French may be the language of love, but let's be pragmatic for a moment: very few people speak it in China, so you'll need a better strategy for breaking the ice than dusting off your collection of compliments from college French class. Which is why this lesson focuses on learning how to strike up a conversation in mandarin.

In today's show we cover the basics of starting a conversation in Chinese, and you'll be using this stuff every day so get it down. Once you've mastered this, we think you'll be surprised by the warmth of the reaction. And while you can keep working on your French too, we think you'll discover that Chinese has a certain je ne sais quoi of its own: one-fifth of the world's population can't be wrong.
 said on
September 14, 2008
Thx for the new lesson. I wish to see more lessons in the future. Keep it up. If i can suggest you a thing to improve, maybe you can add english translation inside the transcript. This absolute beginner lessons are very very basic though so i dont need any english translation. I would like to see more advance lessons from you guys. You guys were talking in flat tone which arose some boring feel among the listeners. If possible can you add more jokes and interactive dialogs like chinesepods. Who are the speakers in the podcast?

I like the english speaker he speaks nice american english. Who is the female speaker anyway. Her voice sounds a little bit mature.

Are you going to charge us when you enter the fully stable state? Even for the elementary level? Hmm it is a bit difficult then haha
 said on
September 14, 2008
Hi David,

We'll be producing new lessons daily, although probably not on the weekends once we have a stable enough archive of materials. We want to have enough podcasts online for people to judge us and see if we're a good fit when we finally do leave beta. Flushing out the beginner level also lets us focus on usability testing for new students.

In the meantime, comments and feedback are very welcome. The male speaker in this podcast is me (trevelyan), and the female speaker is our very own Echo. The dialogue actors are Kang and Apple, both local actors who have appeared in a few television and radio shows. They're great people and we're very lucky to have them. I'm not sure how Echo will feel about sounding "mature" since she's younger than I am, so will leave her to read that comment for herself! :)

We're experimenting with the lesson format. This was one of the first lessons we recorded, and we've pushed it out on the weekend as we think it's a bit weaker: I'm not sure I like our explicit emphasis on the tones. We downplay that on most of the other shows and I think the rhythm plays better. There are more intermediate and upper-intermediate lessons in the pipeline and our first podcasts for more advanced students will come out later this week.

Our business model is developing an online/offline hybrid that charges for the parts of the service that require customization and keeps the mass products including the podcasts themselves free. This is fundamentally different from other teaching sites which are essentially traditional broadcasters transplanted to a new distribution media. We don't really see ourselves in competition with them except perhaps superficially. If you visit your Profile->Create page you'll see that your account has built-in publishing tools. A small minority of users may end up using them, but we think the results will be interesting.

Ultimately, rather than purchasing access to an archive of undifferentiated materials, we believe people will pay for personal services, but expect 24/7 online support and a strong online complement that extends their relationships with their teachers beyond the physical classroom. Our focus is the one-on-one teaching market. We're also looking to cooperate with local schools and offer a combination of online/offline classes, with the teaching model shifting to something more akin to a gym membership with always-open online treadmills for those who are too busy to come in person. Suggestions on other approaches are welcome - we are a business and focus on covering costs.

Ultimately, I think our service will be most useful for students who have reached the conversational stage and want to push their Chinese to the point where it is professionally useful. This almost by definition requires niche lessons and custom training. Corporate training is another example, although there are lots of new speakers who deserve better tools for education too. If a financial analyst is learning Chinese for business and his instructor is giving him vocabulary about the Great Wall, we think he's doing it wrong. :)

Appreciate the feedback, and let us know here or by email if you have any problems or suggestions with the site.

Cheers from the Team,

 said on
September 15, 2008
Hi David,

Ok thank you for your fast comment. Well different place has different preference hehe. But it is all to you guys whether to play with the tone or not, i mean when you guys were talking in english it is quite monotone and haha you know it sounds like merely a lecture.

As a small suggestion in exchange for the free coupon that you gave, i dared my self to give you that suggestion. Though, it should not only be judged by me but by the others as well.

And how about the Q and A section? I mean for some learners who want to study grammar? Is it possible to post any question to ask Echo and the natives about grammar questions. I mean somehow other sites have that feature and i dont have any idea on how to ask grmmar related questions here. Like how to know whether we should put the bu in the middle of words or the front of the words. For example" You can say bu ji de but you cannot say bu ji zhu, but ji bu zhu instead" Somthing like that, i believe that many learners face confusion regarding the grammar.

Anyway keep it up. Nice work
 said on
September 15, 2008
We have a community section that lets anyone start discussions. You can also leave your questions on related lesson discussions like this one. Or create your own lesson and ask questions there....

> But it is all to you guys whether to play with

> the tone or not, i mean when you guys were talking

> in english it is quite monotone and haha you know

> it sounds like merely a lecture.

We'll be experimenting with the lesson formats and trying to have a variety of materials. Some people like straightforward stuff, others like more banter. Some people just want dialogues and nothing more.

We're not exclusionary or restrictive about content. So if people like a particular podcast or recording, they're free to wrap their own premium materials around them and publish them through the site. As long as someone can type in the actual Chinese characters, the system will automate most of the rest. Transcribing a dialogue is a great way to learn the actual vocabulary and internalize the grammar, so it's a useful learning exercise.

We'll have a video demonstrating the lesson creation and editing functionality shortly.

 said on
September 16, 2008

On the question of "记得" and "记住"

-- technically 得 is a Probable Complement while 住 is a Complement Indicating Result. This means 得 comes after verbs and suggests the verb that precedes it CAN happen. 记住 usually comes with 了 or 没 since it indicates that 记 has already happened.

Here are some examples that mean different things, you can probably figure them out now:




This is a tough question. Most simply, 记得 means you can remember it now, while 记住 means you've already remembered it and won't forget it.

 said on
November 19, 2008
I love the site! Hope to see many more episodes!
 said on
November 19, 2008
Let me second that... this site rocks. The listening exercises and tests are really, really useful. Figure out a way to help with my chicken-scratch written Chinese and I'll love you forever.
 said on
January 2, 2009
@Echo September 16, 2008

Cheers for that I was wondering myself as well. BTW: I think your voice does not sound immature, but actually very cute!
 said on
January 2, 2009

非常感谢 :)

 said on
June 5, 2009
Hey. Firstly, thanks for these audioclips they are very useful to someone like me who has recenlty started learning chinese and needs to hear more examples with simple vocab.. so thumbs up!:)

I have a question though. I've always been told that ‘你好吗?’ isn't really used that much to ask how someone is。I was just wandering if you, personally, would regularly use that phrase or whether you had just included it as it's easy to learn once you have learned '你好'?


 said on
June 5, 2009
Hey Matt,

We actually had a back and forth over this one, since as a foreigner, I don't tend to use it a lot either, although I've definitely heard it in use. I like to go with 你今天怎么样. Which feels less emotionally detached, but also more unfocused. Use that with a stranger and they'll often answer 什么怎么样 (What's up with what?)

Echo and Gail can chime in on this one themselves. My take is that 你好吗 is exactly what it is - the most conventional way to ask how are you. I don't use that phrase very much in English, and thats the reason I shy away from it more than anything else - it is in common usage. If you're genuinely concerned about someone or relatively intimate with them, you'll want a less conventional expression. In the meantime, you can always dress up the phrase.

你今天好吗? (ni3 jin1tian1 hao3 ma5)

你最近好吗? (ni3 zui4jin4 hao3 ma5)

你还好吗? (ni3 hai2 hao3 ma5)

Or try the following:

你最近过得怎么样? (ni3 zui4jin4 guo4 de5 zen3me5yang4 - how have things gone for you lately)

I'd be curious what others in our community think to this one too.
 said on
June 5, 2009
The foreigner perspective is an interesting one. Because more often than not you are the one being said "Hello" to in China. Everone and their grandma wants to practice their English even if the extent of their English vocab is "Hello"

If they shout out a "Hello" at me I shoot a"有什么事?" right back at them. Throws them off guard and I like the look of both surprise and fear, because they know they can't back up their "Hello" with anything better than "Where are you from?"

Let some “哥们儿”s fly when around some young guys- I guess the equivalent of Bro or dude.

Also I like using 老大 with the older crowd. It means like a colloquial "Boss" or head of a gang.

If you want to be condescending I sometimes go with the 老爷 which is an older term referring to the master of the house.

And we cannot forget the go to, ace in the hole, 你吃了没?The "Have you eaten?" which regardless of what time of day it is, always a warm opening to elicit some good convo out of the locals.

For me the most interesting aspect of Chinglish, is the adoption of tones to the English language. For the most part I usually hear the "hello" with a sharp 4th tone on the o in hello. Makes me laugh
 said on
June 5, 2009
Ah, thanks a lot for your answers, they are very helpfull. I'll try some variations out next time I'm at the local Chinese 8-)

And I'm so glad that you mentioned 你吃了没. Part of me just wouldn't believe that that was a serious way of saying hello. I was never sure if I was asking my friend how she was or whether I was just being overly concerned about her eating habits.

Thanks very much =)
 said on
June 5, 2009
@matt - 这 is pronounced zhei4 as a shorthand for 这一. You can say zhe yi instead, but its easier and faster just to combine them and come out with zhei.

Considered standard I believe, and more common up north than down south. Totally dominant in Beijing.
 said on
June 6, 2009
@barrister & matt,

Yes, that's where zhei4 comes from. However, if you check 'The Contemporary Chinese Dictionary', zhei4 has just been used as the second pronunciation of 这 (in spoken Chinese) now. You can use either one in spoken language.

 said on
June 6, 2009

Guys, i have to say, you are right.

what I want to say is:

now after a long time, we can also use it in the following way, like:

zhei两件 nei三天

 said on
June 8, 2009
I picked up some new Casual Greeting phrases over the weekend. I'm pretty sure it is heavy on the local language flavor though.

"干啥gànshá了" as in "What up Big Money?"(Loose interpretation)

Curious as to what the 真的北京人 think about 干啥了, and common uses outside the shining mecca of modernity known as 河南。

Also, what's the verdict on 中不中? 中!!!Used in Beijing, and on what scale, anywhere else too?
 said on
June 9, 2009

And "中" has to be the second tone, right? 中不中zhong2bu4zhong2? 中zhong2!!

 said on
June 10, 2009
@paglino9, @echo,

中不中 sounds like zhóngbuzhóng in standard mandarin, however, it's zhōngbuzhōng in dialects.

actually I have 中不中 in my own dialect, we have 中文pronounced as zhóngwèn,中国 as zhóngguō,中学 as zhóngxuè,etc.

see? so,

if you say zhōngbùzhōng, you have the dialect translated, and if you say zhóngbuzhóng,you are speaking a native dialect.

 said on
September 1, 2010



 said on
January 17, 2013
Thank you for the lesson I've been really overwhelmed by the tones but the way you brought me into it is very relaxing thank you
 said on
March 19, 2016
That was great! You are very kind! 谢谢!
 said on
November 15, 2017
Hi I just heard over and over your very first lesson.Thanky you for proposing it. I'm an absolute beginner as I do not know a single word of Chinese not to talk about reading it!

I listened carefully and it seems to me that the words

I very good

in the sequence proposed do not follow each other in the way they were pronounced in isolation. That is, combining them seems to necessitate deleting the final sounds.

Wa misses the final o

hen misses the final i

while 'good' seems to be reproduced in its entirety

Can you please tel me whether I got it right and if yes why is it so and what should I deduce from that for future learning?


 said on
November 17, 2017

Not sure what you mean at all. Listen to more materials and you will get it. There are slight differences in speaking patterns between regions of China, but if you are intellectualizing and analyzing the differences to this extreme with such minimal level of exposure that means you are putting a negative, analytic framework between yourself and the language. How can you expect to internalize it?

By the time you get to the elementary level you will not have these problems. And by the time you hit the intermediate and advanced levels you will know how minor differences in tone communicate emotion in Chinese just as they do in English.

Either way -- don't overthink it. Young children can master Chinese. They don't over-analyze grammar and pronunciation: neither should you.

 said on
April 8, 2020