Proficiency in the Four Arts: 琴棋书画,样样清通

The saying “qing, qi, shu, hua” (琴棋书画) refers to the four ancient arts of guqin, chess, literature, and painting. This phrase is also used in the saying “qing, qi, shu, hua, yang yang qing tong”  (琴棋书画,样样清通), and can be translated as “proficiency in the four arts of guqin, chess, literature, and painting is to be … Read moreProficiency in the Four Arts: 琴棋书画,样样清通

Soviet-Style Messaging on University Campus in Beijing

I took the picture of the above slogan “为祖国健康工作五十年” on the fence next to the track at China Geology University in Wudaokou, Beijing. The phrase can be translated as “work for 50 years to keep our country healthy”. This is a great example of the soviet-style messaging that I’ve been noticing more and more of … Read moreSoviet-Style Messaging on University Campus in Beijing

Does Mandarin Have a “Soul”?

If you try to translate the word “soul” into Mandarin, then you might find it particularly difficult. In fact, you’d be right to think that it’s downright impossible because there doesn’t actually seem to be a direct translation for the word. I came upon this translation problem one day at work, when looking over an … Read moreDoes Mandarin Have a “Soul”?

Translating the Mandarin Word for Festivals: 节日

The English word “holiday” is seemingly not that complicated − simply two words, “holy” and “day”, stuck together. However there are differences between the way the word is used in American English and British English. In American English, we normally reserve the term for a religious or culturally significant day; while in British English it can be … Read moreTranslating the Mandarin Word for Festivals: 节日

Mandarin Vocabulary: “消费降级” Consumption Downgrade

Today’s Mandarin language point is 消费降级. 消费 (xiāofèi – to consume) + 降级 (jiàngjí – to downgrade) = 消费降级 (xiāofèi jiàngjí – consumption downgrade).  From a cultural perspective, the phrase 消费降级 symbolizes the current idea business/economic climate in China; i.e. the cooling off of the Chinese economy. As of writing today, the Shanghai Composite Index … Read moreMandarin Vocabulary: “消费降级” Consumption Downgrade

Language Learning Documentation: Translating an App Notification

Interested in learning a language outside of the traditional, sugarcoated world of textbooks and classrooms? Why not try using your phone? Today I used a notification from the update of my bank app as an opportunity to study some more Chinese (note: bank is 农业银行 – Agriculture Bank of China). I’ve documented my translation process … Read moreLanguage Learning Documentation: Translating an App Notification

Fall in Love with Communication, Forget About Grammar

I always get surprised when I hear someone complain about their English very articulately. Normally, I have been speaking to the person for a while, perhaps even in deep conversation. “What do you mean?” I inevitably respond. “I think your English is great. Sure, you could probably work on your tenses and gender usage, but … Read moreFall in Love with Communication, Forget About Grammar

The Difference Between 外婆 and 姥姥 In Chinese

Do you know how to refer to your maternal grandmother in Chinese? It depends on who you ask. One way to say it is 外婆 (waipo). The first character, 外 (wai), means outside. The second character, 婆 (po), means grandmother. The two characters come together to mean your “outside grandmother”, as in traditional Chinese culture the women goes … Read moreThe Difference Between 外婆 and 姥姥 In Chinese

Will Digital ELL Products Eat Print?

Will Digital ELL Products Eat Print? A lot of people believe that digitization is going to destroy print. But is that really true, at least in the context of the ESL industry? Recently, I came upon a report by Ambient Insight (now Metaari), which forecasted the outlook of Digital ELL products from 2015-2020. In this … Read moreWill Digital ELL Products Eat Print?

5 Useful Attitudes and Habits to Adopt When Learning Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin Chinese is a notoriously difficult language to learn. When I first came to China in the summer of 2013 I knew zero Chinese, but still I had hope that I could succeed where other language learners before me had failed. In the beginning I learned the easy stuff. Phrases like “听不懂 (tīng bu dǒng)” … Read more5 Useful Attitudes and Habits to Adopt When Learning Mandarin Chinese