Mandarin Blueprint Podcast Episode 7

7. Learn Chinese Pronunciation for Zero Dollars

Podcast Duration: 01:07:01

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.

7. Learn Chinese Pronunciation For Zero Dollars

00:09 – A pretty big announcement 


Debra Jansen on YOU DID IT!!!

Absolutely brilliant course! Gold standard for how to teach a language. Videos are excellent and precise. Soundproof booth (?) produced crystal clear sound quality. I am totally impressed and your enthusiasm, ability to engage, great supporting documentation and ANKI decks have produced a complete package that I have enjoyed immensely. I’ll leave a Facebook post as well. I look forward to starting the character course.


Chad Ressler on Level 5 Complete

One of the key points Phil made was about zero days. Working through the levels, you definitely reach a point where not working through a lesson or practicing pronunciation throws your day off.
Phil also mentioned that there will be days where you will do alot of videos vs days where you might only do one. When you have days where you are working through alot of videos, be sure to use the timeboxing method Phil discussed in previous videos. In Level 5 I saw the chance to do several characters, as many in this level are related, and I abandoned timeboxing to try and power through them all. As a result, I had to take a day away from working on new characters because I really didn’t develop good movie scenes for them and I’ve had to spend more time reviewing them. However, the day spent away from characters meant reviewing a lesson from the Pronunciation Mastery course as well as working on Anki.


Jim Awofadeju on Character #35: 飞 fēi Casting Call

I chose Felix Lattman as my actor for the “f-” initial. He is funny and a good teacher. He is the founder of DominoChinese ( and has videos related to China, Chinese language, and Chinese culture on social medial media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Just search for “Domino Chinese”.

Chad Ressler on Character #35: 飞 fēi Casting Call

I’m sure I’m not the only one who will choose “Phil Crimmins” as their actor for this one! 😀

Jim Awofadeju on Character #31: 乙 yǐ Casting Call

I chose my mother to represent the actor for the yi- initial. Her name is spelled Irina, which would be pronounced as eye-ree-na in English, but pronounced ee-ree-na in her native (first) language, Russian.

Chad Ressler on Character #45: 化 huà Casting Call

Hahou Mo: Donnie Yen’s character in Kung Fu Killer

Jim Awofadeju on Character #53: 乱 luàn Casting Call

My choice for “lu-” is Lola Bunny. I believe Bugs Bunny had a crush on her.


Jim Awofadeju on BONUS: NONE of Us are Bad at Languages – Work WITH Your Brain

You said that we all have innate ability to acquire language, however, a lot of people point to the “language barrier” when it comes to moving to another country or seeking work opportunities. Does the notion of a “language barrier” exist because people think they are “bad” at languages? Maybe such people tried learning foreign languages but never learned how to learn a foreign language properly. I think anyone who is studying a foreign language, or thinking about studying a foreign language, should ask “How would a linguist study a language study a language to the point of acquisition?” That’s what you did during Phase 2 of your Chinese learning journey.


Sidney Green on Character #162: 太 tài Make A Movie

Great job, Phil, with the 5th Podcast. It was a mammoth task but you made it so helpful and interesting.
My congratulations to Luke and his fiancee and I wish them every blessing in their coming new life together.

Is the 了 at the end because it is assumed she didn’t look beautiful yesterday 🙂 Is it there for another reason?


Jim Awofadeju on Character #17: 八 bā Pick A Prop

Do you think wooden legs, such as those on a pirate, would be a good choice of prop to represent 八?

Chad Ressler on Character #47: 百 bǎi Pick A Prop

If you rotate the character counterclockwise, it sort of looks like ‘100’. I’m thinking of imagining like a giant, bedazzled, rotating number ‘100’.

Jim Awofadeju on Character #28: 马 mǎ Pick A Prop

My chosen prop for 马 is the Trojan horse of the Trojan War (Battle of Troy). I just thought of a keyword association for 马,horse. The keyword association is two basketball players playing a game of H-O-R-S-E. For those who are unfamiliar with the game of H-O-R-S-E, it is when one basketball player takes a shot on the court or does a trick shot, and the other basketball player has to shoot the shame shot and get the same result. If one basketball player misses the first shot and the other basketball player makes the first shot, then the player who missed the first shot gets the letter H. This sequence continues for 5 shots. The first basketball player who spells H-O-R-S-E loses.

Ryan Smith on Character #74: 上 shàng Pick A Prop

Related to “god”, I’m imagining the iconic pearly gates to heaven.

Jim Awofadeju on Character #20: 儿 ér Pick A Prop

My original choice of prop for the 儿 component was sexy, human legs, but I’m considering changing it to mannequin legs instead. What do you think?


Jim Awofadeju on BONUS: What WILL & WON’T Make You Fluent in Mandarin

It’s true that comprehensible input (reading and listening to messages we can understand) builds our language modules and eventually allows us to produce the language comfortably and fluently through speaking and writing. I think it’s also true that people acquire their native languages, and foreign languages, at different rates. For example, let’s talk about English as a native language. Some babies spoke their first word of English when they were 15 months old while some babies may have spoken their first English word at 20 months. No matter at what age the babies spoke their first word in English, I don’t think their parents were rushing them to speak as soon as possible. Likewise, I don’t think adults should feel like they should speak their foreign language as soon as possible. Do you agree with the points I made in this comment? Would you like to add anything else?


Ryan Smith – From Email

On the most recent podcast (#5), someone asked if learning Mandarin had given you a more refined sense of hearing. Your response was that you really weren’t sure, so I thought I might provide you with another person’s experience with this.

My personal background: I have a bachelor’s in linguistics and a masters in computational linguistics, so I have studied a fair amount about phonetics. In addition to that, I’ve trained myself to have a decent ear for a large list of languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Russian, Finnish, Georgian, French, Dutch, & a number of others to varying degrees of accuracy).

With all of this, one might think that I have developed, or was just gifted with, a spectacular ear for languages. But the truth is…I really don’t. Every time I start training myself with the sounds of a new language, I start with the same confusing experience as anyone else. Having prior experience with a larger number of consonants and vowels then most gives me a slight head start, but it still is always muddled with how they interact in this new language.

The only thing that really gives me an advantage over anyone else is just the knowledge of *how* to study the sound system of a new language along with prior knowledge of what things like “pharyngeal” or “palatal” consonants means.

Of course, that’s just my personal experiences with language learning. I’ve known people who pick up languages much faster than me and to me seem to have special abilities, where as all I have is the willingness to put the time & effort into it.


Jeffrey Co – From Email

Hi, can you help me navigate on which level I will learn the grammar? I’ve been scanning through level 25 but can’t see it, and will you have a video explaining how to construct a sentence as you do in the Pronunciation Mastery course?

Jim Awofadeju – From Email Towards the end of Level 7, Phil said that understanding a sentence is how a person starts slowly building their understanding of grammar. I know that sentences aren’t my focus until character #105 and I also know that there are infinite variations of sentences. I’m just curious about what to expect once I reach character #105 and focus on sentences.


Abigail on Character #10: 入 rù Make A Movie

This character looks very similar to rén (人). How do you differentiate between the two? (ie. in the movie scene do you have to make it clear in what order the samurai sword and banana cut each other?)


Ryan Smith on ANKI DECK(S) INSIDE – Level 9 Complete

I love that you guys are so encouraging in these review videos. Really does a good job of making me pumped to keep going!


Keith Wilkens on Character #19: 介 jiè Make A Movie

Thanks, guys, that suggestion you gave about using the suspend function on Anki and then un-suspending them as you come up to new ones really helped me out a lot! Much less confusing for me that way.

Jay West on Character #6: 半 bàn Make A Movie


do I somewhere record/ write down my Script in Anki or ist it just in my head?



Jay West on Character #7: 人 rén Pick A Prop


in my Anki deck the picture of the na (banana) is a square. How can I fix this?


Chad Ressler on Character #48: 今 jīn Make A Movie
Actor: Janice (stepmom)
Location: Girlfriend’s Apartment (outside the entrance)
Props: Umbrella, Tear Drop, Dr. Spock

My girlfriend and I are standing outside the entrance to her apartment where we first spent time. My stepmom Janice is there holding an umbrella looking at her day planner. I ask what she is doing and she shows me her day planner with today’s date circled in red and a red “Today” written in the box and states, “Today is the day we make first contact”. All of a sudden Dr. Spock lands and walks over to us in rain. My stepmom holds the umbrella over his head as we see a teardrop coming from his eye (he is half human after all!). He gives us the Vulcan salute and says “Live long and prosper”.


Ryan Smith on Character #74: 上 shàng Make A Movie
Location: Friends bathroom in Texas (a house where we h*ang* out at when in Texas)

Props: Cigar & crystal ball

Actor: Sean Connery

Sean Connery is smoking a cigar in my friend’s bathroom, this is, of course, a terrible idea & thing to do since this particular bathroom is connected to the nursery. Mentally, I can hear their crying baby hacking due to the smoke, which is a minor, unimportant detail that my mind just can’t help but add in. In order to contain the smoke of his cigar, which naturally rises anyways, he reaches far above him to a crystal ball hanging from the ceiling and lets the smoke fill the crystal ball instead of just pillowing throughout the bathroom.

It’s easy to remember the “above” aspect because smoke tends to rise anyways. Having the smoke fill the crystal ball makes it look more like the mystical crystal ball you see in movies. And this is the second time we’ve yelled at Sean Connery for smoking cigars (the first was with 十, where “thou shall not smoke” was one of the 10 commandments), which also helps to link the scene to other bits of memory.

26 February, 2019