Lesson 19: Chinese Idioms

Hey everyone, it's been a while since I posted a new Chinese lesson, so today that is exactly what I'm doing! Today we will be learning about one of the most difficult parts of the Chinese language: 成語(pronounced chen yu), or idioms. It can be very challenging to learn a foreign language, even just literal every day language, but idioms will pose a serious challenge. There are still tons that I don't know! And the meaning is not always clear. Basically, they're often something older people will say to us youngsters (I'm 30, that's still youngish, right?) to sound wise and experienced in the ways of the world. While you don't really need to learn any idioms to be able to communicate and get around in Taiwan, they will add a lot of credibility to your Chinese, and they're fun too! So let's learn some, shall we? Here are some of my favorites:

感激不盡 gǎnjībùjìn-

This means "I can't thank you enough", and it's to be used in a situation where saying 謝謝 just doesn't cut it, like if someone were to save your life.


吹毛求疵 chuī máo qiú cī-

This mean "nitpick", and is useful for when your wife or girlfriend is laying into your every action/word. Next time, tell them 不要吹毛求疵 (don't nitpick). And then you might want to run!


隨心所欲 suí xīn suǒ yù-

This means "do as you please", so if someone is retired, they can go ahead and 隨心所欲.


船到橋頭自然直 chuán dào qiáo tóu zì rán zhí-

This basically means "just go with the flow", when a ship comes into dock, it doesn't fight the waters, and you can't control everything on your own life. You'd go crazy if you tried!


青紅皂白 qīng-hóng-zào-bái-

This is used to mean " black and white", or "right and wrong", so if we are discussing someone that has done something wrong, like a politician, a celebrity or a friend, I may say "他不分青紅皂白".


馬馬虎虎 mǎmǎhūhū-

This literally means "horse horse tiger tiger", which of course makes no sense in English! The idiom is used to mean "so-so". If I see a moviend my friends ask me how it is, I may reply 馬馬虎虎 if I didn't think it was that good.


津津有味 jīnjīn yǒu wèi-

This can mean to "relish" something. For example, 他們吃得津津有味 means that they greatly relished their meal. 


知己知彼,百戰百勝 zhījǐzhībǐ, bǎizhàn-bǎishèng-

This is probably the most famous Chinese idiom in the West, as we see the reference in a lot of literature and movies. "Know yourself, know your enemy, fight a hundred battles, win a hundred victories" is pretty self explanatory, so I won't go into depth on the meaning. It's a quote from Sunzi's "The Art of War", for those of you that may not have heard it before.


百看不厭 bǎi kàn bù yàn-

This literally means that If you see something one hundred times, you won't hate it. Or "you won't get sick of it". This is good phrase for talking about your favorite movie.

For example, 那一部電影百看不厭.


羊入虎口 yángrùhǔkǒu-

This means "a lamb enters a tigers mouth", which is used to mean that you(the lamb) are treading dangerous grounds(the tiger's mouth).


As you can see, some of these idioms are easier to understand than others, but most of their meanings are not readily apparent. That is why Chinese is so challenging, and such a fun language to learn! What is your favorite idiom from our list! Let us know!


Lesson 18: Spice up your Chinese

Just like every dish needs the right spices to really bring out the flavor, so too does your Chinese. These phrases will help you to make your Chinese sound much more "flavorful", so let's get started with today's lesson!

雖然- even though;often used in conjunction with 但是

suī rán                                                                                                        dàn shì 



tā suī rán lái měi guó shí nián le ,dàn shì hái bù gǎn jiǎng yīng wén 。

Even though he's been in America for ten years, he still isn't confident speaking English.


其實- actually

qí shí 


wǒ de shì yǒu shì yá yī 。qí guài shì tā de yá chǐ qí shí bù tài hǎo 。

My roommate is a dentist. The weird thing is, his teeth are actually pretty bad.


實在- really 

shí zài 


zuì jìn wǒ men chá diǎn shēng yì tè bié hǎo ,wǒ shí zài bù gǎn xiàng xìn le lā !

Recently, our tea store's business has been so good, I really can't believe it!


不但。。。也是- not only, but also

bù dàn ………..yě shì 


wǒ de shī fù bù dàn lì hài ,yě shì qiān xū de 。

My master isn't just really talented, he's also humble.


幾乎- nearly

jǐ hū 

wǒ de péng yǒu jǐ hū dōu yǒu xiǎo hái zǐ le 。

Nearly all of my friends have kids now.


隨便- do as you wish

suí biàn 


bù yào zài lù biān suí biàn wán 。

Don't goof around by the road.


結果- result

jié guǒ 


tā shuō bù xiǎng qù kàn yī shēng ,jié guǒ zǎo shàng qǐ lái fā xiàn tā sǐ diào le 。

He said he didn't want to go to see a doctor; in the morning I discovered that he was dead.


而且- and also

ér qiě  


nà jiān fáng zǐ hěn gāo ,ér qiě hěn háo huá 。

That house is really tall, and also luxurious.


而已- that's all, only

ér yǐ


bù yào duì nǐ de zǐ zǐ tài xiōng ,tā jiù shì xiǎng gēn nǐ wán ér yǐ 。

Don't be too mean to your nephew, he just wants to play with you.

That's it for today, you have your new vocabulary and your examples, so start practicing owning them. Before you know it, your Chinese will taste much better!

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Unlocking Chinese in 28 days is out!

Hey guys, today I want to introduce myself a little and share my story with you. You may have heard I've released a Chinese learning book "Unlocking Chinese in 28 Days", so let me share with you how I came to learn Chinese. But first…

"What were you  doing in Taiwan?" is a question I have heard countless times, but not one I enjoy answering, because it's hard to do it justice without a long, drawn-out answer.


I first moved to Taiwan shortly after graduating from college, and at that time I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had a bachelors in education, and I had always loved traveling and learning about foreign cultures and languages. So I decided to spend a year abroad. But not in Taiwan.

Originally I had looked into living abroad in Ireland, but that was a no-go since I lacked a European passport. Oh well. Then I started talking with a friend who also wanted to live abroad and teach English for a year, and we settled on Japan. But after interviewing for a job, my friend was accepted into the program, and I wasn't! Curses, foiled again!

So after getting turned down for the second time, I got up, dusted off my jacket and applied to another recruitment agency called Reach To Teach. This time I wanted to get a job teaching in China. But when the first few schools that I had offers from didn't pan out, eventually the agent I was working with told me of a school in Keelung, Taiwan that wanted to hire me. I decided that it sounded like a great place to spend a year abroad, I was emailed a contract, read it over, signed it and faxed it back. And my life was forever changed.

That, in a shell(tried to keep it very brief for you guys since I've written on the subject on my blog) is what I was doing in Taiwan. I was there to travel, work and learn Chinese. And I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. It was in Taiwan that I discovered my passion for Chinese food, culture and language…oh, and did I mention that it's where I met my wife? Talk about an awesome souvenir!

That's it for today, we'll continue tomorrow with more information on how I learned Chinese in Taiwan, and what my philosophy is on language learning. As always, let me know if you have any questions. See you soon!


Get a Free chapter of my book! 

I want to get print colorful copy, and get 10% off now.

I don't want to wait and get E-guide version now.

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Chinese Lesson 17: Weather

Hi, Ruby here, today I want to show you how we say weather in Chinese. We like to keep class short, so you can learn more easily.


 Sunny day

qíng tiān 


Cloudy Day

yīn tiān


Foggy Day

wù tiān 


Raining Day

xià yǔ tiān 


Typhoon Day

tái fēng tiān 


Lesson 16:Naughty

You know right from wrong, but it doesn't mean everyone always cares about it. You should, but bank robbers don't usually care if what they're doing is right or wrong when they're robbing a bank. Some might, but I'm sure they're the minority. So why don't we learn about what you shouldn't do, in Chinese!




批評 pī píng- Criticize


nǐ zuì hǎo bù yào pī píng nǐ de ér zǐ 。

You shouldn't criticize your son.


嘲笑 cháo xiào- Laugh at


xiǎo péng yǒu bù gāi cháo xiào lǎo shī 。

Kids shouldn't laugh at their teacher.


吐口水 tǔ kǒu shuǐ- Spit

哎呀! 不要吐口水,好噁心!

āi ya ! bù yào tǔ kǒu shuǐ ,hǎo ě xīn !

Eww! Don't spit, that's gross!


 zòu- Punch


wǒ lǎo pó cháng cháng zòu wǒ 。

My wife punches me all the time.


推 tuī-Push


mā mā !jiě jiě yī zhí tuī wǒ le !

Mom! Big sister keeps pushing me!


在人家背後說壞話 zài rén jiā bèi hòu shuō huài huà -Talk about others behind their back


xiǎo huáng hěn ài zài rén jiā bèi hòu shuō huài huà 。

Small Huang loves to talk about others behind their back.


搶 qiǎng- Steal


nǐ bù yòng qiǎng qián ,wǒ gěi nǐ 。

You don't need to steal money, I'll give it to you.


翻白眼 fān bái yǎn- Roll your eyes 


mèi mèi měi yī cì fān bái yǎn dōu ràng wǒ shēng qì 。

 I get so angry everytime my little sister rolls her eyes.


 八卦 bā guà- Gossip


wǒ bù dǒng wéi shé me nǚ rén zěn me ài bā guà ,zhēn wú liáo !

I don't understand why women love to gossip so much, it's so boring!


說謊 shuō huǎng- Lie


nǐ duì wǒ shuō huǎng ,xià yī cì jiù bù xiàng xìn nǐ 。

If you lie to me, then next time I won't believe you.


That's it for today. I hope this lesson was useful, so make sure to let me know what you think in the comments below! Oh, and stay tuned for the follow up lesson next week on being "Nice". See you then!

10 Chinese words that sound like English words

Here's a list of ten words in Mandarin whose pronunciation is similar to words in English. Making an association with words you already know can help you to remember new vocabulary. I want to stress, this is only one tool, don't abuse it and make her you have more tools in your language learning toolbox.

1. 豬 sounds like "zoo"
zhū- pig
2. 牛 sounds like "Neo" from the Matrix!
niú- cow
3. 不可 sounds like "book"
bùkě- cannot, mustn't 
4. 我們 sounds like "woman"
wǒmen- we, us
5. 襪子 sounds like "what's", as in "what's up?"
wàzi- sock(s)
6. 好 sounds like "how?"
hǎo- good, fine
7. 買 sounds like "my"
mǎi- buy
8. 你的 sounds like "need"
níde- your, yours
9. 位 sounds like "way"
wèi- measure word for people(polite)
10. 頭髮 sounds like "too far" 
tóufa- hair(on your head)
The list goes on and on, these 10 words barely even scratch the surface. Most importantly, remember to have FUN with your Chinese learning! Stay tuned for our next installment in this series, and in the meantime make sure to follow along with all of our lessons and articles. 洗牙。。。sounds like "see ya!"

Guest post on Chinese-tools

Hey guys, I just wanted to let y'all know about an article that I wrote as a guest post for chinese-tools.com earlier this week. It has some pretty powerful ideas for how you can keep from plateuing in your Chinese learning. And it will also remind you what is really important, and why you're learning Chinese to begin with. 

Check out my lastest article 5 Ways to Motivate Yourself When Chinese Gets Hard HERE!!

Let me know what you think.

Which idea was the most helpful?

What do you do when the going gets tough to keep progressing?

Share with us below!!!


Exciting News For All of You Chinese Learners!!!

Hey guys, how was your Labor Day weekend? Did you go anywhere, or do anything exciting? I went on a road trip with my family. We got up bright and early Friday morning and piled in the car, where we would stay for the next 8 hours! My legs were cramping big-time by the time we arrived, but it was all worth it though, as we found Hotsprings, Arkansas to be a really interesting place. In fact, it may sound weird, but my wife and I both felt like it was almost like we were back in Taiwan! Well, not really, but the similarities were there: mountain views, tightly packed streets with plenty of store-front shops, and even hotsprings! It was a lot of fun, and I recommend you go there and check it out for yourselves!

Anyway, on to business! 

The biggest factor in sucessfully learning a language is whether or not you actually spend an adequate time speaking it. You could memorize vocabulary flashcards until your blue in the face, but it won't really help you in the long-run. You need to engage other people in real-life conversation if you want to achieve any level of proficiency. Period.

Well, that might be a problem. You might find yourself without anyone to practice with, and while talking to yourself is usually discouraged in most circles, it can help…to an extent! So with that in mind, I have decided to provide a new service to you, my loyal readers, as I want nothing more than for you to succeed in learning Chinese, which is why I have decided to host weekly webinars(1-1.5 hrs in duration) at various pre-set times(feel free to attend as often as you like, the more frequently you do, the faster your Chinese will improve!) to give you all the chance to come together as a community and speak Chinese. During this time, I'll be offering some instruction, but the overall focus will be on conversation, as the only way to get better at something is to do it…a lot.

Stay tuned for more updates on the webinar sessions, the first of which will be taking place later on in the month.

I really and truly aim to get you speaking Chinese, not just learning it, using it! So let me know what you think, and let's get a conversation going! 




Lesson 15: Five Essential Chinese Phrases

These five phrases are essential, especially if you ever plan to visit a Chinese speaking country as a tourist, or even live in one. Armed with these phrases, you will come across as a very polite, respectful and well-mannered individual, and I wouldn't be surprise if you found the local people going out of their way to help you. So pay attention! Also, let me know how this lesson helped you, and if there are any other phrases that you just have to know. Study hard and I'll see you next time!




jiè guò yī xià 。

Excuse me.



duì bù qǐ 。

I'm sorry/excuse me.



qǐng wèn

Excuse me, may I ask?



zhè lǐ yǒu rén zuò ma 

Is there anyone sitting here?



。。。zhōng wén zěn me shuō ?

How do you say….in Chinese?




5 things you should expect from your language exchange partner

In a perfect world, you wouldn't have to waste time thinking about things like how your language exchange partner should behave, because they'd be perfect! If that's the case, then good or you! If, however, you're stuck down here on Earth like the rest of us, then pay attention. This article may save you some headaches, and heartbreaks, lol!

1. Patience

This is super important, because when you first begin speaking a new language, it's very difficult to make yourself coherent, and chances are you are going to have to repeat yourself A LOT in order to get your meaning through. Don't let this discourage you, is part of the learning process! If you have a language exchange partner that is immediately or reacting you, not trying to understand what you are trying to say, or sort of all, laughs at your attempts to peak their language(unless they explain a joke of some sort, maybe a lingual mishap on your part, I've had some!), then you should kick them to the curb, they aren't helping you learn!

2. Equality

This might seem like a no brainer, but make sure that the time spent speaking Chinese is equal to that spent on English. Don't be surprised if your LE partner tries to monopolize on the time, especially if their English is more advanced than your Chinese. It may not be intentional, they may not really know what to teach you if you just started learning and everything is new, but that's no excuse, your time is valuable too!

3. Reliability

Nobody likes arranging to meet with a friend, going out of your way to accommodate them by meeting in a place that's convenient for both of you, just to have them call and say they can't make it, or worse, just not show up! Everyone should have a chance to explain themselves, and life does happen. But if your LE partner makes a habit of it, then you need to let them know that it's not going to work. You need someone to actually show up in order I practice your Chinese with them!

4. Honesty

If you can't trust someone, then how are you going to trust them to teach you? Your LE partner should be a man/woman of his/her word. And so should you! If they say that they will do something(like meet you to practice) then they had better do it, though as I previously mentioned, life can get in the way. If you find them lying to you to protect themselves after ditching you, or constantly making excuses, or even cutting out after you just spent an hour on English, because something "came up", then you should find someone else to practice Chinese with!

5. Passion

Your LE partner should be just as passionate about learning English as you are about learning Chinese. They need to be committed to showing up, week after week, and talking with you until they're blue in the face. That's the only way either of you are really going to learn. If they don't really even like learning English, but just see it as a necessity for furthering their career(the two aren't mutually exclusive, by the way), then they won't keep up with it in the long run, and sooner or later you'll be stuck without a LE partner!

So how does your LE partner stack-up? Tell us in the comments below, let's get a discussion going!