Autumn snacks #2

In the last post, I mentioned roasted sweet potatoes and candied fruit skewers sold on the street. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.

Yam? Sweet Potato?


It’s hard to tell the difference between yams sweet potatoes. Specifically, yams are supposed to have a drier, starchier texture (more info: Library of Congress). In China, it seems like everyone has a different name for each. Anyway, when you go on the street and the sweet aroma of sweet potatoes roasting drifts toward you, just ask for a roasted sweet potato: 烤红薯 kǎo hóng shǔ.

Sugar and fruit on a stick:

糖葫芦 táng hú lú


A step up from caramel apples, these skewers of candied fruit have kiwi, orange slices, strawberries, and haw fruit, and sometimes they’re dipped in nuts or raisins after they’re dipped in boiled sugar. When the sugar dries and hardens, you have an extremely sweet treat. Haw fruit (山楂 shān zhā) (also called Chinese haw or haw berries) is the small, round, red fruit that sometimes take up a whole skewer. It’s slightly bitter and sour. You can get haw berry flakes, haw berry juice drinks, and haw berry roll-ups at the local supermarket.

shan-zhaNext time when we wrap up, we’ll have a few more foods plus a few things to be careful of when eating street snacks (街头小吃 jiē tóu xiǎo chī).

Autumn snacks #1

One of my favorite things about autumn is the food. Not only do we have mooncakes 月(yuè)饼(bǐng), but roasted sweet potatoes 烤(kǎo)地(dì)瓜(guā), roasted chestnuts 栗(lì)子(zi), and candied fruit skewers 糖(táng)葫(hú)芦(lu) appear on the street.

But one of the best things that appear is the fruit – especially dates 冬(dōng)枣(zǎo). Small and green in color with patches of red/brown, they have the crunch and consistency of apples but a different taste. You can wash them easily and take them with you easily as snacks. Watch out for the hard seeds in the middle, though! And if it’s entirely red/brown with no trace of green, and it tastes sour, it’s probably gone bad. Throw it away.

By the way, don’t forget to wash your fruit at least twice (three rinses if you can manage it). Soak once with vinegar and water for 10 minutes, once with salt and warm water for 10 minutes, then rinse with cold water. If not, then one soak with salt and vinegar, then one rinse.

What are your favorite autumn foods? Let us know in the comments.

How to learn Chinese guide

Free Chinese language study guide available for download in pdf format. This useful Chinese study guide covers topics such as learning strategies, learning styles, maintaining motivation, overcoming barriers, memorizing vocabulary, and other issues in the study of Mandarin. Now freely available online with hard copies available at our Beijing Chinese language school.  Please feel free to share with your friends.

Today, Honor Your Teachers

September 10, 2009 is Teachers’ Day. Students all over China will present flowers, gifts, and cards to their teachers to show appreciation for their hard work.

In 1985 the National People’s Congress designated September 10 of every year National Teachers’ Day to honor teachers for their hard work. See an excerpt from Chinese Festivals by Límíng Weí and Lang Tao on Google Books about the origins of this day.

I’m thankful for all the good teachers I’ve had growing up who’ve taught me more than knowledge. And while Rosetta Stone is good, it can’t answer questions. My Chinese teachers have helped me understand Chinese culture, history, and food, and basically have helped me to adjust to life here. Instead of just learning vocabulary and grammar from my teachers in my one-on-one classes, I’ve had many great conversations with my good friends.

Anyway, hope that you have a chance to honor your teacher today. You can send a text, give flowers, write a card or give a present. You can use these phrases:

jié  rì  kuài lè
Happy Teachers’ Day

老师, 辛苦了!
lǎo shī,  xīn kǔ le
Teacher, you’ve worked hard!

And if you REALLY want to thank your teacher…

拨动真诚的心弦 (bō dònɡ zhēn chénɡ de xīn xián),
You’ve inspired me to do my best,

铭记成长的辛酸 (mínɡ jì chénɡ zhǎnɡ de xīn suān),
you’ve helped me through the hard times,

成功的道路上永远离不开您 (chénɡ ɡōnɡ de dào lù shɑnɡ yónɡ yuǎn lí bù kāi nín),
I couldn’t have succeeded without you.

亲爱的老师 (qīn ài de lǎo shī),祝您节日快乐 (zhù nín jié rì kuài lè)!
My dear teacher, happy Teachers’ Day!

rén shēnɡ lǚ chénɡ shànɡ nín wéi wǒ diǎn rán xī wànɡ de ɡuānɡ mánɡ fēnɡ fù wǒ de xīn línɡ)
On this journey of life, you’ve filled my spirit with the light of hope

增添我的智慧 谢谢您!老师 愿您永远 健康!愉快!幸福
(zēnɡ tiān wǒ de zhì huì   xiè xiè nín ! lǎo shī   yuàn nín yónɡ yuǎn   jiàn kānɡ ! yú kuài ! xìnɡ fú)
and increased my wisdom. Thank you! I wish you health, happiness, and good fortune always!

Your favorite words: DISCOUNT, COUPON

Announcing DISCOUNT COUPONS for classes at 1 on 1 Mandarin! Sept 09 Coupon

Sign up for a free sample class (don’t forget to enter the coupon code), and if you like the class, print out the coupon and take advantage of this great deal. If your friends have compatible schedules, sign up for group courses, save a bunch of money, and learn Chinese with your friends. Feel free to send this link to every Chinese learner you know.

*New students only. Not valid with any other offer or promotion. 300 RMB coupon valid only with 10 hour minimum purchase. One per customer, single-use only. Expires 10-31-09. 1on1 Mandarin reserves the right of final decision on all matters concerning this coupon.

China news websites in Chinese

It’s been awhile since last post,  part of reason is that one of our main blogger Sarah was busy with another program and now she is leaving for US to pursue her musical dream. She is one of the most awesome person I’ve ever worked with, all the best for Sarah.

Today, we’d like to introduce some China news sites,  if want to practice and challenge your reading, below are some websites would be very helpful.

Download pdf version [download id="1"]

*download updated version [download id="2"]

Google资讯-Google Chinese news

南方周末-Southern Weekend

凤凰网-Ifeng (Hong Kong)

新加坡联合早报网-Singapore Zaobao

经济和金融-Economics and Finance

FT中文网-Financial Times in Chinese

华尔街日报-Wall Street Journal in Chinese


IT and Internet IT新闻网

基督教新闻-China Christian News

Gospel Herald,

Gospel Times,

Free Chinese input tool

chinese inputGoogle pinyin input tool is one of most popular input tools in China. I love using it everyday at work, because it’s Fast, Smart and Easy to use.

If you are learning Chinese characters and want an easy way to input them yourself, you should try it out.

You can download at following address and can be installed easily,

available for windows XP and Vista systems

Helpful shortcuts:

1.Switch easily from Chinese to English input by using the Ctrl+Shift shortcut,

2.Select input results using Number keys accordingly or Space key to select the first one

3.Use “,” key (comma key)goes to previous page and “.” key(full comma) to next page.

Since this software and instructions are all in Chinese,  you run into any problems, let us know in comment, I ‘d love to help.

Spoken Chinese sentence pattern-01

We have been through a very busy week again, especially when we have a group of Wheaton students visiting. Good thing is that we finally put our first weekly sentence pattern together,  hope you all enjoy and tell us  in comment how can we do it better later, here comes the first one,

AA=A一(yī )A

Meaning: to have a try/to give it a try;

Usage: AA indicates reduplicated verbs.


1. 这是我做的菜,你尝尝。(same as 尝一尝)

zhè shì wǒ zuò de cài , nǐ chánɡ chánɡ .

This is what I cooked, please try it.

2. 你有什么好想法,可以说说。(说一说

nǐ yǒu shén me hǎo xiánɡ fǎ , ké yǐ shuō shuō .

If you have any good ideas, tell us about it.

3. 如果你喜欢这件T恤,可以试试。(试一试

rú ɡuǒ nǐ xǐ huɑn zhè jiàn t xù , ké yǐ shì shì .

If you like this T-shirt, you can try it on..

4. 听听,这是谁的歌?(听一听

tīnɡ tinɡ , zhè shì shuí de ɡē?

Listen to this, guess who sings this song?

5. 想想,今天晚上你想去哪儿吃饭?(想一想

xiǎnɡ xiǎnɡ , jīn tiān wǎn shɑnɡ nǐ xiǎnɡ qù nǎ ér chī fàn ?

Think about it, where do you want to eat tonight?

* Try to use this pattern to make some new sentences, tell us what you can come up with in comment.

Here are 5 audios , hope it helps. ( thanks Lucy for recording)


Xiaochi Chinese April newsletter-audio

Finally,  audio version is available now, listen and learn, tell us what do you think.

“Gānzào 干燥is most often used to describe weather or a place”

Here are words and sentences used in the newsletter.


北方的冬令寒冷干燥。 The winter in the north is cold and dry.

好久没下雨, 天气太干燥了 It has not rained for a while, the weather is too dry.

北京太干燥了,我的皮肤很干 Beijing is too dry, my skin is very dry.

helpful websites for Mandarin learning

Need to look up a word by pinyin, English, or in Chinese? Need to hear how it’s pronounced? Check out this website with the funny name, Nciku.

In my few months of learning Mandarin it’s the best site I’ve come across so far. Why?

  • search by pinyin, English, or Chinese
  • don’t know the pinyin or the English translation of a character, but know how to write it? Use your mouse to write the character, and the dictionary will suggest matches and look it up for you
  • instantly hear how a word/phrase is pronounced
  • example sentences so you can see how the word is used, with pinyin and English translation directly underneath. ‘Cause a word might be suitable in one situation but not another. Useful for those “use this vocabulary word to make up a sentence” homework exercises!
  • looping flash animations show you how to write the word, stroke by stroke
  • active forum so you can ask questions that a dictionary can’t answer
  • sign up for an account to create your own vocab lists for later review
  • can look up English words, with both American and UK pronunciation

The site’s still in beta but has certainly come a long way since its inception. Wonder what features are coming next?

MDGB Online Dictionary

To be honest, I haven’t used this one as much as nciku. But this site still has some impressive features.

  • specialized vocabulary and advanced words included
  • Chinese <-> English translation (no pinyin support, sorry! but copy&paste is supported)
  • radical/stroke lookup
  • flash cards and character quizzes (under 练习 Practice)
  • option to denote tones with numbers, marks, or different colors. Pretty.

They also have an offline reader available. Ever find it annoying to read a Chinese document on the computer, find a word you don’t know, open up a web browser, then copy&paste the word into a search engine to find out the meaning? With the reader, just hover over the word and a definition will pop up. However, it’s only free for 15 days.

This website was great for finding the Chinese names of common houseplants that filter the air. (Be sure to check the poison information on the plants if you click on the link)

Are you curious about the Chinese names of air-cleaning houseplants and where you can get them in Beijing? What are your favorite websites for learning Chinese? Do you use software that shows popup definitions for text that you can hover over with your mouse? Show you care and share in the comments.


20 points for anyone who can tell me what nciku and MDGB mean.