University Time Once More

With summer flying by, I’m once again back at Uni. One of the reasons why it seems that it went so fast is because here I don’t finish until the end of June… whereas at home, colleges finish the end of May. So we got an extra month of holidays in Ireland. Here however, Chinese people get more holidays during Chinese New Year, and two months off during summer.

Having come back from travelling, studying Chinese had taken a break. Since Monday I’ve been back to Uni, so my studying is back underway again.

This semester we have decided to skip a level and move up to Level 5. Every level I’ve been in wasn’t exactly a struggle. I’d go in, learn and come back out. I knew I wasn’t really pushing myself.

That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to try 5. Plus doing all 10 levels would take 5 years….. so no thank you.

I’ve only had 2 days of class, but I know already It will be more difficult than before. Before, I understood everything that the teacher said and the Chinese she wrote on the board, and the grammar wasn’t too difficult either.

This time round, I don’t understand everything the teacher says… there are plenty of Chinese characters I don’t know…. oh and the grammar is tougher. Even the book content has jumped up a notch… with more difficult sentences and Chinese characters. I really need to preview everything before class now.

Only 6 of us moved to level 5 from our level 3 class, with some moving to 4. I’ve been with them since Level 2, so it’s a bit weird not being in the same class as them now.

And with every semester it seems as if my standard of Chinese is getting lower and lower. Level 2 my Chinese was better than most, 3… it was average… this time round… I feel it’s lower than a lot of peoples. But I suppose that just makes me realise that I need to continue learning.

I feel like my Chinese hasn’t improved at all, especially my speaking…. but then I remembered the first day we came to the school… we ended up going to the Level 5 classroom by accident. We asked the lady next to us what book she was using, as hers was different to ours.. and she showed us. Seeing all these Chinese characters made us quickly jump out of our chairs and head to our correct Level 1 classroom. At that time I knew zero characters… absolutely none.

Now, the teachers fills the whole board with characters which we have to read. Most of them I can read no problem… but it showed me that this time 1 year and a half ago, there was no way I could read them. . . so I suppose I did learn a lot since the time I started.

I’m just hoping in a few weeks time I’m not crying about how difficult this semester is!





Methods On Learning Chinese: Week 2

For last weeks meeting on how to learn Chinese more efficiently, we were introduced to a new systematic way of remember both tones and the pronunciation.

It sort of involves a memory palace, where sets of pinyin like ‘iong’ are put into either categories like men, women, animation characters, or gods.  So far, I’m still confused with how you go about trying to remember how each pinyin is represented by one of these categories, so this week’s lesson will explain to us in more detail how it works.

I think it’s very clever way of memorising Chinese. God know’s It has been difficult for me.

They also gave us Anki decks where we have to pick a picture of someone, say George Clooney, and match him with a sound like zh. That way you associate that sound with a person.

To me now it’s still all a bit confusing, but hopefully in tonight’s class it will all become clearer!



And Suddenly It’s May

Without a doubt, time is flying by. It is May already! Only 8 more weeks of semester 3 and then I’m finished again for the holidays. I’m beginning to dislike holiday time; many students cancel during this time, meaning no wage coming in. Also, no more Mon-Thur of Chinese lesson. I suppose I kind of like having a routine; so when summer comes you need to sort of set up a new routine!  In my opinion, holiday time is sometimes quite boring. Especially if you don’t have plans to travel.

Thankfully we seem to be busy during the summer… I just have to try and save as much money as possible now. And also try and cram as much Mandarin in as possible before I forget it all during Summer.

During our holiday breaks, I always miss studying; it’s the main reason I’m here. So when I’m not at Uni, I feel like I’m wasting my days away. For me, a classroom setting is how I learn. I know other people who are more suited to studying by myself, but I myself need classroom based learning.

We’ve been slowly moving up the levels in our Uni, but next semester I think we will move up to Level 5, instead of going to Level 4. In our Uni there are 10 levels, so I feel we are moving way to slowly. Unfortunately our school only does 1 book per semester, whereas I know other schools that teach 2 books per semester. Although I am sure If I had to study 2, I think It would be much more difficult to grasp the vocab/grammar. So although we only study 1, at least we know that we should understand the learning content.

Having been in 3 levels in the Uni, I think my favourite class was Level 2. In level 1, everything was new to me, making new friends, studying at the Uni… actually beginning to learn Chinese. Although I did meet friends that we still meet up with and hang out so!

In Level 2, we were kind of like a family; everyone joked with each other, it wasn’t such a big class, and we generally got on with one another really well.We all wanted everyone to do well in the class! We all clapped after someone had to talk for a bit in Chinese; an actually sincere clap to say ‘Well Done!’

In Level 3, I hate to say it, but there are a lot of ‘dry’ people in our class. There are not as many jokes as before, it’s more serious, and I get the feeling that people are competing more with one another. Plus, the class is way too big so that doesn’t help. Our teacher tried to split us into two groups, but unfortunately no one wanted to have class after lunch, so that went out the window. So in this class, after someone has said something and we clap, it’s kind of like ‘We don’t really care what you said, we have to clap.’

But oh well, I still enjoy the class and I’m learning a lot!




It’s a Foreigner Thing

Not only is learning Chinese difficult for me, but it can also be difficult for a native speaker having to listen to a non-native butcher their language!

During the week, one of our teachers decided to play a game with us. Having split the class into two teams, she each gave us a piece of paper with two Chinese words that we have learnt since the beginning of the semester. We each had to explain what our two words were, without actually saying them.

Our poor teacher! One of the students would be saying a sentence and we would have to quickly raise our hand if we knew the word they were referring to. Our teacher would look at us with astonishment and ask ‘How did you know that was the word???’ She didn’t have a clue what some of the students were saying, but us foreigners did!

For Chinese people, they have learnt Chinese through tones…. so a lot of times when foreigners say something, Chinese people just don’t understand us, simply because our tones aren’t good enough. They rely very heavily on tones to get the meaning across.

Whereas with us during class, we weren’t listening as much to the tones, but to the overall sentence and what they were trying to say.

We have one student from France, and he has a very strong accent when he speaks in Chinese. There are times when he says something and I listen and think ‘God it sounds as if he just spoke French just now’.  But when he said his sentence, the hands went straight up!

Our teacher, god love her…she didn’t have a clue what he said. We kept repeating ‘It’s a foreigner thing’. Each of us were speaking in Chinglish but we all managed to figure out what we were saying, and guess the correct word.

So I suppose that game made us realise that Chinese people won’t understand us a lot of times, but also how us foreigners can manage to get by with our Chinglish… even though it’s only to other foreigners! ha that is a lot of help!

I enjoyed the game though… and plus my team won!





First Week Back Studying: Recap

So I’ve been back at Uni studying Mandarin a week now, and all in all it went quite well! A few more people joined the class, while a few others left, so next week everyone will probably stick to one level now.

Some students in my class are coming to the first two classes in Level 3, and then moving to Level 4 for the listening and speaking part. We are going to stay put in Level 3; we have the book for next semester so are Chinese friend said we can start to learn that book with her. That way next semester we can jump to Level 5.

What is pretty annoying however is that there are 10 levels altogether! So if I started from Level 1… it would take me 5 years to complete the whole series of the book!! Although I really enjoy the series that we are using, I definitely think we move too slow.

In some ways I feel level 1 didn’t teach us too much, but what it was good for was pinyin and tones (how to pronounce Chinese). This of course is very important when learning Chinese, and I feel my pronunciation of words has improved because of studying this.

But as always, I’m always angry at myself; I can’t remember this words, I forget how to write a character, my sentence isn’t correct, I can’t think quick enough when thinking of an answer. . . .

My quest for perfection and being perfect in Chinese will always nag at me. Ha it is unfortunately a never ending battle!

So, I try and study as much as a can…. until I forget something and get frustrated at myself, again.

Oh, if only someone Chinese could implant their language into my own head……. that would be brilliant.








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!