11/5/16

Chinese group lessons in Guangzhou

Sharing useful phrases with my students

Sharing useful phrases with my students

While working as a private Chinese teaching in Guangzhou I’ve noticed the good effect of small group lessons, especially for spoken Chinese. At the moment I have two groups, one for complete beginners and other for elementary level students who have passed the survival level already.

My beginner Chinese group class just started last week and I was super excited to see how my students were speaking in Chinese with each other! Learning a new language as an adult can feel like an impossible task at times and I very well understand the nervousness of using your language skills to converse with the locals.

I have students who are afraid to speak Chinese cause they are worried not being understood or they have been discouraged with too many corrections while trying to use their newly learned Mandarin. I’m actually in the same boat with my Cantonese! I can understand a bit and speak even less, so I have been too shy to actually use it in real life.

This is the reason why I started beginner Chinese group class, to work as a stepping stone between classroom and the real world. Offering a friendly and encouraging environment to try out your Mandarin and get more confidence. And even in one hour we saw huge breakthroughs and everyone was so excited to be speaking Chinese no matter how many phrases they know.

My other group is for elementary students and there we dive into more complex topics like discussing hobbies, sharing travel memories or playing verbal games to get our Chinese to the next level. After learning words and grammar, it’s time for these students to experiment with their skills and increase their spoken vocabulary. After practising at class, they feel more ready to have a real conversation with locals.

If you are interested in these Chinese group lessons in Guangzhou, just send me an email!

11/3/16

What to do when you get into a traffic accident in China?

These quick stations are around the city as small crashes happen all the time

These quick stations are around the city as small crashes happen all the time

Getting into a traffic accident in China is a topic I wish I knew nothing about, but based on my quite resent experiences, I wrote a step by step guide for you. So here’s what to do if you are in a car crash in Guangzhou.

  1. Stop right there where the accident happened, don’t move your car or allow the other person to move theirs. Safely get out of your car and take photos of both of the cars and your surroundings. As changing lanes is when many accidents happen, take photos which show the location of both cars and the road markings. Is you car over a line or is theirs?
  2. If it was a major accident or there is any dispute between you two, don’t move the cards. Call a traffic police at 122 to come and settle it.
  3. If it was just a small crash and nothing too serious, head to the side of a road in a safe place to discuss it with the other person. Was it your fault? Then no need to call the police if you can settle the matter calmly. Was it their fault or not sure? Is the other person angry or trying to argue with you? Call the traffic police at 122 and let them decide whose fault it was. If you moved the cars, they will want to see the photos you took.
  4. Follow the traffic police’s instructions on how to continue. Call you insurance company and explain the situation to them. In small crashes or bumps where both cars can still continue driving, you can drive to a 快速理赔 (Quick claim settling station) to report the incident and get the correct documents for your insurance company.
  5. At the small station (just a hut usually) they will take photos of cars, you and your papers, then they will fill in report forms and give them to you for insurance purposes. You will also need those papers when you go and get your cars fixed.
  6. When both cars are fixed, all the documents has to be given to the one responsible so their insurance company can handle the paperwork. In my case the crash was my fault, so the other person sent their documents, I paid her and the insurance company will pay me back. Our car dealer shop, where we bought and fixed our car, will help us with all the paperwork.

Have you been in a traffic accident in China? Share your stories in the comments!

11/1/16

Training your ayi

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime work

Taking care of a baby surely is a fulltime job

Last time I wrote how we found a new ayi to take care our daughter while we work, little did I know that inviting a nanny to your home would mean a lot of extra work for you too!

I started with a list of things to keep in mind when taking care of our baby, even my husband thought it was a very detailed list, but actually I left out a lot of little things that might scare the new nanny away before starting! I don’t wish to be a parent who micro-manages everything, but it’s hard to relax and let someone else to care for your child.

Luckily our ayi seems to be great with Anna and after two weeks of getting to know each other I don’t worry at all while I work almost full time as a private teacher. Coming home to my smiling daughter reassures me, that we made the right decision.

But like in a marriage, in a employer-ayi relationship nothing is perfect of course. In our case she has been doing some sloppy job cleaning our house and I’m not sure if she doesn’t know how to or just would prefer not cleaning at all. My husband has always been complaining that he can’t get used to the food she cooks.

For me as Finn it’s quite awkward to tell our ayi what to do and to point out things she has done poorly. My husband Alan says that I was way too nice in the beginning and it ended up our ayi being a lazy cleaner. Now that I think of it, I probably should have been more direct and clear with cleaning instructions in the beginning.

Tips I’m trying to follow with our ayi now:

  • Make a list of daily and weekly tasks
  • First week clean together with her and show how you prefer things to be done
  • Observe her cleaning or taking care of your children, see how she is used to doing things
  • Be friendly but strict from the beginning so the ayi will respect your rules

Even with these hiccups, I hope that she will work with us for the next few years so we can all get used to each other and our daughter would have a constant good caretaker while me and her dad are working. I’ll keep you posted how things go!

10/18/16

Getting a driver’s license in China

Chinese Driver's License

Chinese Driver’s License

Good news! I finally got my Chinese driver’s license! Actually the process was much easier and faster than I thought, so I wanted to share it with you as well. I know many of my readers who are interested in getting a license and driving in China. My experience is in changing my Finnish license to Chinese, so if you don’t have a license at all, you need to go to driving school first.

Documents needed for changing foreign driver’s license to Chinese:

  • Application form
  • Health check (Super easy and superficial done at the exam center at the same day)
  • Four color photos, ask the photo shop for driver’s license photos, they know what to do
  • Official receipt for the photos with you passport number on it
  • Passport and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Foreign driver’s license and an official translation and notarization of it (can be done at any 公证处, takes about half a month)
  • Registration paper from your local police station, the original with a stamp

Translations and notarizations will take a few weeks, during that time it’s best to get ready for the theory exam!

Websites and apps for studying:

You will want to use these for studying at least for a few days before taking the exam. Also notice that many cities, including Guangzhou has new rules for the traffic violation scoring system, it changed at the beginning of this year. So find the newest regulations concerning the scoring and memorize it.

Taking the exam:

When you got all your paperwork in order and have studied enough for the exam, it’s time to go to the vehicle administration office (车管所) of your city. In Guangzhou it’s called Cen Village Vehicle Administration Office (岑村车管所) and it’s located at Huaguan Street 1732 of Tianhe District (天河区华观路1732号).

Take a waiting number and head to the back of the first floor to get your very quick and simple health check. If you can walk and aren’t blind, you can pass it in five minutes. When your number is up, give them all your paperwork and pay for the exam (80RMB). There are exams being held throughout the day until 3pm. Multiple languages are being offered, English being one of them.

You can take the exam twice in a row, so if you fail the first exam, you can just do it again with the same computer right away. Just tell the staff there you need to take it again. If you pass, you can pick up you new license at 4pm in the first floor lobby. They will call your name and give your license to you right away.

Now just get out there and learn to drive the Chinese way!

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!