Watch my progress: 3 Months in Beijing

Been living in Beijing now for three months. Checking in with my Mandarin progression with a little YouTube vid. Yes, I say “um” about a thousand times, but I’m chatting in Mandarin. Tell me what you think (and if you can understand anything I say!).

Shout out to Benny at Fluent in Three Months. I’ve been enjoying his recent adventures in China, where he attempts to overturn popular assumption that Mandarin is too hard to learn.

Just a little bit about myself, where I am, and where I’m from. Ní hǎo, Wǒ jiào Jīnní! (妮好,我叫金妮)

“Nǐ hǎo”–“Yeah, I speak some Mandarin.”

Whenever I learn something new in Chinese, but espeically when I can write in hànzi, I feel like the smartest person in the world. And then realize I’m this guy (obviously completely unmerited).

Thankfully, I’m actually trying to learn, even if just yí bù yí bù lái (step-by-step).

Currently, I do a Mandarin/English language exchange with a friend of mine three-four times a week, partnered with lessons with a Chinese tutor twice a week, a plan to tide me over until my official classes begin. Since my language exchange focuses on speaking, my tutor Chen and I have decided to focus on grammar, writing (especially stroke order), and typing.

Translating the chapter’s dialogue, then transcribing in hanzi, pinyin, and English has really helped my progression. Below is the latest (Feel free to pick out my mistakes!):


Lesson 13 第十三棵 , Wines, Drinks 酒,料


Nǐxǐhuan hē báijiǔ ma?  Do you like to drink wine?


不太喜欢喝白酒, 喜欢喝茶。

Bú tài xǐhuan hē báijiǔ, xǐhuan hē chá.  Don’t really like to drink wine, I like to drink tea.



Nǐ xǐhuan hē huāchá háishì lüchá?  You like to drink scented tea or green tea?



Huāchá. Wǒ jīngcháng hē huāchá.  Scented tea. I often drink scented tea.



 Nǐ hē guo lüchá ma?  Have you drunk (had) green tea before?



Méi yǒu. Lüchá guì bu guì? Hǎohē ma?  I haven’t. (Is) green tea is expensive?



Bù piányi, hěn guì. Wǒ juéde hěn hǎohē.  Not cheap, expensive. I think it’s very nice to drink.



Nǐ yídìng shì nánfāngrén.  You certainly are southern!


是呵 (‘a?’)。你怎么知道?

Shí a. Nǐ zěnme zhīdao?  I am! How did you know?



Yīnwei běifāngrén hē huācha, nánfāngrén xǐhuan hē lüchá. Nǐ hē guo lóngjǐng ma? Because, northerners drink scented tea, southerners like to drink green tea. You’ve had longjing tea before?



Dāngrán la. Xīhú lóngjǐng hěn yǒumíng.  Of course! The West Lake longjing tea is very famous.



Kànlái, nǐ duì chá hěn liǎojǐe.  It seems you understand (know) your tea!



Like a boss: Reading Chinese characters

Hit a wall last week when I left a Chinese class I had just started. Instead of starting the course at the beginning, I’d jumped into the middle of the course; the pīnyīn was about my level, and I was anxious to start a real class. However, after a few classes, I knew I’d have to wait for the beginning of the next course in a month: aside from the introductory phrases and vocabulary, everything was in hànzi (Chinese characters). I couldn’t understand any of the exercises or explanations. I really like the class; it’s taught in Chinese, and I feel like it really pushes me and my abilities (and it’s 30¥–not even $5 USD–for an 1.5 hour lesson). However, for my sanity level, I needed to step back and wait to start the course on page one. Like a normal person.

This week, worked with my tutor to improve my reading skills. He suggested imputing the dialogue we’d been working on into a Word document. If you know pīnyīn, you can input hànzi, thereby typing in “real” Chinese. Excited is an understatement when I realized that I could teach myself how to read hànzi by typing it out on my laptop. And then, I realized I could read.

Typing is of course a far call from actually writing. However, for business purposes, typing is a far more easier and actually more useful skill to master. Below is my first hànzi piece, a dialogue about “Daily Necessities, Fruits.” Afterwards, albiet slowly and only because I was familiar with the dialogue, I was able to read the entire thing.

Reading Chinese: Like a boss

Another positive, yesterday I was out with an Australian friend visiting from Chengdu, who I hadn’t seen for two weeks. He noted that I’d improved a lot since the last time we’d met up. The most notable change however, is that I was really starting to recognize characters, even reading a few street signs in hànzi.

Cheers, here’s to technology, supportive friends and coworkers, and a step in a positive direction.

*Note: There still may be some glaring grammatical errors. One step at a time.

Daily Necessities, Fruits: Hànzi, Pīnyīn, English

这是什么?Zhè shì shénme? What is this?

这是书。那是什么东西?Zhè shì shū. This is a book. What is that thing?

那是水果。Nà shì shuǐguǒ. That is a fruit.

那是什么水果?Nà shì shénme shuǐguǒ? What fruit is that?

那是苹果。Nà shì pīngguǒ. That is an apple.

这是几支钢笔?Zhè shì jǐ zhī gāngbǐ? How many pens are there?

这是三支钢笔。Zhè shì sān zhī gāngbǐ. There are three pens.

你有没有词典?Nǐ yǒu měi yǒu cídiǎn? Do you have a dictionary?

我有词典。Wǒ yǒu cídiǎn. I have a dictionary.

你有几本词典?Nǐ yǒu jǐ běn cídiǎn? Do you have three dictionaries?

我有三本词典。Wǒ yǒu sān běn cídiǎn. I have three dictionaries.

这本词典是你的吗? Zhè běn cídiǎn shì nǐ de ma? These three dictionaries are yours?

是的,这本词典是我的。Shì de, zhè běn cídiǎn shì wǒ de.  Yes, these three dictionaries are mine.

Translated: “Come at me bro”

“Come at me bro.”

We’ve all obviously needed to know the Chinese equivalent to this jaunty American  slang.

And today is your lucky day. It was also apparently mine, since this is what I learned today at work.

The approximate Chinese colloquial equivalent? (I’m still learning to write Hànzi–Chinese characters–so bear with me and my pīnyīn.)

“Fàng mǎ guò lái:”

Or roughly translated, “Release your horses, come over here.”

A simple “guò lái” will do the trick in a pinch.

Now taking bets on what caused this conversation at work.

Nǐ hǎo! Wǒ jiào Ginny!

Nǐhǎo Kailan! Basically, it's like Dora the Explorer, but with Chinese instead of Spanish.

Below is my first real piece of Chinese writing, an assignment from my Chinese tutor. I’m actually kind of proud of it; however, I know there’s bound to be tons of mistakes in my pīnyīn and grammar. I can write more than this, but this is just a first assignment.  Feel free to critique, or figure out what I wrote!

Nǐ hǎo! Wǒ jiào Ginny.

Wǒ shì Měiguórén; wǒ èrshísān suì. Xiànzài, wǒ zhù zài Zhōngguó, Běijīng.

Xiànzài, wǒ shì Yīnwén lǎoshī. Wǒ jiào sān dào shí suìde háizi. Wǒ yào xuéxi Zhōngwén. Wǒde Yīnwén bǐ wǒde Zhōngwén hǎo, dànshi wǒ yào gǎijìn wǒde Zhōngwén. Wǒ hěn máng yīnwei wǒde gōng zuò. Keshi wǒ shàngwǔ yǒu kòng, suǒyǐ wǒ shàngwǔ xuéxí.

Wǒ hěn xīhuan máng. Wǒde àihǎo shì pǎobu, yóuyǒng, qí zì xíng chē, he tiàowǔ. Wǒ xīhuan shàngwǎng; gēn wǒde péngyou he jiā rén yìqǐ shuō.

Wǒde jiā rén zhù zài Měiguó, zài Pennsylvania. Wǒde māma jiào Deborah, bāba jiào Edward. Wǒde dìdi jiào Collier, tā yǒu shíwǔ suì. Tā hěn cōng míng. Tāde zhōngwén bǐ wǒde zhōngguó hǎo, tāde zhōngwén lǎoshī shuō tāde zhōngwén shì quán bān zùi hǎo de. Wǒde gēge zhù zài Hánguó; tā shì Yīnwén lǎoshī, yǒu èrshíliù suì.



Global + Mobile: Why you should attend the Global Mobile Internet Conference

So I’m a self-proclaimed nerd. When I heard that there was an entire conference devoted to the mobile Internet industry, I knew I had to make it there. Special bonus? Its annually held in Beijing, China, conveniently, the city to where I’d just moved.

Fantastic, the chance to prove the utility of my social media addiction.

I had a fun, productive time at the Great Mobile Internet Conference, Asia’s largest mobile internet conference. I had the pleasure of blogging for the organizer, the Great Wall Club, on its blog, MobiSights. I loved getting to chat with industry professionals, startup hopefuls, and tech followers, all engaged in the dynamic mobile marketplace, in the largest internet marketplace in the world.

Mobile is big; China is the ever-present giant.

Here’s what I learned, and why I think you should keep an eye on this event:

1) Mobile is where the growth is…

  • Mobile internet usage will overtake desktop usage by 2014; 50% of local searches are made via mobile (via DigitalBuzz).
  • GDP in developing countries has a high correlation with mobile phone penetration, a 10% increase in mobile phones relates to a 0.8% in GDP (via

2) … but understanding the (Chinese) arena is key.

Big screens at GMIC streaming the latest updates from Tencent QQ and Weibo reminded this Dorothy she wasn’t in the land of Facebook anymore. The social media market in Asia is dominated by domestic sites; however, developing markets have the most potential growth when it comes to the internet usage.

  • China has a higher internet population than the USA has people: China has 500 million internet users vs the USA’s total population of about 400 million (via zpryme).
  • 1 in 5 internet users are Chinese (via Mashable via Statista).
So what do you do when the largest internet market in the world censored by a strong, central government? You go to those industry leaders who understand it best:

3) The Great Mobile Internet Conference is a great networking event, and it’s getting bigger.

GMIC has got it all: industry leaders from Tencent, Sina Weibo, ChinaMobile; getting insider insight is invaluable. Although conferences often have the self-promotional feel of a PR campaign, these conference are more important for the ability to meet with experienced and/or passionate individuals.

I enjoyed getting to hear big-name speakers on the main stages; however, it was the little conversations and interactions that I took the most away from.

What did I learn? Beijing: a hot spot for tech startups. The city has the right ingredients for a startup culture: 1) Investment capital, 2) Lots of universities and educational centers, 3) A relatively low cost of living.

More than one developer mentioned one of the major reasons they’ve developed and thrived in Beijing is due to the talent pool: great, available engineering talent. What’s significant about this talent, as well, is that Chinese engineers are used to working with large number volumes (China, and it’s population are huge).

What’s also significant is that being based out of Beijing, the company/startup can offer a higher return on investment to potential vc’s or angel investors.

4) GMIC is coming to San Fransisco.

GMIC SV (Silicon Valley) will be held in October, allowing developers, entrepreneurs, and investors from two hot tech hubs to connect.

Enjoyed GMIC 2012, and I’m looking forward to keeping tabs on what’s to come.