Yesterday was the 11th of the 11th, a day which China has dubbed ‘Single’s day’. What is single’s day you ask?
Well, it was originally started as a celebration of being single in a culture and country that puts pressure on its youth to enter into relationships and eventually get married.
However, largely thanks to the retail giant, Alibaba, single’s day has now become the world’s largest shopping holiday! That’s right, even bigger than Black Friday, Cyber Monday or any other Western shopping holiday.
But how big is single’s day really?
To really put it in perspective how big single’s day really is, in 2016 over $17 billion was spent on single’s day, which is more than double what was spent on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime day combined!
I bet you’re wondering what the grand total was for this year, aren’t you? A whopping $25 billion !!
Why has ‘single’s day’ become a shopping holiday?
The highly esteemed CEO of Alibaba, Jack Ma, decided back in 2009 to create a shopping promotion around a holiday. The holiday he chose was 11/11, or single’s day!
The idea behind their promotion was for single people to let go of the societal pressure and treat themselves in celebration of being single.
So… Does that mean only single people can splurge on single’s day?
Nope! Since 2009 the holiday has evolved dramatically and I now would argue, is only about the shopping! Anyone can take advantage of the crazy sales that happen on single’s day.
While it is mostly Alibaba doing the selling, through Tmall (天猫) and Taobao (淘宝) – their two biggest selling platforms in China, other eCommerce platforms such as JD.com and a host of others have also jumped on the bandwagon. Even brick and mortar stores are partaking in the madness.
I can’t even imagine how hard the 快递 (delivery men) are working to get everyone’s packages delivered on time. Just take a look at the pictures below.
What can we learn from single’s day?
Single’s day targets the young Chinese middle class who show evidence of stepping away from the traditional Chinese values of frugality and getting by with what you have.
The enormousness of single’s day is proof of a shifting culture and mindset among many young Chinese.
Single’s day also represents a global shift in power within the eCommerce industry. China has shown that it’s clearly way ahead in terms of its online sales and consumer engagement.
Once again it’s China surging ahead and the rest of the world marveling at what it’s been able to achieve.
Single’s day not only represents China’s growing power as an eCommerce giant but it also represents an opportunity for Western retailers to get rich selling goods to China.
If you do plan on selling in China though, then you’re going to have to things the Chinese way! Studying the brilliance of Jack Ma is the first step to understanding just how to break into this highly lucrative market.
Although this post is technically a day late… From all of us over here at Talking Mandarin:
bloomberg.com – Why single’s day in China is the biggest shopping spree ever
independent.co.uk – Single’s day celebrates the new religion of China’s middle class – consumerism
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Are you contemplating the idea of teaching English in China but don’t know if you have what it takes? Well, congratulations, you’ve found the right blog post!
Today I’m going to talk about my personal experience teaching English in China, why I did it and whether or not it’s something I would recommend. Read ahead to find out what you may be in for!
I went over to China after I finished high school. I completed my TEFL course (two of them in fact) online and immediately set off for Beijing where I enrolled in an internship program.
As part of the program, we did some practical training in Beijing as well which was a nice supplement to the theory I’d learned in the online TEFL course. However, by the time it came for me to teach my first lesson I still felt like I had absolutely ZERO idea what I was doing.
That’s where my co-teacher came in. You see, in some schools, you will be teaching alongside a local (Chinese) English teacher and the two of you will carry out the lesson together.
Having a co-teacher was great. She had lots of experience and of course, already knew all of the kids. I looked to her to drive the lessons forward and I stepped in to do my part when needed.
Having a co-teacher took a lot of pressure off of me.
Aside from that, being a local teacher, she understood Chinese students really well and could yell at them in Chinese when they misbehaved.
However, you won’t always have a co-teacher. Many schools expect you to take the class all by yourself (depending on the age of the children – Kindergarten is different but I’ll get to that).
I should mention that although we were technically interns, we weren’t really interns. We were essentially full-time teachers, with full-time teacher responsibilities on an intern’s salary.
You’re probably wondering, why would you waste your time doing an internship?!
Well, there are a few advantages to doing an internship over getting a full-time job in China.
The first is that interns can teach in China on a student visa. For any kind of full-time position, you’d need a working visa, which can be a real battle to obtain. As an ‘intern’, however, a student visa will suffice.
Internships also typically have short contracts (six months usually). This is nice because if you decide the middle kingdom just isn’t for you, you’re not locked into a 1-2 year contract like most schools would require you to be.
Finally, you do NOT need a degree to be an intern English teacher, whereas many fulltime positions would require this.
Anyway, after the internship, where I had been teaching primary school, I went and got a full-time position…at a kindergarten!
Teaching at a kindergarten
Teaching at a kindergarten was certainly an interesting change of pace for me. Whereas the primary school had been fairly regimented and the day-to-day tasks were pretty similar, kindergarten was unpredictable and all over the place!
Kindergarten children are, obviously, a lot younger than primary school children and so require your constant attention. Although my job title was ‘foreign teacher’, I was, in fact, an English teacher, math teacher, art teacher, fitness teacher, caretaker, and policeman all in one!
In other words, I also taught art, math and fitness classes (When I say ‘fitness’, what I mean is outside play time). I also had to watch the children, play with them and just generally make sure they were safe and happy at all times.
I wasn’t alone, though. I worked as part of a team. In my kindergarten, there were four teachers in every class. The foreign teacher (a.k.a me), the Chinese head teacher, the assistant teacher and the ‘life’ teacher.
We all did our thing and helped each other out when needed. I was lucky to have such fantastic teachers in my class. We all got on really well and my Chinese improved so much because of them.
I should mention that not all kindergarten jobs are the same. You see, the kindergarten I taught at branded itself as an ‘international’ kindergarten and so in every class, there was one foreign teacher.
However, many kindergartens can’t afford to have a foreign teacher in every class and so instead will higher one foreign teacher to teach English to ALL the classes.
It sounds hectic but the upshot is that your ONLY job there is to teach English. You won’t necessarily be asked to look after children or do extra activities with them. Some people prefer this.
I substituted at a different kindergarten, for another teacher at one point and I had to teach 5 classes every day (as opposed to just one at my main job) and I found it exhausting. Not only that but planning 5 different lessons each day was a real challenge.
What I learned being an English teacher in China
Being an English teacher in China I learned responsibility. I was just 19 at my first job but I was responsible for improving the English of a class full of Chinese children.
It was tough but I found it enjoyable and satisfying watching the children grow and improve.
I taught kindergarten for about two years. When I arrived I had many kids in my class who hardly spoke one word of English and I’m proud to say that by the time I left, they could all speak and understand basic English.
However, it’s important to remember…
As an English teacher in China, your job isn’t just teaching English!
You’re there to teach the children about the world, about different cultures and different food. While you’re in China you are an ambassador for your country (and for the West in general!)
Many of the children you’ll be teaching won’t know much about other countries or cultures and sometimes your Chinese colleagues won’t either. It’s your job to educate them!
THIS is the real job you’re there to do.
To sum up, I would recommend teaching English in China to just about anyone. I honestly thought I wouldn’t have a clue about dealing with children but I managed to figure it out. If I can, you can!
If you’re still on the fence, I want you to think hard about the following five questions:
Do you feel as though you desperately need a change?
Do you enjoy being challenged and pushing yourself?
Can you handle responsibility?
Do you feel as though its time you’ve gotten out of your comfort zone?
Are you good on your feet/when you need to improvise?
If you answered yes to these 5 questions then get off the fence, buddy! You’re going to China!
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Learning Mandarin by watching… The Big Bang Theory? We’ll get to this in a minute but first…
A quick tangent about tones in Chinese
One of the reasons Mandarin Chinese is so intimidating to people is the notion that if you mess up the tones even just a little bit, then the meaning of what you’re trying to say can change drastically. This is the reason why It’s really important to focus on tones right from the start when learning Chinese!
I don’t want to scare you too much. It’s just important to emphasize that tones are not simply a small part of the Chinese language, they ARE the language.
It’s important to remember that in order to be understood when speaking Chinese, the very minimum you’ll need is a decent command of the four tones. Notice how I said tones and not pronunciation!
Pronunciation refers to the way the word is said and tone refers to the pitch of a word. Often times, if you pronounce something wrong, you can still be understood provided your tones are correct!
This is actually pretty cool because it means that having correct tones can save you when you mess up a word’s pronunciation. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t work the other way round.
For the rest of this blog post, we’re going to analyze Sheldon’s use of Mandarin in ‘The Big Bang Theory’.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
Sheldon speaks Chinese
If you’re a fan of the hit show ‘The Big Bang Theory’ then you may have noticed that various characters throughout the show’s 10 seasons have had a go at speaking Mandarin.
The first instance of this is at the end of season one when Howard tries to teach Sheldon Mandarin (Chinese must just about be the only subject that Sheldon DOESN’T have a Ph.D. in!).
The reason that Sheldon wants to learn Mandarin is that he believes the local Chinese restaurant, Szechuan Palace, is passing orange chicken off as tangerine chicken (Oh heavens, how could they?).
Sheldon wants to confront them about this awful conspiracy and elicits Howard’s help to learn the phrase ‘给我看你用的陈皮’. ‘Show me your tangerine peels’.
Let’s break the sentence down:
给我看 – Show me (literally give (给) me (我) look (看))
你用的 (nǐ yòng de) – your used
陈皮 (chén pí) – Tangerine peels – NOTE: The word for peel/rind, 皮 (pí), can be used in general to mean the outer skin of something. For example 饺子皮 – means the outside part of a dumpling).
Languages clearly aren’t his strong suit but Sheldon’s pronunciation of this sentence wasn’t bad! I’ll give him 7/10!
When Sheldon is practicing this sentence, he gets tapped on the back by Penny and gets an awful fright. He yells out 吓死我了 ‘you frightened me’. Sheldon nailed this one. 9/10!
Let’s break it down:
吓 (xià) – to frighten, to scare
死 (sǐ) – death
我 (wǒ) – me
了 (le) – Here this particle ‘le’ is used for emphasis
So a more accurate translation might be ‘you scared me to death!’
You’ll see this construction being used quite a bit in Mandarin Chinese. The word ‘死了’ is often used to emphasize a negative adjective.
Let’s have a look at some examples using the construction adjective + 死了
我累死了 – ‘I’m so tired I could die’
我饿死了 – ‘I’m so hungry I could die’
热死了 – ‘I’m so hot I could die’
痛死了 – ‘It’s so painful I could die’
So after all Sheldon’s practice, how were the results of his studies? Well, not very good, unfortunately.
He messed up his pronunciation!
At the end of the episode, Sheldon goes to Szechuan Palace with the intent of asking them to show him their tangerine peels. However, he messes up his pronunciation and instead says ‘鼻涕在哪儿’. Meaning, ‘Where is the snot?’
Clearly what he meant to say was ‘陈皮在哪儿?’ – ‘Where are the tangerine peels?’
NOTE: His mistake here was saying 鼻涕 (bí tì) instead of 陈皮 (chén pí)
Let’s break it down:
鼻涕 (bí tì) – ‘snot’ or ‘mucous’
在哪儿 (zài nǎ ér) – ‘where’
Sheldon’s sentence construction is good, he just messes up the first part of the sentence by saying 鼻涕 instead of 桔皮. Unfortunately, I’ll have to give him a 4/10 for this one.
The construction ‘Object + 在哪儿?’ Means ‘Where is (Object)?’
Let’s look at some examples of this construction:
书在哪儿? – Where is the book?
椅子在哪儿 ? – Where is the chair?
手机在哪儿? – Where is the cell phone?
‘在哪儿’ can also be used to ask where a place is. For example:
公园在哪儿? – Where is the park?
地铁站在哪儿? – Where is the subway station?
Just remember next time you want to confront your local Chinese restaurant about the authenticity of their food, have you pronunciation checked by a native speaker first!
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One of the very best ways to learn any foreign language is through immersion. You might have heard some people go as far to say that learning Chinese through immersion is the only possible way to learn the language. This is definitely incorrect, although, it probably is the best way.
What is language immersion?
Language immersion is basically the act of completely immersing yourself in the language you’re studying.
How do you do this, you ask?
Well, it may come as a surprise to you, but going to the country where the language is spoken is not the only answer to this question! There are two types of language immersion; what we’ll call ‘in-country immersion’ and ‘out-of-country immersion’ or ‘virtual immersion’.
In this post, we’re going to focus on in-country immersion but make sure to sign up to our newsletter to be notified when new posts come out as we’re planning to talk about these two topics in much more detail in the coming weeks.
Should I really move to China JUST to learn the language?
The simple answer is no. Moving to a new country is a big deal and it would be really hard if you had no idea what you were getting yourself into. It’s not a good idea to make a big move without at least some desire to experience the lifestyle and culture of the country.
Before making a big move it’s a good idea to learn about the local culture, the climate and the rules and regulations with regards to visas and foreign residents.
Also, China is a BIG country (seriously, it’s huge). It’s preferable to do some research about different cities and provinces to decide where you want to go.
By the way, if you happen to choose Beijing you better be prepared for mind-numbingly cold winters and scolding hot summers!
The good news is that if you’re actively studying Mandarin Chinese, chances are that you’ve at least got some knowledge of China and its culture, history, and people.
The next thing worth considering is that China isn’t the only option you have for in-country immersion!
Ever heard of a little island called Taiwan? Taiwan is also Mandarin speaking and its capital city, Taipei, is known for being extremely safe and foreigner friendly!
How would I support myself in China/Taiwan?
The next big question is how you support yourself while you’re over in China or Taiwan. Well, there are a few options but the most popular by far is… teaching English!
My kindergarten class in Beijing
Teaching English is the popular choice as it pays quite well and jobs are readily available. Becoming an English teacher provides you with the visa and financial means you need to stay in China and learn Chinese through immersion.
Teaching English in Asia has become a really popular thing to do these days. With China’s recent economic boom, the demand for English teachers in the country has increased immensely.
Many Chinese parents have dreams of sending their kids to high school/university overseas in America or Britain and thus take their child’s English education very seriously.
This means that getting a job as an English teacher in Mainland China is pretty easy! As for Taiwan, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine there is no lack of jobs for English teachers there either. Check out this article if you’re interested in teaching English in Taiwan.
What are the requirements to teach English in China?
Well, to teach English in China full-time, you’ll need a working visa. In order to get one, you’ll need an employer (duh) as well as a bachelor’s degree (your degree can be in anything) and preferably a TEFL certificate too.
Along with those three key things, you’ll also need other standard documents such as a police clearance, health certificate etc. I plan to do another post on this at some point where I’ll go into much more detail.
The working visa laws change quite often in China so it’s a good idea to do some research of your own closer to your planned departure time.
The good news is that if you find a good employer (whether a school or agency), they will help you out with all the visa stuff! Working visas are usually issued for a period of one year and can be extended fairly easily.
English teaching jobs can range from kindergarten positions to corporate training for large companies. Just bear in mind that contracts are usually for a minimum of one year.
What if I don’t have a degree/can’t commit to a whole year?
If teaching English doesn’t scare you but spending a whole year abroad does, then why not do an internship?
Teaching internships in China generally run for six months and are a great way to ease yourself into a new way of life.
Internships are fun and you’re usually placed at a school with other foreigners. The best part about doing a teaching internship is that you don’t need a degree! The minimum you’ll need is a TEFL certificate.
If you’re interested I suggest checking out i-to-i TEFL.
What if I don’t want to teach English?
There are definitely other jobs available to foreigners in China besides teaching English. For example, I had a friend in Beijing who worked as a nightclub promoter and another who was an American football coach!
These kinds of positions tend to be harder to find, and only available in the bigger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou etc but it’s worth looking around because the opportunities are there!
Another idea is to save up a little more money and enroll in a 3-6 month intensive Mandarin course at a university or language school (check out Beijing Language and Culture University).
The advantage of this is that you’ll get access to quality Chinese teachers and you’ll also get issued a student visa, which can also be renewed should you decide to stay on.
Plus, if you decide to go this route, there’s no stopping you from privately tutoring English to local kids or students in your free time (just make sure they pay you cash in hand, as you’re technically not allowed to earn money without a working visa). Many people do this kind of thing for some extra drinks money!
If you’re really serious about moving to China/Taiwan in order to learn Chinese through immersion then It’s all about doing the research and deciding what option is best for you. Post on forums, speak to friends who’ve done similar things and just try to find out as much information as you can!
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This week we decided to focus on writing a post specifically about learning Mandarin Chinese. The topic of this blog post, ‘Five secrets to fluent Mandarin’, actually comes from our e-book. So, if you want to hear us go into more detail on the matter, then pick up a copy here.
Throughout my time in China, I encountered many foreigners who were on a journey to reach fluency in Mandarin. Some of them excelled and some of them gave up early on. I always wondered why this was. Many people would put it down to ‘talent’ and simply say that some people are better language learners than others, but I don’t subscribe to this line of thought… at all!
You see, I believe that anything can be learned. The level to which we can learn a new skill depends on how well we understand it. Passion and desire are the driving forces behind our learning but our level of understanding determines our level of success.
Have you ever heard someone say, ‘the more languages you know, the easier it is to learn another’? Well, the reason for this is that the more languages you have learned previously, the better you understand the whole language learning process. It’s quite logical really, the more you do something, the better at it you get.
However, what if Mandarin Chinese is the first language you’ve attempted to learn and you’re worried that because of your lack of experience learning languages that you’re going to fail?
Well, our aim is to give you all the knowledge and tools you need to succeed in your journey without necessarily having experience learning other languages.
Anyway, that’s enough rambling for now!
Let’s go straight to the five pillars of learning Mandarin, starting with number one…
1. Keep your Initial focus on listening and speaking
A lot of people want to dive straight into learning how to read and write characters when they begin learning Mandarin but we think this is a bad idea.
Because Chinese characters can be pretty intimidating, especially if you have zero knowledge of the language.
It would be really easy to sit and write out Chinese characters for hours each day only to forget them days later. The reason for this is that you need a base level, a foundation, in Chinese before you can comfortably start learning to read and write characters.
The other reason we think everyone should initially focus on listening and speaking is that those skills will improve really fast! Seeing such a quick improvement in your ability to speak and understand Mandarin will give you the confidence boost you need to continue your studies and learn to speak fluent Mandarin.
2. Maintain realistic expectations
We tend to get really excited when embarking on the journey of learning something new and this excitement often fades very quickly when we realise all of the hard work that lies ahead. That’s why if your goal is to be able to speak fluent Mandarin, it’s important to have realistic expectations.
As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is fluency in Mandarin.
People often start to lose motivation when they aren’t making as much progress as they hoped they would.
But here’s the secret. There are often many ‘clicking points’ in language learning. A clicking point is when everything you’ve been studying suddenly all comes together and you feel like you finally understand everything that was previously lost on you.
It may take a little while to reach your first clicking point but if you follow these five secrets, you definitely will.
3. Study consistently
What ‘study consistently’ really means here is do a little bit every single day. In order to make progress in a new language, you have to be exposed to the language on a daily basis. Consistently spending time with the language will allow your brain to slowly get used to it and you’ll subconsciously begin to decipher all its rules and patterns.
Studying for hours one day and doing nothing the next is not a winning strategy!
Even if there’s one day in the week where you literally only have 10 minutes free, use that time to do something in Mandarin – Review yesterday’s material, listen to a podcast, have a go at writing a self-introduction or send your Chinese pen pal a message. It doesn’t matter, just make sure you’re putting the time in every day to improving your Mandarin and you will achieve fluency.
4. Pay attention to tones
Tones are extremely important in Chinese. Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. A somewhat decent command of the four tones is the very minimum you’ll need to be understood by native speakers. It’s really important that you focus on getting the tones correct from day one! Neglecting tones, in the beginning, will come back to bite you later on.
You don’t want to have to go back and retrain your pronunciation after months of studying.
It may be frustrating and difficult but making a conscious effort to learn the four tones, in the beginning, will pay off greatly when native speakers start showering you in compliments – saying things like ‘你的发音非常好!’
5. Study efficiently
Lastly, we have efficiency. Studying efficiently means learning the most that you can in the time that you have available to you. In other words, if you only have 20 minutes a day to dedicate to your Mandarin studies, it’s probably not wise to use that time watching Chinese dramas. It would be a better use of your time to listen to more dialogues and learn new vocabulary.
Also, it’s important that you start to integrate the Mandarin language into your day, every day.
Do you take the subway to work? Well, why not use that time to review the previous day’s dialogues?
These are our five secrets to fluent Mandarin! Remember, our e-book ‘Talking Mandarin’ goes into much more detail on each of these five points, so grab a copy if you’re interested.
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