Lesson 028: Hints and Tips


One of the principles of our course is to relate the new vocabulary we give you with the vocabulary we have already taught you. The Premium notes for this lesson are a great example of the variety of new vocabulary that can be acquired by adding the verb to other words you have already learned. It becomes a lot easier to learn new vocabulary this way since you are just rearranging words that you already know, rather than having to learn new words. In the future, as new words are introduced, try and find patterns like this to group material with material you already know.

Many people are put off learning new languages when they look at long vocabulary lists they would have to study. However, as you can see in today’s language learning tip, it doesn’t have to be this way. The same holds true for Chinese characters. While it may seem daunting to have to learn so many new characters, the truth is many characters share the same components, so by learning a few basic components and how they can be rearranged to form new ones, you greatly increase the efficiency of your learning.

Lesson 027: Hints and Tips


Don’t try to learn grammar rules before you learn the usage. Learn the usage first then later look at grammar rules to find out why it’s used the way it is. This is how native speakers learn and goes back to the ‘what sounds right’ principle mentioned previously. Grammar should be picked up automatically through listening to several dialogues and forms of usage as we do in these podcasts. Later, you can consult grammar rules to reinforce what you have already learned.

Don’t underestimate the power of listening. If you happen to have access to Chinese speakers around you, don’t shy away from listening to them even if you don’t understand what they are saying. Learn the patterns and body language they use. Use this to complement your learning from podcasts and other areas. If this is done right, you may find that you’re actually only one or two words shy of understanding a great deal more than you think you do! When this does happen and you learn those words, all of a sudden your level of understanding will increase dramatically in a short period. Embrace the moment when it arrives!

Lesson 026: Hints and Tips


There is value to listening to material that is slightly more advanced than your current level. This is the reason why we introduce new dialogues on the show and listen to them first before explaining them. The words are foreign to begin with, and sometimes it may take a few lessons for them to ‘click.’ Over time though, you will find that certain expressions and ways of saying things ‘sound right’ whereas others don’t. We feel this is a better approach than teaching rules and grammar, and is closer to how people learn their native language.

Extend your learning of Chinese to not just the language but also the culture. This could include visiting your local Chinatown, listening to Chinese music, watching a Chinese movie or going to a Chinese restaurant. If you find yourself attracted to Chinese culture, it will be a lot easier to stay motivated to learn Chinese.

Lesson 025: Hints and Tips


The flash card approach used to teach young kids is a great way to learn a new language. You can cut and paste new vocabulary into individual pages and print them out. You can put Chinese on one side and the translation on the other. Or you could put the translation at the bottom of the page and fold it over. Once you have a stack of these pages you can test yourself by flipping through them and seeing which words you recognize. Put the words you get correct in one pile and put the words you got wrong in another. The next time you repeat the exercise go through the “wrong” pile and try and reduce the number of words in there. Our mind is trained to remember things we see again and forget those we don’t, which is the whole approach behind our course.

As our podcast involves a lot of repetition on your part, try and find a suitable place for you to best use this podcast where you won’t be disturbed and more importantly where you won’t disturb others! This way you can focus on the repetition and saying words out aloud without being distracted. Perhaps this could be in your car on your way to work, or in your private study at home.

Lesson 024: Hints and Tips


Although we give you the tones for every new word that is introduced, don’t try to remember the tones separately from the word. The tones are given to you to help you pronounce the word initially. After that, remember how the word is said and every time you pronounce it, pronounce it in that same way. This way you don’t have to consciously worry about what tone a word is since if you pronounce it in the same way that you originally heard it, that will give you the right tones as well.

When listening to a new dialogue in our lessons, try and pick out as much vocabulary as you can and see how much you can figure out before listening to the explanation. Guess the meanings of the words you don’t understand and try and ‘connect the dots’ to figure out the overall meaning of the dialogue. After listening to the explanations, see if you were right. Some people have mastered this skill well and learn to read body language and clue in on other signals to guess the meaning of words and sentences they don’t understand. If you can master this skill, you won’t be put off by hearing unfamiliar words and in fact can look forward to it as a challenge.

Lesson 023: Hints and Tips


This is more of a culture note. Be modest. No matter how good your Chinese is, when you get compliments on how good you are at Chinese is (which will definitely happen!), always disagree and say them it isn’t really so (you should know how to say that by now). To show modesty is a very important part of Chinese culture!

When we talk about ‘working hard’ to learn a new language, we certainly don’t mean putting in hours of your day into learning a new language. In fact, we don’t recommend that. What we do recommend is putting in 20 minutes a day into these lessons – they don’t even need to be together. One part can be listening to the podcast lesson on the way to work. Another part could be doing the exercises at home on your review day – or reviewing the lesson in front of your computer screen. However, we strongly believe that putting in these 20 minutes is more efficient than the hours a day some spend in language schools that use ineffective methods; so congratulations for working smart to achieve your goals!

Lesson 022: Hints and Tips


You may gain a lot of confidence by being understood by other Chinese speakers. However, don’t stop there. Try to perfect your pronunciation by listening to Kirin and the other speakers in the lesson. Try to mimic their speech as closely as you can.

There’s a difference between working hard and working smart. Growing up in Canada, everyone has to learn French in school. So there was I, trying to learn French all through my junior years up to high school. Yet, despite these many years of schooling, I barely knew any French! In high school, however, we had a different teacher who used her own methods of teaching that really worked! In those three years of high school I learned ten times as much French as I had learned in the previous five years combined! That got me interested in language learning and language acquisition theories. The principles we use are listed in the How we teach section of our website, so take a look there sometime, if you are interested in the inner workings of this course.

Lesson 021: Hints and Tips


If you have to take a break where you have fallen behind a few lessons, take the time to use our Course Outline to see if you remember previous words from previous lessons. We try to review them from time to time within our lessons, but it never hurts to review them yourself every now and then.

One mistake I made when living in Taiwan was assuming that just by living there I would automatically pick up the language without much effort. However, even living in a society where I was completely immersed in a new language and culture, I found that without effort on my part trying to figure out what was going on around me and piecing it together on my own, I couldn’t learn the language as quickly as I should.

Similarly, while it is possible to pick up Chinese just by listening to the podcasts alone, to get the full effect of learning you need to put in the effort of going through the Premium notes and Review exercises and such. Congratulations for being amongst those willing to put in that effort and good luck with your language learning!

Lesson 020: Hints and Tips


Learning a language also extends to learning a culture. And in different cultures, actions can speak a lot louder than words. So the next time you are out with your Chinese friends watch their actions in detail. Next time someone offers you their business card note how they do it. When do they bow their heads? When they are eating, how do they hold their chopsticks? What do they do with the bones on their plate. Start mimicking those actions and you’ll be well on your way towards learning the complete package of Chinese language and culture.

Try to create your own fixed learning schedule. This could be either on the go, at the gym, in the car, on the way to work, or wherever. If possible also try to find some quiet time for yourself at home or in your office where you can focus on your language learning without any distractions. Our lessons are designed to require less than 20 minutes a day. Use this time to practice your pronunciation with the speakers. Use this time to work on the Review exercises in the Premium notes.

Lesson 019: Hints and Tips


Spend time on the Premium lesson notes review exercises. They are meant to help you keep up with the lessons. From time to time review old exercises to make sure the words are committed to memory.

Persistence will pay off. Just like the first time you tried to play baseball and couldn’t hit a ball, or went bowling and couldn’t get a strike. It may seem like nobody understands your accent or what you’re saying. That’s ok and is expected in these early stages. But just like that beginner trumpet player, those initial squawks will eventually turn into beautiful music if you continue to be persistent with your practice.

Lesson 018: Hints and Tips


Many words and phrases in Chinese don’t have direct translations in English or may overlap in meaning. As your Chinese improves you should find that you don’t always need to translate each word into its English equivalent. Learn to think in group of words or concepts to ease this confusion.

It may be frustrating for some people that more than a month into learning a language it still seems like you can’t have more than a basic conversation with anyone. Be patient! Keep reviewing what you do know and practice it where you can and slowly work your way up.

Lesson 017: Hints and Tips


Learn to think in Chinese. You will find yourself doing a lot of “translating” in your head in the beginning. For example when you see the word “shū” you may think to yourself “What does that mean in English…ah yes, it’s a book.” In your head you will then picture an actual book. Instead, when trying to remember what “shū” means try to picture a book to begin with. This way your mind has one less step to process during recall. This will greatly speed up your level of fluency in the language.

There will be times when someone asks you something in Chinese and you recognize what they are saying and you know exactly how to respond, and the word you want to say is on the tip of your tongue…but yet it doesn’t come out right (or doesn’t come out at all!). Don’t be frustrated! This is common when learning any new language. Laugh it off and prepare yourself for the next time you encounter the same situation so you will know exactly how to respond.

Lesson 016: Hints and Tips


One experience you may often find yourself in when attempting to speak Chinese is remembering a word but not remembering its tone. Or maybe you remember it with the wrong tone. I’ve gone through countless experiences where I used a word with a group of Chinese people and they had no idea what I was trying to say. Finally, one of them would understand and would then repeat the word to the group exactly how it should have been said; at which point they all understood. (Obviously, it wasn’t exactly how I had said it or they would’ve understood me to begin with!) One method I found to help me is, when you are learning a new word in Chinese, to remember it exactly the way you first heard it. When you have to say it, say it that same way. This way you’re not trying to remember the tones; you’re just remembering the way it was said. With practice you’ll find yourself not even having to consciously think about which tone a word is; you’ll just naturally say it the proper way!

Chinese has a very different structure than English so it is very easy to get frustrated when some aspects are hard to comprehend. Keep an open mind and resist the temptation to directly fit every word or phrase used in Chinese into an English equivalent. You will find that some words or expressions don’t have direct equivalents in the other language. Observe and recognize the situations and contexts where words are used so as to help you grasp where and when best to use it.

Lesson 015: Hints and Tips


Don’t take shortcuts. Yes, you should be commended for the efforts you’ve taken to get this far and yes people will be excited even if you can speak a few words and phrases in Chinese. However, why stop there? If you’re going to take the trouble to get this far go all the way. Make sure you understand everything you have learned up till now. Review the course notes and see if you understand all the vocabulary from previous lessons up to here. If not, go back and review them before you continue.

You may hear some people say “oh, Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to learn.” Does that motivate you or discourage you? Now that you know a bit of Chinese, what aspect of the language do you suppose is the most difficult? The tones? The written language? True, those may be more difficult than English, but where those aspects may be more difficult there are lots of other aspects that are a LOT simpler in Chinese such as grammar, lack of tenses, plural forms etc.

Lesson 014: Hints and Tips


While grammar notes are mentioned from time to time, don’t focus too much on them. Learn the language first and the grammar will come along with it. Most native speakers don’t know many of the grammar rules of their own language since they just picked them up naturally through usage. The rules given on this site are just to complement what is already taught.

You will see yourself going through different levels of fluency. At first, you will find yourself translating every word you hear in your mind into English. Eventually though you’ll hear a long sentence and in an instant will know exactly what it means. You may not be able to repeat it or say it back, but you still know what it meant. That shows one level of fluency. Embrace the moment when it comes!

Lesson 013: Hints and Tips


Congratulations on getting through the first month of ChineseLearnOnline.com! You can already say quite a few words and sentences. You know how to count and shop. At what point in our program can you proclaim to everyone “I can speak Chinese”? Well, my personal recommendation is to impress people with your actions! If someone asks, you can proclaim to be a “student in Chinese”. However if you end up speaking to someone in Chinese and they are impressed, that would seem a lot much nobler than telling someone you can speak Chinese and ending up not understanding what they said.

Plan a trip to the country. If you currently live in a non-Chinese speaking community and really want to increase your level of learning why don’t you plan a trip to China, Taiwan or Singapore? If that doesn’t work, pop by your local Chinatown and see how things are going there, or try watching a Chinese movie. Visually seeing what’s happening there and how people are interacting using Chinese (and how little you may understand!) can be great motivation for you. It certainly was for me – I couldn’t bear being left out of so many experiences living in Taiwan because I couldn’t speak Chinese. I couldn’t bear not being able to go approach that cute girl because she couldn’t understand a word of English. That was my motivation – what is yours?

Lesson 012: Hints and Tips


If a lesson is too difficult for you, don’t move on. Subsequent lessons use material from previous lessons so it is important to understand material completely before moving on to the next lesson. Otherwise you may find yourself falling further and further behind. Perhaps there may be a lesson or two that comes along that requires you to spend some extra time on it. Take that extra time. It will save you plenty of frustration in the future.

From time to time you may see yourself hitting peaks where it seems like you’re not making progress in your language development. Don’t be discouraged. This is natural and our lessons are designed this way as well. From time to time, we may take breaks to let the material soak in. If you have been at it for a long time, it may be good to take a break from that action and come back to it later. Also note that learning vocabulary alone isn’t enough to develop your fluency. There is also your level of pronunciation, your level of understanding and your grammar to deal with. So even if it seems like you’re not progressing in one area, you may very well be progressing in other areas so keep at it! Perhaps a few lessons where you don’t learn any new vocabulary would be good to allow you time to focus on other areas.

Lesson 011: Hints and Tips


Keep your momentum going. The podcasts are released on a fixed schedule. Try to keep up with that schedule. Less than 20 minutes of your time is needed each day – try and keep that time aside for learning Chinese. If it’s not possible to view the included transcripts on your MP3 player, try to print a copy of the lesson notes to take with you to follow along while listening.

Our tip last time was to carry a notebook with you everywhere you go to jot down new Chinese words you may hear that day (for those of you living in Chinese speaking areas). You can also use your personal notebook to help you out when you make mistakes or if you’re in a situation where someone had to teach you what to say. Write it down in your notebook. This way, the next time you’re in that situation you hopefully won’t make that same mistake again and will know exactly what to say. If you don’t, you always have your notebook there to guide you.

Lesson 010: Hints and Tips


Try to imitate accents. Whether listening to our podcast or working with a language learning partner. Don’t believe the myth that you’re not capable of speaking like a native speaker. Many foreigners make the mistake of assuming that since they aren’t native speakers they shouldn’t even try. If you work on it long enough you will get close!

This is a tip for those living in a Chinese speaking area. Carry a small notebook with you everywhere you go. Try to pick out the same word mentioned a few times by different people. If you do hear one, write it down. Chances are if you heard it several times already, you’ll probably hear it again. Find someone to translate it for you and write down the meaning and the tones. This way the next time you hear it you won’t be lost and you’ll remember it from hereon.

Lesson 009: Hints and Tips


So the next time you’re out shopping start using the vocabulary you learned today. If you don’t live in a Chinese community try to do so in your local Chinatown. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to buy anything or not – you’re just doing it for practice. Find places where the items don’t have price tags (which should be most places). This way you can see if you can figure out the price from what the shopkeeper tells you.

Try to find situations where you can use the material you have learned. For example, after learning prices and how to bargain you can visit your favorite Chinese store and use what you just learned. Or maybe you’re used to going to the McDonalds in your Chinese community because its the only place you don’t need to use Chinese – well once you’ve learned how to order food why not try ordering it in Chinese instead of English for a change? These mini victories and compliments you get along the way should spur you to learn more.

Lesson 008: Hints and Tips


Just like in lesson six, start practicing with higher numbers now. It’ll be tricky at first but the more you practice the quicker you’ll become. Make sure you review the lesson if needed and go through the exercises in the Premium notes. When you listen to a lesson the second time, try to answer the questions as they are posed before waiting for the answer. If you’re not able to get the answers that’s an indication that more review is needed.

If you do feel worn out from all your learning, take a break! Take some time off to stop learning Chinese. Go back to your English sphere of influence during this time and don’t even think about Chinese. You may very well find that when you do return to your studies your brain is much more refreshed and your pace of learning picks right back. In some cases you may even find that your level of understanding has improved during that break since your brain had time to digest the information that was sitting on the backburner all this time. Our podcasts are designed to give you a day off for a reason – so use it!

Lesson 007: Hints and Tips


Now that you know how to address people you can do so. Try to learn people’s names and how to pronounce them. Start addressing the people around you as 先生 or 小姐. Ask kids their age so you can practice your numbers.

Don’t limit yourself to our podcasts. While we will do our best for you to create new lessons for you and teach you new vocabulary you’re welcome to try learning on your own too. Go venture out into public places on your own where you’re likely to hear Chinese. If you live in a Chinese community, go visit a place you don’t normally visit – talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. By increasing the sphere of influence around you, you will more quickly learn how to deal with situations that you wouldn’t normally learn about.

Lesson 006: Hints and Tips


You now know numbers up to a hundred and dates. Start practicing with the numbers around you. Every time you see a number in that range, try to figure out what it would be in Chinese. If you see a date, translate that in Chinese as well. The more you practice the better and quicker you will become at it.

Culture Note:

Birthdays aren’t celebrated with the same enthusiasm in China as they are in Western cultures. A typical birthday celebration may involve going out for dinner. Noodles are usually associated with birthday dinners since their length implies longevity.

People don’t usually age a year on their birthdays in China as they do in the West. Instead, everyone ages a year together during Chinese New Year. Also, when you are born you are considered to be one year old already. So most ages in Chinese are a year older than they would be by Western standards.

Things to notice: in the beginning as you practice, people will speak slowly to you and compliment your Chinese even though all you did was say hello or thank you. Over time though, as your Chinese improves you’ll notice people speaking faster and less compliments coming your way. This is an even greater complement as you are now at the level where they don’t have to speak slowly for you to understand and your Chinese is fluent enough that it doesn’t need to be complemented! Strive to get to this level.

Lesson 033: Hints and Tips


The lessons now feature more Chinese within the lesson. Try and pick out the different ways of saying the same thing from lesson to lesson. Notice the differences and similarities between the different speakers. Which words do they pronounce differently? This will help you communicate with Chinese speakers from different areas.

Many people find themselves shy to practice speaking Chinese when they meet a native Chinese speaker. They worry that their tones won’t be perfect, or the other person may not understand them. Of course, it won’t be perfect. However, in most cases you will find that the other person will be very excited that you have taken the time to learn their language. In fact, in my experience it may be harder to find someone to correct your mistakes since they will be too busy being impressed with you!

Lesson 032: Hints and Tips

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Use the pinyin practice scripts we have provided to practice your pronunciation and reading pinyin skills. First, try to read the script on your own, then listen to the speakers. Were you correct? Try and get your pronunciation to be as close to the speaker as you can.

Rent a Chinese DVD with English subtitles (try and find one where the story interests you). Turn off English subtitles and try and guess the contexts of various situations, then use the subtitles to see if you were right.

Lesson 031: Hints and Tips

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The Review Audio summaries can be used in different ways. They can be used to test your understanding of the material as well as to try and perfect your pronunciation so use them for both. If more advanced lessons are available, pick one and see if you can figure out or guess what the speakers are saying.

You have enough of a knowledge of basic vocabulary now to be able to guess the subject of conversations you may hear. If you have access to Chinese TV stations or radio programs, try and listen and see how much of what they are saying you can figure out. Try and pick out which words and phrases you recognize. Repeat this exercise every month or so and see if you notice any improvement.

Lesson 005: Hints and Tips


You learned some standard answers to “hi, how are you” but as I’m sure you can imagine there can be many. Just like in English people can answer “I’m alright, it’s going, it’s ok, I’m great, fantastic, superb, terrible etc. etc.” if you keep asking people “Ni hao ma?” take a note at what their answers are. Maybe some answers are more common in your neck of the woods than in others. This is how you pick up “street Chinese”. It’s easy to see which persons learned their Chinese from a book and which persons learned it on their street by listening to the answers to these routine questions.

Another goal could be to try and get into a conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English. Maybe you know someone already but are afraid to approach them. You could start off with a few simple greetings as you learn them and move into more advanced material. The motivation that that guy or that gal can actually understand my Chinese should increase your confidence and motivate you further.

Lesson 004: Hints and Tips

When I was living in Taiwan I met many people there with an excellent command of written English. However the problem was they couldn’t speak to me! What was the point of learning all that English if they didn’t have the courage or the experience to actually use it in a simple conversation? Well don’t let that happen to you. The more you try and practice what you’re learning here in real world conversation the better you’ll become. You learned how to say “I can speak a little Chinese today.” Start telling that to everyone you meet. In everyday conversation you don’t have to time to think and analyze each word that is coming your way – you just have to respond. Those reflex answers will come to you with enough practice so keep at it!

Find motivation around you. Maybe there’s someone else you know who learned Chinese and you wish you could be like them. Use them as your motivation – have some friendly competition – try to get your Chinese to their level or better! Or maybe there’s someone you don’t like and you’d really like to show them off by being able to speak better Chinese than them! That could work too (just keep the gloves off).

Lesson 003: Hints and Tips

You learned how to introduce yourself today. So where can you use this? Well the next time you’re on a bus with some Chinese people why not stand up and proclaim to them “Dàjiā hǎo. Wǒ shì Peter!” Take a note of their reaction. You’re probably never going to see any of them again so what do you have to lose? Or if you’re seated next to someone on a bus introduce yourself – tell them that you are American or Canadian. It’s no different than being friendly in English, right? Learn the names of the countries around you in Chinese that you’re likely to hear about when you’re watching the news or you hear people talk.

In Lesson Two, we suggested that you create goals and steps in your journey towards learning Chinese. We now suggest that you give yourself treats to reward yourself after reaching the goals you set for yourself. For example, if you want to break down our course plan into monthly chunks, you can give yourself a treat each time you finish a month with us and understand all the material up to that point.

Lesson 002: Hints and Tips

Now that you’re all set up to learn new vocabulary every week it is important to find a medium where this can be used. You must have some reason why you decided to pick up learning Chinese. Perhaps you’re fortunate to be living in a Chinese speaking community. Or maybe you’re planning a trip to one. Or maybe you just want to impress that cute new Chinese coworker. Whatever your reason, it is important to start using what we teach you here to take you towards your goals. Find a person you can practice what you learn each day with.

Make a list of all the reasons you have for wanting to learn Chinese. Perhaps you could structure this list into what good things will happen to you if you were able to speak Chinese. Imagine yourself in that situation – having reached your goals. What would it feel like? Now make a list of what would happen if you didn’t reach those goals. What would it be like to be in the same situation but not knowing how to speak Chinese? From time to time when you get frustrated in your learning attempts (a point we all get to at some stage), come back to this list for motivation.