Mandarin Learning Resources

Since this week’s blogs are ‘Chinese’ themed. I’ve compiled a list of Mandarin – language learning resources.

ChineseLet’s learn Chinese Mandarin!

Difficulty level? — Some say that Chinese isn’t as difficult as say French. To an English speaker all those new sounds and tones may seem like a scary task.

Here are some tips to help get over the fears that may come with starting this language.

What’s with these tones? Get familiar with the tones in Mandarin. It’s an important part of learning. English speakers often want to speak other languages with English speaking rules. This mistake can hold you back from progressing with the language. Let yourself go!

What’s the most common tone combination?

Need more explanation about tones?

How do I learn these characters? Understand that learning takes time so learn the characters little by little. Get a good reference book or workbook and have a teacher, friend or language partner correct them.

How am I going to learn the Mandarin Grammar? Find out what works best for you – attending a class, online program, private tutor, language partner, software program or self learning with a book. We all learn different. Find out what works best for you and do it your best!

Chinese Tools – Great resource for learning which includes a dictionary, forums, tips and lessons.

Chinese Mandarin Learning Podcasts:

Please help grow this list and information of resources. Comment below! Thanks!

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Chinese/English Language Exchange Activity

Language Exchange Activity of the Week – First Week!

I’m happy to announce the first language exchange activity. From now on, I will post one new activity every week. language exchange logo

This is an activity to do to improve pronunciation for Mandarin and English practicers. Practicing with tongue twisters can be a fun way to practice pronunciation and gain confidence speaking!



Lí hé ní

Shù shàng y?u lí,
dì shàng y?u ní.
F?ng gu? lí,
lì luò dì.
L? g?n ní,
ní zh?n lí.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?


X? Sh? s?shí sìshísì.

The thirty-three thieves thought that they thrilled the throne throughout Thursday.


L?osh? shìbúshi sìshísìsuìde?

Green glass globes glow greenly.

niúláng liàn liúniáng
liúniáng niàn niúláng
niúláng niánnián liàn liúniáng
liúniáng liánlián niàn niúláng.

If you understand, say “understand”.
If you don’t understand, say “don’t understand”.
But if you understand and say “don’t understand”.
how do I understand that you understand. Understand!?


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Celebrity in China

elissaandmattinheartAfter teaching English in Korea, my good friend Elissa is now starting her new teaching adventure in China. I asked her to write about her new, Chinese experience.

Yesterday I got excited because a restaurant put ice in my water.  I felt like royalty.  Ice? Really?…Yes please.  The day before that I was elated to discover a toilet, a real toilet with a seat and everything in a school I teach in.  It’s the little things that I forget I miss until they are right in front of me. Miss might not be the right word, perhaps appreciate.  The first time I saw and used a bathroom gutter, I was a little taken a back.  Now, it’s normal.  It’s odd to find a toilet.  The first time I ordered a chicken and it came with its head still attached I whimpered a bit.  Now, I call that flavor enhancer.

I’m only two months in to a year and a half commitment of teaching in China and already the odd has become normal.  Fifty students in one class was a frightening sight.  At first I was amazed that anyone even listened to me, now I expect their full attention. 110 check out lines at my supermarket used to seem like a bit much.  My first Sunday morning visit put that in check for me. Add a few more. Why not?

I am teaching in a city called Suzhou, just West of Shanghai.  This “little”, by Chinese standards, city has over 6 million people living in it.  Compared to Shanghai, it seems like a sleepy little city.  I quickly learned to ride the bus going from home to one of the three schools I teach at.  I’ve only been in one bus accident so far which is a small miracle considering the way that people drive. I’ve only given my number out to two strangers on the bus after they awkwardly asked for it.  My bus rides are nothing short of exciting.

The celebrity appeal of going to school has almost worn off.  In my first couple weeks of teaching I gave out close to 800 autographs and received numerous small gifts.  One student came to me with 5 sheets of paper to autograph, it’s only then that I thought about charging.  People stare, point, and even blatantly take pictures of me. A crowd has gathered to watch my boyfriend and I order dinner while sitting outside. This too has become normal.

Teaching in China is an incredible experience.  Students are bright and excited to learn English and about Western Culture.  They value my classes and I really enjoy teaching them.  I’m slowly trying to learn Mandarin, and have 800 tutors waiting to correct my pronunciation.  Crotchless baby pants, eye-exercises and wearing pajamas in public are all normal now.  They say you adjust to a new climate in as little as 2 weeks.  I say you can adjust to China in as little as 1 month.

Thanks Elissa!

If you are new to the blog, check out  the Free Language Exchange Community and check back for more language and culture post this week related to China. Share your own experience in the comments below if you have them.

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How Much Spanish to Romance a Woman?

I was sent these videos of Spanish love songs with 1 and 2 semesters of Spanish. (Thanks Katie) They are pretty comical so I thought I’d share.

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We Want You!

WeWantYou is looking for feedback from you.


That’s right, I’m talking to you. You are clever, detail oriented, and enjoy interacting with others. You are also really passionate about languages and cultures. That is why we need your opinion on what we are doing with the Language Exchange Community. We are changing things up a bit and need your help. They don’t call it a community for nothing right?

You also enjoy the spotlight, so we are putting your photo with a short bio of you on our special “Member Board” page. You deserve it for being a leader in your community! GO YOU!!!

Only 10 lovely, appreciated opinions will be heard so contact me now for details of how YOU can make a difference.




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Semana Santa in Seville, Spain

Here is an update from Anne Owen, who is studying in Seville, Spain. You can check out her last blog here.

The past two weeks I’ve been busy preparing for my midterms. I blame myself, in part, because I had much lower expectations of the difficulty of learning Spanish and my classes abroad. But, at the same time, adjusting to a new culture and home combined with studying in a foreign language has proven to be as difficult as it sounds. After studying for hours and getting terrible “test anxiety” for the first time in my life, the exams are over and I’m now on my Spring Break.

Here, Spring Break falls over Semana Santa (Holy Week), which is a celebration that takes place over the week from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and is especially famous in Seville. The week features the procession of pasos, which are floats of wooden sculptures of Christ or the Virgin Mary. Some of the floats are very old and considered works of art. They weigh a lot and are used year after year gaining cultural and spiritual importance among the Catholic population. The Holy Week is also important for the city of Seville since the huge increase among tourists brings in a lot of money. The processions are organized by hermandades and cofradías, religious brotherhoods and the heavy pasos are held up by men lined up underneath them with little cushions on their heads for protection against the weight. They walk on the same beat with the same feet. Brass bands accompany the processions, which have given me a permanent migraine headache. My bedroom and another room in the apartment have small patios, which open up to overlook the street below with processions passing throughout the day.

My host mom’s family watching from our apartment

You might recognize the outfits of the brotherhood from the Ku Klux Klan. The KKK took the idea of their outfit (all white with capes and tall mask/hat) from this concept. They wanted to create an image that represents a brotherhood while wearing all white and hiding their faces. At first, it was extremely strange to see people dressed this way in Spain.

The other night Nieves, my host mom, invited her whole family over to celebrate and watch the processions pass in front of our apartment. The apartment is in the perfect spot to watch the parades but it also means it’s very noisy and crowded and we can’t leave the building while they are passing. After they went by we had a huge meal and drinks. Natalie and I helped in the kitchen preparing hors d’oeuvres and washing dishes. Per usual in Spain, there was lots of queso curado and jamon, muchos mariscos (caviar, octopus, shrimp, cod soup) and rich, delicious tortes.

While so far the semester has been long and rather difficult, we have a short week to celebrate Feria, another festival, next week. I’m looking forward to see all the women dressed up in Flamenco dresses.

Thanks Ann! If you are new to the blog, check out the free language exchange community – – I enjoy comments, so feel free to write below and ‘like’ the fb page to stay up to date on all the blogs.


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What American Accent Do You Have?

What American accent do you have?
american accents
My Results?—  North Central
“North Central” is what professional linguists call the Minnesota accent. If you saw “Fargo” you probably didn’t think the characters sounded very out of the ordinary.  Outsiders probably mistake you for a Canadian a lot.”

Result Breakdown:
86% North Central
53% The West
50% The Midland
44% The Inland North
38% Boston
19% The South
13% Philadelphia
9% The Northeast

I guess I can’t be too surprised that even filling out the quiz it tells me I’m from Minnesota.

Take the quiz and post your results in the comments. Enjoy!



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Improving a Language – Writing

There are many ways to improve a language. Writing is a great way to improve your skills while communicating with others.

Here are some ideas of how to practice…

1. Write a Blog – Use a blog to practice your writing skills.

2. Keep a journal – This is a good idea because you are using words and thoughts that are apart of your life. If you practice writing them, they will be more familiar to you when you want to say them.

3. Tweet – Use Twitter to communicate short phrases or sentences to others.

4. Pen pal – Get a pen pal via email with a language partner. You can correct each others’ mistakes and learn more about their culture.

5.  To-Do lists – Write your to-do lists each day in the language.

6. Chat – Chat with new friends through Skye or facebook. (Also look to chat with other members of check back for new updates!)

7. Essays – Choose a topic that you are passionate about and write about an essay.

Be sure to have a language partner check over your work and correct any mistakes so that you learn from it. Writing takes some time, but it can be very helpful to becoming confident with the grammar. It can help you speak more confidently, especially about a topic you have written a lot about.

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How to Say Earth in Different Languages

Happy Earth Day!! Since I just love the earth, I’ve complied translations of the beautiful word in some different languages. (languages with different characters are missing because they don’t show up when I add them?)

Haitian Creole: sou latè

French: terre

Slovenian: zemlja

Spanish: tierra

Catalan: la terra

Basque: lurra

Swedish: jorden

Finish: maa

Welsh: ddaear

Dutch: aarde

Italian: terra

German: Erde

Hungarian: föld

If you are new to the blog, check out the Free Language Exchange Community. Find a language partner when you join for free and learn how to say earth in even more languages.

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Parents Complain of Children’s Forced Arabic Learning

arabworldIn a Texas, a school district has revised it’s curriculum after parents are up in arms about the fact that Arabic Studies would be taught to their children.

The program is apart of a 5 year, $1.3 million federal Foreign Language Assistance Program which names Arabic as a “language of the future.” It also recognizes Chinese and Russian as being important languages for more Americans to fluently speak, according to the ‘’ in a recent online article.

How dare the US government recognize the importance of communicating fluently in these languages in the years to come. If anyone wants to communicate with us, they can learn English! (I don’t really believe that so don’t quote me.)

As I read through the article, just as I had both feared and expected, the dreaded ‘Islam’ was mentioned. A word that has practically become a dirty word in the American culture. Why? Because our news and media tell us so.

The parents are furious that their children will be taught about Islam. Since, they say, it’s apart of their culture and language it is bound to come up in lessons.

How is learning about another culture and language so threatening to some of these parent and why can’t they see this as a positive opportunity for their kids? As of now,  Arabic studies courses are not mandatory in the district, but  they are optional for the students.

So I am asking you, Mansfield school district in Texas, to put down your fears and go ahead and let your children learn about Arabic culture and language. It doesn’t mean your kids will convert religions or become terrorist.



Posted in language, language community, Language Learning | Tagged , | 8 Comments