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Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
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Suits Offline
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Post: #126
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
(05-20-2014 09:44 AM)clever alias Wrote:  you say 谢谢 to a cab driver. he replies with 你的汉语蛮好!

I got this for "Ni hao" yesterday from an educated person with a lot of money, decently dressed. To be fair, however, I was tonally spot on.

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05-20-2014 07:04 PM
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Post: #127
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
its 2 tones, if it wasnt 。 。 。太过分了

ive never gotten it for 这个 before though

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(This post was last modified: 05-20-2014 08:08 PM by clever alias.)
05-20-2014 07:53 PM
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Post: #128
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
I didn't think tones mattered that much, but I tested out the limited Chinese I knew with a chick I was out on a date with last month, and she had to correct me a few times.

For example, when I was trying to say beer or let's go get something to eat, she told me I was saying completely different words for "beer" and "eat."

Seems like that Pimsleur Mandarin Audio Course is mostly worthless.
05-20-2014 08:10 PM
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clever alias Offline
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Post: #129
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
you can go by context for 90% of basic needs
05-20-2014 08:48 PM
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RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
Tones are always important. Yes, people can often understand mispronounced words based on context, but even then, it still sounds like shit.

It's something everyone learns at a different rate. Some people pick it up pretty quickly, while others still butcher it after years of practice. Even if you learn slowly, you should still try to improve as much as possible.

I think the most accurate comparisson to the way non-Chinese butcher Chinese/Mandarin words is the way Japanese will pronounce foreign languages using this katakana accent.

"think" sounds literally like "shinku"
"love" sounds like "rabu"
"friend" is sounds like "hurendo"
"sit" is pronounced like "shit", whereas "city hall" becomes "shitty hohru"
similar can be said for "election" and "erection", or "sea" and "she", "vest" and "best".

"His friend is sitting in the class room" literally sounds like...
"Hizu hurendo izu shitting in ja kurassu ruumu."

*not trying to insult or ridicule the Japanese...this is simply how the vast majority of Japanese pronounce not only English but other foreign words.

I know Japan is another subject entirely, but I think this is the best analogy: the way the above example sounds to an English speaker is pretty much how butchered tones Sound in Chinese. Add to this a thick enough Western accent and it not only sounds atrocious but it's a pain to understand.

Disclamer: I am not the Sargon of Akkad from Youtube and I have no relation whatsoever to that person...also, I don't give a shit about videogames.
(This post was last modified: 05-20-2014 09:22 PM by Sargon of Akkad.)
05-20-2014 09:02 PM
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Post: #131
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
id say its more similar to a.chinese speaking english monotone with no stress on any syllables. you can understand it but its weird

basic conversation you can just screw the tones and most people will.have no problem understanding you. if you start getting technical or using 成语 youll run into problems
(This post was last modified: 05-20-2014 10:28 PM by clever alias.)
05-20-2014 09:31 PM
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Suits Offline
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Post: #132
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
There are many different learning styles, so I don't want to suggest that what has worked for me will work for others...but the best teacher of Chinese for me when it comes to pronunciation has been to place myself in situations where I hear the same phrases over and over again.

After a while, a word will begin to take on its own personality, instead of being simply the composite of certain sounds.

Most Chinese have a hard time actually telling you which tones are on certain words, because the four tones system is just an attempt to best explain a language that is actually more complicated than simply having four different tones. I would say that there are four tone categories, but each individual word may have a certain why that you say it, and maybe even a different way to say it if it is used with certain other words or with a certain purpose in mind.

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05-20-2014 10:54 PM
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Post: #133
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
^^This is made even harder with dialects that don't have their own formalised romanisations, like Shanghainese or Hainanese. If you ask a Shanghaier how many tones their are in Shanghainese, they'll just shrug. I remember once a girl from Shanghai I met in Japan answered at first that she didn't think Shanghainese had any tones. I then deliberately changed the tones of the word she had just taught me, asking if it had the same meaning, to which she said something along the lines of "Oh! No, so yeah, we do have tones!"

In general, I've found that hearing a language spoken frequently and speaking it on a frequent basis is the only effective way for many people to learn languages. That doesn't mean you shouldn't study vocabulary and grammar as well, but I've met a lot of people who were MUCH more hard working than I am, whose vocabulary's are larger than mine, but since they don't speak the language on a regular basis, they still struggle with each sentence. Speaking, including pronunciation, is something most people do automatically without deliberate thought, and you only really get to that after constantly using and hearing things.

Disclamer: I am not the Sargon of Akkad from Youtube and I have no relation whatsoever to that person...also, I don't give a shit about videogames.
(This post was last modified: 05-21-2014 01:10 AM by Sargon of Akkad.)
05-21-2014 12:55 AM
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Post: #134
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
(05-21-2014 12:55 AM)Sargon of Akkad Wrote:  In general, I've found that hearing a language spoken frequently and speaking it on a frequent basis is the only effective way for many people to learn languages. That doesn't mean you shouldn't study vocabulary and grammar as well, but I've met a lot of people who were MUCH more hard working than I am, whose vocabulary's are larger than mine, but since they don't speak the language on a regular basis, they still struggle with each sentence. Speaking, including pronunciation, is something most people do automatically without deliberate thought, and you only really get to that after constantly using and hearing things.

This is why the bitches who are good at school always get slammed when they come to China to study language. They spend hours studying, being good students and doing all there homework. They score high on all their tests and enjoy the teacher's favour.

Then there's me. I spent a semester studying intensive. I wore myself out so much that I couldn't get out of bed a lot and missed a lot of classes. I was lucky to pass my tests. Meanwhile, some hardworking 13 year old was getting 100% on the same tests.

But at the end of the day, these straight A students can't fricken communicate. A professor from my university who taught both me and an ex-girlfriend of mine, was surprised to discover that my Chinese was much better than my ex's. We'd both spent a similar amount of time in China and my ex graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I graduated with a 2.75 GPA.

But she couldn't even make herself understood, even when saying the most basic things. Whereas I got busy using Chinese for hours every day and achieved a very high level of functionality considering my limited vocabulary.

I wouldn't brag about my Chinese, but I'm always shocked by what I can accomplish with it. Being book smart does very little for speaking this language.

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05-21-2014 01:21 AM
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Post: #135
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
the thing to remember is that chinese dont learn tones. theu dont really have to be sat down and have their tones corrected that much. a 2 year olds brain os so hardwired for language that they will unconciously use tones. they know what the tone on every word is, but they don't have to tjink about it, so if you ask them what tone a word is, its not that they cant say it, but they never had to learn the tone. so they say it to themselves first then tell you.
05-21-2014 06:13 AM
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Post: #136
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
For those looking to improve their oral Chinese including tones, you might try checking out the sentence packs http://www.glossika.com/. I'm using the business chinese pack right now (1000 sentences in Chinese and English) and although it's not a very fun method, the repetition is great for ingraining word sounds and even more so "sentence sounds," as words strung together take on a different rhythm and tonality than they do in isolation. The guy who developed the method, Glossika, used to have a youtube account with hundreds of videos about learning Chinese (among other languages)--he really knows his shit.

On another note, anyone have experience with one-on-one tutoring? I've got 2 hours of tutoring daily for the next four months and want to make the most of it. Mostly we just go through the textbook and she has me summarize things in my own words, recall the key phrases, and discuss the textbook topic. We spend about half the time just talking about this and that. It's working well but I wonder if there might be a better way to use the time. FWIW my Chinese is pretty advanced--but I would imagine good classroom methodologies are the same across levels.
05-21-2014 09:46 PM
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Suits Offline
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Post: #137
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
(05-21-2014 01:21 AM)Suits Wrote:  
(05-21-2014 12:55 AM)Sargon of Akkad Wrote:  In general, I've found that hearing a language spoken frequently and speaking it on a frequent basis is the only effective way for many people to learn languages. That doesn't mean you shouldn't study vocabulary and grammar as well, but I've met a lot of people who were MUCH more hard working than I am, whose vocabulary's are larger than mine, but since they don't speak the language on a regular basis, they still struggle with each sentence. Speaking, including pronunciation, is something most people do automatically without deliberate thought, and you only really get to that after constantly using and hearing things.

This is why the bitches who are good at school always get slammed when they come to China to study language. They spend hours studying, being good students and doing all there homework. They score high on all their tests and enjoy the teacher's favour.

Then there's me. I spent a semester studying intensive. I wore myself out so much that I couldn't get out of bed a lot and missed a lot of classes. I was lucky to pass my tests. Meanwhile, some hardworking 13 year old was getting 100% on the same tests.

But at the end of the day, these straight A students can't fricken communicate. A professor from my university who taught both me and an ex-girlfriend of mine, was surprised to discover that my Chinese was much better than my ex's. We'd both spent a similar amount of time in China and my ex graduated with a 3.8 GPA. I graduated with a 2.75 GPA.

But she couldn't even make herself understood, even when saying the most basic things. Whereas I got busy using Chinese for hours every day and achieved a very high level of functionality considering my limited vocabulary.

I wouldn't brag about my Chinese, but I'm always shocked by what I can accomplish with it. Being book smart does very little for speaking this language.

Here's another example of this. My friend still works in Tianjin and knows this Italian woman who had started working there before I left.

She's learned 5000 Chinese characters for the HSK test.

Guess how much Chinese she can speak.

Zero.

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06-26-2014 02:09 AM
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clever alias Offline
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Post: #138
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
youre sort of making it out to seem like studying and increasing vocabulary is detrimental. if you lock yourself in a room and do nothing but write charactera, yes, but theres a pretty importance balance
06-26-2014 12:59 PM
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Post: #139
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
Ideally, a middle ground is important. I don't think anyone is implying that you shouldn't learn vocabulary, but by itself, studying from a book and thinking in terms of test scores isn't nearly enough. A combination of both is best, but even then, practical experience clearly gets you much farther.

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06-26-2014 01:10 PM
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Post: #140
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
on the other hand, memorize 3000 more words, then try and read a novel in chinese, much easier. and reading is arguably a better way to improve ones chinese than talking to chinese people
06-26-2014 01:21 PM
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Post: #141
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
All I'm saying is that a language like Chinese tends to separate the men from the boys (or more commonly, the men from the women).

People who excelled in a classroom environment because they could memorize, memorize, memorize are hopelessly clueless when they encounter a learning experience that requires them to get out and participate in active learning.

I bring this up only because its nice for those of us who didn't do as well in school as the kids who were perfectly content to lock themselves in a room and memorize their textbook, might be the perfect candidates to win at experiential learning.

Obviously, it's ideal to learn as many characters as possible, but the experience of learning Chinese is a good one to remind us that the modern Western approach to schooling is silly and that learning isn't the exclusive property of the classroom.

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06-26-2014 07:13 PM
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Post: #142
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
(06-26-2014 01:21 PM)clever alias Wrote:  on the other hand, memorize 3000 more words, then try and read a novel in chinese, much easier. and reading is arguably a better way to improve ones chinese than talking to chinese people

Using the language period (in written and spoken form) is the best way to learn it, and memorizing characters or studying for exams can certainly be an aid to that. It's just there are some who think that alone will make you proficient.

Also, I'd say you basically get good at what you do regularly: reading frequently will make you good at reading and understanding written language, while if you speak frequently that is what you'll get good at.

(06-26-2014 07:13 PM)Suits Wrote:  Obviously, it's ideal to learn as many characters as possible, but the experience of learning Chinese is a good one to remind us that the modern Western approach to schooling is silly and that learning isn't the exclusive property of the classroom.

This isn't something particularly Western. Chinese and Japanese education tend to be even more geared towards blind memorization.

Disclamer: I am not the Sargon of Akkad from Youtube and I have no relation whatsoever to that person...also, I don't give a shit about videogames.
(This post was last modified: 06-26-2014 10:46 PM by Sargon of Akkad.)
06-26-2014 10:07 PM
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Post: #143
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
(06-26-2014 10:07 PM)Sargon of Akkad Wrote:  
(06-26-2014 07:13 PM)Suits Wrote:  Obviously, it's ideal to learn as many characters as possible, but the experience of learning Chinese is a good one to remind us that the modern Western approach to schooling is silly and that learning isn't the exclusive property of the classroom.

This isn't something particularly Western. Chinese and Japanese education tend to be even more geared towards blind memorization.

It's worse in Asia, but I attended high school and university in the West and the students who memorized the material did the best.

However, there success after graduating appears to be in no way correlated with their GPA, judging by what I can observe on Facebook.

Raw ambition seems to be a stronger decided of success, which turns out is a pretty crucial ingredient in learning Chinese.

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(This post was last modified: 06-26-2014 10:22 PM by Suits.)
06-26-2014 10:21 PM
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Post: #144
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
I study using three different formats now, because of the issues that you guys are discussing and because a human brain processes different types of information differently, and stressing it in different ways builds neural pathways in different ways that can ultimately be helpful, though how helpful will depend on many factors, including the biology of the learner.

Right now, I use Memrise, a phone app, for learning pinyin and characters. Its basically a time user for the train, waiting around, etc. I don't schedule this time.

I have sessions with a Chinese teacher (language exchange for language/business exchange) with a Chinese teacher. We use a Chinese textbook and are covering it lesson by lesson.

Also, I have again started using rosetta stone, mostly for listening and to create a visual basis association for remembering written Chinese and spoken Chinese.

Approaching it simultaneously in these three ways over the last month does feel like it helped my get past a plateau in learning. Hopefully I'll be industrious, keep it up, and approach the point where I can start learning more because I'll understand more just walking around. I do think character recognition, if you're living in China, is very helpful as you can be reinforced all the time just reading the things that appear in front of you at all times, and it also helps you understand the underlying logic of the language.

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06-27-2014 04:22 AM
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Post: #145
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
Here's my two cents on Chinese language learning:

Sign up for a one-on-one class at a language center. If you take a group class you'll oftentimes end up speaking too much English. Centers like this exist in large American cities and they are very easy to find in 1st/2nd tier Chinese cities. I went to TLI (Taipei Language Institute). After a year of that and having a local girlfriend, I went from very basic to very functional in society.

Consider studying for the HSK test. It's a great way to build up your vocabulary. You can order study books online.

Courses in Beijing. If you are reaching an advanced level, the Culture Yard in Beijing is a great resource. They have various events and a great course called Chinese Through Media. You read and discuss newspaper stories the teacher picks out for you. Great way to be able to talk about issues in Chinese.

Find a language exchange partner. In China/Taiwan, this is very easy. You'll probably get laid out of it, too. If you're in the West and there isn't much of a Chinese population in your town, there are plenty of websites that you can google that match you with people abroad. You can talk on Skype.

Websites: I agree with others that popupchinese is the best podcast form for learning Chinese. Something I didn't see while scrolling through (I'm a latecomer to this thread) is skritter.com. Use this to learn characters. It's really the only way to go. You can practice writing and recognizing characters. It's fast and easy to use. The only thing is it's about $10 a month. You can learn simplified or traditional characters and they've also got a site for learning Japanese. I used this to get over the hump from HSK 4 to 5 in a much shorter time than otherwise. If you are interested in translating, you should google the Marco Polo Project. People post articles in Chinese and then you can work on translating it. Other members can comment on the quality of your work. This is good only if you're advanced or you are looking to make some money translating down the road.

For videos, check out http://www.fluentu.com/. There are a bunch of videos there, all with Chinese subtitles in both character and pinyin. You can turn them off and on as you like. You can also save vocabulary and study it later. I haven't been on there for a while. I think there's a free version and a pay version. It's good for practical, regular speed listening comprehension.

The most important thing to do if you are in your home country is try to find any way you can to speak to living human beings in real time. I've met a few people who took a Chinese course or two back home and when they got in country were almost as lost as those of us who came in without speaking a word.
06-27-2014 12:53 PM
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Post: #146
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
Immersion into the country is of course the most effective way to learn a language, especially one as complicated as Chinese Mandarin/Cantonese, but many of you would be surprised at the resources available in your home country, if you know where to derive them from.

If improvement in dialogue, pronunciation and general grammar is what you seek then it would be wise to seek help from the local Chinese in the your home countries, which I assume will be predominantly Anglo-based (US/Canada/Australia etc). There is no shortage of Chinese immigrants or children of immigrant families who can speak both Mandarin/Cantonese and English with proficiency. A replacement of full immersion it is not, but the advantage is, they can explain in everyday English the errors that foreigners commonly make when speaking the language. Provided that you have a Chinese friend in your home country who can speak Mandarin/Cantonese, you'd be surprised how he/she sees the language and the techniques you can leverage off, just from conversing with him/her.

Internalization is the key here. Native Chinese speakers have internalized the language and they don't see or notice the tonal differences and grammatical rules like learners do. Sometimes a simple "It's just they way it is, just pronounce it like this" from a native speaker can be of greater assistance than remembering certain tones.

It is also fascinating to see the comparison between cultures discussed here. Whether the critique on certain aspects of Chinese culture is justified is arguable to say the least, but it pays to realize that everyday circumstances have both directly and indirectly enforced a number of these traits. A great amount of the Chinese population still live in poverty and the novelty of the foreigner stimulates the tendency to take advantage and benefit oneself - a characteristic not exclusive to China, but prominent in most developing countries worldwide.
06-27-2014 08:02 PM
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Post: #147
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
I am interested to hear if any of you Chinese speakers could weigh in on the difficulty of learning spoken Chinese compared to other tonal languages, particularly if any of you have experience with Thai too.

I found the tones and overall pronunciation very difficult with Thai, but I am not sure if it's because I am tone deaf (I can hear the tones, just not speak them well, or rather the sound coming out is not like I hear it in my head) or if it is limited to Thai which has some very different sounds compared to the germanic language class. When I listen to Chinese it sounds very different in sound than Thai, more guttural, less 'singing' like, not as broad a tone range, not as feminine sounding (that's a personal opinion obviously).

How much margin of error is there in Chinese?
09-10-2014 04:26 PM
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Post: #148
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
Using the wrong tone can give a totally different meaning to a word than you intend. There are only four tones (really 5 with toneless syllables), but they are each pretty distinct. Ersheng and sansheng might confuse new learners, since they sound a little similar. Yisheng is the only one that resembles any kind of singing sound. I learned Mandarin for a bit, but classrooms just didn't cut it for me and so I never became fluent. I've done enough Mandarin where I can pronounce things almost perfectly, though.
09-10-2014 07:08 PM
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Post: #149
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
(09-10-2014 04:26 PM)berserk Wrote:  I am interested to hear if any of you Chinese speakers could weigh in on the difficulty of learning spoken Chinese compared to other tonal languages, particularly if any of you have experience with Thai too.

I found the tones and overall pronunciation very difficult with Thai, but I am not sure if it's because I am tone deaf (I can hear the tones, just not speak them well, or rather the sound coming out is not like I hear it in my head) or if it is limited to Thai which has some very different sounds compared to the germanic language class. When I listen to Chinese it sounds very different in sound than Thai, more guttural, less 'singing' like, not as broad a tone range, not as feminine sounding (that's a personal opinion obviously).

How much margin of error is there in Chinese?

mandarin sounds fairly angry compared to other tonal languages in SEA. even cantonese has more of that singing effect (i think mandarin sounds the best though, those other langauges sound like absolute dog shit to me), its harsher and yes, depending on the speaker can be guttural or "throaty."

the margin of error is pretty huge actually, despite what other people what may tell you. its really hard to sound good speaking chinese, but its really easy to be understood if you dont mind sounding like a tone deaf idiot westerner. take this song, the first opening line is 没那么简单 (mei2 na4 me jian3 dan1), or "its not that simple" but thats not at all how she actually sings it. if she did, that would sound like complete shit. but people can understand her just fine because the phonetic mei na me jian dan has literally no other possible meaning, regardless of context, this phrase is completely unambiguous.

or if you walk into a resteraunt and say you want to "shui4 jiao" (sleep)instead "shui2 jiao3" (dumplings) the waiter is going to know you obviously want to eat, not nap

so if youre keeping your phrases simple and talking more to young people, then you can be understood with almost no tones, it will sound ridiculously awkward, but if you dont care about that it doesnt really matter.
09-10-2014 08:31 PM
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Post: #150
RE: Chinese/Mandarin Language Thread
That's a horrible precedent to set. Do not skimp on tones. Yeah if you're just roaming about in a Chinese speaking country for a few days with a Lonely Planet phrasebook, it doesn't matter. But if you're seriously learning Chinese? You need to get your tones right.
09-11-2014 04:37 AM
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