Similarities between Chinese and Japanese – Index
A frequent question asked of students of Chinese or Japanese is “what’s the difference between Chinese and Japanese?”
This question, if asked by someone who hasn’t had the good fortune to learn one of these two languages, derives from the simple recognition that both languages use Chinese characters: 汉字 (“hanzi”, in Chinese) or 漢字 (“kanji”, in Japanese).
Although this question is based on a rather limited premise, there is however a thread between the two languages that ties them inseparably together.
Nevertheless, as two rather different languages, it would, therefore, be appropriate to rephrase the question this way: “what do Chinese and Japanese have in common?”
Main similarities between Chinese and Japanese
Here are what, in my opinion, are the main similarities between the two languages:
that we recommend at the moment!
How long does it take to learn Mandarin? – Index
First of all, I believe that we are our habits and that our habits are influenced by our goals and the external environment.
Hence I think you can roughly predict how long it will take you to learn Mandarin by honestly answering to which of the following categories you belong. [Read more…]
This article has the objective of describing the particular type of relationship that exists between the Chinese language and the everyday life of those who speak and read it.
From this close relationship you can identify a series of “superstitions” (or customs) that are more or less strictly followed by the population of the Middle Kingdom.
In order to fully understand those relationships, we need to first consider some aspects of the Chinese language.
What are the characteristics and peculiarities of the Chinese language?
One always hears that Chinese is a strange language that is difficult to learn, especially for someone coming from a Western culture.
This is probably true in part, as every language in the world has its simple and complex aspects. [Read more…]
Skritter review – Index
What is Skritter?
Skritter is, in my opinion, the best way to learn how to write Chinese characters.
I used it ten minutes per day for about one year and I managed to learn how to write more than 1,000 characters (all the characters on the HK4 list, to be precise). Also, I learned the meaning and pronunciation of those characters.
Why do you need a software to write characters?
If you watched the video at the beginning of this post you already know that the software is pretty cool.
But the real reason for using Skritter is the algorithm behind the software, which allows you to remember more than the 90% of the characters that you are studying (in the photo below you can see that in 30 days I was able to remember the 92.9% of the characters that I studied, [Read more…]
Guide to the HSK 6 Test – Advanced Chinese – Index
Before taking the time to read this guide, know that you can only really appreciate it if you’ve already reached level 5 of the HSK exam or if you’ve already attained a good level.
Consider too that you’ll have to know more than 2500/3000 words before being able to specifically work on the HSK 6. Happy studies!
Structure of the test
Chinese writing has a fascination all its own: from the ornamental aspect, which all can appreciate even without being an expert, to the symbolic value which is exotic to us, to the long tradition that the characters bring from over two millennia of history full of meaning and even magic.
There are those who don’t consider it so much as a form of writing the words of a spoken language as much as a system for “writing the world”.
In this article I will speak to you about the rules through which this “world” is created on paper: starting from an alphabetic writing you’ll be used to, up to simple signs that indicate sounds whose combinations create the written text, while the question becomes a little more complicated for Chinese.
Chinese writing – Index
The Chengyu, in Chinese 成语, are four character expressions that express a particular meaning, taken from the stories of classical China. There are lots of Chengyu in the Chinese language and they get used quite a bit.
When a foreigner manages to master the Chengyu – along with idiomatic expressions – both in written and spoken language, it means they have reached a very high level in the Chinese language.
In the course of my studies I’ve run into several of these expressions and wanted to draw up those I have encountered most frequently.
So below you will find a list of 148 Chengyu and idiomatic phrases that are among the most used in modern China:
1. 不可得兼 (bù kě dé jiān): “you can’t have both at the same time”
2. 不得其法 (bù dé qí fǎ): “not knowing the right way”
3. 心神不宁 (xīn shén bù níng): “to feel bad about nothing” [Read more…]
Learning Chinese has become an increasingly common objective not just for future Sinologists and experts but also for neophytes in the world of business where it has become continuously more important.
There are in fact an infinite amount of resources for how to best learn this language and facilitate learning for the user in this difficult undertaking.
These days, the quickest and most intuitive are certainly the numerous mobile apps for learning a language, and when it comes to Chinese, there’s one you probably already know.
Review of Pleco – Index
When speaking about the Chinese language, one of the most disturbing “facts” is that there is no alphabet. “So how do they do it? Is every word different? And how do they remember how it is written?”
It’s not easy to respond to these and other similar questions without understanding a little bit more about Chinese writing. In this article I will try to speak about the “alternative” system to the alphabet, that of radicals: perhaps, after having read it, you too will better understand the logic behind the Chinese language!
The radicals – Index
The smallest unit
What is the smallest unit of the Chinese language? For us it is the letter: a graphic symbol that indicates a sound (technically called a phenome). This makes English (along with Italian, Spanish, and German) an alphabetical language.
The smallest unit of the Chinese language is the syllable: this means that the characters (the units of writing that have the same function of our letters), in Chinese 汉字 (Hànzì, “Han characters”), correspond not to a single sound but to a syllable – making Chinese a syllabic language. [Read more…]
This article’s goal is to list the points that you should keep in mind before choosing Chinese classes and to give a small review of what are in our opinion the best schools in the city to learn the language.
Learning Chinese in Barcelona – Table of Contents
Should I try to learn Chinese?
Before starting to look for Chinese classes, you should ask yourself whether you really want to learn Chinese. To learn Chinese, you will need to be consistent and make an extra effort compared to other languages.
Learning Chinese is possible and is simpler than what people think. Like any language, Chinese has its difficulties (writing and tones) and its easy aspects (there are no conjugations, prepositions or genders).
The main challenge of learning Chinese is the fact that it is so different from our language. The majority of Western languages share the same logic, grammar and even vocabulary, which makes learning them a lot easier. On the contrary, Chinese has practically nothing in common with these languages. Just like it’s very difficult for Chinese people to learn English or Spanish, it’s very difficult for us to learn Chinese.
This contrast with our language means that you will need to make an extra effort to learn Chinese, and should be especially aware that you will need to dedicate a lot of time to it and be very consistent. If you’re not capable of ensuring that you can dedicate a certain amount of time to it over a long period of time, in my opinion, you should reconsider studying Chinese, and maybe choose a less demanding challenge, such as learning French or Spanish.
If you’re still reading after this point, maybe you do want to study Chinese, but considering the sacrifice that it implies, it’s very important for you to start out on the right foot.
It’s very common for people to abandon learning Chinese after a short time and to say that it’s because the language is impossible to learn. The main reasons are a lack of commitment and more importantly, the lack of professionalism in the majority of classes taught.
Private schools for studying Chinese in Barcelona
EsChina Space is a small academy founded in 2016 by a Chinese student and a Chinese teacher who was disappointed with the quality of Chinese language education in the city. EsChina Space specializes in offering personalized Mandarin classes to adults, children and companies. In addition to offering language classes, this small academy also offers cooking and Chinese painting workshops, among other cultural activities related to the Middle Kingdom.
This small center is specialized in offering customized training to small groups or individual classes for all levels.
Its teachers are all native speakers and are selected and trained by the school director to ensure the maximum educational quality.
Curricula follow the official methodology of the Chinese government, but also incorporate specific materials to maximize practical learning of the language.
Considering the quality of its education, its prices are quite low, although they are higher than at public schools.
Hexagrama is a private school specialized in teaching Chinese with more than ten years of experience. Hexagrama offers intensive or semi-intensive annual classes divided into six levels with its own teaching methodology.
Hexagrama was one of the first places to teach Chinese in Barcelona in small groups, has a good reputation and has native speaker teachers with experience teaching Chinese.
However, Hexagrama only offers annual classes with two annual admission periods, its prices are a bit high and some of its former students complain about the classes not being particularly demanding, which make them not particularly stimulating.
Public schools for studying Chinese in Barcelona
Escola Oficial d’Idiomes (EOI)
The Escola Oficial d’Idiomes (EOI) is a public educational institution financed by the Generalitat (province government) responsible for teaching language classes. This institution is without a doubt one of the most prestigious language schools in the city, and is currently definitely the one that attracts the most Chinese language students.
EOI offers Chinese classes at a very low price, following the European regulatory framework, meaning that you can obtain European official language proficiency certificates there.
Because it is one of the most popular schools, a lot of people apply to it and at times it can be difficult to get a spot, especially at the beginner level. You are only allowed to sign up twice a year, the registration period is very short and few schedules are offered (especially for advanced levels).
The majority of teachers at the EOI are not native speakers, although they are education professionals.
A common complaint among students is that because it follows the European regulatory framework, the classes are very demanding when it comes to formal aspects of the language (writing and grammar, among others) and are not demanding in terms of practical aspects (like speaking).
Fundació Institut Confuci Barcelona and Casa Asia
The Confucius Institute is a part of the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hanban), a body of the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China responsible for promoting Chinese language and culture across the globe. The Confucius Institute of Barcelona teaches Chinese classes both at its school as well as at numerous educational institutions in the city, such as the University of Barcelona, the Autonomous University of Barcelona or Casa Asia.
The Confucius Institute is a part of the Hanban, which is responsible for designing study programs for learning Chinese across the globe, is the publisher of many of the best books on the market as well as is responsible for organizing official HSK exams. Without a doubt, there are a large number of Chinese teaching professionals behind this organization. In addition, studying here can make it easier for you to access scholarships for studying in China.
Even though its prices are more expensive than the EOI, they are quite a bit cheaper than at private centers.
At the Confucius Institute, the majority of teachers are native speakers, but many of the teachers giving classes are volunteers, in other words, university students that are coming to do internships and who don’t have experience. In addition, the high degree of politicization of the center sometimes causes problems.
Common problems with Chinese language education in Barcelona
We have definitely not included all of the schools that offer quality classes in the previous list. However, there are certain things that you should keep in mind before choosing a Chinese school. Below I list three of the most common problems encountered with the classes available in the city, which have a decisive effect on quality.
One of the main problems that many language academies have is their inability to evaluate the quality of Chinese teachers. Finding good Chinese teachers in Barcelona is quite complicated, mainly for two reasons:
- As opposed to the case of native speakers of other languages, the Chinese people who live in Barcelona are mainly from rural areas, they have a relatively low level of education and they don’t usually dominate standard Mandarin.
- Being Chinese does not mean that you are a native Mandarin (official Chinese) speaker. In Barcelona, the majority of the Chinese people are from the Zhejiang province, where the dialects are very different from standard Mandarin. Many of these Chinese people don’t speak Mandarin correctly and/or speak it with a very strong accent.
Just because a school teaches multiple languages doesn’t mean that it’s qualified to teach Chinese, especially if it doesn’t have someone capable of being able to evaluate the teacher’s skill level in the language. Because of this, I recommend that before choosing a class, you ask yourself who selects the teachers.
As I have said, Chinese is a language that is very different from Western languages, because of which learning it means you can’t use the same system as other languages. One of the common problems at educational institutions is that they copy the study programs that have given them good results with other languages, such as English or French.
If you combine this with the fact that the majority of Chinese teachers have not been trained in teaching Chinese to non-native speakers, it’s very likely that they won’t have a teaching method and will follow the center’s curriculum, which has been designed by someone who doesn’t even speak Chinese.
As opposed to the case of English teachers, who tend to earn good wages due to the high demand for quality professionals, Chinese teachers tend to receive quite low wages. Chinese is a language that isn’t yet very popular, and students tend to not have much continuity, making it difficult to fill classes. Because of this, academies tend to pay very low wages to teachers.
Like any professional, highly educated Chinese people with experience teaching are not willing to work for just any salary.
So, I recommend that before choosing cheap classes, you ask yourself: how much could they be paying the teacher? If their wages have to be very low for the school to make money, don’t expect the teacher to be very committed to their job, as they won’t care whether they lose it or not.
Frequently asked questions
Learning Chinese is a lot easier than what many people think. Despite being a complicated language for native speakers of European languages, its grammar is very simple.
However, writing and pronunciation tend to be quite complicated.
Many people can teach themselves Chinese, and there are excellent tools to do so.
However, especially for beginners and advanced students, having a professional teacher to advise and guide you is essential to make proper progress.
There is no one answer to this question, because it depends on how many hours you dedicate to it, your environment and your consistency and motivation while studying.
For adults studying outside of China taking classes that last a minimum of four hours weekly and who spend adequate time studying on their own, it will take at least 4 or 5 years to achieve an intermediate-advanced level.
Chinese is a language with multiple dialects, some of which are mutually intelligible, such as Mandarin and Cantonese.
Mandarin is the official dialect of the People’s Republic of China and is the standardization of the dialects spoken in northern China.
Traditional and simplified Chinese are two variants of Chinese writing. Because of this, traditional and simplified Chinese are not spoken but rather either of these two systems can be used for writing. On the contrary, you can speak Mandarin or Cantonese, which are two variants of spoken Chinese.
Simplified Chinese is the result of a standardization and simplification of writing by the People’s Republic of China which took place in 1956 to promote literacy in the country.
Currently, simplified Chinese is used in mainland China, Malaysia and Singapore. On the contrary, traditional Chinese is used in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.
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Before you begin
This article is dedicated to analyzing the best public and private educational establishments for studying Chinese in Guilin and Yangshuo, two incredible places to live in the Guangxi province. In addition, we will analyze the pros and cons of studying Chinese in these two places.
If you’re interested in a more general overview of studying Chinese in China, you can read
Study Chinese in Guilin and Yangshuo – Index
Have you just started learning Chinese and have often heard about “Traditional Chinese” and “Simplified Chinese” and want to know what the difference is?
Do you already know the language rather well and want to know more on this particular aspect of writing?
Do you want to know how and when Chinese characters came to be simplified?
Have you studied simplified Chinese and would like to learn how to read a little of the traditional Chinese or viceversa?
In each of these cases, this article has been written just for you!
Simplified and Traditional Characters – Index
This article is a guide for people who want to study Chinese in Suzhou. Whether you already live in Suzhou and don’t know where to study or want to know if Suzhou is the right city for you, this article might be useful for you.
PS: if you’re interested in a more general overview of learning Chinese in China,
you can read our complete guide to it.
Studying Chinese in Suzhou – Table of Contents
Certainly one of the most curious things about the Chinese language is the writing system, with complex characters that are fascinating, often mysterious and almost magical. If you are in some degree familiar with this language you’ll have heard this question quite often – how do you write my name in Chinese?
You will have realized though that the answer isn’t all that simple! Translating a name into Chinese presents a different challenges that make it hard to do it straight away.
First of all, the Chinese language doesn’t have an alphabet: with the exception of a few cases, each character corresponds to a syllable and not a letter/sound as in alphabetic languages. For this reason, in the majority of cases you can’t simply just “transcribe” your name using different graphic symbols, as you could do with Japanese Kana for example.
Moreover, some sounds, syllables and sound combinations don’t exist in Chinese, such as the “v” or doubles and combinations with consecutive consonants, and so the necessary syllable for writing your name may not exist. In this case you’re forced to use a syllable that “sounds like” the original but isn’t exactly equal since other than missing “sounds”, Chinese also has another bonus – tones.
Each syllable corresponds to a character, which can then be used to transliterate (or write with another alphabet) foreign names. In modern Chinese there’s a set of characters that are often used for transcribing foreign names (similar to the Japanese Katakana, which is an alphabet created just for this reason): in practice, it’s a list of characters that when arranged in a combination that feels “odd” to Chinese people, will immediately indicate that it’s a foreign term (an actual name or borrowed term). [Read more…]
Which are the best Chinese language dictionaries? What type of dictionaries are available? How do you use them? If you’ve ever asked any of these questions, this article is for you!
Why learn how to use a Chinese paper dictionary?
We’ll speak about Chinese paper dictionaries, an indispensable tool for those learning Chinese (at least at university, where cell phones and computers aren’t allowed in classes or exams). The list we’re proposing is certainly not complete, but represents a good start for starting to understand something or have an idea about which tool is best for you and your study.
Once a staple until a few years ago, lately the paper dictionary is an increasingly less-used tool in favor of digital dictionaries (electronic dictionaries, online sites, specific software, pdf/ebook dictionaries and cellphone apps).
So why should you learn how to use one? There are two basic reasons, one of a practical nature and the other, theoretical so to speak.
First of all, those who study Chinese at university will already know this: you’re not allowed to use cell phones and tablets during exams, and as a result, a paper dictionary is the only option. Alternately, there are lots of electronic dictionaries that contain one or more paper dictionaries in digital format, which could be allowed by the teacher.
On the other hand, knowing how to use a Chinese paper dictionary presupposes a knowledge of the structure of characters that can’t be neglected by those who study the language, which I will try to explain in the simplest way possible. [Read more…]
Review of LingQ – Index
What is LingQ?
LingQ is a platform created by polyglot Steve Kaufmann, for the purpose of learning one or more languages in an interactive way.
What impressed me, compared to the many other courses that I’ve used or reviewed here on this site, is the level of interaction the platform allows, which offers sort of an “open system” for importing study material and using it the way you want.
For example, you can import an entire book in PDF, click on words you don’t know to find the meaning and pronunciation, save those words to a list of flashcards (or “LingQ”, as the platform is called), which you can then use to review the new words.
But let’s go in order… [Read more…]
Before you begin
This article is dedicated to analyzing the best public and private schools for studying Chinese in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province. In addition, we go over the pros and cons of studying Chinese in Kunming.
If you’re interested in a more general overview of studying Chinese in China, you can read this article.