master any mandarin sound

128. How to Master Any Mandarin Sound

Podcast Duration: 01:06:36

欢迎光临! Welcome!

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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.

128. How to Master Any Mandarin Chinese Sound | Mandarin Blueprint

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0:32 Comments & Emails

Nicole by Email

Hello! You guys ask for input/feedback, and instead of arguing with the grammar nerds in the comment section, I figured it would be better to just write a thank you email.

I listened to your advice and read some articles by Krashen and Steve Kaufman. I think you guys are spot on and I am insanely happy at the progress I have made in less than 2 months of deciding to learn Mandarin (I’m on Level 25). I finished one of those Mandarin Companion books this weekend, and the intro says it usually takes people a year(!) to get to the point of being able to read it. I didn’t know a single word of Chinese before December, and all of this started because I wanted to pronounce “Wuxia” correctly. (I will be slowing down a bit since I got my COVID vaccines and can finally go back to weight lifting at the gym next week.)

I did make a change that I think helped manage my levels of frustration and greatly increased my ability to pick up spoken words. I copied the audio from the sentences to the front of the card, and try to read along (silently) with the speaker (mashing “R” over and over again). I had this theory that beginners don’t have a decent enough “inner reading voice”, since we haven’t been exposed to enough spoken Mandarin.  I noticed it was way more difficult to read by myself slowly than reading along faster with the speaker. I bring this up because I read a recent blog post email (Pro User’s Protips) by a woman that loves Chinese TV but admitted that she can’t pick up any spoken words (I think she was at level 13 at the time.) I am obviously way far from fluent, but there are a surprising amount of words I hear and I think it’s because I’ve been doing so much listening along with the sentences. I started doing it this way since I work very busy 10-hour shifts on the weekends (hospital pharmacist – absolutely no time for Anki at work), and Anki reviews are due when they are due. I had to make a choice of slowing down on learning new content or speeding up my reading. 

Anyway, I am just so so happy with this program! I really hope you guys make more content in the future. I started making my own cards for words not in your decks (I don’t think I’ve ever heard 你好 used in the shows I’m watching, but 王妃, 朕, and 公子 show up all the time haha). I know vocab can get specialized (historical fiction / modern business terms/internet slang), but it’s convenient to have the radicals/props broken down and have nice sentences to go along with the new words.


Tofu Meow


Gavia by Email

Hi Luke & Phil,

Just wanted to wish you a Happy New Year and thank you for this first “about half a year” with you! Very much looking forward to a new year with MB and curious to see where it takes me, how much Chinese I will know by the next Chinese New Year’s eve. 🙂 

The new shirt looks good, yes! A very professional brand building look! 
A special thank you for explaining the meaning of 讨,it was very helpful to see its meaning through the words where it is used. I would be very happy to see this kind of explanation and word examples for other characters as well in the podcast every now and then. I know that with time all that will just come with reading and listening, but it still feels like the moment when I will be able to read “real” books is still sooooooo far away in the future…. so that kind of explanation gives a much better “feel” for the meaning of the character right from the start. Thank you!

As I seem to be in a “feedback” mode: one more thing, someone mentioned that you should sometimes speak Chinese together on the podcast. I think it is a good idea to make some videos, even just short ones, of you guys, together or just one of you, interacting in Chinese with Chinese persons. There is something very powerful in seeing and hearing that so it can help people BELIEVE that learning Chinese is possible.

Not because you need any more credibility or need to prove that you can speak Chinese, not at all, you are VERY credible to anyone who knows anything about the course, you clearly know what you do and do it well. 

It’s just that we never hear or see “normal” Western people speaking Chinese. Yes, there are some YouTubers that make videos based solely on that, but somehow I don´t find that…. identifiable (is that a word?) The point of those videos is to present that as something that is an exception, not something anyone can do. I just think that hearing you speak with Chinese people would have a big effect on people, maybe mostly unconscious even, but it would still be effective, maybe even more effective than other sales arguments you have. Speaking Chinese between the two of you on the podcast, though… I think that would just seem unnatural, the point of learning Chinese is to be able to communicate with Chinese people.

I’m just fascinated by finding out what needs to happen in the mind of a person – mine, to begin with – to get to that “click” that makes you first believe that you can do this and then go do it, learn Chinese. It cannot happen any other way. First, you need to believe it is possible. Much of my learning journey is about trying to observe how that happens to find ways to “make it happen more”. And hearing Luke teach pronunciation was definitely one of those moments for me. Listening to the case studies, it seems to have impressed many of your clients. 

… but I don’t know what kind of content there should be in those “hear Luke & Phil speak Chinese videos”…. and of course that kind of videos are much more time consuming to make. Still, think about the number of people who tell you how impressed they were by that one video of Luke speaking in Chinese. That sells! (I have a small company of my own, this kind of thinking comes as second nature… :-)) 

I don’t need to see it, you’ve got me convinced, just hoping many other people will find you too!

OK, enough feedback, for now. I’ll go shadow for a while! Still waiting for that “click” that would make me believe I can PRONOUNCE Chinese… 🙂 

Enjoy the holidays (if you get any…)
Gavia Arctica


Michael by Email

Excellent, thanks Luke. It’s funny, but seeing that old page come up is like “coming home”.

I’m enjoying the psychological aspect of this kind of learning as much as learning the Chinese language. The funny thing is that I’ve now got hundreds of “stories” running around in my mind that bring up some great memories of people and places that I’ve known. And, now they are reforming into new memories. Plus, the MBM community has gone on this journey accompanied by you and Phil and we’ve been there through each step of your development. Each video is not just a lesson, but also a few minutes that I can spend with friends.

Who would’ve thought that this method of learning could be such a powerful medium? I’m drawing on the MB experience for my own online project – an investment portal that enables users to invest and design their investment portfolio in accordance with their own ethics and values. The portal should go live in the next couple of weeks and I’m hoping then to market it via blogs that are chatty discussions (alá Luke and Phil) about ethics and socially responsible investing.


P.S. 恭喜發財!


Ted Crowley by Community

I’m not talking to people yet, but I speak (alone) along with things I hear. I keep stumbling over “piao liang” (漂亮 = pretty). I simply cannot say it! I can say “piao” or “liang” alone, but the combination throws me. Any suggestions?


Kevin Roy Jackson by Community

Hello everyone, I promised Luke and Phil I would write an introduction and a mere ten months after starting the pronunciation course I have finally got around to it.

I was born in the UK but I now live in Blenheim, New Zealand.  I work in aviation and my office is based in the capital Wellington, so I stay in a studio flat near the city centre during the week and pop back to the South Island – normally on a ferry across the Cook Strait – at the weekends. I left school at 16 having hated pretty much every second of it, where I failed miserably to get on with French – and pretty much every other academic subject.  However, when life took me to other parts of the world, Germany with the Army; Poland with a training job, I didn’t have a great deal of difficulty absorbing enough language to get by.  

This might not seem important, but this experience combined with a distrust of the usefulness of formal education encouraged me to look very positively upon the Mandarin Blueprint approach.   

I had no specific reason to learn Mandarin – I was intrigued by the advert for the Pronunciation Course on Facebook during the lockdown for Covid 19 and took a chance.  I looked at it as getting something positive out of the enforced time working from home.

I find Mandarin a fascinating language and although in the short term  – that being dependent on when the NZ borders open again – I will be using my Mandarin on holiday, I am thinking of this as more of a hobby.  

I’m in no rush to get through the course, I tend to do just a couple of lessons a day  – and I am not worried about having to go back and do lessons again.  My one virtue is that I do my lessons and Anki every day – I believe persistence pays off.


Christopher Neil on Level 10 Complete

So excited to reach this level. Imagine studying Chinese without a roadmap (‘blueprint’)! I started a month ago and do only 3-4 new characters a day. Hanzi Movie Method is now second nature.


Roland Kofler on The “Living Links Logic” of Chinese Word Learning – Part 1

Wow this funniest, high spirited text really cheered me up!
More… :’)


Christine on Vocab Unlocked from 结

I don’t quite understand the function of 起来才 in the sentence


1. upwards; up

Ná qilai
Pick up

Bìngrén néng zuò qilai le ma?
Can the patient sit up?

2. start to; become

Rè qilai le.
It’s getting hot.

Tā pàng qilai le.
He’s getting fat.

3. [indicating completeness or effectiveness]

Cún qilai
Store away

Jiā qilai
Add up

Suǒ qilai
Lock up

4. when one comes to

Kàn qilai yào xià yǔ.
It looks like rain.

Tīng qilai pō yǒu dàoli.
It sounds quite reasonable.

5. [forming a verbal topic]

说起来容易, 做起来难。 
Shuō qǐlái róngyì, zuò qilai nán.
Easier said than done


Thomas Brand on 天 in Context

When reviewing the flashcard for 我__天做有氧运动, I answered 每天
instead of 天天. Is there a difference in meaning between the two?


Gavia Arctica on Vocab Unlocked from 改: 改变 – 改天

Just wondering…. does 改天 REALLY mean that you are going to do something another day, another time, or does it have the same kind of sound to it as “we really should do lunch sometime” – you don’t have any real intention to meet that person?


Jīntiān shíjiān tài jǐn,gǎitiān wǒmen zàiliáo.
Today is too busy, let’s talk about it another day.

Come back some other day.

xíng găitiān ba
Sure, one of these days.


Jason Pon on 改 in Context

Is this sentence a figure of speech or something? 地方 translates to ‘things’?


Yǒu bùmíngbaide dìfāng ma?
Are there any parts that are not clear?

Guānzhù năxiēdìfāng
Where to focus?


Jason Pon on 数 in Context

Is this 数了数 used to achieve a change in tone or expression?




Al Berley on 不用 in Context

For 不用我说,他自己就明白了 – I cannot work out what 就 adds to the overall message.

Does it make it more explicit that he understood ‘right away’ or
would 不用我说,他自己明白了 just sound grammatically wrong?

And how would 不用我说,他明白了 come across, by comparison?



Tara Densmore on 页 in Context

In the sentence “我写了几页了.” what is the point of the 2nd 了?


Simon Robinson on BONUS: Relator – Using 给 to Express ‘Give,’ ‘For,’ or ‘To’

Just to give another perspective. I am a native speaker and have taught IELTS, I am a fan of the new terms. Nothing is perfect but feel these work better for me as I never liked the traditional grammar terms.


Roland Kofler on Problem Initials ZH, CH, SH & R Overview

Wow the International Phonetic Annotation really help to unterstand what is going on. That said, it remains a mistery: I fear j/q, zh/ch and c/z need the gift of absolute pitch. If you are like me and haven’t developed this gift you will never get it.


Andreas Lienemann on Level 26 Complete

I know how you feel! I had not been receiving them until I discovered that I had to click on ‘Mark As Complete’ instead of just clicking on ‘Next Character’ in the level overview. Previously I had thought they both do the same thing. 🙂


Nacho En on Vocab Unlocked from 拉: 拉肚子

Some words… I do really get nervous when I’m looking up images of them on internet… You don’t know what is gonna appear…

54:53 Living Links!

Robert Toms on Vocab Unlocked from 对: 对…来说 – 对不起 – 对面

Since up until now I’ve had more of a mental tie of 面 to noodle or the first half of bread, it was helpful to remember that it also means face-to-face, so for 对面, the “correct” way to stand “face-to-face” is opposite each other.


Stephanie Arapian on Vocab Unlocked from 后: 以后 – 然后 – 后来 – 最后 – 后天 – 后面

For 最后, I used In The End, by Linkin Park (and the cover art works well for me too)


Oscar Haglund on Vocab Unlocked from 星: 星期

If you are like me then you don’t have anything specific that happens every week. As such a picked an image of star-trails. It is a picture of star(s) that has to be taken over a period of time.


Christopher Neil on It’s a Word! 本

This looks like the second character in the word for ‘Japan’ 日本 where it must have the meaning of ‘origin’.. as in ‘Land of the rising sun’. Good to know.

59:43 Movies! 

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

Ric Santos on Make a Movie 器

Qi-actor is feeding the four pitbull 犬 puppies. She devises a rotating “windmill” with four spokes made up of 4 spoons (utensils 器 ). As the device turns, it drops a (丶) morsel of food into the 4 puppies’ mouths one by one. She now calls this device a “Q”-tensil , since it is really a kind of a U-tensil.器 !


John Nomura on Make a Movie 校

In the bathroom of my ao- set, Cupid (交) taps Shirley Temple (xi actor) on the head and instead of dreaming under a tree (木) about a SCHOOL, she is attending a SCHOOL like a normal kid


Alex Sumray on Make a Movie 类

Larry David is sorting out his food cupboard (ok, it’s got to be in the -ei bathroom set obvs, but I can live with that).

‘Rice 米 , hmmm?’. You can go at the top there.’ He gets on The Big Show’s 大 shoulders to put the rice away in the correct section ,with the rest of the non-perishables.

‘Ok big fella, get in.’ Larry pushes big show into the bottom shelf with the rest of the wrestlers, quite a squash now. A few rice grains pattering down on him hitting as Larry shuts the door.


Oscar Haglund on Make a Movie 懂

The tin man from wizard of oz (忄) is exercising with some dumbbells (重) in the gym as Donald Trump walks up. He is very confused, why is a man made out of tin trying to build muscles? The tin man whips out a rose (艹) and says that he is trying to make himself look his best before trying to ask Dorothy out for a date. This makes perfect sense to Trump who nods understandingly. If there is anything Trump understands, it is trying to get girls.

23 February, 2021