graded Mandarin Chinese

108. Grinding vs. Gear-Shifting

Podcast Duration: 01:06:52

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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.

108. Grinding vs Gear Shifting

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0:56 Comments & Emails

Tristan Knotts on Walk in the park?! I’ve got 汉字 to study!

Wow, what a feeling to follow along with long form content and being able to understand. I listened to it all the way through and I was thinking “yeah this totally makes sense”, and then I looked back realized there was no pinyin or translation, just Chinese characters. Very cool!

Igor Alenc on 你喜欢做什么

Still reading like a kid but I’m so happy to be able to understand it!!


Faraz on BONUS: This Could be You in Less Time Than You Think

It’s amazing watching this again now that I’m about 3/4 of the way through the course. I had no idea what he was saying without the subtitles when I first watched it. Now I’m picking up a lot! And I can also appreciate how outstanding Luke’s accent is 🙂


Frederick Toholka by Community

Regretfully at level 21 I have struck a little roadblock with the English translation of  

-Transferring Money by Smartphone or Bank

Let me explain. I have systematically translated each individual character and the overall result does not read well, eg 因为 yin wei translates as “cause for”. In this simple example, I know from its common use in speaking that it means collectively “because”.

However, as I move through the more complicated dialogue translating each character by itself I find myself in a muddle not knowing when to translate a single character or a combined character.
How should I get over this hurdle


Gavin Meakin on YOU DID IT!!!

Hi Luke and Phil,

I’ve just finished the PM course and I’m feeling really positive about where my Mandarin learning journey is now headed. I’m by no means a complete beginner, having spent some time living in Taiwan, but for the first time, I’m seeing a clear picture (or blueprint) as to what steps I need to take to reach my language learning goals.

In terms of the PM course, it is incredibly comprehensive! I found some of the pronunciation lessons challenging and a bit awkward as I’ve mostly been exposed to Taiwanese Mandarin up until this point. That said, I’m starting to appreciate the importance of recognizing and understanding the different dialects, especially standard Mandarin, and I’ve enjoyed the challenge this course has offered. I also found this course really useful in that it has encouraged me to objectively reflect on my pronunciation, identify my pronunciation weaknesses and start making corrections.

Moving forward, I’m excited to dive into the MB Method Foundation Course and see where it takes me. I’m one of those guys that made lots of mistakes early on (trying to speak too much, learning vocabulary out of context, not focusing on learning characters, not bothering to read etc.) and then after a few years of making little progress I gave up. I thought it was too hard for me and that I’d never be able to ‘get’ mandarin.

Thank you for showing me that that’s not the case. Thank you for reigniting my desire to learn Mandarin. Thank you for sharing your experiences, knowledge and tips.

Most importantly, even though we haven’t met, thank you for believing in me. It’s nice to feel like someone’s got my back.

Cheers gents!


Hank Elliott on Level 14 Unlocked Conversation Connectors

Hey Luke and Phil,

This is my first time writing a detailed post of my thoughts about your course. First of all, thank you so much for such a great course. I’m hooked. I’ve been trying to teach myself Chinese for about 5 years by listening to 150 Pimsleur lessons like 100 times, four years of college texts on my own, several idiom and proverb books, the entire Journey to the West with translation etc etc etc

TOTAL FAILURE till I met you guys probably because I’m 60 years old and never succeeded to learn a language because it had to be the hardest thing on earth in my mind. I became interested in Chinese when I visited Guilin and YangShuo back in 1993. I went with a woman who was a TA at Yale in Chinese so I didn’t have to speak a word, but I fell in love with the culture and people and language then. I assumed I could never learn the language. But over the years I learned several styles of Kung Fu, practice Chinese Acupressure, do Tai Chi daily and have used QiGong to help myself through many things, not to mention my addiction to everything Bruce Lee or Donnie Yen. Then my 88 year old father began to decline intellectually which freaked me out because he literally was the smartest person I ever knew (Electrical Engineer with IQ of 150). Ive always been much healthier than him physically, but how could I avoid the fate of time on the tiny brain in my own head? So I decided to do the hardest thing I could ever do for my brain. Thus my Chinese language journey!

But its been so frustrating seeing the same charters a thousand times and never being able to even carry on a conversation with my sushi guys from FuJin. Only a couple of months into your course and I am sailing through reading without the crutch of pinyin.

So now Id like to share my story for a character.


Prop: a big shiny and twisty copper still

Actor: H, my childhood best friend’s father (the 2nd smartest person I have ever known, and a father of 5 boys I have known for my entire life).

Set: The Barbara Negra Whaling Ship (Ai like a pirate!) (This was very dear to me in high school when for several years I was quite active in a save the whale campaign and the ship was dedicated to anti-whaling and I skipped days of school to sail on her!)

Props: Microphone (the really old style with the great big iconic square head on a swivel that all newscasters used when I was young)

Giant No Smoking Sign

This happened on 1st take in my mind as I sat there laughing my @%#$ off. With my explanation you’ll see why!

Harold struts into the galley of the Barbara Negra only to find his 5 sons all smoking huge cigarettes directly underneath this huge colorful No Smoking Sign (I snuck my first smoke as a stupid teen with the oldest brother !). They all puffed their smoke at the same time and Harold grew enraged (in 60 years I have never seen him angry). Enraged he grabs the microphone and does some crazy engineering thing to it (he was VP of R&D at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft). He began screaming at the boys so loudly that all 5 of them suddenly began yelling swears at him (I never heard any of them speak disrespectfully to him). So totally freaked out Harold immediately sat down next to his huge bright copper spiraling STILL and proceeded to drink gallons of homemade booze

(none of the 6 of them drink!).


Thank the Gods for your methods!

Hank Elliott
Personal Training manager
Therapeutic Thai and Chinese bodyworker

Hank Elliott on Make a Movie 哭

Phil and Luke,

This method is just too much fun. How can learning the world’s most difficult language be so much fun? thank you tons for the mandarin Blueprint method. The stories I have come up with are impossible to forget when emotion is attached to them. As I imagined King Kong desperately trying to find Clifford on my front lawn, and him opening his RS mouth only to have another open next to him singing ‘big boys don’t cry” I laughed so hard I spilled my drink on my little notebook! even the booze stain on that book will bring a chuckle to my studies. Thank you thank you!!


Rayna L Thompson by Community

Hmmm. I guess I forgot to ever introduce myself. LOL 你好!I’m Rayna from Michigan. I’ve been married to my adorable husband for 34 years. We have no kids. I don’t work secularly due to chronic illnesses.

My youngest brother married a lovely young lady from China. They have one daughter (preschool age) and live in California. His mother-in-law also moved in with them last year.

I just finished the Pronunciation Mastery course and have embarked on the MB method. I think the course is brilliantly laid out. I’ve acquired lots of other resources in the past year, but am making the most real progress since starting Mandarin Blueprint.

I started a new graded reader chapter today and was amazed how much better I did than a couple months ago.

I am going at my own, slow pace through the MB course. But so long as I keep moving forward consistently, I know I’ll reach my Chinese language goals.

Trivia…. I love to read sci-fi and mysteries, do crafts like beading, knit, crochet, build computers, watch old movies and musicals, cook a lot (because I have to, but I’m actually not bad at it), I like learning about lots of things (ADHD brain at work!). I used to work in a bank.

My former language experience is that I was an advanced Spanish student in high school (40 years ago) and could read etc very well, but couldn’t get sentences to form in my head and come out of my mouth (except when reading aloud). I also learned a few hundred words in Khmer (Cambodian) 30 years ago from friends, but have forgotten pretty much all of it. I still read, or get out a book of songs in Spanish to sing occasionally, but I’d love to pursue both of those languages again in a few years.


Joe Sutcliffe on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 下去

I am a little unsure as to when to interchange the words like 下来 & 下去.

Obviously, one means go down and one means come down but then are they partially interchangeable?

For example, if I was in a building and I wanted to meet someone on a higher floor. I could say to someone both 我上来 & 我上去.

Does using one or the other seriously alter the message I am
trying to convey?


Steve Bytheway New Vocabulary Unlocked! 正式

The sentence 我正式找他谈话了 seems such an odd sentence, are you saying you officially found him for a discussion or that the discussion was formal?


Think of 正式 as applying to the entire remainder of the sentence as opposed to just 找. The speaker is likely just trying to convey that the purpose of looking for 他 to have a discussion is important and formal. Perhaps this slightly more complicated sentence would make it more transparent:

After all my materials were prepared, I officially looked for him to talk.
所有 suǒyǒu – all
资料 zīliào – materials
都 dōu – (prep) all
准备 zhǔnbèi – prepare

In that context, you can imagine why the speaker might say “正式.”


Jason Pon on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 开门


Can you help me understand how this conveys the meaning of
‘looking elegant’? How does the 的 work with 样子 to convey ‘looking’?


Jason Pon on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 开会


Is the meaning ‘held a meeting all day’ effected by the ‘了一 的’ bisecting 开会?

Does it translate to something like “held (le completion)
1/entire/whole day’s meeting?”


Julie Hentschel Lund on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 去年

A question about:

So the only difference between 1 month (random one) and January is 一个月 and 一月? Seems reasonable! 🙂


Julie Hentschel Lund on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 看法

Would it be wrong to use 还是 instead of 或, since it’s a question?

Original Sentence:



What views or opinions does his son have?

Top-Down Words:

他 tā – he/him
有 yǒu – to have, to possess
呢 ne – (grammatical particle placed at the end of a non-yes no question to emphasize the inquisitiveness. Unlike 吗,it is optional and is only meant to influence the tone of voice…)


Julie Hentschel Lund on It’s a Word! 等


What is the usage/meaning of 上 in this sentence?


Alex Sumray on Vocab Unlocked from 爆

Could the difference here be explained that 爆发 is used more to show something has broken out like a fight, whereas 爆 is to say something literal like a balloon has exploded?


Nick Smith Set the Scene 2/13

Is it okay to use an animated set for one of my sets? When the name Andy was mentioned, I immediately thought of Andy from the movie Toy Story. And since the word animation also begins with AN, I’m thinking it’ll be perfect for any scene that is animated to represent that final.


Liam Llamazares on Compound Final OU: 走 zǒu,走了 zǒu le,走吧 zǒu ba,我走了 wó zǒu le

Hey guys, I was wondering what the function of the “de” in “hǎo de” was, as I had only seen “de” used to indicate possession. Thanks for the help!

59:09 Pronunciation Critique

6 October, 2020