, I finished reading the short story collection 《樱海集》 by 老舍. This brought my reading total above one million characters, completing my goal for the year. 《樱海集》 was first published in 1935. The collection contains a funny and self-effacing preface plus ten short stories of varying lengths (from six to forty-two pages). The stories deal with classical human failings—hypocrisy, pride, envy, bitterness, cowardice, lust, revenge, greed, anger—and the consequences that arise from such failings. Though the stories are thematically related, they differ considerably in their characters, plots, point of views, and settings. Below is a brief synopsis of each story, along with some amplifying details and concluding thoughts. The first story in the collection, 《上任》, is about a recently promoted government official named 尤老二 and the opium-smoking thugs he employs. Much of the story is concerned with 尤老二’s inability to pay for his thugs, who show up at odd times asking for money for travel and other expenses. This story was difficult for me to get into. I found the details of the plot hard to follow and the language more challenging than any other story in the collection. 《牺牲》 is a character sketch of 毛博士, a bizarre 崇洋媚外 teacher educated in the United States. 《柳屯的》 is about a small village, a powerful Christian family, and an unrestrained woman who tries to take over them both. 《末一块钱》 is about a young dissatisfied college student who yearns for the kind of life enjoyed by his more affluent classmates. 《老年的浪漫》 is about an old man who, cursed with greedy former colleagues and a foolish son, decides to settle old scores. 《毛毛虫》 is a very short story that asks the question: What does a community think about that unenviable husband and wife who live down the street, and that husband’s former wife, and their new children? 《善人》 is about a well-to-do woman who sees herself as generous but is oblivious to the suffering of those around her. This story was my favorite story of the collection. 《邻居们》 is about the tensions that flare up between two neighboring families after one receives the other’s mail by mistake. The 明 family and the 杨 family are neighbors. 明家 is selfish and uncivilized. 杨家 is altruistic and lettered. The husband and father in the 杨 family, 杨先生, is described as a “最新式的中国人.” One day, 杨先生 receives a letter addressed to 明先生. 杨太太 attempts to deliver the letter, but 明太太 misunderstands her neighbor’s intentions and rebuffs her. 杨先生 then writes his own letter explaining the situation. 明太太 refuses this letter, too. Tensions between the two families escalate. 杨先生 believes that he and 明先生 can resolve their differences like rational gentlemen, and continues to write his neighbor letters. 明先生 sees 杨先生 as a weak man and despises him for his bookishness and inaction. Eventually… 《月牙儿》 is a longer story about a girl and her hard life after her father dies and her mother is forced out of exigence into prostitution. 《阳光》 is about the life of a beautiful, proud, and dissolute woman from a rich family. Her eventual arranged marriage to a prominent morality-promoting Daoist is comfortable, but stifling. 《樱海集》 is the second work I’ve read by 老舍; the first was his delightful science fiction satire 《猫城记》. There is something irreverent about 老舍’s style in these two works. 老舍’s stories foreground the character defects of early 20th-century Chinese people, whatever their station in life. Opioid-addicted menial laborers, wives of rich businessmen, the orphaned, the educated, the religious and the ideologically possessed—none are spared. By pointing out character defects in such a wide-ranging way, 老舍 advances a kind of criticism of the Chinese society of his day. But 《樱海集》 is not a “critical” work, at least not in the sense that modern people use the term. It isn’t a systematic, theory-driven critique of Chinese society; nor is it especially tragic or concerned with issues of justice. Rather, 《樱海集》 is a moral work. The stories in 《樱海集》 are cautionary tales filled with negative moral examples. They are the modern literary equivalents of fables. The stories paint a pessimistic and probably unbalanced picture of Chinese life. Readers interested in positive moral examples—the righteous government official or revolutionary, the loving and longsuffering mother, the diligent young student who succeeds in life despite enormous opposition—will not find them here. Some of 老舍’s negative moral examples are also offensive to contemporary Western sensibilities. His portraits of women are pretty unflattering. 老舍’s women are ostentatious, stubborn, and quick to anger. (To be fair, the men don’t come off much better. Most of 老舍’s male protagonists are feckless hypocrites.) Others will find 老舍’s portrayal of poor people unsympathetic. The peasants in 《樱海集》 are lazy and spend what little money they find on drugs: It is interesting to consider 老舍’s portrayals of Chinese people in 《樱海集》 in light of then-upcoming theories about politics and art in China. In his lectures at Yan'an in 1942, Mao advocated a new pro-proletariat literature and denounced “petit bourgeois writers” that write “pessimistic literature” and “harm the people.” Were 老舍’s mid-1930’s stories compatible with the new Chinese literature Mao would soon advocate? Was 老舍’s literature “pessimistic”? [For the curious, I blogged about Mao’s Yan'an literature lectures in an earlier post on this blog.] The Chinese language in 《樱海集》 is not especially difficult. The vocabulary is more challenging than contemporary Chinese fiction writers like 余华 and 韩寒, but far easier than writers like 张爱玲 and 莫言. 老舍’s word choices are frequently different from those found in contemporary fiction. This may confuse language learners unfamiliar with early 20th-century Chinese literature. For the uninitiated, try reading other authors from the same period. (I read short stories by 丁玲, 沈从文, and 施蛰存 before. That helped.) My new year’s resolution was to read one million characters in books and articles in 2019. I have now reached that goal with a little over a month to spare. This year I read mostly fiction. I also read Mao’s literature lectures, an article by IBM, a undergraduate thesis on the music of American saxophonist Sonny Stitt, and a third of the Bible. It’s been a great and rewarding experience. From time to time, people ask about the value of studying Chinese language given recent political and economic changes in China. It’s a fair question; there are many reasons to study Chinese and people differ in their motivations and goals. For me, the desire to engage in the cultural and literary traditions of a large and important foreign world was and is a main driver of my Chinese study. This desire was sustained and strengthened this year. I intend to keep reading in Chinese, both fiction and non-fiction. For literature, my near-term goals for the next couple years are to continue with works at or slightly above my current reading level; to move on to major works by 张爱玲, 莫言, and 阎连科; and to tackle tougher early 20th-century works by authors like 鲁迅. I’d like to wade into 文言 someday too, though that day is still a long way off. I had a lot of fun writing these posts and interacting with all of you. In the future, I may continue writing posts here. For now, however, because of many pressing demands on my time, I will put this blog on hiatus and return to posting intermittently in the excellent and underutilized “What are you reading?” thread. Thank you to everyone who read or commented on this blog this year. Link to《樱海集》: https://www.aixdzs.com/d/117/117466/ Some statistics: Characters read this year: 1,000,931 Characters left to read this year: 0 Percent of goal completed: 100% List of things read: 《三八节有感》by 丁玲 (2,370 characters) 《我在霞村的时候》by 丁玲 (10,754 characters) 《在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话》by 毛泽东 (18,276 characters) 《自杀日记》by 丁玲 (4,567 characters) 《我没有自己的名字》by 余华 (8,416 characters) 《手》by 萧红 (7,477 characters) 《牛》by 沈从文 (8,097 characters) 《彭德怀速写》by 丁玲 (693 characters) 《我怎样飞向了自由的天地》by 丁玲 (2,176 characters) 《IBM Cloud文档:Personality Insights》 by IBM (25,098 characters) 《夜》by 丁玲 (4,218 characters) 《虎雏》by 沈从文 (46,945 characters) 《在巴黎大戏院》 by 施蛰存 (6,181 characters) 《分析Sonny Stitt即兴与演奏特点——以专辑《Only the Blues》中曲目 《Blues for Bags》为例》 (5,483 characters) 《一个女剧院的生活》 by 沈从文 (61,154 characters) 《致银河》 by 王小波 (17,715 characters) 《在细雨中呼喊》 by 余华 (132,769 characters) 《熊猫》 by 棉棉 (53,129 characters) 《1988:我想和这个世界谈谈》 by 韩寒 (81,547 characters) 《偶然事件》 by 余华 (20,226 characters) 《第七天》 by 余华 (84,847 characters) 《圣经》 (新译本) (1,055,606 characters; 315,144 read in 2019) 《樱海集》 by 老舍 (83,649 characters)
  9. 13 points
    This resource is probably more intended for intermediate to advanced learners. I've personally been studying for about 9 years and work in translation full-time now, and I've always used Zhihu as a tool for studying Chinese and staying abreast of the current Chinese zeitgeist. On Zhihu Digest, each week I take a look at the top 10 questions and analyze the language involved (from a Chinese learner's perspective) as well as any relevant cultural aspects. Some of the interesting tidbits from this week include what exactly it means for a person to 废掉, different ways of talking about steroids, and what grade levels 中小学 comprises. https://www.zhihudigest.com/ All feedback, whether regarding content or the site itself, is welcome. Cheers.
  10. 13 points
    Graded Watching is a website I've created to make watching Chinese TV series more approachable for Chinese learners. It offers mainly two things: a ranking based on the number of words, to find TV series at your level a list of words for each show that you can import into Pleco for studying Currently there are around 60 shows listed. I hope I can add more shows in the future, but since the analysis is done based on soft subs the selection is limited. I selected two easier shows for myself to start with, "On Children", a show on Netflix which reminds me of Black Mirror, and "Memory Love", which I use for practicing listening comprehension together with the Chrome extension Language Learning with Netflix. It will stop after each subtitle and I can check whether I understood everything. Before watching an episode I study all the words using Pleco flashcards, so I hardly need to look up anything while watching, which is very motivating. If you have soft subs for more shows I'd be happy to include them.
  11. 13 points
    Haha, with families and couples suddenly forced to spend a lot more time together than they are used to, I'm sure China will see a spike in both births and divorces in the coming months (just a general comment, not talking about your personal situation) The situation in Harbin escalated a notch overnight, and I'd say we're at DEFCON 3 now. Apparently, there have been a few infections around my area (within 1-2 km), so the situation feels a lot closer to home, rather than just being something on the news. It also seems that many residential apartment complexes have begun requiring permission slips in order to leave, including mine: I used one of the three slips issued to me for this week to go to the local supermarket to stock up. I pretty much bought a weeks worth of supplies, so I suppose I could now sell the other two slips on the (probably already thriving) exit slip black market. Surprisingly, the two guys who run a nut and seed street stall just outside the supermarket decided to open today. Just as I was walking past and thinking about whether or not to buy something, one of the men let out a massive sneeze. While I appreciated the effort he made to turn his head to face slightly back over his shoulder as he did it, it was far from the recommended "sneeze into the inner elbow" technique, and I decided to carry on walking. At the entrance to the shopping mall was a man taking everyone's temperature. He said something to me as he was aiming the small thermometer gun at my wrist, but I was daydreaming and didn't hear what he said, so I just smiled and asked ”正常吗?“, to which he replied ”零“ and showed me the result. He had a slightly confused look on his face, as if unsure as to whether those strange 老外 just naturally had a much lower body temperature to normal folk, and that maybe he should just let me pass anyway. Fortunately, I already had already experienced this issue a couple of days before and therefore knew what to do. I said to him “零?怎么可能, 我还没死呢!” and pulled my jumper and jacket down a bit from my neck so that he could take the measure again, this time around my collar bone area. This time I got a ”正常“ reading, and could continue on downstairs to the supermarket. Everyone seems pretty calm around here, in spite of the new measures. Even the people taking temperatures and controlling the flow of people are generally in good humour. The only nervousness I've encountered was when I was walking around my 小区 a little earlier today. My apartment area is criss-crossed with walking paths, and as I was walking towards a small crossroads, a woman a little ahead and to my right suddenly shouted “别动!”. As I looked to my left I could see who she was telling to stop - a 10/11 year old boy who had seemingly fallen behind his parents at the other side. The boy stood perfectly still with a scared expression on his face, as if he had just been told by Dr Grant to freeze so that a nearby T-Rex wouldn't be able to see him. I carried on walking and the boy ran to join his parents as soon as I had passed the little cross-section. This afternoon I decided to take a leaf out of @abcdefg's book and actually try my hand at making some Chinese food. I generally like cooking, but the food is so cheap that I tend to eat out most days, and when I do cook at home I usually make western food. I decided to make a Dongbei favourite of mine, 锅包肉, but realised when I go home that I had forgotten to buy any Chinese onion. It's at this point that I had to decide whether or not buying it would be worth using one of my two remaining exit permission slips for (#justcoronavirusthings, as @vellocet might say). I decided that I could make do with the western onion already in my fridge instead. The dish turned out ok, but I couldn't quite get the water to 淀粉 ratio right, so the batter didn't turn out as well as it could have. I was satisfied how the sauce turned out though (a delicate balance between the sugar, vinegar, ginger and onion). Oh well, I'm going to have plenty of time to perfect the recipe over the coming days anyway.
  12. 13 points
    http://www.bilibili.com/video/av85901845?share_medium=android&share_source=more&bbid=XYFB5CAF698EEE335B6147082A959F8C857D9&ts=1580454870665 started a video diary for anyone thats interested in getting a realistic perspective of what things are like here at the moment. as you can see, things are calm and quiet. the sun is out, everyone is going about on the street as normal, feeling happy. but tbh it does feel like a calm before the storm kind of atmosphere here, little bit eerie, this street is usually buzzing with neighbours washing clothes, smoking meat, chatting and playing cards and chess
  13. 13 points
    Hey guys, I can comment on this because I know a lot of people who have been in the China Horizons program and I am familiar with the program over my time in China. They are unaffiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints although they are members of the church and primarily recruit students from BYU. Basically, they have been breaking the law in China for a decade or so. They are being accused of human trafficking which, while I think does not exactly capture what has happened, does have a case as a legal charge. Here is what CH has been doing. They offer a program to primarily undergraduate students to go to China to teach English for 2-3 month stints. The students pay CH a fee to go to China and the students pay for their own flights to China. The students are placed in a small town with largely private English schools in the area, primarily teaching young kids. The students go to China on a tourist visa. During their time in China, the school provides accommodations and a small stipend of around 500 RMB per month. The students then return back to America after their time is up. There are legal problems with this situation as well as some ethical issues I have always had with it. First, the students are working in China illegally. To legally work, in China, you must have a work permit. It's a lengthy and sometimes costly process which would not justify just a 2-3 month employment. The students largely would be unqualified to receive work permits anyways because they do not have a college degree. China Horizons is "double dipping" on both sides: they receive a payment from the students AND they receive money from the school employing the students. This seems supremely unfair the first time I ever heard of it and I've always felt the students are being taken advantage of it. The students have no idea how much of a risky situation they have been placed into. With the stricter enforcement that the Chinese government has enacted over the last few years, they could easily be jailed and deported if they were found to be working without proper documentation. I've heard a lot of people rally for Jacob Harlan and his associates indicating that they are victims of Chinese government oppression, but this is just not the case. While I feel for Jacob and his family (his family being the real victims of his crimes), he has been breaking the law and arguably exploiting students for a very long time and the chickens have proverbially come home to roost. I have been in touch with some of the representatives about this and I have expressed my opinion about all of this but they didn't seem to want any of this information spread around because it is damaging to his case. However, it is my prediction that he will not be coming home till he finishes a jail sentence complete with an apology and possibly fine. I will say that despite what I have said, I have known a number of the students who went through the CH program and had a very good experience and some even went back to China under more legitimate circumstances. I am really happy for them and I am glad that they did have this experience. However, I have always harbored big reservations about the CH program and it appears that things have finally caught up to them. I hope this sheds some light on the issue for anyone interested.
  14. 13 points
    Just a small reflection I wanted to share here on my improvements with tv comprehension. I can vividly remember feeling so frustratated with how impossible and stressful watching the 'fun' Chinese tv recommended here on the forums used to be. But now watching tv is so easy and fun, I wanted to share my 'yeah you can do it' moment So, I watched 琅琊榜 when it came out, which was what about 3-4 years ago now. I loved it, but it was such hard work, I remember spending about a week working through the first episode alone. The visual aids made it watcheable and fun, but I was well aware of the fact that I was only really able to grasp the bare bones of the plot, and struggled a lot with even trying to pick out names from regular vocabulary. After that, I watched similar kinds of tv shows non stop, for years, with depressingly low success rates. But it did seem to be getting easier. Just that progress was painfully slow. But I figured, what else was I going to do with my evenings? So I kept watching, and pausing, and then watching...and then pausing...etc Flash forward to earlier this year, I finished the fantastic 武林外传 (highly recommended), but after having such an annoying time with what you might call 方言-interference in my everyday Chinese tones (from the non-standard accents in the show), I then switched to something more 'clear' - the classic 甄嬛传 (avoided for years because sadly I thought it was too 'girly' - imo this show is actually a legit classic and must watch for intermediate-advanced Chinese learners). It was still pretty tough going, but by the end I would say I felt 'relaxed' and enjoyed it without any language stress - ie. minimal pausing, I would guess maybe around 98^% listening comprehension. Recently I took a break to read 左傳 in the evening instead of TV. This evening I sat down feeling pretty tired (dissertation translation submitted...finally!) and thought, hey, why not give 琅琊榜 a try again, would be good to rewatch it. I was shocked to find I could understand everything, the plot, the subplot, insinuations, jokes, you name it. Must have been 99.5^% comprehension or something. I just sat and watched five episodes straight without a hitch. In fact the language is actually easier than 甄嬛传, and obviously way way way easier than 左傳. I almost cried it felt so good. So thats all I really wanted to say really, in a really long-winded way... Hopefully some will read this and remember what the struggle was like, others might realise, it will come, don't give up.
  15. 13 points
    Recently I did an interview with @Phil Crimmins, the co-founder of Mandarin Blueprint. Phil is an old friend and drummer I used to perform with around Sichuan. He invited me on his podcast to speak about my experience learning Mandarin and making music in China. The podcast covers many topics, including: definitions of language fluency and proficiency; reasons to learn (and not to learn) a foreign language; similarities between language and music; the benefits of patience; moving past the “intermediate plateau”; immersion/environmental factors; language learning and empathy; my experience teaching at a Chinese music conservatory; aural reading and reading speed; reading Chinese literature; concision as an indicator of language ability; my upcoming role at NYU Shanghai; and more. Chinese Forums gets mentioned a few times as well! The podcast can be watched/listened to on the Mandarin Blueprint website: https://www.mandarinblueprint.com/podcast/35-mastering-mandarin-music-with-murray-james/ It’s also on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0mg2sBhEtA
  16. 12 points
    Update: Made it as far as Hong Kong. Flew out of Kunming yesterday afternoon (Friday 31 Jan.) It was an on-time departure with arrival in Hong Kong about 6 pm. Good flight, even had food and beverage service. As you know, China is taking this epidemic very seriously. Everyone wearing a face mask, wiping down surfaces, using hand sanitizer and such. Compliance was 100% at the airport, complete with temperature checks. Still, I was not prepared for lots of passengers on my flight to be wearing those cheap plastic raincoats with hoods. They had the peaked tops pulled up over their heads in addition to face masks. Odd sight. Reminiscent of a KKK rally, since most were light colors, pastels and off-white. (I have only seen these in movies.) The young lady sitting next to me was additionally decked out with disposable vinyl gloves and eye goggles as though she was preparing to do battle in the ICU. She was exquisitely well informed on the subject of this health crisis, and in fact would not shut up about it. My flight out to the US, scheduled for this afternoon (Saturday 1 Feb) was delayed a couple times and ultimately cancelled. Am now re-booked on another flight leaving Monday 3 Feb. Nothing was available tomorrow. The flight from Kunming to Hong Kong was on Cathay Pacific, but now I am at the mercy of American Airlines, and they are a less stable player. I've read that their pilot's union is suing the carrier over assorted grievances, real and imagined and this has further compromised their performance, their ability to deliver the goods, which is getting passengers and freight from point A to point B. I don't really know or care whether their cause is just. I just want them to take me home. Not a big deal. I'm in a good hotel, healthy, well fed and watered, and was able to simply extend my stay by two nights. Have adjusted reservations on the Dallas end of the trip and notified friends and family. Beats the hell out of being locked up in some quarantine gymnasium or warehouse, eating instant noodles 方便面 and sleeping on a straw mat.
  17. 12 points
    This entry has been delayed a bit for a variety of reasons, mainly due to lack of time, as I've got so much to say on this topic, but also because this is my most dreaded class. For more context on what I'm talking about, skip back and check earlier entries. For clarity, I am a native English speaker that is on the Chinese-English Interpreting and Translating masters course at Bath University, UK. We work in both directions, and I am the only 'foreigner' on the course. This last point is of crucial importance, as it has naturally set me apart from everyone else on the course. Just not always in the ways I was expecting before beginning this process. One of the most noticeable areas in which my background, different from my Chinese peers, impacted my performance was in the consecutive interpreting class. Unlike translating, which can be done at the safety of your own home, or simultaneous interpreting (aka 'SI') where mistakes can be forgiven due to time constraints and the high-pressure environment, consecutive interpreting (CI) is the most unforgiving and most difficult part of the job, as it requires high quality intepreting of complex topics. This of course runs counter to what most people believe, and when one of the course instructors said this at the beginning of the course, I found it difficult to believe him. But he was right. And there are two main reasons: 1. You must understand everything. 1-2% non-comprehension is natural, 3-5% is acceptable, 5-10% is just about workable, but anything more and you lose the ability to accurately infer (yes these are arbritrary numbers, but I'm basing such estimates off my own experience this year). If you don't understand, you can ask the speaker. But 9/10 they will just repeat the phrase you didnt understand word for word, or if they are kind enough to rephrase, the chance you will still not understand a concept you don't even know in your native tongue is 'too damn high'. And I'm the kind of person that goes red in the face when they dont get it. The speaker will also think that your job is easy, as they have to stop for you and 'wait' for you to catch up. As a result, the speaker often speaks much quicker than normal, use more complex terms, and will sometimes even forget to stop for you in the bits they consider 'easy'. 2. You must use a notetaking system. If someone says you dont need symbols or shorthand, just write down the main details and youll be fine...you know they are almost certainly a bad consecutive interpreter. There are simply too many details to remember in a live speech. You must find a way to take down more information than you can possibly remember. In our final exam this was 8 minutes of speech without any break. We then had to deliver the speech in the target language, hoping to also reach an ideal length of 7-8 minutes in our own delivery. This skill was the largest hurdle for me to get over (and I still havent to be honest), and it was the biggest difference between me and my peers. Nearly all the other students were coming into the course with a knowledge of a notetaking system, having taken courses in it back in China in order to prepare for the MA in Bath, or having previous undergrad experience in interpreting. Either way, from day one the teachers were calling us up to the whiteboard to 'show off' our own personalised notetaking (with each student having their own unique ways of taking down 5 solid minutes of statistics speeches, or symbols for taking notes on sustainable energy sources...). Consequently, I never had the chance to formally study this skill on the course, and this is the only area where I felt short-changed in my training on this MA. The first point was manageable, I just had to improve my listening comprehension. I have watched A LOT of news and public speeches in the last year to improve this. While I am watching, I actively ask my brain at the end of each sentence 'can you repeat that sentence back in Chinese? Are you hypothetically able to tell the person next to you what it means in English?' If the answer was 'yes' or 'pretty much' then I keep watching, keep listening. If the answer is no, I pause, search and take down all the words, listen again, add the words to a 'new words' deck in anki, then continue. Rinse and repeat for the rest of eternity. But the second point has been so difficult to deal with. While I was able to understand 99% of an English speech, there was too much information and too little time to write everything down. And yet, the person next to me was drawing pictures of little people and arrows everywhere, intermixed with shorthand chinese characters all over the place, then would stand up and deliver a near identical speech in English, far better than my own English! What do you do in a situation like that? Well I sat down with a friend and we ran through a basic set of maybe 150 or so 'concepts' that could be given symbols (see below), and began to learn them by heart. Gradually my notetaking did get better. But then I came across an additional third reason for why CI is so difficult: 3. Our course is bidirectional, so I was not only required to interpret from Chinese into English (based on scruffy, incomplete notes), but also from English into Chinese. It was at this point where I realised why symbols were so useful. They sit in between the solid words and grammar of language, they represent the ideas and concepts that have yet to be given body by a particular language. So you can use one system to take notes from two (or more) different source languages. For example, if I write the words 'your country' down, when it comes to referring to my notes during speech delivery, I will naturally look down at this and blurt out '你的國家‘. But what if it should have been '貴國'? What if the original English sentence was 'the development of your country is important for the global economy' and thus the use of 'your' in the Chinese is totally redundant? Using notetaking, you dont need to worry about the difference between expression in different languages. You can take the concept of 國/country and write it as 囗 (a commonly used shorthand symbol in notetaking). Once conceptualised, you can look at it and express the idea naturally and uninhibited in either language. A symbol's usage can be expanded across your whole system, eg. I can write the phrase "the development of your country" as "囗'dev". By extension, the whole sentence becomes something like: "囗'dev=!>O" (where ! is important, > is 'to, affect, influence' and O represents global, all over the world). 囗 can be used not just for country, but also - 囗° =...國人(°=person), 囗al (national), 囗ty (nationality), 囗z (nationalize). etc. To get a real flavour of what CI notetaking looks like, I've posted some pics of my own (bad examples) below. In this way, you can write down more information at higher speeds, with higher clarity and accuracy, all while avoiding 'Chinglish' (or 'Englese'...?) pitfalls. So, now we know that notetaking systems can dramatically increase the amount and the accuracy of information one can take down at the speed of natural speech delivery. And we also know that it can reduce the amount of Chinglish one might otherwise say when reading notes written in longhand in the source language. And so that leads me to my last area I wanted to mention. The required quality of output in the target language. Unlike SI, the quality of CI sits closer to written translation in terms of quality. One must be able to understand the original speakers intentions, 'translate' it into notes, then produce a coherent stream of thoughts and ideas based on the notes, where the original speech is often reordered and reworded (like in written translation) in order to better mimick the ways of speaking in the target language. Some students were AMAZING at this. In fact I was in awe on an almost daily basis. That being said, I don't believe the ability to do this is something 'innate'. It obviously requires significant cognizant ability, but these skills have clearly been trained for years and years...and years. Although I am still yet to be able to perform at a professional ability in this area, I have seen myself make positive progress and believe if I really dedicated maybe another 5 years to this I could reach a very high standard. That being said. As it stands, my ability in notetaking is still rudimentary. In the end, it didnt matter how good my comprehension was, or even how good my actual oral language abilities were, the notation 'filter' in the middle of the CI process consistently stopped me from producing good output language. I mean, I've never heard myself speak such strange English before! We're talking saying things like 'this food good eat' if I wasnt paying 100% attention to the notes I was reading. And at this point I would like to say, I strongly, strongly recommend the course at Bath, as the course instructors are fantastic, and surely among the highest qualified in the world to teach such skills. A caveat should be noted for native English speakers: a prerequisite for the course should be a prep course in notetaking for native English speakers, and this should be explicitly stated on all interpreting course details (as all the Chinese speakers had all done this in China, without me knowning until after the course had started...). The course instructor of the MATBI course, Miguel Fialho, has absolutely blown everyone on the course away. His 普通話 is phenomenal, perfect tones, better spoken than any of the Chinese students in the class, and most importantly he is incredibly humble and understanding. You will see him on CCTV whenever there are meetings between the Chinese and Portuguese governments (he is half British, half Portuguese, and also does Chinese-Portuguese interpreting......). He. Knows. Everything. Pretty sure he has learnt an entire encyclopedia off by heart in three different languages. Jane is his equivalent for the Chinese students, and her English is far more eloquent than my, often ending up in me taking notes on how to speak better English after listening to her speeches! Dr Kumar is highly knowledgeable in economics and politics, is ultimately responsible for the excellent course structure and content, and most importantly, is really funny, so that really made things a lot easier when you're in high stress environments. what my notes at the beginning of the year looked like. I was using a pencil, writing everything down longhand, and getting totally confused. I often ended up giving up and just trying to recite everything I'd just heard in one language in the other. What my notes looked like by the end. You can see that for complex terminology, you can write down the word, assign it a number, then just write the number when the term is used. The red is for marking mistakes when going back and comparing notes to the original speech. Practicing symbols. good god. OK I'm done for today, next blog entry will probably be more geared towards some thoughts on written translation. I'm just beginning to write my dissertation, which is a written translation, so will share anything interesting I come across.
  18. 12 points
    Half year update time for me too: Goal 1: Watch 新聞聯播 every single day of 2019. To date, 100% on this goal, but I after day 74 of 新聞聯播 I was really not learning much beyond 一帶一路 every. single. day. So I switched to 國際財經報道 (also part of CCTV news), the content is much more varied and more importantly faaar more interesting. I've been watching this every day for the last few months. Listening ability has improved massively. Very happy! Goal 2: 30 mins Chinese cursive practice every day. Also 100%. But 30 mins has turned into a good 1 1/2 hours every evening before bed now. This has unexpectedly become my obsessive hobby, love it so much. I've learnt so much in researching and compiling information, images, books, databases, you name it. I can now read a lot of inscriptions on painting, and can now read pretty much the whole of 書譜 in its original form. Again, really happy! (stats from my anki deck for learning 草書, it says 60 hours, 24.5mins/day, but thats a bit of an understatement, as it sits on the edit screen for another additional hour or so as I edit each entry. Im using the Heisig order for learning characters, as it nicely builds up your knowledge of shortcuts, so that by the time you reach complex characters, 7 or 8 times out of 10 you can guess how to write it correctly even if you've never seen the supercursive form before) (^ regular handwriting, speed fairly average, this is a page of me writing out an essay from 思想與社會 that I've learnt by heart. Not pretty, just trying to build speed.) (^ what learning how to write looks like, slow speed, again, very ugly to look at, but its not about looks, its about getting that muscle memory drilled in) (^ the latest entry from today. You can see in the middle some Hiragana. Yes, Im finally beginning to learn some basic Japanese in order to access some great resources on 草書 and 書法 in general. Luckily the Hiragana forms are proving pretty easy to learn, as theyre all based on 草書 anyway. Thanks to @Gharial for recommending some great books on this!) All in all, my two goals have served me well. Cant wait for what the next six months may bring!
  19. 11 points
    Right, we had about 50 hours of being offline there, possibly the longest in 17 years? Server got choked up (basically, it got full), I thought I was going to have to shift to a back-up server, had the domain redirected (which takes time to propagate) and database back-up in place (we'd have lost 24 hours of content, so annoying rather than catastrophic). Then server came back up but software wasn't working, so shifted domain back again (again, takes time), back and forth with software support, escalated, might have to wait, managed to figure out what the problem was (corrupt cache file in a folder I didn't realise had them) and.. back! Let me know if you see anything glitchy. Currently I know the front page is missing, hopefully sort that out soonish [sorted]. But have work and lunch to do. Anything emailed to [email protected] over the weekend may or may not have gone missing - I'm not sure. Maybe nobody emailed me. Need to ponder hosting options a bit. The current one is sold as fully managed, but... well. And I could do with being a bit more savvy on server admin. Anyway, that's for another topic. We should, now, be strong and stable. I'll be keeping a close eye on things.
  20. 11 points
    Hi Guys, I just got my HSK 4 and 5 exam results back results posted to HSK results thread here The 2019 thread and previous threads have been a source of inspiration for me and I hope no one minds that I get the 2020 thread started a little early. While I failed HSK5 fairly hard, I was happy that I did most of what I had set out to do in 2019 with massive amounts of listening practise and watching of TV shows - I saw a big improvement in general communication. 2020 I'd like to pass HSK5 with a 200+ Get into structured classes again. At some point during 2020 - turn off the subtitles on the tv shows. Thanks !
  21. 11 points
    Hello, I created a podcast series aimed at intermediate to advanced learners who want to listen to more spoken Chinese to improve or become more used to pronunciation and sentence structures. Along with each podcast episode, I also set out the script (in simplified Chinese and pinyin) for that episode on my website (https://chinesecolloquialised.com/). The podcast episodes are under the name "Chinese Colloquialised", which can be found on most major podcast platforms (e.g. Apple Podcast / Google Podcast / Spotify / Overcast/ etc). If there are any intermediate to advanced learners, I would be keen to hear your thoughts on the podcast. Particularly: Is it helpful? Is it too easy or too difficult? Do you find the episodes interesting? Any other thoughts, whether it's positive compliments or constructive criticism. Thank you and best wishes, Kaycee
  22. 11 points
    This is an Unfinished List (will update later as per contributions) This list of resources is meant for anyone that aims to improve their Chinese proficiency past the HSK benchmark. While the obvious course would be to consume whatever Chinese media you can get your hands on, I still believe that having a few resources on hand to kick-start the process can't hurt. Heck, it might even provide some well-needed structure. 📱 Pleco 🆓 (Apple / Google / APK) [forums] ↓*↓ • Most comprehensive database of Chinese dictionaries. • Flashcard system optimized with dictionary entries. • OCR (Optical Character Recognition). • Native pronunciation to a range of words. ... 📱 有道语文达人 💯(Xiaomi) • Lightweight Chinese to Chinese dictionary. • Shows synonyms and antonyms. ... 📱 微信读书 👥🆓(Apple / Google / Xiaomi) • Most popular reading app in China. • Contents far-ranging. ... 📱 天天作文精选💯(Xiaomi) • Reading materials sorted by Chinese school grade all the way to 高考. • Short stories from 200 characters to 2000 characters. ... 📱 观止 💯(Apple / Xiaomi) • Don’t like the abundance of choice? Here is one short-story per day. • Short stories by critically acclaimed writers (cross-strait) • Want to read more? Randomly receive any of the previously posted stories. ... 📱🔗人民日标 👥 (Apple / Xiaomi)[Website Version] • “The Party’s Daily” ... 📱🔗纽约时报(Apple / Google)[Website Version] • NYTimes – Chinese Edition ... 📱 喜马拉雅FM 🆓(Apple / Xiaomi / APK)↓*↓ • Large collection of podcasts, comedy, eBooks, history and more. • Largest broadcasting “network” on the web. ... 📱 每天读点故事 ⚡👥 (Apple / Xiaomi / APK) • Stories by (I assume) amateur writers. • Spoken in by storytellers with the original text available • Non-Audio stories also available. ... 📱 得到 ⚡👥🈸 (Apple / Xiaomi / APK) • Collection of University level “classes” or rather thought provoking discussions. • Listen to books. ... 📱 普通话学习 📞⚡(Apple / Xiaomi) • 15k+ words, tongue twisters, and more with standard pronunciation. • Ability to test your own pronunciation, graded by PC. • Personal tutors available. • [More information in another thread + translated word sheets] ... 🔗 普通话学习网 💯 [website address] • Similar and sometimes overlapping content with above, but free. • Audio fragments downloadable • Want to learn 儿化音? Here is all the 儿化! ... 🔗 范文等等 [Many Links > Here is one (Just Google 范文大全 or similar) • These are model essays, speeches, letters, and above all CONTRACTS. • Want to avoid getting scammed in a contract? Why not read some examples beforehand? • Need some flowery language for a love-letter? Here are 1000 examples. • Do you want to join the Communist Party? ... Probably not, but reading other model essays won’t hurt! ... 🔗 草书字体转换器 [Placeholder Website] • Website that allows you to type in text and get it in cursive. • Though only a placeholder, I wish I could find a teaching resource for 草书 ... 🔗📱 📚 "国考" China's Civil Service Exam Study Materials [LINK TO THREAD] • A myriad of topis/questions that test whether the examinee's reading comprehension is up to standard. • Tests whether the examinee's language logic and if they can make direct connections between words and definitions. • Dubbed "HSK's Reading Exam on STEROIDS" ... I really can't recommend it often enough. [... I will keep updating this post in the foreseeable future. Please share anything you have. ..] → Pleco: By now you should have gotten used to using CN-CN dictionaries. Pleco offers both “Xiandai Hanyu Dacidian” ($50) and “Xiandai Hanyu Guifan Cidian” ($20). Also, as a bonus, there is the “Duogongneng Chengyu Cidian” ($20) which offers a wealth of knowledge on Chinese idioms. → 喜马拉雅 FM: “Free” is only true for parts of certain broadcasts. While you don’t need to register, you will still need a Chinese phone number to buy courses and even link your WeChat to the app. 【Meaning behind the emoticons】 ↓*↓ Check bottom of post for extra comments. 📱 App on phone. 📚 Physical book. 📺 Television series. 🔗 Website address. 📞 Registering requires Chinese phone number. 👥 Registering requires WeChat authentication 🈸 Registering is possible with just an e-mail. ❔ [IF BLANK] Then just downloading is enough. 🔒 Region-Locked to China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. 💯 Even if you wanted to pay they wouldn’t let you. 🆓 Standard (functional) version is free. Buying more content is optional. ⚡ Some free. You can slowly unlock content through use, but prohibitive. 💲 Requires an up-front purchase or monthly fee. Sometimes a demo is available. 🌄 Traditional Characters only AKA Taiwan or Hong Kong based.
  23. 10 points
    According to this page the HSK exam will be changed to offer nine levels: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/48yDq48T_WzCjfD9uT4laA I don't know if this is (a) fake news (I don't see a source for the information) or (b) new news (maybe everyone knew this already) The link suggests there'll be nine levels, not six. Reading through - not very well - I'm not sure the text explicitly says this will replace the previous HSK regime. I certainly don't see any date for it doing so. Old timers will remember that the 'original' HSK co-existed for a while with the "new" HSK that is the current standard one now. Or is it that the Confucius Institute organisation has put together a 《汉语水平等级标准》 and it expects that HSK people (assuming they are different or even rival organisations) will at some point in the future modify the exam to match those standards? Anyway, a good day for publishers of textbooks!
  24. 10 points
    we're basically screwed - FCO called this morning to say last flight out is this Sunday, again from Wuhan. Again, no way for us to get to the plane. There are no cars to rent, or buy, yet to find a driver willing to do a 500k round trip to the centre of the epidemic. FCO are not able to guarantee the driver will be able to return after dropping us at the airport. Helpless, govt telling us to get out asap, but when I asked how, I was told, you should use your 'connections'. I dont live in China anymore, and even when I did I didnt live here, and the people here are old just old farmer folk, what connections are we meant to have? Currently speaking with a bbc reporter, see if they can put some pressure on, raise some awareness… At least im in a great place with great family.
  25. 10 points
    Things are fine here in Harbin. The streets are a lot quieter, there are very few cars driving about and many shops are closed, but the supermarkets and 便利店s are all open and full of food, and the air is clear and the sky is blue (probably due in no small part to the lack of traffic). I managed to buy three tubs of fresh fruit for just 10 yuan this afternoon. I've just come off a 3 and a half day water fast, so I dread to think what all that fruit will do to my digestive system! We had our first lesson today via wechat. Luckily there are only 3 students in our class, so we can make it work. All things considered life is pretty good here at the moment - it's all quiet on the Dongbei front. Now I have to send an email to my family to stop them from panicking (I hate the sensationalist news sometimes)
  26. 10 points
    Just got my HSK 6 test results back. Up to 248 from 212 the first time I took it one year ago. Pretty proud since I spent close to zero time preparing for the test itself which surprising shows non-test language learning does transfer over to the test. Good to know. My writing was the lowest at 72, which, while disappointing, isn't much of a surprise. I don't use a lot of "fancy" chengyus and the like that tend to bump up the score. Mostly just happy I got a 90 on the listening which was previously a weaker skill for me. My reading of 86 is hard to assess because I never do the bingju and don't know how many I randomly got right. Still would rather invest time in consuming native content rather than just studying test content, however, I do think I would benefit from a more structured course in writing in Chinese for a variety of different specific situation and practicing adjusting tone/formality to the occasion.
  27. 9 points
    Sharing some 中国QT Photos... I know someone on their 14 day QT right now. They picked a hotel at the 400rmb per room price and this includes breakfast. They can order food and drink into the hotel. The food is actually from a different hotel where 3 meals were provided due to having no option to order in. Overall they’re very happy with how they’ve been treated and the experience in general. Someone regularly checks in on them (phone calls) and in English. The people on site also speak some English. If they have any issues there’s always someone available to ask. They also got a negative test result back so just doing their 14 and then can go home.
  28. 9 points
    You can have Kung Pao Chicken 宫保鸡丁at the all-you-can eat Chinese buffet in the strip mall on the outskirts of Smalltown, Texas, USA. I know because I’ve eaten it there. Panda Express also dishes up a ton of it at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Concourse B. You can always count on it to form the cornerstone of an honest, solid meal. East or West. But if you start chasing it around Mainland China, you will quickly find that the name is the same wherever you go, but what the waitress delivers to your table definitely won’t be what you remembered having last week down the road a piece. It varies all over the map. More so than most popular dishes. Why is that? Gongbao jiding originated in Shandong during the latter Qing. Chicken and peanuts were both staples of Shandong Cuisine, which is also know as 鲁菜 lu cai. The Governor of Shandong Province 山东省 was a real aficionado of that particular taste combination; anecdote has it that he would even occasionally fiddle around with cooking it himself instead of just relegating the task to his staff. We are talking about Ding Baozhen 丁宝桢(1820年-1886年.) Shandong Governor Ding was originally from Guizhou 贵州省 and that is where he began his political career. When his relatives and friends from back home visited him at the Governor’s Mansion, he couldn’t wait to introduce them to his Shandong “find.” They were suitably impressed and carried the word back to Guizhou. The dish was quickly adapted to the local palate, and soon became a staple of Guizhou Cuisine 黔菜 (Qian Cai) as well. Guizhou loves hot food, so the fire quotient was ramped up. Guizhou also insists that sour be part of the flavor mix. That was accomplished by including pickled vegetables 泡菜。 In his later years, Ding was appointed governor of Sichuan. Not surprisingly, he took his culinary discovery with him. Once again it was modified for local tastes and to make use of prized local ingredients such as Sichuan peppercorns, also known as prickly ash, a mouth-numbing member of the citrus family 花椒 huajiao. Today Gongbao jiding 宫保鸡丁 definitely belongs to the cannon of best-loved Sichuan Cuisine 川菜 chuancai. Ding continued to attract favorable national attention by revising the salt tax codes and by refurbishing the famous Dujiangyan Water Conservation System 都江堰水利工。In the course of his long career, Governor Ding caught the eye of the Qing Emperor in a positive way, and before long his favorite dish got picked up by the power elite in the northern capital city. It earned a proud place in Beijing Cuisine. So today your order of Gongbao Jiding 宫保鸡丁 can have many faces. Not to worry; they are all pretty darned good. I’ll show you one very decent recipe that’s not difficult to cook up at home, but I make no extravagant claims to it being the “one true way” or the “gold standard.” (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) The finished product and the vegetables. Start with the meat. Use two large chicken breasts if you plan to make enough for 3 or 4 people to share as part of a Chinese meal. I suggest buying fresh chicken, instead of frozen chicken breasts since they have more taste. The two I had today weighed 0.549 kg (a little over a pound.) I sliced them open first off so they wouldn’t be quite so thick, then proceeded to cut the meat into roughly one-inch cubes. 鸡丁 Safety tip: Put a folded piece of damp paper kitchen towel under the cutting board so it won’t scoot around. Marinate the cut chicken in a mixture of 1 beaten egg white 蛋清, ½ teaspoon cooking salt 食用盐, ½ teaspoon ground white pepper 白胡椒粉, 1 tablespoon of yellow cooking wine 料酒, and a heaping teaspoon of corn starch 玉米淀粉。Put on a disposable glove 一次性手套 and massage the seasonings into the meat. Let it marinate 腌制 in the fridge about 15 minutes. Notice that the marinade isn’t “soupy.” It coats the meat without much excess. Wipe a small amount of cooking oil around the inside of your wok and heat it with low flame. Put in a heaping teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns 花椒 and stir them until you start to smell their lemon-zest aroma. Take them out and let them cool. Meanwhile, cook a handful of peanuts 花生米 the same way. You want them to slowly toast, but not scorch or burn. Keep them moving over low flame for a couple minutes. They become crunchy as they cool, not while they are still hot. Crush the toasted Sichuan peppercorns in a mortar and pestle or in a bowl with the back of a stout soup spoon. Toasting and crushing them like this greatly increases their flavor. Set them and the roasted peanuts aside, turning your attention to the vegetables. Cut the red bell pepper 红甜椒 into thumb-sized pieces and chop a cucumber 黄瓜 into cubes 丁that are about the same size as the chicken. If you are using long Chinese cucumbers as shown, no need to peel them. Cut the spring onion into rounds, using only the white part. Mince 切碎 a thumb of ginger 生姜 and a clove or two of garlic 大蒜。 Prepare a thickening sauce 勾芡酱 by putting a heaping teaspoon of corn starch and a half cup of water into a bowl. Stir well to dissolve. Stir in a tablespoon of sugar 白砂糖。Add a tablespoon of cooking wine 黄酒, a tablespoon of dark vinegar 老陈醋, a tablespoon of light soy sauce 生抽 and about a third as much dark soy sauce 老抽。Set aside. Prep finished, time now to cook. Get the chicken from the fridge, stir it up. I always like to lay out the ingredients and mentally rehearse what goes in first, what follows, and so on. I suppose you could even arrange all your “mis en place” dishes in time-sequence order if you were of a mind to. “Hot wok, cold oil” 热锅粮油。I realize you knew that. Preheat it before adding two or three tablespoons of cooking oil. I used corn oil today. Flame on medium 中火 instead of high. Chicken requires a different approach from pork or beef. Add the chicken in one layer, spreading it quickly with your chopsticks (not all mounded up in the center of the wok.) Leave it alone for a minute or so, allowing it to sear. Carefully scrape it up and turn it over, trying to minimize surface tearing. It should mostly have changed color from pink to white by now and have a little bit of golden crust. The goal for this first stage is to only cook it two-thirds or so; not completely done. Only takes two minutes max. Add the crushed Sichuan peppercorns and 4 or 5 dry red peppers 干辣椒。I usually just tear these peppers in half as I add them. Some people cut them into smaller bits with scissors. Stir everything well and then add the chopped cucumbers and red bell peppers. Add new ingredients to the center of the wok; that’s the hottest part. Then stir it all together. Give it a minute or so, allowing flavors to blend, stirring and flipping all the while 煸炒,翻炒。 Now the thickening sauce goes in, mixing it well because the solids will have settled in the bowl. Stir everything well for a minute or so until you see the chicken and vegetables developing an attractive sheen. Last of all, add the peanuts and incorporate them more or less evenly 拌均匀。You want the peanuts to have a very short cooking time so they will retain their crispy texture. Plate it up 装盘。Admire your handiwork. Snap a photo with your phone. Set it on the table. Call the team to come dig in. Gongbao jiding and steamed rice 蒸饭 are just about inseparable, so plan ahead and have some rice ready when the chicken comes off the stove. Took a little over half an hour today, maybe 45 minutes including clean up. I listened to the Sutherland - Pavarotti Turandot while working. London Philharmonic/Zubin Mehta. Although this is fun to make at home, it’s also an easy thing to order in a simple restaurant. Any random six-table Mom and Pop joint will be able to turn it out. I often supplement it with a clear green-leafy vegetable soup. 苦菜汤 kucai tang, for example, is easy to find and serves the purpose of turning this into a real meal: veggie, meat, and soup. Tasty and won’t break the bank. Try it soon and see what you think! Here's the recipe all in one place to make it easier to use: (Click "reveal hidden contents."
  29. 9 points
    Err...No thanks! Flight out of Hong Kong on JAL was on time, as was the flight onward from Narita (NRT) on JAL to LAX was also on time and without drama. Both were full planes. Just arrived Los Angeles LAX this morning. Took 2 hours to accomplish entry screenings. Hugely disorganized. It was like they were inventing the process as they were going along. No supervisors in sight. Just the foot soldiers trying their best to kind of play it by ear and figure things out. "Hey Bertha, why don't we screen families over here, and people with connecting flights over there." "Sounds like a good idea, Chester. Lets separate out the US citizens from the non-citizens." "OK, that makes sense to me." At first they just had us all sit in a large room. Everyone who had passed through China. Only when the chairs all got full did we begin to form lines, queues. Very few face masks in use here. It's like America thinks the whole thing is some kind of a Chinese joke. Most staff members wore masks at the airport, but less than half of the passengers. Nobody at my hotel is wearing a mask, not even the check-in clerks. Very casual.
  30. 9 points
    I"m prepared for a 2 week quarantine: I have a change of underwear and my Kindle. If the health authorities don't impose one, I will impose my own self-quarantine for 2 weeks. Only go out for essentials. Wear mask, wash hands, etc. Keep a contact diary. My plane leaves in a few hours. Will let you all know how it shakes out. Thanks for your support and suggestions.
  31. 9 points
    Yes, I fully agree and plan to do that. When I go back to Texas for my annual visit, I usually hit the ground running, trying to get lots of things done in a short time. Dentist appointment, new eyeglasses, get new supplies of prescription meds, stop by and chat with the folks at the bank, and so on. Visits with friends and relatives to catch up on news, renew interpersonal ties. Take this old pal out for dinner and that old pal out for a drink. This year I will take it slow and easy. Will play the "masked bandit" when out of the house. Maybe I can finally get my Chinese recipes all pulled together into a small but usable cookbook. That would give me a welcome sense of satisfaction.
  32. 9 points
    Well here it is folks: Yichang has been shut, Zhijiang has been shut. In fact it appears that every road, train station and airport out of Hubei accessible from where we are is now closed. So not going to be able to make the flight out from Chongqing by the looks of things. Seems I'm in this for the long haul... on the plus side my fangyan is gonna get a lot of practice. Not even joking, this year is the first year Ive ever been able to hold conversations with my parents in law (was shocked when we got in last week and I could somehow...understand what they were saying! My wife speaks in fangyan at home all the time when were in the UK, and it has clearly had some deeper passive effect on my listening abilities). Its honestly the best feeling to be able to keep up with jokes in the local dialect, feel like I'm finally a part of the family.
  33. 9 points
    Incidentally, friends don't let friends get Chinese character tattoos.
  34. 9 points
    I have been studying Chinese for just over 3 years now, while also being a college student. I have just passed HSK5 a few months ago, but I feel like my progress is the greatest while I have more time to myself, during summer and winter break. I just graduated 3 days ago, and have a job in America set up to start in mid-September. As such, I will be following my dream and living in China from December 31 to August 31. During this time period, I will be spending 14 weeks doing 1 on 1 lessons for 16 hours a week in Chengdu. I am hoping for some major improvements, and will be working hard to reach my goals. I will first break down my goals by each ability, then summarize with some general goals. Speaking: Current Level: Currently, I can speak to people, but it sounds awful, and I am not comfortable doing it. I can speak about simple topics with bad grammar, and greatly struggle to say anything remotely advanced. Goal: By the time I return from China I hope to develop a sort of confidence in my spoken chinese. I want to be able to much more comfortably talk about simple to medium topics, and be able to converse about complex topics, albeit perhaps a bit slower, or with some grammar problems. I believe this goal is fairly achievable, since my passive vocabulary is far greater than my active vocabulary thanks to way too much time on anki. I have honestly had very little practice with speaking in comparison to reading, so I hope that being put in a Chinese-speaking environment will finally allow my speaking to "catch up" in a sense. Method: Daily conversation with my teacher. Hanging out with friends that don't know any English as much as possible. Speaking to as many people as possible. My goal is to spend at least an hour every day speaking to someone in Chinese. This shouldn't be too hard to achieve considering I don't know any other foreigners there, and the Chinese friends I do know there all don't know English. Listening: Current Level: Similar to speaking, I feel that I have most of the necessary vocabulary, I just lack the practice. I have the knowledge vs proficiency problem that I sometimes hear about. Goal: I hope that living in China and talking to many people will give me the listening practice I need to allow me to understand the same amount of speech that I can understand while reading. Currently, my listening is a sort of embarrassing point for me, as I struggle to understand some fairly basic sentences unless the person repeats it or speaks slowly, I also am entirely incapable of understanding speech from people with any sort of an accent. I hope to reach a level where minor accent differences (sh->s, n->l f->h etc) won't throw me off, and I can comfortably understand pretty much everything spoken to me in conversation. I don't expect to be able to fully understand things like TV shows and the news quite yet. Since I will be living in Chengdu, I hope to reach a full level of comprehension for people with sichuan-accented mandarin( 川普), and perhaps understand a little 四川话. Method: Same as speaking, lots of conversation. I will also try to get into Chinese TV shows, movies, music, and podcasts as much as I can, and listen to some kind of Chinese audio (a podcast or the news) while getting ready in the morning. Reading: Reading has always been my strongest skill. I really enjoy reading Chinese, and I review vocabulary in anki on a daily basis, which has brought my passive vocabulary up to an unproportionally high level, and I can read simple novels (余华), even though I wouldn't be able to understand a single sentence if it was read aloud to me. Since I enjoy reading, and it is much easier for me to practice outside of China, I think I should definitely put it on the back-burner while in China, in order to focus on my speaking and listening. That said, I plan to read a lot of Chinese social media and news on a casual basis. Writing: In terms of handwriting, I enjoy writing characters, and practice it with my anki deck daily. I will keep this up every day just so I am good at writing characters. I know many people argue that being able to hand-write characters is pretty useless nowadays, and I totally agree. That said, it is something I enjoy doing, so I will not give up on it. As for actual writing, I will tell my teacher to have me write an essay every once in a while, or perhaps some kind of small paper every few days. Although I don't enjoy writing, I think it is pretty helpful for improving grammar, especially if I have a teacher to look at my writing and go over all the mistakes with me. General Goals To Reach By December 31, 2020: Can comfortably converse in Chinese - be able to put any idea into speech, and understand nearly everything spoken to me by another person. Read 5 novels (These can mostly be done after my return from China, in September - December) Have decent comprehension of some simpler Chinese podcasts and shows During China (January - August): Spend an hour conversing in Chinese every day. After China (September - December): Every day: spend a half hour watching a TV show, or listening to a podcast. Every week: Spend an hour either talking to a friend over wechat, or an italki teacher if that is not possible.
  35. 9 points
    These are my goals for 2020, as of now... Daily: 30 minutes reading time Deeply focus on at least 5 unknown new words 30 minutes active listening (active TV watching, LCTS, etc) Diary entry "Teach" my wife for 15 minutes per day (as long as she stays interested... this can just be a basic conversation together based on her vocabulary) Weekly: Continue at least 1 hour formal tutoring (online) Write a 500-1000 word essay At least two 30-minute conversations with language partners Yearly Read 6 novels At some point, begin a more serious study of Classical and Literary Chinese Thoughts?
  36. 9 points
    Hi @重大雷雨 , you bring up some valid concerns. Perhaps this might help. I have lived in Shanghai for 8 years. I had worked for 3 Chinese companies, 2 who had never before hired foreigners and I had to handle most of the work permit and residence permit process myself. I have renewed my own work permit and residence permit for myself and my family over the course of the 8 years in China. I have personally accidentally made a mistake on the renewal date of my own work permit and residence permit and was able to get things pushed through faster and negotiate a special arrangement. My wife has had 2 babies in China and we have had to apply for US citizenship, passports, and then take those documents and get residence permits for them, a process that is muddy and ill-defined. I have helped dozens of friends with work permit and residence permit issues, including people who have been denied. I have friends whose companies have illegally employed people (in Shanghai), were checked by the gov, and received heavy fines. I started and still own my own company incorporated in Jingan District of Shanghai (a WFOE - Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise) of which I am the 法人 I have used my own company to sponsor my own work permit and residence permit I have previously met the qualifications for a 5 yr work permit and 2 year residence permit. On top of all of this, my wife and I have personally gotten to know over 30 students involved in the China Horizons programs over the years. On one occasion in 2016, my wife personally made arrangement for 3 China Horizons female teachers to have places to stay in Shanghai the night before they were to fly out of Shanghai and back to America. It was an emergency situation, we never got the details, all we knew is that they had to get out now. To be clear, there is no "work visa". A person must first obtain a work permit with Labor Dept that handles foreign affairs (located at 梅园路77号, 5th floor). It's a separate dark red book, not something that goes into your passport, and it allows you to work in China. However, this allows you to work in China but not live there. Once you have a work permit, you can take that to the Entry-Exit Bureau and you can apply for a Residence Permit 居留许可在 that allows you to live in China. This is an actual sticker that goes in your passport. Once you've got that, you're good until it needs to be renewed. That is a basic overview of it and it ignores the many documents and new verifications required. If you want to see the full details on the process, I recommend this article from the China Law Blog: "The ABCs on China’s New Work Permit System for Foreigners". It may be of help to you if you are thinking of taking a job in China. I hope that sheds some light on the matter. All the best!
  37. 9 points
    This happened yesterday at a branch of Bank of China in Kunming, where I live. Same thing occurred once before in another city, a long time ago. Thought it might be a useful review for people new to China. The transaction I was attempting (a cash deposit) didn't work, for whatever unknown reason. My card just disappeared. I pushed the button on the speaker box beside the ATM and told the lady who answered. She told me to just walk inside the bank and get one of the employees to help since it was still during business hours. I'm not sure whether they would have been able to respond if I had spoken English; I didn't try that. My guess is that it might have involved a delay, but that an English-speaking employee would have eventually become available. So I walked inside and got one of the "rent-a-cop" bank guards 保安 who stroll around with a long billy club, plastic helmet liner, and what looks like an imitation bullet-proof vest. Told him my situation. I didn't want to get too far from the ATM in case it suddenly spit out my card when the next person walked up to it and attempted a new transaction. I wanted to keep an eye on the ATM. He fetched an actual bank employee who told me to go sit down. I explained my concern about someone else making off with my card and she told me that would not happen. I took a deep breath and did as instructed. They gave me a number from the 挂号 machine. The branch manager came out in a couple minutes and asked if I had my 身份证。I told her I had my 护照 (passport.) She asked if the card was a BOC card or another kind (from another bank.) I told her it was one of theirs and that I was a regular customer. Waited ten or fifteen minutes, seated in the lobby. She walked by again and flashed a card, asked if it looked like mine. It was a gold card 金卡 and I told her that was the kind I had lost, although I couldn't see the number to confirm. She did not want to let go of it; could not hand it to me to check. Had to follow procedure. The card does not bear my name, though it does have my signature on the back. Waited another ten or fifteen minutes and my number was called to go to Window Three. The teller asked for my passport and made copies. A supervisor came over, looked at the passport, looked at me, and signed off on the form that I looked pretty much like the guy in the photo. Teller kept on working; had to make a phone call. I was guessing that the call was to the bank's Kunming home office. (Cannot confirm.) Then she used a machine on my side of the window to ask me to verify my account number. I didn't remember the number (many digits) and she still had the card. I told her that and she called the teller supervisor to come over again. They asked my approximate balance and they asked the approximate date of my last transaction before today. I remembered those and told them. Then I recalled that I had the account number in my phone, encrypted in a "password manager" vault app that I use. I looked it up and verified it for them. I signed a form attesting that it was my card. That took another couple minutes. Then they gave my card back. I told her I'd like to go ahead and complete my transaction, a cash deposit 存款 or 存款钱。I handed over the cash and they generated another form. I had to sign the form and input my PIN number into the verification machine on my side of the glass partition. Finished. Took between 30 and 45 minutes during mid-afternoon on a weekday. Not bad. Seemed to be off peak, judging by how many customers were in the lobby waiting for service. Told a local friend about it later. He said I had not used the most 地道 (native) term. Should say "ATM 呑了我的卡“。That means "swallow" (tun1). I had used a different verb: "ate" (ATM 吃了我的卡.) Doubt it really matters much; they seemed to understand what I meant. If I had not just happened to have my passport with me, I would have had to go home and get it, then return. Could have easily been the next day. My friend says he has had to wait several days to get his card back when it got "swallowed" at a bank which was different from the issuing bank. (Like using a Merchant's Bank card at an ICBC ATM. He remembered a friend who had a card "swallowed" by a machine that was in front of a store, instead of attached to a bank, and that took nearly a week to get straightened out. Staff was polite and efficient. It just took some time. Could put a big crimp in travel plans if one were a tourist using a card from back home while just passing through. One of several reasons to always travel with more than one bank card.
  38. 9 points
    To Chinese Forums, I have been intensely studying Mandarin on my own for the past 2 years, and since October 2017 have lived in Beijing. I am now reaching the stage where I mostly use native materials to read and listen extensively and intensively. The purpose of this post is to make a list of native listening resources which can be used by upper intermediate or advanced language learners to practice their listening ability., sorted by availability of transcripts and availability to download the audio. It seems to me that language learner material for beginners is pretty well-documented on many sites different sites, but I myself had to find most of the advanced materials through my own effort, scrounging through many different places in order to find them. Over the past year, I have spent many days scouring around both the English and Chinese web to compile this list. This list began as my own pet project, and I now wish to share it with you guys. I owe much to the good advice and tips from the online language learning community, and perhaps this Hopefully it will decrease the time you need to spend preparing to practice a language, and increase the time you can spend actually practicing. Allow me to clarify a few notes on the layouts, offer you some important tips to help increase your efficient use of these resources, and admit some caveats before I list out all the resources. Notes on the Layout After compiling all of the resources for the list, I then divided all content based on the answers to two very important questions. 1st Question: Is a written form of what is said available? 2nd Question: Can I download the audio directly from the site? After asking the first question I had four categories of content, three of which I then split into can be downloaded and cannot be downloaded categories. So you have this: (1) 有实录 (Has a transcript of embedded text) ① 能下载 ② 本能下载 (2) 有字幕 (Has subtitles) ① 能下载 ② 本能下载 (3) 有书 (Audiobooks) - All sites here allow you to download the audio. (4) 没有实录、字幕、书 (Does not have a written form available) ① 能下载 ② 本能下载 If any one folder still had a lot of items in it (10+ items), I further subdivided the folders based on content type (i.e. TV show, podcast, radio broadcast, etc.). In an effort to save time for those of you who want to quickly get in and start using the best of these resources without sifting through a swamp, I created a fifth category, simply labeled 快点儿/ Top 12 , wherein I list what I consider to be the top 12 coolest resources, based on content and lack of awareness alone. That is to say, the criteria I asked to include the resources in this list was first to ask Is the content here very interesting, of high production quality, and regularly pumped out? followed immediately by the question Does this resource seem to be overlooked by many learners? For this section alone, I also wrote a short description for each resource included. For the sake of convenience I list the Youtube link for video series that cannot be download directly from its website, and the Player FM link for audio series that cannot be download directly from their website. The rationale for this being that Player FM always you to directly download an MP3 file from its website, and that most people will find it very easy to convert Youtube videos into MP3 files if they have an inclination to do so. I tried only to include material which is free to view and or listen to. In the rare cases where the content requires payment, I will list a $$$ (price of subscription) to the side of the name. Each entry includes a direct link to the website. In the future, if anybody notices any broken links, update the community quickly and we can try to find the new location For the websites whose content hasn’t been updated in sometime, I would highly encourage you guys to save the content to your own hard drives, if possible. The list is written in 汉字. If you are wanting to use these resources, a fine prerequisite would be that you are able to read the list in characters without aid. If you wish to inform many of any resources that we could add into here, please let me know. Important Tips All entries in the list are native resources, that is to say, they are content produced for native speakers. I did not include in materials made for language learners which can still be used at advanced levels (i.e ChinePod Advanced lessons, Mandarin Corner, Learning Chinese Through Stories, etc.) I would suggest that any learner interested in using these materials listed below for intensive study should already have reached a B1 level, and for extensive use a B2 level. For the materials which do not either transcript or subtitles, a fellow member of this forum has alerted me to the presence of a website which is an absolute godsend. It’s a transcription website, ostensibly meant to be used by native speaking professionals like IT, medical, law, etc. But the uses of this for us language learners are obvious. The service is not free,. but for machine transcription the rates around 0.33Y per spoken minute of audio. That equals out to about 10Y per half-hour and 20Y per hour. I have already had it transcribe four different podcasts. Obviously, the more standard the accent the better transcription, but all of the podcasts that I had transcribed featured non-standard accents (from Taiwan, Shandong, Wuhan, and Beijing respectively) and the machine still was hitting 95% - 99% accuracy on all of them. The biggest glitch actually was that on one of the shows (马丽欧陪你喝一杯) the two people were throwing in a lot of one-off English words and acronyms, which the machine mistook as mandarin syllables. Anyways, website is a highly recommended cheap way to get transcripts of any of the resources I list under 没有实录、字幕、书。 Website Name: 讯飞听见 Website Address: https://www.iflyrec.com/ For the few websites which do not allow downloads directly from the website and do not have their content available on another compendium podcast or video website for free download, the easiest route to obtaining an mp3 is to record the audio you want to download while it is playing on your device, using either a built in recorder (must smart phones have these) or a free program like Audacity. If you wan to use the above-mentioned transcription, strive to obtain as clean sounding a recording as you can. Caveats There do exist other websites which have attempted to compile lists of learner resources, to varying degrees of comprehensiveness (most notably Hacking Chinese Resources, Ling Ling Chinese, Chinese Podcasts and Mandarin Society, and a few forum posts on Chinese Forums), but all of these have failed to meet my needs;mostly due because they either haven’t been updated for a while, fail to separate resources based on if the content has a transcript or not, and I myself have found several very cool resources not listed on any of those sites. As the list was already getting very long at near 125 items, I did not include many so called podcasts who appeared to have stopped producing content and/or who had only produced a few episodes (less than 20) and then stopped broadcasting. I specifically tried not to include too load the list with too many TV shows or movies on this list, because I have seen these well documented in these forums. Furthermore, if you are living in the mainland I can heartily recommend that you just download and buy a year’s subscription to 优酷 and/or 腾讯 and just browse around until you find what you like. I specifically was trying to avoid short form content (defined here as an average episode length runs below 15 minute). While there are some producers of this type of content mixed in here, the majority of these shows are long form. Special thanks to Imron Alston, whose writes very concisely and with a inclination for the truth, a trait which I admire greatly in today’s world. If you have not, I highly suggest reading his articles on Chinese the Hard Way. Warmest, 孙博运 P.S. As this is my first time posting on here, I was unfamiliar with the posting interface. It seems that if I copy and paste the list directly into the posting box, I will lose the formatting of Word Document. So in an effort to avoid that, I am just going to post the Top 12 list into the forum, and attach the complete list of 125 - 150 links (or thereabouts) as a Word Document here. 高级听力材料的列举.docx
  39. 9 points
    快点儿 / Top 12 ① 一席 The best Chinese version of TED Talks out there, by a long shot.Very interesting topics, updated bi-weekly, sporting a clean interface, painless to download, and contains transcripts for all shows. I cannot believe I never heard about this from other learners. https://yixi.tv/ ② 163 Courses Tons of free courses spanning a range of subjects, all of them (that I have seen) with subtitles。 No registration needed. Tip, in some of the videos there is actually a built in (very basic) pop-dictionary within the video player. https://open.163.com/cuvocw/ ③ 希望之声 Non-profit Chinese news broadcasting company. A whole lot of articles here, the majority with transcripts and able to be downloaded. https://www.soundofhope.org/gb/2019/08/01/n3076028.html ④ 华语环球 Like the Mainland version of NPR podcasts. Check out 非常记录 and 会客厅 for starters. Currently only 3 or 4 are producing new episodes, but the backlog here is quite extensive. http://chinese.cri.cn/media/index.html ⑤ 故事FM Each episode tells a different story of an ordinary person from the Mainland. Some of the stories themselves are ordinary, some are extraordinary, and all are interesting. Very good production value here. https://player.fm/series/1496859 ⑥ 臺灣故事島 Same as 故事FM above, but from Taiwan. https://storytaiwan.tw/default.html ⑦ 中央广播电台 This is the single best producer of Mandarin speaking radio content, bar none. No download or transcripts however. https://cn.rti.tw/radio/programList/program_category_id/1 ⑧ 玛丽欧陪你喝一杯 Very nice host who drinks and converses about a smorgasbord of topics with a different guess every episode. Very informal, great for getting used to Taiwanese accents. https://player.fm/series/series-1920692 ⑨ 观点 Some people in a studio giving opinions on topics, usually big, sometimes small. Again, production quality here is very weel done. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeQNWQtmrc98TFUJNrFOdfQ/playlists ⑩ 狗熊有话说 Very relaxed dude, very relaxed podcast. http://voice.beartalking.com/ ⑪ 文昭谈古论今 One guy - who I believe is a professor - giving his take on current events, politics and life. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtAIPjABiQD3qjlEl1T5VpA ⑫ 圆桌派 Perhaps not as good as 锵锵三人行 but still very interesting. If you haven;t noticed, I tend to like barebone productions such as this - a few people, some microphones, and ideas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xmIquqwnBQ&list=PLwmPBqRou8APdG6K-Ks0lV2yL0yqCFHOu
  40. 9 points
    Forget Chinese for a minute, what are other things that you like to do? There are almost certainly Chinese people who like to do that too. Go and find people local to your area who also do that thing and hang out with them to do that thing. Probably many of them don't speak English or don't speak it very well, and they will speak to you in Chinese in order to be able to do that thing with you. Western type hotels and restaurants are likely going to have trained staff to try and interact in English. They are bad places to practice Chinese, because if your Chinese isn't better than their English they are going to want to use the simplest, easiest way to communicate and that will be English. It will also be their default for all foreigners - don't take it personally. You are not being robbed of this experience. This is the normal experience, even for Chinese people. Your life will be a lot less infuriating if you stop assuming negative intent. You are taking them showing you a calculator as a slight against your Chinese and then getting upset at that perceived slight. In reality, the shopkeeper doesn't know you from the next random foreigner to walk in their shop. If they are showing you a calculator as a first response they have probably had many other foreigners come in to their shop who didn't speak Chinese and this was simply the easiest way for them to facilitate the transaction. And that's what their intention is - to try and make things as smooth as possible for both of you. Based on experience and/or stereotypes, they are not expecting to have a chat with a foreigner who walks in to their shop, they are instead expecting to make a transaction. Once again, don't take it personally, in fact you could use them showing you a calculator as a conversation opener - ask them if they think you can't speak Chinese, ask them if all the other foreigners that come in can't speak Chinese, make a joke saying you can't read "Chinese numbers" (yes I know the numbers aren't "Chinese", that's the joke). There are dozens of responses you could go to instead of "I'm infuriated that this shopkeeper is showing me a calculator", and every single one of them is within your control (including feeling infuriated or not). In general, assume positive intent (until proven otherwise) and don't take things personally. Finally, there is also the possibility that your pronunciation is horrible and people can't understand you. You could visit this thread and upload a recording of you saying the phrases you mentioned in your OP and maybe people will be able to tell you if there are any problems. If nothing else, you'll get some honest feedback about whether the problem is your pronunciation or the people/situations you are trying to speak Chinese with.
  41. 8 points
    Interesting thread. I really envy Meng Lelan - I can't imagine what an experience arriving in China in 1980 would have been. My first foray into China was in 2000. Doesn't sound that long ago, but even then, things were very different compared to now. I couldn't speak Chinese in those days, and very few people spoke any English - even at the information desk at Beijing Airport (unthinkable now). Part of the change since then is specific to China, but in my opinion, the single biggest change to China and the rest of the world has been the digital/internet/information revolution. I'm old enough to remember the pre-internet days (my schooldays). Yet, the internet pervades practically every aspect of our lives now, to the extent that it is difficult to imagine what the world without the internet was like. Just to give a simple example, I don't know exactly when my interest in China developed. I just remember as a child playing a computer game called Repton (specifically Around the World in 40 screens - does anyone else remember Repton?), where part of the game had an Orient theme, where you'd run around amongst low resolution graphics depicting oriental-style architecture collecting rice bowls with chopsticks. That imagery piqued an interest and curiosity that I still remember. The thing is that in those days, the availability of information was extremely limited, such that even something as trivial as a computer game had this kind of significance. Just think about what other sources of information about China were accessible in those days. The television would have almost nothing to offer, as one was restricted to the four channels that were available at the time, and the only appearance of China would be when something like Tiananmen happened. The next best option would be the local library, but even then, you'd be lucky to find much specifically related to China (I don't think books such as Lonely Planet were available then), and almost certainly nothing about Chinese language. (Of course, larger libraries in London would have been better, but not so accessible to a youngster living a distance away - and it probably wouldn't have occurred to me to go to those lengths at that time anyway.) There would be essentially no chance of any direct contact with Chinese people, or people from any other country for that matter - unlike now when all you need to do is open up something like HelloTalk on your smart phone and you can talk immediately to and exchange pictures with people from any country you desire more or less. Or you can Google for information about any place, and language, and even see videos on demand of these things on YouTube. We take this for granted now, but it wasn't very long ago that none of this existed. Of course the same thing has happened in China. In the early 2000s, as a foreigner, you'd attract a lot of attention anywhere you went. Most Chinese people's experience of foreigners was very limited - limited only to the occasional appearance of foreigners on the news, and perhaps a few years later, Dashan. Seeing a foreigner in the flesh would have been even more of a rarity (except for in the centres of the largest cities - which of course represents only a tiny proportion of the country as a whole). Yet now, many more foreigners go to China. And even in the remote regions, exposure to foreigners is still accessible on request through apps such as Douyin, as ChTTAy mentioned. Therefore the curiosity that foreigners arouse is much less than it used to be, and foreigners attract much less attention than before. In the early 2000s, frequently (as in many times per day), people would try to strike up conversations with me or ask to have photos taken together. I'd occasionally be invited to people's houses and so on. This still happens occasionally in the remoter places, but pretty much never in the larger cities. In the same vein, previously on public transport, people would be much more aware of their surroundings. If I'd be reading anything in Chinese, this would inevitably raise a few eyebrows and elicit a few questions. Now people tend to be wearing earphones and have their eyes fixed to their mobile phones. Of course foreigners speaking Chinese is much less unusual than it used to be, but I get the feeling that people also care much less about what is going on around them when their main focus of attention is in the palms of their hands. Another big change is the expansion of public transport, particularly with the development of metro systems in the large cities, and high-speed rail between cities. This obviously is of enormous benefit to the population, and makes travel much more convenient for foreigners. At the same time, though, places which previously seemed more special because of their inaccessibility no longer seem so special. On my first visit to Xishuangbanna in 2006, I visited a hilltop temple which was a bumpy drive of several hours on a mud road through the forest and remote villages. I was the only visitor to that temple for the time I was there. It was an amazing feeling to be in such a serene and inaccessible location. The temple itself has not changed much since then, but is now connected by a motor way to the main city in Xishuangbanna, and is reachable in in just an hour or two. Though Xishuangbanna has an airport, its connection with the rest of China used to be fairly limited, accessible by a short flight from Kunming, or a very long journey by road. Now, however, with the expansion of domestic aviation, there are direct flights to many more cities, and there is even a new high speed railway line stopping in Xishuangbanna on its way to Laos and Thailand (not sure if it has opened yet) which will inevitably bring a lot more outside influence and possible dilution of the local character. With the development of China and rise in income for a large proportion of the population, I also feel the reverence towards foreigners has diminished. Of course, I'm not saying that foreigners deserve to or should be treated in any special way, but it is a fact of life that foreigners used to be viewed as wealthy and successful (regardless of whether that was in fact the case or not), and revered to some extent as a consequence. However, many super rich Chinese people have entered the public consciousness over the last couple of decades (Jack Ma and the owner of Wanda, for example), and the average Chinese city dweller has seen their net worth increase substantially (if they own any property). Whilst the number of people on low incomes is still large, with many wealthy Chinese people around, foreigners are no longer singled out as being wealthy, and consequently do not gain any special status. Of course China has changed in many ways other than those outlined above. It is difficult to convey this to people who have not experienced China in the early 2000s - the saying 只可意会不可言传 comes to mind. The political situation has also changed, and this has its consequences for every aspect of the China experience too, but that is the subject for a different discussion.
  42. 8 points
    Since my Kunming apartment has no built in oven, I concentrate on stove-top dishes, stir-fries and such. When back in the US I revel in using the oven. Fresh, home-made bread with a rich honest crumb and a slightly-chewy golden crust makes its way into my Kunming fever dreams on a long Yunnan night. Sometimes I not only see it, but I smell it as well. Baked a lot of bread in the 1970’s and 80’s. Viewed it as “sanity therapy” during a crazy stretch of life starting-out in medical practice. Any time I baked some for myself and my wife I would always double the recipe and call someone from a short list of friends to come around and collect a “give-away” loaf still hot from the oven. This recipe is one of my favorites. It’s from James Beard’s classic “Beard on Bread,” the hardback edition of which was left behind or misplaced during a poorly planned move that followed divorce. This paperback replacement has margin notes with several different pens throughout the 2000’s: Use a little less sugar or salt in this recipe, substitute another kind of flour in that one. I think of this as one of those “hobby loafs” that isn’t well suited to the fast pace of life. Just right, however, for a long stay-at-home weekend. Lots of the time required to make it isn’t actually hands-on. It is just the bread rising gently and steadily on its own while I do other things. Right now, those “other things” involve a resolute de-cluttering and room-by-room deep cleaning of the house. Here’s a copy of the recipe: http://cooking-books.blogspot.com/2010/10/james-beards-white-free-form-loaf.html Pretty sure Blogspot is blocked in China without a ViPeeeeENner. So, I’ll paste a copy into a “spoiler” box for the benefit of you China Hands who are over there weathering the storm and fighting the good fight. The main thing I did different was to bake the bread on a baking stone with a hat or “cloche.” It captures the steam and allows the bread to bake in a moist environment instead of drying out. Keeps it tender. The one I used is by Sassafras. Here’s a look at it on the Amazon website and a look at the dome part in my kitchen. After first use this unglazed clay never looks pristine again. This dome fits over a circular disc with a raised lip. You can see the bottom part in one of the later photos below, one that shows the completed loaf. https://www.amazon.com/Superstone-Sassafras-Cloche-Bread-Specialty/dp/B0106TDDYY Here’s more on using one of these: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/39030/using-cloche My bread today was more or less round; it was a rustic free-form “boule” instead of a loaf. That requires a stiffer batter. A soft starter or "sponge" rose overnight in the fridge and had to be kneaded and rise three more times today. It took an hour in a 425 F oven to get done. (Turned the temperature down to 375 F after the first 40 minutes.) Finished with the top off. I buttered the crust five minutes before it was done. It has to sound deep and sonorous when you "thunk" it with a fingernail. The crust is golden but yields easily; does not require the jaws of a saber-tooth tiger. The interior is tender and evenly baked; not mushy, no huge holes. The aroma when I took it out of the oven filled the whole house. In fact I briefly feared being overrun by marauding neighbors. The hardest part, and one which always requires my setting a timer, is to wait 30 minutes before slicing. Would prefer not to count the number of loaves I have mangled by premature knife attacks. I let it cool upside down, as shown above. Finally! One piece slathered with butter; the other is waiting for jam. It has a full, faintly “sourdough” flavor. Just what this hungry refugee was craving.
  43. 8 points
    Being the German federal state worst affected (neighbouring Austria and with close ties to Italy), Bavaria put a curfew into place from last night on, for the next 14 days. It is nothing like the Chinese measures [edit: I should have said, "like the original Wuhan measures". Please see ChTTays reply below] though, you can - see a doctor when needed (cosmetic surgeries etc. are suspended) - buy food and hygiene articles for everyday life - buy food for your pet(s) and take them to a veterinarian - go to work (if you can't do home office) - take walks outside, and walk your dog, but only on your own, or with one person who lives in your household anyway Curiously, while my day job is in tech/media, I had begun helping out in a small regional produce store in my neighbourhood lately, simply for fun and because I was bored at the weekends. And now, suddenly, I find myself one of the few with what appears to be a safe job and income over the next months. I was given this paper that I'm supposed to carry with my passport. Fines for breaching the curfew are high, between 2,000 and 26,000 €. The paper says: "The above employee works in our business and has to attend his duties that are necessary for supplying food to the population".
  44. 8 points
    We have just taken the decision based on the update from the UK government to close our shop for the foreseeable future as I am in the vulnerable group and can't take the risk. As we are in the entertainment business ( electronic audio equipment) the source of much of our work is also closing so won't be losing much business anyway and not worth being open for one or two passersby that don't actually want anything we sell. We are in a positive financial situation so not worried for the immediate future and will access what funds are available from the government for small businesses. Take care people.
  45. 8 points
    It felt great to leave my apartment, have a walk around and breathe some fresh air after almost a week of being stuck inside. The air is noticeably fresher than usual without all the cars, and without the usual background noise of traffic and people I even managed to hear some birdsong while walking back to my apartment. The general experience of being outside, listening to the birds sing, letting the sun shine on my face and breathing in the crisp, cold air was so nice that I decided it was worth risking staying outside for a little while so that I could enjoy it for a few minutes longer. I had a funny interaction with the 保安 on the way out. As I was filling in my details, I thought he asked me about my 属性. I usually come across that word when using my computer (file "properties" etc), so I was a bit confused, and thought that maybe it was being used in regards to my status or something. A couple of sentences later and I realised he was asking about my 属相 (Chinese Zodiac) and whether or not we had this concept in my country. He then asked “你们是不是都很有钱?” followed by some comments about the strength of the mighty 英镑 (he doesn't seem to have been following the news these past 3 and a half years). I'm sure most people here have had similar conversations countless times before, and it can be a little boring to go through the same old routine, by today it felt different. With all the virus stuff turning everything upside down, it was oddly reassuring to be having one of those typical foreigner/old curious Chinese man interactions. Here's one of the temperature checking stations that have become a regular part of day to day life in China (taken at a shopping mall): Now for a little about Wechat. The screenshots below are from a popular 公众号. It basically tells you how many newly confirmed infections there have been in the city that day and who the infected are. They give a surprisingly large amount of info about each case, including the person's occupation, address, etc. The thing that seems of most interest to people is each infected person's 活动轨迹 (basically their movements before being admitted to hospital), which is set out in remarkable detail. My teacher was particularly worried when she saw that one of the infected people had eaten at a certain market on the same day she had went there with her family. You'll notice that many of the recent descriptions state 无武汉出游史, meaning they contracted the virus in Harbin, not Wuhan. There is even a map showing infected locations relative to yourself, if you really feel like scaring the bejesus out of yourself (I'm not quite surrounded by red infection marks just yet!) : I know many suspect the official figures, but in Harbin at least, things appear to be being handled with great deal of transparency. We're down to 10-20 new confirmed cases per day here, and many seem to be appearing in clusters. Today especially, many of the new infections appear to have resulted from people ignoring official advice and still getting together with extended family and friends, much to the consternation of many: The few business that remain open are trying to adapt tot he situation, as this 无接触 pizza delivery service from Pizza Hut shows. I take it that they just drop off the pizza at the entrance to your 小区. I wonder if picking up a pizza means having to use one of your exit passes? And finally, some light-hearted humour from my 朋友圈:
  46. 8 points
    The problem with reporting something stupid that someone said, is that then we end up discussing something stupid.
  47. 8 points
    Previous coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS originated in animals and initial information also suggests animal origin of this virus (the technical term is zoonotic viral disease) . The current virus could have escaped from a lab, but I doubt it (I have a health risk sciences background). Animal origin of viral diseases is common. The yearly flu is zoonitic (usually from birds). Chinese origin of zoonotic diseases is common due to the close proximity between humans and animals. New flu strains often originate in China due to close contact between farmers and their ducks & chickens. (And numbers: large #s of chickens and farmers increases the probability) For a detailed discussion with references: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/snakes-could-be-the-original-source-of-the-new-coronavirus-outbreak-in-china/ (The authors question whether snakes could be the origin and i would as well, since a snake to human jump for a disease is very unusual.) While the current virus is a coronavirus like SARS, the genetic overlap is only 70-80%. A researcher noted that this is less than the genetic similarity between pigs and humans. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/3047114/coronavirus-weaker-sars-may-share-link-bats-chinese-scientists I like it when those on this forum offer info that I didn't know. To illustrate the complexity of human susceptibility to zoonotic diseases, consider the simple flu. If you have the flu, you can cough on your dog, cat, mouse or rat, they won't get sick. But if you cough on your pet ferret, it likely will get sick. Why ferrets and not rats & mice? Somehow ferrets & humans share a similarity regarding the flu virus. The positive side to this is we can test flu treatments on ferrets (as lab animals). Also, ferrets are rare in the wild and humans rarely contact them, so neither species presents a flu risk to the other. In contrast, chickens in a barn can have much contact with humans. Hence, a zoonotic origin for the current coronavirus is not unexpected. More studies will be needed to confirm this.
  48. 8 points
    Took this picture on the way to IKEA this morning (doing my usually salmon run). To be fair, I would've been pretty similar last year, too. The roads are usually empty on New Year's Eve. I think people living in China are really experience this whole coronavirus differently. While a lot of people will say about people are just lying and spreading rumours on WeChat, what a lot of people don't realise is, we aren't seeing messages, we are seeing videos and government reports. When you see a video of hundreds of people screaming and crying in a Wuhan hospital, because they all have a fever, and there aren't even enough doctor to check them all, then it's scary. When you see a government issued report that before the shut down of Wuhan, 19,000 people from there travelled to Hangzhou, then it's scary. A guy in my housing complex in Hangzhou turned himself in because he had been in contact with people from Wuhan who had the virus, but luckily he was cleared. If you're in China and want to get a clearer picture, you can contact your local districts office. They're all up to date and pretty honest about everything that's happening. I keep seeing a lot of 'it's all lies' and 'it's not a big deal' online, especially in places like Reddit, but for us living in China, we don't use papers and journalists to see what the situation is like, we get to see real people's videos and photos that they've posted on their moments.
  49. 8 points
    My first goal this year was to watch 新闻联播 every day of 2019. As I said last month, this goal got repetitive with very little reward after about half a year - I pushed on until September, by which time I just dropped it as a waste of time. My second goal was to learn cursive. This appears to have turned into my mission in life apparently, as I have ended up not giving an extra half hour a day to practice handwriting, but is now around an hour a day in the morning for 硬笔 and an hour in the evening for 毛笔. The morning is for speed writing basic sentences from one of those huge 10,000 sentences anki shared decks, dry but does the job. On average I manage to write 50-60 sentences a day, with the time spent on each card around 1 minute (although I would guess a sentence is about 30 seconds). Handwriting is messy and dips in and out of cursive depending on how much I feel I want to practice the 楷 form of a character. I also write all noticeably different simplified forms after their corresponding traditional character (eg. 調 doesn't need to be rewritten as 调, but 醞釀 does need to be rewritten as 酝酿). Heres my morning set up. I use an LCD writing tablet coupled with a Wacom pen (doesn't need it, any writing implement will work, I just had one lying around and its comfortable to use). I would still recommend using a real pen and paper, but this is pretty close, and it has many benefits like being able to instantly delete everything before your eyes auto-skip to a character you just wrote to check how to write it again. I still use paper occasionally, but I can use this on the train without worrying about pens, ink, mistakes, wasting paper etc. That being said, brushstrokes can get a blobby. If you're interested in writing, its worth a try at least, as it might encourage you to write more on a daily basis. As some will know, true cursive is not just about writing at speed, but is also about streamlining a character for aesthetic reasons. I love coming home in the evenings and practicing cursive using a 毛笔, it actually makes practicing cursive really enjoyable, especially compared to using fountain pens/pencils. I'm lucky, in that I have a fantastic and relatively well-known calligrapher as a teacher (程立雪, student of 鲁大东), and any mistakes or bad habits I get into are corrected before they become ingrained. I would always recommend anyone interested in learning proper cursive with a brush to first seek out a good teacher, although I guess theres no need to labour this point; we all know how important face-to-face interaction with a teacher is. Here's two photos from my current project, studying 怀仁集王羲之圣教序. Its a mixture of cursive, semi-cursive and kai characters, so really good for internalising good writing habits. I'll post my 2020 goals in next years thread. Great to hear how everyone else has been getting on too, keeping us all motivated!
  50. 8 points
    A few problems here. For one, these aren't pictograms. They're Chinese characters, and they're a fully fledged writing system by the time they were using these tortoise plastrons for divination. You can't try to interpret them like pictograms (men standing on land, "I think mountain fits better," etc.). If 火 is what's written (and it is), it doesn't make sense to call it 山. The two forms are quite distinct (edit: actually, that's not always the case; they often do look almost identical). Also, in this context, "mountain" wouldn't really make sense. "Men standing on land" is 並, meaning "together with," or perhaps in this context "next to/near." Another issue is that you can't really read this stuff without a lot of specialized knowledge. The best you can do is read what actual specialists say about it. I can read most of the characters, but I'm not an oracle bone script specialist by any means. These inscriptions have their own grammar, they're highly formalized because they're used for divination, and a correct interpretation requires a massive amount of knowledge about Shang culture, astronomy and how the Shang talked about it, etc. The best I can do is read what actual specialists say, keeping in mind what each scholar's particular strengths and weaknesses are, and try to arrive at an interpretation that seems reasonable. And related to that issue is the fact that this particular inscription is quite controversial. There seem to be a lot of different interpretations out there, and I can't really hope to add anything meaningful to the discussion because this isn't my specialty. Another issue is that two people may read it the same way but transcribe it differently. There are a lot of different ways to transcribe this stuff. Do you stay as close as possible to the form of the original? Do you transcribe it using modern characters? The character that looks like three circles is 晶, but 晶 is the original form of 星, so which should I transcribe it with? Some scholars prefer one, some prefer the other, and some will write 晶(星), and any of those three ways would be fine, but to a layman they may seem completely different. And just keep in mind that things aren't nearly as cut and dry when reading these texts as we're used to them being in modern writing. Part of that is due to the limited evidence we have available, part of it is due to differences in thinking, and part is due to the fact that many texts (including this one) are fragments. With all those things in mind, here's what I think is the most likely transcription, using modern characters. 七日己已夕(?)...有新大星並火,咎其有來艱...不吉 Not sure what the character I transcribed with a question mark is. One interpretation I saw is that it means 曀, or cloudy skies. That makes sense in context, but I'm not sure. On the seventh day, 己已, in the evening (it was cloudy), there was a large new star near Antares (or Mars?). Something about calamity and bringing hardship (not really sure how to read this phrase)....Inauspicious. Don't quote me on that though! That's just the best I'm able to do with my limited knowledge and time. Much better would be to read the published research (most of which will be in Chinese, of course) on this particular inscription.
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