Lesson 10: At the Post Office

Hey guys, long time no see! I apologize for taking such a long hiatus fom blogging, but life has been chaotic of late! My wife and I have relocated to the USA and have been working very hard to get re-established here, and so I have had little time or motivation to blog. But I know you all would be lost without me, so I'm back!
The format for my blog is now going to be a little different from the way it was before. From now on, since I am no longer in Taiwan, I will not be writing as many posts on exploring the island. I already have a fair amount of content on the subject, and I am always willing to answer any of your questions, but for now I am shifting my focus to Chinese. My posts will now be mainly Chinese lessons, with anecdotes of my time in Taiwan strewn in when appropriate. Please let me know what you think of this format, and as always, thank you for reading!
So you're in the post office, waiting in line to send a care package back home. The guy in front of you is playing on his iPhone, and the guy behind you is stamping his feet, looking at his watch and visibly annoyed. He's obviously in a hurry and doesn't want to end up being held up by the foreigner taking forever to get walked through the process by the friendly, though somewhat lingually challenged clerk…or are you? Let's show that guy that he picked the wrong laowai!
Ten essential phrases:
1. Letter 一封信 yīfēngxìn
2. Stamp 郵票 yóupiào
3. Package 包裹 bāoguǒ
4. Express delivery 快遞 kuàidì
5. Registered 掛號 guàhào
6. Standard shipping 平信 píngxìn
7. mailbox 信箱 xìnxiāng
8. PO box 郵政信箱 yóuzhèng xìnxiāng
9. envelope 信封 xìnfēng
10. postage fee 郵資 yóuzī
In context:
1. I would like to send a package overseas. 
2. How much is express delivery? 
3. I want to send this letter as registered mail.
4. I would like to buy some stamps and envelopes.
5. When will my letter arrive?
That's it for today, practice and we'll see you next time!

Lesson 3: Saying goodbye


Adios, arrivederci, bon voyage, good bye, so long, goodnight. ..what do these phrases have in common? They are all ways to say goodbye, in one way or another. In fact you could assemble another list entirely out of negative ways to express the same idea, such as: beat it, shove off, get lost, hit the road and of course @&$? Off! In this lesson you are going to learn some of the most common parting phrases in Mandarin Chinese. This list is not exhaustive, and many things may depend on the situation, but this should get you started exploring the idea.

Remember to review last week's lesson if you haven't already.

Now get to it!

Saying Goodbye:

1. 再見 zài jiàn= goodbye
2. 等一下見 dĕng yī xià jiàn= see you soon
3. 明天見 míng tiān jiàn= see you tomorrow
4. 下一次見 xià yī cì jiàn= see you next time
5. 有空再來 yŏu kōng zài lái= come again when you have time

Listen to the attached audio file and practice repeating each phrase until you feel confident enough to move on to the next part.

Dialogue: Read and listen to the following dialogue, then answer the questions below.

A: Edward, hurry up and get downstairs. Now!
ài dé huá găn kuài xià lái. mă shàng!

B: I'm coming Mom!
hăo mā mā, wŏ yào lái le!

A: Well, come quicker! You're almost late!
nà kuài yī diăn lái! nĭ kuài yào chí dào le!

B: Can I at least eat some breakfast first?
wŏ zhì shăo kĕ yĭ xiān chī diăn zăo cān ma?

A: There's some toast and a glass of milk on the table.
zhuō zi shàng yŏu tŭ sī hé yī bēi niú năi.

B: Thanks Mom!
xiè la mā mā!

A: Now out the door you go!
hăo le. nĭ găn kuài chū mén la!

B: Okay Mom! Geeez!
哎呀! 好了媽媽!
āi yā! hăo le mā mā!

A: I'll see you tonight. Be good at school.
wăn shàng jiàn. nĭ guāi guāi shàng kè

B: I will Mom. Bye!
wŏ huì mā mā. zài jiàn!

Comprehension Questions: I'm not going to give you an English translation for the following questions, I want to see how much you can intuitively figure out from what we have already learned. Take a minute to email me you answers and I will let you know how you did! Consider it "homework".

1. 媽媽快要遲到了嗎?
mā mā kuài yào chí dào le ma?

2. 桌子上有土司嗎?
zhuō zi shàng yŏu tŭ sī ma?

3. 桌子上還有什麼?
zhuō zi shàng hái yŏu shén me?

4. 誰說晚上見?
shéi shuō wăn shàng jiàn?

5. 愛徳華會乖乖上課嗎?
ài dé huá huì guāi guāi shàng kè ma?

Essential Vocabulary: Here's a list of some of the most useful phrases that we learned in this lesson. Practice them and record yourself and compare your pronunciation to mine.

1.趕快= quickly
2.下來= come down(stairs)
3.馬上= at once/immediately
4.我要來了= I'm coming
5.快一點來= hurry up
6.你快要遲到了= you're almost late
7.至少= at least
8.可以= can/able
9….上有…= there's…on the…
10.乖乖上課= behave in school

Chill Out in Taipei

One of my favorite places to spend an evening in Taipei is the Xinyi District. Not only is it home to the famous Taipei 101, it's also filled with tons of interesting art exhibitions.


(The ever-present Taipei 101)

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(Check out these awesome sculptures. I don't know what they're waiting in line for, but they sure look cool!)

Oh, and did I mention that it's a shopper's paradise? There are almost half a dozen giant shopping malls clustered together in this part of town, and they are all worth a visit.


(Feel free to indulge yourself, just take it easy on that credit card!)

My personal favorite is the ESLITE chéng pĭn 誠品. Each floor has something to peruse, whether it be the latest in trendy clothing or handmade crafts, DIY stands, food or other delicacies, there is something for everyone. And then there is the bookstore which is open until 1am. That's what my fiancé and I usually go for. And then there's the food!

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(a shot of some of the surrounding department stores, and the entrance to ESLITE)

Most of the food courts in the different shopping centers will feature pretty similar selections, but as far as dessert goes, I highly recommend the shaved-ice bào bīng 刨冰 stand right by the escalator as you enter the food court in B1. It's awesome! Despite it being autumn, we have still been getting a lot of hot weather lately. When it is still this hot this late into fall, Chinese people call it qiū lăo hŭ 秋老虎, which translates to fall tiger.

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(L: waiting in line to get some shaved-ice R: choose your toppings)


(It tastes like sweet snow, and it melts in your mouth!)

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(Do you want a bite?)

If you go on a Saturday, then you are in for a treat! Walk through the underpass in the B1 area and over to the băn jí 阪急 department store (it would also be convenient or you to start your evening here, as it connects to both the Taipei City Hall MRT Station as well as the respective bus station). There are tons more great restaurants in the food court here, and you have to stop by my favorite Japanese store, Muji wú yìn liáng pĭn 無印良品, before leaving. The bus station is upstairs, so take the escalator up and then walk outside and then up the stairs onto the rooftop square. There is a TGI Fridays here, as well as a Starbucks xīng bā kè 星巴克 and an NY Bagels(The home of the best American style breakfast I've had to date in Taiwan), but that's not why we're here. Just take a look around you, you should be in the midst of the jumble of stalls that makes up Taipei's newest Art Market!

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(L: This is where I take the bus back to Zhongli R: an outside shot of the bus station, now let's head upstairs)

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(L: NY Bagels, the best place for an American breakfast in town R: checking out the market) 

The market features many unique and handmade products shŏu gōng pĭn 手工品, so take a look around and if anything catches your eye, then buy it! While some of the price tags may be a little higher than you'd expect, remember that the goods are handmade and try to support our artistic community. Plus there is usually a band playing live, so take a seat and let the rhythms soothe your feet!

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(Well, I couldn't decide what to buy…but I made a new friend!)

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(L: A stand selling Taiwan Beer. I don't drink, but don't let me stop you. R: Take a seat and let the music do the rest!

So there you have it! Enjoy your relaxing day in Taipei.

How To Get There:

Take the MRT to Taipei City Hall MRT Station. Many buses go here as well, both in Taipei and from other cities. It's really easy and convenient.

Chinese phrases of the day:
刨冰= shaved-ice
秋老虎= autumn tiger
阪急= the department store connected to Taipei City Hall MRT Station
無印良品= Muji
星巴克= Starbucks
手工品= handmade products

Mandarin Primer: Are you ready?

First off, Mandarin Chinese is a tonal language, which means that the tone in which you speak has an impact on the meaning of the words. There are four primary tones and a fifth softer tone. Below is a description of the tones with an audio file attached. In it you will be learning an old exercise that I first learned when I began learning Chinese. So what are you waiting for?

The Tones:

First tone(一聲)

Second tone(二聲)

Third tone(三聲)

Fourth tone(四聲)

Fifth tone(輕聲)=literally translates as "light tone"

After practicing along with the audio above, you can start to string all of the tones together in order, practicing each In turn. This can be done with any phonetic sounds in the language. So the above exercise could be practiced like this: mā má mǎ mà ma. It may be difficult for you to differentiate between the tones at first, but as with anything, practice makes perfect. So go do it!
As a written language, Chinese is, in my opinion one of the most beautiful, as well as misunderstood in the West. When we first start to learn a new language, it is only natural to work from the foundation we have already formed in our own native tongue; it is comfortable, it's what we know and how we relate to the world…but it's wrong. I encourage you all to learn Mandarin in the context of Mandarin. Because when we try to fit a new language into the framework of our own, it becomes something unnatural. People often want a word-to-word translation for everything, but quite frankly, this is something that doesn't exist. Many people are under the false assumption that Chinese characters are pictographs or symbols and that they each represent one idea or word, but this couldn't be farther from the truth. Most Chinese characters can have many meanings, which are dictated by the manner in which they are used. Not to mention many characters have several alternative pronunciations. I want you to learn to speak and read mandarin, and I'm not trying to make you feel overwhelmed, I just want to introduce the broad idea of the subject as I see it. We will work on refining each stage along the way, so when you get to the more advanced stuff it'll be a piece of cake!
Pinyin: Pinyin is an invaluable tool for the Chinese language learner. It is a romanization of traditional Chinese characters, and it offers Westerners a much more reader-friendly take on written Chinese. I personally feel that Pinyin is a great stepping stone, and I still use it all the time when I am typing Chinese or if I come across an unfamiliar Character in my own studies, though I feel that you should ultimately aim at learning the traditional written Characters (at least well enough to read) if you are really committed to learning Chinese. I have included both pinyin and traditional Chinese characters alongside the English translations in each of my lessons, but in order to encourage you to learn the characters, there are also times when I have intentionally omitted the pinyin as a "test", but of you need it, you can always back-track and double-check. I'm not going to include too much information about how to read pinyin, as others have already written about it much better than I could hope to. I think that by listening to the audio files and reading along, you should be able to pick it up pretty quickly. If enough people want it, i may do a video blog on the topic in the future. For further reading on how to read pinyin, please check out the links below:
Resources: in this section, I will tell you about some of my favorite resources(apps, websites, etc.) that have really aided me in learning Chinese.
1. MacBooks, iPads, iPhones and androids all have international keyboards with pinyin input functions that makes typing Chinese really easy.
2. iPads, iPhones and androids have a handwriting function, so you can write Chinese characters if you don't know how to type them. It is a really useful function for learning new vocabulary.
3. Pleco is my personal favorite app. It's available on Apple and android devices and is the best FREE Chinese dictionary app with a few premium paid upgrades that are well worth the money.
4. The website http://chinesebay.com/chinesetools/ has a lot of really useful programs for Chinese learning, and I especially love their Chinese character to pinyin text converter.
That's about it for now, i hope you found this article informative and stay tuned for my free language course starting in just under two weeks from now!