Chinese Language Study
Thor May

Contacts:; ||

Part A - resources

1. Mandarin Corner - Lessons in various formats online. For US$10 you can access and download them forever. I'm using this site currently (2019). Some MC lessons have been adapted for Thor's own use.

2. Record Your Own Voice for language study - This is a really good idea. Go here to see how and why.

3. Links to Language Learning Sites - This is a big collection of links which I have accumulated for all aspects of language learning in many languages. [This is rather dated from when I first constructed it. Online Chinese resources have exploded]

Part B - Pronunciation & Grammar

Mandarin tones and the writng system of characters are known to be tricky. However lots of other things are also tricky. It is a mistake to think of Chinese languages in English terms. A Latin alphabet called Pinyin was created under Chinese government direction in 1955 to help spread literacy in China (not to help foreigners!). Pinyin letters might look like English alphabet letters, but many have different values. Pinyin is actually a syllabic system ( ) . Some Mandarin sounds (and pinyin letters) seem identical to an English speaker, but are actually quite different to a Chinese speaker. The best way to learn these differences is to practice them in contrastive pairs. For example, below are three pinyin sets that are commonly confused. Pinyin j, q and x  are pronounced with the tip of the tongue touching the bottom teeth.  Pinyin zh, c, sh are pronounced with the tongue curled slightly to the top of the mouth. Here are some practice recordings:

j vs zh    q vs c     x vs sh

Part C - translations


i) Diary Stories for Memorization

Sadly, from an early age I have been a particularly bad language learner, although rather creative. All 'methods' aside, a certain type of brain memory chemistry seems to be involved in second language learning and recall. For some learners the process appears to be almost effortless. On a graded scale, at the other end of the learning talent scale, for some people to remember some aspects of another language is hell. I'm somewhere on the bad end of that scale, especially with vocabulary. As a language teacher (most of whom are good language learners) this has condemned me to a life of hypocrisy :) . Since I'm uncomfortable with being even a good teacher while being a bad learner I have tried to find ways to coax my stubborn brain to learn other languages. I've found a few tricks. Rather late in the game I invented what I call a diary story method (no doubt others have hit on this too). Each week I write a small personal story of ten sentences in English. I put this into Google Translate to mangle. Next I give the Google translation to a language exchange partner to turn into a decent translation. My homework for the following week is to memorize this creation so that I can quote it verbatim to my exchange partner. Part of this memorization process involves recording just the second language sentences in my own voice (not the English), regardless of horrible pronunciation, and going for a walk later to listen to this stuff sentence by sentence and repeat it on my feet. The personalized recording seems to help recall. The effortless learners amongst you may curl your lips at this routine, but I find that is gives me the foundation from ground zero to get airborn and reach that stage where I can use the language more creatively. The diary stories linked here are from a contemporary effort to get a hold on Mandarin Chinese.


ii) Miscellaneous

2. Mid-Autumn Festival card greeting from a Chinese friend

3. Burglar Markings and Shop Signs in China

5. Zhu Ni Ping An ( 祝你平安 ) sung by HaiXia in Zhengzhou.

6. Ride in a Beijing Taxi (dialogue)

7. Starting to Learn Chinese (dialogue)

8. Body Parts vocabulary (diagram)

9. Chéngyǔ for learning hanzi

10. "Please Chat in Pinyin" - phrases to use live online


iii) Texts created by Thor for learning (a bit self-centred, but that helps memory)

1. Thor's bio (recorded by Sonia)

2. "My Home" - a description in Chinese

3. "My Room" - a description in Chinese

4. The Shopping Centre - a description in Chinese

5. A Choice - a description in Chinese

6. A Philosophical Mood

7. Stubborn Screws, Nuts and Jar Tops

8. Travelling With Strangers


iv) Language Exchange Material

1. Chat with a new student

2. Conversation Starters 1

3. 100 Conversation Topics A 100 Conversation Topics B 100 Conversation Topics C [These topics have been reformatted from Carl Gene Fordham's blog for study convenience. All credit to him]


Part D - China General Knowledge Questions

I have begun to make a China General Knowledge Quiz every week. This is one way to give the Brisbane China Meetup a little focus. A link to questions and answers will also be posted on the Brisbane China Meetup site (answers linked to the Brisbane China Meetup Facebook page) . I discuss the reason for quizzes in more detail on another page. For anyone who is interested, I am also making a Korea General Knowledge Quiz each week for the Brisbane Korea Meetup (answers linked to the Brisbane Korea Meetup Facebook page).

These questions are both devised by Thor and and answered by Thor. In the nature of things, some people are bound to disagree sometimes about answers. That is fine, but be prepared to defend your answers with evidence! Sometimes I may turn out to be wrong too, which is good, since being wrong means that one has learned something new. A link to an answer key is found with each quiz page.

What is the point of China General Knowledge Quizzes? - some thoughts on learning "facts", and the real meaning of knowledge.

1. China General Knowledge Quiz 1 (all quizzes have an answer key linked to them)

2. China General Knowledge Quiz 2

3. China General Knowledge Quiz 3

4. China General Knowledge Quiz 4

5. China General Knowledge Quiz 5

6. China General Knowledge Quiz 6

7. China General Knowledge Quiz 7

8. China General Knowledge Quiz 8

9. China General Knowledge Quiz 9

10. China General Knowledge Quiz 10

Part E - writings (mostly in English, about matters Chinese)

1. See the general language links. There is a large section on Chinese.

2. Blogs in English about China and Chinese.

3. Thor's Old China Diary. I worked in Wuhan from 1998 to 2000 and wrote many stories about what I experienced.

4. Thor's New China Diary. From 2007 to the end of 2010 I worked in Zhengzhou, Henan. These stories are fewer (I was busy writing a PhD).

Part F - readings  (Archived news and articles about China: I read a large number each year)

5. a) General Readings on China from 2007 to October 2011; b) Readings on Education in China; c) Readings on Finance, Banking and Business in China.

Hint on Internet translation: For students of Chinese and Japanese, a free add-on to the Firefox browser called PeraPera-Kun is a gift from heaven. By passing your mouse over any Chinese or Japanese word you get a pop-up translation. It is really fast.

Part G - Deprecated

Live Binders Projects (many) on China and Chinese - "Live Binders" is a free site for building projects on any topic quickly.

Sandbox       Prv Prv2 Prv-SM1 PrvSpoonfed

(c) Thor May 2019 material on this page is essentially for Thor's private study return to main Language Study Index return to homepage contact:

Chinese for Learning by Thor

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