Burst of Motivation

rypervenche Post in 新聞

So I haven’t been very motivated recently. I moved back home to the U.S. and haven’t continued much with my Mandarin since then. I have since changed operating systems and have been learning a lot more about GNU/Linux and a bit about programming, so that has kept me busy enough.

I am happy to say that I have found a new source for fun and learning Mandarin, in the shape of an official Final Fantasy game. That’s right, this time it’s an official translation, not a fan translation.

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I have the first in this series, and am really looking forward to playing this one in Chinese as well. The only problem is finding a way to get it. I could buy it here, Dissidia 012 (Chinese version), which seems to be the only place I can find to buy it, but alas, I have no money.

If anyone knows a place where I can get it, most likely 下載ing it, please let me know. I am still looking, but I haven’t had much luck as of yet.

I may add a Paypal link if anyone would like to donate for this, for Mandarin books, or for anything you wish the money to do go, but I doubt anyone would donate to begin with. I’ll think it over.


rypervenche Post in 簡化

Here is a character that I initially had trouble remembering, but after learning its etymology I have never forgotten it.

This beautiful character is a 會意.

For fun let’s look at 小篆 version. (These are real versions of the characters scanned from the 說文解字 if I’m not mistaken, except for 宀 because I couldn’t be arsed to crop it out of a normal character)

So what does all of this mean? 宀 means roof, 心 means heart, 皿 means plate, 丂 here is something like 示(alter). Over time the 丂 changed to 丁. So where heart in is the home (under the roof), and where food is on the table/alter is where it is peaceful or serene. And that is the meaning of this character, serenity, peace; peaceful.

It makes perfect sense.

Now let’s take a look at the simplified version of this character.

So all of the meaning has been stripped from this 會意, and it remains nothing more than 2 graphemes, one on top of the other. One could go so far as to say that it is now a 形聲, however, the fact that 丁 rhymes with 寧 is a lucky coincidence and no dictionary would call it so.

So while you do remove 9 strokes, you also remove the meaning of the character. If you are THAT worried about the number of strokes, then why not remove the Chinese characters altogether and make the written language an alphabet?


But wait! there’s more! 宁 is actually another character entirely! 宁(zhù) means “to store”. So now we have one character with two meanings in simplified Chinese and even more confusion. *sadface*

Explaining how easy Chinese is to others pt.2

rypervenche Post in 雜項

Spoken Chinese

Ok, so you’ve seen how a sound in Mandarin (and other Chinese languages) can mean many things. You have also seen how when written there is no confusion as to the meaning of each sound. However, how does this all work when you’re speaking? Surely native speakers don’t draw each syllable that is not understood and show it to the listener.

In Ancient Chinese and/or Classical Chinese monosyllabic words were no problem. There were enough sounds for the amount of words that they had in existence. However, with time and evolution the number of possible sounds (in Mandarin at least) came down to about 400. With tones this brings us to approximately 1600 distinct sounds, (English has many more than this, thus most words are easily distinguished from one another).

Let’s take a look at how Sinophones have overcome this hindrance.

The answer is simple: bisyllabism, i.e. using two syllables for one word.※ Two morphemes with either identical or similar meanings are used to create a word, whether it be a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, etc. With two syllables the chances misunderstanding a word are much lower.

例子 Examples

(thing, affair, matter)
事(thing, affair, matter)
情(emotion, situation)

There are literally hundreds of “shì”s in Mandarin (not to mention the hundreds of others that have different tones). Yet 事 is still used in its monosyllabic form. However, to distinguish it from the countless others this bisyllabic form is used and is the only word in Mandarin with the pronunciation “shì qíng”.

驚(to startle/frighten; to be startled/frightened)
訝(to be surprised)
Not only are synonyms used, but descriptive characters are also used.

視(to look at)

There are several words that are pronounced “chuāng”, however there is only one “shì chuāng”.

I just realized I had planned on writing this for people who are not (yet) learning Mandarin, but I ended up writing it toward those who are learning the language. I didn’t focus on “easy to understand” either… oops, my bad.

※There are other methods used to do this, but I am focusing on the most common. Another common method is adding a nominalizer, e.g. 子、頭、阿. While 孩 may be ambiguous if used alone, 孩子 is always understood. Same with 木/木頭 and 姨/阿姨.

Sorry for the lack of posts

rypervenche Post in 新聞

Hey guys, I’m sorry for the lack of content on the blog. I moved back to the United States about two and a half weeks ago, so I’m still getting settled in. I’ll try start posting again very soon. I may try to finish the second part of my last post today. I hope I still have followers 😛

Explaining how easy Chinese is to others pt.1

rypervenche Post in 雜項

Written Chinese

The written Chinese language is very intimidating and/or confusing to most who do not know how it actually works. Here is a very brief explanation of how Chinese characters are a very efficient and easy system, arguably easier than languages that use the Roman alphabet.

Over 97% of all Chinese characters have only 2 parts, a meaning part and a pronunciation. When looking at a character that you don’t know, you can use these parts to know a lot more about it.

Imaginary example

Let’s pretend that the words “maple”, “mother”, “river”, “hate”, “silver”, “shout”, “grab”, and “leg” are all pronounced “foo” in an imaginary language. They are all homonyms. However, when written each one has a little note next to it giving you a hint to its meaning.

Maple = wood-foo
Mother = woman-foo
River = water-foo
Hate = emotion-foo
Silver = metal-foo
Shout = sound-foo
Grab = hand-foo
Leg = bodypart-foo

This is essentially how Chinese works. Each character has a specific sound, which is given to us by a specific group of strokes that is known to the reader. In addition, there are 214 standard meaning parts which give us hints to characters’ meanings.

Real-life example

The phonetic part 辟 (bì). I’m going to ignore the tone for now, but just know that all of characters that follow are pronounced the same way and with the same tone.

(Click to enlarge)

This phenomenon is much like suffixes in the English language, except that it is only used in the written language. Imagine if almost all words in the English language used a list of standard suffixes.

New Tong Wen Tang 新同文堂

rypervenche Post in 雜項

Would you like to view this page in Simplified Chinese? Want to see Baidu in Traditional Chinese? No problem! Get New Tong Wen Tang (新同文堂) for your browser and you will be able to read any website in your preferred script.

**Click on the 繁 and 簡 to convert webpages, and the “S” and “T” to convert the clipboard.

**Click on the 同文 icon to toggle between Simplified and Traditional, right-click for more options.

**I have no experience with this browser, if you have tried it please let me know how to use it and I will update the post.

All other browsers
**Drag the 繁 and 簡 characters into your bookmarklets (tabs), then click on either one when on a webpage to convert it.

SPECIAL NOTE: As with all automatic converters, New Tong Wen Tang is not without fault. With characters that have multiple conversions, such as 斗 in SC, is both 斗 and 鬥 in TC, I believe it either uses the most common version or it has specific vocabulary in its database.

Either way you should learn these characters by heart, as you will encounter this problem all over the Internet. You can find a very complete list of these characters, here, 簡繁一對多.

More examples of 被

rypervenche Post in 雜項

Here are 2 more examples of 被 that I have found in my daily studying.

海綿寶寶(Spongebob Squarepants)

(Click to enlarge)


“The wire has been cut, how annoying.”(lit. very annoying)


(Click to enlarge)


在…後 → behind …
他身 → his body
也就是 → is also
鹿群 → deer herd
之前 → before
待 → to stay (first tone)
地方 → place
一大圈 → a large ring, a large circle
樹和草 → trees and grass
都 → all
燒焦 → to burn, to scorch
許多 → many, a lot of
松樹 → pine tree
光禿禿 → bald, naked
立著 → standing (站立著, but when object has no feet, you use 立著)
在…外面 → outside of …
焦黑 → burned black
圈子 → circle, ring
壓平 → to flatten

So literally this gives us, “Behind his body, is also previous deer herd staying place, a large circle of trees and grass all been burned, many pine trees nakedly standing, grass that is outside of burned black circle all been flattened.”

In normal English we have…

Behind him, where the deer herd had just been, a large circle of trees and grass had been burned. Many pine trees stood bald and outside of the blackened circle the grass had been flattened.

There you go, as requested a longer sentence from Eragon, as well as 3 real-life examples of 被. I hope you have enjoyed this post.^^

Fun ways to learn

rypervenche Post in 雜項

I know a lot of you out there think, “If I’m not learning from a textbook, or studying with flashcards, then I’m not learning.” Well I’ve got news for you, you don’t HAVE to learn that way!

You are not learning a foreign language to be able to take a test well, you are learning it to be able to communicate with others. Have fun with it! Don’t just sit there mindlessly memorizing vocabulary, taking tests, and killing yourself when you forget something. Go out and do something IN the language. You’ll be surprised, you can learn a lot from doing that.

Click to enlarge

I learned 2 new 成語 today from 海綿寶寶.

I’ve already beaten this game, but playing video games is a great way to learn.

Click to enlarge

I don’t often play MMOs, but you can learn a LOT of characters from them. What’s more, you can speak with native speakers in a fun environment.

Click to enlarge

Put your Facebook in Chinese. With the help of a Chinese Reader, you can learn a lot of very useful vocabulary, as well as sentence structures. But why stop there? Put your Skype in Chinese, put your MSN in Chinese. Put your entire computer in Chinese!! If you’re on Mac or Linux, it’s very easy to do 🙂 If you’re on Windows, you can make it happen with a little money or a bit of unlawful activity.

Do everything that you love to do normally, but in Chinese. If you’re learning another language, do it in that language then. This is a great method of learning for any language!

Passive voice with 被

rypervenche Post in 雜項

There are a few ways to make the passive voice in Mandarin. We are going to focus on the most common way, by using 被.

I thought I would try something new in this post. Instead of writing my little lesson for 被 here, I decided to make a PDF explaining it. I made a simplified and traditional version, so choose whichever you like.

After clicking on the link click on the “Download” button on the top-right of the window. You cannot use Chinese Readers on the preview, you actually have to download the PDF.

Traditional Chinese

Simplified Chinese

I did not include any pronunciations because I expect all of you to be using some sort of dictionary or Chinese Reader. If you are not currently using one, get one HERE!

※ A little side note, the conjugated forms of the verb “to be” in the PDF should actually be considered part of the verb, but I chose to make them blue to help beginners get the concept of creating and understanding the passive voice.

Windows, Mac & Linux Chinese Readers!

rypervenche Post in 雜項

I think this post is needed for all of you learners out there. I have already written about MDBG Chinese Reader, however for those who do not use Windows the program is useless. Therefore, I will show you a few tools that will be useful to you.

(These are all FREE!!)

MDBG Chinese Reader (Windows only)

Perapera-kun (Firefox) (All OSes)

Zhongwen (Chrome/Chromium) (All OSes)

Stardict (Linux, Mac, Windows)

Stardict isn’t as good as MDBG Chinese Reader, but it’s pretty much the only tool available for Linux, and one of the few for Mac. That being said, it does have many of the same features that MDBG Chinese Reader. You can highlight any word and a pop-up will appear with the definition. You can download it from the link above or from your distribution’s repositories.

Unfortunately, the website has not be kept up to date, so the dictionary files are out-of-date. However, I have created a Chinese-English dictionary for it using the same dictionary from MDBG.

Debian-based GNU/Linux: I made this bash script to simplify things. It will install Stardict if you don’t already have it and it will compile the dictionary straight from the source. Run it whenever you would like your dictionaries to be up to date.
Stardict CC-CEDICT script (Last updated 06/16/2011)
(Open it and change what is necessary for it to work on your system. It should be pretty straightforward if you read my comments.)

For Mac users and other GNU/Linux systems:

Downloading the CC-CEDICT dictionary: You can download it from the link below. I will update it periodically so it does not go out of date.
Stardict CC-CEDICT dictionaries (Updated pretty much daily)
(Note: There are actually 2 dictionaries included. You need to install them both to be able to read both simplified and traditional scripts)

Installing the dictionaries:Extract the archive and move both the Simp_CC-CEDICT and Trad_CC-CEDICT folders to /usr/share/stardict/dic/ for Linux or /opt/gkt/usr/share/stardict/dic/ for Mac.