Thoughts on 宅 zhái

homestead-149897__480Yes, my thought bubbles are boiling! Especially after days of memorizing the information to pass two exams I set as the goal for myself in this summer, my brain is on fire like a volcano ready to erupt! Of these two challenges that I picked to go along with my committed working schedule, one is for my driving license and one is for the mastery of the AXIS system for data management. So, as you may see, I have a lot of memorization, understanding and thinking to do for the next two months.

This is alright for me when the Beijing weather is all hot, gloomy and smoggy. It’s not that great outside anyway, so why bother to explore for a little bit outdoor fun? But these days it’s a different story! The air is so good, breeze cool and refresh, that it all becomes a complete distraction for me.

I looked at my calendar, realizing for weeks I have been juggling among books, computer and my phone. That translates to too much indoor time of mine that is brain demanding. Then I thought of this word 宅 zhái, formally understood in English as residence/house as a noun and in the informal context equivalent to the English word nerdy as an adjective.

The word 宅 zhái has extended meanings if you dig a little deeper to its origin. I’m not going to do that here, instead mainly to introduce its informal use in today’s Chinese. Its informal meaning has become more of a trendy word that is widely adopted to describing people who tend to dwell at home. Now I think宅女 zháinǚ (女is woman in Chinese) is a word to name me much appropriate if not the most. I guess our lifestyle of today’s society where more individuals spend time on working from home, playing internet games or on social media etc. has a lot to do with it. After all, the development of any language is a constant-evolving process, isn’t it? It’s noteworthy of mentioning that unlike the English nerdy, 宅 zhái can be viewed as a neutral word of choice in emotion. As much as 宅 zhái has its origin of a word with negative meaning, I’m happy to call myself 宅女 zháinǚ—-or 宅男 zháinán if I was a guy (as you would have guessed, 男 nán is man in Chinese) —-since these words has been well-accepted by the Chinese speakers especially among the mainlanders in China and that its connotation is heavily depends on the context.

If you are learning Chinese or have had the experience of learning a new language, chances are you will also think that the best way to master an unfamiliar word is through using it in sentence. So, here it comes in case it helps.


I’m a woman who dwells at home a lot.

Or I’m a nerdy woman (but without any negative meaning).


I stay indoors a lot.

Writing up to this point, I start to think perhaps I should let off steam to have some outdoor fun! You know what, I think I’m going to do just that after this post!

Alright, as usual, you can always click the audio play below to hear the Chinese term’s pronunciation. Any thoughts? Welcome to leave your comments!


Summer Fun ▏Self-guided Tour 自由行zìyóuxíng

sign-429419_1280There are two months over the course of a year that I really enjoy browsing the moments of my friend circle on Wechat, something equivalent to the updates on Facebook or Twitter in case you wonder. These two months, January and July, are my favorite when it comes to social media activity in that people travel and share a lot of beautiful pictures taken from their trips around this time of year.

For a week, whenever I open my Wechat moment page, there they are, these pictures in which my friends with big smile and in all kinds of greeting posture are surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful scenes. This July my family doesn’t have any vacation planned and I’m busy working on my summer goal (in case you are wondering, welcome to revisit my post talking about 暑假 to read more about it), so seeing these stunning images reflecting my friends’ travel experience is a wonderful way to feed on my fancies.

Given that, I have chosen the word for today’s post all about travel. Self-guided tour, 自由行zìyóuxíng in Chinese, has always been the choice of me and my husband. With my parents, it’s a different story since they enjoy joining in a tour group, which I also see why. Being part of a tour group (旅行团lǚxíngtuán in Mandarin) has its merits. Members don’t need to worry about accommodations and transports, or entrance tickets of scenic spots for that matter. But it lacks something fun that a self-guided tour offers.

In comparison, it’s no brainer that being on a self-guided tour requires a lot of preparation beyond just about what to pack for the trip. You need to start from scratch deciding on the means of transportation, where-to to cover the vacation days, and what the most realistic budget is etc. It can be mind boggling in this process especially when it comes to travel to another country. But that’s also where the fun is! You get to choose where to visit and if mood strikes, you can be impulsive to stay somewhere for a little longer while visiting a place that really draws you, or call that experience off if it doesn’t feel right to you. Our trip to the Phi Phi Island during the winter holiday in the beginning of this year is the testimony. It’s a sweet memory where a lot of problem-solving was behind, because of which the memory will stay with us forever.

Now let’s look at this phrase self-guided tour, 自由行zìyóuxíng, in case you are a Chinese learner who wants to dig a bit deeper on learning this Chinese word. 自由zìyóu means freedom and 行xíng refers to travel. The term is function as a noun, so we may use this term in such example as below.

如今,许多人选择自由行去旅游。Nowadays, many people choose self-guided tour to travel.

Alright, that’s today’s word! As usual, click below to hear how it sounds by a native Chinese. Also, feel free to leave your comment on this topic. I would love to hear about all your thoughts!

Is it Better? ▏Distant Learning 远程学习 yuǎnchéng xuéxí

phone-2056507_1280Two weeks ago, I enrolled in a driving school. It was not until a week after my enrollment that I started learning my course. Of three major tests required to pass for receiving a driver’s license, one is for students to self-study online with Wechat group tutoring offered to prepare. So far, I’m really enjoying it!

For someone like me who has working hours to commit, this learning process couldn’t be better. I can self-pace my learning, and while watching and listening to the trainer on a video screen, I can rewind it anytime to review. What’s more, the school provides its students with an app via which we get to practice and check how we go at the end of each module.

It brought me to think of this word distant learning, 远程学习 yuǎnchéng xuéxí in Chinese.

Between distant learning and classroom learning, is the former better?

Absolutely! At the moment, I’m coaching two Chinese learners online, both of whom have expressed that the Internet has made their Mandarin learning much easier. We use zoom meeting room to go through ppts, have conversation in Chinese and work on their Chinese character’s strokes at the cost leveraged by currency exchanges favoring the students. Distant learning has made it more efficient for language learners to learn and practice a new language without having to buy a plane ticket to visit that country.

As our world grows, learning has become so essential in all aspects of our lives. It’s no longer something we only concern in our school years. Learning for a diploma from school, learning for a new skill to stay ahead at the workplace, or learning for a better communication to keep a relationship content never stops, and distant learning has broken the geographical barriers and opened the doors for all that possible.

It is also certainly better in that nearly all successful distant learning is student-centered. The traditional style of learning, where a classroom full of students listening to the teacher speaking, has proven less efficient for the learners. In this experience contrary to distant learning, only a proportionally small time-span is spent on successfully absorbing information while a chunk of time block is wasted on either commute or mind wondering. Here we are looking at an inefficient learning and we need to put a stop to looking at it as the only way to learn.

Distant learning has its variety, and it’s also a great start point to develop learning from online to offline. When we are equipped with this learning accessible via video, apps and receiving coaching/tutoring through human interaction online or offline, it’s almost a sheer excuse to just say I can’t learn it.

Alright so much with my thoughts on this topic! Here is the word of the day 远程学习 yuǎnchéng xuéxí. 远yuǎn is far in English, 程chéng relates to the idea of distance/journey, and 学习xuéxí means learning. To use it in a sentence, here comes one example.

我喜欢远程学习。(I like distant learning.)

As usual, you may click the audio play below to hear its pronunciation by a native Chinese.

Heatwave Episode ▏Heat Stroke 中暑zhòngshǔ

0970050177Ever since Beijing entered this summer season, heatwaves have on-and-off haunted the city. The thermometer at our Beijing home constantly spikes to 37 ℃. Even for someone like me whose hometown is in Wuhan, a place known as one of three-furnace-cities in China for its humidity and heat in summer, days like this in Beijing has hit my heat tolerance limit.

While sitting in front of my computer to write this week’s blog, heat seeped its way to kindle my inspiration for this post. Our keyword today is heatstroke, 中暑zhòngshǔ in Chinese. When outdoor temperature climbs above 37 ℃ for a-long-period of time, we hear this word quite often.

Lately a video clip circulated among my Wechat friends shows a brokenhearted woman sitting and crying next to her pet, a Golden Retriever who appears not responsive. According to its caption, the woman walked her dog in the sun highest after giving the dog a bath but not drying his fur properly. The dog had a heatstroke and was sent to a vet hospital but failed to respond to the emergency treatment and unfortunately died. This is no doubt a tragedy resulted from ignorance toward dog care, and it really broke my heart to learn about this news. But it’s also an alert for all of us to be aware of heatstroke! It happens to both humans and animals.

Now let’s put aside the story of heatstroke and look at this word 中暑zhòngshǔ. 中 is a Chinese character with two tones—–you may also visit my previous post introducing different Chinese tones, where you can read and hear about the sound of tones in Chinese. When at the first tone, 中 zhōng means in the middle, and an example of using this character is in the word中国 zhōngguó meaning China. It has the idea of the center state—–yes it also reflects the arrogance of the ancient Chinese rulers, who considered China is the center of the world. When at the forth tone, 中 zhòng means to hit or be hit by and you may also notice that it functions as a verb. As introduced in my other post, 暑shǔ means hot temperature or heat. 中暑zhòngshǔ literally refers to be hit by heat, and is equivalent to heatstroke.

Let’s use this term in a sentence.

我中暑了。(I got a heatstroke.)

You may click the following audio play to hear how 中暑zhòngshǔ is pronounced by a native Chinese.

To hear about the authentic pronunciation of  中国 zhōngguó, please click below.

Often in the Chinese conversations where include the topic of heatstroke, we mention 防暑降温fángshǔ jiàngwēn, literally meaning ‘to prevent heat, reduce temperature’ if for word-to-word translation. We may understand it as to prevent heatstroke by reducing temperature.

To hear about the authentic pronunciation of this common phrase, please click it below here.

Hope you have found these words and phrases useful. As usual, please let me know how you think on this subject by leaving me a comment. Keep cool in this summer!

A Note of Gratitude ▏Veterinarian 兽医shòuyī

This post is to show my gratitude toward all the veterinarians, especially the ones who fixed my beloved four-legged friend recently. We have a two-and-half year old Labrador Retriever Marley who unfortunately caught a flu more than a week ago. This incidence really caught me off-guard since our dog had never been sick during the past two years. Our last vet visit was when we took him for vaccination soon after we frosted him as a two-month old puppy, and back then he received a minor medical attention due to his maladjustment to his new home. So, as someone who is experiencing her first dog ownership, I had always thought dogs are tough and didn’t give much thought to the fact that they could be ill.

Well first thing first, let me introduce the word veterinarian in Chinese: 兽医shòuyī. If you are a Chinese learner who has reached HSK L2 level and above, you may have recognized this word already—-in case you don’t know this word yet, try to read on—–it should be very easy to remember. In Chinese, 动物dòngwù is equivalent to animal, and 兽shòu is another way to describe animal/beast. 医yī is used in such medical context as 医院yīyuàn (hospital),医生yīshēng (doctor),医学yīxué (medicine). As such, 兽医shòuyī is the Chinese term for veterinarians.

Let’s use this term in a sentence.

他是一位兽医。(He is a veterinarian.)

Feel free to click the audio play below to listen to all the Chinese words mentioned in this post pronounced by a native Chinese.

Now back to my story. Marley’s flu started with excessive coughing and puking. In the first two nights, his symptom was so intense that I and my husband barely slept for two-straight hours. I know that some dog owners treat their dogs as their children but that’s never the way I feel about dogs. In my eyes, Marley is a dog and dogs are animals tough enough to survive on their own. However, when Marley came down with the flu, I did see him as a baby, a poor baby who needed our care. Seeing him so listless made me think of the possibility of losing him, which really terrified me!

Poor Marley on IV 😦

Luckily, the Puppy Town Animal Hospital sits right next to our complex. I had never visited it and when we brought our Marley there, we were immediately assured that our beloved dog was in good hands. Their staff are well-trained and we are very happy with the vets who helped to treat our dog. After four days IV and three days medication, Marley has returned to his old-self, active and energetic. Now we are still struggling to cope with his new diet habit—–he eats everything except for his own food—-but I think in time with some proper training he will be fine. In case you are also in China with a pet, I would strongly recommend you check out Puppy Town for future reference. It’s a great animal hospital!

Thank you Puppy Town!


Forgive me if I have made this post appearing an advertisement, but as you may see, I have been smitten to the professionalism from the vets, 兽医shòuyī there, who helped us so tremendously that I see them as angels and saviors now.

Alright if the word of the day 兽医shòuyī was new to you and you also happen to be on the journey of learning Chinese, I hope you have learned this Chinese word at this point. Any thoughts on this topic? Please leave a comment to let me know.

How to Learn Vocabulary in Studying a New Language?

books-484754__480Just like in building a skyscraper where every brick counts, vocab is the fundamental in learning a new language. In their early stage of learning Mandarin, many people find themselves struggling in memorizing Chinese words. With this observation in mind, I came across a youtube video where reports an amazing news about a border collie named Chaser who has demonstrated a comprehension of more than 1000 English words.

In average, the Chinese learners who have reached HSK-level 4 have 1200 vocab, while HSK-level 2 which requests 600 vocab has already promised the basic daily communication ability in Chinese. That made me grasp firmer on my belief that everyone can learn a new language.  Even for the language like Mandarin Chinese that is so different from English, there is still hope for English speakers to speak Chinese. Having said that, how can we learn vocabulary more efficiently in studying a new language? Here is what I think.

Method matters. Finding the right tool really can shorten your learning curve, especially when it comes to memorizing new words. It doesn’t have to all be tedious drilling and repetition. In my previous post HSK Test Prep Discovery, I recommended skritter as the write way to learn Mandarin. That’s a tool you may consider aside from using flashcards. Recently I had a conversation with a student on the topic of the use of mnemonic, and we talked about a keyword associated method that enables our brain to memorize new words with seemingly less effort and much better results. I have been working with her by applying this method for a little while and we both have come to conclude that it works well. If you happen to be interested in it, we can get into its details in our session if you contact me for helping you improve your Mandarin Chinese.

Adequate input is important. When I started learning English, I spent a lot of time on listening to VOA news and watching English movies. From there to where my English skills are at now, there is no doubt a big leap. Likewise, in Chinese learning, or any other new language acquisition for that matter, spending enough time to immerse ourselves within the environment of the target language is just too important to skip. If you ask me how much time should I spend on learning Chinese every day? I would suggest 2 hours ideally. If that sounds too much, you may want to be flexible, aiming for using fragmented time as much as you can. The point is to make time for it and you will see that if you have done it, result will come.

Consistent interaction makes it all a difference. Language learning is a consistent effort. My own experience in learning English is the testimony. Up to today, there are three categories in my English vocab that I’m aware of. They are: 1) words which I use and speak in the same way as I do in my native tongue Mandarin Chinese; 2) words which I comprehend but still need my effort of searching for or pronouncing when in a relevant context; 3) words that are completely new waiting to be put on to the will-soon-work-on-list of my vocab bank. In daily English communication, I take note on the words that I don’t know yet and pick the words that don’t naturally come to me for practice in next round of conversation. I found this is a great way to expand your vocab size in learning a new language, and for sure learning Chinese is no exception.

Finding the right native to practice also means a lot for language learners. You want to find someone who encourages you, and not everyone is that type. I learned this in my own experience too. Years ago, I went out with a group of friends, most of whom were my coworkers from different countries. We were on a subject of Chinese people speaking English, and a friend of mine mentioned that Chinese people have trouble to pronounce the English phonic z. To make his point, he asked me—-the only Chinese in that group at that moment—-to say the word zoo aloud, which I did without knowing what the fuzz was all about. After that, the group laughed. Obviously, it was the least encouraging learning environment for me, and I realized immediately that this friend of mine is the last person I would like to learn English from. Well, I didn’t hold the grudge against my friend though because I knew then and know now that he was oblivious of how his approach would affect me as a language learner. Luckily, I didn’t flinch, took this as a learning moment instead and grew the ‘thick skin’ to practice on this word. Because of this experience, when it comes to coaching people in learning Mandarin, I’m fully aware of the importance of being patient and that being encouraging is a great quality that an individual can have. Now with a smile on my face, I’m proud of that quality of mine.

Alright! That’s all my thoughts on this topic. Let me know how you think of it by leaving a comment.

Trendy Chinese Word 2017 ▏快递小哥kuàidì xiǎogē

Sitting in front of the keyboard, I’m concentrating on what it shows on my screen. Suddenly I hear a rumble from my stomach. Alas, it’s way past lunch time! I have been drawn to my work for hours, and now my body is urging me to find some food. I take a moment, grabbing my phone and clicking away on it. In less than 30 minutes—-more than often less than 20 min.—-is a knock on my apartment door. Here comes the meal, warm and well-packed. I dive myself back to what I do right after shoveling the lunch to my stomach.

For three days in a week, this is a typical scene in my life. What do you read from it? You may say: you are so passionate about your work! Or you are lucky to have the luxury to get everything done from the comfort of your home. I wouldn’t disagree, but what I really want to draw your attention to through my story is the delivery service that is thriving in our lives.

In China, as we are marching on the way to a cashless economy, our lifestyle is quietly changing too. The prevailing online payment solutions are making all kinds of delivery possible. From booking a delivery for grocery shopping to ordering meals delivered at your door, we have created a trendy term for delivery staff who have made themselves a unique and important place in the life of all of us here.

快递小哥kuàidì xiǎogē, delivery little brother for word-by-word Chinese-to-English translation if I may, is a friendly title for a delivery person that we see everywhere, in the street, complex buildings, in and outside the malls and restaurants. Along with their ride—–often a scooter with a company’s logo—-they shuttle back and forth among the crowds, the park and the air, as busy as a bee always. You may click the audio play below to hear how this Chinese term sounds from a native.

When taking a close look at this title 快递小哥kuàidì xiǎogē, I often hear a voice speaking at the back of my head: isn’t it a gendered name? With its literally meaning of delivery little brother, 快递小哥kuàidì xiǎogē is the title for the job that is taken by women too. But naturally, 快递小哥kuàidì xiǎogē is the only term that has become catchy and well-accepted by everyone when people’s subject falls to the delivery service. Despite all my thoughts and emotions toward this term, I don’t usually let this wonder of gender issue lingering too long. After all, there are proportionally much more delivery guys than girls in this line of work.

Alright, that’s the pick of the trendy Chinese word for today! How do you think about it? Leave a comment to let me know.

Holidays ▏暑假shǔjià 寒假hánjià

A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon a blog talking about 101 books to dive into this summer. Then it hit me—–the school summer vacation is here! It’s almost a ritual for the household of many to plan something during this unique time of a year. Plans like having a family trip to visit Rome or crossing one or two things off your bucket list. Why wouldn’t people to that? While the grass and trees everywhere is green and lush, why not break our routine, enjoy our time and make the best of this season? So, I ask myself: what’s my plan for this summer?

For a start, my plan includes writing this blog, introducing this topic in my own way. School summer vacation, 暑假shǔjià in Chinese is something all kids look forward to regardless of geographical boundaries, I suppose. In case this is a new term that you are struggling to memorize, follow me to look at its Chinese characters. 暑shǔ indicates hot temperature or heat and 假jià (when on the fourth Chinese tone) relates to the idea of taking a break or holiday. So, when these two form a term, the term logically becomes comprehensive for summer vacation, and perhaps under the Chinese cultural influence, grows into the summer vacation exclusively for schools and students. A directly relevant term to 暑假shǔjià is 寒假hánjià. If trying an inductive approach, you will soon have guessed that 寒hán is the character for cold and that 寒假hánjià means the school winter vacation.

Try to click the audio play below to hear how these terms are pronounced by a native Chinese.

So, here is the preface to my plan for this summer, the easy part that can be done in a couple of hours. The main chapter in my plan is something I have meant to have it done for many years but for various reasons postponed to this day. It’s getting my very first driving license! It may not sound like a big deal, but it is for me. It will mean a devotion of time and effort, of course not to mention the investment of money—–it costs around 5000 RMB (around $750) to receive a driver’s license. For years, this thought has been roaming in my head and finally the mind has been made—-it’s time, this summer, this 暑假shǔjià! I sure hope passing a driving test is also easy as I have heard from many people around.

Alright, that’s my plan for this summer, for this 暑假shǔjià! How about you? Do you have anything planned for this summer? Please leave a comment and perhaps share your story with us. I would love to hear all about it.


Non-Stop Learning ▏不断学习 búduàn xúexí

My work allows me to teach others language, support people in pursuing their own dreams and work with a team of talents. I’m constantly inspired by people in my contact. Some of them are executives in companies of different scales, some are stayed-home parents, and some are in the transit of their lives by acquiring new skills, all of whom are a testimony of these two words: non-stop learning.

Non-stop learning, 不断学习 búduàn xúexí in Chinese, is an attitude, the one that is essential for all aspects of our lives, and for language learning it’s no exception. For those of whose Mandarin skills have reached a certain level, this term must have already made its way to your vocab bank. If you haven’t encountered these Chinese characters, here can be a good learning moment on your journey of studying Chinese.

It’s a term that is super easy to comprehend too, making sense by word-to-word translation.  不断búduàn means non-stop and 学习xúexí is in accordant with the word learning. Click the audio below to hear how this phrase is pronounced by a native Chinese speaker.

Being able to keep learning feeds on our passion. If we are passionate enough on something, we will keep going. Passion is something we can grow into too, and so is the habit of non-stop learning, 不断学习 búduàn xúexí.

People often say Chinese is difficult to learn. Well, many of my country fellow men think English is a language too foreign and hard to master. It all depends on where we are and how we see it. Learning a new language is never easy, but is never a mission impossible as long as you have that non-stop learning spirit geared up. One of the myths in learning Chinese is that it’s boring and that memorizing the Chinese characters is a painstaking experience that all learners must wade through. The truth is if it’s boring, that means you likely need a different approach. Instead of using flashcards or repeated drilling, try to find a fun way like using skritter, or finding a native to speak with. The process of non-stop learning can be interesting if we are living it instead of learning it.

Some people come to me and say: I really want to learn the language, but I’m too busy and have no time for it. When we have a full-time job, this is a very reasonable retort. However, driven by the spirit of non-stop learning 不断学习 búduàn xúexí, we make time. The trick lies in priorities. Prioritizing your to-do-list is the key. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin either, so focus on one thing when in process.

Hopefully this post doesn’t read like preaching. All I’m trying to say is non-stop learning is too important to turn our back on. Not just in language learning, also in everything that matters in our lives, we need to equip ourselves with this mentality. Well, I hope by now this term不断学习 búduàn xúexí has made its way to your Chinese vocabulary capacity.

As always, please feel free to leave any comments. I would love to hear about your thoughts on this subject.