Chinese as Lego blocks

Chinese is a character-based language, the trick of grasping it fast is to think the characters as building blocks of the language. Just like the Lego blocks, when you have enough types and number of blocks, you could literally build anything under the sun. For example:  我、不、是、中、国、人 我(wǒ) I/me 不(bù)negative 是(shì)identifier (similar to the be…

Shall we cook Chinese in Chinese?

Well, despite the unhealthy aspects of too much oil or condiment, most people would fall for the scrumptious taste of Chinese food. After learning some basic Chinese, have you ever wondered how do we say grill, bake, steam, panfry, deep fry or cold salad in Chinese? Let’s get started. 凉(liáng)拌(bàn) → salad with dressing served cold…

Dining out?

Some of my students feel the Chinese language is easy to understand when you consider the different characters or words as building blocks, however they feel the language is sometimes too abrupt or even rude. For example, let’s talk about the useful phrases when we dine in a restaurant. Key Sentences Meaning W:几(jǐ)位(wèi)? G:7位(wèi)。 Waitress:…

Let’s count to a billion!

We’ve done the basic counting from 0 to 99, now let’s add on more zeros to spice things up a little. One crucial rule is that in the Chinese and Japanese language, we group zeros in fours for  bigger numbers. Here are the rules: 2 zeros → 100  一(yī)百(bǎi) a hundred 3 zeros  → 1000一(yī)千(qiān)…

6 Shades of Green

We love our tea. 喝(hē)=drink    茶(chá)=tea Icebreaker lines: A: 你(nǐ)喜欢(xǐhuan)喝茶(hēchá)吗(ma)?Do you like drinking tea? B: 喜欢(xǐhuan)。Yes, I do. or 不(bù)喜欢(xǐhuan)。No, I don’t. And the almighty: 你(nǐ)呢(ne)? How about you? And you? Lines to use for small talk: 我(wǒ)喜欢(xǐ huan)喝(hē)茶(chá)。 I like drinking tea. 我(wǒ)不(bù)喜欢(xǐ huan)喝(hē)茶(chá)。I don’t like drinking tea. 你(nǐ)喜欢(xǐ huan)喝(hē)什么(shénme)茶(chá)? What kind of…

How’s the weather today?

Weather is always a good topic when comes to small talk. The basic structure of describing the weather is quite simple, see the following key sentences: Key Sentences Meaning 1.今(jīn)天(tiān)天(tiān)气(qì)怎(zěn)么(me)样(yàng)? How’s the weather today? 2. 今(jīn)天(tiān)是(shì)晴(qíng)天(tiān) It’s sunny today. 3. 今(jīn)天(tiān)下(xià)雨(yǔ)。 It’s rainy today. 4. 今(jīn)天(tiān)刮(guā)风(fēng)。 It’s windy today. 5. 今(jīn)天(tiān)有(yǒu)雾(wù)。 It’s foggy today. 6….

A smooth taxi ride

During my lessons, I’d always spend some time to teach the different choices of words and ascents in different Mandarin speaking regions: China(Beijing) vs. Singapore. One simple example is the taxi ride. Here’re the key sentences used in Singapore during a taxi ride: Key Sentences Meaning Uncle*, 去(qù) Orchard Road**。 Uncle, go to Orchard Road. 可(kě)以(yǐ)走(zǒu) ECP 吗(ma)? Can we…

This, that & which?

At about the third lesson, I’d introduce these three powerful musketeers: this, that and which. 这(zhè/zhèi*) → this 那(nà/nèi*) → that 哪(nǎ) → which *Used in spoken language. Yes, that’s right, “that” and “which” share the same pronunciation of “na” but differ only at the tones. So now you can add in sounds for your action…

It’s about time.

While doing counting topics, most of my students would shout out to me “the Chinese language makes so much sense!”with a big smile on their face. When it comes to describing a.m. and p.m. in time, they would frown a bit, ask a few questions about pronunciation and say “I guess I just have to memorise it”…

Lego or Cucumber?

A friend of mine has lived in Beijing for 2 years, the other day he was joking about his Chinese and said he still couldn’t figure out mum(妈 mā) and horse(马 mǎ) after hours of classes. Most people think that by putting themselves in the language environment, they could pick up the language quickly and automatically. To…

Shall we count?

Counting is pretty straight forward in Chinese, as long as you know primary school mathematics. Basic building blocks for numbers (0~10): 零(líng) 一(yī) 二(èr) 三(sān) 四(sì) 五(wǔ) 六(liù) 七(qī) 八(bā) 九(jiǔ) 十(shí) Let’s do some simple maths: 十(shí)一(yī) –> 11=10+1 二(èr)十(shí) –> 20=2×10 三(sān) 十(shí) 五(wǔ) –> 35=3×10+5 Once you know this rule, you can count from 0 to 99.

Small Talk – Have you eaten?

Have you ever wondered why someone asks you whether you have had your lunch at 4:00pm in the afternoon? Well, it’s the Chinese way of asking you “how are you”. That is why. A: 你(nǐ)吃(chī)了(le)吗(ma)? Have you eaten? B: 吃(chī)了(le)。Yes, I have. or:  还(hái)没(méi)。Not yet. The origin of this line goes back to the olden…