42
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12answers
5k views

Resources for learning Mandarin Chinese

This is a specifically created Community Wiki which gathers resources for learning Mandarin Chinese and it has been approved by the Community itself. It should be clear that the resources are not ...
24
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7answers
1k views

Is there a lot of value in learning to write Chinese characters?

I have noticed that a lot of my friends that study Chinese at university spend a lot of their time learning to write Chinese. I would estimate more than 50% of their chinese study time is spent on ...
22
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4answers
1k views

How many characters do I need to learn?

How many Chinese characters would I generally need to learn to be able to handle most text in typical every day circumstances? How many would be required to be considered fluent? Are there any good ...
21
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8answers
2k views

的-地-得, when do you use which?

So the age old question of 的-地-得, when do you use which? When spoken, it all sounds the same, but on paper it depends on if it's a verb, noun, adjective. But I don't quite remember if that is all that ...
20
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7answers
715 views

Why is 有 (yǒu) the only verb that requires 没 while other verbs can use 不?

To negate something, we use 不 (bù) before the verb, such as in this short dialogue: A: 你是老师吗? = Are you a teacher? B: 不是。 = I'm not. However, the verb 有 (yǒu) is the only one that requires 没 ...
19
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3answers
542 views

What is the difference between 作 and 做?

作 and 做 are both translated as "do" or "make"; how can I tell when I should use one or the other?
18
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9answers
10k views

Is it easier to learn Chinese after learning Japanese or vice versa?

For those who speak both Chinese and Japanese, would first learning Chinese make it easier to learn Japanese? Knowing that Japanese Kanji are derived from Chinese characters, how hard is it to do the ...
18
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11answers
845 views

Etymology of the Chinese number characters (一二三四五六七八九十百千)

Main Question: What is the etymology of the Chinese number characters (一二三四五六七八九十百千)? Related question: Why isn't 四 four lines? (the origin of 一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九) I decide to write a ...
18
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8answers
843 views

Techniques for improving pronunciation

Are there any recommended resources or methodologies to improve your Chinese pronunciation? Besides having a native speaker at your disposal, are there any tools that can help to correct ...
17
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5answers
952 views

Can native Chinese speakers distinguish tones in songs?

I already have a hard time distinguishing tones in normal speech. This gets significantly worse when I listen to Chinese songs, since the melody masks tones even further. Yes, I understand that ...
17
votes
2answers
381 views

How did 葉 (leaf as in vegetation) become 叶 when it was simplified?

This is a spin-off question from this one "Determine radicals for simplified characters that lost their traditional form completely" where radicals for simplified characters were discussed. Now, the ...
17
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6answers
693 views

How polite is too polite?

I've noticed in China that people don't tend to use as many 'polite' words as we do in western languages, like 'please' or 'thank you'. I want to make it clear that I'm not complaining about this; I ...
17
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7answers
1k views

What is a good technique for remembering tones?

I find it a great struggle to try and remember tones for all the new vocab I learn, and aside from gradually picking up tones by listening and talking with native speakers, I can't really remember ...
16
votes
11answers
26k views

How to describe differences between Cantonese and Mandarin?

When I tell people I speak Cantonese I'm often asked, "What's the difference between that and Mandarin?". This inevitably leads to a very poor explanation that includes references to the differences ...
16
votes
5answers
428 views

How to differentiate between “On Top” and “Above”

If I wanted to translate the prepositional phrase "on the bed" to Chinese, I know to say "床上", but I don't know what the translation would be for saying "above/over the bed". From what I can gather, ...
16
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7answers
584 views

Can Chinese readers scan large amounts of text faster/more accurately than their alphabet-using counterparts?

I was browsing one day and came across this comment in this discussion(italics mine): I feel English is a reading language, if you are reading an English book, you watch the word and make sound in ...
15
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9answers
2k views

Chinese input on Windows based on pinyin and tones

What is the best way for me to type pinyin using a keyboard on Windows? I've tried the built-in IMEs, but... they don't feel very intuitive to me. For example, if I want to get wǔ, I need to type wu, ...
14
votes
4answers
870 views

Why isn't 四 four lines? (the origin of 一 二 三 四 五 六 七 八 九)

A common experience of beginner hanzi students is their raised hopes and expectations when they learn 一 二 三 - "what a wonderfully elegant language!" - which are promptly crushed when they encounter 四. ...
14
votes
2answers
342 views

Why use 非 and 亚 for continent names?

Why was 非 chosen for 非洲 (Africa) and 亚 chosen for 亚洲 (Asia)? I can't find a particular reason to use these characters.
14
votes
6answers
942 views

Why is 的 (de) sometimes pronounced “di” even though it is used as a possessive particle?

I've noticed sometimes the word 的 is pronounced as "di" rather than "de". I'm aware that there is a valid use of 的 with pronunciation "di", which means "really and trully". However for the sentence: ...
14
votes
7answers
534 views

Where to practice speaking Chinese?

Living in Utah, I find it quite difficult to find places to practice speaking Chinese, especially Cantonese. Apart from accosting people in stores and other public places when I happen to hear them ...
14
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4answers
409 views

Reading handwriting

How can I get better at reading handwriting? Are there fonts that look like it, or web sites with examples for practice? Are there some common shortcuts that people take when writing by hand?
14
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5answers
1k views

How can one determine the radical for a given character?

Many times, when reading Mandarin, I will happen across a character that I don't know. Usually, the radical along with some context will clue me into the meaning, but if I can't determine the ...
13
votes
5answers
381 views

Number two in chinese: 二 vs 两

I always knew, from my studies of Japanese, that the number two is 二 (èr). I am not sure about the actual etymology, but looking at the character, it's understandable why it represents the number "2". ...
13
votes
7answers
642 views

How do we choose the correct characters for a westerner name?

Since there are many characters that share a common pronunciation and sometimes also the same tone, how do we properly choose which character best represents our name? Is it totally arbitrary or are ...
13
votes
3answers
572 views

What is the difference between 狗 and 犬?

狗 (gǒu) and 犬 (quǎn) both mean "dog" and both seem relatively common, but is there any difference between them? When should I use one and when should I use the other?
13
votes
2answers
498 views

How do I decide whether to use 還是/还是 or 或者

還是/还是 (háishì) and 或者 (huòzhě) seem to have very similar meanings: 還是/还是: or; still; nevertheless 或者: or; possibly; maybe When I want to say 'or', how to I choose which to use, and are there ...
13
votes
1answer
261 views

What is the difference in use between 以及, 和 and 与?

I have a book with the following lesson titles: 中文以及中国 聚会和饮食 交通与环境 Why are these terms connected with 以及 / 和 / 与, why not always use 和 for example? Are there any rules for proper use of these ...
12
votes
7answers
2k views

Why is stroke order important when writing Chinese characters?

I often see people having a big focus on correct stroke order for writing Chinese characters. My question is, for most learners, is it important to know the stroke order, and if so, why is it ...
12
votes
4answers
176 views

The question about “很好”

I've read that when asked the simple question 你好吗? ("how are you?"), answering 我很好 is the standard form, while 我好 is simply not used. 很 means "very", but 我很好 is simply translated as "I'm fine." and ...
12
votes
4answers
219 views

Is this an exception in the use of 的?

I know that, when expressing possessives, we add 的 to the usual personal pronouns, such as 我的. However, in a question in my grammar textbook I saw: 你爸爸忙吗? = Is your father busy? Why not ...
12
votes
4answers
721 views

Character and word frequencies

I'm trying to build some automated tools for processing Chinese text. I'd like to know the relative frequencies of different characters and character combinations. Are there any web sites with this ...
12
votes
2answers
430 views

Words referring to the shape of Chinese characters

Some words in English use (capital) letters to describe the shape of the object to which they refer: A-frame, C-clamp, I-beam, O-ring, T-shirt, T-intersection, T-bone, U-turn, V-neck Chinese ...
12
votes
2answers
343 views

Tense and use of 了

I struggle a bit to get my head around tense in Mandarin, and in particular when I need to use 了 (le). Do you have any tips, examples or resources to help me out with this?
12
votes
3answers
288 views

但是, 可是 and 不过 - how to know which one to use?

According to my dictionary, 但是, 可是 and 不过 all mean "but/however"? However is there any difference between them? Are there some cases, where one can be used but not another?
12
votes
4answers
518 views

Are there any online etymological dictionaries of Mandarin (not for characters but for spoken words)

tl;dr Are you aware of any dictionaries that explain word etymologies (not merely character etymologies)? Some links/references would be useful. This is actually a collection of related questions, ...
11
votes
6answers
1k views

How offensive is 他妈的?

How offensive is the expression 他妈的? What is an English expression with a similar degree of offensiveness? In what situations is this expression appropriate / not appropriate?
11
votes
5answers
304 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 ...
11
votes
3answers
178 views

Character Pronunciation Clues

Is there any way to know what a character's pronunciation or tone is, based on the strokes or radicals that make up characters?
11
votes
4answers
171 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 ...
11
votes
4answers
934 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?
11
votes
6answers
455 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 westerners ...
11
votes
2answers
264 views

How do I decide whether to use 可以, 会 or 能?

According to every dictionary I've seen so far, there is a big overlap in these: 可以 = can, may, be able to 会 = can, be able to, able 能 = can, may, able, capable How do I properly choose which one ...
11
votes
1answer
843 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
195 views

What is the difference between 总是 and 一直?

I've always (no pun intended) wondered what the difference is between the 2 words. I thought they both meant always, but I've never quite grasped in what context they should be used. Could anyone ...
11
votes
4answers
427 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
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2answers
3k views

What is the exact meaning of 吃豆腐, and where does the expression come from?

I'm not talking about eating tofu, but the expression that means something more like taking advantage of someone. What exactly does 吃豆腐 mean, and where does this expression come from?
11
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2answers
2k 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 ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

How did 黃 (yellow) come to mean “pornographic”?

In my dictionary it defines 黃 (Huáng) - yellow - pornographic - to fall through - surname Huang or Hwang Imperial China and the robes of the emperor are commonly associated with the colour yellow. ...
11
votes
3answers
671 views

What is the difference between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前)?

I'd like to have some way to differentiate between yǐqián (以前) and zhīqián (之前), in order to help with memorising them both. Referring to Modern Mandarin Grammar (Claudia Ross, Routledge 2006), it ...

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