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Monthly Digest of Chinese Learning

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.

Here is our selection for best articles in the month of November:

How to Turn Studying Chinese into a Habit


Learning a foreign language requires consistency and Chinese is no exception. The most important piece of advice is finding the right motivation. What if you can’t manage to keep your motivation up? The best way to maintain motivation over time is turn your study of the language into a daily habit since a habit is an action that we carry out in a semiautomatic manner without thinking a lot. Various scientific studies seem to demonstrate that forming a new habit requires 21 days to 8 months. Here are some suggestions of how to transform your study of Chinese into a habit.

Commit Yourself Publicly

You should create a goal and then announce it to the world. Tell your friends, partner, or social media about this goal and make it so your life will be difficult if you fail to reach your objective. The possibility of publicly compromised will help you study every day and maintain motivation.

Take Advantage of Dead Time

If you have dead time like taking a bus for 45 minutes, take advantage of the time to study. There are excellent apps in learning Chinese. A podcast would be the best solution for people who travel constantly, via car, bus, or walking. This type of studying also has the advantage of repetition, which allows you to develop and maintain a habit.

Keep your Interest Alive!

You should start studying things that genuinely interest you. For example, food can be a great way to begin learning the language. It can help you build your vocabulary and practice in daily life situation at a restaurant or market.

Start! It’s as Simple as that

Steven Pressfield explains that often the hard part isn’t completing the action, but rather starting. You can set daily micro-goals in order to get started any your bigger objective. Once you overcome the initial hardship, you will find it becoming easier to do.

Prepare a Detailed Plan

Studying without a specific plan of what you want to do or what goals you seek to reach doesn’t make much sense. Here are steps to get started on your plan.

1. Select a clear objective that is simple and measurable.

2. Decide on a time frame in which you expect to reach it.

3. Evaluate how much time you can dedicate each day to the language studies.

4. Give yourself a realistic goal

5. Prepare a weekly schedule.

Evaluate the Results

Since you are not a robot, it is ok to skip a session. You should find a calendar writing down the days you did do the study and days you didn’t. It will help you see how you are progressing in your goal. Then take a day to evaluate your progress and make adjustments, then keep moving forward.

Reading Chinese Like Reading Your Native Language

(Better Chinese)

Can we use the same reading strategies for any language? The answer is “yes”. The reading strategies we naturally use in our native language can be applied when learning a new language. It requires re-learning or re-teaching ourselves to read with these strategies and here are some key points.

better chinese - chinese learning

Find the Main Idea

Language learners tend to focus on every single vocabulary word and make direct word-by-word translation when they read. In Chinese, this often happens and learners focus too much on every single Chinese character and lose the big picture completely. Here are ways to learn to predict and scan for main ideas when reading.

1. Be mindful of important elements, like the title and first paragraph which can help to predict the main idea.

2. Complete a few pre-reading exercises and think about what the reading’s main point is.

3. Look at the first two sentences or the concluding sentences of a passage and explain the main idea

4. Practice summarizing each paragraph in one sentence.

Next, Understand the Details

Getting the main idea is usually not sufficient for in-depth comprehension and understanding the details is equally important. Here are some ways to train yourself to understand details.

1. Design or look for exercises that force you to focus on the details.

2. Try to answer highly relevant open-ended questions that make you find related passages. It is important to brainstorm what kind of information in a certain passage could be considered as details.

Last but not Least, Dealing with New Vocabulary

With new vocabulary that you may not know, skip it first. Then you should take a look at how to make inference about new word. It’s important to know the basic Chinese characters and here ways to learn them.

1. Learn how to use radicals to find meaning or make associations for new characters.

2. With known characters guess the meaning of the new word.

3. Practice strategies that help yourself come up with definition of the new words. It will help you understand how to use context to get the new vocabulary.

Learning How to ask for and Receive Directions in Chinese

(Hacking Chinese)

Learning to ask for and receive direction is a very useful skill that is associated with beginner language learning. It is requires you to be able to do so immediately without thinking, which requires practice. Practice is key to becoming fluent in any language. Here are some ways for you to practice getting directions.

Put Away your Smart Phone

Using your smart phone is a convenient way to getting around, but it doesn’t help you learn the language. If you ask Chinese people to help you with directions, it will make you think and figure things out. It will take longer however it will be useful practice for you.

Pretend you’re Lost

Pick a place you know well and then walk a few blocks in one direction and ask someone how to get to this place you just left. Listen to their replies carefully and then ask another stranger the same question. It is good practice for your Chinese listening skills.

Practice with WordSwing

As preparation or as a substitute for the above activities, you can use WordSwing. It is easy to use, where you will be given activities to listen to and match the directions in Chinese.

Navigating Street View

If you want to simulate the feeling of walking through a Chinese city without actually being there, you can use the street view on a map service like Google, I Show China, City8 or Baidu. Naturally, you still need someone to ask or give directions such as language exchange partner or tutor. Ask for the directions and write down the given directions to evaluate your listening skills.

These are great ways to learn to make great use of your practice of Chinese and learn an important skill in a different language.

What You Should Know About Gift Giving in China

(Yoyo Chinese)

Gift giving in China is different from the West in the physical gifts are not usually given on birthdays, weddings or Spring Festival. A common gift is cash which is usually in a red envelope called hòng bāo (红包). These gifts are usually given for birthdays for children or senior citizens. Even though there isn’t a lot of gift giving going on multiple times a year as there are in Western countries, there are penalty of time when gifts are appropriate. Continue reading for an overview of what to do, what to buy and what you should avoid for these gifts.

Gift Giving Dos and Don’ts

You can feel free to leave the price tags and receipts in the bags if it’s an expensive gift.

Don’t worry about including a card. Greeting cards are rarely used in China and hard to come by.

Do hold the gift in both hands when giving it to the recipient. Using both hands to give, and receive gifts is proper and respectful etiquette.

Selecting the right gift

Gifts for Family

When you are meeting your partner’s family, for the first time or during a visit, a gift is expected. Here are some examples for gifts.

Vitamins and supplements – there are great for in-laws or in-laws- to-be as Chinese people are very health-conscious and love all sorts of traditional medicines and remedies. (American ginseng, herbal tea or good quality multivitamin

Food/fruit baskets – packed full of delicious and exotic fruits is a great choice if you don’t know what to give as a gift. If your hometown is known for a special food, buy several to take along as gift.

Clothing – sweatshirts or t-shirt from a university or tourist area near your hometown are great options. These work best for people under 50 because senior citizens tend to have their own dress code.

Barbies, Legos, and Board Games – These are great gifts for kids because they are quite rare in China and expensive when you find them.

Gifts for Friends

Clothing – Sport apparel would be great especially if you know their favorite NBA team.

Perfume and Lotions – Fragrances are catching on in Mainland China. Bath and Body Works is a great place to get gifts because it’s an American company and offer a variety of fragrances.

Other – Pocket knives, appropriate level books in English, wallets, key chains and specialty foods can be great gifts as well.

Business Acquaintances

When you start a business relationship or furthering an existing one, a tasteful gift will go along way in developing and maintaining the relationship.

Engraved pens – Whether it is a nice pen from your company or engraved with the recipient’s name, it is a practical gift that will get used all the time.

Local snacks – Giving a food gift from your area is both a great gift and conversation starter (great first time gift idea)

Cigarettes and alcohol – It is a popular and well received by most businessmen. Foreign wines or liquors go well with close business associates. It also can be re-gift if they do not smoke or drink.

yoyo chinese

Gifts to Avoid

There are some gifts to should avoided at all cost due to cultural symbolism or the fact that the word shares similar pronunciations to something undesirable.

Clocks – The words in Chinese sòng zhōng (送钟)which means “to give a clock” shares the same pronunciation as sòng zhōng (送终) which means that the family of a decreased has completed all the tasks related to burying their loved one.

Chrysanthemums – These flowers are beautiful and great for tea but usually it is used in funerals.

Umbrella – An umbrella is not appropriate because it’s Chinese word, sǎn (伞) sounds like sàn (散) which means to separate. It would be symbolizing relationship between you and the recipient may soon dissolve.

Shoes – You shouldn’t buy shoes for your Chinese girlfriend because the idea of her using these shoes to run away from you, thus ending the relationship.

Hats – Green hats are to be avoided because of the phrase “to wear a green hat” or dài lǜ màozi(戴绿帽子)is used express a man’s wife is cheating on him.

The Number “4” – When giving cash gifts, avoid amounts with 4 because the pronunciation of 4 sì (四) sounds like the word for death sǐ (死).

Though this is a comprehensive list of all the nuances of gift giving in China, it is a good guide to giving gifts to Chinese people.

All About Chinese Food


China is famous for many things, the Great wall, giant pandas, Kung Fu and of course the food. Chinese food is popular around the world and for good reason. The Chinese take great pride in their food and enjoy the joy of foreigners raving about their food. Here are some descriptions of posts and videos that you can view and learn more about the Chinese food.

In a Chinese Restaurant

– Here you can learn useful restaurant related language.

20 common Chinese dishes

– Here is list of 20 common dishes with the Chinese character, pinyin, English translation and pictures.

Real Chinese Food

– There is a difference between real Chinese food and Americanized Chinese food, learn more here.

Northern Chinese Cuisine

– Did you know that China actually has Eight Great Culinary Traditions? It can be broken down into four main regions, North, South, East, and West. Here we start with the Northern cuisine.

Western Chinese Cuisine

– Food in Western China is known for its liberal use of mouth-numbing peppercorn so take look at Sichuan food here.

Southern Chinese Cuisine

– The most famous Chinese food around the world is Cantonese food, which can be discussed within the context of southern Chinese food.

Eastern Chinese Cuisine

– The eastern cuisine has a variety of styles however the Shandong cuisine is one of the famous types of food.

Street Food

– Street food is popular in China and big way to knowing what Chinese food is all about.

Transparent chinese learning

Beijing Roast Duck

– The one most famous dish in China is Beijing Roast Duck and a must have when you visit the capital.

Chinglish Menu Part 1 & Part 2

– Many restaurants in China want to have English names on their menu, but the online translators tend to come up with some pretty hilarious names. See for yourself.

You can definitely learn a lot from eating at restaurant, where you can strike conversations with fellow diners, or waiters. Chinese people are always excited to see foreigners enjoy their cuisine and try their language.

We hope you enjoyed our selection of useful blogs for the month of November. 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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Quy Dai Lam-Quach

He is 郭大贵 who grew up in Seattle and graduated from Seattle University with a Bachelors of Art in Business, majoring in Marketing and Finance. He currently is in Shantou, Guangdong teaching Oral English. 大贵 is a Chinese American who is able to speak Teo Chew dialect. He has been studying Chinese Mandarin for the past year. He personally enjoys being out traveling to new places and experiencing new cultural activities.

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