Mandarin Chinese

Wow, a new life!

by cjj on March 21, 2014

So much has happened in my life since we sadly, decided that we couldn’t buy this beautiful boat! We dreamed of owning a boat on the Canal du Midi, but this particular boat had some serious problems, and we just couldn’t see how we could fix it …

So, back in Australia, I have discovered a whole new way of eating … eating real food … with a healthy supply of natural probiotics … and green stuff … in smoothies .. but, I don’t have time to talk about that just yet ..

More important right now is my love of China, and the Chinese language! It is about 7 years since I started learning Chinese. I have made steady progress in that time and am still learning new stuff every day. I can almost speak a little bit fluently, better now than the recordings that I have put on this blog … but I’ll demonstrate that later too.

Today I just want to announce that I have signed up for a challenge: Sensible Chinese character learning challenge 2014
And this is what my challenge is:

I’m up to lesson 321 in ChineseLearnOnline. That means I only have 99 lessons to go!
I really enjoy the lessons from CLO, but I must admit I’ve been concentrating on listening and speaking skills, and reading characters … certainly not writing them. I guess it’s about time I did it properly! Each lesson has between 0 and 10 new words, usually about 5.
So my goal is going to be to learn whatever words (not just characters) that they throw at me in the next 99 lessons!
Milestone #1 (April 8th): to Lesson 338
Milestone #2 (April 30th): to Lesson 360
Milestone #3 (May 31st): to Lesson 391
End of challenge (June 30th): to Lesson 420

I think I had better get started … now!

So enough blogging, see you next time!





by 卡梅尔 on December 8, 2012


我今天的讲话 - my talk for today

by 卡梅尔 on November 24, 2012

And here’s the English translation of what I tried to say today. I wrote this after I made the recording, which, except for “一个单词列表 - Yīgè dāncí lièbiǎo”, I ad-libbed the whole thing. Shocking eh!!! Room for improvement you say? Me too … I’m working on it 🙂

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Hello everyone,
today is Saturday, midday, 11:28am.
I think about time (jihu shijian) I made my speech, today’s speech.
Today, I have prepared a list (read this bit!) to help me think of things to say. ha ha but I still can’t speak Chinese! ummm um um, today, this morning, AS USUAL, I walked for 30 minutes. When I got home I watered the yard. Afterwards, I, inside, made a cup of tea, and next to, no in front of sat at my computer, (zuole???) started to study Chinese.
xiang? (first) I listened to a web lesson no. 210. I spent 27 minutes listening until I could understand it.
Then I prepared words that I could use in today’s talk. I wrote a few sentences, … put them onto Lang-8 web site to get my friends there to help me with these sentences.
sigh, 5 minutes, finished, bye bye.


Just talking to myself! 只对我说汉语!

by 卡梅尔 on November 21, 2012

This is my latest attempt to talk with myself. I think I’m improving, but still a ways to go.
After I finished, I listened to myself and wrote down what I said … mistakes and all. I will learn from my mistakes!!!!!!

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你好,我正在有很好一个注意。我觉得每天都我会说去我的电脑告诉你我今天做了什么。我会measure 时间我可以看了多少间我可以说汉语。
已经我说汉语两分钟。我像好不好(wonder)我不可不可以说 another 三个分钟。
现在。。 是 。。晚上九点四十九分钟。我很累。我想我不会(说)练习汉语(说一)我就对我说汉语 。。。(laja)垃圾汉语!!
已经我会说四半分钟。(四个半种)四分钟半,四分钟半,四分半种 。。。啊。
mm ,, 啊,ah well 五个,五分半分种。再见!


You guessed it! I’ve found another GREAT web site that is helping me make heaps of progress with my Chinese.

It is (or their new site and it is a progressive course, which means each lesson builds on previous lessons.

Each lesson has a short dialogue, and then a very thorough explanation of the meaning of each word, phrase and sentence in the dialogue. They also have a second dialogue (a review) in each lesson which uses the same words, and has about the same meaning, so it’s an excellent way of learning/revising.

What I’m finding particularly useful is that they have concentrated on translating in both directions.

The main lesson translates from Chinese to English. The review is the opposite. After playing the dialogue, they ask a lot of questions in English, and you have to say the Chinese in the gap, and then they say the correct answer.

There is also an activity (among many activities) where I have set my options to hear the audio (words and phrases!), and if I understand it I click on one of 5 levels. A student tracking system keeps track of my progress and repeats words or phrases that I have said I have difficulty understanding.

I have been working my way through the lessons, starting at about 20 after quickly listening to some of the earlier ones. I’m now up to 108 (out of more than 400 lessons)! Because I have already been studying for a number of years, I know most of the words that they are using. However, I have a lot of trouble understanding when I hear Chinese spoken. Can’t understand a thing!! 🙁

In every lesson, I listen to the dialogue first, I can hardly ever understand what they are saying even though I know most of the words when I see them written. After I LISTEN to the WHOLE lesson (I try not to look at the written script that is available on the site) I can then understand what I am hearing in the dialogue!! Brilliant!!!

But, I forget it of course. Later on when I listen to that dialogue, I again have no idea what they are saying. However, it doesn’t take me long to work it out, and the more I concentrate really hard on what I’m listening to, the better I get at just ‘hearing’ what they are saying. It is still a lot of work, but hey, I’m getting there!!!

Each lesson is quite short, around 10 minutes. So it’s not too hard to concentrate completely for that long, or if my mind wonders I repeat sections. The dialogue in the early lessons was only 2 short sentences. Now I have progressed to 4 longer sentences. Each lesson has only a few new words, so it is a lot of practice using the same words in different ways.

I’m always very keen to just listen to the next lesson to see how much of it I do understand in the first listening, sometimes I hear a bit, and it feels really good! But after just 10 minutes when I can hear it all, it feels even better. I’m finding time to do up to 6 lessons a day. But I listen to older dialogues often, to make sure I’m not forgetting them.

If I was just beginning my study of Chinese, I think this would be a good site to use, but it is very demanding. But there is no way around that, it is a lot of work to learn a new language!

I like the structure in this series of lessons. I also like the content. It is very ordinary language they are using, in very ordinary dialogues. Compared to all the text books that I have used, I think the language here is probably going to be more helpful to me when I get back to chatting with my friends. I expect to be able to understand at least some of the stuff they say to me, and I will be able to quiz them in good Chinese, about what they are saying, instead of having to resort to English.

The other amazing thing about this course, is that they have native speakers from different parts of China and Taiwan so we get used to different accents. They even explain the different ways of pronouncing things in different parts of the country. In the past I found this very confusing.

Here’s a screen shot of the exercises you can do to help you remember what you’ve just been listening to. BTW, you do have to pay to access everything except the basic lesson (Basic lesson is free!). And, they charge more if you want to do a lot of bulk downloading! I’ve payed just their basic fee, and download only the bits of each lesson that I want, and as I want them. They have done a great job, and I really don’t mind paying for good stuff. I wonder if I will be looking for more lessons from these chaps when I finish their 400 odd that are already there :)

Well that’s all you get. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say in Lesson 109.


3 months intensive learning …

by 卡梅尔 on April 16, 2012

Inspired by Benny’s effort to learn Mandarin (to whatever level) in 3 months, I took on the challenge too. After 4 or 5 years of study I still couldn’t talk!!! so I tried very hard over the last 3 months, and now? well, at least I’ve actually been doing it, talking that is, but oh so painfully slow.

For the past 3 months, even though I stayed at home in an isolated area in rural Australia, I have been studying Chinese and practising speaking it most of every day and night.

From I made a few friends who agreed to help me talk Chinese, and they are all really wonderful people. They all liked the idea that they suddenly became a teacher! One chap said his work mates all laughed at him when he told them, but he didn’t mind at all, and prepared stuff for me just like trained teachers do. He even got his wife and son to help him record things for me to learn. They all worked very hard to help me. In return, they were happy to talk in English when necessary (which was quite often) to give them English speaking practice. Each of these people had slightly different accents, and along with their different teaching methods, I feel like I made great progress over the 3 months.

I kept up a weekly lesson with my teacher Xuni in Xi’an, and towards the end of the 3 months had 3 lessons a week with her. Because she didn’t want to practice her English at all, the time I spent with her always seemed even more valuable.

When my allotted 3 months was running out, and in a desperate measure to learn even quicker, I paid for some more lessons from teachers at They were excellent too, and once again I really appreciated their attempts to speak no English at all.

The only problem I found with any of this was the sometimes very poor sound quality due to the slow internet. However, I learnt to treat that as yet another dialect that would force me to listen even more carefully.

Learning intensely like that, especially when you can feel you are making progress, becomes very addictive. It was so hard to call a stop to it all. And I think all my new friends were disappointed too.

And after all that, I’m still not very fluent. There is a lot to be said for being completely immersed in a language. That would be the only way to improve quickly, and I mean really immersed … no talkie English to any one at all … it simply reverses all of your new language learning.

Here is an excerpt from my last lesson with Xuni. I feel the biggest difference between now and 3 months ago is the fact that I am prepared to try and talk about almost anything. But what slows me down is still not knowing sentence structures (I think the structure I use is still English) and lack of vocabulary. I also have difficulty understanding what I hear. Even when I know each word that is said, I can’t always comprehend ordinary talk. Listening to this lesson again, I also lack confidence. I should just chat away and see what comes out …

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Why did I stop I hear you ask? Well, I’m going to France!!!!

But I will be back!


Another great web site to help learn a language

by 卡梅尔 on January 31, 2012

Sadly, it’s not working at the moment 🙁 If it was, I wouldn’t be writing this blog! But I trust it will come good.
I’m not good at thinking up mnemonics or hooks that help me remember characters and words. It has taken me many years to learn a lot of characters, but I have a long way to go. I really don’t want to spend the rest of my life learning so intensely as I have been doing. My research has shown me that some people, quite ordinary people, can learn way faster than I can! How, I asked myself is that possible. Mnemonics is the answer … and other hooks. That is, a hook that links something quite new to something that you know already. Well that’s all good and well to know, but how do you think up these hooks? I have been able to think of only a few, enough to know that’s the answer to learning a lot of stuff, but not enough to be any real use for me. The other day, out of pure frustration, I searched the internet (yet again, I do this often, especially for exactly this question) and this time I found it. A site where a community of learners have contributed their own hooks for remembering Chinese characters (and more!) This site calls these mnemonics and hooks “mems” and it is called is a wiki and is growing all the time. Needless to say it already has enough for me. I started on a course that taught me Survival Mandarin: menu words, place names and signs that occur in Shanghai. When I went to another course it kept my record and so the words I had learnt were already ticked off in the new course. It is a very good database in that sense. It has a scoring system too, and it gives points for getting words right, but the number of points depends on how long it is since you looked at a word. I’m not concerned about that though, I like the fact that it makes it easier to learn the characters.
I have a new goal. I want to learn 3000 characters in the next few weeks!!! I only hope the site starts working again soon 🙂


Hey, 1 whole hour and no talk English!!!

by 卡梅尔 on January 31, 2012

2 things led up to my first lesson:
I’ve been studying A LOT all hols, and I’ve also been following the exploits of Benni in Taiwan.
And yesterday, I had my first lesson of the year, on Skype, with my teacher XuNi from Xi’an.
I didn’t write my usual story before my lesson that I usually read to my teacher … No, this time my preparation was just thinking about things to say. Obviously I tried to practise talking (see, no hear, my previous posts 🙁 ).
I took a bit of advice from Benni .. I made myself just talk! I talked slowly, very slowly and XuNi was both patient and helpful. She was helpful because she asked me questions that made me think of things to say (note to self: write a list of questions.) And of course she corrected my sentences. I was thrilled because I understood her corrections when she said them.
Here is an excerpt from the lesson .. talking about a guest having to stay in a tent in the back yard because our house is too small!

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1 comment

When can I practise talking Mandarin?

by 卡梅尔 on January 26, 2012


Tonight it was when I was washing up!! And it took me 14 minutes and 43 seconds to wash up! It certainly made it a more interesting job, and because my hands were wet I couldn’t turn off the recording which I wanted to do when I couldn’t think of something to say … so here it is. I’ll call it Wash Up Chat No 1. This infers of course that I will record myself (trying to) talk Mandarin when I am washing up … every time! This will certainly force me to get some practice! Once again, I think I can only get better … can’t possibly do any worse!

Before I made this recording, and all day, I was planning and practising to talk about the geography of China and Australia. But I had too many notes to refer to, so it wasn’t authentic chat.

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Now, about the goal I set myself 2 posts back …

by 卡梅尔 on January 21, 2012

Well, I got very close to having a great long things I could say about what I like doing in different weather situations … but circumstances changed!! My friend who I was going to try it out on got sick and went away for a while … and I didn’t get back to THOSE sentences. Well that’s my excuse, I’m sure I would have at least half succeeded, or I would have given it a go … but … I still can’t talk!!!!

I have a new idea to help me. Even though I have friends on the internet, and a friend that I actually talk with once a week, I fear I am not making any progress. I study all the time. My teacher has suggested I practise repeating what I hear on CDs that I have, ie the audio that comes with the text books, and with novels. I have a lot of them, and I didn’t realise I wasn’t doing much of just that!! I was still trying to learn new words, revise old words blah blah blah.

So lately it has been a lot of revision. I’ve been listening to, and repeating audio from both beginner novels, and my old university text books. I have really enjoyed it, and I feel like I am making progress … but still not talking by myself. Not thinking up my own sentences. I can do this when I’m writing, with the aid of my computer, but I want to just talk!

As Benni the Irish polyglot says: well do it!!!

After watching Benni’s first attempt at talking Mandarin, he speaks slowly, very very slowly, thinking carefully of each word or syllable one at a time, and getting it mostly right, I think I can do that!!! He put this video on the web too, which is brilliant! I’ve never seen a beginner trying to speak before (I have done all my study by distance ed or  correspondence lessons!)

I think what Benni has done for me, is point out that I don’t have to wait for someone to talk to before I can get practise. I have often tried to talk to myself, and that doesn’t really help much. But if I talk into a microphone, and put the results on this blog … ahh ha!! Voila! A reason to put what I have learnt into practise as often as I want. I have just tried it, and my talking is really bad, but I know I’m really bad … might as well share it with the world!  🙂 My mind was stuck on a few words I have revised recently, regarding growing plants in pots … I’d forgotten everything else that I have learnt before that!!!



I thought I would remember enough stuff to talk (albeit slowly) for 10 minutes. Hence my introduction saying I’m going to give myself 10 minutes to talk about my yard. Well, the recording is much shorter than that, I got to the usual mental block and gave up. Ah well, I failed at that goal too 🙁

Next time I will do a bit of proper preparation. I have great things that I can talk about, like washing clothes, mowing the lawn … can’t wait!

Please feel free to post a comment. I know I use a few wrong words, and wrong tones, so it probably won’t mean anything to anyone, not that anyone will come to my blog to listen. Ha ha, that’s why I’m game to make a fool of myself. Gotta luf!

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