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Showing content with the highest reputation since 05/07/2010 in all areas

  1. 25 points
    I took one year of Chinese during graduate school and studied on my own (using NPCR 3 and part of 4) for about two years. Around last winter, I decided that I was tired of my slow progress and wanted to immerse myself in a Chinese speaking environment as well as study Chinese. I accepted the invitation of a friend and went to Taipei in January for two weeks to check out the city and meet my future Chinese language teacher. The trip went quite well, so I decided to bite the bullet and plan for living in Taiwan for two and a half months. One thing I should mention about myself before I continue - I'm a deaf young male who teaches chemistry, so I have summers off, and, because of my being a teacher, I was able to do this in the first place. Because I'm deaf and have no latent spoken language ability, I had very little interest in speaking and listening skills, and wanted to focus exclusively on reading and writing skills. Last year, in the fall, I contacted several programs in mainland China and in Taiwan asking them what kind of classes they held during the summer, to see if I could get around the listening/speaking requirements in a Chinese language program. I generally received negative responses, mostly because their curriculum was integrated - so there were no 口语 classes I could skip or anything like that. The ICLP also responded in the negative, but offered to email their teachers to see if one would be willing to teach me on an one-on-one basis. A few days later, I received an email from one of the ICLP teachers, and over the course of a couple of months, we discussed my goals and eventually arranged a meeting while I was there in January. That January meeting was quite challenging for me, because my prospective teacher and I corresponded for three hours, all in traditional Chinese, on paper and pen, discussing different things - my Chinese study history, what I'd been doing in Taiwan, my goals for the Chinese language, what I expected from the class, tuition, course texts - basically making arrangements for me to take Chinese during the summer under her. It was quite overwhelming because this was the first serious conversation I had ever had in Chinese for so long. It was also quite exciting, because this was exactly what I wanted - to finally acquire the skills to be able to interact with people (albeit in a written form). So, spring semester came and went, and I went to Taiwan in late May. I applied for, and got, a 60-day multi-entry tourist visa, and took (and passed) the HSK level 3 test during this time. When I arrived in Taiwan, I didn't start my classes until about a week and half into my Taiwan stay as my teacher had finals during that time, and I still had to get settled, get over jetlag, etc. Once classes started, we had about eight weeks of classes minus a few days here and there for travel (for me!). We ended up deciding on 今日台湾, which is a decent text. We basically met every weekday for two hours in a coffee shop (丹堤咖啡, if you were curious), and went over the material over a cup of tea. My teacher gave me what I felt was a lot of homework - about 2-3 hours a day on average - but I was grateful for it as it was great practice for my Chinese expression skills. The teacher was very good at forcing me to use my Chinese actively rather than just read Chinese texts and "listen" to her write in Chinese. We always corresponded using pen and paper, and I have three full notebooks filled with our correspondence over the eight weeks that we had classes together. The format for our lessons varied, but with each chapter, the teacher would assign me the following exercises: Vocabulary list questions - basically two questions per vocabulary item. Since each chapter has around 50 vocabulary items, this amounts to about 100 questions that I had to answer. These were not easy questions for me to answer either - questions like 「你认为家庭对人的重要性是什么?」or 「拿美国跟非洲的乡下比,有什么差别?」were quite common. Since there were so many questions, we usually spent a day or two just going through my answers and discussing my grammatical errors or unfamiliar words in questions. Textbook exercises - this included the grammar and vocabulary exercises. This was generally not that time-consuming, but some of the grammar points inspired much discussion and comparative examples. A discussion of the textbook passage - the teacher would quiz me on my retention of the textbook passage content and vocabulary. I don't think it was that useful, because it basically amounted to me memorizing the text and key vocabulary/phrases, but there were a couple of interesting discussions that stemmed from the textbook. A review sheet bringing together the grammar and vocabulary, that had three parts. First, there was a set of questions to answer followed by a grammatical pattern that I had to use in my answer - I felt this was very restrictive, but it still reinforced my understanding (or lack thereof) of the grammar point in question. Second, there was a question that required a short paragraph and incorporation of five or six vocabulary items - also very restrictive as I often felt that I had to shoehorn in one or two of the vocabulary items. Third, there was a 300 character essay that I had to write following a prompt. A 500-600 character essay assignment where I had to respond to some sort of prompt. There was one occasion where my teacher and I had completely different mental images of what the essay question was about, which led to an interesting conversation. I began the summer session doing these by writing my answers by hand, but towards the end, I used my computer to input my answers. I still did a good deal of writing by hand during class, and I think that really cemented my learning how to read/write characters - as well as read a native Chinese speaker's handwriting. We would sometimes laugh together as I tried to decipher one or two of my Chinese teacher's handwritten characters, and I have to say that I got sick of writing 台灣 or 喜歡 pretty fast because there are just so many strokes to write each time >_< So, with this much work, it took us about a week to get through each chapter. The teacher said that we would probably be able to finish the whole book in the eight weeks alotted, but we only got halfway through it by the end. I honestly have no idea how ICLP or MTC teachers can find the time to give feedback on students' work, given how much homework the students are given, and the number of students per class. Maybe my teacher and I could have covered the material more quickly if we could communicate orally, as writing is a pretty slow process, I dunno. I was very satisfied with the quality of my education in Taiwan and would choose her again as my teacher, without hesitation. So what did I do besides attend class and do homework? I interacted quite a bit with the deaf Taiwanese community - and for those of you who are curious, Taiwanese Sign Language is pretty much unintelligible to an American Sign Language user, as sign languages are not universal. I learned a fair bit of Taiwanese Sign Language, but confess that I chatted much more with people who had studied abroad in the US or learned American Sign Language at one point, just because it was so much easier to communicate with them. I would have taken a Taiwanese Sign Language class if I could, as there are quite a few classes offered throughout Taipei, but most conflicted with my classes, unfortunately. Right now, I can understand the basic gist of Taiwanese Sign Language, but I can only communicate very simple things about myself - family, occupation, that kind of thing. I also taught American Sign Language to a group of deaf Taiwanese. Taipei's largest association of the deaf offers one American Sign Language class in three levels - beginning, intermediate, and advanced, with the first two taught by Taiwanese deaf people who had gone to the US to study abroad for a number of years and returned to Taiwan for work. I was offered the opportunity to teach the advanced class this summer, and I accepted. It was fun, but it was also a lot of hard work, as the students' levels were so varied. I definitely know what a language teacher feels like, in some ways. It was also a huge time sink to prepare for and then teach two 2-hour classes a week, since I had already made a big commitment to studying Chinese. I don't regret it though. One thing that was interesting, though - if a student didn't know how to say something in American Sign Language, they would often replace that concept with the equivalent in Taiwanese Sign Language, so I had no way of knowing if they signed it incorrectly or if they used their native sign language. I also did some travelling - I went to Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung, as well as visited Jiufen, Sun Moon Lake, and a couple of other landmarks. Some of these trips were made with deaf Taiwanese friends, so I had a real insider's perspective on these landmarks. I also made the Kaohsiung trip by joining a group of 40 deaf Taiwanese two weeks after I arrived in Taiwan - that was a very interesting experience, to say the least, since I had a practically nonexistent knowledge of their sign language and they didn't know any English or American Sign Language either. One last thing. Apparently, to the deaf Taiwanese there, a deaf foreigner coming to Taiwan to study Chinese was interesting enough to broadcast on TV. So, I was featured on a daily news program produced by deaf Taiwanese that is broadcast in Taiwan every morning at 8 am. You can see my one-minute-long news article here: - I'm the first story of that news clip. All of my comments are in American Sign Language, and the reporter himself knew ASL, so he was able to directly translate my remarks into Chinese subtitles. I still cringe at how I looked at that time, but I think no one likes to see themselves on camera ;)I think that's everything - I would gladly do it again, and am thinking about possibly going back next summer. I already miss Taipei tremendously - the people, the food, the culture - but do not miss the language barrier or the summer heat. We'll see how things work out next year
  2. 12 points
    Just to present an alternative scenario, here's my story. I'm an American physician, now retired and living in China, who considered working as a doctor here several years ago but ultimately decided against it. Realize that the original poster @abhoriel is at a totally different point in his career, so much of what I have to say will not be relevant to his or her needs. Really appreciate the insights from @cinxj4 and am glad to see his useful post. Welcome to the forum! I was more interested in working in a Chinese setting in a second or third tier city than in an ex-pat clinic in a first-tier city. Here in Kunming I tend to associate more with Chinese friends and quickly get impatient with most expats. Don't really enjoy talking baseball and drinking beer with foreigners on Saturday night. It's just a personality quirk. The feature of practicing medicine in China with Chinese patients that worried me the most was the difficulty involved in understanding unspoken wishes, needs, and expectations in a cross-cultural setting. Not sure how to make that point clear to laymen, but much of any clinical interaction between a patient and doctor inescapably has its roots in the fabric of the culture and goes beyond just scientific problem solving and making appropriate therapeutic interventions. The subtle nuances of what things mean and how things are done in a clinical interaction have vast importance and are not easy to master in an alien cultural setting. Behaviors, including body language, that convey an appropriate degree of confidence mixed with caring and concern in one culture may send a different message in another culture. Patient perception becomes the reality in these matters and needs to be considered as such. I tried to divorce myself from clinical medicine and do some teaching at the local medical school (in Kunming.) They were trying to build market share in providing medical education to English speakers from non-western countries, mainly India and parts of Southeast Asia. My job was to help certain members of the faculty get up to speed with their Medical English. Did it part time on a contract basis for a couple years. Met more and more physicians who wanted help with submitting scientific publications to English-language medical journals. So I assisted them with translation, spending most of my effort in "smoothing out" and improving their first attempts and making the results more readable, making them sound more native and natural. There is a big niche for this, as @cubxj4 pointed out. It's something the usual foreign English teacher cannot do well because he or she doesn't already have the necessary technical vocabulary. If the Chinese doctor whose paper I'm helping translate is talking about the role of specific enzymatic biomarkers such as troponin in the early diagnosis of sub-endocardial myocardial infarction, I don't have to go to the library to understand his intentions. One of the more interesting tasks that I met over and over was helping well-respected doctors change the wording of plagiarized source articles enough that they would be less easily recognized. The ethics of the profession here in China leave much to be desired, and this soon became obvious in other ways as well. An additional consideration entered into deciding whether or not to practice medicine in China, namely that my specialty is not recognized here. I'm an emergency physician, and in the US that specialty is not only recognized, it is in high demand, and thus well paid. But in Chinese hospitals the usual approach to emergency care is to just require junior physicians to rotate through the emergency room or emergency department providing temporary staffing. Furthermore, I get the impression, though I don't know for sure, that it's considered an undesirable assignment and many of the doctors just grit their teeth and try to get it over with and move on to better things. Nobody wants to hang around and try become proficient. Doubtless it has to do, at least in part, with reimbursement issues. So I wound up just practicing six months back home each year, living lean and stashing away most of my earnings. Then I'd spend the remaining months here studying and traveling, living from savings. That worked out well until I finally retired. Now I have no real need for income beyond pension and investments and can spend most of my time doing what I'd like. Have thought some about volunteering with a NGO to help out in a needy part of Yunnan, of which there are many. But have not yet found a good way to do that and it may or may not come about. Much of what exists in that sphere tends to be "all consuming" and require a 110% commitment of one's resources with an almost religious zeal. It requires an altruistic self sacrificing mindset that I just don't have anymore. Would still like some life outside medicine to pursue my other interests. Realize that's selfish, but that's just the way it is.
  3. 11 points
    I'm leaving in a few days for my annual return to Texas and am saying goodbye to my favorite Kunming people, places, and foods. It's a process I go through every year, but it never gets easier and is always accompanied by an odd sense of sadness and loss. Life is uncertain and my bones are old, so I never know for sure when I'll be back in this sweet spot again. One of my favorite Yunnan meals is Cross-Bridge Rice Noodles, 过桥米线 and I've had it hundreds of times over the last 9 or 10 years. Had it again today at lunch and thought I would show you how it worked and what it looked like. If you visit Yunnan as a tourist, no matter for how brief a time, it's something you should definitely try. It's too much trouble to make at home unless you have a huge family or it's a special occasion, so I never tried to learn. Some things are better enjoyed in a restaurant and you can find it all over Yunnan. Inexpensive, filling, delicious. Ordering can be puzzling, even if your Chinese is fluent. That's because this dish comes in many configurations, and the names don't always convey clear culinary meaning. Need to read the item description or ask what's in it. Failing that, just order by price. But today for example, I had 进士过桥米线, the name of which derives from the term for a successful candidate in the highest imperial examination, a 进士。 Legend has it that the dish was invented by the wife of a young scholar, studying in Mengzi 蒙自, in the heart of 红河州。 Here's the Wikipedia version: Here's a shot of the menu outside the cashier's window: Sometimes there are pictures, like those on the left, but you cannot always count on it. I ordered the 35 Yuan version. Sometimes I splurge on the 58 Yuan edition that comes with an assortment of wild mushrooms 野生菌 in season. The higher priced versions come with a starter of steam clay pot chicken medicinal soup 气锅鸡, another Yunnan specialty item. It's only a little thing, as you can see from my snapshot which includes my hat for scale. But it's chock full of medicinal seeds, roots and herbs. Served with a tiny plastic spoon. This dish is cooked over steam, not over flame. Notice the hollow center of the clay cooking bowl shown below. This allows steam to come up the middle, gently heat the contents, which then condense on the inside of the tight lid and return to the vessel. This circular process goes on for hours, making the soup very concentrated and mellow. This preparation style is said to have originated in Jianshui 建水 in the time of the Qianlong Emperor (1711 - 1799) 乾隆帝 and most of these cooking bowls, all different sizes, still come from there today. The food for your guo qiao mi xian 过桥米线 arrives in three batches, separated by several minutes when they are busy. First you are brought the small dishes that contain the assorted special ingredients for the "package" you have ordered. Today I was there before prime time, and my rice noodles also arrived promptly. Sometimes you have to request them from a different server. Boiling hot broth is brought by a different waiter, usually a strong young guy, being fetched fresh from a different window on a tray. He usually carries several and they are heavy. Also, this broth must be extremely hot as a matter of food safety. Tremendous amount of bad karma if he splashes some on the backs of the patrons, seated on low stools. You first add the thin-sliced raw meats, fish and quail egg 鹌鹑蛋。 Swirl them around with your choptsticks. Next add the raw vegetables, followed by the cooked vegetables and condiments. The last thing to go in is the noodles. Stir vigorously for a while; don't be in too much of a hurry. A bench off to the side has additional spices and seasonings. Some garlic chives and cilantro, some pickled greens 酸菜, salt and ground Sichuan peppercorns 花椒。Also vinegar 醋 and soy sauce 酱油。Various spicy pepper oils can be had here as well as nearly-atomic bird's-eye, Thai-style chilies. Otherwise this dish is not spicy hot. You load up a small dish 碟子 as shown. Here are some shots of the second-floor dining area. The bottom floor is for people having standard kinds of rice noodles, faster turnover. This upper level is reserved for people enjoying this more complex dish. They are all set up for it, with stacks of ingredients at the ready and with a huge cauldron of stock bubbling off in a side kitchen. This particular restaurant is part of a Kunming chain, and I'm fortunate to have one of their outlets just a block or so from my home. They are far from being the only show in town, but they are reliable. English name, which absolutely nobody will recognize if you search for it, is Brothers Jiang. Local story from old timers in the know is that the two brothers quarreled after achieving a modicum of fame and the enterprise was therefore renamed as 桥香园过桥米线。Some shops still have the old name, others have the new one. When I first came to Kunming, I thought cross-bridge rice noodles might be something put on for the domestic tourists who flock here from Beijing and Shanghai. But much to the contrary, I soon learned that they are immensely popular with locals. I ate my fill and still had half a bowl of tasty broth left. You can get it poured into a container to go or you can buy extra rice noodles for a few additional Yuan. People also often buy other side items downstairs to add to their soup or to eat along with them. The folks at the next table to mine had an order of chicken feet, another of steamed congealed pig blood cut into squares 猪血化, plus some chopped deep-fried pig skin. These are strong clues that you are no longer in Kansas, Dorothy, and you can also buy stewed pig feet, slices of boiled pig stomach, and bits of roast pig tail as well. Cold vegetable side items 凉拌 are also available, such as lotus root 藕片, cucumber 派黄瓜, and wood ear mushrooms 木耳。 Definitely suggest you add a Cross-Bridge Rice Noodle stop to your Kunming itinerary. It's even available at the airport for about twice the normal in-town rate.
  4. 10 points
    The website: http://www.unmultimedia.org/radio/chinese/ has an extensive archive of thousands of news articles and magazines in Chinese (as well as all other UN languages). Each article includes a word for word transcript and audio read by different reporters. Many of the magazine articles are 10 minutes and over of dialogue along with accurate transcripts. It's all free and extremely beneficial to students in the intermediate-advanced levels!
  5. 9 points
    I just saw this news article: Chinese universities offer free online courses Excerpt: "According to the Ministry of Education, the first 20 China university open courses were put online on Nov. 9. The will have free access to them through several websites, such as www.icourses.edu.cn, www.cntv.cn and www.163.com." I checked out a few lectures from www.icourses.edu.cn (爱课程) and they seem pretty interesting, complete with subtitles and all. I can't comment on the quality of the course topics, but for someone who is studying Chinese outside of China, this gives me a feel of how it's really like to be sitting in a class in China.
  6. 8 points
    Strawberry high season has arrived in Kunming. They are abundant, sweet and inexpensive. Thought I would give you a glimpse of this delicious Yunnan-style treat. Maybe inspire you to go out hunting for some in your city. Bought these beauties yesterday. Enough for three or four generous servings; cost 10 Yuan, the equivalent of a dollar and a half. The season here has “shoulders” since lots of berries are grown in large plastic tents called 塑料大篷。The farmers roll up the sides and open louvers in the top during the warm hours of the day, and then close up at night. Some smaller, family-run operations grow them outside under open air. They arguably have more flavor, even though they don’t look quite as nice. Those are called 露天。 Large berries cost more than small ones. The “sweet spot” for ones which look pretty nice but aren’t ornamental-grade huge is currently about 15 Yuan per 斤, 500 Grams. I bought 10 块 worth. Vendors like to sell larger amounts; if you aren't firm about your needs, you will probably get more than you want. I take out a 10 Yuan note and hold it in my hand during the negotiation, making it clear that's my limit. Strawberries grow close to the ground, so I first wash them a couple times gently in water just to remove big debris. I use tap water for that. Then I soak them for about 15 minutes in some previously-boiled-and-cooled water to which I have added a couple pinches of salt. It’s a trick taught me by a local housewife, who said sometimes there are tiny bugs that you can’t see and this kills them. Drain them and pare or pull off the tops. Slice into halves. Sprinkle with a little granulated sugar. Toss gently to coat. Let them stand in the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes. Serve by adding some unflavored yogurt. The container will say 风味 or sometimes 原味。Chinese yogurt is always a little bit sweet whether it says so on the outside or not. Kunming has lots of fresh fruit and fresh flowers. One of the glories of the place is this seasonal bounty. Buy now, don't wait. They might not be here tomorrow. The fleeting nature of these small pleasures is almost allegorical. (Insert verse from the Rubaiyat here.) Whether as a desert or a late evening snack, they make for another simple, inexpensive, healthy “Life is good” China moment. Enjoy while you can.
  7. 8 points
    @Ge Xing I'm sorry to thear the story. I know the feeling as I was also dumped by a Chinese girl before when I studied in China. She was forced by her parents to marry a guy who was a son of her father's business partner. The problem is that you see the issue from the Western point of view. Traditionally, marriage in China (and in Japan/Korea/Vietnam) is not necessarily related to love between the couple, as in most cases the parents decided who to marry. Marriage is a contract between two families and not two individuals. It was quite the same in the Western world as well, until the 20th century when freedom of choosing your partner became common. Some urban Chinese living in big cities accustomed to this new kind of way, however the majority of the population is still quite traditional about marriage. My advice is to let her go. If you couldn't persuade her or her family that you're a suitable candidate to be her husband, then there is no hope. In case of Chinese girls, you don't just marry her, you marry into her family. Do you really want to be a part of a family where you are ignored and not accepted, and facing the constant blames and complains that she have could found a better party? Accept the fact and move on with your life. I'm positive that you will find another girl and build your happiness together.
  8. 8 points
    我第一次跟别人见面的时候,说我是英国人,如果他们立刻问我知不知道鸦片战争(或者另外一个比较敏感的事),无论我对这个事件的看法,我肯定会觉得有点儿挑衅。至少感觉这种问题不是很友好。
  9. 8 points
    I once wrote a wild story about these few, to stop myself from confusing the lot. in my mind, 佥(unanimous) == looks like a pic of classic architecture in the ancient world, where all the good men in white robes discuss things democratically, and come to unanimous decisions. qiān 1. 脸 FACE (organs of the body, unanimous): one day, they discussed physical beauty, and came to the unanimous conclusion, that face was the most important... liǎn 2. 验 INSPECT (horse, unanimous): one time, they saw a huge hollow wooden horse right outside, which seemed a bit suspicious, so they inspected it... yàn 3. 检 INSPECT (tree, unanimous) the next day, the saw some new trees outside, which were moving while they were not looking. again, suspicious, inspected the trees too... jiǎn 4. 险 DANGER (hill, unanimous) BTW, there was a hill next to the building, so steep it touched the roof, and they unanimously decided this could pose a danger ... xiǎn 5. 捡 PICK UP (hand, unanimous) I forgot to mention these guys were a bit hoarders, and were going around brandishing their hands, ready to pick stuff up... jiǎn
  10. 8 points
    Ok, ive been reading a lot of putonghua this year. I started out on slowchinese.com and read all the articles. I was looking for new reading material and stumbled upon this website from the university of Iowa. http://collections.uiowa.edu/chinese/LoginPage.html You will need to create a new free account to start learning. They offer 300 beginner lessons, 300 intermediate, and 300 advanced. The lessons will open in a NEW WINDOW when you click on them, and depending on how slow or fast your internet speed is, take a few seconds to load. Each lesson is introduced by a vocabulary quiz and then is followed by 7 multiple choice questions pertaining to a text you are required to read. The lesson concludes with a repeat of the vocabulary quiz to help you lock in the new vocab. They then give you a score based on your reading time and number of correct responses. I have been using the intermediate lessons, and they helped me improve my vocabulary and knowledge of chinese culture considerably. ENJOY
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