familiarity with mandarin

143. Dawning Familiarity with Mandarin

Podcast Duration: 01:05:05

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The Mandarin Blueprint Podcast focuses primarily on The Mandarin Blueprint Method online curriculum. Creators Luke Neale & Phil Crimmins answer questions and comments, discuss topics related to China and Mandarin learning, and have special guests.

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7:56 Comments & Emails

Scott Schneider by Community

I’m looking to spend approx. 10 weeks in China once I complete the course. I’m considering either Beijing or Chengdu. I’m seeing a lot of mixed thoughts. One of the biggest is that Beijing speaks the more traditional Mandarin (with a lot of RRR sounds) and it can be difficult to learn in Chengdu with the Chengdu local dialect. Also seeing people say that with a lot more foreigners in Beijing you can find yourself speaking a lot of English, which is not ideal or desired. 

While there I’m also planning to enroll in a school that offers group and private teaching 6 hrs per day. So any recommendations on where to attend would be great as well. 

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 



Jason Pon on Level 31 Complete

I feel this was written for me ?

“You’ve already seen a LOT of the old 就 amongst the top-down words. You likely already have a feeling for it, but we suspect you’ve still got some questions about it. ADVICE TIME: Don’t worry about it. OK, we know, that’s annoying. We’re adults; we want to know why things are the way they are.”


Lynn Ford on Vocab Unlocked from 工: 员工 – 工人

I enjoy trying to guess what the word means, before I look at the definition you guys have listed, to see if I can figure it out by what I already know. I was like.. “员工… member of work, member of work, Hmmm what could that possibly mean? ” I keep asking myself that until I finally was, like “Nope! Not gonna guess it, what does it mean?” When I scrolled down to see the meaning, I almost spit my cold brew out, laughing at my own stupidity. Just such a blonde moment LOL! How could I not get employee like RIGHT away? SMH. 🙂 This is why I need Mandarin Blueprint to help me, otherwise, I fear all hope would be lost for me, lol


L K on Nasal Final ING (YING): 电影 diànyǐng,明天 míngtiān

明天 — I also got really excited when I learnt míng tiān was tomorrow and ming was bright then I realised míng (明) was just 日 (rì) sun and 月 (yuè). So I think it’s actually tomorrow because tomorrow is after a complete rotation of the sun and moon. Sad times.


Redd-Louise Bick on Special Effects & Memory Athletics

Can I ask if you have had any aphantasic (no visual memory) students before and do you have any tips to help someone with aphantasia get the most out of the course?


Lynn Ford on 后 in Context

Is 一名 used in 他决定长大后当一名司机, when referring to what you do and not just a name or your name? Like if was any other occupation like a police officer, it would be 他决定长大后当一名警察? So 一名 will always be in before a title or occupation?


Jeremy Marie on 等 in Context


Would it be more respectful or ‘soft’ to instead say it like this:




Keith Travis on Welcome to Phase 2 – Chinese Words

Very excited to begin Phase 2 vocabulary acquisition.

Phase 1 went smoothly. I can easily remember or confidently reconstruct from memory every character and word presented.

Wanting to time things out in a ‘month 1, month 2′ fashion, I went back over all of the units and Anki decks in order to discover just how many example words and characters have been presented so far. I have written each and every character from all sources now, (at least once, there is a bit of overlap of course’ and discovered that I was able to sight read the majority of Phase 1 example sentences from ‘it’s a word’ sections even though I have not yet developed memory of reconstructing the writing in most cases of the ‘top down’ words introduced. It is very rewarding, the connections are coming in all over the place and – even where I am wishing to retain each and every word on sight, I understand by the Hanzi Movie method success that it will be rather simple to go back and memorize all of these things using those methods in addition to who knows how many erstwhile connections I’m making in the meantime. Writing all of the characters down brings an amazing sense of noticing a dawning familiarity with the range and proportion of writing to come, and the importance of strongly establishing props for the future of acquisition. There is a great similarity between the use of radicals as well as Chinese Keyboard systems using components ranging beyond the 214 standard radicals, and I can see by this how thoughtfully chosen Mandarin Blueprint’s system of props has been chosen even before moving on the phase 2. Through and through, everywhere I look is coherence and familiarity both within Mandarin Blueprint and without as regards the ‘greater’ world of systems and language. For those who are curious, by the end of Phase 1 there are something on the the order of around 800 words presented in all of the material thus far. This is very approximate, as so many words contain 2 characters, and as there is – good – overlap between the Pronunciation, Phase 1, and Anki sources. Incredible. It’s just incredible how accessible this is becoming even before Phase 2 and eventual Hanzi M.M. mastery. I find myself able to construct a broad array of well-intentioned sentences even though we have yet to deep dive grammar, soon enough to come). Thank you Luke and Phil for creating such an extraordinary process and platform for bringing coherence to the study of Mandarin.

I am so excited to see how things evolve through Month 2.


Raiyan Syed on 去年 in Context

This is the first time I’m learning the grammar of a language by acquisition with supplemental lessons in between as opposed to the traditional lesson-first-then-practice way.

To be honest, I don’t mind either way. However, it’s really cool to see how this natural acquisition method works.

In this case, I was reading 去年一月和今年二月 and then saw the translation and asked myself “wait, then how would I say ‘1 month’ or ‘2 months’?” and then I realized “oh yeah! it would be 一个月 or 二个月.” And then I thought to myself “how did I know that?

Then it hit me, we had a sentence earlier “三个月来我没有吃过米饭,” and that’s how I knew! Btw, if I had to go three months without rice, that’d be terrible!

Anyway, so cool to how feeding your language module works!


Raiyan Syed on Level 14 Complete

Also, it felt so good to be able to understand the 汉字 of 等一下, 我们的想法是: you’re awesome. Thank you so much Luke and Phil.


Ric Santos on Make a Movie 专

Yes John. I do look ahead. In fact, I use the “ALL LEVELS” section when I review, and there I can see all the characters in succession and what comes next. From there I could get a sense what Luke and Phil are going to teach. I do appreciate the extensive deliberation and debate between them on what characters to put in the list. Then I just skim and go through quickly 2 or three characters ( lessons) to see how related they are roughly.

Then when I study the lesson proper, I also continue to read the vocabs unlock so I can better get a sense of the words …or their different senses for that matter. IN the meantime, the movie scene is building up , ; and then when I make the movie, I would try to see if the other related vocabs and usage can be fit in the story to help me DIFFERENTIATE their usage and meanings.

Disclaimer: I only gradually started this way a little before intermediate level when I could read the sentences more readily …of course spurred on with the “joy” of being able to read with comprehension more or less. I shared only some characters because many others are corny and might not be easily relatable due to different backgrounds and history.


Kris Adrian on Problem Initial SH: 是 shì as a Conjunction

I second the comment above about how helpful it is to have the real-life neutral tone of “是” pointed out! Knowing it’s OK to pronounce it that way has helped me speed up how quickly I can say simple sentences.


Rick Angleland on Make a Movie 油

Can this refer to edible oil and motor oil?


Jasmin Lehmann on It’s a Word! 骂



Māmā mà mǎ ma

actually is a sentence?


Keith Travis on Welcome to Phase 3 – Simple Grammar

Was very happy to have begun Phase 3 with a clean bill of health from the preceding phases.

That being said, I was relieved to drop some ‘surplus’ habit of writing down each of the example sentences. It wasn’t with the aim of memorization so much as just getting a dose of writing training – which I personally enjoyed – yet all the same not really feasible to maintain as the sheer volume of new sentences appears to be dramatically increasing.

On another note, I’m relieved to discover that my erstwhile habit of paying a little more than recommended attention to sentences in earlier phases appears to be paying off specifically with regard to Mandarin Blueprint Phase 3 orientation. It is quite easy to read these sentences now after so much practice, albeit well below native speed.

I’ve been playing with the LingQ website and guaging my progress by that means as well as by means of sample HSK tests from a few sources. I appear to be quite solid at the HSK 2 level now and really entering HSK 3 territory, so-to-speak. I’m still unable to read a lot of the Lowest level of LingQ material because of absent vocab, but still quite easily able to pace along with the reader and at least connect back and forth on the page.

I’ve also been looking up Character frequency and Word frequency tables in a way of planting some realistic anticipation in mind moving forward. I am pretty thrilled at just how many characters and words I recognize from these tables, both in the thick of the most frequent as well as decreasingly intermittently through to about the 500th or 600th most frequent words and characters.

Obviously, however, there is a lot of gap to fill – so to speak – after having mastered the Hanzi Method here. I was also rather pleased with having begun to use the MBHMM to start memorizing the radicals. Although I had memorized the meanings quite some months ago, I was not able to get the pinyin nor the written reconstructions correct, not by far. Using the MBHMM, I was able to simply look at one radical at a time in a set of ANKI cards I’d sourced for the purpose, and spend about 30s-1min drumming up a scene for each radical, and then get almost immediate reinforcement and – to my delight – correctness as the cards came ’round again. I imagine this will be much the same case after finishing MB-intermediate when it comes to using ANKI to fill in…’thousands’ of words and characters. There are quite a lot of extracurricular vocab and sentence sources for ANKI.

At any rate, now that I’ve dropped my now surplus habit of writing all sentences, I can use my ‘free’ energy to smash through Phase 3. I estimate it will take about 1 week to review, write new words, and set up Anki accordingly before moving on to Phase 4 while relying on Phase 3 Anki to do its thing. Having scanned ahead at Phase 4 – Graded Reading – I am super ‘duper’ excited about getting to the next batch of ‘good stuff’.

The graded reading setup looks perfectly manageable and I intend to spend quality time with it and related sources in as what I regard as the first ‘major bridge’ to cross with becoming confidently able to understand the impromptu speech improvisations of native speakers.


Jeff Johnson on Level 15 Complete

So happy to be done with another level. I’m still considering the possibility of copying the vocab in context deck in anki, modifying it so I get a deck that plays audio only and using it for listening practice. I often feel like my listening comprehension is low. So maybe that is what I need to do to perk it up some. starting a new version of the vocab in context deck feels daunting though. And I want to trust that I will get it with out going to such measures.


Kate Gans on Vocab Unlocked from 淡

For the sentence “ 他淡淡地说:“没什么。” , should 地 be replaced with 得?

Kate Gans on Vocab Unlocked from 淡

I am confused why a similar sentence from Pleco uses 得。 here, 得 turns “He drives with care” into “He drives carefully”。


Tā kāichē xiǎoxīn de hěn.

He drives very carefully.

I need to think about this one a bit more. I am mixing up 得 and 的。。。


Tofu Meow on Vocab Unlocked from 害

“害我白跑了一趟” this part is stumping me.

Pleco has 白跑了一趟 as “to make a fruitless trip” which makes a bit of sense.


Matt Shubert on 出来 in Context

Can 出来 also be used in the figurative “coming out” as a gay person? I have an image along this theme as my living link for this phrase but was curious if it can be actually used this way 🙂



PEDRO JUAN BARBER PEREZ on Vocab Unlocked from 得: 记得

Hi!. Please can we use 记得 and 记得住 in the same way?. Is there any difference?. To negate 记得 should we use 不记得 or is it better to use 记不住?.

Thank you.


Rick Angleland on 它们 in Context

For 这群小猫它们非常的可爱。could one also say 这群小猫非常的可爱。i.e. omit 它们

54:48 Vocab Living Links

This section covers “Living Link” mnemonic techniques to remember Chinese words of two or more characters. Here’s a video explaining the theory behind it.

jay a on Vocab Unlocked from 天: 今天 – 明天 – 每天 – 白天 – 天气 – 半天

In Zootopia, the Sloth DMV worker TAKES FOREVER, like, HALF A DAY just to stamp one form.


Christopher Weeks on Vocab Unlocked from 亲: 母亲 – 父亲

Monica and Ross’s parents from Friends, the FATHERRRRR! Meme from IT Crowd, and Mother from Archer


Christopher Weeks on Vocab Unlocked from 所: 所以 – 所有

Argos or Walmart. Everything under one roof.


darci mallon on Vocab Unlocked from 觉: 觉得

Rodin’s sculpture, ‘The Thinker’


Ceri Woods on Vocab Unlocked from 住: 记住

I used the still of Mufasa saying to Simba “remember who you are”… it helps with ‘remember’ but also the song ‘he lives in you’ plays in my head when I think of that, which helps with the second character.


jay a on Vocab Unlocked from 最: 最好

images: for “BEST” – olympic medal podium; for “HAD BETTER” – santa claus is coming to town (so you HAD BETTER not pout)


Jason Pon on Vocab Unlocked from 各: 各种 – 各种各样

I had a hard time coming up with ideas for this. Eventually landed on:

各种 – ‘every type’ of pokemon. A picture of all the pokemon types: grass, water, fire, etc!

各种各样 – ‘all kinds of vegetables and fruits’. It’s such a pretty picture to see an array of fruits and veg laid out to form the colours of the rainbow!

59:36 Movies! 

This blog post explains the theory behind Movie Scenes and learning characters.

Hank Elliott on Make a Movie 摩

IP MAN (M-actor) is in the KITCHEN (tone) of my grandparents house (O set=old). He has some HEMP(prop) in his HAND (prop) and is RUBbing (meaning) it on my grandparents joints as a part of Chinese Medicine healing. I know that Massage is called 按摩 AnM0 = Press+Rub


Christine on Make a Movie 餐

My friend, C-actor, now works as a waiter. Restaurant location is outside my grandmother’s house (-an location). The guest is Dr John Watson (又 prop). C- waves the magic wand (卜 prop), and a giant owl (夕 prop) comes swooping down, carrying a dinner napkin (食 prop) with a bowl of food (keyword:meal) tied up inside it (much like storks deliver babies) and drops it gently in front of John Watson so he can enjoy his mea.l


Will Raley on Make a Movie 哈

哈 hā Haha!

1. Harry at -a’s Front door

2. The Rolling Stones Mouth (口) rudely points and laughs “HAHA” at Harry

3. Harry gets out his Hellraiser Puzzle box (合) and it’s black magic sucks the Mouth into it

4. Harry laughs “HAHA, The last laugh is mine HAHA” (哈)


Clare Murphy on Make a Movie 再

Zebedee (a character from The Magic Roundabout – not at all trippy 1970s UK kids’ TV show) is in my brother’s guest bathroom.

Props: cigarette, fake comedy moustache & pot of soil.

Nervously preparing to shoot a scene from The Magic Roundabout, he lights a cigarette and puts on fake tash which droops, looks in the mirror and frowns at himself smoking. Sighing he once AGAIN vows to stop smoking and stubs it out in a pot of soil.


Nick Sims (戴燚)on Make a Movie 隹

Joker (zhu-) is outside Grandma Davis’s (-ei) watching his personal friend Mr T (亻) and IP Man (主) spar in hand to hand combat. IP Man easily wins and upset by it all, Joker throws an exploding ninja star (一) at IP Mans gut. A SHORT-HAIRED BIRD owl ? comes to eat the scraps.


Nick Sims (戴燚)on Make a Movie 准

Joker (zhu-) is in the bathroom at Karen’s (-n) setting up the perfect trick with a freeze gun. He points the gun at the ceiling creating a massive set of icicles (冫). With the water dripping it attracts an owl ? (隹) who licks the water sitting just under the icicle. Joker ? looks on with glee as the icicle breaks and kills the owl with a PRECISE hit splattering blood all over the room.