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 4: Countries and Nationalities


Where are you from? Where are going? Where would you like to visit? These are all questions you need to be able to answer! So today's lesson is going to focus on introducing you to a base of countries you can speak about in Chinese. Of course this list is not exhaustive(I don't even know EVERY country in the world's English name for crying out loud!), but this is a good place to start. If you are interested in learning the names of any specific countries that aren't in the list (not because I don't like them, just because my fingers hurt from all the typing, lol!), then please feel free to send me an email and I'll add it to the list right away, boss! It is also helpful to know what people from different countries are called and what languages they speak, so I will teach you each respective country on the list below's nationality in this lesson. Check out the next lesson in this series to learn about talking about languages in Mandarin. Remember to review last week's lesson if you haven't already.

It's easy, and I know you will get it down fast. So without further delay…
1. America 美國 mĕi guó
2. Canada 加拿大 jiā ná dà
3. Mexico 墨西哥 mòxīgē
4. Brazil 巴西 bāxī
5. England 英國 yīng guó
6. Spain 西班牙 xī bān yá
7. France 法國 fă guó
8. Italy 義大利 yì dà lì
9. Germany 德國 dé guó
10. Greece 希臘 xī là
11. Russia 俄羅斯 é luó sī
12. Turkey 土耳其 tǔ' ěr qí
13. The Philippines 菲律賓 fēi lǜ bīn
14. India 印度 yìn dù
15. Malaysia 馬來西亞 mǎ lái xī yà
16. Japan 日本 rìběn
17. Thailand 泰國 tài guó
18. Singapore 新加坡 xīn jiā pō
19. China 中國 zhōng guó
20. Taiwan 台(臺)灣 tái wān
Practice the above list until you are fairly familiar with it, then proceed to the next part.
Nationalities: if you know the above list of countries, then you practically already know the nationalities too! Good job! See? It's easy to learn a new language! And doesn't it feel good? Now all you need is one additional word to fit into the "equation"…and the missing piece to the puzzle is the word 人 rén, which means person or people(Mandarin Chinese doesn't differentiate between singular and plural noun forms, instead the number is determined by context…but we're getting ahead of ourselves, so back up a step!). So all you do intake one of the countries from the list above and add 人 behind it. So, I am American would be: 我是美國人
To sum it up, the formula is:

country + 人 = nationality

So let's practice saying the nationalities together (this will really help to reinforce your previous learning).
1. American 美國人
2. Canadian 加拿大人
3. Mexican  墨西哥人
4. BrazilIan 巴西人
5. English 英國人
6. Spanish 西班牙人
7. French 法國人
8. Italian 義大利人
9. German 德國人
10. Greek 希臘人
11. Russian 俄羅斯人
12. Turkish 土耳其人
13. Filipino 菲律賓人
14. Indian 印度人
15. Malaysian 馬來西亞人
16. Japanese 日本人
17. Thai 泰國人
18. Singaporean 新加坡人
19. Chinese 中國人
20. Taiwanese 台(臺)灣人
Review: This is a cumulative review of lessons 1-4.  For questions 1-5, please listen to the audio file and answer the questions correctly in Chinese. For questions 6-10 please translate the English phrases into the correct Chinese phrases. As usual, please feel free to make a recording and submit it for "grading". This should be easy for you guys!
1. 你叫什麼名字?
2. 你是從哪裡來的?
3. 你幾歲?
4. 你吃飽了嗎?
5. 你是哪國人?
6. Good morning
7. Long time no see
8. Not yet
9. Immediately
10. Goodbye
Make sure you are familiar with the above vocabulary before proceeding to the next lesson, because, while the next portion builds on the last few sections, it is also more complicated. You want to Learn Chinese, right? So get to it!

Lesson 2: Greetings

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How many times do you say hello to someone on any given day? Unless you're a hermit, or just plain rude, chances are a few times at the very least, and most likely more often than that. No matter where you are in the world, or what language is being spoken, people are saying hello to each other. They just might have different ways to do it. In the first part of this lesson, I will teach you several common Chinese greetings. Later on in part two you will be reading and listening to a dialogue in Mandarin and learning how to put these greetings into practical use. But first, let me see how much you remember from our last lesson. What is the correct English translation of 你好? A. Goodbye, B. See you later, C. Hello, D. Good luck. Everyone answered A. Goodbye, right?!? I certainly hope not. If you answered anything besides C. Hello, then you should practice lesson one for a few more days before proceeding. Have no fear! Rome wasn't built in a day (or at least that's what I hear, anyway) and Taipei 101 wasn't either!

Now let's get started!

Five Essential Greetings:

1. 早安 zăo ān = good morning
Note: 早安 is more often than not shorted to just 早, Taiwanese people especially like to cut out a lot of characters that are considered as understood in a sentence, though it's not a bad idea to practice the full phrases in the beginning.
2. 午安 wŭ ān= good afternoon
3. 吃飽了嗎? chī băo le ma?= Have you eaten?
Note: You can either answer 有, which means "have", but in this case means "yes", followed by 吃飽了(to show that you "have" eaten) or 還沒, "not yet".
4. 好久不見 hăo jiŭ bù jiàn= long time no see
5. 您好 nín hăo(formal version of 你好)= hello (formal)

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: Young Chen, hello!
xiăo chén nĭ hăo!

B: Hello Mrs. Wang. Have you eaten yet?
王太太, 你好。你吃飽了嗎?
wáng tài tài, nĭ hăo. nĭ chī băo le ma?

A:Not yet! I am going to buy dinner now.
hái méi a! wŏ xiàn zài qù măi wăn cān

B: Do you mind if I join you?
nà me wŏ gēn nĭ yī qĭ qù chī, hăo ma?

A: Of course!
dāng rán hăo a!

B: Awesome! In that case, what do you want to eat?
tài bàng le! nà me nĭ xiăng yào chī shén me ne?

A: I want to eat beef noodle soup.
wŏ yào chī niú ròu miàn.

B: Me too! Ahh!
wŏ yĕ shì! āi yō!

A: What's wrong?
zĕn me le?

B: I didn't bring money!
wŏ méi dài qián!

A: No problem, I'll treat you.
méi guān xi, wŏ lái qĭng kè.

B: Thank you! Next time it's my turn to treat!
謝謝你的! 下一次換我來請!
xiè xiè nĭ de! xià yī cì huàn wŏ lái qĭng!

Culture Note: in Chinese, nick names for younger people are often formed by adding 小 in front of a surname, i.e. 小陳 for small(or young) Chen.

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. 誰要去買晚餐?
shéi yào qù măi wăn cān?

2. 王太太吃飽了嗎?
wáng tài tài chī băo le ma?

3. 他們很喜歡吃牛肉麵嗎?
tā men hĕn xĭ huān chī niú ròu miàn ma?

4. 誰沒帶錢?
shéi méi dài qián?

5. 小陳要請客嗎?
xiăo chén yào qĭng 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. 還沒= not yet
2. 現在= now
3. 那麼= then/in that case
4. 跟你一起…= Do…with you
5. 好嗎?= Okay?
6. 當然= of course
7. 太棒了= Awesome!
8. 想要= want
9. 什麼?= what?
10. 我也是= me too
11. 怎麼了?= What's wrong?
12. 沒關係= no problem
13. 謝謝= thank you/thanks

Lesson 1: Introductions


Hello! Welcome to our first lesson: Introductions. Please read and listen to me introduce myself in English and then in Mandarin Chinese. Remember that each word will have a distinct tone, and I have included the Romanized pinyin below the traditional Chinese characters to make it easier for you to read. But I also want to remind you not to get obsessive about the tones! If you don\’t know about the five tones of Mandarin Chinese, or how to read the pinyin below, please checkout my Mandarin primer course.

Self Introduction:

Hello, I\’m Logan.
nǐ hǎo, wǒ shì luó gēn.

I\’m from America.
wŏ shì cóng mĕi guó lái de.

I\’m 29 years old.
wŏ èr shí jiŭ suì.

Now you try! Use the information below to make your own introduction. If you record it and post a link to the audio below(email it to me or send me a message on Skype if you are shy), I will listen to it and offer you some feedback.

Hello, I\’m _____________.
nǐ hǎo, wǒ shì__________.

I\’m from __________
wŏ shì cóng__________ lái de.

I\’m ________years old.
wŏ _______ suì.

Numbers 1-10: These are the essential building blocks for numbers in Chinese, these ten characters in various combinations make up all of the numbers from 1-99. That should be good for now, unless you are over 100! In which case, what\’s your secret to health?

0 零 líng
1 一 yī
2 二 èr
3 三 sān
4 四 sì
5 五 wŭ
6 六 liù
7 七 qī
8 八 bā
9 九 jiŭ
10 十 shí

Numbers 11-99: These numbers are made simply by placing the above characters together. For example, my age, 29 is made by placing a 2 二 in front of a 10 十 to make 20 二十, followed by a 9 九 and the word 歲 which means age. Easy, right? Check below for a few more example ages, and if anything is unclear, please write in and I\’ll help you out as soon as I can.

23 二十三歲
35 三十五歲
50 五十歲

Countries: I\’m going to keep this list short and sweet, since one of the following lessons deals with the topic in more detail. If your country isn\’t listed below, please check the lesson on countries of the world.

1. America 美國 mĕi guó
2. Canada 加拿大 jiā ná dà
3. England 英國 yīng guó
4. Spain 西班牙 xī bān yá
5. France 法國 fă guó

Questions: Here is a list of questions you can ask, or you may be asked when introducing yourself.

1. What\’s your name?
nĭ jiào shén me míng zì?

2. Where are you from?
nĭ shì cóng nă lĭ lái de?

3. How old are you?
nĭ jǐ suì?

Essential Vocabulary: I\’m a big proponent of learning languages through natural use, and not needing a word-by-word translation for every single phrase. This is not the best approach, nor is it truly possible. I feel a language is best understood in the context of that language, so I encourage you to explore Mandarin Chinese in this spirit. However, it won\’t happen over night, so here are some essential vocabulary words we learned in this lesson. Practice them and reord yourself and compare your pronunciation to mine.

1. 我= I, me
2. 你= you
3. 你好= hello
4. 是= am/are
5. 從…來的= come from….
6. 歲 age
7. 叫= call/be called
8. 名字= name
9. 什麼? What?
10. 哪裡?= Where?
11. 幾…?= How many…?

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!