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…

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:…

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”…

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.

Learn at your own pace

Many of my students ask me whether there is a particular sequence of learning Chinese, yes there is, but it’s as simple as the following: Know the Romanised pronunciation system first — Hanyu Pinyin. (This will help you to speak before recognising the characters, also help you to learn new characters as time goes by.)…