Is it Possible to Be Fluent in a Foreign Language After Learning it for Just 100 Days?

The answer is YES! I made it. You can do it, and anyone can too! I have finally finished my book, a book that I have spent months on writing. Finally, it’s in shape and it’s been put on my personal Wechat official account: 学外语那点事 for about a week as of now. How my Chinese followers respond to its release is beyond what I expected. By now I have sent away dozens of my book, and people start contacting me and asking me to help them improve their English.

Many Chinese people are hungry to improve their English skills while the world is seen with more and more people who walk into Mandarin learning classes. This is something I have always observed, but it was not until I started receiving emails from my wechat followers that I had this epiphany. That is, we all desire to communicate with one another! Communication is the gateway for all beautiful and nice things to happen. If so, why not bestow a mission of making communication global upon all of these, all that we do?

Too often, what we learn from language classes is limited to language itself. Truth is, language is a tool to communicate, a bridge for us to talk to each other. Therefore, it’s something that lays in your day-to-day lives. It is not just words you speak. It is about your culture, your thinking and understanding, and people. Because of that, the mastery of English to Chinese individuals and that of Mandarin to Westerners as well as all other non-Chinese speakers can only truly be done in conversations.

My wechat followers have expressed strong wishes to practicing their English with someone, someone an English native, or someone who speaks the language at a proficient level. So, I have established a mailbox for everyone to connect. Feel free to click here  to let me know what your ideal language partner is or  scan the QR-code you see below on your phone to learn more of it!

If none of Mandarin or English is your language, you may also connect to the ones who choose to learn your mother tongue or perhaps you find the people from different countries who are learning the same target language of yours.

Language is a unique skill to have. It brings people together and closer. It creates something we all have in common and helps us truly understand one another. To learn a language means to speak it from day one! My Wechat official account is a place to do just that!

Advertisements

Holiday Gift 节日礼物 jié rì lǐ wù

Four weeks away to Christmas, my head is spinning for gift ideas again. As the gift exchange tradition has made its way into our family, I feel it’s more and more challenging to find that ‘perfect gift’ during this time of the year.

That’s when the phrase in the title came into my head. Why not create a post with it? If I get lucky, I might receive some good ideas from anyone who is reading it—-maybe from you—-hopefully. So here it is. The word of the day: 节日礼物 (jié rì lǐ wù)

The term is the direct translation from the phrase holiday gift, 节日jié rì meaning holiday and 礼物lǐ wù gift. In comparison, the Chinese phrase introduced in today’s post features much less linguistic complexity than some other ones I listed in the previous posts do. As soon as the word in Chinese for holiday and gift made its way into your word bank, the origin of the term is almost self-explanatory.

I love the idea of exchanging gifts. Sending beloved ones and friends gifts during Christmas is not part of my Chinese culture but I fell in love with this practice. There is no better time and way to connect with the people in our lives than sharing the joyful moment brought by gifts during the holiday season.

It’s different from but yet similar to how we Chinese people celebrate the Lunar New Year. The similarity comes from that the family members and friends spend time together, and it’s different in that instead of exchanging gifts we exchange red envelopes (红包  hóng bāo). 红(hóng) means color red, and 包(bāo) is the Chinese character meaning to include/wrap/hold. Usually, we wrap some money into a red envelope, so that’s how the Chinese word红包  hóng bāo came into people’s conversation.

Often it feels a lot easier to exchange red envelopes than to exchange gifts, because in the previous case, all you need to do is to fold some cash in. Gift, on the other hand, requires more thoughts and effort—-at least that’s how I feel in my experience. So back to where I started in this post: Any suggestions for gift idea? I would love to hear all of it, if any.

Habit is Second Nature ▏习惯成自然 xí guàn chéng zì rán

It’s been over a week since we moved to our new apartment. It was not an easy transition this time—-at least not for me. In my previous post, I mentioned how my household is leveraging the value of our budget on accommodation by moving to further north of the city Beijing. Well, only does this strategy work when a lot of getting-used-to comes into play. I think the following chart explains why and how.

Old Place New Place
·       Surrounded by well-constructed buildings and roads

·       Built-in lifts in buildings

·       Market, stores and café house available

·       Street lights throughout the night and barbecue stands around until late everyday

 

·       In the middle of organic pathways with dusts

·       No lift with only stairs as options to the fifth floor

·       Supermarket in distance but street vendors in neighborhood

·       Shops closed early and scarce light poles in evenings

·       Dogs barking all day long accompanied by rooster crow early mornings

 

I’m not sure how clearly the chart above delivers the message. The point is we are living in a very different neighborhood for which I also have to adjust my daily schedule. Now the responsibility of walking our dog twice a day falls solely to my shoulder, unlike before it had always been that my husband would walk him in the evening. Now that’s not an option because it’s pitch-black when it gets dark at the open field where we discover to let our beloved four-legged friend run wild. I have gained A LOT OF exercise as the result of this change of circumstances.

The first couple of days was difficult, each muscle on my body sore from running up and down the stairs and racing against our Marley to keep him in control. Well, did I mention there are so many dogs around here? Our Marley is excited about his new routine since he gets to sniff and explore around in a much bigger place and play with other dogs, but it’s not always easy to keep him in line—-you know, all that dog social activities…occasionally snarling and disobedience stuff…. lol.

But human and dogs both are resilient and able to adapt particularly as a team I guess. Now we are all used to the new routine and schedule. So, one happy family there we are.

Habit is a second nature. 习惯成自然 xí guàn chéng zì rán is the Chinese term for it, in case you are interested to know. The literal translation if you wonder is habit (习惯xí guàn) becomes (成chéng) nature (自然zì rán). I will have to keep this part short since more household chores await. Well, let me know if you think this post is helpful for your Mandarin learning endeavor. If not so much, I sure hope you find the pictures I took today below interesting.

We are Moving ▏搬家 bān jiā

Yes, we are moving, again! It feels it was still yesterday when we just moved into this apartment at the northern outskirt of Beijing. Now we are moving further to the north while the winter is coming. What? It sounds familiar? Yes, it reminds me of the Game of Thrones too. My husband joked the other day saying ‘give it another five years, we are moving up to the Great Wall’. I laughed aloud with tear out of my eyes. The wall, the coming winter, sounds pretty cool, if only the Beijing life is exciting and dramatic as the TV series!

We have been living a yearly nomadic style not out of fun but of the reality. The apartment we have rented for the past year costs us ¥4350 (equivalent to around $640) per month and our landlord wants more for the next year. It’s a 44 square-meter flat that we have been feeling the rental price is ridiculously high as it is. When we were informed with the new rental figure, we decided to move on again.

See, the housing price in China and in Beijing particularly has been skyrocketing over the past decade, and we have our own tactic to go against the situation about. Our strategy is to move further north to leverage the value of our money spent on accommodation. Yes, we have figured it out long ago that the further location is, the cheaper the place is. With the overall rising price on the real estate market, we could manage our budget at the same level. So here we are, on our way marching to the Great Wall……

搜狗截图20171017172700
‘When are we moving?’

So here it goes, if you happen to wonder what the term for moving in Chinese. 搬家 bān jiā literally is for ‘move home’. There are a lot of things to do when it comes to 搬家 bān jiā. One of my nightmares is packing, its Chinese term for our situation here being打包 dǎ bāo. 打dǎ is to hit or beat, and 包bāo means package/parcel. I’m not sure how the combination of these two became packing in the Chinese literal history. I guess there is something to do with that some of our Chinese ancestors who were driven nuts by moving started beating their packages repeatedly, and I would love to think it this way since I really do can relate to it myself….haha…

My apologies if this post sounds like complaining. It’s not my intention. Our moving day hasn’t arrived yet so I thought I just let it out here a little bit for mental preparation. When was last time you were moving? I would love to hear about it.

Driving License ▏驾照 jià zhào

It’s wonderful to finally find the time to get back to WP! Before I write further today, a big ‘thanks’ goes to Dan Antion, who reminded me of my absence on WP. Dan Antion has a wonderful blog with a lot of fun and interesting stuff going on there. If you happen to read this, please feel free to check it out. If you have also noticed my silence here, I sincerely appreciate it equally. Yes, I have been away for a while because I was a bit stressed to deal with my summer holiday plan. Yeah…I know the summer has gone, but holding back my joy, I’m extremely excited to announce that finally I got my first driving license in China!

It was a roller coaster experience for me! Yes, I’m talking about my learning and test journey in China for a driving license. Before I stepped my foot into Haidian Driving School, the place I enrolled to learn driving with the ambition to cross driving off from my to-do list as one of my summer challenges, I had zero experience or knowledge of how it’s like behind the wheel. I didn’t even have any clue on what all those are in front of the driver’s seat except for the steering wheel. It was quite a ride, indeed, with all that fear, frustration and that ecstasy accompanied by speed.

So today let’s talk about 驾照jià zhào, driving license in Mandarin. The word 驾照jià zhào is a short and well-accepted term for 驾驶执照jià shǐ zhí zhào in Simplified Chinese. It’s a term that you probably could have figured it out by yourself if you have known the words 驾驶jià shǐ (drive/driving) and 执照zhí zhào (license).

As you may have also noticed, the picture you see below reads 机动车驾驶证. It literally says motor vehicle driving certificate, a name equivalent to the driving license prevalent in the English-speaking world.

搜狗截图20171014154449

I think I’m going to keep this post short as it is now and make some time to indulge myself into the overjoy of finally having owned my first license this week. How’s your driving license look like?

On the Road ▏Shuttle Bus 班车bān chē

For the entire past week, I have been attending a driving training course at a school that is in a great distance to my home. To best balance my schedule, I picked the morning sessions for the training period, so the earliest shuttle bus for commute is my only economic option. I was never an early bird, but now I am one. You know what? It’s not that much of a struggle as expected. You get more things done when you start the day early.

Now I can say, I have never felt more of a commuter myself than ever. Nearly 80 kilo-meters back and forth daily is kind of commuting a lot, at least for me if not for many others. So, I hold my deepest gratitude toward the shuttle buses that take us to and from in a timely manner every day.

Today in my post I will introduce the Chinese term for shuttle bus: 班车bān chē. The Chinese character班bān has the meaning of shift, so when it’s coupled with 车chē, vehicle in Chinese, they become a word to describe the vehicles that departure in shifts or according to a scheduled timetable.

班车bān chē in sentence.

我每天坐班车。

我      每天       坐      班车

I    everyday   sit   shuttle bus

Due to grammatical differences between English and Chinese language, the word-to-word translation reads very odd indeed. So, in common English, the example sentence above should be translated as below.

I take shuttle bus every day.

Feel free to click the audio play below to hear how it’s pronounced by a native.

Yes, it feels like we are on the road in a bus a lot these days, which is why I picked it as the title of this post. In case you are a Chinese learner who wonders on the term on the road in Chinese, you may click here to find it out.

Okay, that’s all for today’s post! I hope you find today’s word useful. Who knows? You may take a shuttle bus in China someday, or you may just try to learn the word for fun. Either way, I hope you enjoyed the read and please leave a comment anytime as always if you have any questions about Mandarin Chinese.

Numbers in Chinese Language

cube-1655118__480I was drinking a bottle of juice the other day and my glimpse was caught on the bottle label. It was an advert of the local brand’s website. I have no intention to promote the brand so will just roughly say the bottle message includes the tagline 51drink. It brought me to think—how interesting it is on what numbers brought into play in the Chinese language!

If you live in China or have been in the country long enough, you may have been able to recognize some local business agents like 51job, 51talk, or 51Tongcheng. Nowadays, business people in China love to utilize assonance of numbers and incorporate it into the message they want to deliver in branding. Maybe it’s not just a Chinese thing, but a universal strategy in marketing. Either way, let’s look at these number-combinations in Chinese. When thinking of it, it’s kind of fun!

There are multiple ways to say aloud numbers. In the case of 51, here they are:

51  fifty-one   wǔ shí yī   五十一

five one     wǔ yī        五一

wǔ yāo    五幺(一)

The word one, whose syllable is normally yī in Chinese, sometimes is pronounced as yāo, which assonates with yào. Based on the sound similarity, wǔ yāo becomes a term associated with wǒ yào, 我要, which is equivalent to I want in English.

By the same token, 521 becomes a digital combination meaning I love you in Chinese. You may find its Pinyin and Chinese characters below.

521   wǔ èr yī  —–   我爱你  wǒ ài nǐ

There are also other examples that I can think of right now. Well, read them as follows for fun if you like.

518    wǔ yāo bā    ——  我要发   wǒ yào fā          (I want to become rich.)

5257  wǔ èr wǔ qī —–  我爱我妻    wǒ ài wǒ qī      (I love my wife.)

All language is in an ongoing evolving process, and Chinese language is no exception. I think the incorporated numbers in message delivering is a typical example of that. Well, I hope you enjoy my train of thought today. Any other assonance examples you would like to share? Please leave a comment anytime.

My Cross Path with Traffic Control Authority ▏效率 xiào lǜ Efficiency

Yesterday for the first time I went to Haidian Driving School, a place to train drivers. I was there to attend an exam after a brief period of self-study and very gladly that I passed it with a good score. Of three major exams toward the ownership of a driver’s license in China, this one is the first, all about theories and Chinese traffic regulations. Now with hundreds of my other student peers, if not thousands——surely a magnificent crowd is evident, I’m on the way for the next phase of training. What stroke me yesterday was the efficiency beyond my expectations. The entire training and examining process in that school as well as its affiliated cooperation with the traffic police authority, at least so far, seems very well-organized.

Now yes, let’s talk about efficiency, 效率 xiào lǜ in Chinese. For those whom are the Chinese learners just starting to learn the language, you might find the phonic ǜ very foreign. ǜ is a final sound in Pinyin, and it is pronounced the same as yù. You may also refer to my Pinyin lesson where focuses on tones for more ideas about the general rules of Pinyin. Or, click the audio play below to hear how it sounds by a native Chinese.

So, in my case, I would like to say:

海淀驾校                            很      有      效率

Haidian Driving School   very  has   efficiency

Yes, above is a word-by-word translated expression that doesn’t fit the English grammatical rules. It also proves how much distant Mandarin Chinese is away from English. To have it make sense in English, it should be Haidian Driving School has a great deal of efficiency. Again, please click the audio play below to hear how it sounds if interested.

2013322145611798
The main building of Haidian Driving School

Now back to my yesterday’s experience, it was overall pleasant except for a little nervousness that I felt before taking the exam. That I think it’s normal. After all, entering an exam room can never be relaxing as going on a vacation, at least for majority of us, right?

The exam was done on computers, and supervised by police officers, and I went through that experience with hundreds of other test takers. It all finished in less than one hour. The computer management system they adopted in their training and examining process has made it an enjoyable experience for us. Through their service bulletin message, I learned that they also cater foreign applicants. So, if you are a non-Chinese native who wants to learn driving in China, Haidian Driving School is a choice that I highly recommend.

Alright, that’s all today’s post is about! Any thoughts? Leave me comments anytime!

 

 

 

Summer Encounter ▏Western-style Fast Food 洋快餐 yáng kuài cān

burger-155023__480A few days ago, I ordered a burger and some salad for a quick lunch bite from McDonald’s. Boy! How I wished I didn’t make that food choice hours later! At 1 pm, my burger and salad made its way to my belly. Starting from 4 o’clock that afternoon, my stomach began grumbling with a sharp pain and followed were too many toilet visits that I have lost in counting. It was a messy scene. Of course, the combination of continuous vomiting and diarrhea can never be pretty!

The stomachache went on even after it felt like my body had worked its way to empty itself up into a walking skeleton. Normally when I find myself in this situation, I would immediately seek for medical attention by visiting a hospital, but not this time, this time I decided to tough it out since I know the doctor’s prescription will no doubt involve in an intravenous antibiotic coupled with some glucose for dehydration prevention—-yes, I know the drill of Chinese doctor’s treatment! So, there I was, curling up in bed in a fetus position for the remaining hours of the day and the night. Finally, after my fever past, the pain went away and I was on the way back to recover.

In this battle between the bad food and my body, I WON on my own! Hooray!

Now I have had my typing strength back, let’s meet the word of the day in this post: 洋快餐 yáng kuài cān, the Western-style fast food in English. After all, it is the culprit for my sickness that hit me unprepared days ago! Funny thing is years ago I came across the news about McDonald’s food safety scandal, but never looked at it seriously. It’s a fast food chain with the western standards, how bad could it be? At least their serving tables are clean! These are the thoughts went through my head. Now I have learned the lesson: NO MORE McDonald’s! In fact, I have just made up my mind to shine all fast food chains possible. The last thing I would wish for is to relive the scene the other day! Anyways, a lesson is learned that eating healthy is just too important to miss out for us all.

In case you are interested in learning Chinese or already a Chinese learner, this is a word that you may find useful: 洋快餐 yáng kuài cān. If you haven’t encountered this word, you may try word-by-word translation to memorize it. 洋yáng is foreign/western in Chinese and 快餐kuài cān is the Chinese translation for fast food.

Here is a decision of mine on today’s subject:

我决定不吃洋快餐了!

I have decided not to eat Western-style fast food!

As usual, you may click the audio play below to listen to the Chinese word and sentence of the day! Hope you enjoy it! And stay healthy!

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.

我是一个宅女。

I’m a woman who dwells at home a lot.

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

我很宅。

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!