Monthly Digest of Chinese Learning – Jan 2015
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 first month of 2015. We will definitely dig more useful and great content for you in the new year!
My Take: Top 5 Best VPNs for China
(Far West China)
Since the Western Internet has been inaccessible here in China since 2009 due to the “Great Firewall”, you might have heard of the usage of a VPN. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that allows people to use the Internet like you would in the west. I have been using a variety of different VPN services over the past 5 years, and people seem to want to know what recommendations I have for VPN services. So here are 5 top VPN services that I personally know of and recommend based on my experience.
– I turned to VyprVPN this past year and I have been impressed with their software and their “Chameleon” encryption protocol. Since starting in 2009, it is simple to use and it will give you 3 days to try it out for free. It has one of the best apps for mobile devices with ease of operation.
– I have been with 12VPN since 2013 using it on my computer and phone. It is simple and it works every time. The software isn’t flashy and doesn’t have a dedicated iPhone or Android app. However, it is easy to set up in 5 minutes if you want to have it on your mobile device. It also stands out because of the communication from the company to the users because it always is constantly updating the changes or problems.
– I spent much of 2014 testing this VPN and it has a great design with their software. I recommend this to any one who doesn’t consider themselves as tech-savvy since it is simply and easy to operate.
– It has been the longest-running VPN in China where many people who live in China know or have used it. It is an excellent choice for desktop users but less so if your primary use is mobile. It works but it can be pain to set up on your computer or mobile device. It is still a good option once you get the hard part complete.
– Another popular choice of VPN in China since there is over 1 million users worldwide. I am not a fan of the software because it seems like you are working with something from the 1990s. However, their performance is excellent especially with streaming. I also like how they have options for different types of Internet usages.
I will let you know there are hundreds of VPN options that you can choose from. Here are 5 options to narrow down your choices and reasonable in terms of price and performance.
Gift Giving in China
Over the past few weeks, my students have asked me about the culture of gift giving when it comes to Christmas. It made me start thinking about the different gift giving cultures between the Chinese and the West.
In China, there is a long history of gift giving due to the Confucian society. Giving gifts to family, friends, colleagues and etc. has been a way of showing respect and developing relationships. Gifts are usually given on holidays (Spring Festival) and birthdays. At the same time, special events like weddings, important meetings and etc. can be an appropriate time to bring a gift.
Common gifts in China are cigarettes, alcohol, tea, fruits and “hong bao” (红包 – hóng bāo). Each is used in different scenarios but the most common is the hong bao. It is a red envelope stuffed with cash and should be given under the right guidelines. Children only receive hong bao for Chinese New Year and the amount of money depends on the age as well as your relationship. Avoid the number 4 (四 – sì) at all costs, as it sounds like the word for “death” (死 – sǐ). At weddings the amount should be enough to cover the cost incurred for you to be there but it dependent on your relationship.
“Courtesy demands reciprocity” (礼尚往来 – lǐ shàng wǎng lái) is a famous Chinese saying that tells a lot about the gift giving culture of China. Chinese culture keeps track of what has been given and receive by people. You can expect that there will be reciprocity with any gift given to Chinese people whether right then or the future.
If you wrap any kind of gift, try to use red and gold in the colors. Red symbolizes luck and gold symbolizes wealth. Avoid the colors black and white, as they are associated with funerals and death. When you present a gift, use two hands to offer the gift as a show of respect and do not expect them to open It immediately because it is culturally unacceptable to do.
Some gifts to avoid are clocks, pears and a green hat to a man. The phrase “give a clock” (送钟 – sòng zhōng) sounds like a funeral ritual (送终 – sòng zhōng). To say “share a pear” (分梨 – fēn lí) sounds like the word for “separate” (分离 – fēn lí). Lastly, for man “wearing a green hat” (戴绿帽子 – dài lǜ mào zi) means that your girlfriend or wife is unfaithful.
As a foreigner, it is best to offer a gift from your hometown or country. Anything that is different is always interesting to Chinese individuals.
How To Choose A Suitable Chinese Book
So you decide to learn Chinese systematically and you need a textbook. Now the question is “how to choose a suitable Chinese book for me?”. Let me share some tips with you about your options and recommendations.
You may not know a single word or know a few phrases like 你好(nǐ hǎo), you will need a book with a phonetic system and simple topics. Here you will be focused on learning the finals, initials and tones. You should take your time with these fundamentals, as they will help you build on your Chinese. A book I recommend is My Chinese Classroom Volume One because it is has a lot of practical topics for daily situations and does a great job of focusing on the pinyin, tones and rules of the spelling and tones changes.
For Intermediate learners
If you are an intermediate learner, you have a good grasp on the fundamentals and have a larger vocabulary. At this stage, you will be struggling with some grammar in Chinese where you may say things in the wrong way. Here you will need to focus on grammar points that will help you create more advance sentences. I would recommend Chinese Made Easier Volume Three as textbook. This book has clear introductions of new sentence frames with 5 different examples of how to use the new grammar point. It may be difficult to read if you haven’t learned Chinese characters because there is less pinyin and more characters to read.
For Advance Learners
Here, learners are fluent in his or her speaking ability and have gone through many books, but struggle with understanding native expressions. It difficult to understand native Chinese people because what they saying are Chinese idioms. At this level, you should learn the Chinese idioms in order to understand and use them in your speech. I recommend A Course in Chinese Colloquial Idioms to continue your Chinese learning. It teaches commonly used idioms that people know and use daily.
I hope these tips and recommendations were helpful. Take your time and keeping practicing your Chinese. Good luck on your Chinese learning.
My Best Advice on Learning Chinese Characters
This month’s challenge is about learning Chinese characters. I will be going in more detail about characters such as how to understand, learn, review and remember them. I will give a brief idea of what the topic is and then provide the link in order to keep it concise.
Understanding Chinese characters
It is important to learn how Chinese characters are constructed and how they work in order to learn them. You will need to understand the basics of character components and radicals in order to learn how to use the building blocks of character. There are four main types of Chinese characters that make of the Chinese language. It is important to know how each type of characters is constructed to learn how to read and understand them. Understanding phonetic components is important because you don’t have access to an incredible useful memory aid for characters and their pronunciation. There are clues in the phonetics, however you just need to know where to look. You should think of characters in terms of functional components. It is essential to understand the function of components in Chinese characters.
How to learn Chinese Characters
Now after some basic understanding of how characters work, it is time to look at how to learn them. As a beginner, you will need to look into the very basics of what you should do and what you should not. You will be able to refine your method of learning after time. Writing characters by hand can improve your memory of characters and your understanding of them.
How to review Chinese characters
In order to be able to use Chinese properly, you need to remember the words you learnt. I would say reviews spread over time are more efficient than when they are massed together. It can help us study the words we about to forget rather than those we don’t’ really need to review. You can use Skritter as a way to learn characters because it gives people spaced repetition and handwriting characters for review. There are 7 ways of learning how to write Chinese characters, whether writing on a screen, or fingertip on your palm. There are a lot of options depending your learning style. After all this talk about review and studying, you should use the words you learned with native speakers. It will help you learn how to use it in a purposeful way.
Remembering Chinese characters
Remembering is important in your Chinese learning. Memory is a skill that you can learn and will help you help in Chinese. Memory aids and mnemonics can enhance your learning. Memorization of characters is essential to you for to learn Chinese.
This is a collection of information that I wanted to include in this month’s challenge. I hope it has proven to be helpful to anyone who started this challenge. Good luck in your Chinese learning.
We hope you enjoyed our selection of useful blogs for the month of January. 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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