Archive for September, 2015

September 25, 2015

Reading New York Times in Chinese

Reading extensively is the best way to build your literary skills in Chinese. If you like to read the NYTimes, try out its Chinese version:

September 25, 2015

Mike Zuckerberg spoke Mandarin throughout his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping

September 24, Facebook founder, Mike Zuckerberg met with China’s President Xi Jinping and hold the conversation in Mandarin Chinese during the entire meeting.

News in English:

News in Chinese Link:


September 25, 2015

Can 1 Million American Students Learn Mandarin? Obama just announced a new initiative promising just that — and all by 2020.

See in today’s news: LINK 

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25:  U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) attend a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at The White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC.  Jinping is in the U.S. on an official state visit to meet with President Obama to discuss a range of issues.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 25: U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) attend a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at The White House on September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. Jinping is in the U.S. on an official state visit to meet with President Obama to discuss a range of issues. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When U.S. President Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong Initiative in November 2009, setting the goal of sending 100,000 American students to study in China by 2014, it seemed like a lofty aspiration. In the 2008-2009 academic year, only 13,674 American students studied abroad in China. But that number rose steadily over the next five years, with help from private donations and Chinese governmentscholarships, and in July 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the goal had been met.

Now the American president’s back with an even bigger goal and one closer to home. On Sept. 25, in a joint press conference with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is wrapping up an official state visit, Obama announced the launch of “1 Million Strong,” an initiative that aims to bring the total number of stateside learners of Mandarin Chinese to 1 million by the year 2020. “If our countries are going to do more together around the world,” said Obama, “then speaking each other’s language, truly understanding each other, is a good place to start.”

One million may seem like a lot, but it’s just under 2 percent of the total number of U.S. students; in fall 2015, there were about 55 million studentsenrolled in U.S. public and private primary and secondary schools. Still, there’s much catching up to do. “Estimates suggest that between 300 and 400 million Chinese students are learning English today, while only about 200,000 American students are studying Chinese,” Travis Tanner, senior vice president and chief operating officer at the 100,000 Strong Foundation, told Foreign Policy in an email. “We must bridge that gap.”

The new program, administered by the 100,000 Strong Foundation, a nonprofit that also oversees the 2009 initiative, recognizes the growing importance of the U.S.-China relationship and aims to prepare a new generation of U.S. leaders to engage effectively with China.

Increasing the number of American students who study Mandarinwill “create a pipeline of China-savvy employees in a range of fields”

Increasing the number of American students who study Mandarin will “create a pipeline of China-savvy employees in a range of fields” and, Tanner remarked, will “ensure our trade relationship with China continues to benefit the American economy and that the future generation of American entrepreneurs, business owners, journalists, engineers, scientists, doctors, as well as government officials at both the national and state levels, understand China.”

The new initiative also aims to create a standardized national Chinese curriculum, flexible enough to allow for adaptations at the local school board level but comprehensive enough to prepare students for the AP Chinese-language exam and later advanced study. One Million Strong will also promote advances in language-learning technology and online instruction, promote investment in teachers colleges, and establish a consortium of governors who support Mandarin learning in public schools.

Such a huge goal, of course, also comes with huge challenges, not the least of which is funding. Though both Presidents Obama and Xi have endorsed the initiative, it will rely primarily on private funding, according to Tanner, who hopes that the official state-level endorsement will “inspire” financial support from “individuals, organizations and corporations.”

Attempts to bring Mandarin into the classroom haven’t been free from controversy in the past. China’s own huge soft power initiative to increase Mandarin learning around the globe, the Confucius Institutes, also operates primary and secondary education initiatives called Confucius Classrooms, which receive Chinese government funding. There are 357 such classrooms stateside, according to Chinese government data. But according to a January 2011 CNN report, community members in school districts in Ohio and California objected to the use of Chinese government funds to provide instruction to American students, with one calling it “communist propaganda.” A domestic push to increase Chinese-language instruction and adopt a nationally accepted Mandarin curriculum may help depoliticize the issue.

The importance and practicality of mastering Chinese has lately become more apparent. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with Xi during the president’s recent visit to business and technology leaders in Seattle, the founder held a conversation with the Chinese president entirely in Mandarin. (Facebook is blocked in China and would benefit handsomely if allowed to operate there.)

“This is such an inspiring example of how important linguistic and cultural understanding is to enrich U.S.-China relationships in business and beyond,” said Jessica Beinecke, founder of Chinese-language learning platform Crazy Fresh Chinese. “Zuckerberg’s a busy guy. If he has time to learn Mandarin, so do American high school students.”

Photo credit: Getty Images

September 23, 2015

Happy Moon Festival! 中秋节快乐!


I made some mooncakes myself. 😉

The moon festival is a beautiful festival full of poetry and elegance. The traditions include eating the moon cakes and appreciating the moon with the family. The festival falls on August 15 on the Lunar Calendar, exactly the middle of the autumn, thus 中秋节 -mid-autumn festival. This year, it falls on Sunday Sept 27!

Key practices:

  1. What to eat: moon cakes: date paste filling, lotus seed paste filling; nuts filling; some regions (in southern China) also do meat fillings. / seasonal fruit such as watermelon, pears (but do not share a pear with your family because the word for “pear” in Chinese is “li”, which has the same sound as the word for 离separation!); salted peanuts, tea.
  2. What to do: family reunion; appreciating the moon, which is best done at a waterfront, so one can see the reflections of the moon.Better yet, have some flute or string music instruments play live~~~ 🙂
  3. fables behind the festival: this festival is said to be based on the ancient story of Hou Yi 后羿 and his beautiful wife, Chang-e 嫦娥 who flew to the moon.

Below are two good and fun clips in English telling the background of this festival and about the moon cakes. Good story re-telling. The third one is a description of the festival in Mandarin Chinese.

The following song, sung by the late Teresa Teng, is based on a classic Chinese poem of the Song Dynasty by Su Shi 苏轼。

September 13, 2015

How difficult is Chinese?

Link to the Ranking:    (Gist: The Foreign Servies Institute, FSI, designated Chinese as a “Category Five” language, along with Korean, etc. as the most difficult languages to learn for English speakers.)

September 13, 2015

Learning Chinese Online

if you are looking for online Chinese courses, esp. high school students interested in AP Chinese, below are a few places: 

September 12, 2015

CCTV’s Chinese Learning Video Series

Depending on your level and interest, you can find some very good materials here. The themes range from Kungfu to travel to everyday life, news, and cultural customs and festivals. Take a look. Perhaps you can listen to them during your commute!) l