Listening and speaking

The “Listening and speaking” category features media with Chinese audio and posts related to tones, transliteration systems, etc.
Since it is impossible to know for sure how to pronounce a character just by looking at it, there are a number of ways to represent the pronunciation. The most popular transliteration system now for non-native learners is 汉语 hànyǔ pīnyīn, or pinyin, for short, although zhuyin is common among heritage learners.

Apr 282012
Free iPad app: AllSet Learning Pinyin

About a week ago, I tweeted about a new app for learning pinyin from AllSet Learning. AllSet Learning Pinyin is essentially a classic chart with initials down the left and finals across the top. The whole chart does not fit within the iPad screen; you swipe to scroll up, down, and across. You can also use standard gestures to zoom in and out. Subtle shading divides the chart into zones that make it easier to see where you are. All in all, it’s very readable, with a clean, san serif font and generous spacing. Tone marks are printed on each syllable; you can choose from any one of the four tones with the tap of a button. This not only affects the display, but determines the pronunciation of the syllable when you tap to hear it (playing audio can be disabled in the settings). One thing that I would like … [read more]

Apr 082012

This has been airing a lot recently on US TV. The vocabulary is actually not very advanced, although beginners may find the the dialogue hard to follow because it’s spoken rather quickly and low. Here’s a transcript: Man: 不要太过分。 Woman: 我知道;我实在太喜欢。 Man: 不要让他知道。 Woman: 可是好漂亮。 Man: 让我解决;看我办事。 Salesman: 好极了!现在我开始准备文件。 See an error? Please comment.

Apr 062012
iOS app for 清明节 Qīngmíngjié

This week was 清明节 Qīngmíngjié, known in English as the Tomb Sweeping Festival or, more literally, the Clear Bright (or Pure Brightness) Festival. The story of its relation to the 寒食节 Hánshíjié (Cold Food Festival) is told in the iOS app from Rye Studio called 清明节. This app has features similar to the Rye Studio Beast Nian app, reviewed in a previous post. The characters are: 晋献公 Jìn Xiàn gōng Duke Xian of Jin 重儿 Chóng’ěr one of his younger sons; later 晋文公 Jìn Wén gōng Duke Wen of Jin 骊姬 Lí Jī a favored concubine  (妃子 fēizi) of Jìn Xiàn gōng 介之推 Jiè Zhītuī a devoted subject, who followed Chóng’ěr into exile Here is some other key vocabulary: 祭祖 jìzǔ to offer sacrifices to one’s ancestors 扫墓 sǎomù to sweep the tombs (of one’s ancestors) 国君 guójūn monarch 太子 tàizǐ crown prince 流亡 liúwáng to force into exile; to be exiled; in exile The 清明节 story app is available … [read more]

Feb 122012
Free iOS app: Laokang Pinyin Test

Do you have trouble distinguishing between “xun” and “shun” or “po” and “bo”? You can find out by taking the The Laokang® Pinyin Test, an iOS app that tests your ability to transcribe spoken Chinese syllables into pinyin. For each “question” in the test, you hear three distinct, random syllables. Your task is to type in the pinyin for these as quickly as you can. You do not type in tone marks or numbers (if you want to test your ability to distinguish tones, try the free Laokang® Tone Test, reviewed in an earlier post). You can listen to the question as many times as you like, but slow responses are penalized. As one might expect, the Pinyin Test shares the same thoughtful design as the Tone Test: the fact that the syllables do not form coherent words or phrases (and are pronounced essentially tonelessly) makes it purely a test … [read more]

Jan 292012
iOS app: Laokang Tone Trainer

If you’re a beginning or intermediate student of Chinese, I hope you tried the Laokang® Tone Test, an iOS app that tests your ability to distinguish the tones of Chinese by ear, which I reviewed last month. Since then, the developer gave me a copy of the Laokang® Tone Trainer. If your Tone Test revealed that your tone distinction could use some work, then you should get the Tone Trainer. If the following review seems long, it’s because there is a lot to this app. The Trainer is divided into four sections: Start, Learn, Practice, and Test. The Start section allows you to get a feeling for how the various tone combinations sound in two-syllable words. An interesting option in this section is the ability to hear tones applied to a selection of English words. This should be most helpful to absolute beginners. Listening to either the Chinese or the English … [read more]