Summer Nap in Jing’an Park

I couldn’t resist snapping this picture in Jing’an Park:

Summer Nap in Jing'an Park

It’s been an unusually short/cool summer in Shanghai. I guess that makes it easier to fall asleep in public with utter abandon? (But then, Chinese people are typically pretty good at that…)…

Boring Small Talk is an Opportunity

At AllSet Learning, I hear about a lot of different learner problems. One of the more common ones from intermediate learners is, “I just keep having the same boring conversations over and over again: where are you from, how long have you been in China, are you used to eating Chinese food, etc.” Learners tend to see these limited, unchallenging conversations as contributing to the intermediate plateau they are on.

(Side note: not too long ago, …

Pip & Estella

Hypothetically speaking, in a rewritten Chinese version of Great Expectations which takes place in modern China, Estella’s name should definitely be 冰冰. But what about Pip? Suggestions welcome! (His name in the typical Chinese translation is 匹普, which is horrible, and we’re certainly not using.)

great-expecations-chinese

(I will neither confirm nor deny that this question is related to Mandarin Companion‘s next release, which may or may not be the first Level 2 book.)…

Why You Won’t Learn Like a Child

It’s not that you can’t learn like a child, it’s that you won’t. You’re not willing to. Not because you aren’t committed, or aren’t smart enough, but because you’re an adult with a little bit of self-respect. And you get frustrated.

Have you ever hung out with a crazy friend who will go up to any stranger and say anything, seemingly without inhibitions? It’s awkward but also awe-inspiring, because it opens your eyes to how much your …

The Beauty of Chinese Numbers

The beauty of Chinese numbers is that they are consistent. You learn the rules, and they just work. Even if you try to get flippant and say 一十 for “10″ instead of just regular old , no one’s going to get upset.

The consistent beauty of Chinese numbers is made all the more obvious by the relative skankiness of numbers in English. I noticed this because my daughter (now somewhere between 2½ and 3 years old) has pretty …

Clean Water in China?

Last week AllSet Learning staff took a team-building trip to the mountains of Zhejiang in Tonglu County (浙江省桐庐县). It was a nice trip, and one of the things that struck me most about the natural beauty there was the lack of litter and crystal-clear water. Anyone who has traveled much in China knows that it’s a beautiful, beautiful country, but disgracefully covered in litter in so many otherwise breath-taking tourist destinations. Not so in Tonglu!

Baiyunyuan

I was also …

The 4th Ayi: Chinese Girls’ Nightmare

We learners of Chinese typically learn that “ayi” (阿姨) means “aunt,” and then soon after also learn that it is also a polite way to address “a woman of one’s mother’s generation.” Then, pretty soon after arriving in China, we learn that it’s also what you call the lady you hire to clean your home. (The last one tends to become the most familiar for foreigners living in China.)

Today I’d like to bring up a …

Abstracted Characters

Stylized letters and characters are interesting to me, but how abstract can you get with Chinese characters? You kinda have to retain the strokes and radicals and stuff, right? Maybe not…

Abstract Characters

The characters represented above are 小燕画院.

Although the name is readable, it might take a bit longer to decipher than most Chinese text, even for native speakers. Have you ever spotted characters that have been taken even further into the abstract?…

Itchy Feet on Communication

The webcomic Itchy Feet has some great comics on learning to communicate in a foreign language. I especially like his visualization technique for representing a low level of competency in a foreign language. These are about German and French, but could be about any language, really:

blissful ignorance

This one will feel relevant to ABCs in China:

mistaken identity

Itchy Feet is also the comic that did this amusing take on various Asian scripts which went semi-viral a while ago:

creative guesswork

Grammar at 2½: a quick update

I enjoyed writing the post about my daughter’s mastery of Chinese grammar at age two. It wasn’t scientific, but it was an interesting study for me nonetheless.

This just a quick update, because I was wondering when my daughter would start getting into the “harder,” intermediate-level B1 grammar points. Well, I’ve got an answer now.

Soft Grub

Right around the time she turned two and a half, we had soft tacos for dinner, and she busted out with this sentence:…

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