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Showing content with the highest reputation since 09/19/2019 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. Edit: My teacher and I recently decided on a book we can use next to help me consolidate grammar and improve speaking/listening, given that HSK exams have been suspended during the C-19 lockdown. See this other thread.
  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. 15 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)
  5. 14 points
    Wow, this is so funny, I experienced an eerily similar situation to the OP, only mine came from the opposite side: I was on a long train journey in southern China a couple of years back. Unfortunately there weren't any sleepers left, so I had to take a seat. There were four of us squeezed around a tiny table, all strangers, but we got to know each other a little as the afternoon wore on. As night began to fall, one of the passengers, a lady in her early thirties, started to open up about her unhappy marriage: about her bad relationship with her mother-in-law, about how her husband had been seeing prostitutes and how she had just now found out that he was having an affair with a work colleague. The other two people around our table (a man and a woman, both in their thirties or thereabouts) took turns in giving her advice, while I tried my best to keep out of it. At some point I fell asleep and was woken by the noise of the lady having a very animated discussion on the phone while standing in that little area of the train where the bathrooms are (our seats were very close to it). My guess is that she had been thinking about her marriage all night and couldn't wait until she got home before having it all out with her husband. I managed to get back to sleep for another hour or two, only to be woken up by her jabbing finger. She told me that she had decided to divorce and wanted my advice on a tattoo to commemorate the occasion. I think you can see what is coming next... She had decided that 无情 was the best word to describe her current attitude (or aspiration, even), but just like the OP, felt her own language insufficient to express all the layers of meaning that she wanted to convey. She had already found a translation on her phone, "no feelings", and wanted my opinion. Now, it was 3am, and normally I wouldn't be too happy about being woken up so late, especially in a situation in which I generally find it really hard to fall asleep in the first place. However, given the personal crisis she was obviously going through, I didn't have the heart to refuse. As a native English speaker, "no feelings" just sounds a little awkward to me, a bit incomplete. On the other hand, all the other translations ("heartless", "merciless" etc), are not exactly positive descriptions, so I couldn't really recommend those either. I suppose "numb" would be an option, but I think that sounds much more passive than what she was aiming for. There ensued a long conversation about the various meanings and translations of 无情 (on a crowded train, rattling through southern China in the middle of the night), and I was trying my best to keep my voice down to avoid waking anyone else. Despite my misgivings, her heart did seem pretty set on her initial translation, "no feelings", so I guess that is what she went with in the end. Seeing this thread randomly pop up all this time later, I can't help but think that Mr "无情" and Ms "No Feelings" have a kind of 缘分, and that maybe one day this story will have a happy ending!
  6. 14 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
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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
  15. 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.
  16. 12 points
    So i finally made it back. A bit about my little experience: Boarding is done 5 rows at a time regardless of travel class (back>front). Mask must be worn at all times and they discourage walking around on the plane. After landing, people in full hazmat board the plane to check your health code. 5 rows leave at a time (front>back). You have to show various QR codes about 10 times at the airport so make sure you have a fully charged phone. They are still unsure about how to handle foreigners but get there in the end. Covid test was really well organised but pretty brutal. Immigration is pretty standard. Collecting bags standard. You then break off into various lines based on your final location then hop onto a bus to your hotel. No choice of hotel. More paperwork to do on the bus. Check-in - usual hotel check-in + chlorine tablets for the toilet and a thermometer. Must pay everything upfront. Rooms are fine. Internet not great. AC poor. Can 外卖·. You are put into a WeChat group with other people on your floor and have to submit your temperature twice a day in the group. Food etc is dropped off outside your door at certain times. Feel free to ask any questions!
  17. 12 points
    Disclaimer: This write up is not a guide on how to type using Cangjie, check out the wiki page for a basic intro if you're interested. This is aimed at anyone who simply wants to know whether learning a new input method is or is not worth the time investment. 2020 has been a very strange year for me, as I'm sure it has for most of us. With all the extra time, I decided to get down to some things that I've wanted to do for a while but...just never had the time. One of those things was learning to type Cangjie both fast enough that I can use it for live conversation on Wechat, and for practicing my character retention abilities. There are a number of shape-based input methods for Chinese out there, the most famous being Cangjie (倉頡), Dayi (大易) and Zhengma (鄭碼) for traditional, and Wubi (五笔) for simplified. I chose to learn Cangjie as it is well suited for typing both traditional and simplified, which can't be said of most other shape-based methods (most are now able to some extent, but mainly rely on 'conversion' rather than directly typing in the specific character according to its structure). Thats not to say Cangjie is 'the best' of these systems, its just the one that suited my needs the most. Other benefits of Cangjie are that it is widely available and license-free, so no worries that it will suddenly disappear or require some payment to use. It also uses a lot less keys than methods such as Dayi, so less finger stretching. Regardless, I believe Cangjie is an incredibly well-designed system, a real work of genius that functions to break down computer-font characters in the same way stroke order helps with handwriting characters. After 6 months of practice I have racked up just close to 100 hours of typing practice on anki (typing out sentences from memory based on prompts). I can now reach around 25-30cpm. I type at around 60-70wpm in English, so I've still got a long way to go, but I'm happy with my progress as it stands. Here's what I've found is important on my journey: 1. Your keyboard keys affect how a shape-based input method helps with character retention I originally set out using normal keys with alphanumeric symbols. I learned to touch type fairly quickly in Cangjie, but found that I began to see characters as strings of English letters in my head, a little like how when you're typing in pinyin you often think of the romanised version of what you're writing before the image of the character floats into your mind. This became quite annoying and counterconstructive, so I got some Cangjie stickers from ebay and stuck them on blank keycaps to see what difference there might be. The difference was noticeable immediately, as I began to associate the keys with Chinese characters much quicker. However, I still found that with some of the more difficult keys (where the character and the element it could represent are connected in a fairly abstract way), my brain would start remembering the string of keys for the character instead of properly decomposing it into its elements. The brain always chooses the easiest option I guess. A good example of this would be 麼, where 戈 represents both 广 and 丶 in the decomposition, with 女 also representing the stroke 𡿨, it was just easier to remember 麼=戈木女戈, or even just the shape the keys made on the keyboard. So I decided to make a set of keys similar to the ones you see for 五笔, where every single symbol is listed on the keycaps (ive seen them for 鄭碼 too, probably because the amount you need to remember for it is too much of a burden on the brain). I should emphasise, I decided to use this keyboard specifically for the purposes of character retention. If I wanted raw speed I would just use blank keycaps and rely on muscle memory. This keyboard has had a massive effect on how Cangjie has helped with remembering character writing, and if anyone is interested I'll be happy to send on the inkscape file. Now when I look at my keyboard to type 麼 I can actually look for 广 - 木 (-木) -𡿨-厶 instead of remembering some arbitrary code or pattern. Think that looks scary? Its not, it is very intuitive and can be learnt in half an hour of typing I would estimate. Check out 徐碼 for a typing system that has a single code for every single character you could possibly type. Bet you like the look of that Cangjie keyboard now: 2. Cangjie 5 is a massive improvement on Cangjie 3. Microsoft Cangjie is riddled with errors. I first set out using Cangjie probably around 2 years ago, but it was only really out of curiousity and I only used it on my phone. I didnt realise it at the time but I was using the 3rd generation of the system (for reference, 1 and 2 were largely just glorified betas). Then when I moved onto using cangjie on my laptop (ms surface), I discovered that many of the codes were different, despite it still being classed as Cangjie 3. Thankfully I came across this fantastic wikibook which not only explained the errors that MS has made in its own hacky version of Cangjie (after parting ways with the creator of Cangjie), but also showed how the 5th generation of Cangjie had corrected all the weird decomposition errors and inconsistencies in Cangjie 3. I immediately switched to Cangjie 5 and have not looked back, it is internally consistent and logical throughout. I strongly recommend any future students of Cangjie to use Cangjie 5, it is a pleasure to type with and really feels like you're writing characters, just like that feeling you get when you type English and your thoughts seem to just 'appear' on the screen - there is no feeling of detachment. Here are some notes I made when I first made the switch from MS Cangjie 3 to Cangjie 5 (using 倉頡平台) Correction of character selection order based on frequency. Eg 致 before 玫,知 before 佑. Damn that ms input was annoying, always having to add in '2' after so many common characters. recognition of 尸 as representative of the double dot, eg 假 人口尸水 應:戈人土心 this is fantastic, finally the parts are separated properly! 篼 has been corrected to 竹竹女山 (instead of 竹竹尸弓, which breaks away from the treatment of 兜 as a single unit (both in 3 and 5) 撐 and 撑 have their own unique codes (another MS error, typing 牙 here gives you 手...) 木廿 来 大木 东 etc the list goes on... I encourage anyone thats interested in comparing the differences between CJ 3 and 5 to have a look at this list. In fact, browse through the whole book, its incredibly well written. (Written by the 'boss'? of 倉頡之友, a forum without which I would never have found any success in learning 倉頡). 3. Cangjie is really fun to type with If you've ever felt the frustration of having to cycle through pages of characters to find the one you want, hate typing out whole words then delete the parts you don't want, or if you just can't stand 联系and 练习 causing all your friends to question what on earth you've been doing with all those hours of Chinese study, then Cangjie is defintely worth a try (or any other shape-based input method for that matter). Once you get used to typing using a shape-based method, you realise just how annoying typing phonetically is. Yes, I get it, its very, very, very easy to learn, and it means you don't have to remember how to write characters, only recognise them. But if you are at all interested in writing Chinese, then try Cangjie (or Wubi if you're simplified only gang) and I'm sure you'll never look back. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing an obscure character and being able to check it instantaneously in your dictionary. I still remember the first time I saw 鑾 and realised it was just three keys right next to each other (女火金), the pure satisfaction... Here is an update video of me typing from today:https://youtu.be/DaZ9QRSKTbc I drafted a short paragraph then recorded myself typing it back out. There are errors, and its pretty slow going, but still, shows where I am honestly at after 6 months. Hope some of this helps, and if you've got any questions let me know and I'll try and help out
  18. 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.
  19. 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 !
  20. 11 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!
  21. 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.
  22. 11 points
    I'll save you the work. I got impatient and ended up hiring a freelancer in China to buy the 2010 book and do the data entry. If anybody wants the list, please feel free to send me a direct message.
  23. 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.
  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. 9 points
    As discussed and decided on here, the Book of the Month for May 2020 is 《草鞋湾》 by 曹文轩. Cao Wenxuan (1954) is a children's book writer (he's written some things for adults as well, but children's literature is his main work). Some of his work has been translated, most notably Bronze and Sunflower, and in 2016 he he won the Hans Christian Andersen Award. 《草鞋湾》 is his latest book, published in 2019. 209 pages (in my edition), 22 chapters of about 10 pages each. So far (one chapter in) the language is easy, both in vocabulary and in sentence structure. Chapter 1: Shanghai, 1940s. We meet the inhabitants of Straw Sandal Bay Street no. 108: Private detective 沙丘克, his ten-year-old son 沙小丘 and caretaker 马大伯. Because father Sha is so good at his work, gangsters tend to come by and threaten him and/or shoot at him. When Xiaoqiu was two, his mother got enough of this and left. In the yard of the Sha family stands a scholar tree, with an abandoned magpie nest. Xiaoqiu hopes a new magpie family will move in. (Cao Wenxuan really likes writing about birds.) Some words: 喜鹊 xǐquè magpie 槐树 huáishù Chinese scholartree 不由得 bùyóude cannot but, can’t help (doing sth) 私家侦探 sījiā zhēntàn private detective 管家 guǎnjiā housekeeper 傍晚 bàngwǎn toward evening, at dusk 稀松 xīsōng sloppy, lax 将就 jiāngjiu make do, make the best of it (not to be confused with 讲究, which means pretty much the opposite) 邬 Wū family name (with bird in it) 高枕无忧 gāozhěn wúyōu shake up the pillow and have a good rest, sit back and relax, not worry at all List of Glorious Book-Finishers: Lu Roddy Murrayjames somethingfunny Ouyangjun Tomsima ...
  27. 9 points
    Hi all, Something I reflect on alot, is people tend to have a warped view of how long it takes to become fluent in Chinese. I myself had it when I started. I told myself that if I did a year studying Mandarin at university in China, I would definitely be fluent in Chinese. 1 year? what the hell was I thinking. In part it's difficult not to think this way, with snappily titled Youtube videos such as "30 days to fluency" or engaging language services such as "The Mandarin Blueprint". It gives the sense, that becoming fluent is easy, can be done in a short amount of time, and is achievable in a smooth and routine manner. Well it can't. As such - here is my guide as to how long a so called "normal person" will take to become "fluent" in Chinese. TLDR - 10 years. A NORMAL Persons Guide of just how much it takes to become Fluent in Chinese Year 1 - Your journey begins with you trying a weekly class of Chinese in your home country. You quite like it and can now say your name, and introduce you family and favourite hobby. You pass HSK 1 - You are not fluent Year 2 - You increase your classes to twice weekly. You can now say colours, talk about your holidays, and introduce a range of hobbies. You pass HSK 2 and 3. Go you! - You still aren't fluent Year 3 - You move to China and sign up to Uni. You have 4 classes a day, 5 days a week. Surely after a year of this you will be well on your way to being fluent? Now you can go to a coffee shop and have a conversation with a language partner for 15 mins all in Chinese. Your family back at home now say you seem completely fluent to them. You pass HSK 4. You still aren't fluent. You feel somewhat dejected. You are starting to realise just how far you have to go. Year 4 - You return home, and continue with weekly classes. Now you can touch on a range of subjects, but you worry you are regressing in your home country. People who you speak to say, wow a year living in China, I bet your language skills are awesome. You hesitantly shrug your shoulders and say, "yeah I guess." You work towards HSK 5 but its alot of words so you vow to take it next year. You still aren't fluent. Year 5 - You move back to China and get a job. You teach english, but your colleagues are Chinese so you hope you will speak in Chinese alot with them. You don't. Their english is way better than your Chinese, and its tiresome to always force them to speak Mandarin. It seems selfish. Your Chinese does improve more than your year at home though. You pretty much grasp everything at a basic level. Any instruction in a shop, or topic of conversation you can make a comment on. You pass HSK 5. You feel pride at this and you should. All your family and friends back home think you are fluent. You still aren't fluent. And despite now passing the advanced level of a Chinese proficiency test, you start to worry that you never will achieve fluency. You've put 5 years into this, and 2 years living abroad, and lets be honest. You. Are. Still. Not. Fluent. Year 6 - Pretty much the same as last year. But slowly you use mandarin a little more. You make a Chinese friend who cant speak English, and when you socialise with them you do so in Mandarin. Cool you think, a relationship that relies on you speaking only Chinese. You start preparing for HSK 6. As always your friends and family back home think you are fluent. And you know what, you have a friend that you converse only in Mandarin with and it works, you can make them laugh and you talk about a considerable range of subjects. You are now socially fluent. Well done! Year 7 - You take a deep dive. You get a girlfriend/boyfriend/housemate that can only speak Mandarin. Now you spend alot of social time with them outside of work. You are now using Mandarin 50% of the time. Thinks flow easy. You rarely feel anxiety thinking, i don't understand what they are saying. If the subject becomes complex or terchnical. You are lost however. You pass HSK 6. You are still socially fluent, but more so. Year 8 - You start a job in a mandarin only environment. All of your colleagues use Chinese. You recognize that whereas before most people had better english than you so the conversation naturally reverted to english, this has now reversed. Your Chinese is better than most people. You spend lots of time learning vocab relevant to your job. You can now express everything you want to say. In reality however it is clunky, and you make many mistakes. Well done. You are now socially fluent, and work fluent. Year 9 - Everything is going well. You rarely meet anyone whose english is better than your mandarin. Many of your friends you now socialise with in Mandarin. You rarely feel anxiety, and even rarer still have no grasp at all of what is going on. You still make many mistakes though, and vow to iron them out. In truth though, if you listen to the radio, or watch tv. Its complex. You get this gist easily, but its not as enjoyable as watching stuff in english. Because your brain is working overtime.You are now socially fluent, and work fluent, but not entertainment content . Year 10 - You find a tv show that you enjoy, and you watch it pretty confidently. Your mistakes start to iron out, and you don't pause it that much. Your family, your friends, your colleagues, your boss, society at large and now, finally, yourself, consider you to be fluent. In reality, fluent is now probably an accurate description of where you are at. PHEW, Well done, it only took 10 years, and not the 30 days you had hoped for. You are now fluent. Despite this, you now have the wisdom to know. This is a life long journey, that is nowhere close to completion. You vow to become more fluent. Notes - Every year it has got harder to define what progress means. No longer do you make big, clear jumps, like when you went from HSK 1 to HSK 4 in around 2 years of serious study. Every year however, it has got easier, to get better at mandarin. Every year your incidental exposure to the language has increased. By year 10 you spend hours practicing Chinese without even intending to. You watch Chinese tv for enjoyment , you speak to friends to socialise, you get paid to work in a chinese office. You do all of this without having to force yourself to do it. You still do intentional study, but now you also do hours of non-intentional study because, well, this is your life. ... Comment This is generalised. It's not my path, it probably wont be yours. There will be outliers and exceptions that do it much quicker/slower. However I do think it is realistic aim for the majority who want to be socially, work, and entertainment content fluent. You are probably looking at 10 years, of consistent study and exposure to the language. And let me be clear, the person above is dedicated, they went to Chinese university for a bit, they lived in china, got a chinese housemate/girlfriend/boyfriend and eventually worked in a Chinese office environment. This person has had lots of kind supportive Chinese friends and teachers, received small grants and scholarships, been able to afford tuition, been given lots of societal support (Wow your Chinese is great!), has had the life and financial circumstances to allow freedom to study. This isn't 10 years of 1 hour weekly classes back at home. My aim for this post, is so people who are say, in year 3 of studying, and have got that nagging feeling they are making no progress and that they should be fluent by now. Well in my opinion, you can relax. If you are a normal person, you shouldn't be. P.S You now you look back and enjoy the long and winding road. You understand the need for consistent but small amounts of effort. You appreciate people who have skills more. You look at your friend who plays a musical instrument and now see all of the small steps it took to play this beautiful tune, rather than just the beautiful tune itself. You feel pride in your friend, and more importantly in yourself. You've gained a life skill that won't erode quickly, the foundations have been built deep and firm. People praise your ability, and you take it onboard, no longer do you think , if only you knew how influent I am. You look at trees differently. You have a sense of self worth. You want to share this feeling and hard earned wisdom with others. You encourage them. You tell them, don't work stick at it. You are even more sure now than ever, that 水滴石穿 is your favourite chengyu. P.P.S - The title is intentionally misleading. There is no guide to becoming fluent in mandarin. Fluent - is such a varied and changing word. We all have our own interpretations of what this means. It's really amorphous. There are no fixed levels of fluency. There is no socially fluent, work fluent etc. It's not an achievement on xbox that you either have or don't have. The aim of this thread, is hoping people aren't so hard on themselves, and realise progress takes time. To relax and enjoy it, rather to constantly worry, I should be "fluent" by this point.
  28. 9 points
    My primary hobby is badminton. More than forty years in the game. I take photos of professionals in international tournaments , undertaken coaching qualifications, teach, compete in competitions. It’s not full time. I have the respect of players who have played at the top level including Olympics. We get along very well. I always wanted to talk to more players. Many players are Mandarin speakers. Learning mandarin helps me communicate with players from China, Taiwan and Malaysia. Hobbies are lifelong. I get invited to go to China because of badminton. It’s a pity I don’t have enough time to learn japanese nor Bahasa as many top players are from Japan and Indonesia. Bahasa would be useful for some Malaysian players. Malaysians can speak hokkien, Cantonese, mandarin, English, Bahasa to varying degrees. At least I can cover that with cantonese and English plus some basic mandarin. People have different motivations for their hobbies. Some will lose interest but come back to it. That’s not a problem. So long as the individual is happy, I think that’s is what matters rather than the absolute level of expertise or the length of time. Every person is different. My university classmate is a success story for Spanish. After the age of thirty, she started Spanish and continued it for ten years at a local college. Later she would go on cycling holidays in Spanish speaking countries practicing and using the language. I am lucky to have a hobby that I love and can pass on to a new generation. I can make new friends with it, travel and use it. These aspects are easily overlooked. For learning a language, perhaps we don’t see it as similar to sports. But even in a chinese learning forum like this we can interact and discuss, learn and talk with each other. Personally, I think it’s wonderful. I met a couple of people through this forum in real life that I wouldn’t have got to meet in normal life. We had a great time (I ate most of the 北京烤鸭 at dinner 😂). Will I ever get to true fluency? Probably not. Can I use what I learnt (even if limited) to enrich my life and make things more interesting? Definitely so.
  29. 9 points
    Wow boy, a crazy year for me. Living and working in Hefei, Anhui, I had co-workers talking about the outbreak in neighboring Wuhan, which I didn't think of much going back to the US for Chinese New year. I was interviewing for a new job in the US while this all went down in January, and I was flying back early February after the New Year to finish my two weeks and clear out my apartment. I kept reassuring everyone in the US that there is no way they would close down the Wuhan area since the population size was like closing down the Midwest in the US (I was very, very wrong). They then started canceling flights to China from the US, and I realized I would be able to make it back to Hefei but it would be difficult getting a return flight to the US. Luckily I brought back 90% of my valuables since I was planning to move back to the US, and I had about $500 worth of belongings in my apartment (electric scooter, bike, etc.). I ended up canceling my flight back to China, and my landlord was great in that I told him he could keep everything in the apartment of value and the deposit for me ending the lease early and not cleaning it out. He even let me only pay the month of February even though I owed him a couple more months as part of the lease. Flash forward to today where I have a new office job in Chicago (unfortunately not related to China). I only went into work for 4 days in March before being told to work remotely since. Wild ride living in Hefei for a year and a half with a prior stint in Beijing from 2009 to 2014. I don't know the next time I'll visit China (if Americans are allowed with our outbreak), but I'll get my fix with food in Chicago's Chinatown and reflecting on this year like everyone else.
  30. 9 points
    True that it felt like a park bench or a church pew. But mine was designed for a living room. This furniture is popular in traditional homes. One usually puts throw cushions on it to make it more comfortable. But it never quite works. Perhaps my western bones were too decadent. This is particularly popular in traditional homes that have a true 客厅 in which to receive guests. This deep burnished reddish-brown wood, 红木,is the material of choice. It's a type of mahogany. Lots of it is grown in the mountainous areas of SE Asia, where illegal logging still thrives. My inexpensive Kunming apartment was not a grand place that really called for such a piece. But the landlord had furnished it with left-over odds and ends, as is often the case. I had a friend in Kunming who worked part time for a company which sold this magnificent mahogany furniture. She once invited me to a big expo with displays of it from all over China. Some of the best came from the southwest border provinces. Her company bought the raw lumber from forests in Burma 缅甸 then made the actual furniture in Chinese factories. Some of it was magnificent, especiall the long conference tables made from a single tree. Some would seat 10 or 12 people on each side. Just right for a corporate board room. Smaller ones could also be used as formal dining tables in a suitable setting (not my apartment.) Funny thing about the wood furniture expo is that it turned out to be great for tasting and studying tea. Each furniture merchant displayed samples of his wares next to a temporary employee, hired for the weekend, brewing tea. He would invite prospective buyers into his area to look at the furniture and have a cup of tea. They always served very good tea, properly brewed by someone with some tea master training 茶艺师。 I moved around most of the mornings looking at magnificent wood pieces and sampling tea. Since this was in Kunming, there were dozens of first-rate Pu'er teas available. 普洱茶。 When the tea person wasn't busy, they enjoyed telling you about the tea: where it was grown, how it was cured, the best way to brew it and so on. They didn't know anything about the furniture. Most of these tea ladies wore traditional silk qipao 旗袍 dresses with flowing lines and a high collar. They were often bored, just sitting there waiting for someone to drop in and have tea. So they tended to be glad to have someone to talk to. That someone was me.
  31. 9 points
    Hey there! So I just saw this informative notice by Chinese Testing international dated June 2, 2020 (attached is the original) that they posted in the Confucius Institute of Barcelona (below is a direct translation into English by google translate). Main points is that the new HSK is intended to first take place in the first half of 2021 and that it will consist in adding a single new "advanced HSK" level that will comprise levels 7 to 9, and depending on the mark that you get in it you will have one or the other HSK level. It looks like levels 1-6 will remain unaltered: Lately, news such as "HSK will have 9 levels! The Chinese level 3.0 test will be coming soon" have attracted a lot of attention inside and outside China. The concerns and inquiries of Chinese students and teachers who are dedicated to the international teaching of this language come one after another, which excites us and shows unprecedented support. In order to answer the main concerns, the "Standards of the Chinese level in international education", the Chinese proficiency test (HSK) and the relationship between the two will be explained. With the development of the teaching of the Chinese language and the changes in the global needs of teaching and learning the Chinese language, it is necessary to adjust the "International Standards of Proficiency in Chinese" (published by the headquarters of the Confucius Institute in 2007), to Continuously improve the international teaching and learning of Chinese. In 2017, we began research and development of a new standard, namely "Chinese level standards in international education" (hereinafter referred to as "Level standards"). This research has already been completed and will therefore be launched in the second half of the year. "Level Standards" is based on the essence of Chinese language and writing, and has been nurtured by the strengths of other language standards in the world, inheriting the experience of teaching Chinese as a foreign language and the international teaching of Chinese. . From this base, divide the Chinese level of non-native speakers into three categories: beginner, medium and high, and each category is subdivided into three levels, that is, three categories with nine levels. Each level description includes three parts: verbal communication skills, content of thematic tasks and quantitative indicators of the language, and describes each level from five aspects according to their abilities to listen, speak, read, write and translate. "Level Standards" is an open and inclusive professional standard system that, after launch, will lead all international fields of Chinese language learning, teaching, testing and assessment, and will become an important indicator of reform and development of international Chinese teaching. The main change to the next "Level Standard" consists of three new advanced levels 7-9. A higher level of the Chinese language requires students to understand complex subjects in various fields and genres, carry out in-depth exchanges and discussions; are able to express themselves on complex issues of social, professional, daily activities, academic research, etc., have a flexible and effective organization of language, with a clear logic, a rigorous structure, a coherent and reasonable speech, and can communicate decently in various situations; Be flexible in using various communication strategies and resources to complete communication tasks, gain a deep understanding of Chinese cultural knowledge, and possess an international vision and intercultural communication skills. To this end, we will expand the levels by developing the Advanced HSK exam (levels 7-9), with the premise of guaranteeing the stability of HSK levels 1-6. The advanced exam is mainly for foreign students who specialize in Chinese language and literature, as well as for students from other majors with Chinese proficiency who come to China to study and for Sinology researchers abroad. A single exam will be implemented in the levels 7-9 test for the three levels, which means that only one exam will be added and will be determined by the score if the level 7, 8 or 9 is obtained. The Advanced HSK exam (Level 7-9) is scheduled to be released in the first half of next year. Check our website and social networks for future news on this topic. This text is a translation of the Chinese original and is for informational purposes only. Chinese Testing International June 2, 2020 2020_nuevo_hsk.pdf
  32. 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.
  33. 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."
  34. 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.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
  37. 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.
  38. 9 points
    Incidentally, friends don't let friends get Chinese character tattoos.
  39. 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.
  40. 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?
  41. 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!
  42. 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.
  43. 8 points
    This morning I had the seemingly innocuous idea to leave a comment on a video I liked on Bilibili. What happened next blew my mind. First, I had to register an account and verify it by linking it to my phone number and email. Ok, I thought, just some extra security, should have expected that. No problem. Then, it told me that in order to comment on a video, first I had to 转正. That is, get my new account promoted up a level. In order to do that, there’s a 100-question exam (I kid you not) where a pass consists of at least 60 correct answers. Being it a lazy Saturday morning, I thought, ok, let’s do this. How hard can it be? It turns out, a lot harder than the old advanced HSK. Many questions are in 网络语言 and are totally incomprehensible to an old fart like me — 文言文, or 甲骨文 would have been easier. It also asked me physics trick questions (“how tall is a six-foot person travelling at half the speed of light?”) and at what level of videogame X do you get to play against character Y. After a lot of googling, I got my pass and level 1 badge. Only to find out that, sorry, your level is still not high enough to leave a damn comment. Bye. Most social networking sites do everything possible to make it easy for people to interact. This is almost comically the opposite. It must rely on a subculture of people who take this as seriously as the Gaokao? Not that the other comments I saw on my video were obviously all from PhDs though. So I must be missing something....
  44. 8 points
    Update: so one more day until freedom! i did my final covid test (just as brutal as the airport) on Tuesday. I will be issued with release papers and test results upon checkout that will allow me to freely travel until my health code turns green. My 社区 in Beijing asked me to fill out another WeChat mini app form that details my return to Beijing - they require me to report my temperature twice a day for 7 days once i'm back in Beijing. I've heard some other 社区s have asked people to quarantine for a further 7 days at home...
  45. 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.
  46. 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.
  47. 8 points
    Yep, happy to say we're both out of quarantine here in the uk now, the whole group tested negative for the third and final time, so we were all allowed to leave the facility this morning. It has been over a month in isolation for us, but thats looking like nothing now really in comparison to my wife's family, who are all still cooped up indoors and looks like they will be until the new preliminary office opening date of March 10th at the very earliest. Its strange to think what things would be like if we didnt have video calling - with it we feel very connected to everyone back at home almost as if we're still there…I can't imagine how panicked we might be without it. Looks like infection rates are now starting to gradually drop in Hubei finally, but obviously sad to see things look like theyre on the rise in SK just like last month in Wuhan, I don't know much about Korean culture Im afraid, don't know how the government might or might not respond differently there…
  48. 8 points
    For people old enough to have been a child in the 90s, I think the NeoGeo has an almost mythical status. I could never afford those games back then, so had to make do with the Sega Megadrive. Speaking of which, the mini version of that console has been helping to keep me entertained throughout the semi-quarantine I am currently under. I went on one of my weekly adventures out of my 小区 today. The set-up at the entrance/exit has become more elaborate since last week, with some tents now set up. The dreaded "caronavirus pen" awaited me there, however I was well prepared this time and had brought my own so that I didn't have to use the same one as everybody else in the apartment complex. Unfortunately, as I was half-way done writing my phone number, the pen ran out of ink. It was kind of like one of those cliches in a cheesy horror movie where the car won't start at precisely the moment the main character needs to escape from the murderer. I had no choice but to trepidatiously pick up the communal pen and fill in the rest of my personal info. I had to do the same twice more, once at the supermarket, and again when re-entering my 小区. The supermarket itself was the same as it has been ever since the crisis started, with people buying much more than usual (the few people you see outside are invariably carrying at least two full bags of shopping each). The only difference from last week was the extra protection worn by the staff (what looks like a basic, cheap plastic rainjacket for the counter staff, and a more fancy all-in-one white suit for the lady on the left). Although only a fraction of the normal amount of traffic, they were noticeably more vehicles driving about, to the point where I actually had to look before crossing the road. Apart from the cars, another familiar menace has also returned to Harbin - falling icicles. This sign was part of a barrier chain in front of one a few of my local restaurants and I initially thought that they had been sealed off due to a virus-connected incident. It was only as I walked up to the sign and read it that I realised it was warning about another danger (at which point I quickly 远离ed my way back a few steps). The daily 确诊病例s in Harbin are now down to single figures, so I wonder how much longer they will keep the travel restrictions in place here? I've been pretty much just staying in my apartment all day, every day, except for when I need to buy groceries, but starting from tomorrow I am going to start taking little jogs around my 小区 area every morning. Although I have been doing daily yoga and "prison workout" videos, it doesn't quite make up for the lack of fresh air and natural sunlight (and the air has been unusually fresh since the clampdown). At this point I think that is a bigger danger to my health than the tiny chance of contracting the virus.
  49. 8 points
    I’m in Texas now, but my thoughts are still with my friends in China, many of whom can’t leave the house freely to have a big bowl of noodles at Mister Wang’s and can’t count on the Meituan delivery guy to bring a hot box of fried chicken and corn on the cob. What to do? In thinking over my days in Kunming, when I really didn’t want to fuss with making a conventional meal, had limited ingredients, and wanted easy cleanup, I turned to the rice cooker. What a good friend the rice cooker is. No surprise that it's the first electric appliance most young Chinese buy after getting out from under Mom's wing. A one-dish meal like this is usually called 菜饭 caifan, or more specifically 电饭煲菜饭。The beauty of it is that you cook a meat and a vegetable together with the rice. Seasoning can range from minimal to exotic. Let me show you a “template” recipe today, one showing a method you can easily adapt to what you have available. Please excuse me for using photos shot when I was back in Kunming. 1. The rice I use ordinary medium-grain white rice 大米。Start by washing it gently three times, until the rinse water runs off mostly clear (no longer milky.) Cover the rice with water and let it stand most of an hour (minimum 30 or 40 minutes.) This lets the individual grains of rice swell with water and “plump up” so as to cook without falling apart. Use less water than you normally would, because the meat and vegetables contain some water that they will release while cooking. I cannot tell you exactly how much to water to use, but you won’t go far wrong if you start with about ¾ of your usual amount. 2. The meat My first choice for meat is a high-quality sausage 香肠。I avoid the stuff selling for 25 or 30 Yuan per kilo, and spring for the top of the line sausage that goes for three times that much instead. The stores I use always have at least two kinds. If you like it spicy, choose the 麻辣 mala version; if you like it gentle with a slightly sweet note, chose the 广味 guangwei (Guangdong style.) You can also use smoked sausage 熏腊肠。 Slice the sausage into thin rounds. I usually cut them on a bias, so the pieces have an oval shape with greater surface area than if they were cut straight across like a stack of coins. If you can’t get sausage, you can use Chinese ham 火腿肠 huotui chang. It’s a processed meat product, tubular like hot dogs, and quality can vary. Easy to find. Buy the good stuff. 3. The vegetable Nearly any green vegetable will do. Ask for 青菜 qingcai when shopping. It can be a leafy or non-leafy green vegetable. I often use 苦菜 kucai (slightly bitter leaf) or small cabbage 小白菜。Sometimes I use 儿菜 ercai, which works very well. Ercai is in season now, and it is what I have shown in these photos. 4. The extras I add a couple of spring onions if available, sliced fine. Use the white parts only, not the green tops. I don’t add ginger, since it won’t cook thoroughly and can give you an unpleasant surprise if you bite into a chunk of it. Finely minced garlic is optional. 5. The process Lay the thin slices of sausage on top of the rice. As the sausage cooks, the fat will drip down, seasoning the rice. My rice cooker takes 30 minutes to make plain rice. After 20 minutes, I open the lid and add the vegetables plus spring onions. Don’t need to stir them in; just lay them on top of the sausage and rice. Sprinkle some salt onto the vegetables. Close and continue cooking. It will take longer than the normal time for plain rice; usually an extra 5 to 10 minutes because the meat and vegetables have introduced extra water. When the rice signals that it is done (the rice cooker beeps) open the lid and stir it all up with chopsticks. If it still looks too wet, let it cook another 2 or 3 minutes with the lid open. A golden crust will have formed in the base of the rice cooker. This part is extra delicious. As the cook, I try to sneak a mouthful of it before serving the rest of the dish to my friends. I don’t always get away with it anymore; they watch me like a hawk. 6. Cook's tip (小提示) The most frequent place where people go wrong when making this is not letting the rice soak long enough before turning on the heat. 7. Residuals If there is any left over, it keeps well overnight in the fridge and will make a tasty lunch tomorrow. 剩菜。Just nuke it in the microwave for a short time. Nothing much to clean up afterwards. Just the rice cooker and a couple of serving bowls. It’s easy to vary a recipe like this to suit individual preferences. Hope you will try it and see what you think. Would be interested in hearing your individual variations. Also, if you have other ideas on simple meals for good home-made eats during quarantine, or semi-quarantine, please pitch in. If there are enough, we can start a new thread.
  50. 8 points
    Yes, that was us on the news, we are now in the milton keynes quarantine facility. Still not allowed out of our rooms, test results for the virus have apparently delayed until tomorrow. Still, its fairly nice here, and almost certainly miles better than any of the quarantine centres back in Hubei right now, so we're happy to slowly count down the days until the end of our two weeks.
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