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Monthly Digest of Chinese Learning – July 2014

There is an abundance of wonderful Chinese learning blogs and articles on the Internet. Sometimes it is just impossible to filter through every single one. Don’t you wish you had someone to do it for you? Of course you do, and luckily for you, DigMandarin is always ready to oblige you. Here is our selection for best articles in the month of July.

1. Chinese Food Vocabulary: 15 Famous Dimsum Dishes You Oughta Know


For those of you who solely rely on the few words that you do recognize: pork (猪肉), fish (鱼), chicken(鸡), rice (饭), noodles(面) to order in a Chinese restaurant, here`s a list of 15 dismsum dishes that can help you save yourself from an embarrassing situation:

  1. 点心 (diǎn xīn): Dimsum
  2. 饺子 (jiăo zi): Dumpling
  3. 包子 (bāo zi): Buns
  4. 烧卖 (shāo mài): Siomai
  5. 虾饺 (xiā jiăo): Hargaw
  6. 锅贴 (guō tiē): Potsticker
  7. 烧包 (shāo bāo ): Siopao
  8. 馒头 (mán tou): Plain steamed buns
  9. 肠粉(cháng fĕn): Rice rolls
  10. 粽子(zòng zi): Sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf
  11. 凤爪 (fèng zhǎo): Chicken feet
  12. 排骨 (pái gŭ): Spareribs
  13. 萝卜糕 (luó bo gāo): Radish cake
  14. 芋角 (yù jiăo): Taro puff
  15. 蛋挞 (dàn tà): Egg tart

2. Language learning with a Chinese girlfriend or boyfriend

(Hacking Chinese)

Argument of the author:

People somehow think that having a Chinese girlfriend or boyfriend means that you’ll learn the language by magic.

This is just wrong. You improve mostly because you practice a lot, not because of the nationality of your better half. Most people don’t fall in love because they want to learn a language, so they tend to use whatever language works best, not the language they are trying to learn.

Benefits of having a language partner:
However having a language partner has its benefits. The main benefit is that it’s a very fun way of exploring the language. Another benefit is that it increases your minimum daily study time.

To equalise this relationship is by offering something in return.
Limit language learning to specific times. Don’t push it.
It’s hard to advanced level if you only rely on this way.
You can achieve your goal without a partner who speaks Chinese and there are two entirely different options available as well.

3. The 4th Ayi: Chinese Girls’ Nightmare


The four meanings of “ayi” (阿姨):

  1. “Mother’s Sister” Ayi
  2. Middle-aged “Ma’am” Ayi
  3. Housekeeper Ayi
  4. “I’m a little kid and you’re not” Ayi

Many terms for family and relatives are used quite loosely in Chinese to show familiarity or politeness. The way it works for little kids in China is something like this:

Little girls that are older than you are called “jiejie” (姐姐); little boys that are older than you are called “gege” (哥哥). Little girls that are younger than you are called “meimei” (妹妹); little boys that are younger than you are called “didi” (弟弟). To a little kid, if you’re female, but are no longer a child, you’re suddenly an ayi. This often violates the “mother’s generation” rule that we learn in Chinese class…

A lot of 20-year-old girls have never really been called “ayi” before and they hate it. It feels like they’re being called OLD.

4. How to Address a Stranger in Chinese

(Yoyo Chinese)

“qīn (亲)” vs. “qīn ài de (亲爱的)”

Calling someone “qīn” is like calling them “dear,” and it’s short for “qīn ài de (亲爱的)”. By shortening it to just “qīn,” it becomes much more casual and personal, like something that would normally be used between people who are actually very familiar with and fond of each other.

“měi nǚ (美女)” and “shuài gē (帅哥)”

One way that people in China often address women who they don’t know is “měi nǚ (美女)”. It means “beautiful woman” or “beautiful girl.” Any girl or woman can be called “mĕi nǚ” these days, and calling someone “měi nǚ” isn’t really a comment on her looks, despite the actual meaning of the word.

The same thing happens with males now too. Some people will call any random guy “shuài gē (帅哥)”, which means “handsome man,” with no regard for whether he is actually good-looking or not.

Xiǎo jǐe (小姐)

When used on its own, it’s often to either address someone formally or to call to women who work in the service industry, especially waitresses. And in some parts of China, “xiǎo jǐe” is a term used to refer to a prostitute.

Nǚ shì (女士)

This term means “madam” or “lady” and is generally used for women over 40 or so. It’s very polite, and often too polite for many settings.

Xiān sheng (先生)

This means “sir” or “mister” just like the English equivalents. But the word “xiān sheng” is just a bit stiff and mostly used in a polite situation, so not the best choice for a more casual interaction.

Tóng zhì (同志)

This means “comrade” and was commonly used in mainland China for a period, but hasn’t been used anymore for years. Actually, it’s now mostly used to refer to homosexuals.

We hope you enjoyed our selection of useful blogs for the month of July. Keep up the learning and remember that DigMandarin is here to help you find all the resources you could possibly need.

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Jing Cao is the chief-editor and co-founder of DigMandarin. She has a master's degree in Chinese Linguistics and Language Aquisition and has taught thousands of students for the past years. She devotes herself to the education career of making Chinese learning easier throughout the world.

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