Big Noses Can't Really Learn Chinese

Do you ever get the feeling that Chinese people think you can’t really learn to speak their language? There is a Chinese restaurant I have frequented in San Francisco for almost two years now. Each time I go in to get take out, I chat with the staff and laoban (boss) while waiting. They are […]

Directional Commands: The Answers!

And now for the answers: “Come in”  进来   jìn lái “Go out” 出去  chū qù “Come up” 上来  shàng lái “Come down” 下来  xià lái “Go up” 上去  shàng qù “Go down” 下去  xià qù “Pick up” 拿起来   náqǐlái “Put down” 放下去  fàng xià qù “Put on” (clothes) 穿上  chuān shàng “Take off” (clothes) 脱下  […]

Directional Commands: First the Quiz

At some point in my Mandarin studies I realized I was completely confused about directional commands (e.g. “come here”, “go there”, “come in”, “go out”, etc.). Finally I sat a teacher down to get it all straight.  Now,  first let’s see if you’ve already got it straight. Here are some directional commands in English. Let’s […]

Tone Robots (and How Not to Become One)

Sometimes you can be so right, you are actually wrong. You’re determined not to speak sloppy Mandarin. You’ve memorized the tone for every word (or character combination) you know. In every word you utter, the tone rings crystal clear and you know it. There is only one problem: You sound like a freaky robot. You […]

How To Say "And" in Chinese: Part Two

Here is part two on how to say “and” in Mandarin. Check out part one for the first half. Conjunction Concept #5: Use the word “with” to connect pronouns and nouns 跟                     我跟我妹妹去吃饭。 gēn                 EX:    Wǒ gēn wǒ mèimei qù chīfàn. with, and                […]

My Favorite Vague Chinese Words: Part 2

#4 怎么样? zěnme yàng ?= “How’s it going?”; “How’d it go?”; “What’s it like?” “What’s happening?”; etc. You probably have already come across this one. Very useful, very vague, and very multi-purpose. From “Wha’s up, yo?” to “How’d it all go?”. Find yourself unsure how to plug in a follow up question? No need to […]

My Top-Ten Favorite Vague Chinese Words – Part One

Vague words are awesome for language learners. Keep a few in your pocket and you can pull them out any time you’re in need of “beating around the bush”, or you simply can’t find the specific word in Mandarin. These same words native speakers also use to talk around a subject or get out of […]

“Hello, My Name is Have-No-Honor”

Choosing a good Chinese name is a delicate matter and should be handled by the experts only, that is to say only well-educated native speakers. First, allow me to start with a cautionary tale: The story of how I ended up with the name “Have-No-Honor” in Chinese (or something that sounded exactly like that) and […]

Does Chinese Suck?

If you are a learner of Chinese and have “hit” the proverbial “wall”, you may have wondered: “Does Chinese suck or am I the one who sucks?” Few things are more humbling than trying to learn Mandarin. Maybe you even have studied for a year or two, but when you open your mouth native speakers […]