Mandarin Weekly #97

Mandarin Weekly
Nov 22, 2016 · 5 min read

Going out to eat

Intermediate Going out to eat in a restaurant in China? Great! Here are some important vocabulary words and phrases you’ll want, from ordering, to asking for the right amount of spiciness, to telling the waiter who is receiving which dish:

Doing two things at once

Intermediate Are you walking and chewing gum? Talking and eating? Fleeing and shooting? (OK, perhaps not.) If you’re doing two things at once, you probably need the 一边。。。一边 (yī biān…yī biān) grammar pattern:

Don’t ask 你好吗 (nǐ hǎo ma)?

Beginner Newcomers to Chinese want to be polite when meeting someone, and thus ask, 你好吗? The problem is, no native Chinese speaker says this. Why not, and what you should ask instead, is here:

How to immerse yourself in Chinese

Immersion is a key ingredient in learning a language. But many foreigners who come to China are surprised to find that it doesn’t happen automatically. This posting is full of hints for how to ensure you’re surrounded by as much Chinese as possible, helping to boost your fluency at a faster pace:

Culture! Privacy! Reading practice!

The Chinese text here is of intermediate-advanced level, but there is a translation into English — and the issues of privacy and culture are important for anyone learning Chinese, or planning to travel to China. If you’ve ever wondered why Chinese people gret each other by asking if they ate, or generally how Western and Chin:

Chinese breakfast

Beginner Having breakfast in China? You can probably find corn flakes, yogurt, and toast — but traditional Chinese breakfast foods are quite different, as introduced in this post:

Oh, yeah?

Intermediate Someone got you angry? You need to tell them off? Yeah, but how will you do it in Chinese? Here are some useful words and phrases for when you’re feeling angry:

Tone changes

Intermediate When do tones changes? And how do they change? And how important is it to get these tone changes right? Many students of Chinese ask these questions; in this posting, we get clear answers and hints for remembering these rules:

Roll those eyes

Beginner Tired of being asked the same question, again and again? Or perhaps you’re tired of being asked the same question, again and again? Either way, you can respond with 翻白眼 (fān bái yǎn), rolling one’s eyes:

Lots of meanings for “meaningful”

Intermediate The word 意思 (yìsi) means “meaning,” but takes on different meanings in different contexts, as we see here:


Beginner The word 关系 (guān xi) can be translated as “relationship,” but it’s more than that in China, as this posting describes:

Ethnic food

Beginner You’re in China, but don’t want to eat Chinese food. Fortunately, major cities offer many ethnic specialties. Here’s a list of how to say different ethnic cuisines, along with their most famous dishes:

Alternate “one”

Beginner When you’re reading off a phone number containing a 1, did you know that you can (should) pronounce it as yāo? More information about this alternate is here:

All in the family

Beginner The names of family members in Chinese are more complex than in English, in that you have to take into account the side (mother/father) and age (elder/younger) of the person you’re describing. Here are some basic family vocabulary words for starters:

Basic questions

Beginner Here are some questions that everyone should be able to ask (and answer), even as a new student of Chinese:

Putting the “er” in Er Hua

Intermediate Mandarin is typically taught using a nortern pronunciation, known as 儿化 (ér huà). Is the 儿 character typically written out?

Characters vs. words

Beginner When can you use a character on its own? Ad what’s the relationship between characters and words?

Going to work

Beginner How do you say that someone is at work? There are several different ways to say it, as described here:


Beginner One of the first verbs learned by a newcomer to Chinese is 说话 (shuō huà). What happens when you reverse these characters? Or when you only use one? Different meanings emerge, demonstrating the complex relationship between characters and words in Chinese:

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