20 Things You Should Be Able To Say To Kickstart Your Conversation Skills
Jun19

20 Things You Should Be Able To Say To Kickstart Your Conversation Skills

Learning the most commonly used elements of speech in the language you are trying to learn can put you miles ahead, and can make you seem far more competent than you actually are. Sure, looking at word lists for the most frequently used words can be helpful, but knowing how to use fundamental structures such as who, what, why etc is essential to any meaningful conversation. Here is a list of 20 such things words and structures that you should focus on learning ASAP: 1) Who – Shuí   Tā shì shúi? Shúi pèng le wǒ de shǒujī? 他是谁?谁碰了我的手机? Who is he? Who touched my phone? 2) What – Shénme   Zhè shì shénme dōngxi? 这是什么东西? What is this? 3) Where – Nǎr Cèsuǒ zàì nǎr? 厕所在哪儿? Where’s the toilet? 4) When – Shénme shíhou   Nǐ shénme shíhou lái de? 你什么时候来的? When did you arrive? 5) Past tense – None in Chinese! Add le or guò depending on the context. Wǒ mǎi le yī shuāng yùndòngxié. 我买了一双运动鞋。 I bought a pair of sports shoes. 6) How many – Duōshao  Nǐ de xuéxiào yǒu duōshao xuésheng? 你的学校有多少学生? How many students go to your school? 7) Why – Wèi shénme   Tā wèi shénme nàme bèn? 他为什么那么笨? Why is he so stupid? 8) Because – Yīnwèi Yīnwèi wǒ xiǎng xuéxí Zhōngwén. 因为我想学习中文。 Because I want to study Chinese. 9) Therefore – Suǒyǐ   Suǒyǐ, wǒ qù le mǎi zhè tái zhàoxiàngjī. 所以,我去了买这台照相机。 Therefore, I went to buy this camera. 10) To, by, with, from , for – Dào + Bèi + Gēn…yǐqǐ + Wèi le Wèi le gěi nǐ zhè jiàn líwù, wǒ cóng xuéxiào gēn dìdi yǐqǐ dào le zhèr. 为了给你这件礼物,我从学校跟弟弟一起到了这儿。 In order to give you this present, I came here from school with my brother. 11) However – Shénme bànfǎ dōu kěyǐ Nǐ xiǎng zhīdao zěnme zuò zhè ge gōngzuò? Yòng shénme bànfǎn dōu kěyǐ. 你想知道怎么做这个工作?用什么办法都可以。 You want to know how to do this work? However/whichever way is fine. 12) What kind – Nǎ zhǒng  Zhè shì nǎ zhǒng diànnǎo? 这是哪种电脑? What kind of computer is this? 13) Want to, plan to,hope to – Dǎsuàn Wǒ dǎsuàn qù Zhōngguó. 我打算去中国。 I plan to go to China. 14) Which – Nǎ ge  Nǐ xǐhuān nǎ tào fángzi? 你喜欢哪套房子。 Which apartment do you like? 15) Should, must, could – Yīnggāi Nǐ yīnggāi chī diǎnr dōngxi! 你应该吃点儿东西! You should eat something! 16) Even if – Nǎpà Wǒ jīntiān bìxū zuò-wán zuòyè, nǎpà wǒ bù shuìjiào. 我今天必须做完作业,那怕我不睡觉。 Today I need to finish my homework, even if I don’t sleep. 17) Although – Suīrán…dànshì  Suīrán zhè shì hěn zhòngyào de, dànshì wǒ bu...

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Words That Don’t ‘Stick’
Jun12

Words That Don’t ‘Stick’

As any seasoned language learner will tell you, sometimes you come across words that simply don’t ‘stick’ in your brain. Others, too, seem to stick easily and often effortlessly. Why are some words committed to memory effortlessly after the first hearing, while others continue to torment you after several conscious attempts to learn them? This can be because of several reasons. The main two would be: You don’t understand the word properly. Did you hear the word in context, or are you simply trying to rote learn it from a word list? Words that you see in conversations or other authentic material are, in general, far easier to remember, as the context serves as a cue for your memory. When learning Chinese, it can be useful to learn the meaning of the individual characters that make up the word (just the Pinyin is fine for speaking). Also, if you don’t understand how it’s used, you’re unlikely to remember it, or, at least, you won’t be able to use it. And if you can’t use it, what’s the point, right? The word doesn’t have enough perceived importance. If you don’t really care about a word, or, subconsciously or consciously, aren’t fully convinced that it’s worth learning at this point in time, then you probably won’t remember it. If you believe the word is essential to your survival in the language, then believe me, it will stick. The clear solution here is only learn words that are actually important for your current level. It makes no sense to learn the word for ‘biotechnology’ in your target language before you learn how to say ‘where’s the toilet’? Even if you are a scientist-type, the latter is going to be more important as a beginner learner. That’s not to say that learning complex words aren’t important – they are, but only when you’re at a higher level and looking to have more profound conversations with people. How Do You Make Words Stick Like Superglue? When I was in High School, one of my favourite subjects was Psychology. We learnt a lot about the brain – in particular about sleep and memory. I thought that it was so relevant to be learning how to learn things. Without boring you all too much, let me just say that the important things regarding memory that you should know is that your short-term memory can hold about 9 items. After that, without a proper ‘mnemonic device’ (memory technique) you will start forgetting them. I think the short term memory can store information for about 30 seconds, too. Therefore, you gotta make a word sink through to your long-term memory in...

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Absolute Beginners Guide to Learning Chinese: The Start of the Journey
Jun07

Absolute Beginners Guide to Learning Chinese: The Start of the Journey

I recently received an email from a friend of mine who read my blog and really enjoyed it (if you like what I’m doing, let me know! Seriously, it makes my day), but who was still hesitant about making the first step in beginning the journey of learning Chinese, for the simple reason that he did not know exactly where to start. From his message, I understood that he was also unsure about what this journey entailed (for it is a journey, albeit an immensely enjoyable and rewarding one, if done correctly), or what to expect along the way. This article is for all of you in that very position. This is for all the complete beginners who don’t know where to start, particularly those that are on the fence about whether to start learning Chinese, or any other language, at all. There are 7 days in the week, and someday is not one of them. I will break my advice down into Myths, How to Begin, Essential Qualities of a Successful Language Learner, General Tips, and Motivation. This is a long, long, article. I tried to make it as comprehensive as possible. You have been warned. ———————————————————————————————————– Common Myths and Excuses About Learning Chinese (And Other Languages) I’m not talented or smart enough to learn a language. This one is particularly prominent in people who once tried to learn a language, but have since given up. This is common where people have learn a language for many years at school, but who didn’t really learn anything. Now, firstly, it’s important for me to say that your success in school language classes are not at all representative of your actual ability, as these programs are designed to cater for a large class and do not take into account the different ways people learn (which is essential in language learning, where some techniques that work for some simply don’t work for others). They are also generally not very fun, as they tend to be geared toward passing exams and having perfect grammar, rather than actually being able to communicate in the language. Some language classes can be fine, too, but in order to really learn anything, the student is required to venture further and engage with their learning on their own. The only way you can ‘fail’ is if you give up for good. Humans have an inherent ability to learn languages, we have always been good at it. Throughout history, it has been commonplace for people to be bilingual – speaking their mother tongue as well as languages from neighbouring tribes and villages. In fact, the majority of the world today are...

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