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Thursday, November 30, 2006

10 New Pre-Intermediate B Online Lessons Released!

These set of new audio lessons are based on Mandarin Express Pre-Intermediate Level B.
The ten lessons are about:

11. Past event, present and future
12. Abilities, skills, careers
13. Personality traits and job preference
14. Aspects of countries, world knowledge
15. Describing recent experiences
16. Describing movies, actors/actresses, and movie directors. Oscar Awards.
17. Gestures and culture shock
18. Sleep and dreams
19. Predicament and dilemmas
20. Excuses and white lies

Check the lessons out at our online store.

Learning Mandarin is not confined to the classroom

It's on the street;
It's in restaurant;
It's in taxies;
It's talking to people;
It's reaching;
It's communicating.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Tones Are Important, But Not Essencial

You should not worry too much if you can't get tones perfect. Context is way more important than tones.

For example, below is a text written in pinyin with no tone markers. You still can understand everything, can't you?

ni men hao. wo jiao dawei, wo shi mei guo ren. wo zhu zai shanghai, wo de nv peng you hen piao liang.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Terracotta Warriors

The Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an have been there since 250 BC. It's a must see if you ever plan a trip around China.

More over, in Xi'an, there is exellent hand made noodles, dumplings, and other great fabulous food!

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Chinese Idiom for Today

It takes more than one cold day for the river to freeze.

冰冻三尺, 非一日之寒
bing dong san chi, fei yi ri zhi han

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Why there is NO English translation in podcast transcripts?

In fact, not only podcast transcript has no translation, but also no translation in speaking and listening Mandarin Express series and Chinese Reading and Writing books. Not even in the vocabulary list.

The reason is simple: To force you remember. And when you do that, it's more likely that you will remember.

This is from my personal experience. Whenever there is Chinese text and English text both available, I find myself only read Chinese part. If there is a new English word listed there with Chinese translation, I would remember the Chinese part better. Later on I remember I learned a new word and the meaning is such and such. But I can not remember what that word is.

If I learned a new word through guessing, or through English text, that word is staying with me.

To draw a conclusion, for all the Mandarin Chinese learner there, try to use something with no translation in your first language.


Friday, November 24, 2006

It's the motivation that gets you start...

It's the habit that keeps you going on.

This is what I see every time I go to my gym. I can see this motto printed on T shirts, or on the board. I totally agree with it, and can even use the same anology in learning Mandarin.

To form a good habit of learning certainly helps greatly.

If you go to gym two or three times a week, use that time listen to some Mandarin. In this way, you get double benefits!

(When I go to gym, I listen to English business news. I used to think business news is too fast for me. Now I am a lot better now.)


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

si And shi

To be able to speak "si" and "shi" clearly is certainly great. But if you can't, there's no need to sweat too much about it.

Many Chinese people can't. People from the south, including Shanghai, Taiwan, and Guangdong, they can't different "si" and "shi" very clearly in their speech. But that doesn't stop people are communicating with one another in Putonghua. In fact, I enjoy speaking to Taiwan people, and I quite like their soft accent.

Therefore, context is far more important than constant drills of "zi, ci, si, zhi, chi, shi".


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Proficient and Fluent

There are some differences between these two terms.

Any body can get fluent when they are answering the questions like, “what is your name?” or “how are you?”

But that doesn’t count when we refer to proficiency. A good degree in proficiency should lift you up from day to day functional conversation, for example, setting up an appointment, or bargaining in a market. Intro Level students can do that very well already. They are fluent in certain areas. However, they are not proficient.

Once you get to a certain proficiency level, you can discuss your life changes, the biggest achievement you had in your career, etc. People who finished Basic Level usually feel they have turned a corner. That corner is a transaction point to shift you from fluent to proficient.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Guess work

Guess work is VERY important, only when you are NOT talking to your teacher! A good guess work keeps conversation flow and the satisfaction you feel is priceless.

But when you are talking to your teacher in a class, it's better to understand every word there is. That is the education part in the word "educated guess". Random guss is not as good as educated one. Only after you chewed, analyzed, and digested all the words, sentences with your teacherduring a meaningful conversation, you can produce really good guess work when you are outside of a classroom.


Friday, November 17, 2006

3.5 hours a week

How much time do you need to spend in practicing Mandarin at home, or in a taxi, or anywhere else other than in a classroom with your teacher?

I recommend 3.5 hours a week. The best version is 0.5 hours each day for 7 days. The worst version is 3.5 hours in one day and nothing for the rest of the week.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Input, Output and Audio Lessons

How to learn Mandarin Chinese effectively is about how to balance input and output. If you are paying a private tutor, it's also about how to make the most of it when you are with your tutor.

The basic input is sounds, words, patterns, meanings, sentences, or conversations, stories, etc. The basic output is your ability to carry on the conversations. How long you can carry on a meaningful conversation should determine your level.

Let's say the input part. It's a necessary stage. Without input, you will never speak the language, unless one day we are all like those people in Matrix, just load it up! Traditionally, lots of class time is spent on the basic input. Pronunciation, meaning, and repeat after teacher to try to get things right. Necessary guidance from teachers is essential, but sometimes things got stuck in one place and wasted too much time. This is where audio lessons fit the best. They can solve most of the problems in getting the pronunciation, pattern and meaning right. And they can also prepare you to speak to other people by first speaking to yourself. This alone will lift tremendous stress from students. If you have questions, ask your teacher. It's time saving.

The second part is output. Output requires practice. The first safe ground is to practice with your teacher. Teacher is patient, teacher knows how much you learned and therefore limits her/his language, teacher encourages you to speak even when you are not sure, teacher designs special activities to focus on your weak spots. Outside of classroom, things will get bumpy. Natural speech speed is the most difficult part to adapt, although many people believe that it is their vocabulary isn't enough. Most of the time, vocabulary is enough, it's the lightening speed that kills you. The excellent thing is that you have your teacher. The more meaningful practice you had with your teacher, the better you are in the real world.

If you do the basic input at home or at the airport, you will have a lot more time to practice with your teacher, also smile all the way in a class!


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How to use podcast transcript

You spend a $ and get a podcast transcript. You can:

1. read aloud
2. look up the dictionary for the new words
3. write pinyin on top of the characters
4. listen to that podcast again and check your understanding
5. translate into your own language and translate back to Chinese
6. discuss the topics with your Chinese speaking friends

Monday, November 13, 2006

Workbook Basic Level A available on line!

Workbook Basic Level A is up online!
It is best used with Students Book Baisc Level A.

This Workbook has total 120 exercises, including 61 listening exercises in different forms and focuses. Here's some recommended steps on how to use all these materials:

Step 1: listen to Basic Level A audio lessons
Step 2: complete Basic Level A workbook
Step 3: practice speaking with people

Check everything out in

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Great Breakthrough In Technology

We recently solved a very critical technology problem in online learning. That reduced our cost in providing you the same quality online lessons with less money! Technology is a very important part of our future. It makes learning more efficient, and also save the planet.

For example, if everybody downloads e books, it will save massive trees being chopped down just to print hundreds of books sitting in a warehouse.

Here's some changes on the cost we made:

Online Lessons Subscriptin (per month): before HKD1950, now HKD1050
Class/Net Fast Mandarin group lesson (10 weeks): before HKD6000, now HKD5000
Private lessons + Online Lessons (per month): before HKD4000, now HKD3500

Techonology saves money. To find out more on different classes or lessons, click

Friday, November 10, 2006

Three Donts in Learning Speaking Mandarin

The first one: DO NOT learn a lot of vocabulary. Too many vocab alone won't improve your speaking ability. On the contratry, they will defeat your confidence, and make you vernurable in learning.

The second one: DO NOT learn new lesson everyday if you have a hard time trying to keep up with what you learned on previous days.

The third one: DO NOT only speak Mandarin, also write it. Write something, essays, journals, etc. in Mandarin helps, even when you are the only reader.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A New Look of Our Website has a new look now! It's tidier, cleaner, and prettier. The more important is that it is easier to read and browse. Check it out!

For you who had sent emails, thank you!