Level 1 and 2 Updates

I’m happy to announce some updates to level 1 and 2 of our course. In the past we have announced new features that have been implemented for future lessons, but not for earlier lessons. These include Chinese characters in the complete transcripts and the Fill in the Blanks exercises.

I’m happy to say that over the break, we have added Chinese characters to all lessons in the course including all the earlier lessons. Users can now begin learning characters from the very beginning. New PDF versions of these lessons have also been added to the course outlines for these levels. The bulk level downloads have also been updated with the new transcripts. You will also find Fill in the Blanks tests every few lessons starting from lesson 4 on to check your understanding of recently taught vocabulary.

As always, if you something is missing or doesn’t look right to you, please let us know. Happy learning!

New Premium Feed

The Premium feed has been updated to provide a better experience for the user. Previously, it was hosted on a separate site that required a separate login. I’m happy to say that the new feed is now integrated within the main CLO site, so by logging in to the main site you are also logged in to the premium feed.

The old feed and the new feed are identical so no changes are required from the user.

Bulk Level Downloads

As announced earlier, I have now updated the pricing page with new options for our subscribers. Once upon a time, we offered online, offline and one on one plans that were all recurring. The one on one plan was then replaced with a one time payment option that offered more flexibility by letting you just purchase the time you needed, until it ran out. Well I’m happy to say that the offline recurring plan has now been replaced with a level download plan that is also a one time download. Each level has been reduced to 4 zip files that together contain hundreds of PDFs and review audio files for all the lessons in that level. The individual levels are priced at $19.95 USD each.

Note that these level downloads are also optional purchases for existing premium subscribers. While online subscribers can still download individual PDF and audio files for each lessons, the convenience of downloading them all together will be a separate option. As older lessons are updated, the relevant PDF files and audio files for them will also be updated. You can see the sizes and latest update dates in the level download chart on the bottom of this page. Users who purchase level download access, will have access to the directory for 30 days from purchase in order to take advantage of any updates that may occur in the near future. Enjoy!

Simple Podcast Reviews

As our lessons have moved from typical conversation based lessons to articles and discussions, we have been looking for a new podcast review format. The one we have decided on (suggested by one of our long time listeners), is to offer a simple review of vocabulary for each lesson – first in female Chinese, followed by male English translation and then male Chinese. Hopefully putting together a few podcast reviews together can provide you with a good review playlist. You can find all this goodness on the premium review feed (the first four lessons of level four are available free to all listeners). Enjoy!

Premium Offline Pricing

This is a notice to let you know that I will be removing the premium offline plan from our current pricing plan options next week. The plan will be replaced with the option to purchase PDF and review audio sets separately for each level. Current premium offline subscribers will not be affected and can continue to keep their plans for as long as they want.

This change is being made in response to demand for bulk PDF downloads. As a result, both bulk premium audio and PDF sets will soon be available for purchase separately by level. More information will be announced here when the new packages are ready.

Lesson Updates – 231

I’m happy to announce a new category to this Updates blog – Lesson Updates. From time to time, we are going to be updating older lessons – whether to improve sound quality or to improve the course content. Each time a lesson is updated, I’ll make a note here. If it’s a lesson you have listened to before, you may want to download it again.

The first update is lesson 231. The original video featured some words that weren’t taught in the lesson. So we have now simplified the video and included some more vocabulary in the original lesson.

Pricing Tweaks

I have made a couple of adjustments to our pricing page.

In response to user feedback about our Skype one-on-one plan, I have changed it from being a recurring plan like the others to just being a single payment of 5 hours of sessions. I realize that you are all busy people and can’t always make the rigid schedule set in our previous plan. Others were interested in having more sessions than our plan originally offered. So in response to these issues, the new option allows you to purchase time in sets of 5 hours, to be scheduled as and when you please over an extended period. As before, your first hour of sessions is free, so try it out and see what you think!

The second adjustment I have made is to introduce a new partner to the companies we have chosen to work with. You can now use TrialPay to receive a month of Premium online access without having to pay us again. The graphic below explains how it works.

I hope these options provide more choices for CLO users. As always, if you have an idea that you think would benefit you, please let me know.

User Mode Preferences

I’m proud to announce another nifty new feature. Throughout our site, we offer scripts in pinyin, simplified Chinese characters or traditional Chinese characters. It has been easy to switch from one mode to another by just a click of a button. But what if I could save you that click? How much time would you save over a lifetime if you didn’t have to make that extra click? Minutes? Hours? Perhaps days??

Well now you can do just that, by specifying your mode preference on your account page (found on the right sidebar under the Sign Out button). The default is pinyin like before, but now you can also change this default for the entire site to simplified or traditional. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Fill in the Blanks

We’ve added a new review tool to the lessons in Level 4. Every few lessons, you can test your understanding of the vocabulary taught recently by dragging the appropriate word from the list on the right into the blanks on the left to form sentences with meaning. Not only does this teach you to recognize the vocabulary and its usage, it also gets you working with grammar and sentence patterns.

This activity may be a bit more difficult than the traditional activities since it also incorporates supplementary vocabulary (not explicitly taught in the lessons). The good thing is that every word can be searched from the word bank, so this is also a great tool to expand your vocabulary.

As usual, you can choose your mode – pinyin, simplified, traditional or even English.

You can test drive this feature by clicking on “Fill in the Blanks” in the middle of this page. Enjoy!

Server Upgrade

In light of the recent performance issues on our website, we will be performing a server upgrade on our site on Tuesday, May 20 from 12 a.m. to 1 a.m. EST (4 a.m. to 5 a.m. GMT). I apologize in advance for any user inconvenience this down time may cause. The end result though, should be a smoother and faster user experience when using our website.

An update will be posted here when this upgrade is complete.

Update: The upgrade went smoothly. Everything should be back to normal now. Thanks for your patience!

Hacked Again

The site was down for about 16 hours over the past 2 days. The problem was identified as a systematic attack on our site from professional hackers, I suppose. Someone seems to really like us out there! Hopefully the problems are behind us now. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

We have and are taking further steps to minimize future disruptions. The podcast files are now hosted separately from the main site, so if the site goes down, you should hopefully still be able to access the files themselves. We will be looking at other ways to improve our infrastructure in the near future.



Looking into the Future

I thought I would share with you some of the exciting developments that you can expect to see over the next few months.

Staff Reorganization

I have a very strong team here at CLO. I wish I could say that I did it all by myself, but that would be far from the truth. I will be investing heavily in them over the next few months. What does this mean for you, the listener? I’m glad you asked. There are a few major changes planned for the long term:

1. Existing premium content:

There has always been some lag between when lessons are released, and when the premium content for them is released. As the difficulty of our lessons has increased, this lag has begun to increase as well. Rest assured, I plan to have this lag eliminated so both lessons and premium content can be released together.

2. Earlier lessons:

Since about lesson 196, we have hired a local university teacher with ten+ years teaching Chinese, as a consultant. Her job has been to look over our lessons before they are released, to make sure the material being taught is relevant and appropriate for our course. I’ve been so pleased with her work, that she has now been instructed to go over earlier lessons to correct and update their content too, where appropriate. As you might expect, this is a pretty time consuming task that will take many months to complete. Sections of earlier lessons will be rerecorded where necessary. Stay tuned for updates on this blog for details of which lessons are updated.

What this also means is that the lessons recorded prior to our moving production to Taiwan (lesson 109 on), will be rerecorded completely with our current speakers. The end result for you will be a much more developed course, with a more consistent feel to it throughout. I personally feel that the quality of lessons after 109 (both content and audio quality) are a much better experience than the earlier lessons. My goal is to eliminate this gap altogether.

There are other changes that have also been taking place behind the scenes. Key staff members have been enrolled in courses specifically for teaching Chinese to foreigners. These changes have been implemented not only within the lessons themselves, but also in our Skype one on one sessions.

New Premium Content:

While I’m pleased with the many resources we have been able to offer our Premium subscribers, I still have a few other ideas that I plan to roll out over the next little while. I am looking for a replacement to the Podcast Review that is still in the development stage. The podcast review was a great way to review the dialogue based lessons. However, since many of our more recent lessons aren’t dialogue based, the podcast review in its current form doesn’t always work out.

We also have another review tool that is ready, and will be deployed over the next few months as well.

Overall User Experience

– We are still having issues where our site has been going down, due to too many users trying to access site content at the same time. Thanks to investment in new hardware, the problem is much more manageable now than it was a few months ago. However it’s still not at the stage I would like. Rest assured, there will be more investments made over the next little while to improve the speed and usability of the site.

– We have commissioned a local artist to create pictures for each lesson for us (another time consuming process). I’ve been very pleased with the work I’ve seen so far. Again, with more than 200 lessons to go, it will take some time before pictures are available for all lessons, but I’m confident that the results will be worth it. Like the videos, I’m hoping the pictures will add some visual context to the lessons, better allowing you to remember what was taught.

Please continue to use this blog to give me feedback on what works or doesn’t work for you. You are also welcome to email me directly or visit our new Facebook fan page for other ways to contact us.


Miscellaneous Updates

1. You may notice that the Word Bank results now show up color coded. The main colors are:

Green – New vocabulary
Black – New character
Blue – Sentences from dialogues
Red – Related vocabulary (but not explicitly taught) for that lesson (see point #3 below)

2. It recently came to my attention that the Sentence Builder exercises were not functioning properly on Internet Explorer browsers (they seemed to work fine on all other browsers). This has since been fixed. Please let me know if you notice any features not working the way you think they should be.

3. Since our goal is to limit new vocabulary to only a few words per lesson, we might not be able to teach all the vocabulary for a particular topic within a lesson. For example, if we are teaching a lesson on colors, the main colors will be taught – but what about the more obscure colors that you might want to know? The solution we have been using is to add this supplementary vocabulary to the vocabulary page for each lesson. These will not be tested in the flashcard program. If any of these words are reused in later lessons, they will be taught as a new word first.

By doing so, we hope that as our course progresses, our word bank can begin to resemble a real dictionary. Hopefully the color coding above will help distinguish between words taught within the lesson with related words that weren’t explicitly taught.

In the next few days, this supplementary vocabulary will also be added as an option on our export page. Update: This has now been added.

CLO Page on Facebook

For those of you on Facebook, we have created a new fan page. Feel free to join in, view pictures, videos, start discussions etc. This will be a great way for me to connect with listeners and of course for you to connect with each other.

You can view the page here.

New PDFs, New Colors!

Our PDF pages have been updated with a new set of PDFs for most lessons. The PDFs allow our premium offline users to practice writing the new characters for each lesson on paper. There are two versions for each lesson, one featuring just the new characters for the lesson and another featuring all the characters for that lesson. As many characters will be repeated in future lessons, use the latter to practice writing characters that may have shown up in earlier lessons. Doing things this way will automatically give you more practice writing characters that show up more often, than those that don’t.

Take a look at the following samples:

New Simplified characters for lesson 4
All Simplified characters for lesson 4

Traditional character versions of the above will be added in the future.

Update: Traditional character versions of the above pages have now been added!

As well, since our PDF list seems to be growing daily, we have begun to color code them to make it easier to find what you are looking for.

Blue – Simplified character version
Green – Traditional character version
Yellow – Spanish translation of complete transcript
Purple – Italian translation of complete transcript
Brown – French translation of complete transcript

Flashcard Update

The Flashcard program has been updated to load a lot faster than before. Previously it took a few minutes to load up, whereas this should now be reduced to a few seconds.

Site Issues

It seems that the site has been up and down for much of this weekend. Lately, we’ve been the victim of some massive spam attacks on our Contact Us page, and this weekend it seems that hackers have been trying to wreck havoc with the site in general.

The good thing is that we will be using this opportunity to improve the infrastructure that holds this site together. Please bear with us the next few days as we there may be some more ups and downs. In the end however, I hope to have a faster site with better performance.

Update: The site will be down for an hour on February 20, 2008 from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. GMT for some hardware updates that will hopefully improve the recent sluggishness.

Recording and other Updates

It seems that this since we moved the site to a new server, the recording tool wasn’t working for the Pronunciation and Exercises. Well I’m happy to say that after some lengthy testing and reinstalling, everything seems to be working again! I’m also happy to say that the user experience should be better than in the past, thanks to the better equipment it is now running on.

We will continue to look for ways to update the site and improve your user experience. Next on the list is to improve our actual course content. We have added a new consultant with over a decade of teaching experience to our team who will be overseeing the material in new lessons. Her work will begin from lesson 195 onwards. Some of our staff are also upgrading their credentials in teaching by taking courses in Mandarin teaching.

I hope to use the added experience from all of us (including me) to edit and / or redo some of the earlier lessons in our course later this year. When we get to that, I will release a separate set of updates so you can see what changes were made.

In the meantime, please continue to send us your ideas and suggestions in all areas. Some of our newer lessons feature content and material suggested by users like yourself, so keep them coming.

All the best to everyone this Chinese New Year – welcoming the year of the rat!

Business Meetings

Business Meetings

Arranging and having meetings with Chinese counterparts can be a different process than you might see out West. The process is smoother if you already have a relationship with the people beforehand. If they aren’t familiar with you or your company, it is best to provide as much background information as possible. This allows them to decide whether to have the meeting as well as who should take part.

This is important, since it means the proper decision makers can attend. Unlike Western meetings, it is in your interest to bring up the subject of the meeting and all issues to be discussed beforehand, so that no surprises are brought up during the meeting. Once again, this allows the other party to prepare their own views in advance of the meeting itself. Not following this protocol may result in your proposals being received with silence, as time would then be needed to consider them in private.

You may find that Chinese meetings are often scheduled at the last minute. Even where a meeting is proposed by either side well in advance of a particular date, the details are still not usually confirmed until just before the meeting. This is done to avoid last minute changes or cancellations.

Once the meeting begins, it is best to arrive on time – not too early and certainly not too late. If you do end up late, be sure to apologize profusely to avoid the impression that there was any intent in your tardiness.

When entering a meeting room, it is common for Chinese delegates to follow a rank order with the highest ranking official entering first (especially for meetings involving government officials). Since one on one meetings are usually rare, there may be an entourage of participants. Assume that those not introduced are not part of the decision process, but just present as witnesses or assistants.

Like in Western meetings, it is wise to engage in some small talk in the beginning to build up trust, especially when the parties don’t know each other well. The Chinese prefer to do business with those they know, so it is worthwhile to cultivate this aspect first. You may notice that a few key individuals have been assigned to participate in the meeting, while the rest usually remain silent for the majority of the meeting.

After the initial small talk, the host of the meeting will usually welcome the invitees and either present the topic at hand or invite the proposer of the meeting to do so.

The Chinese usually prefer to be on the defensive or receiving side of matters. This allows them to combine their preparation of the meeting beforehand, with time to react to the proposals brought forward by the other party.

During the meeting, it is common for Chinese to use grunts or nods as signs of acknowledgment of what is being said during the meeting. Don’t mistake this for acceptance, as it is just a tacid acknowledgment and doesn’t necessarily suggest agreement.

Unlike normal conversations, the dialogs in meetings tend to be more structured with each side taking turns. As a result, it is common to let the other party do the talking without interrupting until it is your turn, at which point you can go through their points one by one. During this portion, expect them to take detailed notes that may be referred to on later dates or shared with other parties who may have not attended the meeting.

Like in all interactions with Chinese people, it is of crucial importance never to put them on the spot or allow them to lose face.

Towards the end of the meeting, it is best to summarize your understanding of the situation to make sure both parties are clear where things stand. At this point, you can set up a future meeting. The Chinese party’s response here, will let you gauge their interest in continuing things.

Note: For more detailed descriptions of the points in this article, read “Chinese Business Etiquette” by Scott D. Seligman.

Export Page

As mentioned in the latest podcast update, a new export page has been added. Previously, an export function was added to the flashcard page. However, since this seems to be a popular feature, it has now earned its own separate page. It has also been improved to support multiple formats.

If you have other requests, do let me know.

Cosmetic Touch ups

There is some cosmetic work being done to the site right now, which means some of the menus may be missing for the next day, while we update some aspects. There will be an update here when everything is good to go. (Incidentally, the old menus work from this blog, just not from the main site). Sorry for any inconvenience!

Update: Menus are now working again. There will continue to be some tweaks here and there, but everything should be working. If you notice any disruptions, please let me know.

Differences Between Chinese and Western Thinking

Differences Between Chinese and Western Thinking

When it comes to etiquette and ways of doing things, there are some key differences between how the Chinese operate versus how Westerners do so. In the latter world, being polite makes you stand out from the crowd. In the Chinese world, politeness is part of a basic set of principles that has to be followed by all. Any deviation from these principles makes you stand out in a negative way. You can see this when you are offered a choice of drink before a meeting or when visiting someone’s house. Even if you politely decline, you will still be offered tea as the default. As the guest, you are allowed to sit through the entire visit without even touching the cup, since the host was just doing his duty by offering it to you, despite your personal preference to decline.

During group meetings, a Westerner is more likely to bring up arguments or disagree with the topic at hand. Chinese values would require the person to keep his opinions to himself in such an environments. Any disagreements he may have with a speaker could be brought up later in a more private forum, giving the speaker face in the process. Understanding this nature within Chinese people is important, since it is easy to otherwise assume that their silence indicates agreement. In some cases, a third party may be used to convey negative news from one side to another, in order to avoid confrontations.

This same situation can also be observed in personal relationships between a Westerner and a Chinese, where the latter’s silence on matters and propensity to not confront, could erroneously suggest to the former that all is well in the relationship, when that might not be the case. (Personal note: I have experienced this first hand, when a former girlfriend broke up with me out of the blue, when I thought all was well. When I asked for more details, she came up with a list of issues that she had never mentioned during the relationship, all out of a desire to not induce confrontation). Not being up front with your opinions and ideas might be considered rude in Western culture, whereas in Chinese culture it is considered polite, since by doing so they are allowing you to save face.

Another big difference in thinking between Chinese and Western societies is the difference between “friends” and “strangers.” Assistance between Chinese parties is only given to those in the “inner circle” which is why the concept of guanxi is so important. This is also why it is so important to keep making contacts in order to enter the circles of others. The flip side of this, is that help is rarely given to strangers or people without any relationship. You rarely see beggars on the streets in Chinese communities, and those you do see are usually seen approaching foreigners, whome they are more likely to get assistance from. It is also common for people to not stop and help others during vehicle accidents, so as not to get involved with people they don’t know.

Where a Chinese person does assist one of his friends (whether directly or indirectly), this assistance is noted by both sides. An equivalent payback of some sorts is then expected in the future. During weddings and occasions where red envelopes are exchanged, the amounts of money given and the donors are duly noted since the same amount would be expected to be paid back at future events. Chinese New Year (which is coming up soon) is useful for clearing “debts” among friends in this manner.

The conclusion from all of this, when comparing Chinese versus their Western counterparts, is that the former are more likely to go out of their way to help friends and people in their circle of influence, whereas the latter are more likely to go out and help strangers. Understanding this culture is very valuable in determining where assistance should be given to others, as well as what is expected of you if you receive it. When rejecting others’ offers or requests of help, it is best to do so with a polite excuse rather than a flat out refusal, in order to maintain the dignity of the relationship.

Learning Chinese through Setting Goals

Navigating the long road ahead

When I first came to Taiwan, I assumed I would pick up Chinese without much effort. After all, I was constantly exposed to it everywhere I went, so even if I didn’t want to, I would automatically learn, right?

A year later, feeling like I hadn’t learned much, I realized that things didn’t quite work this way. I actually had to put in effort to learn the language. To make things easier on myself, I decided to focus on listening and speaking only. Learning to read and write characters just seemed like too much for me.

Three years later, while I don’t consider myself fluent by any means, I have learned a lot about the learning process, especially through creating the CLO course and communicating with listeners.

Through this process, I have tried to create the tools that would have helped me the most, were I to start learning again from the start. Like anything else you want to accomplish in life, it can be highly beneficial to set goals for yourself when you have a long, arduous task in front of you.

When you begin, it may look like a long road ahead from the start to the day you consider yourself fluent. However, with some due diligence you can find that the goal isn’t as far off as you think.

Many people “want” to learn Chinese, but give up early when they realize how many characters they would have to learn to be literate. Constantly being bombarded with new vocabulary, while easily forgetting old words can also make it easy to give up. What I have found is that having a system of learning greatly reduces the complexity of this process. This system can be broken down into 4 steps.

  1. Determine where you are
  2. Determine where you want to be
  3. Set a time frame to reach your goals
  4. Allocate the time necessary to reach your goals

So for example, if your goal is to be able to write characters, set a goal of how many characters you want to know.

Looking at our course, you need to know about 500 characters to get through level 1 and level 2. A moderate pace would take you a year to finish two levels (you can adjust this pace for yourself). This means you would need to learn 1.36 characters a day to achieve your goal. All of a sudden that doesn’t sound so hard, does it?

Learning to write characters usually involves writing it over and over again. You can practice using the worksheets we’ve created for you here along with our new character introductions. For me personally, I have a habit of writing 50 characters (half the worksheet) each day. This is a combination of new characters and reviewing old characters.

It is important to note that this process is MUCH harder up front. Of those 500 characters, over a hundred are introduced in the first ten lessons. This means a lot of time will be spent up front where it seems like you aren’t making progress. However, once you’ve made it past those ten lessons, all of a sudden things become much easier.

New characters will be easier to learn since they will mostly be based on characters or elements you already know. Plus you will find yourself spending less time on stroke order since it will now be more natural to you.

A similar process can be used for learning new words with the new memorization mode on our flashcard program. Choose a range of lessons and learn the vocabulary associated with them by logging in once a day.

By dividing up the chore of learning into daily, manageable steps, you will find the process much easier, as you will actually be learning something new each day. The above steps add about 30 minutes to my daily routine, but the results have been much better than the haphazard, plan-less program I was using previously. The way I look at it, another year will pass whether I put in daily effort or not. This way though, I know exactly where I will be a year from now, rather than just hoping I have improved.

Character Introductions

I’m proud to finally unveil our latest feature – New Character Introductions! For each lesson now, in addition to the new words being highlighted in the vocabulary page, there will also be a section in there on new characters. This way, we can distinguish between characters that have already been taught before, and new characters that are features in the new word being taught. All the new characters in a lesson will be highlighted in a separate section (found along the Test Your Pronunciation, Sentence Builder and Exercise tools) with animated stroke order pictures. If you click on a character, it will perform a search in our word bank for all the words and examples that it has been used in in our entire course to give you a better feel for it. Obviously it is in your interest to learn the most commonly used characters first.

Want to practice your writing skills? Use this worksheet for practice. It uses the same box background as in the pictures to keep things consistent. It is also interesting to note how the computer font differs from the more traditional font used in the animated stroke pictures.

It will take us some time to introduce this feature for all lessons, so we will be doing it in phases. Phase one will be adding the characters that have already been introduced as new words. We will then be separating new characters from existing words and introducing them separately.

As expected, earlier lessons feature a lot more newer characters. New words from later lessons frequently use characters that have already been introduced earlier, which should help you better remember them (that is the rationale behind this being a progressive course). In working on this project, it was interesting for me to find that after the first 10 lessons (not including lesson one, since that was just an introduction to tones), more than 100 new characters were taught. However the next 90 lessons taught less than 400 new characters, which means a lot of the initial ones are repeated often.

Please send me feedback on how you use this (and any other features on the site), as well as any suggestions you may have to improve it further. You can try out the first batch of characters here. Click on “New Characters” in the middle of the page. Enjoy!

Update: We have also added a new “Character” type to the word bank. All characters will be classified with this type. This means you can study all the characters introduced lesson by lesson from one main area just by searching for (or clicking on) the “character” type. To see the stroke order, simply click on the lesson a character was introduced and then open the “New Characters” area. Hope this helps!

Vocabulary Page: Update 2

Feedback was given to me that the vocabulary pages for the last few review lessons were taking a long time to load due to all the lines of text and audio that had to be loaded. Since I expect longer dialogues in level 4 and beyond, the vocabulary page for all lessons has now been reorganized to only show 10 lines of dialogue or vocabulary at a time. You can navigate back and forth using the “Previous” and “Next” buttons that have been added where appropriate.

Hopefully this change along with the reorganizing of other elements in the vocabulary page will result in a more effective learning experience for you. Again, please continue to provide me with usability feedback since that is what drives development around here.

A new feature focused around teaching character recognition should be ready for launch in the next week or so. It’s required a lot of work on our side, but I’m sure the results will be well worth it, so stay tuned…

Individual Versus Group

Individual versus Group

One big difference between Chinese society and Western society is the concept of individualism. While out West, we are encouraged to be our own person, and develop our own ways of thinking, this concept isn’t as pronounced in Chinese culture, which lean towards Confucian principles.

Testing in schools is usually based around exams with only a single, right answer for each question. How students fare in these tests tends to dictate what classroom they might be placed in, what level of school they can attend and possibly what jobs might be available for them when they graduate. As a result, parents tend to encourage their children to excel in subjects that require more linear thinking, as opposed to ones that require creativity.

Interactions between people is often governed by the relationship that defines them. An interaction between a boss and his employee would follow defined principles, as would one between a father and son, husband and wife or two friends. Status is accorded to elders or those with authority. One can build up their status through loyalty and giving face where appropriate. While Western culture might reward qualities such as creativity, innovation and aggression, Chinese society instead promotes modesty, loyalty and conciliation.

The lack of individualism can also be found in the tendency for Chinese people to keep their expressions to themselves and not be emotional in public situations. This is a trait that is taught from when children are young, which is why they often find novelty in the expressive nature of foreigners. People are encouraged to keep their opinions and expressions to themselves and not be too overt. When matters are being discussed in meetings, decisions are usually made by consensus, which have to followed afterwards, regardless of whether personal beliefs differ.

Individuals in China are also used to managing with much less personal space. Much of this is a direct result of living in highly populated areas, as well as in a tropical climate. Doors tend to be left open, even during classes or important meetings. When standing in line, you are expected to lean right up to the person in front of you to maintain your position. When parking a vehicle, a much smaller gap is left between vehicles than you might see out West.

As it is common for multiple generations of family members to live together, there is also much more closeness and interest in each others’ affairs. Neighbors tend to be a lot more “nosier” so expect a keen interest from others on where you happen to be going and coming from each day. Some of this lack of privacy is a direct result of strict government controls in mainland China. Everyone from security personnel and service attendants to the general public is taught to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and report it to the relevant authorities.

While Chinese society is certainly a lot more open in present day than it was in the past, a lot of these characteristics have ingrained themselves as part of culture. The increase in the numbers of foreign companies now operating in China has created more exposure among local Chinese to foreign methods and ways of thinking. However, those wanting to better integrate themselves into Chinese society can do well by understanding the roots and appreciating the values that govern people today.

Things Back to Normal

I apologize for the site issues we’ve been having the last couple of days. I’m happy to say that things seem to be back to normal for now. The PDFs that weren’t accessible for the last few days should also be accessible now. If you notice any other problems, please continue to let me know.

Stay tuned to this page for a slick new feature that should be ready within the next week or so!

Email Troubles

We moved our site to a new (hopefully) faster server over the weekend, which caused some downtime over the last day. During this time, emails sent to us were not received. If you sent an email that was rejected, please send it again, as everything should be working now. Sorry for the inconvenience!

Vocabulary Page Reorganization

You may have noticed that the Vocabulary page for some lessons has a slightly different look to it. As we add new features, the page was starting to get cluttered with the Test your Pronunciation recorder and the Sentence Builder app. To maintain a cleaner look, the Pronunciation tool is now hidden behind a link that lets you swap between the different applications we add to this page. Some pages will also let you listen and reply to exercises directly from within the vocabulary page. As well, expect another new tool to be added here during the holiday break to help you learn character. Stay tuned or more details…