The Sino-British Relations in the 19th century & Hong Kong and Taiwan Nowadays 

Deng Xiaoping and Margaret Thatcher
in 1982. Photo by SCMP

This September, we bring you our first workshop on Chinese history. Led by Dr Cheng Jin (Kim) from Durham University, the workshop will focus on the Sino-British Relations in the 19th century, followed by a brief history of one of the British colonies – Hong Kong. It will further compare Hong Kong with Taiwan – a special area with controversial political status. The workshop aims to offer the audience a better understanding of the current issue of Taiwan & Hong Kong through their history footing. The attitudes from the mainland Chinese will also be examined. The workshop will last approximately 1 hour, followed by a Q&A session. Please allow 1.5 hours.

Kim completed his doctoral studies and received his PhD degree in July 2019, after having obtained an MA degree (merit) in translation studies. Both degrees were obtained in Durham University. His research covers a wide range of topics related to China and Chinese history and literature. He writes articles on missionaries’ representations of China in the 19th century, resituating Orientalism into a 19th century Chinese context, and Morrison’s first biblical translation in 1823. He has also worked as a freelance translator for several years. 

Join us for a cup of oolong tea on a Friday after work. Let your thoughts brew, and the rich history is infused with the modern day.

Ticket price: £10 per person

Venue: in town (TBC)

Date and Time: Friday 27th 18:30-20:00

Book your place for this workshop by filling in the Contact Form below, or email us at

THE Mid-Autumn Festival – 中秋节

The Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节), along with the Chinese Spring Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival, are the three most important festivals in the Chinese culture. The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month (usually in mid-September, or early October of the Gregorian calendar), at which time it is believed that the moon is the fullest. To the Chinese people, Mid-Autumn Festival means family reunion and peace. The bright and full moon symbolises harmony, prosperity and happiness. The main traditions include eating mooncakes, having dinner with family, worshipping the moon, etc.  

As the Festival has been mentioned to our students in class in the past, this year, we came up with a quiz on some niche aspects of the Moon Festival. Let’s see how knowledgeable you are! 

1, When in the ancient time did the Mid-Autumn Festival gain popularity?

2, In modern days, when did the Mid-Autumn Festival become a public holiday in China?

3, In ancient China, another tradition of celebrating this holiday is to carry brightly-lit lanterns on the street, some of which have riddles written on them. People try to guess the answers based on the meaning, pronunciation and indication of what’s written. In which two provinces was the tradition most popular?

4, Let’s try a riddle: what fish is always hungry? 

5, Which ethnic group in China ‘chased the Moon’ for the whole day on Mid-Autumn Festival?



Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD).

Guangdong & Guangxi.

Crocodile (pronounces è yú 鳄鱼 in Chinese. è means hungry, but the characters between crocodile è 饿 and the hungry è 鳄 are different).

Mongol race.

The language that leads to a world of opportunities

To reflect on the definition of “modern languages” 10 years ago alongside that of today creates an interesting juxtaposition. Back then, Modern Language departments in UK schools mainly had European languages on offer; nowadays, schools compete to introduce Chinese to their students to enable them to connect with a wider world, a dynamic culture and also to boost their career opportunities.

Why Chinese?

There are many compelling reasons to learn Chinese. First of all, the language (its depiction and its sounds) is simply fascinating: just see its beautiful calligraphy, melodic phonetics, and poetic phrasing. 

But there are also very practical reasons to study Chinese. China is expected to overtake the US to become the world’s largest consumer of goods this year; the country has the world’s largest total banking sector with a mind-boggling $67.32 trillion assets and deposit combined; China is also leading the way in green energy and infrastructure technologies. The world is looking to China for trends in culture, education and fashion! Last year, the UK welcomed more than 190,000 Chinese students, which is by far the largest overseas student cohort. China’s impact on our daily lives can no longer be ignored. 

What can we do? 

We give you the first tool to embrace the change and better prepare you for the future. Our company, ThinkChinese, is committed to providing quality Chinese education to schools and individuals in the Island. Since our establishment in 2016, we have been providing Chinese proficiency courses including YCT for primary school students, GCSE and HSK for secondary and adult students as well as BCT for business purposes. 

All teachers at ThinkChinese are educated to postgraduate level, and hold teaching qualifications including TCSOL (Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages). To date, nearly 200 students taught by ThinkChinese have sat proficiency exams at different levels. We are proud to have achieved a 100% pass rate for the HSK Level 1 and YCT Level 1, overall A and A* for GCSE, and 10% of students have obtained full marks! We are passionate about our students’ learning experience as well as the learning outcome. 

Where is your next adventure? 

This September, we invite you to embark on a fascinating and rewarding linguistic journey with us to obtain a Chinese language global certificate in just 10 weeks! Our HSK Level 1 course is a fast-paced programme, during which you will learn about 150 vocabulary and 20 grammar. An assessment will be available shortly after the completion. The HSK is a series of courses which consists of 6 levels. Level 3 and above can be used for university and job applications in China. ThinkChinese also works with companies in China to provide internship opportunities for the HSK learners. 

To join our HSK Level 1 Challenge course on Tuesday from 5:30-7:00pm. Please contact our office at 864873 or email We look forward to hearing from you.

Written by Briony Sun at ThinkChinese Limited

Survive or Thrive? – A Tale of Sino-UK Education

Mrs Yang is well known for her appearance on BBC documentary “Are our kids tough enough? Chinese school” in 2015. The documentary evidenced her dedication to education, which was mostly impressive.

Her new book “Survive or Thrive? – A Tale of Sino-UK Education” was published in March this year. In the book, Mrs Yang recorded her struggles and success as a Teacher of Science in British schools. The book covers 7 chapters including: The British education system, Independent schools, UK-China education comparison and Artificial Intelligence (AI). This summer, we are lucky to have a chat with Mrs Yang.

Q: Thanks for joining us for the interview, and congratulations on releasing your first book. I read it last month and found it informative and entertaining. I particularly liked the chapter which demystifies certain misunderstandings around Chinese education. From our experience, it is not uncommon to see that many British people hold the belief that Chinese education means long hours, rote learning, and a traditional teaching style which borders on the tedious. In your book, you commented that Chinese education is changing and developing very fast, especially in recent years. What are the most significant changes from your observations?

Thank you very much for the interview. In my view, Chinese education landscape has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, in which I have been teaching in the UK. Back to my old days, almost all Chinese schools were guided by the Chinese domestic education system. International schools and bilingual schools, on the other hand, was a rare phenomenon.  

Chinese school are very diverse nowadays, especially in the economically more developed regions and areas. In recent years, I have had opportunities visiting various types of schools in Shanghai, meeting with teachers and exchanging ideas. One of the International schools  has impressed me very much. Spending time in the school, I found it hard to tell whether I was in China, or in the UK. 

With regard to all types of schools in China, diversity in education has certainly thrived. In theory, more choices should be a good thing, but in reality, it could also cause confusion, especially to those who are financially fortunate. Parents struggle to make the right choices for their children, and they tend to focus on the name of the school, rather than the strength of their kids.

Mrs Yang’s Science classroom in Bohunt School in Liphook

Q: The two education systems (Chinese and British) are very often evaluated by exam results, although the various formats of those exams differ markedly. For our students, both the experience of learning and the learning outcome are almost equally important. From your point of view, what can we take from both systems to ensure that the learning interest is not compromised by the pursuit of good exam results?

It is my experience that both education systems value examination results to a very high degree. British schools often seek for reasons on why Chinese students are excellent in Maths, for example. Having said that, British schools focus on “learning by doing”, making lessons fun, and engaging. British teaching approach is “student centred”, developing students’ soft skills such as critical thinking skills, communication skills and creativity. 

In China, parents play a more active role in children’s learning. It seems to me that strong support from parents has become an essential element in contributing to the success of Chinese students’ academic performance. British parents perhaps should look into it and learn from it.

Q: With the growing wealth of the Chinese middle class and the increasing demand for quality education, over the past decade we’ve seen many Chinese students come to the UK to study. It is said that in 2018 there were 190,000 Chinese students studying in the UK. On the other hand, we’ve also seen a growing number of British schools start to look at the Chinese education market. In your view, is there any change that you would wish to see within those schools in order to make them more attractive or better suited for Chinese students?

British education enjoys its worldwide prestige, and British schools are very popular among Chinese parents. “Learning by doing” and making lessons fun are in sharp contrast to Chinese traditional teaching and learning. Chinese teaching approach is often “teacher entered”, stressing on memorisation and repetitive practise.    

One of the main reasons that British school are thriving in China is that Chinese parents  want a different teaching style. Nevertheless, we must maintain our own identities whilst being exposed to a different culture and education. Of course we need to learn other people’s language in order to understand and appreciate their culture, but it doesn’t mean we have to lose our own culture and values.  

Q: Each year, many British teachers go to China to teach and we know a lot of Chinese teachers also wish to work in the UK. You have rich experience working in China and Britain and specifically in the sphere of education. What is your advice for these teachers? 

I would encourage Chinese teachers to gain teaching experience in England. It will broaden their view points, and make them tougher individuals. To be able to fit in and to integrate in a place of work can be challenging. It requires not only bilingual, but also bicultural. Reading broadly is the key. It is a long-term accumulation, rather than a short burst effort. Assimilation process can be very difficult and painful, but it will transform you after all. 

Q: Your documentary consists of three episodes, each lasting just over an hour. But we heard that the actual shooting took a lot longer. Is there anything that didn’t make it into the documentary that you think is worth mentioning? 

A lot of people have asked me this question! The most memorable experience that I have was the bonds I developed with the students. I was lucky teach them, and I treasure the small tokens and gifts from them. I hope I came across as a good teacher in the documentary program, and I am eager to build better understandings between China and the UK. 

Photos were contributed by Mrs Yang or produced by ThinkChinese

A letter from our Marketing Assistant

Hello! 大家好!

Chinese language student to Marketing assistant.  I joined the ThinkChinese team about half a year ago and have already experienced and learnt a lot in this short time.  

I remember walking to the office on my first day; eager to find out what I’d be doing and to start working in the team. Since that day, I have been involved with so many exciting and challenging projects and have got the opportunity to watch in the business grow and progress.

I’d like to share with you my experience of working at ThinkChinese; from what I’ve been working on and what is yet to come! Please enjoy!

my role…

My role at ThinkChinese is all-encompassing. I have had the unique opportunity to be involved with all aspects of the marketing of ThinkChinese and it has been an incredible experience. I’m thinking about where to start introducing my role to you as there are so many parts to consider!

Our team leader has provided me with a lot of flexibility in my role in terms of being able to work from both, the office and, from my home. Starting at ThinkChinese with little professional marketing experience, I was supported and encouraged to get stuck in with everything that was going on, allowing me to really explore and grow my skills. The work I’m doing at ThinkChinese can be broken down into three sections (1) research and editorial, (2) social and communication and, (3) creative. Each of these areas are so fun to work in but I’d have to say two of my most favourites are social media and creative tasks because I love sharing things with people and experiencing creatively.

  • Social media and communication

I currently manage most of ThinkChinese’s social media accounts: Facebook (ThinkChinese Mandarin Tuition), Instagram (@thinkchinesejsy) and LinkedIn. There’s a lot of fun and freedom when it comes to sharing on social media. Each week I do research into what I’m going to post. The posts normally fall under the following categories: Chinese language, Chinese news, Chinese culture and the occasional quirky post or posts about ThinkChinese’s activities!

In December last year, I proposed and managed my first Instagram marketing campaign ‘Mandarin-mas’. The campaign was like my baby at the time and it really fun to work on; plus; I think it made a big impression!

Social media is truly a great platform for us share a bit of China with our audience and to stay connected with students. I aim to post on each account 3 times a week so give us a like or a heart when you see our new content.

  • Research and editorial

This is another large area of my work and covers a lot of aspects. I have been helping researching new business opportunities and projects. This is particularly exciting as there is always something new! This may be researching social activities including movie nights, researching itineraries for travel projects or researching independent ideas to propose to the team.

I have also had the opportunity improve my copy writing skills (incredibly useful experience for practical marketing). I have been able to write scripts for interviews and videos, write original articles/letters and write professional documents for ThinkChinese as well as making business enquires.

  • Creative

Creative tasks have given me a great space to try different creative styles and work closely with the team. I have got to work on all sorts of exciting task that have utilised my creative ability. I have worked on promotional videos and posters; edited photography and graphics; and have assisting in the creation of business brochures and leaflets. It is really inspiring to work on projects that leave the business and can make an impact on awareness and engagement.

the team…

The ThinkChinese team is what makes the business special. The team as a whole are very hard working and talented in what they do. It is really a pleasure to work alongside confident, supportive women who have helped me to learn a lot as well. They’re always on-hand if I ask for guidance or have questions, which has allowed me to take on the role possibly and produce some amazing work. In the team, all ideas are welcomed and everyone is passionate about giving their best and developing their capabilities.

Open communication is key in our team, and we aim to talk, share and update each other regularly, on work and related matters. As well as the day-to-day communication, we hold team meetings and also meet with each other outside of the office for general catch-ups. As a part-time employee at ThinkChinese, these have been particularly useful for planning my work and staying connected with the office team.

But it’s not just all work! We try to have monthly team socials to create time when we can meet for coffees or lunch. Most recently, the team, myself and my classmates from HSK2 went out for dinner together to celebrate the completion of HSK1! This was a lovely experience to get to know each other and have a laugh together.

Being on the ThinkChinese team definitely feels like being a part of something special. It’s not your ordinary job. We help to bring learning and travel to people, two things which are very important to me and are equally as exciting to work on. I think education about languages and cultures are really important and fun to connect with. Being in touch with these aspects of the business and supporting the team is really rewarding work.

my closing thoughts…

The six months have been in my role have gone by so quickly – it’s crazy to think about! I spent a while thinking about this short article as I really wanted to share everything with you *haha * and I’m writing this now, I find myself reflecting on my experience at ThinkChinese both with regards to periods of hard work and to the times connecting and having fun with my team members.

I have seen ThinkChinese becoming more successful as well as seeing myself and the team becoming more confident.  As the business continues to grow and launches new, exciting ventures, I look forward to being a part of it. I’m very excited to see where ThinkChinese goes in the future. One thing is for sure, there’s a lot to come!

Chinese Proverbs

Many of the popular Chinese proverbs express distilled wisdom. They are as much in use today as when they were first coined. They are not only a key part of the Chinese language learning, but are also priceless in understanding the Chinese culture. A lot of native Chinese proverbs have become conspicuous in English where they are quoted in their English translation, or through a description of a fable behind the proverb. Let’s see a few of them!

对牛弹琴 (duìniú tánqín)

对(duì): towards, to  牛(niú): cow  弹琴( tánqín): to play a string instrument.  This proverb is used by the Chinese people to describe someone who is explaining something complicated to a fool, alternatively to describe a person who is trying to say something to the wrong audience. English equivalent: To play a harp to a cow.

倾盆大雨(qīngpén dàyǔ)

倾(qīng): pour  盆(pén): bowl  大雨(dàyǔ): heavy rain. People use this proverb to describe an extreme amount of rain in a short period of time, which is also known as a downpour – a sudden and unexpected heavy rain. The English equivalent is “Raining cats and dogs”.

说曹操, 曹操到 (shuō Cáo cāo, Cáo cāo dào)

说(shuō): to speak, to talk 曹操 (Cáo cāo):  Cáo cāo is the general of the Wei Kingdom in one of the Chinese classical literature 《三国演义》 (sānguó yǎnyì) “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”, written in the 14th century. 到 (dào): to arrive. This proverb describes where a person appears unexpectedly upon being mentioned. In English, people say: “speak of the devil, and he shall appear”.

一石二鸟 (yīshí èrniǎo)

一(yī): one 石(shí): stone  二(èr): two  鸟(niǎo): bird. “Kill two birds with one stone” means to complete two actions in one go. We could manage to do two things at the same time instead of just one, and it is convenient to do both. In western countries, it is often shortened to “Kill two birds”.

New Chinese club at Helvetia School

“Learning Chinese is so cool!”

“Cannot wait to get started!”

As my colleague and I walked into the classroom, the chit chat quickly quietened down. Eight students sat around two desks, bursting with excitement. We were faced by eyes filled with curiosity. I thought at that moment the girls must be wondering – can we understand their English? Will we be able to speak Chinese? …

The class started promptly after a brief introduction by a school teacher. The students were taught greetings, numbers and the names of a small handful of Chinese foods. In a friendly and engaging environment, the class proceeded very smoothly. Laughter occasionally burst out as some couldn’t quite master the pronunciation at their first try. My colleague and I were patient and attentive to the students’ needs – we understand that this experience can be life-changing and are genuinely happy to see these young learners enjoy their time.

That was day one. But how did we come to start the club in Helvetia House School?

Early this year I was contacted by a parent from the school, whose son used to learn Chinese with me a couple of years ago. He explained his intention to sponsor a Chinese club at Helvetia for Y4, which hopefully could draw the interest of many. In the past, our after-school clubs were paid for by the parents of those attending. Truth be told, a sponsored club was a fresh idea. I was extremely interested, and particularly drawn by the fact a parent had more than one child’s interest in mind.

After a few more weeks of liaising and discussion on the detail, the club at Helvetia was confirmed! Our first lesson started after Easter Holiday, and so far the class has been described as interesting, enjoyable and informative. The students are working on YCT Level 1, the teaching of which will last for two terms until just before Christmas. Lessons for the next level are subject to review after the completion of the current level. At the moment, there are 9 students in our class (after a new student joined last week). The class runs every Thursday after school from 3-4pm.

With a new staff member on board from September, we will have more capacity to teach outside our office. If you are interested in the opportunity for your children to learn Chinese, and would like to have their friends join and to benefit, a sponsored club at your children’s school is a good option. Education is the best gift. Our special rate is applicable to sponsored clubs. Please contact our office directly at (01534) 864873, should you be interested.

How to spend your money wisely when working with translators?

So you want to talk to an audience who don’t speak your language, and you   find a few translators (individuals or agencies), get a few quotes.

Now what?

As a professional translator and fairly sophisticated shopper, I’d like to offer my advice on how to choose a translator that gets you the best value out of the money you pay. After all, we work hard for the money, why shouldn’t we make it work hard for us?

ONE – if among the quotes that you’ve gathered, there’s one that’s far lower than the majority, eliminate this option.


I’m not trying to convince you to choose the most expensive service you can find. We both know expensive things may not equate to quality, but cheapest things most definitely don’t. If most shirts cost, say £30, and one costs only £3, would you go for it? Likewise, if someone quotes you a suspiciously low price, you should trust your instinct and move on with other options.

TWO – if the candidates try to sell you how good their translation quality is, ignore it.

Quality is a default precondition when we shop. No one is looking for bad quality stuff. And no one advertises bad quality. It’d be a waste of time if you try to judge who has the best quality purely from the sellers’ own statements, because they’re all the best according to them.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t care about quality. What we need to do is look for their guarantee. What if we use them and their translation is not up to our standards? Do they offer a refund? Discount? Retranslation?

THREE – look for reviews/testimonials of their services, if available.

What did other clients say about this translator? Was the service satisfactory? How was the communication process? Was the translator able to provide creative solutions that meet the clients’ particular requirements?

Now things are getting a little more serious. In order to find out what the translator can do for you, you’ll need to decide what you need. Do you just want an ok job done because you have a limited budget? Or are you willing to pay a bit more, and get more in return?

Translation is a service for sale. Just like any service in the market, there’s someone who just about does the job, for a reasonable price. The work might not be perfect. You might need to send the translation back for editing because of some errors (that’s if you catch them), so more time than necessary is spent. The target audience might recognise what they’re reading is a piece of translation from another language instead of one written in their mother tongue.

And, there are those who charge a premium, but offer you so much more than “quality” (think luxury brands). The translation says what you want it to say, and resonates with the target audience the way the original text does with the original audience. It talks to them in a voice as if you are talking to them directly, instead of feeling like the message has been relayed by someone else. What’s more, it creates an impression that your team is big enough to have someone who speaks the target audience’s language, or at least that you value them enough to pay for a very good translation.

Here’s a real-life story that’s quite the opposite. A few months ago I was at a property investment event. At the end of the presentations, we were given goodie bags in which there were brochures from the event sponsors. Among them there was a leaflet in Chinese from a wealth management firm. Coincidentally I was looking for help from such a firm so my money wouldn’t just sit in the bank and depreciate. So I started to read it with full interest.

The first glance gave me a bad feeling, as I noticed that among the simplified Chinese characters, there were some traditional ones (they were easily spotted because they have significantly more strokes than the others).

The closer I looked, the less interested I became. Some sentences hardly made sense, even if without the typos that dotted through the article. There were also instances where both the traditional and simplified versions of the same characters were seen in different places. It looked like the work was rushed and not much care was taken in producing this leaflet.

From a technical perspective, it seemed that the article was translated into traditional Chinese first, and then converted into simplified version (which can be easily done via a software, for example, Microsoft Word) without making adjustment for the different grammar and language habits.

Even within the same “variety” of the written language, traditional Chinese in Hong Kong differs from the one in Taiwan; simplified Chinese in Mainland China is not used exactly same way as the one in Singapore. A trustworthy and competent translator would be about to tell you that.

I couldn’t help but suspect that one of the two scenarios might have happened: either, the firm didn’t do enough research to find a trustworthy translator (I’m sure you can think of many reasons and none of it will sound great); or, the firm was made aware of the language difference, but chose to ignore it, because converting the Chinese characters is cheaper and less of a hassle than having the text translated again. Either way, would you trust this firm with your money? I wouldn’t. And I didn’t.

For more information about our translation service, please contact our team.

Ten facts you need to know about the Chinese language

The Chinese language has evolved over the centuries into modern Mandarin that is spoken and written today. It is a language deeply rooted in cultural significance and modern practicality. It is fun and fascinating to learn. Here are ten facts about Chinese which we hope will give you insights to parts of the language that you may not really know.

1, Are Chinese and Mandarin the same languages?

A: Mandarin is the official language of China. It’s also referred to as Standard Chinese or Putonghua. But that doesn’t mean Mandarin is the only language in China.  Far from it! Many varieties of regional Chinese exist. These are often called “dialects,” i.e. Shanghai dialect, Hunan dialect, Shaanxi dialect, etc. It is worth pointing out that Cantonese is one from of the regional language in China. Besides dialects, some Chinese ethnic minorities also have their own languages, some of which are not written.

2, Is there any similarity in pronunciation between Chinese and English?

A: Yes! The pronunciation of some English words has had an impact on the sound of the Chinese equivalent, i.e. chocolate – 巧克力 (qiǎokèlì), sofa – 沙发 (shāfā), bus – 巴士 ( bāshì), coffee – 咖啡 ( kāfēi), etc.

3, How many people in China speak English? How many people in the UK speak Chinese?

A:  Among its population of 1.3 billion, it is reported that only around 10 million Chinese people speak English. Although there is no definitive number of British people speaking Chinese, reports have shown that among its 66 million population, 38% speak at least one foreign language, 18% speak two and 6% speak three or more. Chinese has long been perceived to be the most difficult language to learn and it has never been very popular in the UK. That view is, however, changing. According to British Council, Mandarin Chinese is predicted to become the second most popular foreign language learned in UK schools. It is already studied by more students than German or Russian. At the moment only French and Spanish are more popular.

4, When do Chinese children begin to learn Chinese characters?

A: Although Chinese children officially start to learn characters after they enter primary school (at the age of 6), these days many Chinese families teach their children before nursery (at about 3yrs). According to the national syllabus, primary school students should be able to read and write the following number of characters:

Year 1-2: Read 1600, write 800;

Year 3-4: Read 2500, write 1600;

Year 5-6: Read 3000, write 2500;

Year 7-9: Read/write 3500.

To get your Chinese level on the chart, one will have to push for HSK4 or GCSE. ;-(

5, How many characters do you need to know in order to read Chinese newspapers fluently?

A: Although there are over 50,000 characters in Chinese (a comprehensive modern dictionary will list about 20,000 frequently used characters), an educated Chinese person will only know about 8,000 characters. To read mainstream publications, the requirement is much lower – you will only need about 2-3,000. Still, one needs to work towards HSK Level 5 to almost become a native speaker!

6, Are there any rules for Chinese writing?

A: There is no space between Chinese characters.  For each character, the general writing rule is to start from the left to the right, from the top move to the bottom, and from the middle to the two sides. You may like to consider how to write “ 大” following the above rule.

7, What is the most complicated Chinese character?

A:   “biáng”  is an unofficial character which has 64 strokes. Not only does the dizzying number of strokes dwarf just about any other, biáng needs to be written twice when appears in the name of a famous Shaanxi region dish (biángbiáng miàn). “biáng” is an onomatopoeia for the sound of noodles slapping against the chef’s cooking top.

8, Are there any good ways to learn the characters?

A: Definitely yes! Trying to remember some common radicals is very helpful. For example, plant radical “艹” (cǎo zì tóu). The characters with this radical are ordinarily related to plants: 草 (cǎo, grass), 花(huā, flower ), 菜 (cài, vegetable); another example is the water radical “氵” (sān diǎn shuǐ). The characters with this radical are ordinarily related to water: 海 (hǎi, sea),  河 ( hé, river), 洗 (xǐ, to wash).

9, While spoken Chinese languages and dialects vary across the country, written Chinese has only slight regional variations. Do you know why?

A: That’s because the Chinese characters are logograms. They represent words or phrases rather sounds. As such, they transcend most of the variations in speech found across China. That said, there are some dialectal differences in written Chinese, particularly with Cantonese and Hakka. Mostly, these differences are apparent in informal writing between friends or online. However, written Cantonese is sometimes used in adverts in Hong Kong, especially in Hong Kong’s Metro.

10, Are there any benefits of learning Chinese other than cultural and linguistic awareness?

A: Studies suggest that people who speak Chinese will learn to use both temporal lobes of their brains, whereas English speakers will only use the left side (sorry!). Both temporal lobes are required to distinguish between words that have different intonation in Chinese.