Tuesday, July 14, 2009


What is it?

Good for introduction of a language & Getting a base of the language, its a study technique in which you walk at a quick pace with a good posture (standing straight up) while repeating every word you hear of your target language from earphones (only one earphone in so you can hear yourself as well). At the same time you are holding up the lesson book that goes to your audio, following along (reading and speaking).

Why walk at a fast pace?

The theory is, your mind is more focused on what you are hearing and doing.

What you need:

earphones / ear-buds
mp3 player
Bilingual textbook (right page target language, left page teaching language)
-Book should contain continuous Chinese text and come with audio.
-Audio should not contain pauses or gaps of silence, you can edit the audio with Audacity if it does.

What does this study technique accomplish?

- Improved Intonation in your target language
- A strong base for a new language (this is intended for beginners)

First step:

Blind Shadowing -

Start of by listening to your audio while walking swiftly outside, while listening you want to repeat everything you hear as soon as you hear it, you will be speaking over the audio, do this until you are almost speaking directly over the voice.

Keep it to one lesson a day until you have the sounds almost memorized. Each session should be one page, no more than 15 minutes at a time (you should do this in chunks through out the day).

Once you've done this to enough pages and you feel like you understand what the sounds are, how to say them, or feel curious like you need to understand what some of the things you are hearing mean then its time to move on to step two.

Second step:

Now you will read the book, holding it up to your face so you can read it while walking swiftly, read the teaching language while speaking the target language, do not read the target language side. When you start to have an understanding of what sounds match up with what meanings in the teaching language you should move on to the next step.

Third step:

Once your familiar with the contents of each lesson/page start to read with with your thumbs, keep your right thumb and left thumb under the target language and corresponding teaching language as you read, speak and walk while moving your thumbs down one line at a time in sync with each other and the audio. Keep your focus on the teaching language still, once you think you know what a word/sound means look at the target language. Eventually you will move to the target language completely, that's when your ready for the next step.

Fourth step:

You are not allowed to look at the learning language, keep your mind thinking in the target language, don't think "oh what does this mean in my native language?" don't allow your self to wonder and wander back to your L1 (native language).

At this point, when you are not shadowing you should be taking 15-30 seconds out of your day to try and think only in your target language, not allowing your self to revert for even a second to your native tongue, try to work up to a minute then more.Tell your self "I'm not going to allow my self to think in English".

Fifth step:

After a month of doing one new lesson each day you will need to reverse the order of the steps, if your on say lesson 28 then on lesson 28, 29 and 30 you will look mostly at the target language, then on lesson 31, 32, and 33 you will allow your self to look at the teaching lesson, keep doing 3 page intervals until you are only reading the teaching language, and then finally just blind shadowing (no book).

Sixth step:

Next, sit down and write each lesson on a blank piece of paper word for word, analyzing the meaning (looking the words up) and reading the text aloud, you should be able to do this now with out the need for pause because you will have said them so many times already, remember to keep these study sessions in 15-30 minute intervals, study's show that the mind starts to wander after 30 minutes. Make sure to write it out by hand, as you write, speak the words don't just sit there silently. Do one new lesson each day.

As you continue make sure to review the lessons you have done by spending 30 minutes reading a lesson you have written, on another spend 30 minutes writing it out by hand again, and 30 analyzing another.

Repeating this process 30 minutes a time for 2 hours a day will get you through one average book in 3 months, this will give you a very strong base in a new language and help you with intonation.

And intonation is the main reason why I've posted this, as many of us already have a base in Mandarin, most of us still have problems with intonation or the flow of the tones when speaking because we need to pause and think of the tones, the earlier stage of Blind Shadowing and further steps may help us speak fluidly.

This is by no means a casual study program, its an intense way of studying that should not only get you some exercise but also results. To better understand the technique listen to Prof. Alexanders lecture's on how to properly Shadow, I've written this out step by step from his third video on the subject because of its length, he does have the steps written on his web page but not in the same detail as his videos. If your serious about study, especially self study then this is the way to go.

Here is his demonstration of Shadowing, he's walking back and forth because of the camera.

Friday, July 10, 2009

How to breach the great firewall

Now that I've got a VPN service I'm back, instead of transferring my blog to a different site I decided this would cause less of a struggle in the long run until I can find a permanent place that wont be blocked at random by the great firewall.

If you want unfiltered access to the internet from China there are several options, the cheapest one being proxy, this is best accomplished by using TOR but if you haven't downloaded it before making your landing and cant access the site, you can download the windows bundle from here and the Mac bundle from here. If you're not in China yet I suggest downloading directly from the site.

If you will be in China for a year or more I suggest using a VPN (virtual private network) this will allow you to connect to a computer outside the firewall and browse the net using their connection. WiTopia seems to be a favorite for users in China and it also holds one of the cheapest prices. Your even able to set up your iPhone for unfiltered use if you go with the basic PPTP package or the expensive multi package. Its much faster than TOR and you are able to access everything, even You Tube videos and Hulu at a descent speed.

What if you're not sure you will need it, maybe the websites you use aren't blocked but you're not in China at the moment, how do you find out? Go to http://www.greatfirewallofchina.org/ and check.


Thanks to Greg for pointing out that the test site is no longer being worked on I will accept any small lists of websites that people want checked. Leave the list in a comment that way others can see whats already been asked.


TOR is blocked just about everywhere in China now. I recently switched to a proxy service called Freedur thanks to Chengduliving.

Monday, April 20, 2009

shén me zěn me?

I'm currently jotting down every bit of highly used vocabulary and grammar, its almost essential for me to learn similar words and phrases at the same time so that they aren't confused later. Here is an example that I was mixing up before and was able to piece together yesterday.

zěn me

what?, how?, why

zěn me le

s up? whats going on?

zěn me yàng

about (something) how was it? how are things?

zěn me cái

are you late ( in doing something)

example: nǐ zěn me cái lái (literal translation: why are you late coming? or arriving)

zěn me can be used in many other ways, just type it in the box at the top left corner (MDBG search box) and see for your self. If anyone has something useful to add don't hesitate.

Like most of you in China I'm studying Mandarin and doubling as a teacher, when you learn how to teach a language you learn the proper way to learn a language. So for anyone not teaching, here is something to absorb:


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Culture, Language And Context

Yakun and I were walking to the supermarket last night when I told her: "context is something we really need to pay attention to when trying to understand each other, when trying to make a point English speakers like to explain themselves and then say their point, while most Chinese would say their point and then explain."

Earlier on in our relationship I said "I probably wont understand you if your trying to tell me something by "beating around the bush", if you tell me directly it will make life much easier for both of us".

Something Ken Carroll wrote in an article recently put this further into perspective for the both of us. And an article he referred to made me realize, if I'm speaking Mandarin then I need to place more importance on the social situation and implications that it may have contextually.

Whenever we're eating and I'm a little tired from leaning down to the bowl (our table isn't exactly set up according to fēng shuǐ standards) I may set my kuài zi down for a finger fatigue break. Its at this point that she will look over at me and ask "bǎo lē ma?" if its something shes cooked it may have a hidden meaning of "it doesn't taste good?" so when I reply with "no I'm just taking a break" it may sound like "yes, its not very good". Which would result in a disappointing sigh, and my preceding bewilderment.

I give her a lot of credit, shes been very direct when speaking English with me when she wants something and doesn't expect me to just "get it". And even though some may view this as a crutch for me, she is speaking English, and that's the way it should be done (most of the time). When speaking pǔ tōng huà I will keep in mind that I cant and shouldn't be direct as much as I should play with the social context to get my point across.

On an unrelated note, here is a classic Chinese cartoon representing 36 different characters. (thanks to Yakun for finding it)

Monday, February 23, 2009

How to make flour noodles

I had the privilege of meeting Yakuns parents this spring festival in the countryside, we had a great time making traditional foods like jiao zi and mian tiao together. I've been able to make jiao zi a few other times, once at my school so I was able to keep up with the family but I'll show you that another time. Here we are going to learn how to make my favorite soup noodle dish, mian tiao with the help of mom and her massive rolling pin.

Step 1. Add water and flour together, kneading it until its the size of a softball. *Don't add any salt, sugar or egg. Were not trying to grow tumor's or create other unnecessary side effects here.

Step 2. Find a large rolling pin, if there are none of the size depicted in the following video go ahead and break one off from the dining room table. All set? Lets get started!

Step 3. Once you have a large flat piece of dough fold it like origami.

Step 4. Cut with fingers curled inwards.

Step 5. Boil for about the same time it takes to make the spaghetti noodles your used to, its done when it turns from white to yellowish white.

Step 6. Watch the video to see how its done by a pro.

you can add some tomato, cilantro or any other spices and herbs you like, Yakun suggests using these noodles for your spaghetti as well.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What are you looking at?

Having spent more than a few months in China I can tell you I’m already past the romantic stage of our relationship and on to complaining about who’s going to do the dishes next, no I’m not talking about my dearest Yakun I’m talking about my romantic view of China as it was, but it’s not completely faded.

You've probably noticed that you’re being stared at, and you’re told it’s the curious nature of Chinese people, it shouldn't bother you… But it does, at least when they stare for longer than a period of five minutes while your trying to slurp down that hot bowl of 面条 (miàn tiáo) flour noodles.

Being an uncommon sight it doesn’t help that I also have a local girlfriend, which can promote angry stares from what I presume to be lonely men. I guess it can’t be helped but I want to make the situation more enjoyable for the both of us by poking fun at it, so today I learned a few words to do just that.

What are you looking at?


kàn nǐ gè tóu?

Why are you staring? Is there a flower on my face?


kàn shén me kàn, wǒ liǎn shàng yǒu huār á?

The English translation may sound cute, but saying this to a stranger is rude, depending on your tone of voice you could get away with this one but I wouldn’t 除非你有种 (chú fēi nǐ yǒu zhǒng ) unless you have the balls.

I finally settled on using this one-liner so I could get back to my meal with out feeling like a jerk.

Can I help you? -or- Do you need something?


yǒu shì ma?

saying this with a kind and humorous demeanor should get you back to a peaceful meal.

Just to cover my self, don't go around using the first two of these carelessly. There, I'm covered!

Bon Appetite.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Computer Terminology - GUI

Something useful that I’ve been meaning to learn is Chinese computer terminology, so after a long hard search on the internet I found a few answers… that were wrong, so then I talked to Yakun, and all was well.

Here are the most basic characters you will need to navigate through the local Internet Café 网吧 (wǎng ba) or Chinese roommate’s computer, thanks to 老婆 (lǎo pó).

Register 注册 (zhù cè)

Login 登录 (dēng lù)

Username 用户名 (yòng hù míng)

Password 口令 (kǒu lìng)

Download 下载 (xià zǎi)

Submit/Publish发表(fā biǎo)发布(fā bù)

Properties 属性 (shǔ xìng)

Delete 删除 (shān chú)

New 新建 (xīn jiàn)

File 文件 (wén jiàn)

Copy 复制 (fù zhì)

Paste 粘贴 (nián tiē)

Undue 返回 (fǎn huí)

Edit 编辑 (biān jí)

Games 游戏 (yóu xì)
(for that folder containing all the 网吧 games)

If you think of anything else that may be useful and not easy to understand by simply looking at the UI (user interface) or by context leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Profit of illiteracy

Currently my mandarin is at such a low level I should hardly call it basic, so for any advice I give if you find something inaccurate please let me know.

For those of you who’ve yet to take the bus in china let me give you a few pointers based off a recent experience.

If your taking a long distance bus from outside the city chances are its privately operated meaning your going to find dad driving, mom collecting money and the little kid sitting beside her counting cash. If it’s a busy bus like mine many people will be yelling out their stop names and handing over their fair, the amount can fluctuate depending on your destination (something I wasn’t privy to before boarding) confused as to how much it would cost I handed over five yaun to a young man who graciously refused it, so I spoke my stops name quickly “Bīn Jiāng Dào” in hopes he might understand my horrible pronunciation. The driver reluctantly took 5 as I looked at my seating options and squeezed into the seat; on the way back I gave 5 with out a word. It wasn’t until I arrived home when Yakun told me I should have paid 7 . I may have profited from my mistake but I’d much rather be understood! Here are some useful tips for riding the bus anywhere you are in China:

If you’re not sure what bus will take you to “Bin Jiang Dao” or whatever your destination you can stand at a bus stop and ask the first bus that pulls up:

Wǒ qù Bīn Jiāng Dào, dào ma? (dào “to go to” or “arrive”)


I’m going to Bīn Jiāng Dào, do you go there?

The answer your looking for is “Dào” if you get a slew of words thrown at you and your mandarin is as basic as mine just take a step on the bus, this will get him squawking even louder if it doesn’t “Dào”. If the bus has a money box don’t put your fair in yet, first look for someone in the front seat collecting money, sometimes they collect the cash in hand, if you find this person simply state your destination again and they will tell you the price otherwise place the money in the box, After the bus driver wipes whatever that crusty substance is off his overgrown finger nail onto his discolored rag choking the stick shift you can scurry to a seat in the middle of the bus, this is going to cause you the least amount of inertia as he weaves in and out of on-coming traffic, it also provides you a position within earshot of the drivers calls.

In order to get off at the correct stop pay attention to the bus driver, he will yell out the name of each stop with a “xià bú xià” at the end.

Xià bú xià 下不下 (anyone getting off?)

Xià chē 下车 (to get off).

Some other things the driver might say are:

Xià ma 下吗 (anyone getting off?)

Yǒu xià dē ma 有下的吗 (is there anyone getting off?)

Once you hear “Bīn Jiāng Dào, xià bú xià” Yell out “Xià” or “Xià chē” to stop the bus and wake everyone up.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lantern in flight

Tonight was a lot of fun, as soon as we arrived at the dock we saw tens of them flying through the sky. At first I even thought "what the heck are those" until I realized what was in my very hand.

We got up to the water front and there were plenty of people selling Kong Ming Deng, when we whipped out our home made lantern heads turned people started talking and we even got a small crowd huddled around us as we lit up the candles, it did fill up with air but it wouldn't take flight, Yakun over heard someone say "I tried to make one so many times but I didn't make it work!" Nevertheless it was fun trying and we got a few good pictures out of it. After that we had even more fun, right when we arrived near someone selling lanterns my eye caught two policeman rounding them up and taking all the Kong Ming Deng!!

I wasn't going to let them ruin the night so with Yakun in hand I dashed to the next salesmen on the dock (it was quite crowded) we looked behind us and there was a policemen right on our heels! Which made it kind of exciting I have to admit... Yakun was screeching "crazy foreigner!" But that was it, I was on a mission to fly!

We reached the next person selling them, as I panicked to get 10 yuan from my pocket Yakun grabbed the first Kong Ming Deng handed to her and before the policeman could stop us we disappeared into the crowd.

It seems they weren't stopping people from lighting them, just the sellers, so we made a circle back to our spot and lit it up, it started to fall at first but the wind picked it up and it flew like an eagle until it was the highest Kong Ming Deng in the sky, our wish is still out there somewhere.

元宵节 | Lantern Festival

Today is 元宵节 (Yuánxiāojié) Lantern Festival, and were getting ready by making our very own 孔明灯 (kǒng míng dēng) Sky Lantern. The story goes the leader during the three kingdom period was surrounded by his enemy's and by sending out these floating lanterns he was able to call for help, his name "Kong Ming".

Back then the lanterns were made from strips of bamboo and oiled rice paper with a single candle burning in the middle but because of the lack of lush rain forest in our area we went with drinking straws from our local Dico's and birthday candles from a nearby bakery. After being stared at like some sort of zoo animal at Dico's for taking 6-7 straw's we came back home and dug up the lightest looking trash bag for our lantern, at this point you may be wondering "Carl, why don’t you just buy one its so much easier". Your right! But that takes all the fun out of it and what would you be doing now? Not learning how to make the cheapest flying lantern in Tianjin that’s what, so back to the topic at hand.

First you need to make the bag smaller at the bottom, this way most of the heat is at the top of the bag so it raises straight up once filled with hot air. We used some small plastic tape bought at 乐购 (lè gòu) TESCO.

Using the tape Yakun held the straws in an X shape while I taped them together, then with a sewing needle I poked 4 holes in the straw, placed the candles in their holders and poked them into the straws.

Once that was done we simply taped each end of the straw's to the bag, taking a blow-dryer we filled it with hot air and not soon after it started to take flight! The real test will be when we head to the waterfront and let her fly over the bay.












Sunday, February 8, 2009

Don't Look Now

It's another blog about life in China from a western view, but I wanted this to be more than that so my girlfriend Samantha and I are writing a jointly owned and operated blog about our life together in China that includes all the language and life lessons that come with a cross-cultural relationship, in my own quest I will bring something valuable to both Chinese and foreign readers by adding language lessons in Mandarin (pǔ tōng huà) and English lessons later on. In the future I plan to translate Samantha's posts into English and my own into Mandarin for those of you who show interest. If anyone is wondering who has the big head from our title 大 头儿与小头儿 (dā tóu er yǔ xiǎo tóu er) which translates to Big Head, Little Head You will have to keep guessing, its a closely guarded secrete.