Pinyin Practice

Mandarin Pronunciation Exercises and Learning Components
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12 Video Sites to Entertain and Practice Chinese

August 05, 2009 By: Pei Category: Learning Chinese, listening

1. www.danwei.org – Ok, the first isn’t really a video site, but rather great video content.  More than just videos, but truly insightful, entertaining and educational content. I’m not sure if they are still actively producing videos, but check out their archives.

2. www.asizia.com – movies for download. They also have a collection of Japanese and Korean films. Not sure how legit this site is.

3. www.china-8.com – you will need to register to watch the videos on this site, or you can find many of them on their YouTube channel.

4. Yangyang Chinese School also has many videos on YouTube (www.youtube.com/user/sloppycheng). Tutoring is also available.

5. $ www.netflix.com – I’ve had netflix for a little while, maybe about a year now, and I have to say I am impressed with the selection and site functionality and mail turn-around time. Quite frankly, I don’t know how they are able to do this so quickly. I live in rural Iowa! (Netflix is a DVD rental site in the U.S.)

YouTube Style Sites

The remaining section are YouTube style video sharing sites with plenty of television clips and movies loaded. Actually, these sites seem to be more about tv/movies than individuals loading their own content – but that is there too. I can’t figure out why, but these sites seem to insist on opening more and more windows every time I click to play a video. Is it just me?

6. www.youku.com – one strategy on sites like these is to find English educational content. It might be easier to understand than others. A great way to practice your listening skills!

7. www.tudou.com

8. www.aeeboo.com

9. ku6.com

10. 6.cn. (Liù Jiàn Fáng)

Documentary videos

11. PBS Video. This link is a search on the word “Chinese.”

12. Snagfilms.com. Nice collection of professionally produced films.

Practice Pronunciation and Writing with VoiceThread

August 01, 2009 By: Pei Category: Characters, Learning Chinese, Pronunciation

Voicethread.com offers a unique service for presentation and interaction with material and those interested in the material. Sign up on voicethread to participate in this activity (there is a free basic level).

Once you are signed up, come back here and record yourself reading the slides. Or if you are at a more advanced level, try recording a sentence with each word. Or if you want to practice writing, try writing the characters with the annotation tool. If you want your annotations to stick (fading is the default), click the center white circle before making your annotation on the image. Nifty, no?

I’ve provided a model for you to follow for this first one. Record your own reading and I will give you some feedback.

5 Great Ways to Enter Pinyin on Your Blog

July 29, 2009 By: Pei Category: Reviews

At some point, if you haven’t already, you will need to enter Pinyin on your blog or someone else’s blog. Here are some super sweet plugins and websites that will most certainly bāng your máng.

1. The Pinyin Tone Tool

pinyin tone tool

Visit this website to type pinyin into the textbox with numbers representing the tones 1-5 immediately following each syllabus. Click convert and copy/paste the results.  Could that be any more simple?! Well, sure it can…

2. Pinyin Tone Tool Plugin (Firefox) – this is super slick as it is always available, without having to visit another site. Only problem I’ve discovered is it doesn’t work with WordPress’ visual WYSIWIG editor. Might be true for any tinyMCE text area. To use it, you still type in the tone numbers, highlight the text to convert and click the plugin’s PIN button on the browser.

3. Chinese-Tools Pinyin Editor

Chinese-Tools Pinyin Editor

A quick, as you type, conversion tool. If you make many mistakes it can be a little frustrating as you need to delete the entire final and re-enter. Solution: make fewer mistakes. And for those who like visual keyboards, or have trouble remembering the numbers of the tones, you can click on the correct toned letter beneath the entry box. Copy and paste the results.

4. Somemilk’s Pinyin Tones WordPress Plugin – If you host your own WordPress blog, and are troubled by visiting other sites or installing yet another Firefox plugin, this might be the solution for you. With this WordPress plugin, you enclose all pinyin within [pinyin] [/pinyin], and when you publish the enclosed is converted on the site like this: wǒ shì lǎoshī. Makes for easy fixing if there are errors.

5. MDBG Chinese Dictionary WordPress Plugin – Take Somemilk’s plugin and add a bit more with links to the MDBG dictionary. Not so much for the pinyin, but if you use [hanzi] [/hanzi], this tool can provide a quick answer to those who don’t understand. MDBG also has a converter tool on their site you can use if you are not using WordPress.

Language Teacher Types and Tips to Impress Them

July 26, 2009 By: Pei Category: Learning Chinese

Language teachers are a mixed breed for sure, and knowing what kind (or hodgepodge) of instructor you have is key to unlocking the mystery of language learning and super awesome grades.

Test, Test and More Tests

The testing teacher is one that relies on quizzes and exams to understand what it is you know and don’t know. They are not too difficult to spot. Testing has become for some instructors a bit of a mandate – they are forced into it due to state or even federal guidelines. As a result many teachers find themselves teaching in such a way that their students will earn high marks on standardized assessments. Sometimes they might even be let go if their students to not make the grade. And so it only stands to reason these teachers assess often and are really really happy when you perform well.

How to perform well is a more tricky question. Studying helps. But you need to study in such a way that really prepares you for the assessment. If it’s a multiple choice test, flashcards can help a lot – multiple choice is all about the recognition. If you will be asked to perform orally, then you will need to practice your responses out loud prior to the assessment – preferably with someone who could correct you. But if you can’t find anyone, just being able to respond quickly and confidently will earn you favor. Be confident and quick even when you don’t quite understand what the question was. Your instructor won’t likely remember that you didn’t answer the right question, but will remember how effortlessly you spoke on whatever question you did answer.

Drill Sergeant

Repeat after me. Say it again! Now repeat after the online recording. Next I’ll fire the same question at the class and only change one or two words in the question. And repeat.

Repetition is great for learning. I repeat, repetition is great for learning. The problem with it from the students’ perspective is it can be rather dull and sometimes confusing. Dull if you already know the drill and confusing if you neglected to prepare and all you can say in response is “Wǒ bù dǒng.” So surely the key is to prepare just enough so that the exercise is challenging. That’s a little tricky at the beginning of a course, so better to over-prepare and focus your challenge on perfect pronunciation. If you do have a bad day and find yourself unprepared, try repeating the question and change one word. Whatever word you can and still make a sentence. You will perhaps get the drill wrong, but you produced language and participated in class. You didn’t hold up anyone else’s learning or the instructor’s instructional momentum. That’s worth points!

Lecturer

Hey everyone! Look at me, I’m center stage. Everything I tell you is comprised of golden nuggets of knowledge. Pay attention to me and stop facebooking during my class.

The lecturer as language instructor is rare, but they are certainly out there. Sometimes instructors bust out this personality to drone on about linguistics and grammar. No, it’s not a drone, more of a soothing hum. The best way to impress such an instructor is to stay captivated. What the lecturer craves is an audience. If you are unfortunate and find yourself in a boring lecture, or just tired, try injecting some questions or ask for examples that would illustrate the point (be sure to raise your hand if that is expected). That will keep you more engaged and sends a clear message to the expert that you are a captivated learner.

Director

All the worlds a stage, including my classroom. And my students are the actors.

The director teacher can be difficult to predict and can therefore be difficult to prepare for. Creativity with the language seems to be at the heart of these instructors. Whenever possible, include props with your language production. If you are practicing buying and selling, break out some cash. Or better yet, ask (in Chinese or other L2) a classmate to borrow five kuai. It will be funny and totally in character.

Your character should only ever speak Chinese. The moment you enter the classroom you are performing and if you break character that will cost you some points. If you can’t think of how to say what you want to say, try saying that (Wǒ bùzhīdào yīnggāi zěnme shuō). As long as you don’t over use this technique it can provide time for someone else to fill in the gaps.

What kind of teacher do you have? Any tips on how to succeed?

Popup Chinese

December 22, 2008 By: Pei Category: Pinyin Practice, website

You’ve probably already discovered several Chinese learning websites. But do yourself a favor and be sure to check out Popup Chinese. This website is both elegantly designed and technologically savvy. The podcast recordings are high quality and engaging – the couple I listened to just now impressed me – the language is genuine and useful. The Tools — dictionary, adsotrans, and newsinchinese — are easy to use and just slick. Can you tell I am impressed?! Take a look at the clickable dictionary search functionality:

And the dictionary is user editable too. So, when you are done with you Pinyin activities, check out Popup.