13
votes
6answers
760 views

Are children's books a good starting place for beginners?

I was wondering if Chinese children's books might be a good starting place for adult Chinese language newbies (regardless of whether it be Mandarin, Cantonese, Wu, whatever), in particular for ...
13
votes
4answers
202 views

How to Find Characters in a Dictionary?

In English we would look words based on their alphabetical order. But how are Chinese dictionaries ordered to allow you to find what you are looking for - is it based on the radicals, number of ...
13
votes
5answers
528 views

Learning how to use measure / count words properly

Chinese has measure (or count) words like “个” (一个人), “部” (三部车), etc. These always get me confused, and there way too many of them. Are there any general rules that can help me memorize them? Also, ...
13
votes
2answers
1k views

Does an Alarm clock 吵醒 or 叫醒?

I'm trying to figure out whether an alarm clock 吵醒我, or 叫醒我。 I'd like to say the sentence my alarm clock woke me up at 5:30 today my translation so far is 今天早上五点半, 我手机的闹钟叫醒了我。 Can 叫醒 be done by ...
13
votes
3answers
1k views

血: xuè , xiě, what's the difference?

Is there some sort of logical rule for when 血 is xuè and when it is xiě?
13
votes
1answer
481 views

Meaning of “~~” at the end of a sentence

I see quite often a few "~" characters placed at the end of sentences, especially in e-mails, texts, and social networks. Is this an informal exclamation or an emphasis mark? For example, the ...
13
votes
2answers
383 views

What is the difference between 总是 and 一直?

I've always (no pun intended) wondered what the difference is between the two words. I thought they both meant always, but I've never quite grasped in what context they should be used. Could anyone ...
13
votes
2answers
10k views

Informal ways of beginning/ending an e-mail

I have been writing quite a few e-mails recently and I feel that I want to expand my vocabulary regarding acceptable phrases to use both at the beginning and end of an e-mail. When I say informal, I ...
13
votes
1answer
404 views

How do non-native speakers get to perceive tones in Chinese?

Recently I've been teaching an English-speaking friend some basics about Chinese, but inevitably he got stuck with the tones. I've demonstrated to him the 4 tones with audio files, yet it seems hard ...
12
votes
5answers
756 views

Is any simplified character also a traditional character?

I don't mean traditional characters that weren't simplified, thus being the same in traditional and simplified. What I ask if there is any simplified character which in turn has the same form of ...
12
votes
5answers
311 views

Why isn't 到 (dào) used in this sentence?

Earlier while chatting, I wrote a sentence and a native speaker told me it was correct. The sentence was: 某天我去北京。= Someday I'll go to Beijing. (mǒu tiān wǒ qù Běi jīng) I noticed that no ...
12
votes
6answers
464 views

Do all schools in China teach in Standard Chinese (普通话)?

When I went to China, it was apparent that many (sometimes most) people still spoke their local dialects instead of Standard Chinese/Putonghua (also known as "Mandarin" in English). I was told that ...
12
votes
5answers
444 views

How do we know what characters correspond to Chinese names?

Recently I've asked "How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?", and now, I'm facing a similar, yet kind of different problem, which I think applies to any westerner or Chinese ...
12
votes
7answers
18k views

Special meanings applied to numbers 0 - 10

From what I understand: 4 or 四 means death 8 is similar to 发 as in 发财 9 is somehow related to the emporer or is the emporer's number Can someone please provide the meanings (if they exist) for ...
12
votes
8answers
793 views

How to translate: 人是铁,饭是钢,一顿不吃烦得慌. What is the logic?

人是铁,饭是钢,一顿不吃烦得慌 I can not really figure out to translate this sentence. I guess it basically means that not eating is a bad thing. The first sentences - do they indicate that "iron" and "steel" ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Are 明白 and 懂 synonymous?

Are 明白 and 懂 synonymous? If not, could anyone please elaborate on the difference along with some examples of usage?
12
votes
6answers
838 views

What's the difference between 学 and 学习?

I know both mean "to study" and I also know that while 学 (xué) is transitive, 学习 (xué xí) can be both intransitive and transitive, for example: 我学中文。 (I study «what?» Chinese) = transitive; 我在大学学习。 ...
12
votes
8answers
2k views

What is the best way to teach a child Mandarin?

My son is almost 8 weeks old. I don't speak Mandarin (yet, currently in progress) and am looking for ways to start him on learning Mandarin early, maybe at about 1 year of age. What is the best way ...
12
votes
6answers
2k views

How do Chinese speakers pronounce unknown characters?

I'm wondering what do Chinese speakers do when they are reading aloud and encounter a character they don't know (sometimes it happens, isn't it?). In phonetic languages, there is a possibility to ...
12
votes
9answers
3k views

Why Cantonese is considered as a dialect of Chinese?

Can someone explain why Cantonese is considered as a dialect of Chinese, instead of a language? It is also for any language exist in China, both land and Taiwan (Cantonese, Hunanese, Fujianese, ...
12
votes
3answers
530 views

How does foreign word transliteration work in the context of Cantonese vs Mandarin?

If I understand correctly, Cantonese sounds very different from Mandarin, despite being written in the same way (omitting some small differences, which are irrelevant for the question). If it is the ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

When and why is right to left writing used?

I have encountered characters written horizontally right to left on signs (at the top of a gate) and on vehicles. When is this used and why? Was this more common in the past? Are the individuals ...
12
votes
3answers
2k views

Why 纹 is the wrong character to write for tattoo?

I've only ever known tattoo (wénshēn) to be written as 纹身. I was reading an article from 凤凰财经 yesterday called 猪躺着也能挣:一张纹身猪皮值百万. What struck me, though, were all the comments on the article saying ...
12
votes
2answers
147 views

Is the usage of European punctuation acceptable in Chinese writing?

Chinese punctuation is a little bit different from European punctuation, for example: The full stop (period) is "。" instead of "." The ellipsis are six vertically centered dots (… …) instead of just ...
12
votes
5answers
848 views

Addressing women as “小姐” in Northern China

I heard that it is not appropriate to call women or girls "小姐" in northern China. That it is considered rough and has a meaning close to "hooker". So I never address girls or women as "小姐" in the ...
12
votes
2answers
681 views

Are 乒 and 乓 used in classical chinese?

乒乓 is the modern word for ping pong, based around onomatopoeia (and similarity to 兵 for phonetic element) and, as some people claim, shape. I was wondering if this shape explanation is true, or little ...
12
votes
1answer
541 views

When to use 了 and when to use 过 to express past actions or events

I kind of have an idea when 了 and 过 should be used but it's mostly on a case by case basis, and I don't know the exact rules. So if I want to express something that happened in the past, when should ...
12
votes
3answers
1k views

中文 vs. 汉语: What's the difference?

Apparently, both of these mean Chinese, and the Chinese language. I gather that 中文 is maybe more like "written Chinese," and 汉语 is "spoken Chinese." Is this correct? I've often looked at BBC ...
12
votes
2answers
189 views

Is there a rule that tells what characters can be omitted?

I have a habit of using too many characters when I speak and write. For example: 我回我的家。 我的 is not needed, and we can simply say 我回家。 Is there a grammar rule for when to cut characters? A ...
12
votes
2answers
693 views

How do native speakers structure their essays?

When analyzing Chinese speeches or essays, I often have difficulty understanding how their the authors organized their ideas. In North America, for example, a common template for writing an essay is ...
11
votes
8answers
852 views

Sheep or goat? 一只羊跑过来

In the sentence: 一只羊跑过来 Would a Chinese person typically assume this is a goat or a sheep?
11
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do the names of some Chinese companies consist of “repeated” words?

I'm referring to the repetition of names such as "Dangdang" and "Renren." Why is this the case?
11
votes
4answers
3k views

权力的游戏 - Game of Thrones names - latest episode - SPOILERS

So I'm practicing by reading Game of Throne tweets and it's the names and naming that gets me. Here's the tweet and 5 questions on names and naming conventions. ...
11
votes
6answers
597 views

When is it appropriate to address a lady as 先生?

Chairman Mao addressed Soong Ching-ling as 宋庆龄先生. Yang Jiang was also addressed as 杨绛先生 by the public. My dad used to tell me to address some of his female colleagues as 先生 too. I wonder why a lady ...
11
votes
4answers
4k views

How to improve my Chinese writing

When someone has grasped the basic concepts of writing Chinese there comes a point where handwriting starts to look plain or mechanical. From what I have seen the lines look very straight and like ...
11
votes
4answers
752 views

How to pronounce “下载”

How to pronounce the word "下载", "xià zǎi" or "xià zài"? Most Chinese people pronounce it "xià zǎi", but there are some people insist on pronouncing it "xià zài". There are different also different ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

How do I say “damn!” or “bloody hell” in Chinese?

The phrase 他妈的 has been explained in this question. Since I'm a no-expletives guy, I don't feel comfortable so close to the f-word. :) I was wondering what would be the correct way to use some of the ...
11
votes
3answers
308 views

Use of 十年中 to express duration

Does 十年中 mean "in ten years"? I found it in this sentence from tatoeba.org: 他十年中第一次回家。 He returned home for the first time in ten years. It seems like I could use the same pattern to say, ...
11
votes
5answers
4k views

Various ways to say “nice to meet you”

When I first started learning Chinese I knew the in order to say "Nice to meet you" or "Pleased to meet you," I had to use the following expression: 很高兴见到您。 But recently I've come across other ...
11
votes
4answers
938 views

Does 多 always come after the measure word?

I've realized that I still don't fully understand the placement of "多“ a relatively common word. Can you never place 多 before a measure word? A friend recently corrected my "四多快美金“ into 四块多美金” but ...
11
votes
4answers
2k views

What is a polite way to ask “may I ask who is speaking?”

A man I don't know calls me and starts talking to me in Chinese. All is fine, except I don't know who he is. I sense I'm not the person he's looking for. How do I ask who he is without being too ...
11
votes
3answers
452 views

What is the meaning of 当仁不让?

I was browsing the Chinese internet looking for a bank that supports Mac OS when I came across this site. They list a range of different banks under a range of different headings, the first of which ...
11
votes
6answers
323 views

Why is 两 used for quantities of two rather than 二?

I understand that 两 is used instead of 二 when dealing with quantities of two. However, my question is - why? What are the historical reasons behind this? I looked at Wikitionary but it only had ...
11
votes
3answers
456 views

高兴 vs 快乐 vs 愉快 vs 幸福: what's the difference?

So, I'm a bit confused. All the time. 高兴 eg 我很高兴 It seems 高兴 has a connotation of impermanence .. you could be happy right now but unhappy later on. It appears to be the most common, most ...
11
votes
3answers
588 views

足: why is “foot” also “enough”?

足 is an ancient character meaning "foot". However, it also means "enough" or "sufficient", and this second definition is also very old. Consider this excerpt: 兵甲已足。——诸葛亮《出师表》 This is from ...
11
votes
1answer
3k views

Different names for each of the fingers

In English we have different names for each of the fingers: Thumb, index, middle, ring and pinky fingers. Are there special names for each of these in Chinese and if necessary what are the ...
11
votes
2answers
828 views

How are blanks indicated for placeholders in Chinese (like ???)

In English, in the middle of a sentence if data is being left blank (such as an unknown date, or a name to be filled in at a later time), commonly you see ???, ___ (underscore(s)), or -- to mark this. ...
11
votes
6answers
829 views

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常?

What is the difference between 通常,经常,and 常常? I hear them a lot in conversational Chinese, but I can't pick out the difference in meaning. The dictionaries I've checked don't seem to agree on their ...
11
votes
2answers
541 views

Where should I place the comma in large numbers?

If writing for an exclusively Chinese audience, would the number 五萬 be written as 5,0000 or 50,000? To flesh out the question, we could consider: 五千 5000 or 5,000 五萬 5,0000 or 50,000 ...
11
votes
5answers
2k views

Any difference between 早安 and 早上好?

Is there any difference in meaning, formality, tone, or otherwise between the "good morning" greetings 早安 and 早上好? Or just regional preferences? (I'm thinking perhaps the former may be more common in ...

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