Reading books for Chinese learners

Reading books for Chinese learners

Having set my eye on doing the HSK 3 exam in the summer, this requires me to recognise many new Chinese characters. I’ve been keeping an eye out on Chinese books that would be helpful for me to read in Mandarin… I would love to be able to read the Harry Potter books, but they are way too difficult! Maybe in a few more years! My friend said she bought some Mandarin books for foreigners which she said are pretty good so I wanted to give them a go.

So for Christmas, I asked Rafa could he buy me some Mandarin books for me to learn from… and sure enough, he bought me a couple on the internet for my Kindle.

The ones I have are from Mandarin Companion, Chinese Graded Reader. I think so far they have 2 levels, myself studying Level 1.

In the book, it states

Level 1 is designed around the Mandarin Companion’s core set of 300 basic characters. . .. . most of the vocabulary will be simple everyday words that the reader is likely to know.’

It goes on to talk about what level is right for a person and how reading will help improve your Chinese.

What’s good about these books is that they use classic books like ‘The Secret Garden’.. one that mostly everyone has heard about, but the characters and the locations are adapted into Chinese, instead of sticking to the original’s.

At the moment I have finished reading ‘The Monkeys Paw’, which I thought was very good. It isn’t extremely long, but it gives you about 80 new vocabulary, and they make you review the already known characters and phrases throughout the whole book.

With the kindle version, if you don’t know a phrase, you can also highlight it and it will translate for you into English the meaning. In this particular book, there are 10 chapters, with the new vocabulary and their meanings located at the back. There are then questions in Chinese that you can answer about the storyline, the characters and so on.


And most of all, it’s enjoyable!

If you want more information about Mandarin Companion, check out this website: Mandarin Companion Review

So If you are thinking of learning Mandarin, I suggest, when you know some Hanzi, you should try out one of these books….they are enjoyable to read, and they help you remember the Chinese grammar.

Plus, you feel so smart when you read a book completely in Mandarin!



Our idea of moving

As much as I love the city of Chengdu, I think.. finally, we have come to the conclusion that we need to move.

After coming back from Ireland, the cold here has just been driving us mad. Even tidying the house is actually a struggle, with our crappy air con, the apartment is still freezing, meaning all we want to do is sit huddled beside our ‘fires’.

The pollution is also another major factor. I’ve heard, 7,500 people in China die from cancer…. each day! With lung cancer as one of the most common cancers. . . what a surprise.

I suppose at this stage, I’ve become numb about the whole pollution issue. Yes it’s here, I see it everyday in the sky, but… thats Chengdu. And I go about my business. I suppose when I hear it from people back home talking about the air quality in China that I realise ‘yeah, it actually is a problem’.

Recently, every Sunday there seems to be a respite from the pollution…. and the sun shines bright with no clouds to be seen. I love Chengdu when the weather is good. If the weather was sunny, I would definitely stay here longer. I’ve been here nearly two and a half years so this city has become ‘home’ in a way.

I’m familiar with the roads and locations (of most places), I enjoy riding on the e-bike as it’s so convenient. I like our complex; not too big or small. We are within walking distance of shops and restaurants. Uni is super handy to get to, and I just walk 10 minutes to get the bus to work. Plus, the new subway line is hopefully going to open in the summer, about a 15 minute walk away from us.

I’m comfortable here, so when I think of us moving, and having to start from scratch….. it definitely makes me nervous and anxious.

This time next year we hope to move to another city in China, so by then we’ll have two years of learning Mandarin which I’m sure should help us in moving just that bit easier.

One city that we are seriously considering is Xiamen. This is in the south east of China, opposite the island of Taiwan. The weather is much better I hear. For me, Xiamen looks ‘tropical’…. whereas Chengdu is more ‘rustic’. We were possibly thinking of Kunming, but it seems like the city’s weather is also becoming more prone to smog.

Anyway, we do have another year to decide.

I’ll try not to panic just yet!



Needing to buy a heater.

Needing to buy a heater.

Having returned to Chengdu, we have given up the warmth of our lovely fire stove at home in return for our measly old air conditioner that puffs out (just about) luke warm air. Having become spoilt by the fire in Ireland, the return to the cold and having to wear jackets all day, even indoors, we were forced to take action.

Both of us just couldn’t stand the constant feeling of being cold. Inside; it’s cold. Outside; it’s cold. In a restaurant; it’s cold. And this coldness permeates through your whole body, which makes it worse. Although Ireland is cold, especially with the crisp breeze, Chengdu seems worse. I’m not sure why…. it just is. At home, you know that when you go inside some place it’s going to be warm. When we went to our local shopping centre, I was that warm I had to take my coat off! But in Chengdu, that will unfortunately, never, ever be the case.

Becoming fed up with this, we decided, on our second day of returning, to go and buy ourselves one of these heaters. These don’t exist in Ireland, but I’m sure they would go down a treat! And for the great price of 98yuan, or about 13euro, they were a fantastic price! You can set it on a timer, there are two temperatures; 450W and 900W, and they even move side to side! They really are a great job! There is a strong light which reflects the back panel and gives off heat.  The red light also makes it cosy at night…. almost like a REAL fire! haha

God I’d be a really good salesperson for Baoerma!


At it’s full glory.



Look at it go!

We have one each, with me saying ‘Oh I think I’ll put the fire on’. Seeing as I don’t have the luxury of our fire stove at home, our new heaters will be satisfactory I think.

We’re going to get great use out of these for the next few months, until the heat starts rolling in. Then they’ll be tucked away and out will come our fan to cool us down!….. and of course, once again courtesy of Baoerma.



My (few) New Years resolutions.

With 2016 nearly upon us, I’ve been thinking about what my new years resolutions will be.

Study more Chinese.

This is the most important one! I really love learning Chinese, I really do,I just wish I could actually see some significant improvement! I know I learnt loads, but until I can successfully have a decent conversation in Chinese, I won’t be happy. I plan on reading Chinese books (thanks to Rafa for buying them for me), watching Chinese movies and practise my listening and speaking.

 Do the HSK 3 exam.

I’ve been putting this HSK thing off for way too long now, so this year I WILL do it! I really need to focus on the characters though, as for the level 3 exam there are a lot of characters I don’t know. As I don’t get a degree from studying in the Uni, this exam is actually physical proof of the effort I put into Chinese.

Do more exercise.

These past few months I admittedly gained some weight. My suspicions attributed to this come from buying a huge block of cheese from Metro…. and it was gone in about 4 months. We plan on doing more walking to and from Uni, so hopefully we will see a difference. Also, when we make food ourselves, our portion size is a tad on the large size for just 2 people. 

 Travel more around China. 

Although this resolutions is only a dream, as, at the moment I can’t afford it, but maybe I may get the chance this year with a stroke of luck. Ha I’ll give the Chinese Lottery a go! There are so many places to visit here, you would need a few solid months to travel around.

Last but not least, be happier.

Although I enjoy living in China, just some days I wish I was back home with my family. I enjoy my Mum’s cooking too much while I’m at home, and I will really miss clothes shopping in Penneys (Primark). I hate clothes shopping in China; the employees girls hovering beside me makes me feel like a robber in their shops. I think my problem is I reminisce too much about home and then get sad. I need to enjoy my time in China more!



A sisterly surprise.

For the past month, myself and Rafa’s sister have been secretly communicating with each other in order for her to come to Ireland to surprise Rafa. Since arriving home, my nerves have been nearly gone with worry that he would find out! Constantly looking over my shoulder, my phone was nearly always with me and I tried to make sure my facebook page was closed so I wouldn’t get any notifications. 

The day she arrived I made the excuse of having to pick up his ‘present’ from town. Thankfully he didn’t suspect a thing and he arrived downstairs greeted by his sister sitting on the sofa. I also got the whole thing on video to capture the moment!

For the few days that she was here, we went to a local pub… and it was mad busy! Becoming used to the quiet bars of Chengdu, this one was crazy; plenty of drunk people and blaring music, I was nearly ready to walk out of the place. Thankfully though we found a corner to stand at and we then began to enjoy ourselves.

We also went to see the new Star Wars, which I might add was very good! We also visited a small village called ‘Carlingford’ a picturesque seaside area that is popular with tourists during the summer. Although when we arrived theres wasn’t a soul there and it was quite cold, so we went to a small cafe and enjoyed a tasty scone and hot chocolate.

Our last night comprised of the family going for a lovely meal and visiting Santa. I bought Nathan a traditional Chinese outfit so he wore that. He looked so cute! We plan to put it on him for Christmas Day and get some nice pictures of him.

After 4 days she left to go back to France, but we’ll be seeing her quite soon. Next August she is visiting us, along with her boyfriend in Chengdu! I’m sure that will fly by!



Christmas At Home.

I’ve been home for nearly a week now, enjoying Mums food and playing with my nephews. My older nephew, I notice, has improved his English since the last time I saw him. He’s started Primary school so he comes up with words like ‘approaching’  and ‘nocturnal’, which have surprised me! I’m so used to kids his age in China only being able to say very basic English words. And the youngest, who is 10 months old, can now sit up unaided and can clap his hands! 

The weather of course is rainy and cloudy, but it’s lovely to be inside in the warmth! Rafa was afraid that he would be freezing in Ireland, but I assured him that inside places it’s warm. Instead of Chengdu where EVERYWHERE is cold! It’s nice not having to wear a coat indoors!

My Chinese studies is slowly coming back, where I’ve been translating our textbook into English, or  I should say into ‘Chinglish.’ That way we can read the Chinglish and try to translate it back into Mandarin. I feel like I’m actually studying by doing this. I have plenty of time to study, but of course TV and the nephews pull me away.

And I’ve FINALLY gotten my hair cut and coloured. After my bad experience during the summer, I held off getting it done until now. After letting it grow for the past 3/4 years, I got it cut to my shoulders. My hair dresser said the colour should last a few months, as it’s my natural hair colour… but, my hair isn’t the best at keeping colours in, so I wont be surprised if it’s much brighter soon.

So next week I have my hospital appointment, then Christmas is around the corner! I still have stuff to get, but I still have time.

China wise, I’m not missing too much. I miss my independence though as this time I don’t have the small car to be able to drive places, so I’ve been relying on my parents to drop us places. We have, to me the ‘big car’, but I think It’s too big to drive, so I’m reluctant to buy insurance for it in case I don’t drive it. But I may brave it and venture out one day in it!



Yay, we got our visas!

Our 2 week wait is finally at an end! This morning we travelled to the centre of Chengdu to retrieve our new year long visas. Although we gave everything that we needed, we were unsure whether we would need to do a Medical exam. We prayed we wouldn’t, so when we handed over our documents, and when they didn’t mention anything about the Medical, then we presumed we were safe. However I constantly had that niggling feeling that they could ask (and I really wouldn’t be surprised) for a health check.

But, thankfully we received our passports with no problems! That is one less thing to worry about, and knowing 100 percent that we can now travel to Ireland. Leaving in 2 weeks, we will be there for a month, time for me to get my procedure done and then time with the family for Christmas.

I missed 2 Christmases at home, so this was a complete surprise that I would be home for this one. After going home for the summer, Christmas was DEFINITELY not on the cards. But oh well, I’ll enjoy it anyway. God knows when I’ll be back.

Although I will be missing a few weeks of Uni, I plan on trying to study the missed chapters at home and also during my private tutoring before I leave. It is amazing what vocab you pick up, and the random ones that stick.

鬼: gui= ghost.

拉肚子: la duzi= to have diarrhoea.

疯: feng= crazy/mad

Ha, I mightn’t be able to ask for directions, but I can confidently say If I have diarrhoea. Also the word for ‘ghost’ is one that I have stored, although quite useless.

It is amazing though, what words crop up during English class with my students. For instance, I was explaining the word ‘famous’, which she didn’t know. I said the Chinese of it to her and she immediately understood. I’m noticing more and more English words appearing that I actually know the Chinese of them, which is great for me! I’m actually remembering them.

My head even translated something into Chinese which I had forgotten the word in English! We were eating some bbq and I noticed this lady was using extremely long chopsticks while cooking; maybe 3 times the length of normal ones. I told Rafa ‘Oh look at the lady using the long…….’

I actually forgot the name in English for chopsticks, and before I knew it, kuaizi popped into my head! ha although this experience may have just been a once off, there is still hope that in the future I won’t need to translate EVERYTHING in my head.

And with regards to my very bad student, I had a short talk with my PA, and before she tried to convince me to take her again I said NO. No way. Although I feel bad for not teaching her, I don’t feel bad having to put up with her.

The PA said ‘Aisling I’m so sorry for putting you through this.’

I replied ‘You shouldn’t be sorry, you don’t have to be.  It’s not your fault and It’s not my fault either. It’s the parents fault for not teaching her daughter good behaviour. ‘

I advised her to give her to a male teacher; she may be more timid with them. But we’ll see how it goes!