Reading Chinese Unlocks Your True Potential

158. Reading Chinese Unlocks Your True Potential

Podcast Duration: 00:58:54

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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.

158. Reading Chinese Unlocks Your True Potential

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1:48 Comments & Emails

Annette by Email

Hi Phil, Luke,

All of a sudden it said “Level 13 complete”. The videos telling us that this is the hardest it will be and that it will only get easier are so encouraging. Now I am even more eager to get to the paragraphs and more text to read. Reading and understanding is of course much easier than trying to keep up with Annie or Jerry when shadowing. I start out with them and then lose them as I end up sounding like their echo, but it is all good. I look at the sentences as additional pronunciation practice. Fantastic curriculum you developed! 

In one of the video segments Phil talks about the difference between word by word and meaning translation. As a former business translator I agree with you that you always want to translate so that the understanding, the meaning and the sentiment are conveyed correctly. Word by word never works. I always give the English “it’s raining cats and dogs” as an example. It doesn’t work in any other language I know if you translate the actual words and not the meaning. Apple not too long ago came out with their translator app for iPhones and I put it to the test with a German phrase and sure enough, the translation was word by word which was rather disappointing. I think that is what most people expect from translating that it is something that is and can be done word by word without understanding that that is not the case unless you have extremely simple sentences. Even then, there are words in one language that do not exist in another and you need more explanatory words to translate properly or refer to something that is similar, but of course will not be the same. The other challenge is that two languages never have the same number of words. If you translate from a language that has fewer words than the one you translate into, then that alone provides additional challenges and vice versa. Most people learning a foreign language for the first time do not realize these things.

Yesterday, I left a goodbye message on the Duolingo Chinese forum which I have not gone back to since late July when I started your free trial. Of course, I mentioned that I had found a much better learning path in Mandarin Blueprint (incl. your website link). 





Cindy on Tone Change Rules Part 2: 不 bù

I love how you can link the words together and that you’re teaching it this early on, it definitely does make a huge difference in sounding more native at least in my opinion. Thanks guys!


Seong on Level 13 Complete

I started this course on the 14 August because my city is in lockdown and having just closed my laboratory (in Neuroscience), I wanted to occupy my time with something new. Its now 5 weeks and I am so thankful that I started this course because I can now read sentences in Chinese. I look forward to daily opening up my screen and learning new words and sentences. Above all, I am amazed by your enthusiasm and love for the language. My Mandarin teacher is also very impressed and will now recommend you to her other students. Thank you.


Seong Tan on The Phase 3 Blueprint Expansions

This is simply great. I have been using a private tutor for 2 years, learning pinyin only. I know the meaning of way more than 105 characters, but now that I have a systematic way of reading the writing them, and much to the delight of my teacher, now it all makes sense to me. I have reached this level in about 4 weeks because it has been so fun climbing every character and reclaiming what I have previously learned in a rational way. Thank you


Christine by Community

So Phil asked for some feedback and thoughts about the idea to drop the sentences (as a ‘compulsory’ item) at some point in the Intermediate.

Feeling somewhat responsible for this move, I just want to add my ideas and experience.

I never liked the Cloze delete format, so this also influenced me to an extent. I stopped doing the Cloze delete format quite early in Intermediate, at around level 40, I think, but I replaced this with variously
– creating my own vocab cards (starting from level 37)
– turning the sentences into reading/listening only, marking myself on how well i felt I understood the sentence or listened to it
– And finally, at level 50, dropping the vocab cards and the sentence cards in all formats to just focus on the characters.
However – from level 50 to 57 I did READ the sentences as they came up in the course.

In defense of the sentences and how I am using them, I just want to add the following:
1.  The sentences are actually a really, really valuable resource. They give us a chance to practice listening, as well as to learn new vocab. I just don’t like the Anki and Cloze/delete format. If we didn’t have these sentences, we would have had to do our own ‘sentence mining’ for sample sentences. Obviously, the advantage of doing sentence mining is that the sentences mean a lot more if you have found them yourself. So by all means, if you want to go that route, then do it. Just keep in mind, you need to find sentences that only use the characters that you are learning at that point (or have learned up to a a point). Luke and Phil have already done the heavy lifting for us in this regard.
2. Reading practice – you need to get reading practice and one way to get this using the characters you know is by using the sentences.
3. You can use the sentences in the form of the mp3s that were made available, instead of using them in Anki. In this way, you are not tied to the ‘Anki Burden’. You can also choose to only do this after you have completed the Intermediate course.

So on this note, this is what I am doing to catch up all those ‘lost vocab’ by not doing the sentences for the later levels.

I am having dedicated listening practice sessions with these sentences, starting from level 45 and working my way through them. This includes active listening, to make sure that I am now learning the vocab that goes along with the sentences, and then moving each level into a ‘should know’ playlist that I listen to semi-passively, to keep on reviewing these sentences and to reinforce the vocab.

Obviously everyone has a different approach and a different way of working, so this might not applicable to everyone, but I just wanted to give my perspective.

Apologies for the long post 🙂


Cindy QTrinh Nguyen on Tone Change Rules Introduction

I’ve watched a lot of chinese dramas and had quite a bit of interaction with chinese customers so even before knowing these tone changing rules, I’ve already used it without realising. I think that’s what works for me – comprehensible input and shadowing. Often times I don’t know what grammar rules are and what terms like preposition (and insert other complicated grammar terms) is but when I see examples of it, hear it in its context and shadow it, it becomes more natural to me and I will also end up picking up all these grammar without realising. I think that’s the beauty of language acquisition taught via this method. Thanks guys!


Mirko R on It’s a Word! 找

zhǎo nǐ wǔ yuán

Three 3rd tones in a row?

42:25 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.

Joe Tamz on Vocab Unlocked from 还: 还是

还是 is always for questions like do you want to tea or coffee 或 can be for statements, like today I will drink tea or coffee


Seong Tan on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 身体

shanti, shanti, shanti – Sanskrit chant for peace, peace, peace to your body


Rick Angleland on Vocab Unlocked from 新: 新闻 – 最新 – 新年

That 闻 in 新闻: it has an ear inside, not a nose, and in Japanese it means “hear/ask”, and in Korean “hear”. Presumably somewhere along the way, the meaning changed in Mandarin to mean “smell” (why?), but it has kept the original meaning in 新闻?


Jasmin Lehmann on New Vocabulary Unlocked! 一下 & 下午

I had two songs immediately coming to my mind
One moment in time – Whitney Houston
A moment like this – Leone Lewis

By the way, did you know that “a moment” is a medieval time unit of exactly 90 seconds. So one hour has 40 moments. 🙂


Thomas Brand on Vocab Unlocked from 帅: 帅哥

I’m currently enjoying the C-drama Handsome Siblings. A photo of the two leads from that not only covers the handsome thing but will remind me of the 哥 element too.


Rick Angleland on Vocab Unlocked from 当: 当然 – 当时

I’ve seen 当 used to mean “want to be [a profession]” e.g. 我想当科学家。


Annette Bicknell on Vocab Unlocked from 法: 想法 – 看法

Easy to find an image of two people on either side of a number 6 or 9 each seeing it from their perspective and having an opinion / idea of what it is.


Jonathan Glazier on Vocab Unlocked from 错: 不错 – 没错 – 还不错

I have used woodworking because I did woodwork at school, I wasn’t brilliant at it but I was NOT BAD either

28 September, 2021