What is a word, exactly? With English, a word is ended with a press of a space bar, but in Chinese, there's nothing quite as distinct. Ideas which are one word in English can be anywhere between one and seven syllables in Chinese, and even the simplest, first sentence you may learn in Chinese throws … Continue reading Wide Words
Vocab learning is essentially the dull bit of learning a language. No matter how pretty your flashcards, how complex your algorithms or how well you speak grammar, there are just a lot of words. And unfortunately, there's no way around that - a language is basically a pile of words stuck together with some stuff … Continue reading Long Neck Deer
In some languages, dictionaries are nice, concise books which help you find the word you're looking for. Of course, there are sometimes words which have more than one meaning, but these are often accompanied with little notes saying 'this one's a verb! don't be caught out!'. In Chinese, not so much. All words are equal … Continue reading I’m at Fault
I talked a few weeks ago about some ridiculous 'loanwords' most languages rely on - most languages have an equivalent of 'googeln', with some being boring and translating directly as 'to search on Google', with no funny conjugation involved. Boo hiss. But Chinese doesn't exactly have this problem - because Baidu and Weibo (that social … Continue reading Behind the Firewall
Despite Chinese not being quite creative enough to think up a new word for coffee, they've given it (and practically everything else!) a good go. But what happened to my Cuppa Cha?
Chinese likes to stick stuff together when there's nothing to draw. It seems that Chinese cavemen found they could only get so far with characters like 火 (fire) and 山 (mountain) and even pretty obvious symbols like 下 (under) and 上 (above). So then we decide that as soon as we have a roof (宀) … Continue reading Bright, Clear, and … Tomb Sweeping?
Chinese resources all around the Internet very soon tell you that the term 'Chinese' just won't cut it. Words that you might recognise like 'Mandarin' and 'simplified' are mixed in with terrifying ones like 'Hokkien' - so what's a learner to do? It probably won't come as a surprise that the Chinese language isn't that homogenous. You can … Continue reading Common Speech
In this mind-boggling language, tones seem to be the be-all and end-all of actually getting any sort of message across, something hard for English speakers as we don't have it. But it occurred to me - we do. Every piece of music with lyrics ever (unless you listen to drones) changes pitch, giving the word a … Continue reading Sing Low (But Don’t)
What's the most British thing you can think of? One of the first things that springs to mind is a steaming cup of tea, with (possibly, if you're feeling luxurious) a biscuit to dunk according to the strict British dunk regulations. But in China, tea is not just an enjoyable drink for a cold afternoon, but … Continue reading A Cuppa Cha
晚上好！Insults have always shown up parts of culture - from Ancient Greek insults relating to intellect and health, and Victorian jabs at skill and character, the insults of a culture often reveal what lies at it's heart and therefore what can sink most deep. Many Western insults can show us up too - self-image is … Continue reading Chinese French