Best tips to beat any level HSK test

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The Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi has become the main focus point of your life? Congratulations. And don’t worry, the HSK exam can be beaten like any other test. Here are my best tips to pass the HSK test.

  1. Be an early bird^^
  2. Make your own HSK master plan
  3. Know the exam like your favorite movie
  4. Join your local HSK crash course
  5. Cover your carpet with flashcards
  6. Become a grammar guru for your HSK level
  7. Work on your “HSK weakness”
  8. Read the answers first

Start preparing early

The early bird catches the worm. Best to know where you’re at well in advance: take a mock exam to estimate your level and don’t forget to measure your time. How good or bad is it?

The HSK test score doesn’t lie. Remember though: HSK evaluates your language proficiency, BUT writing the HSK exam is a practical skill on its own! The more familiar you are with all the HSK ins and outs, the better your position, the higher your score.

And that’s good news, because with some planning and strategy it all can be mastered. Climb the ladder and see things from above instead.

Make your own HSK study plan

Many HSK-participants don’t prepare for the test! (Or at least, that’s what they say.)

Everybody is different. In my experience things get more challenging, once you hit the higher levels (from HSK 4 upward). But, in the end, that’s all relative. HSK 1 can be just as challenging if you’ve just started your journey.

Preparing for the HSK exam is no rocket science though. The requirements for each level are clear. The vocabulary doesn’t change. The exam structure does neither. Some basic planning will do:

  1. Get an overview of the HSK vocabulary for your target level and HSK grammar points. And get your hands on some mock HSK exams for practice.
  2. Plan how much time you need to get those characters and grammar patterns into your brain. How much (learning) time do you have available?
  3. Develop a schedule based on all that.
  4. Stick to your schedule as much as you can, track your progress by writing occasional mock exams. How are you improving? Are you ready for the final test?

Know every detail about the test

What is there to know about a test? It’s a test, right? Why should I know everything about the test? That’s not what a test is all about.

Right.

But common experience shows: Getting an epic HSK score is as much about knowing your stuff as it is about knowing the ins and outs of the test and pleasing the (Hanban) testers.

From its parts and basic procedure up to which pencil to bring and how to fill out the exam sheets!

Join your local HSK preparation class

Join a HSK preparation course if you can. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it’ll help you a great deal. If you put in the effort, nothing can go wrong. Your HSK teacher will guide you through the process and provide you with everything you need:

  • HSK materials
  • Teacher’s advice and guidance
  • Mock tests and evaluations

By the way, this Youtube channel was the closest thing I could find to HSK prep class.

Make flashcards of hard to remember characters

Yes, yes, flashcards again. Not very original, yet an effective method. You can do it the old-fashioned way or use one of the various apps like Anki, Pleco, Memrise etc. Just focus on those characters that tend to slip your memory. The pile of “easy” cards should grow to be the largest over time.

These three basic categories can help you organize things a little .

Check the relevant grammar and patterns for your HSK level

Since HSK is still a traditional test that focuses on reading and includes such exercises as putting words in the right order (to compose sentences), you’d best take a look at the relevant grammar points for your HSK level. Thanks to John Pasden’s grammar wiki, everything you need is online. If you prefer watching instead of reading this Youtube playlist can be of use.

Work on your “weakness”

Thanks to the results from your mock exam you know in which area to boost your score. The method is simple: invest more time in that domain and turn your weakness into one of your strengths (listen to the force inside of you!).

That sure sounds nice, but how do I do that? Here are some tips for improving your HSK score on listening, reading and writing:

  • Listening: keep doing those HSK listening exercises until you start hearing the familiar Chinese voices in your sleep. Although the typical HSK dialogues are very unnatural to say the least, listening to the endless stream of short conversations helps to cement all that new vocabulary.
  • Reading: for most HSK participants the reading part is a fight against time. If you feel like you’re still too slow: read more (yes.. I know) and work on your vocabulary. The more familiar you are with the characters, the easier it gets. This takes time, but it’s worth the effort.
  • Writing: Writing characters under pressure of time can be a troublesome business. You don’t need to be able to write every character! Build around the characters you can write and start composing simple sentences. Don’t make it too difficult. Use basic verbs like 有,是,喜欢,知道。If you have to hit a minimum amount of characters, use “filler words” like 特别,非常,有的时候, 最近,越来越 and standard phrases 按照我的看法 and other sentences you’ve used before. Just make sure you’ve prepared your little Hanzi toolkit when the exam day arrives.

Read the answers first

When you’re finally writing the test, keep in mind to read the multiple choice answers first. That is to say, you sort of scan through them. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the listening or reading part.

Why? It’s simple: The answers usually provide more context than the questions do and they take less time to read! Once you run through the a, b, c, d options, you know what to focus on. Otherwise, you’ll loose a lot of brain capacity taking in ALL information. The truth is that you don’t need to. Skim through the answers, get the context and concentrate your attention on the relevant stuff.

HSK 5 mock exam

Those are my tips! What helped you beat the HSK exam? How hard was it really? Feel free to leave a comment below…

Why I don’t believe in Chinese character tests

Studying new characters everyday, you have to keep track of your progress somehow. People always like to hear exact numbers. Stating you have mastered over 2000 characters sounds impressive, but how can you be sure? You can find several online tests to check the number of characters you already know. But can they be trusted? I’m skeptical. Have a look at my test results and understand why.

I tried three different tests. All three tests are free – you don’t have to sign up – and take only a few minutes. I answered as honestly as possible. These are the tests:

The results blew me away, because they varied from 1600 to 3434 characters! How can the gap be so wide? Which test should I believe? Feel free to have a closer look:

Hanzitest

Hanzitest Chinese characters
Hanzitest gave me the lowest estimation. It says their set of characters is derived “from a mix of contemporary non-fiction, fiction and movies”. I think I can do much better than that.

Wordswing test

Wordswing test Chinese characters
The wordswing test showed me the highest number which I can live with for now, since I passed HSK 5, but still have a long way to go to HSK 6.

Hanzishan

Hanzishan Chinese character test
And the results from Hanzishan lay somewhere in between. The good thing: As you can see, this test lets you review the characters you didn’t know.

Which test is the best?

Personally, I can’t say which test is most reliable. The main complication I see with all three tests is that most learners of Chinese as a foreign language would typically use the HSK levels and vocabulary to orientate. Or, alternatively, the Chinese textbooks they use in class. No matter which books and methods, all focus on the most commonly used vocabulary as opposed to less frequent ones like these from the Hanzishan test which I couldn’t even find among the HSK characters (!):

missed character list
Excerpt from my missed character list (Hanzishan)

So that’s a problem. Grabbing a Chinese novel, opening a random page and pointing your finger blindly at some character could lead to the same result. Or so it seems to me, due to the randomness of the list above.

As a HSK-student, you would probably get a higher score testing HSK characters, but then again, Chinese texts don’t necessarily stick to HSK-vocab just to make your life easier.

As a testing method, I can’t recommend any of these tests, unfortunately.

Anyway, I could be wrong. If you want to feel the same frustration, give these Chinese character tests a try and feel free to comment your score down below.

5 Things we tell ourselves that keep us from studying Chinese

We sent people to the moon. We created touchscreens and video streaming. We discovered water on Mars. We developed robotic body parts. We can clone humans and grow new organs.

We excel in innovation.

What strikes me as odd though, WHY – at the same time – it’s so hard to get OUT of our COMFORT ZONE and take things to the next level.

This post is dedicated to this underrated capability of ours to come up with reasons that justify staying in our comfort zone just a little longer…

Especially, when we learn new skills OR LANGUAGES like Mandarin that are considered hard beyond belief.

Nr. 1: “I suck at foreign languages”

Many people worry about missing the mysterious language gene or think they generally lack the talent to learn a new language, especially a “hard language” like Mandarin. The idea that they could reach a certain level of proficiency in Chinese seems as likely to them as climbing Mount Everest without oxygen.

Language learning is a skill, however, that can be learned like so many things in life. If you weren’t particularly good at it at school, doesn’t mean you cannot do it. It probably just means at that time and place, in that particular setting, you couldn’t perform at the best of your ability. And is Chinese really that hard to learn?

Nr. 2. “Chinese is too difficult for me”

Is Chinese harder than Arabic, Icelandic or Spanish?

It depends for whom of course!

For Vietnamese people for example, Chinese is not completely outside their frame of reference. Many elements look and sound familiar:

I think this really comes down to how close your language is to Chinese. I, for example, am from Vietnam, my only mother tongue is Vietnamese and I’ve been learning English for roughly 10 years now and Chinese for more than 1 year. To me, English is definitely the harder one since its grammar and vocabulary are completely foreign, it took me like 5-6 years to be able to hold a normal conversation and to be able to listen and understand what others are speaking.

Nguyen Nguyen (YouTube nickname), commented the question if Chinese is the hardest language on earth.

Chinese generally has four main challenges as a foreign language:

  1. The writing system
  2. The tones and pronunciation
  3. The vocabulary (the lack of loanwords and other recognizable elements)
  4. Short phrases (idioms) linked to Chinese culture and history

Reading and writing Chinese is time consuming. No doubt about that. On the other hand: Chinese grammar is relatively easy. Compared to German for example, you don’t have to worry about different tenses, pluralization, cases, genus, articles and what have you.

Which means that basic communication can start from an early level, without the grammatical obstacles typical for German, English, Polish and other languages. Learning Chinese for daily survival is not as hard as many people think. Chinese people usually won’t hesitate to show you their admiration.

Nr. 3: “I don’t have time”

If you are a managing director with a family at home, you might well have too much on your plate already. You won’t be able to focus on yet another task, neither during the evening nor on weekends. You are either too tired or too occupied with work, family and the other 89 things on your to-do list.

What’s more, – I noticed this with management people I used to teach – if you cannot be good at it, you start to hate it. Therefore, without the proper time resources, any learning process is set up for failure.

On the other side of the spectrum, I used to know people men who worked a normal office job, were single and spent most of their leisure time playing Xbox and drinking beer.

Either way, time is a limited resource. That’s why we MAKE time for things (or people) we value.

The crucial thing for learning any new language is daily practice. Even 10 minutes every day amounts to 70 minutes a week, 280 minutes a month.

You can even do it on your way to work. If you “waste” a lot of time commuting every week, this is “hidden potential” you can tap into.

The hours normally wasted in the Berlin S-Bahn turned into a completely different experience when I started listening to audiobooks and courses in history and philosophy. Average traveling time per week: 10 hours. Around 480 hours per year! Why not invest some of that time in something more useful?

If you ever took driving lessons: it’s the same idea. Regular practice does the trick.

Imagine what you can achieve in a year if you spend two hours every week on learning something new?

Nr. 4: “I’m not in China. How can I learn Chinese?”

It’s a common belief that you have to be immersed in the language to make progress. Although not all immersion leads to proficiency, in general, language learners do boost their abilities significantly during their stay in the target language country. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

Whatever you do, you should always prepare yourself for the real thing. If you are not in China right now, maybe you are planning to go their at some point and you’ll prepare yourself for that as good as you can.

If you cannot go to China: consider digital immersion and meeting up with local Chinese. The internet offers so many possibilities to communicate that Marco Polo would wish he had had. Chat with Chinese people, find Chinese teachers online, watch Chinese TV-series. There’s a surplus of options.

Nr. 5: “I’ll never understand Chinese culture anyway”

This is what a friend said to me after somewhat unfortunate first experiences with Chinese culture, working for a Chinese company. She never felt very sympathetic towards Chinese culture, but after being part of a Chinese company she completely lost all interest and felt she’d never understand “Chinese mentality” and their “indirect way of communicating” anyway.

“Never again”, she said to me, which I could understand, from her point of view. I just felt she gave up too early and let one bad experience waste everything. The road to understanding was from now on was blocked. By herself.

The obvious point here: If you don’t have any positive feeling towards a culture or language, learning their language becomes a struggle, cause you cannot develop any interest towards it.

This is where I’ve seen many people fail, because they couldn’t identify with their target language on any level.

Needles to say, studying the “Chinese mentality” and “indirect way of communicating” does serve as a mirror that could have prevented some of her hard feelings or at least questioned the universality of her own communication principles.

And Chinese culture envelops much more than the corporate culture of some Chinese enterprise entering the global market. The challenge here is to find some area of interest you can positively identify with.

Subtitled Chinese videos: Get the transcript

Did you know Youtube allows you to search for subbed videos and get the transcript?

The method is still imperfect but can be helpful if you want to get a closer look at the spoken text, which then can be copied and translated.

How to search for subtitled videos on Youtube and get the video transcript

The problem is that not all subtitles are in Chinese and not all subtitled content contains a transcript. You can try some random Chinese keywords like “为什么” and autosearch will offer you suggestions.

Add a comment below, if you get lucky or have any suggestions.

The 6 biggest DON’TS mastering Chinese

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A reader asked me if there were any things I’d do differently today if I’d have to re-climb Hanyu mountain all the way from base camp number one. Based on my own experience and what I know from others, here’s my list.

Don’t skip the basics of Pinyin, tones and pronunciation

Pinyin, tones and pronunciation build the first layer of your Chinese language pyramid. This foundation needs to be as strong as possible in order not to subside once you progress. This does not mean perfection, but you have to cover the basics:

  • Write basic Chinese sentences in Pinyin, also from dictation
  • Speak and recognize the four tones
  • Read Pinyin fluently and correctly (standard pronunciation)

You can practice on your own (which I did for an extensive period), but probably the best way to do it is to join a “Pinyin boot camp” or intensive Pinyin elementary course. When I started studying Mandarin, I had no choice but to undergo a two-week Pinyin brainwash with our devoted Chinese teacher. We would go through all the Pinyin syllables and enjoyed prolonged drill sessions with our inexhaustible laoshi to the point where we would be haunted by shreds of chu, qu, chang, qiang, nü and nu in our dreams. But is was worth the effort and far more effective than self-studying Pinyin without anyone correcting you.

Don’t ignore Hanzi

Can you learn Chinese without Chinese characters? This is an intensely debated question. It all depends on your personal goals: what degree of proficiency do you want to reach? Which language skills matter to you?

I won’t pretend to have the only valid answer.

You can learn basic level Chinese without understanding Hanzi, BUT… Pinyin in the long run cannot replace Hanzi. The thing is that the Chinese writing system is so crucial to Chinese culture that without it, you’ll stay “illiterate” not just in the direct sense but also in terms of Chinese culture. Without the characters, your learning curve will flatten in an earlier stage, because the fact that more and more vocabulary sounds and looks the same to you becomes a real handicap.

Here is an example:

Same in sound (homophone), but different in meaning. The part you miss when you can’t read Hanzi.

To illustrate this in more detail: When you ignore the four tones, standard Chinese has about 400 different syllables. Not a very high number compared to German, English, Russian or most other languages. The result of this small phonetic inventory is a high level of similar sounding words or homophony. But this relatively small amount of syllables does match a far greater number of commonly used characters. The official list numbers about 7000 common Hanzi. You get pretty far though, when you know the thousand most frequently used characters.

Here you can see how HSK levels match (or do not match) the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and the number of characters needed for each level with A1 meaning “beginner” and C2 “almost native”. It’s interesting to see that HSK6 according to German estimations equals only B2, which is upper intermediate, whereas according to Hanban, HSK6 matches the “almost-native” C2 level.

So this is something to consider when you are starting out or have that feeling that Pinyin brought you a long way but making progress becomes harder and harder. That’s why each Pinyin-only learning method is OK for first steps, but probably won’t get you to an intermediate or advanced level.

Don’t forget to make Chinese friends

Learning Chinese becomes much more real and fun when you can communicate with Chinese people. If you happen not to be somewhere withing Greater China, local tandem programs and language exchange facebook groups (or Scrabbin or interpals) can be an excellent starting point. It doesn’t always work out the first time. When you are lucky, you find a nice tandem partner to chat with.

Don’t worry if you “still don’t understand anything”

Chinese is unlike Italian or French so different from almost all languages that hardly any word sounds familiar. Especially when you are not in a Chinese speaking region and immersed in the language, developing adequate listening skills takes time and is really difficult, so don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s quite normal. Concentrate on what you know and build on that. When you have got time, watch Chinese movies and listen Chinese songs and keep a steady level of Chinese input.

Don’t expect apps to solve all your problems

Apps will shape the future of language learning and have been a major step forward, but the learner still has to make time and deliver the effort to climb up the hill. What’s just as important: how to use online learning applications in the right way. App developers don’t know your goals and motivation or indeed what’s best for you. That’s why apps usually don’t provide much guidance and for instance don’t tell you how, when, how often and with which expectations to use them.

Don’t think children’s books are easy

When I knew a couple of hundred characters, I reckoned it was time to read “红红的柿子树” (“honghong de shizishu”/ “red persimmon tree”), a children’s book a Chinese friend gave me.

It had Pinyin and pictures and I could recognize several characters, but I had a hard time making sense of the story. For two reasons: 1.) It was too hard for me. 2.) I couldn’t really relate to “little piggy looking for a friend” and all the other exciting animal characters in the book. This was demotivating to me.

Reading “Xiao wangzi” the hard way. This is an example of what the pages looked like after I went over them.

Reading “The Little Prince” in Chinese (with Pinyin) was even worse. It’s a great book: nice pictures, short chapters, Pinyin included. However it proofed almost impossible to understand for me, without translating word by word, which I tried for some time, but is not something I would recommend. Try Chinese textbooks and graded readers instead.

That’s my list. If you have any thoughts or ideas about this topic, please leave a comment below.

Top 10 Chinese songs for Mandarin beginners

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Here’s a top 10 of Chinese songs that are suitable for beginners. When I say beginners, I don’t mean absolute beginners, but learners with at least a few months of learning experience. Enjoy!

Do you have any songs that helped you improve your Chinese skills? Please leave a comment below.

Nr. 1. Teresa Teng – 月亮代表我的心

Teresa sings “月亮代表我的心” (the moon portrays my heart)

For those who do not know her yet: Teresa Teng (邓丽君 (dèng lì jūn), 29 January 1953 – 8 May 1995) was an extremely popular singer from Taiwan. Her fame spread all over Southeast-Asia in the 70’s and 80’s, although her romantic songs were officially banned from mainland China for being to “bourgeois”. Her records could still be bought on the black market though and were played all over China, even in government circles and night clubs. Her fans from mainland China nicknamed her “Little Deng” as she shares her family name (邓) with the communist leader Deng Xiaoping. The saying went that “Deng the leader ruled by day, but Deng the singer ruled by night”.

By the way, she not only recorded songs in Mandarin but also in Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese, Indonesian and English. She even spoke French fluently.

Nr. 2. Teresa Teng – 甜蜜蜜

Trying to remember where I saw that sweet smile before

Some people may know the song from the Hongkong movie “Tian mi mi” which was released in 1996. Teresa’s music is featured prominently throughout the whole film; in fact, the cinema classic is considered a “love poem” to the Taiwanese singer. The song is about love at first sight.

甜蜜蜜  Tián mì mì
你笑得甜蜜蜜  nǐxiào dé tián mì mì
好像花儿开在春风里  hǎo xiàng huā er kāi zài chūn fēng lǐ
开在春风里  kāi zài chūn fēng lǐ
在哪里在哪里见过你  zài nǎ lǐ zài nǎlǐ jiàn guò nǐ
你的笑容这样熟悉  nǐ de xiào róng zhè yàng shú xī
我一时想不起  wǒ yī shí xiǎng bù qǐ

Teresas Teng – 甜蜜蜜

Nr. 3. Teresa Teng – 你怎么说

“You can’t even speak my name properly” – Teresa Teng loosing patience with her lover

The reason Teresa’s songs are so excellent for learning Chinese is they are mostly slow love ballads sung with her sweet and clear voice. The lyrics are simple and pure. From a learning perspective you only need basic grammar to be able to follow. Repetition is key here. Soon you are singing along and can impress your Chinese friends in a karaoke bar of your choice.

你说过两天来看我
Ni shuo guo liang tian lai kan wo
一等就是一年多
Yi deng jiu shi yi nian duo
三百六十五个日子不好过
San bai liu shi wu ge ri zi bu hao guo
你心里根本没有我
Ni xin li gen ben mei you wo
把我的爱情还给我
Ba wo de ai qing huan gei wo

Teresas Teng – 你怎么说

Nr. 4. Teresa Teng – 美酒加咖啡

Teresa’s melancholy drinking song “美酒加咖啡”

The idea of mixing wine and coffee or drinking both simultaneously didn’t occur to me till I heard this Chinese drinking ballad. In this song, a heartbroken Teresa assures her listeners time and time again that she is not yet drunk but just brokenhearted and looking for equally grief-stricken company to empty another cup.

美酒 加 咖啡我只要喝一杯 Měijiǔ jiā kāfēi, wǒ zhǐyào hè yībēi
想起了过去又喝了第二杯 Xiǎngqǐlai guòqù yòu hēle dì èr bēi
明知道爱情像流水管他去爱谁 Míng zhīdào àiqíng xiàng liúshuǐ, guǎn tā qù ài shéi
我要美酒 加 咖啡一杯再一杯 Wǒ yào měijiǔ jiā kāfēi, yībēi zài yībēi

Teresas Teng – 美酒加咖啡

Nr. 5. 李娜 – 女人是老虎

女人是老虎

“Women are tigers”. This may be common knowledge to some, but for the poor monk in the song it serves as a warning not to mingle or even come close to the opposite sex as they will swallow him alive. Listen to Li Na to find out what became of him.

Nr. 6. 于文华、尹相杰 – 纤夫的爱

纤夫的爱

The original name of this unbelievably catchy love song seems to be “纤夫的爱” or “boat tracker’s love” and is another gem from yesteryear. I love the epic video clip of the heroic bloke with the glasses pulling the boat with his “younger sister” behind him. ”The virtues of Chinese rural life”, someone commented. The “dangling rope” between them becomes a metaphor for their unfolding love. He pulls her, he sweats for her: This is old-school Chinese chivalry (with “traditional” gender roles), no matter if the male singer (Yǐn Xiāngjié) was arrested for possessing drugs or not.

妹妹你坐船头
mei mei ni zuo chuan tou
哥哥在岸上走
ge ge zai an shang zou
恩恩爱爱
en en ai ai
纤绳荡悠悠
qian sheng dang you you

于文华、尹相杰 – 纤夫的爱

Nr. 7. 于文华、尹相杰 – 天上有太阳

The sun is shining

If you found the last one a bit too hard, try this one. It’s another extremely catchy duet between gege and xiaomei, still breathing the rural spirit of the nineties. As their relationship enters into a more mature stage, gege – in an optimistic and forward looking mood – is wondering how to satisfy xiaomei’s dreams and expectations.

Nr. 8. Joyce Chu -【好想你 I MiSS U】

好想你!是真的吗?

Joyce Chu is a young singer from Malaysia. She changes her outfit and whereabouts just about every second in this clip just to underline how she misses you. It’s the kind of song that gets stuck in your head pretty quick.

Nr. 8. Wanting 曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里 (You Exist In My Song)

Wanting 曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里

Do you hear an English accent? I wonder if Wanting Qu does it on purpose, because she was born in Harbin, China and already 16 years of age when she moved to Canada. Wanting earned a degree in international business and relocated to Vancouver where she began her musical career. “You exist in my song” is about lost love that still lives on in heart and dreams.

你存在 我深深的脑海里
Nǐ cúnzài wǒ shēn shēn de nǎohǎi lǐ
我的梦里 我的心里 我的歌声里
Wǒ de mèng lǐ wǒ de xīnlǐ wǒ de gēshēng lǐ
你存在 我深深的脑海里
Nǐ cúnzài wǒ shēn shēn de nǎohǎi lǐ
我的梦里 我的心里 我的歌声里
Wǒ de mèng lǐ wǒ de xīnlǐ wǒ de gēshēng lǐ

曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里

Nr. 9. 慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

Murong Xiaoxiao became famous with this poppy R&B song from Chinese street life that even involves some rap elements (I guess that was something new back then). It could be heard on every Chinese street corner in 2009 (and afterwards). 买卖 or 做买卖 literally means buying and selling (doing business) and is often used to refer to small businesses and street vendors. In this case, it’s Xiaoxiao’s love that’s been bought and sold and she obviously feels wronged by her lover who thinks love is something that can be purchased and thrown away anytime.

chūmài wǒ de ài bī zhe wǒ líkāi
出卖我的爱 逼着我离开
zuìhòu zhīdao zhēnxiàng de wǒ yǎnlèi diào xiàlái
最后知道真相的我眼泪掉下来
chūmài wǒ de ài nǐ bēi le liángxīn zhài
出卖我的爱 你背了良心债
jiùsuàn fùchū zài duō gǎnqíng yě zài mǎi bù huílai
就算付出再多感情也再买不回来

dāngchū shì nǐ yào fēnkāi fēnkāi jiù fēnkāi
当初是你要分开 分开就分开
xiànzài yòu yào yòng zhēn’ài bǎ wǒ hǒng huílai
现在又要用真爱 把我哄回来
àiqíng bù shì nǐ xiǎng mài xiǎng mǎi jiù néng mài
爱情不是你想卖 想买就能卖
ràng wǒ zhèngkāi ràng wǒ míngbai fàngshǒu nǐ de ài
让我挣开让我明白放手你的爱

慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

Nr. 10. 筷子兄弟 – 小苹果

筷子兄弟-小蘋果

This extremely popular song by the Chopstick Brothers “traumatizes” a lot of people on their first trip to China. Imagine getting caught in a massive swarm of elderly women (阿姨) dancing in formation to the beat of “xiao pingguo” and being forced to join their revolutionary movement as happens to numerous innocent tourists every year. Most of them don’t make it back. The upside is though, that the lyrics are plain and simple. Listen to it once or twice and the song will stick with you for days!

你是我的小呀小苹果 Nǐ shì wǒ de xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
怎么爱你都不嫌多 zěnme ài nǐ dōu bù xián duō
红红的小脸⼉温暖我的⼼窝 hóng hóng de xiǎo liǎn er wēnnuǎn wǒ de xīn wō
点亮我生命的⽕ diǎn liàng wǒ shēngmìng de huǒ
⽕火⽕火⽕ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ

筷子兄弟-小蘋果

Discover your learning style

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Starting out learning a new language? If you are new to language learning or want to rethink the process, bear with me for some self-discovery. Knowing your personal learning style will make studying easier and more fun. Non of the four styles match you? I have some advice for you too.

Natural listeners

Do you prefer lectures over reading books and articles? You do a good job at following verbal directions? You don’t really need the visual backup to support your learning?

If you are a so-called auditory learner, you learn particularly well by listening. In essence, auditory learners retain information best when it is presented through sound and speech. If you identify with this type, consider listening to dialogues, vocabulary and music. Build your own playlist and put tracks on repeat. Speak or sing along and try to repeat the phrases. Stop when you feel the urge to destroy your playing device. For Chinese in particular, repetition really will help you to get the tones and the melody right.

“I see what you mean”

Sorry, what did you just say? Can you write that down please?

If you are more of a visual type of learner, you typically process new information by reading, writing and using other visual stimuli. I personally like to write summaries and vocabulary lists, because the visual backup not only helps me to memorize words and sentences I’d otherwise forget in the long run, but also supports my neurotic self to create order out of chaos. The drawing of symbols and pictures is essential in this as well.

Learn characters with pictures

Tactile and kinesthetic

Are you more the kind of hands-on learner who benefit from actively doing something? Then you might feel more comfortable with working with flashcards, tangible objects, and other creative means. As a kinesthetic learner you already know that standing up will improve your comprehension and retention. When you stand up, your body is more engaged and connected to the learning process. Investing in a book stand or standing desk may help you concentrate for longer periods of time and remember more of what you read. You may also consider to do some burpees or jumping jacks in between chapters. Combining activity keeps you energized and cements the language you’re studying in your brain.

The intellectual

Last but not least, there is the intellectual learner. As the name suggests as an intellectual learn you learn best the abstract way. You want to first understand the rules and are not afraid to read rather dreary grammar explanations like this:

Chinese, like English, is classified as an SVO (subject–verb–object) language. Transitive verbs precede their objects in typical simple clauses, while the subject precedes the verb. For example: 他 喝 酒。Literal: He drink alcohol. Translated: He drinks alcohol.

Not my style?

If you got the feeling that non of the above styles or types matches your particular profile? That’s completely fine, since they are only abstract distinctions to help you orientate. Have you ever met a person who learned language purely by listening to spoken dialogues and other recordings? Would be unnatural, wouldn’t it? Speaking of natural and unnatural: Don’t forget that when we try to learn a foreign language as adults, we are actually kind of helplessly imitating the natural process of language learning that we all went through as children as we mastered our first language. How did that work out so well? Natural language acquisition involves all the senses and is meaningful. It’s both active and passive. All four areas of language skills, that is speaking, listening, reading and writing, develop overtime, but not necessarily in a guided manner.

So taking that into account, you should really try to create your personal mixture of the four learning styles. Know your strengths and keep it balanced: If you like to read, don’t forget to communicate with people. If you are the opposite and prefer learning by conversation and listening, try making notes. It will help you remember fresh vocabulary and keep track of your progress. Challenge yourself by trying new things!

PS. Get some inspiration from a polyglot expert

According to language learning expert Steve Kaufmann, most important of all is knowing what motivates you, what interests you. Note his opinion on different types of learners:

I have never believed that there are “auditory learners”, “visual learners” or other types of learners. I do believe that learners are motivated by different things. It is these different kinds of motivations that need to be researched and better understood.

Steve Kaufmann (lingosteve)
Language learning legend Steve Kaufmann discussing the question if there really are different types of language learners