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

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

Formal Mandarin Chinese (五道口 banner example)

Above you will see an advertisement from the back of a bus stop just outside of the U-Town shopping center. The poster shows two shop owners not accepting cash, stating they prefer customers use their digital wallets (不收现金). The poster was sponsored by the People’s Bank of China (中国人民银行) and interestingly at a time when the … Read moreFormal Mandarin Chinese (五道口 banner example)

Is the Term “China Hand” Still Relevant for Foreigners in China Today?

The word 中国通 (zhongguo tong) means “China hand” or “China watcher” in Mandarin. It’s a combination of 中国 (zhongguo – China) and 通 (tong – to know well). The three characters, when combined together, create the meaning of one who knows China well, i.e. a “China hand”. Today it’s still used to describe foreigners in … Read moreIs the Term “China Hand” Still Relevant for Foreigners in China Today?

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

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

Questions That Effective Language Learners Ask Themselves

Have you ever wanted to learn something so badly that you studied it all the time? If you are like me, then you have experienced the point at which studying becomes counterproductive. When learning something new, it is important to take intermittent breaks. This practice allows you to replenish your “focus muscles” and reflect on … Read moreQuestions That Effective Language Learners Ask Themselves