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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A three and half hours hiking!

A break through thousands of staircases .

A nice view.
Smile the roses.

A group photo.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Emeselles


We plan to go hiking at Dragon's Back near Shek'O this coming Sunday, 11 December. Please join us if you have time. So far we have about 8 people who have confirmed.

The plan is: we all meet at Shau Kei Wan station, exit A2 at 10:00 am and then either take a bus or share a taxi to the trail which is not too far from the Shau Kei Wan station. The hike will be roughly 3 hours, depending on how strong your legs are. As the weather has gotten pretty cool, I assume that we will walk pretty fast. After we complete the Dragon's Back trail, we will catch a bus to Shek'O to have lunch at a restaurant.

Please let us know if you have any preference for a restaurant. There is a famous Thai-Chinese restaurant there. If you agree with that choice, we will try to book a table for all of us.

Please let me know by this coming Friday, whether you can come. Please make sure you bring suitable gear for walking. Dragon's Back can get pretty windy, so make sure you bring a jacket with you and water.

If you have any question, please write to or post your comments on this blog. Hope to see you guys there.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Holiday Spirit

sheng dan kuai le!
Christmas Happy!

We set up a Christmas tree (圣诞树 shengdan shu) yesterday. Holiday spirit came together with it. :-)

Before we had a 2 feet small tree because there wasn't enough room for a big tree. This time, this tree is 6 feet tall and will beautifully stand here for this whole season. Enjoy the holiday season!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


This stands for Keep It Simple, you Stupid! Lots of engineers use this principle when they design a new product. It also applies well for beginners when they just start learning Mandarin. We can dub it into Keep It Simple, Student!

It happens very often that people want to say this and want to say that, but they could not say it. The reason is they try to translate everything from English to Mandarin word by word, and therefore they find they don’t have the necessary vocabulary. In fact, for most of people, in most of cases, vocabulary is not what they really need. They already have what they really need. Lots of things can be expressed differently. If you think of some other words to express the same thing, you probably can do it!

It is very important for students (of all levels) to use what they learned to express themselves, to stretch what they learned to a maximum point.

The fast track to fluent speaking is not accumulating more vocabulary. It is practice, practice and practice! Practice makes perfect.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Focus, focus and focus

As an adult learner, the greatest advantage is the ability to focus. And that holds the key to be a fluent Mandarin speaker.

In fact, most of the time, the ability to focus is the only thing that can be controlled by you. So use it wise.

There are a number of things you need to pay attention to when comes to learning Mandarin (conversational Mandarin):

1. vocabulary ( quote: When I want to express something, I found I don't have the words. I want to learn lots of new words.)

2. tones (quote: I don't want to address mother as horse. I want my teacher to correct my tones on each word.)

3. grammar (quote: I need to learn more grammar.)

ATTENTION! You certainly need to spend some time to learn these, but DO NOT FOCUS ON THEM!! I can't stress more on this point. The reason is simple, focusing on these three points will never make you a Mandarin speaker, let alone a fluent one. If you have already spent lots of time on these, and in the real time situation you still find yourself unable to speak, you should try a different approach.

You want to communicate with Mandarin speaking people, the real effective approach is to focus on listening to proper texts and practicing speaking. Do not jump. Do not run before you can walk.

Carefully select a listening text which contains less than 3% new words for you, and listen to it again and again until you understand every word without translating them into another languge in your head. Then use your own words retell what you have heard till your expression is quite fluent. The next is go on to the next listening exercise. Do the same thing.

In this process, you are practicing extensively the grammar and the vocab you learned before, and moreover, your brain subconciously picked up the tones. The tones come to you naturally.

This is the power of focus. Focus on the pounds, and the pennies will take care of themselves!
If next time, you read something about a man who wanted to order dumpling, but got slaped on his face, laughted at it. It is a good joke, but it hardly ever happened.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Learning Mandarin Podcast

I recently created and published the first podcast. For anybody who is interested in listening, go to:

It should be fun!

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Beer and Mandarin

Many people have shared this experience. It is that when they had a beer, their Mandarin speaking fluency suddenly got a lot better. The beer somehow lifts up the pressure and things get better with their Mandarin.

Thanks to Maya and Sayuri for their effort of organizing numerous get-togethers. And, our next get together, guess from the beginning of this page, should be in a bar, where everybody can have a drink and some fun!

First who it is for:
- The students who have graduated from MSL
- The current students
- The future students
- Their friends, and friends’ friends
All are welcome!

The second is when:
The plan is on Oct 29 (Saturday) late afternoon around 4-7pm.

The next is where and how much:
There are two bars in Wanchai offering a good deal for a group of people. It is a cash bar. The cost will be on each person.

- Choice 1: Coyote, the deal is $198 per person (incl. snacks and ½ jug Margarita.).

- Choice 2: Chinatown, the deal is $100 per person (incl. snacks and 2 drinks, could be all the house spirits, house wine and house champagne, and all the bottles beer).

Which one do you want to go for?

Then we get to the most important what:
Remember the saying somebody’s junk is someone else’s treasure? Donate some of your unwanted stuff for an auction sale! This auction (hopefully) will be conducted in Chinese! And the money will be the initial fund to our next get together, like going to Disney Land Hong Kong! If at the end nobody thinks your junk is treasure, you can take it home.

Mark the date on your calendar, start thinking what stuff you want to get rid of, and fresh ideas and suggestions are welcome!

Finally it’s time to ask you: Are you in?

You can tell your friends this message.

MSL Learning Center

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Culture Clash in Classroom

In one of my textbooks I included a lesson discussing on cluture clash. I gathered some well known information, such as Thai people don't like other people touching their heads, and if you want to eat something using your hand in Malaysia, do not use left hand, etc. In the class, students and I would discuss personal experience related to this topic, and exchange stories and learn some new words and expressions.

This type of culture clash in the textbook is so obvious. And just recently I realized culture clash is an everyday experience for all the teachers who are teaching somebody from other countries.

Most Chinese people are direct, and Chinese language is a direct language. English is quite a hidden language compare to Chinese. Now direct Chinese speaking teachers are teaching not-so-direct English speaking students. I can understand better why this culture clash can have a deep impact on one's learning a new and so different language.

Chinese teachers say:"This is wrong. You should do this. I have corrected you before." Students might get a bit hurt (thinking this is the interpretation of you're stupid) and sometimes would lose interests completely. The result is teachers won't have any job satisfaction and students didn't learn anything. To avoid this problem, it is good for teachers to say:"It's quite good. If you do this, it will be very good." It will encourage students to work some more and be self motivated. And that is very important in eventually achieving the desired results. For good Chinese teachers who are teaching other countries folks, I do urge them to know their students well. Only if they know well of their students culture (not only what they eat and drink, but also the way of speaking and choice of words they use and much more), can they be good at teaching them a new language, and help them know more about a different culture, to built understanding and trust.

However, to only rely on teachers' part is not a good idea for students. The fundemental key of learning a new language well still lies within. I will discuss about this at another time.

A Madarin Study Blog
MSL Learning Center

Thursday, September 15, 2005

How Fast Can You Learn?

" I want to learn fast and be able to talk to Chinese people when I travel around China." This is what most people's wish when they start their first lesson. I have kept a record of how fast a person can learn, let's say from zero or near zero till finish Intro Level A. There are people who have taken lessons before they came to MSL, but I put them into Intro Level A. The reason is that after initial level assessment, I found out that their knowledge is all scaterred quite randomly and couldn't build up a decent small talk, and therefore, they couldn't start higher.

Now let me get back to the record. Most people finish Intro Level A in 28 hours. Some people think it's just right, some people think they need a bit more time, and some people think they can finish in 24 hours. Then this year April, Wantanee and Tim started their Intro Level A, then they finished Intro Level A in 12 hours. It's not like going through the motion of knowing the meaning of different words, it is that they can talk quite decently in Mandarin and can use what they know quite well. The most amazing part is that they are very busy people, they travelled around and had many trips. So these the lessons were all conducted quite randomly and they can still retain what they had and used it very well. They came back from a trip in Sichuan and Yunnan in China last week, and when they were in China they spoke nothing but Mandarin.

But last month came Paul. He set this record in a new height. He did a wonderful part on studying before the lesson and spent hours and hours in doing assignment. So the record is he finished his Intro Level A in 8 hours! The last 2 hours of these 8 hours were reviewing and checking and making sure he got everything right. And he did. He is so dedicated and determined and fast.

So next time, if you are going to ask "how fast can I learn?" , you know the answer now is 8 hours to complete Intro Level A. I seriously doubt if anybody can do any faster. But I never know.

MSL Learning Center

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Being Practical Pays

I am quite a fan of Bill Bryson (except his The Lost Continent, which I think is quite mean.). I recently read his Neither Here Nor There where he talked about travelling around Europe. It has some very funny part.

Here I would like to quote (on page 76) his words on talking about his experience in learning French. He was in Wallonia, France. And,

"... hardly anyone in Wallonia speaks English. I began to regret that I didn't understand French well enough to eavesdrop. I took three years of French in school, but learned next to nothing. The trouble was that the textbooks were so amazingly useless. ... at no point did they intersect with the real world. ... They were always tediously preoccupied with classroom activities,... How often on a visit to France do you need to tell someone you want to clean a blackboard? How frequently do you wish to say, "It is winter. Soon it will be spriing"? In my experience, people know this already"

What a laugh!
It shows for all the purpose of learning a new language, being practical is quite important. At least you can eavesdrop!

MSL Learning Center

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Benefit of Learning

There are great benefit in learning. I read this before: learning is the greatest investment you ever made to yourself. But when it comes to Chinese, I heard some different stories. One of them is very convincing at first.

Quote: And don't you watch the news? According to CCTV, all foreigners want to learn Chinese. Well, you can't exactly believe what you see on CCTV. There are some people who wish to learn Chinese, but it's more for something to improve themselves rather than to help with their career or something. So, the people who want to learn Chinese are usually students. There are a lot of Russians up here in Harbin who want to learn Chinese to help them with their careers, and some Koreans and Japanese. But when you compare the number of Chinese people studying English to the number of foreigners studying Chinese, it's a miniscule percent. Usually western business men don't want to bother to learn Chinese. They figure Chinese should learn English to do business with them. And some people think that China will become the next economic powerhouse. Once the standard of living goes up in China and things start to become a little expensive, the foreign companies will pull out of China and find someone else who is cheaper to exploit, thus crushing the Chinese economy. Nope, I'm sorry to say this, but I doubt if there will ever be a large number of people who wish to learn Chinese. Mostly because the written language is too difficult and the tones make it an almost unpronounceable language.

So, if things really come true as my friend predicted, there will be vast number of people who will learn. Think if a Chinese person is the big boss of IBM, don't you think at least half of the company will learn his native language?

As the rate of Chinese company are buying foreign companies going, maybe in the next twenty years to forty years, speaking Chinese will be a ticket to get a job.

MSL Learning Center

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The power of listening

When learning Mandarin, many people are facing these two common problem:

1. When they read a text, they understand. When they listen to it, they don't or not as well as when they read.

2. They are always afraid that their pronuciation isn't good enough. The joke of addressing mother as horse seems has a greater impact on people than I though of. (It actually never happened. I guarantee you!) There was a girl I met last year. She told me she took some Mandarin lessons before. I said that was good and asked if she liked it. Then she told me that at the end she hated it because she was so afraid to speak because her teacher corected her pronuciations of every word when she was trying to speak. It was like setting up a mental block that she will never be able to say those tones right or pronuce 'j, q, x, zh, ch, sh, r' in the teacher's way (the pefect way). She cried once or twice and eventually gave up learning. That was really sad. I told her it really was the teacher's fault. That teacher has no teaching ability but to demonstrate perfect pronuciations.

These two problems can actually be traced to the same source: Students probably didn't do enough listening exercises. This is a very transparent answer to the first problem, but seldom do people realize that listening can help (truely help) their pronunciations and their understanding of this language in general.

Most of the time, students are very vulnerable because they really rely on teachers to guide them and help them. So how can teachers truely help them?

Over the time, I have developed a theroy in regarding the above two mentioned problems. It worked remarkablly well with my students: increasing their listening exercises.

There are certain things teachers need to pay attention to is:
1. Don't let the students listen to TV all the time, especially not Intro or Basic level students.
2. Listening script must contain no new words or a maximum one or two new words to students.

With the help of Grace, we have pull the resources together and published Mandarin Express Intro Level A workbook. It has 55 compatible listening exercises. It's available now at MSL Learning Center. The cost is HKD132 (incl. 2 CDs).

After a certain amount of listening exercises, I found my students not only improved their pronunciations, but also more confident in speaking, and as a bonus to me, they have greater faith in me as well.

MSL Learning Center

Monday, August 08, 2005

3 mis-conceptions in learning Mandarin

To learn a new language is always rewarding. I have met people who speak 5 or more languages! I would think they don't have time for other things except learning new languages one after another one. But amazingly, all of them have other more focused careers, like sales and marketing, architect, researcher, etc. Learning actually accelarated their careers!

More and more people start taking Mandarin lessons. So many people approached me and asked,"I want to speak Mandarin as fast as possible. I want to have conversations with Chinese people. "

This goal is very attainable as long as you are aware of these 3 mis-conceptions:

1. If I go to Beijing, I will learn very fast.

I have met many people who went to China for 3 to 6 months, and came back with fluent inappropriate Mandarin. And many mistakes are fossilized and very hard to correct. I don't understand why their teachers didn't correct them!! Although all Chinese people will figure out the meaning, they all know it's bad Chinese. Make sure you don't learn 20 - 30 new words or characters everyday, five days a week! It's a pity to see so many people tried so hard capturing so many new things, and eventually only a very small portion learned. Both time and money are wasted.

2. If I listen to Mandarin everyday, I will understand it.

You should listen to Mandarin at an appropiate level to you everyday, then you will understand and improve. There was a study that put babies in front of TV sets for months to see if they can speak the target language. The result is NO. By immersing yourself to the sound of Mandarin won't help you understand it better. The most effective way is to listen to tailored listening exercises. The process is gradual. One day you will find you can understand Mandarin TV programs, Chinese movies etc., effortlessly.

3. If I learn 1000 characters, I will be able to read.

It will be true if given a condition: the extensive usage of these 1000 characters. I have seen people are learning characters by flash cards, one by one. But this is the most inefficient way to learn reading Chinese. Only one tenth of your effort can produce some substantial result. For example, Japanese use around 1500 Chinese characters in Japanese language. But if give a text written purely withing these 1500 characters, Japenese people wouldn't understand it.

Be aware these pitfalls. Study smarter is better than study hard. Follow a good structured program, and follow good skillful teachers, are proven the fastest way to speak Mandarin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Inside and Outside of Mandarin Express

Mandarin Express Intro Level A was out by the end of May, and now Intro Level B will be out soon in about one week. By then Intro Level Student's Book (published version) will be completed. Intro Level A Work Book is on its way, and it will be ready next month or in early September.

Once in a while, there will be a student ask me why there is no English translations in our textbooks.

As the entire Mandarin Express series is classroom textbooks, English translations can have more negative effects than positive ones. (Classroom textbooks are different from referrence books, like dictionaries, or grammar books etc. ) The plan is only Intro Level books have some English instruction, and the other levels all leave English out.

But as this subject is raised from time to time by different people, maybe what they really need is a students manuel or guidebook. This will be a referrence book, using English to explain everything in the textbook.

Upon this, it's good to hear some other opinions.

Monday, June 27, 2005

MSL Mandarin Proficiency Certificate

MSL Learning Center issues four levels of Mandarin Proficiency Certificates: Mandarin Intro Level, Mandarin Basic Level, Mandarin Pre-Intermediate Level, Mandarin Intermediate Level.

To obtain the certificates, students must complete the required courses, and attend a test at the end of the course. If students pass the test with satisfaction, a certificate will be issued.

The certificate contains the course duration, your achievement on your test, the test date, and the certificate issue date.

Please refer to for guidelines and charges on four levels of tests.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

English in the textbook, is it good?

When you flip through the dictionary, and try to pick a meaning out of many to fit into the text, do you think “Oh, I wish there were English translations! So I don’t need to spend so much time doing this!” Or do you think English translations can help people in the class to know all the meanings of the words, and thus there will be more time devoted into exercise?

The truth is looking up the dictionary has greater benefits than simply flipping the pages. You will have a better understanding on how flexible Chinese characters and words are. Once you decide which meaning it is by judging through the context, you know you have improved.

More over, looking up dictionary can help you avoid some traps which translations in the textbook create. Translations can tell you the meanings of a sentence. At the same time, it can also be confusing:

The first problem is that people tend to tally word by word. The result is you get the wrong meaning. And sometimes there are not enough words for you to tally. Then you get confused. For example:

For example:

Qing ni zai shuo yi bian. (Please repeat.)

There are six words for ‘please repeat’. Which one is which one?

In this way, translation loses the very important structure in Chinese.

The next questions raised will be “Can a textbook have word by word translation?” They can, but you wouldn’t be able to figure out the meaning of the whole sentence. That’s the trouble you face when somebody speaks bad English, you feel strange and sometimes couldn’t understand at all. Imagine the textbook is written using this language.

Therefore, translations can be misleading. And it has first time impression on you. And the first time impression is hard to change.

Dictionaries and reference books are far more useful than translations in a textbook.

(MSL Learning Center)http://www.msllearningcenter.com

Friday, May 13, 2005

Drunken Weshmen and variations in Mandarin

Have you ever attempted conversation with a drunken Welshman? I did one evening after getting well prepared at the Rugby Sevens. We supposedly shared English as our native tongue. However, I found him almost unintelligible. A view shared by a polyglot French friend who’d joined us earlier before abandoning us in search of a conversation spoken in a version of English he could understand. The oddly musical lilting melody of even a sober Welshman is often melodically entertaining and reminds me of the tones and pitch changes of Putonghua. But to my ear, neither are effective communication tools.

Back at Easter, I’d ambitiously set off to Beijing with my family, following this with a solo week in Qingdao, Shandong. I was armed with all that MSL can do to assist slow learners, with only a marginal affinity for language, I felt optimistic and full of fresh hope for glimpses into the meanings within the cacophony that surrounds me everywhere in China.

Perhaps I was overly ambitious or simply delusional…certainly I was ill-prepared. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the regional variations of Mandarin should be at least as numerous and extreme as those we find amongst English-speakers. We’ve all been told in class of the overuse of and emphasis on “r” in Beijing. Easy enough really, sounds curiously engaging and quaintly regional but quite manageable.

Qingdao was once a de-facto German colony or trading enclave. Interesting Teutonic or middle-European architecture remains downtown and in the old suburbs of the port city. As does a more emphatic use of the “r” than even Beijing has combined with some very difficult guttural sounds that I was not able to reproduce for fear of being arrested for hawking and spitting. The Olympic sailing events are coming there in ’08, so the new east) city is cracking down on such old traditions.

…..But, it’s not just the sounds…..another test is hidden for the unwary Mandarin neophyte. Tones!!……never a strength of mine or most English-speakers, I suspect. In Qingdao, it seems, a 1st tone is changed to a 3rd (high/level becomes falling/rising) and a 2nd tone becomes a 4th (rising becomes falling). I’m sure this is challenging even for good students and native speakers of Mandarin. I’m told the bright side is that 3rd and 4th tones remain unchanged. However, I can’t attest to that, since I couldn’t tell which were meant to be unchanged and which were uttered as pure Putonghua.

I wish they’d had a sign at the airport warning me of this when I arrived. Although I’d have lost my catch-all excuse for errors and conversational offences. On reflection, conversations with drunken Welshmen are now on my list of useful preparation activities before my next trip to deepest China.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

From Easter weekend to Tomb Sweeping Festival

Long and nice Easter weekend is now over. If given the chance, I would vote for the more holidays the better!

As a Chinese person, I didn't grow up with celebrating Easter, not mentioning get four days off as public holidays. It was later in my life that I learned why there is a good Friday and then easter Sunday. And I realized the Chinese translation of this holiday is so close to the original event.

In Chinese, Easter is translated into "fu4 huo2 jie2" (the numbers here are symbols for tones). "fu4 huo2" means "bring back to life" or "resurrection", and "jie2" is "festival". In English, "Easter" doesn't convey all these meanings to people like me. I also learned that Easter is also a symbol that spring starts, and that's why it is associated with bunnies and eggs.

This get-clearer-in-translation also happened in translating Chinese customs. There's one coming next week. It is "qing1 ming2", literal meaning "pure brightness". Chinese people consider at the time of "qing1 ming2", chilly weather will be gone for good, in stead, wonderful warm spring weather comes together with blooming flowers, and a little rain sometimes. And also it is time to sweep the tombs of your ancesters. Some people translate it into "Tomb Sweeping", and since it's a public holiday, add a "Festival" at the end. It is therefore very clear on what Chinese people do on 5th of April.

It's good for most people that after a long weekend break, there is one more coming so quickly.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

So, what next?

The weather's getting warmer, the skies are blue again, and the sun has come out of hiding. This can only mean one thing. No, not that it's spring again, but that we should plan our next get-together.

Earlier we suggested a walk-about with stops for shopping at a street market, for eating at some local place, and maybe for drinking. I know from experience that the latter activity does wonders for foreign-language speaking and comprehension.

Can I have a show of hands?

Other suggestions are perfectly welcome too!

Not quite ready for primetime

Around the time that April first conceived of a students' social group, I took a visiting friend to the street market in Mongkok. My friend pointed at some trinkets he wanted to bring home, so we stopped at that stall. Armed with almost a year's worth of Mandarin lessons, I said "I'll handle this," and called out to the shopkeeper (fu wu yuan, I whispered to myself) in a loud voice.

"Duo shao qian?" I said confidently.

"Si wu," she replied. My brain translated this as four-five.

"Forty five," I told my friend

"Keyi er shi wu kuai?" I asked. Twenty dollars off the asking price seemed reasonable to me. I looked up. Fu wu yuan was giving me a strange look.

"The price is fifteen dollars," she told me in English.

"Ah. Sorry. Dui bu qi." My face was bright red as two things dawned on me. First, those 4 darn tones may be screwey, but accents are screwier. The Cantonese drop the h-sound, so the word for "ten" is "si," not "shi". Second, even accounting for that, I have no idea how my brain came up with "forty five". Best to bargain by punching numbers into a calculator. My friend did that and knocked 2 dollars off the price.

Did you know Chinese people don't say "please" and "thank you" to their mothers>

Topic: Did you know Chinese people don't say "please" and "thank you" to their mothers?

MSL presents a "Do you know..." series of seminars featuring Chinese culture, history and more!

Equipped with knowledge of both East and West, our teacher, Grace will take you on a fascinating ride through a diferent, unique, and sometimes shocking Chinese cultural landscape.
With her sense of humor, you will not only understand why "please" is not essential vocab in most Chinese people's language, but also appreciate why.

Location: MSL Learning Center
Date and Time: April 12, 2005, 2:30 - 3:30pm
Admissoin: $50 per MSL student, $100 per non-MSL student

Call 2854 3039 or e-mail to reserve your seat before Mar 31.
Limited number of seats available.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Do you want to do an intensive Basic Level A course?

A fellow student, Jo Reddy, an attractive busy law teacher travelling from U.K. to H.K. and back to U.K. all the time. She has finished both Intro Level A and Intro Level B, and she really wants to continue to Basic Level A.

If you have your afternoons free for the peroid of 18 Apr to 6 May, she would love to study Basic level A course with you in these three weeks! It will be two hours every afternoon from 2:30 - 4:30pm.

Sounds good? email and

Subtitles sometimes is amusing

I watched a DVD movie this Sunday with Chinese subtiles. My English is not that good, so sometimes I need to read subtitles to help me. Here is what I think is funny:

When a girl in the movie said something about her horescope, and the subtiltes translated into 'horse hut'!

Sometimes I find it amusing when I spot one or two errors like that.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Our first get-together

tony and the girls discuss the fine points of the tofu-red wine pairing

grace disagrees heartily, while sayuri and florence keep their counsel

before maya subjected them to "Infernal Affairs" with the mandarin soundtrack

sayuri (with coco), sylvia, verena and florence are still smiling. something must have gone right.


Hello, fellow acolytes of April! This is a supplement to our "social group": a venue for all of us to meet online, swap war stories about learning Mandarin, figure out how we can practice our fledgling language skills outside the classroom, and plan our next get-together.

I will give everybody an email invitation to become a member of this blog. This will allow you to read all messages, comment on them, and post your own. In time the blog will develop its own character and we can decide if we want a stricter format; for now please just feel free to post anything you want to share about your Mandarin-learning experiences. Funny stories are especially welcome.