12/21/16

Choosing a Chinese teacher

Striving to be the best Chinese teacher

Choosing the right Chinese teacher isn’t always easy. 

I recently found an interesting article on the issue on fluentinmandarin.com. They created a checklist of things to look for when looking for a good Chinese teacher.Here is how I’m striving to be the best teacher on their 8 criteria.

1. Somebody who really knows their stuff

I’ve been learning Chinese since 2008, I have the highest certificate in Chinese (for foreigners) which is HSK6 and I have a Master’s Degree in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language.

More than that, I’ve made countless of mistakes during the years and learned from them. You don’t need to make the same mistakes.

2. Somebody knows the ‘why’ and can explain things

I’ve learned Chinese from zero as well. I had to go the hard way and memorize characters, pinyin, times, grammar rules and so on.

During my studies I’ve asked countless of “why” questions and still strive to find the answer to any question my students have.

3. Somebody who can engage you and make Chinese interesting

Studying needs to be interesting otherwise students will soon give up. With every student I try to find out what makes them click and use that to motivate them.

Group lessons and great for motivating to study! HSK tests are also good goals and getting that shiny certificate for your wall will make miracles for your confidence.

4. Somebody who can think logically and teach in a structured way

I will teach Chinese from the Western point of view and use teaching methods I would enjoy my self too. The Chinese educational tradition might be too different for us, so I will combine the best of both ways in my classes.

For structure I mostly work with a good textbook or create an outline for course based on research. I did my MA thesis in textbook design.

5. Somebody who can encourage and motivate you (but also give you useful feedback)

Motivating students is one of the biggest challenges in my job, but I have a few aces in my sleeve to get people excited of learning Chinese! 

But good feedback is important as well! I will keep on correcting your biggest mistakes so they won’t hinder your communication.

6. Somebody who is passionate about their subject

I have made Chinese to grow from hobby to major to my career, hard to find anyone more passionate about Mandarin!

I love reading about learning and teaching Mandarin, trying to stay up to date in the newest books and apps.

7. A good Chinese teacher needs to be patient

If you ask my students, they can vouch that patience I have plenty! Slow and steady progress is often much better than trying to rush things without learning them well.

8. Somebody who you get on well with

Well this last one is personal and hard to answer my self. I see me as an easy going person, but I’d rather let you decide it!

So why don’t you meet up with me for a cup of tea (offline in Guangzhou or online on Skype) and find out. You can reach me on the contact form here.

12/16/16

Easy study tips for the holidays

The holiday season is starting, Christmas, New Year, Chinese New Year and other festivities are on their way. Many go back home to visit family, other’s travel abroad for an escape holiday trip. No matter how you spend your holidays, studying might be the last thing in your mind. But taking a long break from classes is an easy way to forget some of the vocabulary and phrases you have worked so hard to learn.

Here are some relaxed study tips you can follow to both enjoy the holidays, but also keep on learning Chinese.

Listen to interesting podcasts

While you are laying on the beach in Thailand or on your couch in front of a fireplace, plug-in your earphones and enjoy a short podcast lesson in Chinese. The good thing about podcasts is that they are easy to study, but also a great way to practise your listening skills. You might enjoy these Christmasy podcasts from ChinesePod: Spending Christmas in China and Christmas Dinner. (Affiliate links)

Tips: Listen to one podcast per day, for example before going to bed, in the car or when taking public transport.

Watch movies or video clips

Watching Chinese movies can bring you the language environment while also relaxing on a vacation. If you are inside China, you can find a large variety of movies on Youku.com. For beginners I recommend the original Happy Chinese series that consists of short episodes geared towards foreigners learning Chinese. I used to binge watch it during my first years in China.

Tips: When you aren’t in the mood for real studying, relax with the right language environment and hop on to Youku and its endless options of video entertainment. Perfect for lazy days on the bed.

Chat away on WeChat

WeChat is the hottest and biggest app in China, combining features like WhatsApp, Facebook and many many more. It’s an educational tool as well! I have set up a group for Chinese discussion where you can practise your Mandarin by typing pinyin or characters. You can also send voice messages to practise your spoken skills. The fee is only 100CNY per month and if you want to join us, just send me an email!

Tips: Besides joining my discussion group, you can also follow many other learning resources and Chinese articles on WeChat. Try to chat or read a bit in Chinese every day.


All of us enjoy some time off work and studies, but there are easy ways to keep Chinese in your life even on a vacation. Find the way that suits you the best or try different things according to your mood of the day.

11/30/16

How to remember Chinese words

After starting Chinese lessons with full energy, you will soon notice that it keeps getting harder and harder to remember the words you have learned as new words are coming your way every lesson. It’s time to create a system for reviewing and remembering words!

Chinese textbook

Chinese textbook

Reading textbook dialogues

One easy way to review is to read the textbook dialogues out loud, even better if you do it as listen and repeat after the textbook mp3. By listening you will hear the correct model audio and by repeating you will practise pronouncing the words in a correct way and review vocabulary at the same time.

Tips: Read out one dialogue per day. At first you’ll be reading the same dialogue between your first lessons. Later when you progress you can choose which dialogue to read out loud as you have many to choose from those you have studied already.

Chinese flashcards

Chinese flashcards

Making paper flaschards

Flashcards are a great way to memorize and review vocabulary. By making your own flashcards you will get an extra strong review while you create your cards and a second review when you go over them. Put your cards in two piles, answered correctly -pile and answered incorrectly -pile.

Tips: Review the correctly -pile once per week and incorrectly -pile once per day.

Skritter

Skritter

Using Skritter app to review

You can also go modern and use Skritter electronic flashcards (affiliate link) on your phone, tablet or laptop. After you have purcharged a subsription (totally worth the investment!) browse word lists and find your textbook. For example for most of my students you should go to browse published lists and find Our Chinese Classroom 1 made by xuefang.

Tips: Use Skritter for 5 minutes every day. It will choose for you what you need to review so your job is to make the time for it.

10/9/16

How to learn Chinese pronunciation

Learn Chinese Pronunciation

Learning how to pronounce Chinese is one of the first big challenges you encounter when you decide to learn Chinese. The size of the challenge depends on your native language and if it has any similarities with Mandarin or not. I don’t remember having much problems in pronouncing English, Swedish or German while studying them in school, but learning Chinese was a whole another thing.

Yes, Chinese pronunciation is challenging, but it’s not impossible! There aren’t any ways to cheat around it, but with a plan and hard work, you can reach your goals and be understood by locals in China. What your goals are, is totally up to you, maybe having survival level is enough or maybe your perfectionist tendencies want you to reach for native like fluency, or anything in between.

When I started Chinese lessons back in 2008 I didn’t pay enough attention to the correct pronunciation, especially tones. I thought just speaking a bit more quickly would do the trick. But later on when I wanted to advance from survival upward, I realized learning the pronunciation well is better to be done in the beginning than trying to fix bad habits later on.

So here comes my experiences and useful resources I’ve created and found to learn Chinese pronunciation.

Where to start learning Chinese pronunciation

First of all you need some basic information how to pronounce Chinese and what pinyin is. Your textbook of choice probably has an introduction, but if you find it lacking, there are other good resources to check and learn more.

Pinyin quick start guide is a great place to start understanding Chinese pronunciation. While you are reading the theory behind pronunciation and pinyin, also listen to all the sounds and repeat after it. You can find many pinyin table applications in the App Store, for example Pinyin by Chinesepod or Allset Learning Pinyin.

Here it’s important to understand that a Chinese syllable has three parts, for example: nĭ (you). The initial is “n”, final “i” and tone is the third tone. Each of these three are equally important and should be seen as one unit. You aren’t learning “ni” + third tone, you are learning “nĭ “.

There is also a new Say it Right video course by my affiliate partner ChinesePod, I’ll be reviewing it on the blog soon so stay tuned for that.

Training your ear

Starting from the early stages, listening is the first step to good pronunciation. You will first train your ear to hear differences between sounds and tones, after that you can start pronouncing them your self.

For example the difference between initials s and sh, c and ch or the differences between tones.

A good app to train your ear is Pinyin Trainer by trainchinese.

For those of you who really want to get those tones right, try Tone Trainer. It can seem a bit difficult at first, but it’s the best tool I’ve found to learn to hear the differences between tones and test your ear.

Start speaking

When learning to pronounce Chinese on your own, go from small to big. First go with one syllable words like yī shí wŭ liù (1, 10, 5, 6), then gradually go to double syllable words and different tone combinations. Gradually go from syllables to words and then to sentences. Listen to phrases and mimic the flow of the language.

At the beginning listen and repeat a lot, you will soon notice which sounds are easier for you and which require more work, remember to pay attention to the difficulties, don’t shy away from them.

If you are unsure how you are doing, have your teacher or tutor to listen you and correct your mistakes. If you don’t have a teacher, you can try my Pronunciation Tutor Service.

Step by step plan to learn Chinese pronunciation

  1. Read a bit of basic info on Chinese pronunciation and pinyin, know what you are supposed to do
  2. Listen a lot and train your ear
  3. Start speaking from syllables to words to short phrases
  4. Have a teacher correct your pronunciation or use my Pronunciation Tutor Service
  5. Continue to improve your pronunciation along with your studied until you achieve your goals

Do you have any questions on how to learn or improve your Chinese pronunciation? Please ask away in the comments section and I’ll do my best to help! 

08/16/16

Chinese lessons in Guangzhou are continuing in September

Learn Chinese in Guangzhou

I’ve gotten emails asking when do I resume teaching Chinese and I thought it’s best to share the plans in a blog post as well. Chinese lessons are continuing in September!

I’ll arrive back to Guangzhou a bit earlier than planned, on the first week of September. After that I’ll need to find a nanny and then I can continue teaching Mandarin. My estimate is that I can continue lessons in mid-September.

I’ll be offering one on one or small group lessons for beginners and elementary level students. Most of my students are keen to learn the basics of spoken Chinese but I have students who are fascinated by the Chinese characters as well. In any case the lessons are always tailored to your personal needs with a flexible schedule.

If you want more information about Chinese lessons in Guangzhou or want to book a meeting with me, get in touch through my contact form!