Chinese Resources

Monday, June 18, 2012

The "社會" section

I've got three days left here in Taiwan before I head back to the states, and I'm up to my ears in 報告s and the general laundry list of crap one needs to do before they leave somewhere for months on end.

Rather than regale you all with the various ways I've thought about pulling my hair out, or smashing my head on the desk as I try and analyze Case Grammar structures, I'll just say that I've discovered a new love at my breakfast shop... the "society" section of the 自由日報 (Freedom Daily). Everyone talks about needing to understand 3000 characters or so to read a news paper, but what is the fascination with reading newspapers anyway? I would much rather know how to tell my friend that their fashion sense in that one photo from 4 years ago, which I only found cause I was Facebook stalking them, makes them look kinda like a serial killer. Seriously, that (to me) would be much more useful, and, let's face it, way more fun to teach.

That being said, the 社會 section of this newspaper is sort of a blend of both. You get the "street cred" of reading a newspaper (this is why we try in the first place right?) plus a Facebook feel. It's full of pictures, it covers a broad variety of topics, polarizing opinions, and most of all, language that I can use right away! Here are two articles I found particularly funny yesterday. I can't really remember what useful stuff I learned in the process, and I didn't look up things I didn't understand, but after reading them I had a smile on my face. I'm sure I'll be back for more, which more than I can say of the collected works of Laozi or some textbook about Cross Straight Relations... seriously who writes that crap?

Without further ado, enjoy! I'd tell you the parts that I thought were interesting, but they you might not read the articles yourselves.

辣媽, what is that like the Chinese version of MILF?
Three parts to this discussion about yelling at kids.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weekend Wake-up Call

I don't remember ever asking my breakfast shop for a wake-up call, or wake-up text rather, but that is what I got at 9:15 this morning. Still in a deep sleep, dreaming blissfully about qualitative and quantitative research methods, I woke suddenly to the obnoxious sound of an incoming text.


I tried to ignore it. I wanted to go back to sleep and let my dreams tell me the true meaning of my final Research Methodology report, but before I could even set the phone down, it exploded again.

"快來陪我,等你 :-D:-)"

It was Leo, the breakfast shop owner's son. I knew it was a mistake to call that phone one morning to place an order for food. Now the 15 year old had a direct line to a friendly laowai. I've created a monster!

Rather than wait for another barrage of texts I decided it was as good a time as any to head down for breakfast. I made my way across the street and ordered the usual, slumping into my favorite spot against the wall... and waited impatiently for my coffee to arrive. Leo was working the grill while his Dad was on a smoke break, but the second he was done he came rushing over to sit with me. 

“我們玩個遊戲!" he said as I placed my phone on the table. Ever since I showed him some of the games I had on my smart phone he has been obsessed. Instead I pick up the news paper and glanced at the first article... it was perfect. I glanced over the article and couldn't help but ask Leo if he knew what “低頭族" was.

“當然”, he replied. "就是你啊! It's true, most mornings you will find my head facing down (低頭) and I guess that would make me a part of the "head down group," but I was shocked that Leo, who spent ever second playing games on his tablet PC until it broke, had the audacity to call me a part of the group without including himself among the ranks!

And then it hit me... this kid looks up to me (maybe). He thinks it is okay to sit around while he is "at work" playing his games because he sees me doing it every weekend. We continued to chat for a while about the article, and a few other things we found in the paper, but the whole time I was thinking to myself, this is a test.

See, Leo is a gamer, and a self-proclaimed poor student. He doesn't like to study English, he doesn't do well in school, and he spends just about ever minute of his weekend at home playing Counter Strike with his friends. But, he looks up to me. So what if I could change that, what if I could figure out a way to make learning fun for him? This will eventually be my job as a Chinese teacher, so why not try it with a kid who already speaks Chinese? 

So after about an hour of chatting and messing around on Skritter together I told him it was time for me to get going. And then I added... "我明天不會帶我的手機來吃早餐". He gave me a look of sheer terror, but I pressed on "要帶一本書,我們可以一起看!” He was puzzled, but intrigued. 

Now I just have to figure out what a kid like Leo would actually enjoy reading. Perhaps it is time to start that Chinese version of Lord of the Rings that has been sitting on my shelf for months!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The wait is over... Skritter iOS is here!

After a year and a half of development, months of beta tests, tweaks and bug fixes, more tweaks and even more bug fixes... the #1 web app for learning to write Chinese has finally made its way to the iTunes App Store! If you haven't had a chance yet (and haven't run off to download Skritter), be sure to check out the awesome video George and Nick put together to get a real feel for what you get out of the Skritter iOS app, and check out the Skritter blog for the full development story.

If you've never used Skritter before, do yourself a favor and go download it now! All new users get a one-week free trial to check things out, and amazing App launch deals after that. With over 150 Chinese textbooks, thousands of user generated lists and integrated ChinesePod support you'll be studying and reviewing from your favorite material in no time. If you've never thought about learning to write Chinese characters before, be sure to check out Skritter's Chinese 101 list and get acquainted with over 200 of the most common (and instantly usable) characters while you learn 75 unique radicals, the basic building blocks of all Chinese characters. 

For those who have used the site before, you'll find the app has just about everything you can do on the site only in a much more stylized way. Things like example sentences, individual list study modes etc. are in the works as we speak, and will be available in future updates. I think you'll notice that the iOS version of Skritter is way quicker than its web counterpart, which makes catching up on reviews easy as pie. However, the largest improvement over the web app is just how smooth the native version runs. Add in the fact that there are two cool and unique themes and you'll probably give up using the website altogether (much like I did in February). 

I could go on and on about this thing, but I really feel like the best way to really appreciate what the app is capable of is to simply try it out yourselves. I'm proud to be part of the team that brought you this app, and I hope you all enjoy it just as much as we have been. Just to give you a taste of how addictive this app is, here is a screen shot of my study results the first month I got my hands on the alpha build...

47 hours in a single month, all while attending graduate classes... yeah the Skritter iOS app is really that addictive!

RequirementsSkritter Chinese requires iOS 5.0 or newer, so that's iPhone 3GS, 4, or 4S, iPod touch 4th generation, or any iPad.

3G or wi-fi only?: Nope. Need to be on 3G or Wi-fi for the download and initial updates, but after that you can just add a bunch of new words while connected to the wireless network and do your reviews on the app. 

PriceAfter the one-week free trial, it's $9.99 for a one-month subscription, or $39.99, $69.99, or $119.99 for six-, twelve-, or twenty-four-month subscriptions. (These are just cents per hour for the typical Skritter user.) Subscriptions are required to add new words, but you can review forever for free. School and institutional licenses are available.

Any questions or comments? Leave them below... and happy Skrittering! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Raindrops keep falling on my head

Yesterday afternoon the dark clouds started rolling in to Taipei. The impending rain was going to be welcome respite from all the hot and muggy weather we've been having recently. And then it started to rain, and rain, and rain! Even this morning the clouds show no sign of letting up any time soon. 

So how do we talk about 雨 (rain) in Chinese?

First a little about the character 雨. In my opinion it is one of the most clear examples of Chinese 象形字 (pictographic characters), even the modern Character has the look of raindrops falling from the sky. When it is a top component of characters it appears written as ⻗; as seen in such characters as:

  • 電 (electricity)
  • 震 (shake; shock)
  • 雪 (snow)
  • 露 (dew)
  • 雷 (thunder)
  • 霞 (rosy clouds)-- I love this character!
Rain is a special thing, and there are lots of different kinds. Like Forest Gump said:
One day it started raining, and it didn't quit for four months. We been through every kind of rain there is. Little bitty stingin' rain... and big ol' fat rainRain that flew in sideways. And sometimes rain even seemed to come straight up from underneath. Shoot, it even rained at night... 
So how do we talk about it in Chinese? The most basic way is to simply say 下雨 (rain), that good old V.O. we all learn in first year Chinese. But, what about "stingin' rain" and "big ol' fat rain"? Here are a few fun ways to shoot the crap and talk about the weather with your Chinese friends.

下大雨 (xià dàyǔ)heavy rain
  • 下 (xià: fall)
  • 大 (dà: big)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
When it is really raining outside, the easiest way to say it is 下大雨. Often it comes after a location, or talks about an upcoming event, for example: 台北下大雨 or 下大雨幾率將提高

細雨 (xìyǔ) drizzle; (n.) light rain
  • 細 (xì: fine; small particles)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
For those light drizzles we can say 細雨 or 細細的雨. 

狂風暴雨 (kuángfēngbàoyǔ) f.e. violent storm
  • 狂 (kuáng: mad; crazy)
  • 風 (fēng: wind)
  • 暴 (bào: sudden and violent)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
When the wind really starts to pick up and rain is flying everywhere, then 狂風暴雨 is the perfect expression to describe the scene. If it is raining hard, but not windy, then you better stick to 下大雨, but if the wind is about to rip your umbrella away, than this one's for you!

傾盆大雨 (qīngpéndàyǔ) f.e. rain cats and dogs; (n.) torrential rain 
  • 傾 (qīng: overturn and pour out; empty)
  • 盆 (pén: basin)
  • 大 (dà: big)
  • 雨 (yǔ: rain)
This could be my favorite phrase of the whole bunch... since torrential rains feels like someone has just taken a giant basin of water and emptied it right on your head. 

大珠小珠落玉盤 (dà zhū xiǎo zhū luò yù pán) big and little peals (water) falling on a jade plate 
  • 大 (dà: big)
  • 珠 (zhū: pearl; small, spherical object)
  • 小 (xiǎo: small; little
  • 珠 (zhū: pearl; small, spherical object)
  • 落 (luò: fall; drop)
  • 玉盤 (yùpán: jade plate)
The most poetic phrase of the bunch, this line describes the scene and sound of large and small pearls (drops of water) falling onto a jade plate. When I learned this phrase this morning, my friend told me it is used to describe the sight or scene of rainfall. It makes sense that this phrase is so poetic, since it comes from a line in 白居易 (Bái Jūyì: Tang Poet) poem titled 《琵琶行》(pípaxíng: Song's of the Pipa). For more info on the phrase, check out the full Baidu link.

Well there you have it. A few ways to talk about rain. Got more ways? Please share them in comments below, or check out a trillion more in the awesome link that @Ye Mao Hao sent me a few minutes ago.
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