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Monthly Digest of Chinese Learning – September 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. Here is our selection for best articles in the month of September.

Rules for Changing Tones in Chinese

(written Chinese)

The situation when “一” (yī) needs to be a changed tone:

1. Before the 4th tone, “一” should be changed to 2nd tone(yí).
一样: yi + yàng -> yí yang

2. Before the 1st tone, 2nd tone and 3rd tone “一” should become 4th tone.(yì)
一般: yi + bān -> yì bān

一年: yi + nián -> yì nián

一起: yi + qǐ -> yì qǐ

3. If “一” is between two verbs, it should be 5th tone.
试一试 (shì yi shì)

4. If “一” is between a verb and a measure word or between an adjective and a measure word, generally it should also be the 5th tone.
好一点 (hǎo yi diǎn)

The situation when “不” (bù) needs to be changed tone:

1. Before the 4th tone, “不” should be changed to 2nd tone.
不是:bu + shì -> bú shì

2. If it’s used as verb complement or used between two same words, it should become 5th tone.
贵不贵(guì bu guì)

The situation when 3rd-tone needs to be changed tone:

1. If an entry’s tones are double 3rd-tones, the first tone needs to be changed to 2nd tone.
很 (hěn) 好 (hǎo) -> (hén hǎo)

2. If it’s a three or more 3rd-tone entry, the basic rule is that all the 3rd tones before the last 3rd tone need to be changed to 2nd tone.

For example, the tone of “处 (chǔ) 理 (lǐ) 厂(chǎng)” which means treatment plant needs to become “chú lí chǎng”.

But sometimes, we need to analyze the structure of the word or sentence to pronounce it correctly.

However, the changing 3rd tone is a complicated case. Sometimes, it depends on how you separate the word or sentence that will decide if the pronunciation is correct or not.

Focusing on communication to learn Chinese

(Hacking Chinese)

There are many people who focus mostly on communication and very little on form. In order to be able to communicate in a language, you need certain basic knowledge, which takes longer to acquire in Chinese.

It’s all about efficiency

As we shall see, the problem isn’t really that communication isn’t a good way of learning, it’s that it’s hard to do it enough for it to work properly!

Focusing on communication as a beginner

If you focus only on communication, you run the risk of neglecting some aspects of Chinese that are actually very important. The same can be said about many other areas of Chinese, such as writing characters, pronunciation in general and perhaps also grammar and word choice.

A balanced approach

Communication is great for a number of reasons. I want a lot of communication, but I want it mixed with actual studying.

Communicate as much as possible

The fact that it’s hard to communicate doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. If you don’t, you’ll never learn Chinese.

Focusing on communication as an advanced learner

Once you reach an advanced level, focusing mainly on communication is the smoothest and most common method both of maintaining and expanding your ability.
You need to study and make your passive vocabulary and knowledge of grammar is equal to your active skill.
You need spaced repletion software. You need focused practice to improve and avoid fossilization.

I think we should use the language as much as possible, but I also think we need to study hard to overcome our weaknesses and learn more efficiently, regardless if we are beginners or advanced learners.

Comparing language courses: Private vs Group vs Online Lessons

(Study More Chinese)

Private Learning:


  • provide the perfect opportunity for quick progression due to having the sole focus of a teacher.
  • devise a learning plan not only based on your language level but also to your personal learning goal.
  • you pay as you learn.


  • Can be expensive.
  • Lessons are usually intensive so you need to be focused at all times.
  • less practice of conversational skills with a variety of people.

Group Learning:


  • Meet new people with the same interest of learning a new language.
  • Improve your use of spoken language.
  • The cost is cheaper.


  • Less flexible.
  • You may not study as quickly as you wish.
  • Travel to classes may add to your initial cost

Online Learning:


  • Online learning materials are easy to access.
  • Learners have access to a variety of multimedia.
  • The cost and payment cycle may be flexible.


  • You’ll need lots of motivation and determination to study alone.
  • There’s the possibility that you could fall behind with your study plan.
  • The lack of personal interaction presents less chance to practise your speaking skills.

How to learn to understand spoken Chinese

(Yoyo Chinese)

Three common problems with listening ability in Chinese

Problem #1 – Listening speed:

The time in between you hearing a sound and recalling its meaning is immense. Since this happens often, you’re likely to fail to understand what someone says even though you know all the words.

Problem #2 – Phonological awareness:

You need to be able to correctly distinguish the different sounds in Mandarin. Research suggests that you should try to listen to many different native speakers, not just your teacher.

Problem #3 – Vocabulary:

This isn’t a listening problem! It’s because you don’t know enough words. Expand your vocabulary by reading and listening more, preferably using text or audio that is at or slightly above your current level.

Context plays a very important role. You should strive to understand meaningful sentences said within context, because that’s the kind of listening ability you really need.

An Introduction to Cantonese

(Chinese language blog)

In Hong Kong, the official language isCantonese (广东话 – guǎng dōng huà), while the mainland and Taiwan both useMandarin (普通话 – pǔ tōng huà). Cantonese is also an official language in Macau, and it is the lingua franca of Guangdong Province.

Chinese language blog

  • Mandarin is the official language of mainland China and Taiwan. Cantonese is the official language of HK and also one in Macau.
  • Both are considered “Chinese language” – they use the same written language, but they are mutually unintelligible when spoken. Some people used the “the chicken talking to the duck” (鸡同鸭讲 – jī tóng yā jiǎng) to describe a Mandarin and Cantonese speaker talking to each other.
  • Mandarin uses simplified Chinese characters, while Cantonese uses traditional. If you know traditional characters, it’s easy to understand the simplified ones, but not the other way around.
  • Mandarin has a mere four tones compared with the six of Cantonese.
  • There are tons of words and phrases unique to both Mandarin and Cantonese. For example, a large number of English words made their way into Cantonese when HK was a British colony.
  • Many Chinese who have immigrated to other countries are Cantonese speakers.

An Introduction to Cantonese

As there are many more Mandarin speakers (960 million) than Cantonese (62 million), learning Mandarin will enable you to communicate with a lot more people. Mandarin is the official language of the PRC, so it is used in government offices, schools, companies, and on TV.

Basically, you’ll have much more exposure to Mandarin than Cantonese in China. Unless you’re planning on settling in Hong Kong or Macau, it’s a better idea to study Mandarin. Even if you visit these areas or decide to live there, Mandarin is commonly used and many people can understand and speak it these days.

We hope you enjoyed our selection of useful blogs for the month of September. 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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