The Hardest Part


Bonne Bon,

Me le, me la, me les..Te le, te la, te les…..
I feel your pain on this one…

My most nagging French ‘hard part’ was (and continues to be) grammar errors. I remember getting stuck on “Je faut….(faire, etc)” and completely ignoring the subjonctif to produce “Il faut que je (fasse, etc.)”.

I’ve probably still managed to make an error in recreating this here….

Originally posted on Est ce que tu kidding me?:

We know that learning a second language in adulthood is difficult. Even though I started learning as a child, I didn’t get enough input to get to be fluent by most standards – and I’ll be the first to say it. There are a lot of factors that make language learning difficult. What is the hardest part of learning another language?

I think “the hardest part” may be different for everyone. In my job, I see students with very different skill profiles. Everyone excels in some things and needs more time to improve other things. There are people who struggle more with writing; others who struggle with listening (or understanding spoken language); others who have difficulty with pronunciation and being understood. It’s amazing to work with people every day and be reminded just how different and unique we each are.

So here we have it, in no particular order, three…

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Lost in another world


Oh my—this brought back so many memories of watching DVD copies of “24” in northeastern China.

My roommates and I had just bought a cheap toaster oven, real cheddar cheese (a real treasure in a third-tier Chinese city at that time) and imported canned spicy tuna from Korea. We used to make plates of tuna melts and watch marathon sessions of 24. We finished the whole series over the span of a few days during the spring festival holiday of 2003.

My roommates and I didn’t get lost in the trap of watching tv in the same way that I saw some expats do, but spells of getting caught up on television from home were one of the ways that we cocooned, recouped and refreshed for new experiences in our everyday lives in a corner of China that wasn’t a typical destination for foreigners.

I met my wife two months after this ‘episode’ of my overseas life.

Wow… Home run with this one ken. We are also ‘non cable’ ‘non satellite’ people. Most of what we watch comes from online sources, supplemented with regular trips to our local library, which is well stocked with children’s TV and movies.


Originally posted on kenthinksaloud:

I don’t normally rave about TV programmes; in fact I rarely (if ever) watch any TV other than with my family and even then only very select programmes.

I try not to be judgemental about this. I have to remember that everyone is different and everyone’s lifestyle choices are their own. But I can’t help but wonder why anyone would want to sit around watching TV! I simply don’t have the time and on the very, very few occasions I do decide to turn the telly on and see what’s on the box I am disappointed every single time! There’s never anything on worth watching!

I didn’t want to get TV at all when we returned to the country but Wifey insisted that we needed to have satellite TV for the kids if nothing else. Now, our kids don’t watch much TV either. They’ve grown up with it pretty much

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Language Blunders Part 1


Great story— it reminded me of a temporary look of horror that my Japanese host mother had flash across her face when we were talking one day when I was just starting out with Japanese. “Can you say that part again?”, she gently asked. When I repeated myself, she was visibly relieved and the conversation resumed.

I had an inkling as to what had happened, but I never did figure out what the offending word was. At the time, it was obvious that asking her (there was a group of people at the table) what she thought I had said, would have made for an awkward moment.

Anyway, I liked this blogger’s takeaway from the incident. We give toddlers the benefit of the doubt all the time, we should be kind to adult learners!

Originally posted on spahrknotes:

In an instant, my reputation as a mother shattered in the eyes of our ayi.

I’ve finally begun Mandarin lessons. This past week, I learned the word for juice. I sat at the kitchen table with my tutor and made a mental note that it sounded similar to the English word for juice.

Fast-forward one hour. I took the leftover apple cider out of the fridge to give to my kids and thought it might be fun for ayi to try some. I poured a small glass and offered it to her, saying in my slowly deliberate Mandarin, “This is apple juice,” which I hoped would be close enough to “cider” and she could figure it out from there.

And here begins our conversation, in which I became a terrible mother.

Note: This all happened in Mandarin, aside from my thoughts, and ayi’s Mandarin has been paraphrased for the reader’s…

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Okay tones


Get your Mandarin tones right, okay?  :):)

Originally posted on Tanya's Stories:

As promised, while I’m no longer in China, I still want to talk about Chinese! Today I’m tackling something that scares many foreigners learning Chinese – the tones.

In a tonal language, part of a syllable’s sound is the intonation with which it is spoken. So a syllable pronounced with a falling tone means something different to the exact same syllable pronounced with a rising tone. In the case of one particular syllable in Mandarin, that difference changes a common surname to an offensive swear word! So as you see, the tone isn’t an optional extra – it is part of the sound itself.

Speaking Chinese without tones is akin to gibberish – it just will not be understood. Plenty of people live in China for years and continue to struggle with tones. My tones are quite good overall but I still mess up more than I’d like to admit!

Believe it or not, of…

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New English Calligraphy

Originally posted on MyColle -Michael's Collection-:

What is like to write English with Chinese calligraphy? It was a question I had imagined when I was really young. I remember I drew many ugly Chinese characters on papers. Now, there is a Chinese artist that provide a perfect solution for writing English in Chinese calligraphy. Let’s see what these characters are:

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Thoughts on Mark Zuckerberg’s Mandarin Interview


nicely put

Originally posted on Adventuring Towards . . .:

Okay, so recently my internet has been going crazy over this interview that Mark Zuckerberg did at Tsinghua University in Beijing, in Chinese.  (I say “my internet” because I’m sure that there are people who have not heard about this, but when you know as many Chinese language learners as I do, it’s unavoidable.)  Reactions ranged from the clickbait headline “Of Course Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Fluent Mandarin” (courtesy of Mashable, so no surprise) to the much harsher “Mark Zuckerberg Speaks Mandarin Like a Seven-Year-Old”.  My feelings are . . . mixed.

When I first watched the video, I’m not gonna lie – I cringed a bit.  It’s probably easier for us foreign language learners to understand bad Chinese because we remember the not-so-distant past when we sounded exactly like that (“What, tones are a thing?”), but it’s also more grating because it’s like a reminder of our own imperfections…

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