The Mandarin Blueprint Podcast focuses primarily on The Mandarin Blueprint Method online course and the Pronunciation Mastery online course. Creators Luke Neale & Phil Crimmins answer questions and comments from the online curriculum, discuss topics related to China and Mandarin learning and have special guests.
2:33 Grammar Point
wǒde érzi xià dāi le
My son was scared senseless.
wǒ zǎoshang mà le wǒde érzi
I scolded my son this morning.
wǒ míngbai nǐ shuō de huà
I understand what you said.
zhuōzi shàng de sháozi shì nǐde ma?
Is the spoon on the table yours?
Is it ok to have a gap between Anki review and the course lessons? For example, I just finished lesson 29 in the foundation course but I am only in lesson 19 or 20 in my Anki. The gap is getting wider because creating props and making movies is happening fairly quickly now. I read all of the sample sentences, conversations, etc. but I’m still going through the lessons much faster than I can review the flashcards. I really don’t want to slow my momentum, but should I give the lessons a break until I catch up with flashcards?
Thank you for the awesome support, as always.
Just a quick suggestion! I think it would be great, and interesting if you guys had maybe like an anki deck, or even just a podcast where you teach a few chengyu? They have a lot of cultural and historical significance, and also… you can impress your Chinese friends. Just a thought..
Hi. I saw you have the standard pinyin chart. Is there a modified chart of how the actors and sets map to standard pinyin?
Every once in a while some of my author friends float me texts to correct before publication. I have an eye and an ear for what sounds right. What’s strange is that I can’t stand grammar and my head gets muddled when Chinese teacher’s fill up the boards with more and more grammar patterns and rules. I totally ignored English grammar as a student because I was just a rebellious kid who had planned on being a professional skateboarder. Trying to get to Chinese fluency through relearning English grammar and principles and applying them to ideas like Stative Verbs, Auxiliary Verbs, Directional Compounds, etc., is just too much. This is why I appreciate the idea of Comprehensible input and spaced repetition. Only if I hear something repeated enough times in a certain context does it “stick” and can then I get a unconscious feel for it.
If I ever get out to your part of China (I’ve never been so far to the west) I’ll pay y’all a visit.
Thank you for the response. After listening to your podcast for the last several months, you have helped me to not be as concerned with reaching a certain HSK level. I think for most of us the HSK is just a way to check our progress, but with Mandarin Blueprint progress is easy to discern without any type of test or certificate.
I also sent over some questions about remembering words that you did address on the podcast. Since then, I have noticed others have had similar questions. I think the thing that helped me was to finally get some perspective. In the early stages of the course, we are just being introduced to the words and we really won’t “learn” them until we are seeing them in context later. Along those lines, I did have one suggestion for the course. Especially in the early stages of the course, on the level reviews instead of showing all of the words that we “know”, maybe you could say they are words we have been “introduced to” or “are now familiar with”. I know you are excited to show how much progress we have made, but when I hear someone say that I should “know” a word, if I really don’t “know” the word fully and how it is used in context, then I think I have missed something and need to go back again and try to learn everything about the word until I understand it fully. This can make me feel very frustrated and lost when that happens for a lot of words.
I have fallen off the wagon or is it on the wagon (Seinfeld reference) with regards to Chinese for the last two months and have not really studied at all. I do still listen to the podcast and the last few podcasts have inspired me to take the pressure off trying to learn at a certain rate and just find the joy of learning Chinese again with your course. I can’t remember who said it, but the comment was that you can learn anything if you get rid of the time goals and just try to enjoy what you are doing.
Yeah. His conflict is that he’s in a class introducing new characters each week and he wants to benefit from your method, but he’s still got to keep up with his course work. He wanted to find a complete prop list to see you recommend for each prop so that he could start applying them in his class studies. The idea of sitting through a video for each lesson just to run through them so that he can see your props and then start applying them on his own was a bit discouraging. He didn’t realize that you “take the training wheels off” at one point and that there are less videos as you progress.
I too found this very slow in the beginning because I already know hundreds of traditional characters but I’ve decided to pause my regular classes and focus on laying TMBM foundation and seeing where it leads me.
I’ve come to see that the guys who simplified the characters sometimes switched out a more complicated sound components for an easier-to-write sound components and so the props don’t have the same consistency as you give us in TMBM. It’ll take a bit of thinking to restructure your method in a way which introduces components in an earlier order.
Though I prefer the traditional characters, knowing the simplified will probably be more useful for me in the long run and so now I’m just making notes of the differences and not worrying too much about memorizing the traditional ones.
Greetings Phil & Luke,
First, my apologies, as I did not remember getting the first email asking for an interview. I will definitely do a podcast with you guys! I just want to get a little further to be able to say more about how great your course is. Trust me, you have no bigger fan!
Just as a background, I work for a Chinese company in Hong Kong. I came here in December of 2016. I was only going to stay for 2 years, so didn’t really worry about learning Chinese, just thought I would pick-up what I could. I didn’t worry about Cantonese (and still don’t, as you don’t need it in Hong Kong). After 2 years, my boss asked me to stay. I asked him for Chinese classes, and they were absolutely horrible. He paid for 2 semesters and I hated them and was so happy when I would have a work trip so I could miss class. I truly got nothing out of it. In fact it made me want to learn less than wanting to learn more. When I stumbled on your method, and you guys talked about how you also had been through classes and how they were a “false friend”, I decided to give you a try. Hopefully in a few months, I will be able to say “and the rest is history” except I’ll say it in Mandarin!
Send me another reminder in a month, and we will set up a time to do a podcast.
Although I have been learning Chinese on my own for the last 5 years (or more), I decided to start from scratch with you because I still have trouble remembering either characters or meanings or pronunciations or tones, which is very annoying, especially when I try to do some reading. So, I had been searching for a method to help me better retain all the information about each character. I’ve tried a whole bunch of repetition apps but then I realized endless repetitions without context is really of no use.
So, I can truly say that I’m having LOTS OF FUN going through the motions of your technique. I am so invested creating my crazy scenes/stories, with the actors, the sets, props, etc. that the characters/words get virtually engraved in my mind. I hope to continue until I learn to speak as nicely as Luke & Phil
I’ve noticed during finishing the levels till this point, and in
my Pleco app, that shi used as a noun, both in the second tone,
mean something different. Knowledge and time. I understand that
words in the same tone and spelling will take on a different
meaning if used as a noun, verb, etc., but is it common to see a
word with the same spelling, tone, and usage have a different
What I have found is that dependent on the region the speaker is
coming from the pronunciation can differ. My wife is from South
East of China and she very rarely pronounces the iong sound in
full. I had to get used to it. It is a bit confusing at times
though, I feel ya! @Luke/Phil – are my observations correct? Is
it a dialect/mannerism thing?
Sometimes 不 is pronounced with a second tone. Are there rules on
when it is second and when it is fourth? For example, 不用 is an
example of rising tone on 不。Other second tones are 不要, and 不是。 is
不 always second tone in compound words where the second character
is fourth tone?
Answer: Tone Change Rules
I also agree with all the below comments and also want to say
how much I appreciate the resources y’all have created to help
make it easier to focus on learning Chinese and not have to worry
about becoming a Anki master in order to make it to the next
level. After downloading Anki Deck 10-12 I noticed that the deck
was suspended. This is the first time this happen to me, but
within minutes, I used the link to the Anki Tutorial that y’all
provided, had the deck unsuspended within minutes, and was back
in business and cruising along with my studies. Thanks for taking
care of the enormous amount of details that makes this course so
enjoyable. It’s these details that helps keep me going!
I can imagine how this keyword connection might be difficult to
remember. Instead of the dove turning into 100 doves at the end
of my scene should I have it turn into something else that
represents 100? Like Ben Franklin? I can imagine I might forget
just how many doves it turns into,
I just can’t transform my prop as suggested. I just can’t get it
to click for some reason. Instead I have Clifford the big red dog
being eaten by a dog eating clam with only his hind legs showing
and it works for me. Question is will this hurt me later on?
I love how Anny started adding some ‘attitude’ to these
revisions after a couple of modules . Makes it so much more
how beautiful is this, do not embrace the path. Embrace the
walking. Thank you for sharing!
I am really finding the explanations extremely helpful and I’m
feeling excited about this course after struggling trying to
learn phrases by repetition off badly designed apps. My
motivation is pretty high as I’m marrying into a Shanghainese
Thanks guys 🙂
10 days in and I have never felt so confident about my journey
to fluency in Chinese!!! You’re both bloody legends and I’d love
to thank you for putting this whole thing together for us
commoners with none or close to no knowledge on the multiple
facets and aspects of this amazing language. Kudos to you and
kudos to me! Double win! Now, on to character learning!
52:57 Course Updates!
Updated Anki Decks
Previously, we had multipile “Cloze Deletes” in each sentence. Take a look at this Level 14 sentence as an example:
The reason we had both “起” and “来” ‘Clozed’ is that “起来” represents the full word learned in Level 14. However, the word was only unlocked because you learned the character 起 in Level 14.
As you all know, we’re a character-centric course, and it is therefore unnecessary and inefficient to also ‘Cloze’ the Level 13 character “来.” Now, instead of two ‘Cloze Deletes’ and therefore two cards, the sentence will look like this:
By doing this, we’ve reduced the workload from levels 13-36 by THOUSANDS of cards. Hooray! We’ve re-uploaded all the decks to their respective lessons. We’ve put the links below.
Anki Deck Lessons in Course (will only work for MBM course members):
This blog post explains the theory behind Movie Scenes and learning characters.
Zidane came to my grandpa’s house showing off his legendary
dribbling skills with a football so bright, it looked like the
SUN. The ball was so shiny, the glare blinded him and he crashed
against the BEDROOM door, making so much noise he woke everyone
up. My grandpa was very annoyed. “It’s too EARLY to be playing
football,” he said, taking a CROSS knife and stabbing the ball
which exploded creating a fusion reaction.
My estrANGed husband invited his BFF CHarlie (Chaplin) to his
home to celebrate our soon-to-be divorce. They were drinking
Always Sunny cocktails all day. They got so drunk they started to
sweat. Both headed to the BATHROOM. CHarlie opened his big MOUTH
and my Ex, thinking he was about to vomit, opened 2 WINDOWs to
get some air in, but instead of throwing up, CHarlie began to
SING “ The Sun will come out tomorrow… Bet your bottom dollar
that tomorrow There’ll be sun”
My grANdma was in the BACKYARD trying to sunbathe but it was too
cloudy. “Don’t worry. I’ll make you a tanning bed” said Diana
Ross, who came out through the WINDOW carrying a super long
extension cord. She HOOKed on end to grandma’s lounge chair and
held the other end on her hand. “Didn’t I tell you I can create
ELECTRICITY with my voice?” She began singing “Blame it on the
Sun” and the lounge chair began to glow with amazing purple UVA
Keyword : Despite or Nevertheless
Actor : The Queen
Set : My clinical school (Education)
Props : Snorlax, Wax seal
The queen just downloaded Pokemon Go on her smartphone and went
around playing it in the backyard of my clinical school.
A wild Snorlax appeared!
The Queen used her soft voice to ask the Snorlax to move.
Despite it coming from the queen, it’s not very effective.
Nevertheless, the Queen then used the wax seal to stamp a letter
of request for Snorlax to be deported.
Snorlax then quickly apologised and made way for the Queen..
It’s super effective!
I went back and slightly altered my scene for “马” after watching
this video. For “马” I had Marilyn Manson sitting in a wheelchair
with a broken leg by the window of my old apartment, smoking a
cigarette and playing with a knight chess piece in his hand,
depressed because he got injured and has to stay in the house
playing chess by himself, and the knight chess piece makes him
daydream about getting back outside and riding a horse.
But since I had Marilyn Manson proposing to Shadowfax (a horse
from Lord of the Rings) on the roof for “吗”, I decided it would
make more sense if he fell off the roof and broke his leg, and
that he was staring at the chess piece because it reminded him of
Shadowfax (who said no to his proposal!). Then in this scene
they’re in the back yard and he’s scolding shadowfax.
HUmpty Dumpty is in (A)ustralia visiting my sister but the
weather is so hot he is afraid he will be TRANSFORMed into a
boiled egg. He decides to take a cold shower but he steps on the
soap and has a great fall. Lucky for him, he only cracks a bit,
but now he needs a CRUTCH to walk. Hearing the commotion in the
BATHROOM and thinking there is a burglary in progress, my sister
storms in, striking Humpty with her SAMURAI sword. Poor friend,
all the king’s horses, and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty
-an set – the lecture hall of a school I went to in Australia
(one of my friends there was called Anna)
yu actor – Queen Elizabeth II
元 Zbyszek (one of my English students, who struggles with ‘in/at
辶 red carpet
Zbyszek patiently waits his turn to walk up the red carpet to ask
the Queen a question. He asks why she is so FAR AWAY from
My uncle “B”urf is out front of K”ei”th’s house. He’s talking
with Sully (James P. Sullivan 木) and Meghan Trainor (不）comes in
twirling around singing and accidentally hits them both in the
nuts. Agh…we should have worn “cups” yells my uncle over her
Wolverine [wu-] has agreed to enter some mysterious Moria doors
[门] behind the stove in the kitchen [of my -en set] because this
will give him a heightened SMELL. He enters, but when he comes
out, he realizes that he has turned into Dumbo [耳] ! What a
surprise! But with this big nose, he can SMELL everything now.
I take “D”ave into the conference room (3rd tone) at work where
I am “eng”aged learning Chinese. I want to show off our (prop)
giant Buddha statue. When we walk in, we see that it is covered
in (prop) bamboo scaffolding, so we will have to “WAIT” to see it
On a big computer screen in my kitchen the word TOPIC is
flashing in bright bold letters. Tammy (Ti) is trying to decide
what she is going to write about. On the left side of the
keyboard is a large volume of Shakespeare, on the right is a copy
of the constitution. The minutes tick by as TOPIC keeps flashing
and she starts pulling at her hair desperately. As she keeps
procrastinating the flashing word turns red and an alarm sounds
at each flash because she’s running out of time.
This blog post explains the theory behind props and Chinese character components.
I went with Bearded Lady (Keala Settle) singing ‘This is Me’
from The Greatest Showman movie
James Dean (Rebel W/O a Cause) or the Big Bang
I could imagine this character looking like the hats sold at
Disneyland/world, the long-billed ones with the faces of Goofy or
Donald Duck. An actor can wear it in the scene.
I could also imagine a geyser or, kind of related, a sink-hole.
Both of these are related also to the idea of “open”.
I finally decided on Meghan Trainor and picture her twirling
around with her hair flying out to the sides and her arms out.
Mainly because of her song “NO”
“The Holy Rocket Launcher” ala the “Holy Hand Grenade” from
Monty Python, which went well with Abigail’s suggestion of John
I thought of “A few moments later” Spongebob transitional scene,
which led me to choose Patrick
A Giant Metal Detector, or Map/Atlas could be good options as
Aretha Franklin, “You make me fell like a natural woman.”
Shania Twain, “Feel like a woman.”
The Venus de Milo Statue
This character is also the Zhuyin (or Bopomofo) phonetic sound
-ao. Because it resembles knees, I have always imagined this as a
skateboarder falling on his knees and saying, “Ow.” Maybe
knee-pads would be a good prop.
Going with an espresso machine, because 喝 means “to drink”, and
also 曷 kinda looks like one as well; 日 – is the container holding
the coffee, 勹 – is the body of the machine, and 人 – looks like
the coffee pouring into a cup