Masterlist of Chinese Language Learning Resources

I’ve studied eight foreign languages, and the one I’ve gotten the farthest with is Mandarin Chinese. I minored in it, figured out what did and didn’t work for me, and have found which language learning resources are truly top-notch. So, here are my recommendations for just that!

***The first time I name a new resource, I will bold it so that you don’t miss out!***

 

TEXTBOOKS

I’ve come across a lot of terrible language textbooks in my studies, but thankfully I’ve found some great ones for learning Mandarin. My favorites are the entire sequence of the Integrated Chinese books, and, once you’re through with those I’d move onto the Princeton Language Study books. Specifically, A Trip to China is the next one I’d recommend! 

 

APPS & WEBSITES

When online, I’dc recommend switching all your sites over to Chinese; Facebook, Youtube, the whole deal. Additionally, join sites like Youku and Weibo to connect with Chinese speakers and learn what’s current!

The biggest recommendation I have however, is to download the Zhongwen: Chinese-English dictionary plugin off the Google store (which is free!) or some other text-to-pinyin plugin. When you hover your cursor over a Chinese character, it will give you both the traditional and simplified characters, pinyin pronunciation, and definition. This helps leaps and bounds in learning new words and understanding what you’re reading.

As for apps, my favorites for studying Mandarin are Decipher, Pleco, Memrise, LearnwithOliver, and Lang-8.

The most basic Chinese language app out there is ever-popular dictionary app of Pleco. Pleco has everything you’d want in a dictionary, from flashcard functionality, to stroke order, to audio, to hand-writing, and so on. This is the number one thing I recommend to Chinese learners of every level.

Decipher is another great app, and very different from others out there. It has daily news articles in Chinese, where you can click on words you don’t understand and add them to flashcard decks, see the HSK ranking (汉语水平考试, essentially a difficulty or proficiency rating) of each article, etc.

Memrise is a convenient app that drills vocabulary and sentence-building, where you can also hear the words spoken for you. This is good for pronunciation, which is very, veryvery important for Chinese since it’s a tonal language. 

LearnWithOliver is a website, not an app, but it’s one of my favorite resources out there. They’ll email you words of the day tailored to your preferred difficulty level, have drills from multiple choice to sentence construction, reading segments, and so forth, and is all-over just a great resource. This is a high-quality and extremely under-rated gem for language learning, Chinese or not.

For practicing your writing, I have yet to find a site better than Lang-8. There you can write journal entries, and native speakers will correct them to sound more natural. Plus, you can make friends and language-practice buddies!

HABITS

You want exposure to Mandarin EVERY. DAY. Wake up and, before you get out of bed, read a light news article in Chinese on your phone. As you’re commuting to work or school, listen to Chinese podcasts or music. Try to make friends and talk to people through WeChat and Lang-8 in your target language. Just make an effort!

The Great Hypnotist movie poster
The Great Hypnotist, a Chinese psychological thriller.

Watching dramas and movies is a great way to learn new vocabulary and colloquialisms; you can go use Netflix and YouTube, but a recent website I’ve discovered is AiQiYi, and it has almost every Chinese show you could ever want on it. (My favorite Chinese movie right now is The Great Hypnotist. It’s on Netflix, so check it out!) Great musical artists to listen to are Fang Da Tong, Zhou Jie Lun, and Qu Wanting, but there are many others as well.  Trying to copy what someone else is saying, whether in a movie or a song, will give you a more natural pronunciation, and also help you to achieve better fluency.

 

I hope these recommendations and tips help you on your language journey! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on my own studies, my move to China, or my other travels, you can subscribe to my mailing list or my YouTube channel, or follow me on my social media accounts via the sidebar. ✨

Until next time! 再见!

 

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Weekend in Las Vegas

From July 7th through the 9th, I was in Las Vegas! It was a weekend trip, put together by my loving boyfriend as a birthday + graduation gift to me. Watch the video above to see the different places we visited (plus all of the mouth-watering food we ate), and below I’ll give you the names and details–plus a few additional photos.

Day 1

We left for Vegas at around 3 in the afternoon, and, with a brief layover in Denver, CO, made it in at around 6PM. (Thank you, time zones!) For this evening, we mostly walked the strip and settled into our hotel, The Monte Carlo, so we could prepare for the excitement of tomorrow!

Highlights: Sleep. 

 

Day 2

When we woke up, Vegas was still sleeping off last night’s hangover, leaving us to take advantage of the relative quietude to see the city! The shopping here was insane, from Gucci to Louis Vuitton to Prada to Tiffany’s, so . . . yeah, I’m going to assume people drop some major cash here. We spent a good portion of the day window-shopping, admiring bizarre artwork, and so forth.

For us though, it’s all about that food life! After going to the Nathan Burton Comedy Magic Show (a great value for the price, and no, I’m not being paid to say that!), we got ready to dine at Prime, a steakhouse within a literal arm’s reach from the Bellagio fountains. I’m not sure if it was the ambience, my handsome date, or what, but let me say this loud and clear: that was the best steak of my life. And I’m from Texas. I know steak.

Sweet lord, this steak left me weak at the knees.

Later on that evening, I gambled for the first time via slot machine just to say I’d done it, and ended up winning $50 bucks! I cashed out immediately, because otherwise, well, that’s how they get ya. Stay smart, kids.

One of the many beautiful sights we saw. This glasswork was located inside the Bellagio hotel.

Highlights: The filet at Prime Steakhouse; the Bellagio fountains; seeing the Chihuly glass ceiling. 

 

Day 3

Poolside view.

We woke up early to go swimming at the Mandalay Bay pools, both their wave pool and their lazy river, to work up a sufficient appetite for the Bacchanal Buffet at Caesar’s Palace. And boy, am I glad we did.

 

One of five plates I ate. (I’m all for that carb life.)

Because oh. My god. That was the most unreal buffet I’d ever been to. Crab legs, ramen, dim sum, red velvet pancakes, french fruit tartlets, and so on. If you’re going to go to a brunch in Vegas, I highly recommend this one. Our flight left relatively soon after, so that was largely our only activity for the day, but it was worth it 100 times over!

Highlights: Bacchanal Buffet.

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All in all, we had an amazing time in Las Vegas, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone looking for a weekend get-away. It was the perfect amount of time, too–in all honesty, I’m not sure what else we would have done if we’d stayed longer.

Have you ever been to Las Vegas? Have you ever gone on any other out-of-state weekend trips? Leave a comment below and tell me about your adventure!

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I’m Moving to China!

As you can tell from the title, I am moving across the globe to China! To the north-eastern city of Changchun, in fact. In this video I cover 4 main things about my upcoming journey: where I’ll be living, how long I’ll be there, what I’ll be doing, and why I’ve decided to go.

Where I Will be Living

I will be living in the medium sized city of Changchun, home to the head of the former Manchukuo puppet state, home of the last emperor, one of China’s famed garden cities, and so forth. Some of the things I’m most excited to see while I’m there are the natural hot springs and the yearly Ice Festival! (Check out the pictures below!)

One of Jilin’s popular hot springs.
The yearly Harbin Ice Festival.

How Long I’ll be There

My contract is for a full 12 months. I should be leaving for China in about mid-September, and thus will return one year from then.

What I’ll be Doing

I will be teaching English! I have such a passion for language and learning, so put those two together and, well, you can see why I’m so excited to go. 😉

Why I’m Going

This one is a longer answer, but I’ll boil it down to this: I love to travel, I want to improve my Chinese by actually immersing myself in the language and culture, this job will help me to get experience and funds for graduate school, and I simply want to. Ever since I was 11 years old, I’ve wanted to pack up and move overseas, and appreciate the culture and history of wherever I wound up. I see so many older folks say “I wish I’d done X, Y, or Z when I was younger”, and yet they never did. I refuse to let that be me.

Yes, it’s kind of scary moving overseas. Especially to a country half way around the world, where you only kinda-sorta understand the language and customs.  But if you never jump, you’ll never know what waits on the other side.

So, I’m jumping.

 

If you’d like to stay up-to-date with my many adventures in and around China, subscribe to my mailing list (in the right-hand sidebar), my YouTube channel, or any of my social media pages at the top!

 

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How to Actually Accomplish Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s finally 2017, and, having abandoned them in the past, you may or may not have set your New Year’s Resolutions. Here are my top five tips when setting and attempting to fulfill these ever-elusive goals.

New Year’s Resolutions are a big deal to me. I set about 12 a year, and usually accomplish 80% of those. Not too shabby! In order to come up with worthy goals and actually achieve them, here are my top five tips.

#1: Set Measurable Goals

Say you’re like millions of others and want to lose weight. What does that mean? Do you want to lose ten pounds, or three hundred? This is similar to those goals of people wanting to lose twenty pounds in a week; it’s unrealistic, unsustainable, and sets you up for failure from the get go. Have something you can measure day by day, and can actually track your progress on.

#2: Only Set Resolutions that Are Dependent on You

This is one that everybody falls into the trap of. For example, maybe you want to snag a promotion and make that a New Years Resolution. Now, I’m not one to stop others from aiming high–it’s a wonderful goal–but as far as a resolution, it’s not great. Why? Resolutions are something that you yourself resolve to do. And you’re not the one who ultimately decides if you get that promotion. Your boss does! What you can resolve to do instead is work your absolute hardest, put in good hours, volunteer for additional projects, and so forth.

#3: Break It Down Into Chunks

Part of the reason people don’t commit to big resolutions is because they seem so, well, big. But there are 12 months/52 weeks/365 days in a year. Women can create a person in that amount of time. Surely we can complete a goal of ours in that same window, right?

I like to break my goals down my month and week. For my current novel, THE IMMORTAL, I wanted to complete the first draft this year at about 70,000 words. That translates to about 5,800 words a month, and 1,350 a week. Knowing that, I have a plan of how many words to write a day. From there I simply have to put my butt in the chair and write. I frequently post monthly updates to my blog to keep myself accountable for what I’ve actually done.

#4: Choose Long-Term Interests

Listen, NY Resolutions are for an entire year. As we established above, that’s a lot of time. So if you’ve picked up a fleeting interests in, say, extreme ironing, don’t assume you’ll stay interested in it for the next 12 months.

#5: Don’t Share Your Plans, Share Your Progress

Heard the cliche ‘talk is cheap’? There’s a reason it’s so common. People love to talk about what they’re going to do, but rarely do it. Think of how many people say they’re going to write a book, yet have never sat down to write out a full outline, nonetheless an entire novel.

When we talk about our plans, we often overestimate what (if any) progress we’ve made on them. But if we let our actual progress speak for us, then both ourselves and others will take note.

 

I hope you found these tips helpful, and implement a few of them into your goal setting! What are your New Years Resolutions? Comment below!

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