As if learning Chinese wasn’t challenging enough, the poor, struggling student has to contend with countless unique dialects spoken across the vast nation of China. One of those dialects is Shanghainese.
Shanghainese, as you might guess, is the dialect spoken in and around Shanghai.
To help you learn a few words or Shanghainese, China Daily, the largest English-language newspaper in China, has produced a series of video lessons.
Although I haven’t learned much from these videos, I do find them highly entertaining — and slightly absurd. In fact, sometimes I wonder if the producer is playing a joke on us, or on whomever funded the project.
As of this writing, twenty video lessons are available for you to view. Themes range from “Who’s going to pick up the check” to “How to ask a girl out for coffee.”
The Confucius Institute is an organization funded by the Chinese government to promote the Chinese language and culture throughout the world. They offer courses in dozens of countries and even have an online institute where you can find free video lessons.
Some of the online video lessons seem a bit peculiar to me. Even the website’s “about us” information is a bit off:
“The Confucius Institute is devoting to satisfy the need of people who are interested in Chinese learning all around the world, promoting the understanding of Chinese language culture, enhancing the educational and cultural cooperation between China and the world, developing the friendship between China and other countries, to help developing a multicultural environment and building up a harmonious world.”
Nevertheless, the website does have some useful lessons and resources like flashcards.
I have not yet met anyone who has studied in-person at a Confucius Institute and I am extremely curious about the quality of their courses, what textbooks they use, and whether the courses are good value for money. If you have studied at a Confucius Institute, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
English names are difficult for Chinese to pronounce. I think one of the first things you should do as you begin your quest to learn to speak Chinese is get a Chinese name. Don’t you think it will make it more fun, taking on a new name and perhaps even a new persona?
When I took my Chinese name, I asked my Taiwanese tutor for suggestions, based on my English name and my personality. The result? Cheng Kai.
Some business people try to get their Chinese name to sound as close to their English name as possible. Others choose completely new, fun names that they just happen to like.
Here’s an online tool you can use to suggest possible Chinese names based on your English name, gender, and basic character traits. It’s a good starting point and a source of ideas. However I would consult a Chinese friend before making a final decision, just to make sure the name is appropriate.
Not everyone who learns to speak Chinese will take the time to learn to read Chinese characters. But if learning to read and write Chinese is part of your study routing, you’ll want to check out Zhongwen.com. (“Zhong wen” of course means “Chinese language”).
According to site creator Rick Harbough, Zhongwen.com is designed to “help students understand, appreciate and remember Chinese characters, one of humanity’s greatest and most enduring cultural achievements.”
Part of what I like about this site is that it has such a simple-yet-unique (and highly functional) layout.
The information is serious, accurate, useful and absolutely fascinating.
A few weeks ago, while in Beijing, I saw a television news report about how Beijing wants to be an international city like London or New York. To do this, they believe that English has to be more widely spoken.
To achieve this, they will start teaching Kindergarten students English next year. They also want more police officers and border guards to speak English and have target dates to achieve this.
So why does Beijing want to become an international city, you may ask? Part of the reason is that they want to attract more corporate head offices. In other words, the reasons are economic.