一个两岁小女孩的汉语语法

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 .

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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)

小女孩2岁时可以使用的语法点是:

  1. 量词“个”(A1)

    她可以用中文“个”来数数,而且学得还挺快的。

  2. “二”和“两”(A1)

    潘吉一直好奇2岁的女儿需要多长时间能掌握“二”和“两”的用法,没想到她不到两岁就学会了(很显然,她还不需要使用这两个字的特殊用法,只需要日常生活的计数就可以了。)外婆也常常跟她一起练习。

  3. “的”的用法(A1)

    “的”字的用法对她来说就没那么容易了,跟她学习英文“’s”表示“的”的用法时一样,都花了挺长一段时间。中、英文的用法并不完全一致(她有时会忘记加“的”或“’s”),但是基本用法她都掌握了。

  4. “呢”表疑问(A1)

    成年人在学中文的时候,会学习用“____在哪儿?”来表示“一个东西在哪?”。可是2岁的孩子直接跳过这一步,单用“____呢”来问东西在哪儿。而成年学习者一般都是在学了一段时间中文后才学会这一用法的。但不可否认的是“呢”的用法比较简单,孩子们学语言都喜欢走捷径。

  5. “没有”作为动词的用法(A1)

    她还不知道“没”是一个特殊副词,和“有”在一起表否定。

  6. “不要”+ Verb (A1)

    没错,2岁的孩子有时不太听话,也不太配合。“不要”是她常用表达不好的词汇中很重要的一个词,也是她在讲英文时常用的为数不多的几个汉语词汇之一。

  7. “不” 表示常规的否定(A1)

    好吧,这也是她想表达不同想法时非常有用的一个词。她几乎什么情况都用“不”,动词、动词短语前会用、形容词前面也会用。有时甚至还会用在名词前面。

  8. 跟…… + V(A2)

    她知道这个用法,但是当她谈到“和某人一起去”的话题时,她会只会把它跟动词“去”放在一起用。事实上,对两岁的孩子来说,会这样用就足够了!

  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)

    又一个对于两岁小屁孩相当有用的句型。

  11. 动词的重叠(A2)

    这一用法她会用于特定的、高频动词,例如“看/看看”。

  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)

    “嘛”(不是“吗”)的用法对于成年人来说确实有点讨厌,也不太容易掌握。但是她轻轻松松就学会了,而且很早就开始用了。有时会感觉她用的不对,但这丝毫也不影响她用“嘛”。你可以观察到一个中国的3岁小孩可以很自由地使用“嘛”,孩子可以很轻松地学会一些东西。相比之下成年学习者有时会过度分析它的用法,可结果往往适得其反。


潘吉2岁的女儿暂时还不会用的语法:

  1. 人称代词(A1)

    这一点也许比较出人意料,但却是普遍存在的。刚开始学中文的时候,这些抽象的却无所不在的人称代词其实完全没必要学,孩子在学习的时候也确实容易忽略他们。潘吉的女儿两岁才刚开始学习用英文的“I”和中文的“我”,之前一直是用“baby”和她自己的名字代替说“I”和“我”。

  2. “会”&“能” &“可以”(A2)

    对于A2的学习者来说,这一语法点要花很长时间才能掌握,这个2岁的小姑娘决定暂时先把这些情态动词放一边不管了。(不过,英语“can”的用法她有一些进步)

  3. “比”用于基本比较(A2)

    这一句型她不需要,也用不到。她的对比只限于名词和形容词。

  4. “是…的” 结构(B1)


    没错,这个她也不需要,也用不到。她常常可以听到很多问句中有这一句型,但这些输入她还要慢慢再吸收。

  5. “把”字句(B1)


    这个句型连成人都觉得头疼,更不用说孩子了,他们当然也会在一段时期内避免使用这个句型。她很清楚这一结构,对于她能听懂的句型,她甚至还注意到了“把”在句中的顺序。只是她从来不用而已。

  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。

结论:

这些分析来源于潘吉个人日常生活中点点滴滴的观察,并不是科学分析。看着自己女儿同时学习两门语言,潘吉会常常思考一些儿童和成人在语言习得方面的不同。总之,不管神经学上二者的是否有很大差异,在实践中他们的语言习得方式确实是存在差异的。

可以预见的是:

孩子的表达中可以不用代词,但有几个成年人可以做到这一点?就算我们知道那不是很重要。潘吉曾经观察过不少语言学习者,他们学中文的方式是通过把自己想表达的意思从英文直译成中文。他们的第一个问题常常是“英语的‘I’在中文怎么说?”其实并不需要这样做,但成年人感觉必须要这样。

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。

欢迎大家分享更多的学习经验!

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闲聊也可以是提高中文的好机会

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?

关于被动的情况,你要做的就是用几个简单有趣的问题让自己摆脱这种窘境。当然了,这一方法也不是所有情况都适用。当你有些比较奇怪的问题想问时,也许更倾向于去问一个出租车司机而不是你女友的阿姨。但至少先准备好问题以备不时之需。如果你发现有些问题有点陈旧了,记得实时更新你的问题。

举一些潘吉用过的问题:

  • 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?

没错,有些问题是有点严肃、古怪,但这样做会有这两种结果之一:

  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。

祝大家好运!

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中文学习者们:别再说你“听不懂”啦,尝试新的表达!

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”。

这是一个大问题。“听不懂”这个词虽然是每个初学者都需要学的较为实用的短语,但并不意味着这句话在任何情况下都适用。简单来说,Ben的沟通方式太低级了,是时候尝试一些新的表达了!其实凭他的汉语水平完全可以说出比“听不懂”更高级的表达。他真正需要做的是如何把自己不理解的部分用更恰当的话语表达出来。当他说“听不懂”的时候,等于是在说“你说的话我一个字都听不懂”,而实际上他真正没听懂的只有一小部分。

遇到这种该怎么办呢?当听不懂时,你可以更好地表达具体哪里听不懂。因为生活中,你有可能会遇到一些这样的人,比如说,喝醉了的人,口齿不清的老人或小孩,先天口吃或者爱咕哝的人。在这些情况下你听不懂其实很正常,并不是你的原因,但你必须想办法去解决这类问题。
如果你已经不想再用“听不懂”这个表达了,我们有一些更好的建议:

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

某种程度上这一表达还不错,因为在很多时候,它比“听不懂”更恰当。而且立马就会让听的人感觉你的汉语水平不仅限于词汇书上学来的那几个词。同时,这一表达的另一层意思是“如果我刚刚能听得清楚点儿,也许我就明白了”。给自己一点信心!其实,人们说话的时候常常不是很清楚的。

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

要先明白,这句话和“听不懂”意思是不一样的。中国人在用这句话时,很有可能对一段话的每一个词都理解,但不是很理解这段话想要传达的意思或者说的人意思表达不清楚。中国人也会用到这句话,因为有时候,尽管他理解每句话的字面意思,但还是不明白对方想表达什么;还有的时候,就是说话人自己表达得不够清楚。所以,当你遇到类似的情况,用这句话肯定没错,值得你牢牢记住!

3.你在说谁? Who are you talking about?

当你确信对方谈到了某人而又不确定是谁的时候,这句话就派上用场了。当然了,如果对方没谈到某人,这句话就会适得其反了。但是大多数的聊天内容都会涉及到某些人,所以你也不用过于担心偶尔会说错。

4.你的意思是…… So you mean…

有时最有效的方法就是去猜对方要表达的意思。千万别低估这一方法。潘吉就看到过有的初学者在只听懂了会话内容5%的情况下,就能猜到对方要表达什么意思,然后他可以用比较简单的话再把它表达出来。而一个中级水平的学习者呢?尽管他能听懂60%的会话内容,却可能会一脸茫然。二者的区别就在于对上下文的理解。去猜对方意思!就算有可能猜得不对。这样做的好处之一是可以让对方清楚你真实的汉语水平,包括词汇量、听力水平。有时你使用的词汇就足够能让对方明白如何把他们要说的话用你能听懂的方式表达出来。

当然,还有很多其他的表达方式可以用,所有的方式可能都比“听不懂”效果要好。你只需要跨出一小步,别把所有人都关在你自己不理解的大门之外。

打开心门,你就会发现很多人都可以帮到你。

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2014-15 Winter Intern: Michael

Intern-MichaelM

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!)

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外国人为何觉得汉语难学?

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。

如下是潘吉自己的亲身经历:

投入时间 vs 掌握技巧

事情发生在潘吉的小时)。他的表哥Kevin推荐他玩杂耍球,并打包票说,不管是谁,只要坚持练习,一天内保证能学会。于是小潘吉自己试了几次,根本没那么容易啊!单单用3个球轮着颠10下这一看似简单的动作就把他难倒了。但小潘吉还是咬牙坚持下来了。半小时后他竟可以连续颠10下了,1小时后,小潘吉看起来就有点像专业杂耍球演员!

这样看来,你还认为杂耍球很难学吗?其实初学者只要坚持练习,不到1小时就能学会。潘吉曾试着教过一些人玩杂耍球,他们的对话往往是这样的:

  • 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?

这就是学习各种新技能时的困难所在,不管是学杂耍球、中文还是其他。尽管你一直很努力,都会感到挫败和恐惧。掌握一门新技能确实需要下很大的功夫,很多人在这一过程中都会因“太难了”而感到灰心丧气、止步不前。

汉语学习的难点是什么?

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。

爱因斯坦对“疯狂”的定义是:“每天不断地重复做相同的一件事,并期待有一天能出现不同的结果”。有时想掌握汉语的声调跟这句话所要表达的意思很接近。

学习者的福音

如下图所示,尽管汉语学习的曲线很陡峭,但最难的部分其实只是在最开始。这对学习者来说是件好事!除了要把声调一举拿下,你别无选择。声调是有一定的难度,但只要你攻破了这一点,汉语最难的部分就被你踩在脚下了。

如下是潘吉对中日文学习难点进行对比的图表:
汉语vs日语
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。

你是一个勇于接受挑战的人吗?

掌握声调不是一件易事,记住所有的汉字也要花不少时间。但为了学好汉语,这些付出都值得!困难只是主观感受,说不定有些人学习声调时会有自己独特的方法(还有可能他们就是不知疲倦而且毅力惊人),这样的人真的不觉得学声调是一件很难、很受挫的事。也许有的学习者就是不愿意想起那个很痛苦的学习过程。甚至有的人想忽悠你,让你无意之中爱上学汉语。可以理解,汉语毕竟是世界上最具魅力的语言之一!

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外国人如何学会用中文点餐?

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!

秘诀就在这了:

怎样学会用中文点餐

1.拿到菜单

去一个你最喜欢但只有全中文菜单的餐厅拿一份菜单。有些餐厅的菜单可能是在墙上的,这时就需要你的数码相机或手机了。他们可能不想给你,但如果你給他们一点钱(比如5元),那他们通常就会给你的(也许还会想这个人是不是疯了)。但如果你魅力十足,他们可能会把菜单借给你去街边的打印店复印一张。(小窍门:一份打印的菜单会为你减少很多后续的麻烦。)
40118881_f5208d5c3a_m
Smokehouse餐厅是John实施他菜单计划开始的地方

2.抄菜单

这一招是杀手锏,你一定会喜欢。首先要查出你所有你不认识的字词并且写下来。也许你可以找到菜单的电子文档,但坦白地说,这对你的帮助不大!抄写菜单是会比较痛苦并且要花一些时间,但这是最重要的一步!

3.学习菜单


这可不是要提倡死记硬背。做完第2步以后,你会对菜单上的菜名有些大致的了解。这一点会让你挺开心的,但这还没完。这时候你还没完全搞懂每道菜到底是什么,所以你要去问别人。但对那些中文沟通水平不够的人,那就直接去点菜吧。还有一种方法,就是去问服务员其他人吃的什么,并让服务员告诉你是菜单上的哪道菜,你再备注在自己的菜单复印件上。如果你够聪明,你就会挑顾客不是很多的餐厅,这样服务员就会更有耐心、更愿意去帮助一个奇怪的老外回答一些滑稽的关于菜单的问题。
40118880_9903ad6457_m
是时候开口去问那些有点烦人的菜单问题了!

4.翻译中文菜单


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)。

5.分享菜单

这一步可有可无。把你的双语菜单打印出来,分享给餐厅。一般来说,他们会爱死你的!因为他们可以用它去赚外国人的钱。如果你只是像John一样在学校或者教育机构工作,那至少可以和同学们或同事们分享。初来乍到的外国人会对你感激不尽的!

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。

在美食的探索之路上祝大家好运!

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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:

Pinyin-Chart-screenshot

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!

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一个美国人眼里的中日文学习

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。

汉语vs日语

John认为,汉语和日语的学习都很难,只是它们的难点各不相同。两者都需要学习令人抓狂的书写方式和大量的文化背景。单就这一点来看,它们难度相当。学习任何一门语言都需要记忆大量词汇。日语中有很多从英语发音中来的外来词,但这些词要像日本人一样运用自如却没那么简单,所以这一点也就不计入考虑。在John看来,两者难度比较的关键在于:发音和语法。

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!)

当然,日语相比,汉语发音从刚开始学时就难得让人抓狂。即使句子里只有3个音节,中国人也很难明白这个学习者在说什么。John对此深有体会。但如果学习者一直保持努力练习,发音就会变得越来越简单。在后期的学习中,口音并不是一个很大的问题。因为汉语本身就有很多不同的地方口音,只要学习者能掌握好声调并且可以组成连贯的句子,那么打电话的时候时常就会被当做是一个中国人。

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。

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声调的“泥潭”与发音的“特效药”

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。

其实这并不是大师查克臆造的箴言。虽然这条箴言在乔伊纳德艺术学院和加州艺术学院的毕业生面试中引用的次数各不相同,但都会被常常提及。这一箴言曾一度广为流传。

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。

这一观点同样也适用于中文学习者。不是学习者需要学习声调,而是在他们的思想深处有10000个蹩脚的声调需要“扔掉”,只有这样才能达到真正流利的程度。这才是解决老外“糟糕口音”的真正特效药。

学习者都会饱受纠正发音的折磨,直到你能真正“扔掉”这些糟糕的口音。因此把自己锁在房间里独自背书是远远不够的,学习者必须走出去和现实生活中的人们讲中文,并努力提高发音的准确度。坦然面对那些白眼和嘲笑声。每一个小小的努力都将会对自己提高中文发音起着重大的作用!

在摆脱那些糟糕的发音之前,学生好似陷入了声调的“泥潭”,并在种痛苦的状态下历练自己的意志,最终找到通往成功的道路。

每一个糟糕的发音都是一个口音“瑕疵”,学习者能做的就是通过练习中文发音,将其逐个击破。每当发音出错时确实会感到受挫,并因这种受挫感而倍受折磨,但胜利也即将来到。

pic

因此学习者可能正深陷在声调的“泥潭”中,这又有什么关系呢?他们可以自己掌握主动权去改善发音。他们已知道会发生什么,现在要做的就是走出门开始说中文吧!

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学习声调的过程

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


最开始,当学生听到一个个不同的声调时,他们可以听出这些声调是不一样的,但是说出这些声调有什么不同或者重复声调似乎是不可能的。他们需要时间去克服这种最初阶段混沌麻木的状态,然后才能真正尝试练习不同的声调。

2. 3-Second Memory 3秒钟记忆


长期接触发音,学生可以听出声调的不同,甚至有些还能重复。但学生对声调的记忆时间只能持续3秒钟,如果之后学生听不到这些发音,以后也就不太可能再记起来了。

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. 
1-1 <–最容易
  2. 4-4, 2-4
  3. 
2-2, 4-2, 1-4

  4. 2-3, 3-3, 1-3, 2-1
  5. 
3-4, 3-1, 1-2
  6. 
4-1, 4-3
  7. 
3-2 <–最难

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


当学生学会把所有单个声调组合成自己知道的词语以后,很快就可以轻而易举地把它应用在不太熟悉的单词中。渐渐地,这一过程会越来越容易。

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)

恭喜你,学生的中文发音现阶段已经达到准确一致了,而且听起来很自然。现在学生已经掌握学习中文的秘诀啦!(当然了,即使已经达到这样水平了,仍然有很多方面需要继续努力。比如语调和叙述技巧…)

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2014 Fall Intern: Cai Qingyang

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。
在这里,我主要的任务是帮助老师们编辑教学材料以及进行翻译工作,老师们给予我的建议大多直接有效。同时我也参与了为客户设计的口语练习活动,这些直接参与中文教学的机会都大大提高了我对中文教学工作的认识以及基本工作能力。
很感谢老师们在这三个月内的指导和照顾,我会永远怀念这个温馨的团队。

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。

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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!

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2014 Fall Intern: Natalie

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!

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2014 Fall Intern: Salomé

Salome

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).

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中文老师:请用你的中文名!

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.)

让你的学生用一些发音简单的英文名称呼你,对他们丝毫没有帮助。但很多老师并没有意识到这点,因此,强调使用中文名字的重要性还是很有必要的。

Chinese Teachers: Please Use Chinese Names!
1、使用你真实的中文名字是显示你对自己文化的尊重。

作为老师,你能决定你的学生怎么称呼你。在中国文化中,这不是什么大问题,因为学生通常不会直呼老师的名字,只是称呼“X老师”。作为一个中文老师,你为什么不利用这个机会开始你的中文教学,让学生了解中国文化呢?从第一节课就让学生理解并尊重你的文化,那以后的课就会更加顺利。

2、使用你的中文名字是学生练习发音的好机会。

不使用中文名字的主要借口就是“我的姓的发音对外国人来说太难了。”是的,也许你的姓对大多数外国人都很难,但是你的学生既然下定决心学中文,那么他应该知道这不是一件容易的事情。即使你的姓特别难发,那也只是一个音节,况且这个音节在每次课上学生都会重复发音很多遍,所以最终他们一定会掌握正确的发音的。

不要太娇惯你的学生,让他们经历一个克服困难的过程,即使你姓“许”、“朱”、“江”、“张”、“于”什么的,他们最终也会掌握这些发音的。

3、让学生称呼你的中文名字可以增加学生的信心。

第一次课就让学生正确地发出“许”当然不太可能,但是当你对学生说“你不需要叫我‘许老师’,叫我Vivian就好了”的时候,你就是在打压学生的信心,你就是在暗示他们,你没有信心让他们掌握正确的发音。

老师的这种做法很可怕,你不仅在向学生传达“你不可能掌握这个发音”,你也在告诉他们“这个音很难发,难到我都教不会你这个发音。”这种行为实际上也显示了老师对自己能力的不自信。

作为一个合格的老师,你完全可以这样告诉学生:“我的名字的音有点难发,但是别担心,只要你多练习,你一定会掌握正确的发音。”所以,在第一次课时,老师就应该对学生抱有信心,这样学生才会不断尝试和练习。你的鼓励和信心对他们很重要!

4、中文名字很难记。

对大多数外国人来说,中文名字难记是事实。但是,不鼓励学生尝试着记住中文名字,只是让他们一遍遍重复你的英文名字,这是在偷懒,对他们没有丝毫帮助。

刚开始学中文的时候,学生很难记住一些中国人得名字,但是随着学生接触到的中国人越来越多,学到的中文名字越来越多,这个过程就会变得越来越顺利。而帮助学生跨出这一步的,就是中文老师。

5、这种情况在香港怎么样?

在香港,很多中国人也用英文名,这也是事实。但作为汉语学习者,没有必要去学习诸如“Jacky”、“Coco”之类的名字,他们需要的是练习那些不熟悉的,诸如“张”、“王”、“胡”这样的姓。所以,直呼英文名虽然在香港很常见,但是在大陆,这并不普遍,更不能因此作为逃避使用中文名的借口。

6、中文名字让中文课堂更加合理。

试想一下这样一幅画面:Carl是一个金发碧眼的外国人,他在中国教英语。Carl会说中文,他的中文名字叫“张XX”。Carl在上英文课的时候让中国学生叫他张老师,因为对中国人来说,Carl的发音有点难。

这是不是很荒谬?恐怕中国学生都会觉得很奇怪吧?在英语课上叫他张老师,而不是Carl,这对学生学习英文没有一点帮助。

所以,中文老师们,请在课堂上使用你们的中文名字!

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

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2014 Summer Intern: Jazlyn

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.

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2014 Summer Intern: Zach

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…

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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!

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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:

Pronunciation-Pack-Instructions-download

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!

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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.

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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.

IMG_2353

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.

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2014 Spring Intern: Michelle

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!

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2013 Fall Interns: Logan and Ashyln

intern-logan

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.

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AllSet Pinyin 2.0

iTunesArtwork

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)
  • STILL NO ADS

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!

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Story Selection for Mandarin Companion

MandComp+AllSet

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!

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