Chinese Grammar Pride

The following is a guest post by Spring 2016 intern Callan.

If you are in need of inspiration and/or motivation to review your Chinese grammar, look no further!

In celebration of the new Chinese Grammar Wiki BOOK (available for download here) we’ve asked a variety of students which grammar patterns they remember learning and are really proud of having mastered (or at least of having gotten the hang of using).


“I think for me the hardest grammar pattern I remember learning was because it can be used in so many different ways… it can be like past tense but it can also describe a change in state. Just knowing where to put it in the sentence, how to use it correctly, and how many s to put in the sentence, it can be pretty challenging. I feel like I’ve got a decent handle on it, but still definitely a grammar pattern I can work on.”

–McKenna M., has studied Chinese for 4 years


“I think the most important or useful grammar point for me is probably 因为… 所以. One, it obviously applies to daily life and two, in English we usually put the 因为 part at the end. But in Chinese I feel like it’s important to know that it’s reversed. It actually seems more logical this way: ‘because of this’ and then ‘as a result.’”

–Amanda G., has studied Chinese for 4 years


“Learning the structure was really hard for me, because there is no equivalent in English. In the beginning, the way I learned grammar was that I would find the English equivalent and just memorize it. So with it was the first time I encountered something that didn’t have an English equivalent and I had to memorize the actual pattern. It was really frustrating for me, and I was like, I’ll never get this. Well, then I went to China, and I had a roommate that would use it a lot in her sentences, so I tried to integrate it into my speech more. I don’t know, at some point I was just doing it and not even thinking about it. And now I just do it, so I’m always really proud whenever I think, ‘Oh, I just used a bunch in a conversation!’”

–Hattie F., has studied Chinese for 5 years


“There was one time a friend and I were studying, doing vocab words, and the word was 木刻 [wooden carving] and I knew that definition no problem. But then he said something, and I asked him ‘what does 虽然 mean?’ I couldn’t figure it out. People kept using it all the time and it was really confusing. He laughed at me for knowing this really advanced vocab word but not knowing this simple grammar word. So now every time I use it, I’m like, ‘Ha! I also know the simple grammar…’”

–Holly S., has studied Chinese for 5 years


“I’m glad that I know how to use 不仅… 而且. I think that it’s important to use, and you can use it talking either formally or informally. I remember back when I first started learning Chinese, I used it incorrectly at first, then continued practicing. Eventually, I used it correctly on a speaking test and have often used it since.”

–Delton R., has studied Chinese for 5 years


“The structure was unlike anything I had studied in English and was crucial to saying the most basic things in Chinese. I would have to go back to my Chinese 101 book for the first year and a half just to go over that grammar pattern again. It just never clicked. I finally got the hang of it and was using it correctly in my essays and in class. I thought I’d try using it outside of the academic setting. I ordered my usual street food and wanted some extra sauce. The only grammar pattern that came to mind was the structure. The [translated] question sounded like, ‘Can you please put some more of that sauce onto my burrito?’ He looked at me with an amused grin and started chuckling as he put on more of the sauce. I was insecure and thought I said something wrong. I asked him if what I said was wrong and if he could teach me the proper way. He said I sounded uptight and it was too formal of a way to ask. He said in the future just use ‘来点儿.’ I still have an uneasy relationship with the structure, but at least I can use it correctly.”

–Bruce B., has studied Chinese for 5 years


“I get really excited when I use the right “de” (, , and ). It’s something that I was just finally able to do last semester and now try to do all the time. I know that it’s not the most important thing, but it really makes a difference in your writing and proves that you know what you’re talking about. Knowing that I have mastered something that all Chinese have has really helped to boost my confidence in my ability to learn this language, something that I need on an almost daily basis.”

–Taylor M., has studied Chinese for 5 years


Our Chinese Grammar Wiki BOOK is available for download on Amazon. Give it a try, and create your own proud grammar moments!

Read more

The Chinese Grammar Wiki is now an ebook!


At the end of March, AllSet Learning officially released the “Elementary” (A1-A2) volume of an ebook series that reformats the Chinese Grammar Wiki content for portable ebook format. It is already available for Amazon Kindle, and will soon be available in the iBook store as well.

Basically, we took all the A1 and A2 grammar points, polished them up, and put them into an ebook. At the same time, we added some other useful content, like a Beginner’s Guide to Grammar, as well as a Bilingual Glossary of Grammar Terms. Links that go to content not included in this first ebook are removed, so that everything makes sense, and the interconnected nature of the resource is preserved. The ebook is long and thorough; just this “Elementary” (A1-A2) volume is as long as many other books on Chinese grammar that aim to cover all levels.

Since it’s already online for free, why buy the Chinese Grammar Wiki content as an ebook? Here are some great reasons:

  • Sometimes going online is not practical, or your internet connection is not fast enough. Ebooks never slow down.
  • Search is basically instantaneous through your ebook reader, and if the “Elementary” (A1-A2) level is the right one for you, you can be sure that everything your search turns up is relevant.
  • If you’re working on the “Elementary” (A1-A2) grammar points, it can be nice to have a self-contained set of material to work through. The ebook format makes it very browsable.
  • Have you been using the Chinese Grammar Wiki for a while, and would like to support it? Purchasing the ebook (for yourself, or as a gift to a friend or Chinese teacher) is a great way to do that.

Even if you’re not looking to buy any ebooks, the release of this new ebook is great news for all users of the Chinese Grammar Wiki. Here are three big reasons why:

  1. To release this ebook, we had to do more thorough proofreading than we ever had. There was a fair amount that needed cleaning up. There were titles that needed fixing, pinyin that needed correcting, translations that needed tweaking, and even whole articles that needed to be divided up or moved to different levels. We spent almost a year making all those changes.
  2. Completing all the edits for A1 and A2 means we are finally able to devote more time to B1 and B2. And that’s exactly what we’ve been doing! So you higher-level learners don’t need to worry… This year we’ll be adding more grammar points, more sample sentences, and more analysis.
  3. Finally, the wiki has been growing nicely over the years, and also gaining popularity among college students. Anyone who would like to support this project now has a great way to help us grow: help spread the word about our ebook! The more people that know about it and buy it, the faster we can grow this resource.

Thank you for your support! The Chinese Grammar Wiki BOOK: Elementary is now available on Amazon.

Read more

2015 Summer Intern: Amani


Amani Core from Middlebury College started an internship at AllSet Learning under unusual circumstances. Already in Shanghai at an internship at an art museum, he was nevertheless looking for opportunities for more practice so he could do better on his upcoming OPI telephone test. It was quite a coincidence, because we were also helping a client prepare for the OPI, and bringing Amani on and giving him extra exam prep helped deepen our own knowledge of the OPI. In return for all the extra practice, Amani did some great work for us on the Chinese Grammar Wiki (he had quite an eye for detail), and even as a book reading model!

Amani’s account:

I was an avid user of the Sinosplice and Chinese Grammar Wiki websites during my gap year at Beijing Normal University the previous year. It really focused on topics that were prominent in my study abroad time, both in terms of life in China as a foreigner and grammatical points. Therefore, I wanted to meet with John while I was here in Shanghai with a separate company for a summer internship. The main goal was to understand his company and receive tips on how to improve my Chinese studies.

The first meeting was very helpful, but I ended up coming back for a second time a few weeks later. I explained the need for more preparation for a proficiency exam I wanted to take, and my Chinese environment at my other internship wasn’t sufficient enough to help me feel as if I was progressing. I ended up joining the AllSet Learning team that day and received much more practice in and out of the office, boosting my Chinese skills in many ways. Additionally, I was able to edit the lower levels grammar points on the Chinese Grammar Wiki website, which helped me not only refresh my memory of the grammar patterns I completely forgot, but also re-experience what its like to learn Chinese for the first time.

Overall, it was a great experience, much more than I could have hoped for! I learned a lot about the work and effort that goes into a growing company dedicated to help us Chinese learners improve. Additionally, through preparation for the proficiency test, I was finally able to expand my Chinese knowledge that goes past tones, grammar, big words. I’m glad to have been part of the team!

We’ve been really impressed by Amani’s hard work, and how far his Chinese has come in such a short amount of time. We know we’ll be meeting him again in China, and he’ll probably be totally fluent the next time we see him.

Read more

2015 Summer Intern: Dominic


Dominic Pote was still a high school student when we interned for AllSet Learning, working on building his resume as he prepared for the college application process. Dominic was a truly international student, with a parent from Hong Kong and a parent from the U.K. He had spent some time in Hong Kong, but had mostly grown up with in international group in Pudong, Shanghai. He joined our team for the summer with already decent Chinese, and we put it to good use!

Dominic had the design skills we needed, so rather than working on the Chinese Grammar Wiki, we put him to use designing and laying out ebooks, iBooks, and Adobe InDesign print books. He also got to help with the early test reading of the new Level 2 Mandarin Companion title.

Dominic’s account:

As I was doing my internship at Allset learning, many of my friends were also doing internships at other larger companies. Initially I thought they were better off, but after a while I realized I was getting a much better experience. Working in a smaller firm not only provided a much more friendly environment and a healthy workplace, but being a part of a growing business is a great way to learn about entrepreneurship.

My role centered around graphic design, granted something I don’t wish to pursue in the future, but I enjoyed being a part of something where I was contributing to a real product. I used existing art and text assets to create both ibooks and physical books, one being a bilingual children’s book and one being a book centered around teaching chinese. One interesting aspect that I never expected was the idea of problem solving. When I thought of “problem solving” I assumed it would involve mathematical equations or ethical dilemmas. However, problem solving can be any simple problem such as “how to copy a table from this document without changing the format,” which I thought would be easy, but was surprisingly difficult, and required more thinking “outside the box” than I expected.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Allset learning and recommend anyone out there looking for some good work experience to take up an internship here.

Thanks a lot for the help, Dominic! Even if you don’t go into graphic design, your hard work here will live on in the form of our books. (You’re thanked inside the books.)

Read more

2015 Summer Intern: Jacob


Jacob Rodgers, a rising senior at University of Iowa, is a computer science major and amateur musician. Although his CS coursework hadn’t given him lots of exposure to practical applications like webpages, Jacob proved that he could quickly pick up the CSS and HTML skills he needed to make real contributions to AllSet Learning’s efforts.

Over the summer, Jacob provided audio editing software training for our staff, helped with various technical aspects of both the Chinese Grammar Wiki and the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki, and even helped Mandarin Companion (AllSet Learning’s partner) implement a total redesign of the website. It was quite a productive internship for Jacob.

Jacob’s account:

I first came to China for a two-month program in the summer of 2014, and before I had even left, I already knew I wanted to find a reason to come back to China. Within a few months, I found out about AllSet Learning, and felt that an internship there would be a very fitting opportunity to come back to China and at the same time gain some work experience.

I knew I would be focused in the area of IT, but I feared that my lack of experience might prove to be a burden. But John set me loose on developing the styles and layout of the Grammar Wiki eBook, and despite having very little experience with HTML, and none in CSS, I was quickly able to pick it up and actually accomplish real tasks. I also worked on the design of the Mandarin Companion website using WordPress, something else I’ve never used before. And, as most interns will do, I also worked on editing of the Grammar Wiki. Overall, I was quite pleasantly surprised that I was able to do real things despite not having experience in these areas, and having done them, I know these kinds of skills will be valuable to me in the future.

I will miss everyone I’ve met here, including John for his guidance and introducing me to web development, and Weiwei and Chen Shishuang for their company and the interesting and humorous conversations we would have, in English and in Chinese.

You did some amazing work here, Jacob, and we know you’ll go far with your already impressive Chinese. 加油!

Read more

2015 Summer Intern: Mike


Mike Blood, a rising senior from UVM participating in CET’s Shanghai summer program, came to AllSet Learning as a near-total beginner in Chinese. Fortunately he was willing to be our guinea pig, though, and not only did he learn a lot of Chinese during his internship, he also gave us a lot of insight into the absolute beginner’s perspective.

Mike helped a lot with the lower levels of both Chinese Grammar Wiki and the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki. He was also able to apply his notable Excel skills to more than a few tasks, and gave us a ton of needed help with our social media marketing outreach.

Mike’s account:

Coming to China and being an absolute beginner in Mandarin was pretty unsettling. Working at AllSet Learning has allowed me to practice my Chinese and start learning how to have conversations. My teachers, Weiwei and Chen, have been very encouraging throughout these past two months. We would try to get to know each other in Chinese which inspired me to ask and learn more vocabulary terms. I loved teaching them new English phrases while I learned Chinese from them.

My internship here has given me an opportunity to gain experience working on various tasks. These ranged from advertising products, to market research, to teaching lessons, to website design, and more. John has been very supportive in having me help out with some problems that the company was facing and made me feel like my opinions mattered about these topics as we discussed them. The time I spent here has been very valuable because I learned to work both on my own projects, and in a group collaboration.

Thank you to everyone at AllSet Learning for making this summer unforgettable! My time in Shanghai has been a blast and I now feel ready to take on anything back in the states!

Thanks, Mike! We’ll miss your humor and your unrelenting “absolute beginner’s perspective.” (We welcome you back anytime, even if you’re no longer a total n00b at Chinese!)

Read more

2015 Summer Intern: Liza


Liza Fowler, a rising junior from Champlain College, was no stranger to foreign countries when she started at AllSet Learning, but I think it’s fair to say that China has a few special challenges all its own. Liza had studied Chinese two years previously but was quite rusty, so she was glad to give her neglected skills a workout at our office.

Liza helped a lot with Chinese Grammar Wiki editing and social media marketing efforts, so if you ever find yourself chuckling at our tweets or Facebook posts, that might be her handiwork.

Liza’s account:

Interning for All Set Learning was an amazing experience. Not only did I gain work experience in a professional setting, but I also had Chinese lessons from incredible teachers. Whether just making jokes, discussing cultural differences, or practicing my tones, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by an amazing group of warm people who welcomed me and made my experience in China so much more fun.

My daily tasks varied from making edits on the Chinese Grammar Wiki, to finding interesting articles about China for the social media accounts. Both of these were beneficial for more than just “work” experience. The Chinese Grammar Wiki improved my Chinese language skills, and looking for articles informed me of current events. These combined added immensely to my Chinese cultural experience.

Arguably, the best aspect of my internship, however, was the people. I will so greatly miss all the wonderful people I met! Thank you John for providing me with such an incredible opportunity, Chen lao shi for perfecting my tones and our interesting and insightful side-tracked conversations, and, of course, Wei Wei for always making me smile, ordering me all the delicious foods and being my Chinese sister! I have you all to thank for my global perspective and you will always be remembered as one of the best and most important parts of my Chinese experience!

Liza made some great friends in our office, and we’ll miss her. Liza, you’re always welcome to come back for a visit… don’t wait until your Chinese gets too rusty!

Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: Chinese Grammar Points Used by a 2-year-old .

Screen Shot 2015-07-03 at 10.32.06 AM

潘吉有一个可爱的女儿,妈妈是上海人。两岁时她就能比较自如地同时说英语和汉语(有时还会夹杂一点上海话)。潘吉和他太太在生活中采用“一个家长,一种语言”的模式跟孩子沟通,效果显著。作为一名语言研究者,潘吉对女儿如何掌握词汇及她所使用的中、英文语法特别感兴趣。有些人很关注语言的学习顺序,也认为孩子的语言学习顺序应该是和成人差不多的。其实,孩子和成人学习语法的顺序并不太相同 。

因此,潘吉简单总结了一些2岁的女儿已经掌握的常用语法点。他参考的是Chinese Grammar Wiki的汉语水平划分标准(从低到高依次是:A1, A2, B1, B2)


  1. 量词“个”(A1)


  2. “二”和“两”(A1)


  3. “的”的用法(A1)


  4. “呢”表疑问(A1)


  5. “没有”作为动词的用法(A1)


  6. “不要”+ Verb (A1)


  7. “不” 表示常规的否定(A1)


  8. 跟…… + V(A2)


  9. ……了(A2)

    有一些语法点她确实掌握得不太好,不过用得还不错,“···了”就是其中之一。她知道“来了”、“去了”等一些短语。(例如,她常用“···来了”表示存在,意为“here comes···”)

  10. 别 + V(A2)


  11. 动词的重叠(A2)


  12. 动补结构“V+完”(B1)

    两岁的孩子对补语的用法显然一无所知,她只会学习一些短语,“吃完了”就会用很多次。(对应的英语她会用 “finished” 或“done”,而不是“finished eating” 或者“done eating.”)

  13. “嘛” 表不言而喻(B1)



  1. 人称代词(A1)


  2. “会”&“能” &“可以”(A2)


  3. “比”用于基本比较(A2)


  4. “是…的” 结构(B1)


  5. “把”字句(B1)


  6. “被” 字句 (B1)

    当然,她暂时还不会用“被”字句,以她2岁的年龄还不需要被动语态,有时她自己能听到的也不多。可以肯定的是语言学家们已经研究了孩子在什么时候会掌握被动结构,原因是什么等。但无论什么原因,”被“ 字句都是孩子们学习汉语时优先级较低的语法点。





这个2岁的小女孩学习量词时没什么太大的问题。但是中英文数字的掌握速度会不一样,当她学会中文1-10的数字后可以很快学会大于10的数字,而英语中有很多不规则的数字teens(十几)(例如:“eleven,” “twelve,” “thirteen” ),这些学起来会有点慢。

基于“实用高于一切”的原则,对于很多语法句型,潘吉的女儿学完一些简单的短语就直接用了,其实她对语法结构并没有概念。这并不是说她的智力还无法理解这些概念,而是说她并不知道可以把“完”放在其他动词的后面,她只知道吃完饭的时候可以说“吃完了”。她所记住的短语在有需要的时候会很快转化成一个个的句型,这一点确实是成年人应该学习的。过多的辨析只能减慢学习速度、阻碍有效的沟通。这一方法同样适用于在Chinese Grammar Wiki上学习“了”的用法。渐进的方式是学习“了”最好的方法。一般情况下,先记住有用的短语,然后再慢慢归纳总结。


Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: Boring Small Talk is an Opportunity .

在AllSet Learning,常常能听到中文学习者们分享他们遇到的很多问题。对于中级水平的学习者,最常见的问题之一是“我总是一而再再而三地进行一些很无聊的对话,例如:你来自哪里?你在中国呆了多久了?你吃中国菜习惯吗?”有些学习者认为这些挑战不大的问题一定程度上限制了他们的汉语水平从中级继续往上提高。

AllSet Learning的创始人John Pasden(潘吉)对无聊的对话提出了两点看法:

  1. 过于被动。设想一下,当你的身边有一个很友善、又乐于跟你聊天的朋友时,你所能做的难道就只是坐等他们随便找些老套的话题跟你聊吗?
  2. 有人跟你闲聊是一种友好的信号。他们在向你表示愿意和你聊天,可你却可能因为过于被动而丧失了一次很好的机会。

你别指望会有一个中国人跑过来很直接地跟你说“嗨,我对你很感兴趣!我们一起聊天吧,我们可以聊任何你想聊的话题。” 可要是有人真的用不同的话语传达同样的意思会怎样呢?听上去肯定会是很无聊的一次对话。当你遇到很一些无聊的谈话时,那就把这当成他在说:“嗨,我们来聊天吧,虽然我现在还想不出一些好的话题,但是我可能会抛出一些无聊的话题直到你有勇气开始真正的谈话。或者我俩一起被这些话题无聊死。”这样理解会不会好一些?



  • 毛泽东是你的偶像吗?
  • 你吃过最好吃的外国菜是什么?
  • 你怎么看印度/美国/以色列?
  • 你对宗教信仰怎么看?
  • 你会给乞丐钱吗?为什么?
  • 你会玩手机游戏吗?什么游戏?比如说?
  • 你相信有外星人存在吗?


  1. 他们不会再跟你继续聊下去了(不想再进行一些无聊的谈话)
  2. 你从他们的谈话中获得一些有意思的想法。


Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: Better Non-comprehension: Getting Beyond “ting bu dong”.

mynewnormals dot com
AllSet Learning的创始人John Pasden(潘吉)有一次和他的朋友Ben聊到学汉语的挑战时,Ben说挑战之一是,每当他跟别人说话时,只要有一点听不懂,整个对话就没法进行下去了。经过进一步的询问,真正的原因浮出水面了:只要他有不理解的地方,每次他都只会说“我听不懂”。



1.什么?我没听清楚。What? I didn’t hear clearly.


2.我没明白你的意思。 I didn’t understand what you mean.


3.你在说谁? Who are you talking about?


4.你的意思是…… So you mean…




Read more

2014-15 Winter Intern: Michael


Michael Moore, a 3rd-year computer science major from Luther College, has had an extremely productive IT internship at AllSet Learning. Despite his unfamiliarity with PHP, he helped a lot with both the Chinese Grammar Wiki and the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki. He was also able to apply his Python programming skills to both audio manipulation scripts as well as Chinese textual analysis (NLP) scripts. And he even got to work on a video game! We were extremely impressed with all he was able to accomplish in such a short time.

Michael’s account:

At just one and half months, I think I’m one of AllSet Learning’s shortest term interns. The time has really flown and I wish I could stay longer. The small office environment provided me with a lot of practical experience that is not available in an academic setting, for both Mandarin and computer science.

I worked on several IT projects during my short time here, ranging from text processing to computer games. One of my biggest projects was helping set up the new Pronunciation Wiki, and in particular its pinyin chart. AllSet’s need to provide a consistent user experience pushed me to write programs that were not just usable, but a pleasure to use.

The most fun project I worked on was the “Chinese RL Lab,” a browser-based video game for learning Chinese. The graphics may be simple, but underneath I got to experiment with features such as data-driven programming, AI, and procedural generation. AllSet [will soon be making] the project open source, so I look forward to continuing to contribute.

I want to thank all the staff at AllSet learning, who were all very welcoming. John even invited me to Christmas Eve dinner at his home. Yu Cui, Weiwei, and Yang Renjun, who all made sure I stayed well-fed and taught me not to always greet with “nihao.” I’ll be sure to stop by whenever I’m in Shanghai!

Michael really did some amazing work, and we’re all greatly benefiting from his contributions. We can’t wait to release the “Chinese RL Lab” (this name will change), so stay tuned for news on that. (And Michael, don’t forget to keep contributing!)

Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: Why Learning Chinese Is Hard.

有人说:“ 学汉语并不难”,这一观点AllSet Learning 的创始人John Pasden(潘吉)不太赞同。因为学汉语是他曾做过最难的事情之一。潘吉认为学习汉语是一件非常值得做的事情,但同时,也是一件很难的事。希望大家不要凭自己对难易程度的感觉去选择学习一门语言。有人就曾想当然地凭感觉选择学汉语,然后被汉语中复杂的声调吓坏了,避而远之。根据潘吉的切身经历,汉语的难度确实吓倒这样一批人。究竟学汉语的难点在哪呢?

首先,让我们来讨论一下这里说的“难”到底是什么意思。牛津字典的英语解释是:needing much effort or skill to accomplish, deal with, or understand.

所以,当我们谈到“难”的时候, 不能把它和 “耗时”混在一起。

有人说 :
“学习汉语是一个循序渐进的过程,可以先列出简单易行的事情——学一个汉字或一句话、听一首歌或看一部电影、跟人聊天或发个邮件等等。 这其中没有一件是很难的, 潘吉大部分赞同, 但并不赞同 “学习汉语一点也不难”这一观点 。他在学习汉语的过程中发现一开始是非常难的,尽管这种难度的高低是主观判断的。但实际上把“开头难”等同于“整件事都很难”的想法是比较片面的。


投入时间 vs 掌握技巧



  • 初学者:哇哦,你会杂耍球?
  • 潘吉:是啊。不是很难,半小时你就能学会。
  • 初学者:真的吗?让我试试。
  • (潘吉开始演示杂耍球的基本玩法并把球传给了对方。初学者自己试了几次,可很快球就掉地上了。)

  • 初学者:这比想象中难多了。
  • 潘吉:对,但你只要坚持半小时肯定能学会。
  • 初学者:太难了!我还有事先走了,拜拜。

看到了吧, 一种只要半小时就能掌握的技能,为什么很多人还是觉得难呢?其实真正的原因是,当我们需要去学一门新技巧时,大脑的第一反应是“这应该不难”。确实,杂耍球的技巧是不难,扔球、接球、然后重复。大脑立马就理解了,可实际做的时候,双手却不听使唤。

其实,之所以感觉“难”是因为我们的实际表现没有想象中那么好,因而很受挫。这对于“自我”是个重大打击。 然而这种判断是比较感性的,而非理性的。更糟的是,如果你放弃一件事的原因是它不像你想的那么轻而易举就能完成,那你怎么知道自己到底有没有可能做成?



当潘吉说学汉语很难的时候,并不是指汉语学习的各个方面都很难。对潘吉而言,学汉语真正难的部分是掌握声调。潘吉最痛苦的一段时期是到中国后开始学汉语的那一年半时间,没有一个中国人能听懂他在讲什么。囧!可他并不是一个轻言放弃的人,经过不懈努力,他最终掌握了汉语。潘吉的经验是: 在学习汉语的过程中,声调是最容易让人受挫的部分。为什么呢?刚开始学汉语的时候很难区分声调,这时你会感到很绝望。后来,你可以听出声调的不同了,但却不能自己复述出来,这时你又会感到很绝望。再后来,你可以比较准确地把几个不同的声调串在一起了,但组成句子时却一团乱,这时你还是会感到很绝望。看到了吗?要掌握声调是一个漫长且挫折不的过程。每个学习者几乎都曾有过这样的经历:“这些人怎么回事? 我中文说得都没问题啊,我肯定每个词的发音都是对的,为什么他们还是听不懂呢?”这确实是会让每个学习者都很受挫的一种情况。




看到了吗?最难的部分其实就在最开始。潘吉认为,很多人汉语学到高级水平的时候,就会忘记刚开始的艰难和挫败感。这种情况潘吉在AllSet Learning的工作中每天都会遇到。对于初学者来说,这一学习曲线看起来是有一点吓人。



Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: How to Learn to Order Food in Chinese.

时间倒退到AllSet Learning 的创始人John Pasden曾住在杭州的日子。那时John经常和一群外国老师们出去。每次一起去中国餐厅吃饭的时候,John总会充当起“点餐员”的角色。一方面是由于John在中国呆得时间最长、中文说得最溜,但最主要的原因还是在于他能读懂中文菜单

John认为即使是一个接受全中文授课的外国人,也很难搞定一张全是中文的菜单。也就是说,一方面,菜单上都是中文,另一方面,对菜单上汉字的理解能力直接决定了将要下肚的东西。 这样的压力不是一般的中文小测试可以相提并论的。

汉语老师在课堂上教什么我们都知道。你可以把饭 (rice), 面(noodles), 肉 (meat)这些单词背得滚瓜烂熟, 但话说回来,有人真正注意过关于“蔬菜”的那一章节吗?没有!好了,现在到了该付出代价的时候了,因为很有可能你只能看懂每个菜名的一两个字。更悲剧的是,大部分菜名都是四个字。哈!(John的心得:千万不要自以为是地去点“xxx肉”!)

John的同事JP最近迷上了一个网站”Like a Local”,因为这个网站可以让他知道在中国餐厅“点什么菜”。John也给他推荐了这个网站:”How to Order Chinese Food”。这两个网站都比较有用,但若是想真正搞懂那些中文菜单,John有更好的方法。这些方法是他亲身实验过的,效果显著!










这一步看似没什么必要,可是却很有帮助!把整个中文菜单都翻译成英文是有点折磨人。感觉中文的菜名有时候完全不能直译。John的建议是:翻译字面意思,同时乐在其中。比如,“鱼香”的字面意思是“fish fragrant”(鱼的香味),一般菜单也是这样翻译的。可实际上并不是“鱼”,这样的翻译太烂了!因此,John遵循了“乐在其中”的原则,把它翻译为“fishilicious”。又比如“梅干菜”,英语中似乎没有一个对应的翻译。可当John一看到这道菜的时候就想到了一个描述性的菜名:“blackgrass”。这就是John的菜单,简单易学。(别忘了給中国餐厅也起一个英文名)。



以上就是所有秘诀了!如果你按照步骤好好去做,那么很有可能全中文的菜单将再也不是你的一个问题了!妙就妙在:只要你选了一个有普通家常菜的中国餐厅, 这样的事情只需做一遍。之后你就能猜出大部分中文菜名的含义,包括一些不常见的。猜不出的时候也没事,你可以点来尝尝,这会迅速弥补你的空白。


Read more

Introducing the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki

We originally launched the Chinese Grammar Wiki in 2012. We honestly didn’t think it would be this long before we launched our next free resource, but it turns out fleshing out the Chinese Grammar Wiki was a ton of work (who would have guessed, right?). We are not at all finished adding to the Chinese Grammar Wiki, but it’s high time we released our second major wiki resource: the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki.

The need for the Chinese Pronunciation Wiki is very similar to the original need for the Chinese Grammar Wiki:

  • Consolidated Information: You can find most of this information out there on the internet now, if you take enough time to really look, but it’s scattered, and some of it is bad
  • Organized by Level: Although pronunciation takes a while to master, the various points that need to be covered are rarely presented in a leveled way, making clear what comes first and what comes later
  • Minimal Jargon: Information should be presented in plain English, with additional notes for the linguists that want them

Our clients in Shanghai need this info, and we’re pretty sure a lot of you learners out there will find it useful as well.

Here are the points we put extra time into for this release:


Here are some other areas we’ll be fleshing out next:

  • more on tones
  • illustrations and diagrams
  • other more advanced issues

There’s actually a ton more we’ve got planned. Every pinyin initial, final, and syllable has its own page, and we have some serious interlinking going on. We’ll let you know when we make major updates, but sign up for our product newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out!

Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: Learning Curves: Chinese vs. Japanese.

AllSet Learning的创始人John Pasden曾多次被问到:汉语和日语,哪个更难学?为回答这个问题John做了如下的图表。这两个图表非常清楚地展现了两者的区别,但为避免可能会看不懂,他同时给出了一些文字说明。



日语发音刚开始学习很简单。可能有些人发 “tsu”音时会有问题,或是很难发连续的元音,比如“mae.” 但是坦白地说,日语发音对母语是英语的人来说并不是一个很大的挑战。完全零基础的学习者可以用20分钟的时间记住几个句子出去和别人交流,别人也能听明白。但学习日语真正的难点是如何让自己的发音听起来像一个地道的日本人,要想使日语的音高重音和语调接近地道的日语水平是非常困难的。(John自己到现在也还没能真正实现这一点!)


对于母语是英语的人来说,汉语语法刚开始挺简单的,甚至有些人觉得简单到 “没有语法”的地步。这当然不是真的,还是有一些很难的语法点需要掌握(例如“了”的用法,这可能在语法列表中占了很大篇幅来解释)。总体来说,汉语语法并不是太难,但如果学习者想非常精通这门语言,并且最终还要学习古文,那到需要下很大的功夫!

日语的语法起初学起来就像是奇怪的火星文。但只要有决心、肯努力,最终还是可以把它拿下的!一旦学习者跨过了语法、动词词性变化、被动语态这几道坎,は,が 和 keigo 这些词就不再是问题,到那时候学习的感觉就会比较从容 。但刚开始肯定会比较难。

最后声明一下,这篇文章并不是严谨的学术研究,只是John根据自己多年的语言学习经验有感而作。 欢迎大家发表评论并分享自己在这两门语言上的学习经历。

Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: Tone Purgatory and Accent Exorcism.

动画大师查克·琼斯(Chuck Jones )曾采用比喻的形式给年轻的艺术家们提出了一条忠告:在我们的思想里至少有10000副糟糕的作品。如果我们越早将它们展现出来,就能越早发掘出那些深藏在我们内心深处的好作品。


AllSet Learning 的创始人John Pasden 本人很认同这一观点。并不是我们本身缺乏学习技能,而是应该先清除内在所有的“糟糕作品”。扔掉糟糕的东西远比在乱涂乱画中创造出全新的东西要简单的多,难道不是吗?我们完全可以想象这样一种情况:“糟糕的作品”在随着时间的推移被不断清除,其数量会变得越来越少、直至耗尽,而一个真正的“艺术家”即将蜕变而出。







Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. The original article is in English: The Process of Learning Tones.

1. Stupefied 混沌状态


2. 3-Second Memory 3秒钟记忆


3. Individual Tone Success 成功发对单音节

在经过大量的努力和广泛接触声调后,学生将能在一个独立的语境中发出指定的声调。可喜可贺!这确实没那么简单。 在这一阶段,虽然学生很努力,但在实际对话中仍会犯大量的错误。除了最常见的单词或词组(例如“你好”“谢谢”),就算学生很专注也只能发对单个音节的发音。当听到新单词时,还是不能正确辨别声调。

4. Familiar Double Tone Success 成功发对常见的双音节

当学生找到方法可以成功发出首个双音节(如“谢谢”)之后,慢慢就能掌握常见单词语调降阶的规律。但是想在对话中正确发出这些词仍然是一个很大的挑战。学生的发音可能还是会受英语句子的语调影响。(请参考如下Sinosplice的发音练习文件以获得更多帮助。)我们公司创始人John Pasden的学习经验就是这一规律的典型案例。学生会发现自己发音困难的顺序跟下列很相似(从上到下依次是从易到难,同一行里的声调组合难度大致相似):

1-1 <–最容易
  2. 4-4, 2-4
2-2, 4-2, 1-4

  4. 2-3, 3-3, 1-3, 2-1
3-4, 3-1, 1-2
4-1, 4-3
3-2 <–最难

5. Complete Double Tone Success 成功发对完整的双音节


6. Multiple Tone Success 成功发对多音节

不管你相不相信,连续的3个字有时会让人抓狂。即使学生的双音节已经发的很好了,但还需要更多有意识的练习。如果学生可以发对双音节,那么只要稍微下点功夫就可以任意组合,只需要简单地把多音节拆分成多个双音节。(例如:一个1-3-2 多音节的组合可以看成1-3和3-2音节的交叉组合)


Read more

2014 Fall Intern: Cai Qingyang


蔡清扬 (Phyllis Cai)是一个喜欢中国传统戏剧的江苏姑娘,也是我们来自NYU的一位实习生。由于我们公司的所有客户都是个性化服务,所以有很多个性化的素材需要搜集、整理。蔡清扬在实习期间,帮助我们搜集了很多有价值的素材、翻译了相关的英语资料。并且和不同的客户进行了模拟记者采访等中文对话的演练。是一位认真负责的实习生!

蔡清扬’s account:

对我而言,在Allset Learning 的实习应算是一个极难得的体验。作为一个对中文教学工作有足够的热情却缺乏工作经验的大二学生,我最初的选择更多是出于提高工作能力的考虑。 回顾在Allst Learning 实习的三个月,着实受益良多。

注:我们大部分的实习经历分享是用英语写的,因为AllSet Learning大部分的实习生都是外国人。

Read more

2014 Fall Intern: Jack

Jack Du (杜佳东) is from Shaanxi, China, and was one of our first NYU Shanghai interns, and part of a small but elite group of AllSet Learning IT interns. The project Jack worked on is not yet public, but will be soon.

In Jack’s own words:

As I’m pursuing two majors, Computer Science and Interactive Media Arts, I am really passionate about coding and building cool projects. Developing games is one of my favorites. My experience at AllSet has been wonderful because I have been doing what I would like to do.

Since my schedule at school is quite full, John allows me to work on projects at school and meet him once a week. I really appreciate this flexibility so that I wouldn’t waste too much time on the commute. John always has great ideas and also motivates me to have more ideas. The tasks here are not just interesting, but helpful for my future career. I started using Git and learned regex here, both of which are of vital importance to a coder.

It was great working with you, Jack, and we look forward to watching the code you worked on blossom into something bigger and greater!

Read more

2014 Fall Intern: Natalie


Natalie Kuan is a Chinese American sophomore in the NYU Shanghai program, and was one of our first NYU interns. Because Natalie had a high level of Chinese, she was well-suited to a wide variety of tasks, from Chinese Grammar Wiki editing, to social media management, to having demo lessons with our teachers, to proofreading new print versions of Mandarin Companion titles.

Natalie’s account:

The past four months at AllSet Learning have flown by so fast! I first got in contact with John through my school’s (NYU Shanghai) internship fair. At AllSet, I worked a lot with the Chinese Grammar Wiki, learning some basic HTML, editing content, translating example sentences, and adding pinyin to all the example sentences. By finalizing all these small details of the Chinese Grammar Wiki I realized how big of a project it is and how much effort it must have taken to get it to where it is today.

The Chinese Grammar Wiki has also made me realize how many small points of Chinese grammar I actually didn’t know! One of the more challenging aspects of editing the Wiki content was adding and clarifying uses and rules. As a heritage speaker, even though I know how to use most of the grammar points, I realized that I didn’t know how to explain them. Why is it that you can put 了 here and not there? To me, Chinese grammar just was the way it was, and I knew what it was purely through practice. I never had to learn all the different structures and so I really had to push myself to research and think about these grammar rules, then put them into writing. It has been such an eye-opening experience to watch the wiki grow and even get the new layout that it has today.

Another task I had at AllSet was updating the social media accounts. This allowed me to spend some time researching for interesting articles to share. Through this process, I got to learn a lot more about Chinese culture and current events. I also had the opportunity to witness how it is that a business can take advantage of the current social media trend to widely inform and promote an idea or product.

I’d like to thank all of the staff in AllSet for making my first internship in Shanghai such a wonderful and warm experience. Thank you to Yu Cui and Yang Renijun for helping me to distinguish and clarify grammar points. Thank you, Weiwei, for giving the office such a fun and bubbly atmosphere and always feeding me snacks! Lastly, thank you to John for giving me this opportunity to work in your office and for having the patience to teach me how to do the different tasks.

We really appreciate all the hard work, Natalie, and we’ll miss having you in the office. Keep up all your Chinese socializing, and maybe you’ll even become a Chinese teacher someday!

Read more

2014 Fall Intern: Salomé


Salomé is another example of a brave intern that took on AllSet Learning’s myriad of marketing internship tasks while simultaneously learning the basics of Mandarin Chinese. She used our Pronunciation Packs for daily practice to improve her Chinese.

Salomé brought French style to the AllSet Learning team for the first time ever, and proved a big help with her Photoshop skills and also video editing skills. In addition, she helped fill our social media accounts with lots of interesting, beginner-friendly material. She was also one of the fastest-working interns we’ve ever had!

Coming to Shanghai I didn’t really know what to expect about life here, as I had never been to Asia before. My time at AllSet Learning has been a great experience: I had the chance to not only get familiar with life in a Chinese office, but also to learn few sentences in Chinese as my level of Chinese was below 0 before coming.

During my two months at AllSet, John gave me various different tasks, from writing blog posts to taking care of the social media accounts, which always kept my work interesting. I learnt way more than I thought I would through my internship, and I feel like the skills I gained will be very beneficial for me in the future, especially when I’ll start my university degree next year.

I felt really lucky to have found an internship in a small office, where I was able to ask as many questions as I wanted and see so many different aspects of the company, whether it was witnessing the designing of the new Chinese Grammar Wiki website or proofreading the Secret Garden graded reader before it was finalized for print.

I’d like to thank John for always keeping me occupied by giving me fun tasks (and making me realize I could actually like Chinese music) along with the rest of the AllSet Learning who helped me everyday to improve my Chinese pronunciation! And thank you Weiwei for helping me order my lunch everyday and make me discover new delicious Chinese food I would never have had the chance to try back home in Switzerland. My two months in the office flew by and were always enjoyable, thank you!

We’ll have videos of Salomé’s pronunciation progress soon. In the meantime, we wish her the best of luck, as she goes on to Costa Rica to help take care of sloths in a sloth reserve (yes, really).

Read more


This article is a translation of a Sinosplice article by John Pasden (潘吉), founder of AllSet Learning, translated to Chinese for the benefit of Chinese teachers. If your Chinese teacher asks you to call him by an English name, send him a link to this article. (Original English version here.)


Chinese Teachers: Please Use Chinese Names!


















这篇博文是翻译,原文来自 Teachers: Use Your Chinese Names!

Read more

2014 Summer Intern: Jazlyn


Jazlyn Akaka is one of very few IT interns that we’ve had in the AllSet Learning office over the years, and she did an amazing job. One of the first things she did on the job was to clear up some office networking issues that had been plaguing us for months, and then she went on to be hugely valuable in her super-thorough testing of the AllSet Learning Online Store leading up to its launch.

There are tons of IT needs at AllSet Learning, so she also got to practice her Mandarin some valuable AllSet staff training in Chinese.

Let her tell you about it:

Working at AllSet Learning this past summer was such a great experience! Heading into my internship my hopes were to improve my Chinese and learn more about computer science. Not only did I learn more with respect to my major, computer science, but I was also in an environment conducive to improving my Chinese.

These past two months I mainly worked on alpha testing the AllSet Learning Online Store. At the tail end of my internship, one of my favorite tasks was giving Yu Cui different IT pointers using Chinese. I think this was one of my favorite assignments while I was at AllSet because it helped me to improve my Chinese, and it provided me with the opportunity to converse with someone about what I’ve been studying in college.

Thank you so much to the AllSet Learning team! You made my time in Shanghai so enjoyable, and I will not forget my experience working with you.

Thanks a lot for all your hard work, Jazlyn! We couldn’t have launched the Store nearly as quickly without you, and you’re always welcome here in Shanghai.

Read more

2014 Summer Intern: Zach


Zach Herzog was one of the braver interns we’ve every had, because he took on a summer internship where he had to learn Chinese (he started the internship not speaking any), and he also had to complete his other duties with almost non-existent Chinese. He blew us away with what he learned in 6 short weeks, though!

Zach’s duties were largely marketing related, and aside from serving as a guinea pig to help show the effectiveness of our Pronunciation Packs, he also did market research, product research, wrote some blog posts, tested out some apps, and even gave his own recommendations for future Mandarin Companion story titles.

In Zach’s own words:

After studying abroad in the Spring of 2012, I discovered that I have a love for travel and a huge interest in learning about different cultures. As a business major, interning in China seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn about life in one of the world’s oldest and largest economies, as well as a culture totally different from life in the States.

I was so lucky to find AllSet Learning. As a small office, I was able to see so many different aspects of business. From marketing strategies to website design, I feel like I really learned some hard skills to take back as I finish my degree. John was a great mentor and taught me a ton about what it takes to run your own company. His love for China is contagious and he and his staff were so helpful in teaching me about the culture and helping me make the most of my time here. And while I had never spoken a word of Chinese before landing in Shanghai, I was surprised at how quickly I picked up the pronunciation from some of the exercises and products that AllSet has developed.

I also have to give a huge thanks to Weiwei, Yu Cui, and Yang Renjun for helping me adjust to life in Shanghai, and for teaching me so much about China (as well as exposing me to ever increasingly spicy foods!) My six weeks working here has been absolutely unforgettable. I am so thankful for the skills I gained, and I look forward to keeping in touch with everyone in the future!

Zach actually starred in two short videos which highlight the progress that can be made in just 6 weeks, regular practicing with our Pronunciation Packs under a teacher’s guidance. We’ll also be posting those soon.

Great work, Zach, and enviable attitude! Keep up that Chinese, and come practice with our staff anytime…

Read more

The Benefits of Versioning

AllSet Learning has recently launched its own Online Store for digital products that help you learn Chinese. One of the key features of the store is its versioning system. If you use any kind of software (especially smartphone or tablet apps), you’re probably familiar with versions already. But the concept can be applied to more than just apps. It could be applied to ebooks, or even music. And it can certainly be applied to our digital products.

AllSet Learning Online Store

In a nutshell, the way it works is that any time a new version of a product is released, anyone who has purchased that product receives an email notification about the new version. Those paying customers can then download the new version for free.

There are several key benefits to this kind of versioning:

  1. You don’t have to check for new versions; you’re notified as they are released, and updating is as easy as logging in and clicking a download link.
  2. Paying customers benefit long-term from ongoing development of products. AllSet Learning is committed to continually improving its products, and as a customer, you should benefit from that.
  3. As an early adopter of new products, you can “get in on the ground floor” for a cheaper price. As products develop, their scope may expand, and their prices will increase accordingly. If you’re more risk-averse, you may be happier plunking down more money for a more mature product that already has good buzz, and that’s fine.
  4. When you give feedback on existing products, it’s often easy for us to make changes and issue an update.

We’re currently getting in touch with our customers and gathering feedback to issue a round of updates. New products are coming as well. We’re excited about growing our offerings, and we urge you to check out the AllSet Learning Online Store if you haven’t already!

Read more

How to Use Pronunciation Packs

With the release of the AllSet Learning Online Store, we are now offering Pronunciation Packs to help elementary and intermediate learners of Chinese improve their pronunciation in critical areas. The key components of the Pronunciation Packs themselves are professional-quality MP3 audio files and PDF word lists. So how does one use these tools?

For a creative learner or teacher, the possibilities are limitless, but most of us would prefer a bit of guidance. That is why every pronunciation pack comes with an Instructions PDF outlining:

  1. How a learner can effectively use these Pronunciation Packs on her own
  2. How a teacher can use these Pronunciation Packs as pats of Chinese lessons
  3. A Chinese version of the instructions for the teacher

You can check out the current version (1.0) of the Instructions by downloading the PDF yourself:


Just keep in mind that all products in the store will be updated with new versions, and that includes these PDF instructions. They’ll keep getting better and more complete with each update. (The file linked to here will not be updated.)

Thank you, Chinese learners, for your support of the AllSet Learning Online Store, and we look forward to sharing new products and updates with you in the future!

Read more

Introducing the Online Store

We’re proud to announce that the new AllSet Learning Online Store is now open for business! AllSet Learning has created iPad apps before, and even penned Chinese graded reader ebooks, but now you can also get great learning content directly from us as well.

AllSet Learning Online Store

Why a store?

Some of our users might be wondering why we made this move. For us, it’s been a totally natural transition.

From the start, AllSet Learning has served Chinese learners in Shanghai as its main business. Because each client’s needs are different and the core of our services is personalization, we’ve had to develop quite a few different types of materials to meet our clients’ needs if there’s not already an existing study resource to do the job. The Chinese Grammar Wiki started out this way as well. But pronunciation has always been a key focus of our personalized instruction, and pronunciation practice has been a key component in our clients’ lessons over the years. As clients use them and provide feedback, we’ve seen which ones get the best results, and then refined them accordingly. More than four years later, it definitely feels like it’s time to share these with a larger audience.

The great thing about offering our digital products directly through our own website is that we can literally release anything we want. We’ve got lots of ideas, but sharing what we’ve already been working on for years first is a no-brainer.

Also, by establishing our own store, we can assert certain principles we believe in. One key one is a dedication to quality, supported by versioning. Put simply, we believe our products can always be better, and we intend to keep improving them. Any time you buy a product from our store, you also receive all future, improved versions of that product for free. (We’ll be talking more about this idea in a future post.)

We hope that you find our current “Pronunciation Pack” offerings useful. We will also be releasing more products (and new versions), and if you’d like to be updated on those, please do sign up for our newsletter.

Read more

Adventures in Chinese Haggling

Our summer intern Zach had zero Chinese when he started. That hasn’t stopped him from communicating! Here’s how he did with just “Dūo shăo qían?” (how much?) and “TaÌ guÌ le!” (too expensive!).

I started learning Chinese just 13 days ago. My vocabulary is still in the infancy (I can say “delicious” and occasionally ask for water) and my practice of tones sounds like a pitchy falsetto singer sliding around the octave. But with every new word I’ve learned, a little bit more of China has opened up for me. Ordering my own food in a restaurant has become a highlight of my day, although I do get offended when they bring me a fork instead of chopsticks.

This past weekend, I was ready to get out of Shanghai and try a bit of my local tongue outside of Shanghai. I can still only form about six coherent sentences (and one of them is “Nĭ hăo”) but in my mind, I was ready. With a train ticket to Suzhou in hand, my goal was to dive into the culture and see how much I could discover.

Realizing that haggling was a great way to get started, I prepared two phrases for my adventure: “Dūo shăo qían?” and “taÌ guÌ le!” I figured that I would ask the first question, and regardless of the response, I would answer with “too expensive.”
Walking around the souvenir shops of Ganjing Lu, I took careful attention to select the right item. With the temperature and humidity climbing well beyond my comfortable threshold from back home, I decided to purchase a fan. One particular tourist trap had a beautifully crafted selection. I picked one out that featured a picture of Confucius on one side and some hanzi writing on the other.

Nervousness settled into my chest as I realized I was about to have to talk to someone. My pronunciation is average at best. Beyond the few phrases I’ve learned, my vocabulary is almost non-existent. This could be really messy and really embarrassing, but if I didn’t give it a shot, I would never know for sure what would happen.

I waved at one of the women that was walking around and managing the store.

This was the big moment. I was about to enter the world of International price negotiation. I just had to ask one question, give one objection, and suggest a lower price. Then I was going to be the proud owner of a fan.

With a curious look on my brow, I asked, “Dūo shăo qían?”

The woman pulled a small spiral note pad out of her pocket. Cool! I thought. She understood me.

She wrote something on it and turned the pad to face me. It read 19.

Here I go!

“TaÌ guÌ le!” I said, with feigned outrage at the price. Now the real negotiating would begin.

Or at least this is where the negotiating was supposed to begin. Instead, she shrugged, put the note pad back in the pocket of her apron, and walked away.


I think this raises an interesting point about international travel. Just because I’ve seen how a process works does not mean I know how the process works. In the end, traveling is all about meeting and working with people, and people everywhere are unpredictable.

But this also meant that as I boarded the train back to Shanghai, I had failed in my haggling mission. It was my first weekend outside of Shanghai since arriving in China, and my small limited vocabulary had gotten me nothing.

But as the train clipped along at 297km/hour, I realized the value of putting myself out there in his wildly foreign language. I turned around and noticed the woman sitting in the seat next to me had an empty water bottle wedged in the seat pocket of the chair ahead of her.

I smiled at her and pointed at the water bottle. “Dūo shăo qían?” I asked.

She looked at me and then at the water bottle. It was obvious she was confused. After saying something I didn’t understand, she silently stood up and moved to empty seat across the aisle from me and sat back down.

I did my best to keep to a straight face as I turned around and looked back out the window. Now, I was 0-2, but I was also really proud of myself. Learning a language is a hard process. It can be nerve-racking, but everybody says stupid things at first and makes awkward mistakes in the process. By hopping on trains to new places, trying to talk to new people, and looking foolish every step of the way, I’m learning a lot both as a global citizen and a language student. If shrugged shoulders and extra elbow room on a train are the worst thing that can happen, it is totally worth taking the chance to engage with people.

I look forward to learning more and testing out my skills on future adventures.

Read more

2014 Spring Intern: Michelle


Michelle Birkenfeldt was AllSet Learning’s first Danish intern, and she did a great job of using her Chinese skills to help with various academic tasks. Although naturally a shy person, she was here long enough to warm up to everyone and really practice a lot of Chinese. She started interning in October 2013, and continued all the way until May 2014 (with some well-deserved breaks for travel in China).

She had a lot to say, so we’ll let her do most of the talking:

I came to China as an addition to my bachelor degree in Denmark. I mainly came here to study Chinese language, business and culture at Donghua University, but I quickly found out I would need more than books to improve my Chinese as much as I wanted to. After pulling some contacts here in China I came in contact with a company that offered me a scholarship. That was when I was introduced to AllSet Learning. After working here my Chinese improved super fast thanks to the teachers in office who are always happy to talk and ask lots of questions. They were always happy and interested in knowing things about my country and me since I was the first Danish intern at this company. They were also willing to help me if I had any questions about schoolwork or other stuff.

During my 8 months internship at AllSet Learning I have done lots of different things! At first I helped correcting sentences on the Chinese Grammar Wiki and came up with new suggestions for changes. Other than that I also read different graded readers, came up with suggestions for changes, answered questions about graded readers, photoshopped images for the Grammar Wiki, checked words for mistakes in online dictionaries, looked through LOTS of dictionaries in order to find new grammar points for the Chinese Grammar Wiki, tested iPad apps, participated in teacher meetings, walked around Shanghai in order to take pictures for the Grammar Wiki, and so on.

There were always lots of tasks, so you could always be sure you had something to do, and most of the time they were also fun things. To sum it all up, it has been great working at AllSet Learning and I have met lots of new people though this place that have all been very nice and helpful. My Chinese improved a lot during my time here (definitely also because of the “only-Chinese” office rule), which was what I wanted to obtain through this internship. It has been great being a part of something that for sure one day in the future will become something very big!

You’re always welcome at the AllSet Learning office, Michelle!

Read more

2013 Fall Interns: Logan and Ashyln


Logan Pauley and Ashyln Weber were two Centre College students that helped extensively with testing early versions of the graded reader stories which AllSet Learning created for Mandarin Companion. Their intermediate levels of Chinese and dedicated attitudes were a tremendous help. As a result, they were even thanked by name in the books they worked on at AllSet Learning.

In addition, they both also did some good work on the Chinese Grammar Wiki.

In Logan’s words:

Studying in China for the fall semester, my main goal was to improve my Mandarin skills. Immersion and constant discussion with experienced teachers, editing and testing Mandarin Companion graded readers, and doing translations and edits for the Grammar Wiki truly afforded me an opportunity to enhance and apply Mandarin in a tangible way. During the internship, I could really see improvement in not only my knowledge of Mandarin, but also my confidence in using it.

While my responsibilities in the office had a lasting impact, the atmosphere John. Yu Cui, Renjun, and Siping fostered made the internship what it was — lighthearted and fun, but productive. Some of my fondest memories of Shanghai include being made fun of / trying to defend myself while testing graded reader discussion questions (and, later, drowning my sorrows with a Mex & Co. burrito!)

Although my time at AllSet is over, I’m truly grateful for the opportunity and really hope to revisit the office someday! Thank you so much!

Thanks a lot, Logan and Ashyln! We know we’ll see you around these parts again.

Read more

AllSet Pinyin 2.0


AllSet Learning Pinyin 2.0 has been released, and is now available as a universal app with retina graphics which works on both the iPhone (tall and short) as well as the iPad. We’ve actually been working on this app for quite a while. Why did it take so long? This app was a total rewrite of the original, and now takes full advantage of the new “auto-layout” features which enable it to work flawlessly on iPhones and iPads.

So what’s new that you can actually see?

  • Updated “slide-out” menu
  • New design for settings, addons, and “about” info
  • Added elements of iOS7 design
  • Fixed the audio for the “cai” syllable (it sounded a little weird)

Here are some shots of the new design (iPhone 5 screen size):

Note that the app also supports Spanish, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Thai, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese. Here are a few examples of that:

Since releasing our pinyin chart app in 2012, we’ve noticed a lot of other pinyin apps released, some even clerly “borrowing from” our own carefully considered design. Many of them even add in ads to try to monetize a free app, or cripple functionality in an effort to make users pay.

We’re dedicated to making a useful app for learning pinyin, and we believe adding ads to an app like this is just too annoying (especially for an iPhone version). We’ve got plans for making this app even more useful in the future, and we hope that our users will support our efforts and help spread the word!

One way is to retweet our announcement on Twitter:

Another is to share our Facebook post announcement.

And, of course, 5-star reviews in the App Store are extremely helpful in keeping us going.

Thanks for your support!

Read more

Story Selection for Mandarin Companion


The AllSet Learning team handled the story writing for the hot new series of Chinese graded readers, Mandarin Companion. As a result, we also had to wrangle with some serious academic issues. One of the questions frequently asked about these new books is how we chose the stories. People find it odd that we chose to write adapted versions of western classics rather than just using Chinese stories. Well, there are good reasons for the choices (and there’s no ethnocentrism involved!)

Reason #1: Traditional Chinese Stories Are Difficult

Sorry, but it’s true. Traditional Chinese stories often involve ghosts, monsters, spells, emperors, war tactics, and all kinds of really cool themes. The only problem is that each of these brings with it some pretty complicated vocabulary. To make matters worse, a lot of these words are written with rare characters. When you’re writing a graded reader (especially at Level 1, the 300-character level), impractical vocabulary is a no-no, but the use of obscure characters is absolutely taboo.

One potential workaround is to “adapt” the Chinese stories themselves. “Simplify” them. This seems like a good idea at first, but serious simplification is always needed, and that usually requires some pretty serious compromises. Character identities and whole plot points might need to be drastically altered. While the average reader may be fairly forgiving in this department, the average Chinese person may be less tolerant. To many Chinese, such changes amount to making the story wrong, to slandering sacred Chinese culture. Obviously, that’s not our intent, but significant changes to Chinese classic stories can upset people for cultural reasons.

So when you add up vocabulary/character challenges and cultural barriers to story modifications, our conclusion is that you’re better off avoiding the traditional Chinese material for the lowest levels. We wish it wasn’t so!

Reason #2: Western Classics Are Easy

It’s not that the stories themselves are inherently simpler, it’s that classics like The Secret Garden already have a long tradition of translations, simplifications, and adaptations. As westerners, we’re used to it. It doesn’t bother us (even when they’re really wacky, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). When we tell prospective readers that we have Chinese versions (fully adapted to the Chinese context, with all Chinese characters and Chinese settings) of classic western stories like The Secret Garden and Rip Van Winkle, the reaction is usually, “cool!” It often deepens reader interest, sometimes to the point of interest becoming how we adapted this particular story to the Chinese context. That’s a reaction you can’t get from your audience when you use unfamiliar Chinese stories, and we’ve found that our Chinese would-be-allies tend to be somewhat skeptical about westerners tinkering with the inner workings of Chinese classics.

We’re fine with all this, really. It just means that…

Conclusion: Western Classics Are a Better Starting Point

It’s not that we think it’s a bad idea to ever do Chinese classics. We want to. It’s just that for the lowest level, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Rather than cramming more obscure characters down our readers’ throats, we’d prefer that they just got started reading earlier. That means the simplest possible content conducive to compelling stories for Level 1, and the content that works best at those levels.

Mandarin Companion does have plans for simplified Chinese classics as well as original content (sci-fi, anyone?) at higher levels. We’ll be happy to help them make that happen!

Read more

Chinese Picture Book Reader 1.3

The Chinese Picture Book Reader version 1.3 has finally hit the app store! This version addresses what we’ve been hearing the most: the app needs more content. So it’s got it, both free and paid. Here’s what’s new in this version of the app:


  1. The app is now both iOS6 and iOS7 compatible, and entirely RETINA (iPad 3+), and all new books support retina.
  2. The big change is lots of NEW BOOKS, both free and paid. Fee content has been updated to a new, retina style.
  3. We’ve added a nifty new parallax transition effect to the textbox as you swipe between pages.
  4. The app home has been refreshed a bit and made more consistent with the rest of the app.

New books include:


  • Life in the Countryside, a narrated photo set featuring the work of China-based photographer Sean Hanratty
  • College Kid Interview #4: “What Chinese city do you like most?”
  • College Kid Interview #5: “Who is your hero?”
  • College Kid Interview #6: “In the past 10 years, what do you think has been the biggest change in China?”
  • College Kid Interview #7: “What do you think is the best way to pursue someone you like?”
  • College Kid Interview #8: “If you want to live pretty well in Shanghai, how much do you think your salary should be?”


If you enjoyed any of the “college kid interview” series content before, you’ll definitely appreciate this update. There are now more voices, photos, and real handwriting, all in a new high-res design.

We hope you like the updates. More to come!

Get Chinese Picture Book Reader for iPad

Read more

Word Boxes on the Chinese Grammar Wiki

In our endless endeavor to make the Chinese Grammar Wiki useful and accessible, we’ve added yet another feature: word boxes. Word boxes? That’s right, on all of our keyword pages we have added a box that automatically links up to other websites that can help you get a deeper understanding of the vocabulary and usage of each individual word. Websites like MDBG are great for understanding the definitions of words, while Jukuu and Weibo can show you the words in real sentences. These are more resources to help you on your way to Chinese fluency, and we are glad to help you find them.

Word Box on the Chinese Grammar Wiki

Word Box on the Chinese Grammar Wiki

The word boxes do not necessarily have specific ties to any individual grammar point. Instead, the word boxes link to different kinds of websites: dictionaries, explanations, and example sentences. This way, if you are unsure as to the actual function of a word, you can look it up and clear up the confusion before you study the concept. Additionally, the example sentences are a great way to see the word and its related phrases in action. If the examples on the Grammar wiki aren’t sufficient, the examples sentences from other websites will help show you the correct usage and their contexts.

Here’s an example of how a learner might use the word boxes for :

  1. The learner is browsing the article on “Zai” following verbs
  2. The learner clicks on the keyword “在” in the box at the right, taking her to the keyword page for 在
  3. The learner clicks on the links in the word box at the right, getting lots of extra examples using 在

The Grammar wiki will still be the go-to resource for Chinese grammar, but we are happy to link to other websites that offer excellent additional information that we’re not in the best position to provide. The information on all of these websites complements the information that we provide on the Grammar Wiki, providing a fuller, deeper understanding of how the words fit into Chinese grammar. We can provide the explanations for the constructions and then we show learners where they can read and practice the constructions that they’ve just learned.

The new word boxes create a network with the Chinese Grammar Wiki spreading out and connecting to other Chinese learning websites. This way, your Chinese learning experience will be more complete, and your comprehension of the grammar concepts will be better for it. Check out the new word boxes and let us know on Facebook or Twitter (@ChineseGrammar) what you think of them!

Read more

2013 Summer Intern: Ben


American Ben Slye was recommended to AllSet Learning by previous intern Parry, and turned out to be a great fit. Through a variety of duties, Ben proved that he was an industrious addition to the AllSet Learning team for the summer. (Our teachers in the office also thoroughly enjoyed joking around with him as they helped him improve his Chinese.)

Ben’s projects included graded reader research, graded reader testing, app testing, taking Chinese “training lessons” with AllSet Learning teachers, assisting with blog post writing, and editing and enhancing the Chinese Grammar Wiki.

Ben had this to share about his internship experience:

My time at AllSet has just flown by. I thought a summer would feel longer than this, but the people in the office always made it fun. Between making me do translations for the Grammar Wiki to giving feedback on any new materials, I was always surrounded by Chinese, which was just the way I wanted it! Most of my time here was spent fine-tuning the Grammar Wiki, making it more connected and more accessible. I was also able to participate in some of the teacher training programs, giving a student’s perspective on the way that they taught. I loved seeing those meetings and how a consulting business like AllSet conducted them.

Of course, having native Chinese speakers to work with really helped my speaking ability. Just being able to talk to them every day, making jokes or asking about their weekends, it was always possible to practice Chinese. Plus I was talking to teachers, so they knew how to get me to learn better! Every time I tried they would be able to correct me or give me some new vocab, so there was always more to learn. I filled pages of my notebook with new words, and I always made sure to use any new grammar they taught me (although not necessarily correctly). They would keep correcting me, and I can see a definite improvement since starting here.

Although my stint at AllSet is over, I am so grateful for the opportunity, and so happy to have met the wonderful people that I have in Shanghai. It’s been great!

Thank you for everything, Ben! You were truly a powerhouse when it came to Grammar Wiki editing, and we all loved having you around full-time. The office definitely felt emptier when your internship ended. (Good thing you left your precious notebook behind so we have something to remember you by….)

P.S. Yes, of course we got his precious notebook back to him!

Read more

2013 Summer Intern: Brandon


Texan Brandon Sanzhez was this past summer’s CET intern. While at AllSet Learning over the summer, Brandon worked on a range of projects, including audio editing for the Chinese Picture Book Reader, social media promotion, graded reader testing, app testing, taking Chinese “training lessons” with AllSet Learning teachers, and Chinese Grammar Wiki editing.

Brandon brought a sense of humor and positive attitude to all he did, and everyone in the office enjoyed having him around. (Too bad he had those pesky Chinese classes in the mornings…)

Brandon’s take on the experience:

I came to Shanghai with hopes of learning Chinese culture and language, but didn’t really know what to expect. John’s compassionate and motivating personality provided comfort and encouragement in a very unfamiliar environment. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous flying halfway around the world to intern, but AllSet provided a stimulating and friendly work environment that soothed my nerves.

I absolutely loved the variety of tasks I was given throughout my internship at AllSet Learning. One week I could be working with audio software to analyze Chinese tones; the next, I am offering suggestions for AllSet’s future products and submitting UI design ideas for upcoming apps. My ideas were met with enthusiasm, and I truly felt like a part of the AllSet Learning team.

My two months in China zoomed by, and I enjoyed every moment of it. AllSet Learning was an invaluable aspect of my experience in Shanghai, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such kind, open, and passionate individuals.

We appreciate all you did, Brandon. Keep up with your Chinese studies, and we’ll be happy to buy you another coffee on your next visit to Shanghai!

Read more

Lots of New Content Coming to the Chinese Picture Book Reader

The AllSet Learning team has been hard at work for some time now on the next round of new content for the Chinese Picture Book Reader iPad app. A blog post on Sinosplice helped provide some ideas, and summer intern Mei helped with the graphic redesign of the “College Kid Interview” series, which now supports high-res “retina” iPads.


Read more

Keywords on the Chinese Grammar Wiki

Keywords   Chinese Grammar Wiki

When studying Chinese, it’s always good to have a few keywords that can unlock a host of grammar structures. Lucky for you, we have them, on our new Keywords page on the Chinese Grammar Wiki! By linking up the words to the grammar points that they are related to, we’ve made it so that you can see what sorts of constructions they’re a part of. Keywords can also be found in the Grammar Box at the top of the articles, just in case you wanted to see other related constructions for that word.

This page is particularly useful if you know that a phrase contains a certain word, but you don’t know what other kinds of situations it belongs in (or what the structure means in the first place!). If this is the case, all you need to do is find the word in the list and it will take you right to that page. Another option is using the search bar. We have pages in both pinyin and hanzi, so you can search for either one. Then the wiki will take you to a disambiguation page, allowing you to choose the right topic. It’s just another way to make the Wiki easy to navigate and makes finding grammar that you want to study simple.

Another way the Keywords page is useful is if you want to study the many uses of a particular word (I’m looking at you “了”). If this is the case, all you need to do is type in the word, and you will find a list of all the constructions that use that word. In the case of “了” you might be there a while, but by the end of it you would know all about its various uses. (Sidenote: We’ve also added a special “Uses of le” page, because it’s a point that really deserves special attention.) Finding keywords is a great way to kickstart your memory and learn a lot of different ways to express yourself with just one piece of vocabulary. Don’t pass up this opportunity.

If you are confused about a specific use of a word, or if you want an overview of all of its uses, the new Keywords page will meet that need. Here are a few keywords to get you started:

Find the full list of Keywords on the Chinese Grammar Wiki.

Read more

2013 Summer Intern: Mei


This summer we really enjoyed working with our first ever design intern, Mei (May) Tong. Still a design student in Toronto, Mei came all the way to steamy Shanghai this summer for work experience. We had plenty of design work saved up that we were happy to work with her on!

Mei is originally from China, but has been living in Canada for most of her life. As a company always working to bridge cultures, we appreciated the dual-culture perspective she provided.

Mei’s description of her internship with AllSet Learning:

I returned to Shanghai to learn about China’s taste in design and the role of a graphic designer in Chinese companies. AllSet Learning was an ideal company to experience this, due to the mixture of American and native Chinese employees. I was able to get feedback on my designs from everyone, which helped me grasp what worked and what didn’t.

In the short time I interned at the company, I was able to design a logo and some iPad app content. The logo took a considerable amount of time as we explored many, many options such as color, placement, type, and size. After finalizing the logo, I moved on to re-designing the look and feel of the Chinese College Kids content for the Chinese Picture Book Reader iPad app.

Apart from the designs, the office was a great environment to work in due to the always entertaining and unusual conversations that happen to come up. It was also great to be able to work on the designs in the office with John so that he can participate in the process and give me his opinions along the way. The people at AllSet were always friendly and helpful, which made it a fun place to work. I was able to practice my Chinese during our talks at lunch, where I learned that I have an accent (probably from living in Canada). That was the first time I had heard this, making me realize that I still have a lot to learn.

Thanks for joining us this summer and creating with us, Mei! We look forward to seeing what you do in your career as a graphic designer.

Read more

Chinese Picture Book Reader 1.2 Released

Chinese Picture Book Reader

You may have been wondering when new content will be added to the AllSet Learning Chinese Picture Book Reader iPad app. Actually, recently, we have been too! It was always our plan to add more and more content to the app, but in this case, a technical curveball was thrown our way. This is a short story about how technical issues related to apps can have pretty unfun consequences for small companies like us, who would just like to produce more good content for our apps, if we had the choice.

You see, originally, the Picture Book Reader app offered in-app purchases (iAP) through Urban Airship. So when you buy an additional picture book through our app, the iTunes App Store first verified the payment, and then the app authorized the download to your iPad of the iAP picture book content. Originally, this iAP content was stored on Urban Airship’s servers, and all the authorization/verification/whatever technical communications took place through Urban Airship’s API. It was all a relatively complicated process, but it was made complicated by Apple, and Urban Airship actually did a pretty decent job of making it a smidge easier for developers.

But then Apple decided to get into the iAP-hosting game. And once Apple gets into the game, Urban Airship knows it is going to lose a huge chunk of its market share. So Urban Airship did the sensible thing and decided to bow out of the iAP hosting service and focus on its other business. The only problem was that Apple “got into the game” without providing full documentation or support for the poor developers that had to figure out Apple’s complicated iAP hosting process. This means instead of following a detailed spec, developers are doing lots and lots of internet searches and programming by trial and error. Really not fun.

For us, this was a pretty big deal. It meant that our developer had to completely rewrite the most complicated parts of the app’s code, and make it work with Apple’s barely-documented iAP service. We had to make sure that all users that had ever purchased iAP content through the Chinese Picture Book Reader app would still have easy access to it (ideally in a totally seamless transition), and that meant lots and lots of testing.

Fortunately, we did it, and with a whole 10 days to spare before Urban Airship totally sunset its iAP hosting service on July 1st. All that testing seems to have paid off, and the app is working just fine, in-app purchases and all, but if you experience any problems, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at

In this latest update we also made the in-app help screens less annoying, and updated the app’s icon.

Coming in the next few releases:

  • Bug fixes related to tricky text switches and matching audio
  • Total retina support for the whole app (it’s about time!)
  • New content (both free and paid)

Thank you to all our supporters out there! More is coming soon, and we really appreciate your patience so far. And if you don’t have it yet, go download the app.

Read more

2013 Spring Intern: Erick

Erick with the iPadErick Garcia, a senior in the Nanjing Chinese Flagship Program, has recently completed the longest and most productive AllSet Learning internship to date! Erick helped standardize and upgrade the ever-growing Chinese Grammar Wiki, and was also able to use his excellent Chinese skills to start work on the forthcoming Advanced (C1) grammar points.

Besides the Chinese Grammar Wiki, Erick helped with iOS app testing (both the Pinyin and the Picture Book Reader apps), and was even able to help lead our efforts to localize the Pinyin app in multiple languages. Erick also reviewed new iPad apps and other potential study materials, took demo classes to provide feedback on new teachers, and helped develop some of AllSet Learning’s new products. He was an important part of the team over the past four month.

Erick’s description of his time at AllSet:

I have been a reader of Sinosplice for a few years now, so I was familiar with AllSet Learning almost from the beginning of the company. I have always been passionate about Chinese, language learning, and technology, three things that are at the core of AllSet Learning. I was glad to have the opportunity to intern while participating in the Chinese Flagship Program.

In short, you can say that I learned a lot. I learned a lot about how wikis work with the Chinese Grammar Wiki, learned about social media marketing, learned how to properly beta-test apps while testing the Pinyin app and the Picture Book Reader, learned about interviewing potential teachers and reviewing resumes, and learned how to train other interns and write up training materials.

I was able to use my Political Science training in statistics to help analyze customer data and suggest possible data visualizations, and able to use my Chinese knowledge while laying the foundations for the advanced section of the Chinese Grammar Wiki. I was able to take a few test lessons, and I did my best to push my Chinese abilities. I was able to contribute by suggesting ideas for apps, and give suggestions and ideas for future projects.

I definitely learned and relearned a lot of Chinese grammar, and appreciated being able to speak Chinese all the time.

My wife and I enjoyed living in Shanghai. We think it’s a fun city, and it’s more fast paced than Nanjing. We loved living here and we have had many opportunities to meet interesting people and of course, eat lots of fantastic food!

We really appreciate everything you’ve done, Erick. You’ve always got friends at AllSet Learning!

Read more

AllSet Learning Pinyin 1.7.3


Since version 1.7, the AllSet Learning Pinyin iPad app has had a few additional stability tweaks which have already gone live on the App Store. Specifically, some users were having trouble purchasing the addons within the app; the app would crash when they tried. (Let us tell you, it broke our hearts to know that people were trying to support us financially and the app was having none of it!)

The good news is that the in-app purchase code has been rewritten, greatly improving stability and fixing that particular issue. There have been other general stability improvements as well, and we hope it makes your learning smoother.

Once again, if there’s any way we can make this app even better to support you in your studies of Mandarin Chinese, please let us know at apps@allsetlearning. Thank you!

Read more

John Pasden Speaks at Beijing University

On April 20th John Pasden gave a talk with students of Peking University’s Guanghua MBA program. It was a lively discussion, at one point resulting in a professor busting out a fiddle and doing a little jig (hey, we couldn’t make this stuff up).

The talk revolved around targeting a niche, designing a product for said niche, differentiating a service product from other products in the same space, and the challenges of marketing a niche service. The students had incisive questions and interesting suggestions for John about AllSet.


Fortunately AllSet Learning’s Shanghai clientele has been enjoying its consulting services and has been giving us some great word of mouth in Shanghai’s expat community. Thank you, AllSet Learning clients, for your support!

Read more

AllSet Learning Pinyin 1.7 Released


The AllSet Learning Pinyin iPad app has just recently gotten a significant upgrade (to v1.7) and been released on the App Store. Certain models of iPads were reporting less-than-stellar performance for quick pan and zoom operations. In short, the app was a little crashy for some people! We’re happy to report that the offending code has been optimized, and now you can pan and zoom on the new app without crashing, at speeds that you couldn’t possibly need to pan and zoom at. Ah, stability!

In addition, we’ve started localizing the app. In order to support the non-English-speaking countries that most passionately download AllSet Learning Pinyin, we’ve delved into our download stats, and determined that the following languages were most in need of representation by our app:

  1. Brazilian Portuguese
  2. Spanish
  3. Thai
  4. Japanese

So now AllSet Learning Pinyin’s App Store description has been translated for all four of these languages, and the app itself will be fully localized for these languages in the next release as well. For now, the app itself has already been localized for simplified Chinese (zh-cn) and traditional Chinese (zh-tw). This means that anyone that has their iPad language set to Chinese should see an all-Chinese interface when they open the AllSet Learning Pinyin iPad app.

We’re really happy to see more and more Chinese learners download our app day after day. If there’s any way we can make this app even better to support you in your studies of Mandarin Chinese, please let us know at apps@allsetlearning. Thank you!

Read more

The Chinese Grammar Wiki is 1 Year Old


It’s already been over a year since the Chinese Grammar Wiki officially launched on January 22, 2012. Over the past year our whole team has been had at work iteratively improving the Chinese Grammar Wiki. When it launched, we felt pretty good about having 500 articles on the wiki. We now have over 1200.

What We’ve Been Working On

When the wiki first launched, we were forthcoming about some of the problems we were aware of. Specifically, we mentioned:

Anonymous Editing (Going strong!)

We’ve kept this policy, and growth has continued unabated. The important thing is that we’ve not only kept high levels of quality, but we’ve actually raised the level of quality across the board over the past year.

Pinyin and Translations (Progress!)

While we continue to encourage users to install browser extensions to deal with character issues, we have also added a lot more pinyin to article introductions, and have added English translations for all A1 (beginner) and A2 (elementary) level grammar points. We will consider adding more.

Search (Major improvements made!)

This was one of the first major technical issues we tackled. Search was greatly improved by summer 2012, and we continue to tweak it to make it better.

Many articles unwritten (Fewer unwritten all the time!)

There is still plenty to add, but the quantity referred to by this word “many” definitely feels deflated compared to what it is now. The AllSet Learning team has been hard at work, including not only full-time members of our office staff, but also Chinese teachers and some particularly outstanding interns. Great work, everybody!

There have been so many improvements over the past year that a good long list is in order:

Key Improvements over the Past Year

  • Increased total article count from 500 to over 1200.
  • Added English translations for all A1 (beginner) and A2 (elementary) level grammar points.
  • Added pinyin to the introductions of many articles.
  • Overhauled search engine for greater accuracy and depth.
  • Added a “grammar box” to the top right of all grammar point pages, featuring level, similar grammar points, and keywords.
  • Added keyword pages (example: ) and keyword index.
  • Set up disambiguation pages for toneless pinyin (example: “hao“).
  • Broke long grammar point lists down into themed sections.
  • Began adding crucial comparison pages, in which two similar grammar points are compared (example: 不 and 没).
  • Began collecting grammar points in earnest for the forthcoming C1 (advanced) list.

What’s next?

We’ve actually got quite a lot still planned. We’re aware that there are still holes, and we’ll keep working hard to fill them.

In the meantime, if you’re enjoying using the Chinese Grammar Wiki (or maybe just take comfort in knowing that it’s there as a reference), please help us spread the word! Tell your Chinese teacher or your university Chinese department about it. Ask us questions on our new Chinese Grammar Twitter account. Like us on Facebook. Link to us in your Chinese-related blog posts. (We can use all the links we can get.)

Thanks everyone, for your support, and Happy Year of the Snake!

Read more

2012 Fall Intern: Jack


American Jack Overstreet continued the CET legacy of hard-working interns this past Fall. Jack arrived in Shanghai after first doing a program in Harbin, and I think it’s safe to say that he got a good dose of Mandarin this year. We were happy to help out by adding a bit more to his plate.

Jack spent his mornings working on his coursework and his afternoons editing the Chinese Grammar Wiki, chatting with the AllSet Learning ladies, and working on other AllSet Learning projects (which just happened to involve some silly videos, in Jack’s case).

As Jack tells it:

Coming to Shanghai, my two goals were to increase my Chinese language skills and to experience the Chinese work place first hand. I can say, with certainty, that AllSet Learning presented a perfect environment for reaching these two goals. Before joining the AllSet Learning team for a semester, however, I had no idea what to expect from the company.

Upon arriving the first day, I was met with sincere warmth from John and the other employees. While hard work was always expected, I was able to experience a place that encouraged enthusiasm, and rewarded creativity and thinking. I also had the opportunity to work side-by-side with native Chinese speakers who were constantly engaging and never afraid to correct or laugh at my Chinese.

For the three-and-a-half months spent at Allset, I focused mainly on developing the Chinese Grammar Wiki. My time spent working on the site, from writing new grammar articles, to perusing old and long forgotten grammar points, was incredibly beneficial for my Chinese language skills. When not helping out with the Chinese Grammar Wiki, I was updating AllSet’s Facebook page with the goal of increasing Chinese Grammar Wiki traffic, or helping create Chinese dialogues for clips taken from famous movie and TV show scenes. For every project or task I was working on, my co-workers and supervisors were always more than willing to drop whatever they were doing to help me. I could not have asked for a better environment to work in.

Thanks for your hard work, Jack. You were such a good intern that we will resist the urge to make a final “Justin Bieber hair” joke. (And we hope you finally got that hair cut.)

Read more

Chinese Picture Book Reader Released

AllSet Learning has just released its second iPad app, Chinese Picture Book Reader. The app is free and comes loaded with free graphics-heavy material for learning Chinese, as well as additional in-app purchase content.

The app was originally designed by John as a reaction against Chinese children’s books, which seem like a great study material at first, until revealed to be almost universally frustratingly difficult. Then there are the “bilingual story book” iPad apps which are clearly not designed for adult learners, because the language toggling and pinyin placement in these apps is typically not at all conducive to self-study. This app tackles these problems.

Lastly, there is the issue of content. How many “4-character idiom story” apps must come along before the people are crying out for something fresh and new? This app accepts that challenge, with three different types of content out of the gate:

  • College Kid Interviews is a series of three free mini-books, each of which asks one question to various Chinese college kids. Hear the answer in the voice of real Chinese college kids, and also see their answers written in their own handwriting. For Intermediate-level learners (and especially suitable for college kids).
  • Oscar & Newton Go to the Park is a fun story about two mischievous dogs. It can be for kids, but adults won’t find it annoying. It’s written for a “high Elementary” learner of Chinese.
  • Mr. D & T3 Leave the City is an Intermediate-level story set in a post-apocalyptic steam punk world with dinosaurs and some pretty serious environmental issues. The amazing original artwork was drawn by a local Chinese artist.

We’ve got plans to continue creating fun, new, visual-oriented content for learning Chinese. Please support our efforts by downloading the app, buying the content that interests you, and helping to spread the word!

Read more

2012 Fall Intern: Dan

Daniel Emery hails from London, England, and has had most of his Mandarin training through private tutors. He arrived in China this year determined to get his Mandarin up to a rather high level, and we were happy to help.

Dan had a very full 6 weeks of intern work at AllSet Learning this fall. While almost every AllSet Learning intern racks up quite a few hours helping to build out the AllSet Learning Grammar Wiki, Dan was also able to contribute in the field of law. Dan was AllSet’s first intern that had been through law school, so he was able to give some much-appreciated recommendations with regards to contracts and other legalities.

In Dan’s own words:

I had been a fan of John’s Sinosplice Blog for quite a while before I applied for an internship at AllSet Learning. I wanted to find an internship that would give me both the opportunity to sample life in a Chinese office environment and develop my Mandarin skills, and AllSet Learning seemed to fit the description. During my time here I’ve worked on the company’s Grammar Wiki site, tested its new Mandarin learning apps, helped compile lesson plans, update its Facebook page, participate in speaking practice sessions, as well as help plan the company’s Halloween party. I’ve even been asked to advise on a few legal matters, which has forced me to revise material that I will be using in my future career, which can be no bad thing. All in all then it’s been a productive six weeks, not only in respect of my Mandarin moving forward but also the new friends that I’ve made, both in the office and through the networking events the internship has enabled me to attend. 总体来说不错!

Dan did a great job contributing to the Grammar Wiki while also getting plenty of speaking practice with our teachers, which is exactly the best way to do it. We’ll miss you around the office Dan. (Also, the Xinjiang guys want to know when you’re going to show up for your free meal.)

Read more

2012 Summer Intern: Parry

Parry Cadwallader made a huge contribution to AllSet Learning this past summer. Since AllSet Learning has tons of ideas for how to use technology to improve our clients’ learning, computer science majors are always welcome. And Parry (website) was a particularly outstanding IT intern. He helped us with wiki upgrades, AJAX tools for mobile devices, and NLP data processing. From our perspective, it was a seriously productive 2 months!

Here’s what Parry had to say:

Spending a summer programming for AllSet Learning was the perfect merger of my two passions: computers and Chinese. I got to spend 2 months building tools to help present and future learners of Chinese; all the while improving my personal skills as a programmer and as a Mandarin speaker. And these weren’t old school tools, either, but the cutting edge: adding semantic web data for AllSet Learning’s grammar wiki, building web applications for a new generation of tech-savvy users, and expanding the deep backend that helps teachers and students learn effectively and efficiently. Plus, I got to work on my tones –– you can never have enough tone practice.

Although we regret that we didn’t have enough games of Settlers of Catan this past summer to satisfy Parry’s voracious appetite, at least we were able to help him add a few more beers to his tally.

We’ll miss you, Parry!

Read more

AllSet Learning Pinyin 1.6 Released

AllSet Learning Pinyin 1.6, the first major update since the app’s public release, is now in the Apple app store. The app is still the best pinyin chart out there for studying Chinese, but now as an option for pinyin audio, all four tones can be played in a row, instead of just one at a time.

In addition, the following four scripts (conveniently linked to corresponding Wikipedia article below) can now be purchased as addons for the chart:

  1. Yale Romanization
  2. Gwoyeu Romatzyh
  3. Tongyong Pinyin
  4. MPS2 Romanization

These scripts should be of special interest to Taiwan specialists and sinologists in general.

Some screenshots here:

Thanks to everyone for their support so far! We welcome all feedback on the app.

Download in the iTunes app store now!

Read more