What is Anki?

What is Anki?

"Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it's a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can greatly decrease your time spent studying and greatly increase the amount you learn." - anki.net For decades studies have shown that...

How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter

How Studying or Working Abroad Makes You Smarter

“People who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity, our research suggests. What’s more, we found that people with this international experience are more likely to create new...

Chinese Tea Culture

Chinese Tea Culture

This blog post kicks off a new series of educational videos created by CLI. In this series we will explore and learn Chinese culture and vocabulary by speaking to local Chinese experts in a variety of fields. Each installment focuses on a single topic, shares an...

Top 5 Videos From ChinesePod TV: Idiom Series

Top 5 Videos From ChinesePod TV: Idiom Series

Over the coming weeks and months, CLI will post our favorite Mandarin learning YouTube videos here on our blog. This installment includes our top 5 favorite videos teaching 成语 (chéngyǔ) from ChinesePod TV. “Chéngyǔ is a four character idiom. They are stories and...

Top 5 YouTube Channels for Studying Mandarin

Top 5 YouTube Channels for Studying Mandarin

Anyone who has searched "learn Mandarin" on YouTube might agree that the sheer number of results are overwhelming. In recent years CLI has noticed a handful of channels consistently deliver high quality, engaging educational content. This is our tip of the hat to the...

10 Useful Videos from Learn Chinese Now

10 Useful Videos from Learn Chinese Now

Learn Chinese Now has been posting excellent Mandarin language learning videos to YouTube for over three years. We’ve compiled our 10 favorite videos spanning from beginner- to expert-level.

#1 How to Count to 10 in Mandarin

Counting is an essential milestone in learning any language, including Mandarin. This video takes us through the first ten digits. 一二三开始!

#2 How to Count from 11 to 100 in Mandarin

If you can count to 10 in Mandarin, then you have all of the vocabulary you need to count to 99.

#3 Basic Mandarin Grammar Guide

Time, subject, verb, object, asking questions and answering them, — arranging your vocabulary is critical to speaking coherently. This video guides you through the basics of Chinese grammar.

#4 Days, Months and Dates in Chinese

Could you keep a schedule without days, months, and years? This video teaches us the days of the week, months of the year, and how to grammatically arrange them.

#5 Big Numbers

1,000… 10,000… 100,000… In this video we learn how to say numbers all the way to a billion in Mandarin.

#6 Photography in Chinese

This video shoots through the practical vocabulary related to taking photos and sheds light on some of the cultural aspects of taking photos in China.

#7 Chinese Tea Etiquette

How do you say “thank you” in Chinese without saying anything at all? Watch this video and learn how.

#8 “Speak of the Devil” in Chinese

It happens all of the time, you mention someone’s name and they appear. So how does the Mandarin language address this social phenomenon?

#9 Responding to Compliments in Chinese

Responding to a compliment in Mandarin is not as simple as just saying “thanks”. In this video we learn both what to say and what not to say.

#10 Clichés within Kung Fu Movies

In this Mandarin-only video Ben Hedges explains several clichés he’s seen repeatedly in Kung Fu classics.

Be sure to subscribe to Learn Chinese Now on YouTube. You can also like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

We hope to study Mandarin in China together some day soon. Don’t forget to follow CLI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 下次见!

Jack Ma Speaks with Charlie Rose

Not only was Jack Ma, 马云 Mǎ Yún, rejected from Harvard when he first applied, the university rejected his nine subsequent application submissions. In his enlightening interview with Charlie Rose, Jack speaks about failures and successes, his world-view, women in the workplace, harmony and balance, the value of introspection, and many other meaningful topics.

Jack Ma is the founder of Alibaba, an online megastore similar to amazon, and is now the executive chairman of the Alibaba Group, a holding company with nine major subsidiaries including Alibaba.com, Taobao, Tmall, AliExpress.com and Alipay*. He is the first entrepreneur from mainland Chinese to appear on the cover of Forbes*.

Watch the entire interview between Charlie Rose and Jack Ma.
We hope to study Mandarin in China together some day soon. Don’t forget to follow CLI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


*Sourced from wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Ma

Spring Festival Memories

Spring Festival Memories

In our Spring Festival video, we invite you to peer into the life of a Guilin resident who walked the same arduous path traveled by so many in China from poverty to prosperity. Join Dayong, a CLI team member since 2009, as he converses with 叶叔叔,Uncle Ye,about how the quality of life has changed for the better.

While watching the video, follow along in the below transcript for the Chinese characters, pinyin, and English translation. You can also use this link to download a PDF containing the interview transcript and vocabulary list.

Spring Festival Interview Transcript

Dayong (00:03 – 00:11)


Yè shūshu, nín hǎo! Shǒuxiān nín kěbù kěyǐ jiǎndān de jièshào yīxià zìjǐ?

Hello Uncle Ye! First off, can you offer a basic self-introduction?

Uncle Ye (00:11 – 00:21)


Wǒ shì 1953 nián chūshēng de, xiànzài 63 suìle.

I’ll start from the beginning? I was born in 1953, so I’m 63 years old now.

Dayong (00:22 – 00:23)


Nín shì shǔ…?

What is your zodiac sign?

Uncle Ye (00:23 – 00:33)


Shǔ shé, wǒ de érzi yě shǔ shé, wǒ de sūnzi yě shǔ shé, wǒmen gānghǎo sāndài dōu shì shǔ shé de.

The Snake. My son is also the Year of the Snake. And my grandson! We all happen to be the Year of the Snake.

Dayong (00:35 – 00:51)


Zhèyàng a, wǒ xiǎng wèn yīxià, rúguǒ nín zhǎo yīgè cí, huòzhě zhǎo yī zhǒng gǎnshòu lái biǎoshì nín duì xīnnián de gǎnqíng, nín huì xuǎn shénme cí?

So, I want to ask, if you could find a word, or find a feeling to describe the emotion you feel toward Spring Festival, what word would you choose?

Uncle Ye (00:52 – 01:43)


Jiù chūnjié kuàilè ma! Xiǎoshíhòu jiù pànzhe yītiān néng chī shàng yī dùn hǎo de, jiù zhème jiǎndān. Yǐqián shēnghuó bǐjiào kǔ, yīniándàotóu jiù pànzhe néng chī diǎn zhūròu huòzhě chī gè jī dàtuǐ, dé gè liǎng máo qián de hóngbāo jiù huāntiānxǐdìle, xiànzài bù xūyào děng, xiǎng chī de dōu yǒu, bùyòng zài xiǎngzhe chī shénme hào chī de, shēnghuó shuǐpíng tígāole, bù zài jiǎngjiù chī dele, jiù xiǎngzhe qīnpéng hǎoyǒu zài yīqǐ jiāoliú yīxià gōngzuò jīngyàn, qínggǎn zhī lèi de.

Well, I choose “truly happy.” When I was young, I always looked forward to this
time of year because it meant we could eat well. Just that simple. Life was hard. Throughout the year I’d always hope to eat a little pork, or even a chicken leg. But when we got those red envelopes with 0.2 RMB inside, it was overwhelming joy. Now, you can eat whatever you want. There’s so much good food to eat these days. The quality of life has improved drastically, no more worrying about whether we can eat. Spring Festival is now about being with your friends and your family, talking about your experiences with work, and just interacting and socializing.

Dayong (01:44 – 01:47)


Nín yǒu jǐ gè xiōngdì jiěmèi?

How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Uncle Ye (01:47 – 01:57)


Wǒmen jiā yǒusān gè xiōngdì jiěmèi, wǒ shì lǎo èr, shàngmiàn yǒu yīgè gēgē, xiàmiàn yǒu yīgè mèimei.

Our family has three siblings, I’m the second-oldest brother. Above me is my older brother, and below me is my younger sister.

Dayong (01:58 – 02:01)


Nín dí gēgē mèimei xiànzài dōu zài guìlín me?

Are your siblings both in Guilin?

Uncle Ye (02:02 – 03:03)


Dōu zài, dōu zài guìlín.

Yes, they’re both in Guilin.

Dayong (02:03 – 02:04)


Guònián de shíhòu…

So, when you celebrate the New Year…

Uncle Ye (02:04 – 02:30)


Guònián de shíhòu dōu hùxiāng zǒu yī zǒu, chū yī dào lǎodà gēgē jiā. Chū èr dào lǎo èr wǒ de jiā, chū sān dào mèimei jiā, zhuàn lái zhuàn qù hùxiāng chī gè fàn, jiāoliú yī nián de gōngzuò gǎnqíng. Yīn wéi píngcháng dōu méiyǒu zhème duō shíjiān zài yīqǐ.

We spend the Spring Festival together. On the first day, we go to my older brother’s house. On the second day the family all comes to my house. And on the third day we go to my younger sister’s house. We go here and there eating at each other’s houses, talking about our previous year’s experiences and work. Usually we don’t have the time to be with each other and communicate like we do when celebrating the New Year.

Dayong (02:31 – 02:36)


Nà xiànzài nín dí gēgē mèimei dōu tuìxiūle me? Háishì…

So your brother and sister are both retired? Or…

Uncle Ye (02:36 – 02:39)


Dōu tuìxiūle.

They’re both retired.

Dayong (02:40 – 02:47)


Xiǎng xiǎng èrshí nián qián, sānshí nián qián, nǐmen xiǎo de shíhòu guònián shì zěnme yàng de?

So, 20-30 years ago, when you and your siblings were young, how did you celebrate the Spring Festival?

Uncle Ye (02:47 – 03:06)


Wǒmen xiǎo de shíhòu jiù pànzhe bàba māmā chū yī zǎoshang huòzhě nián sānshí wǎnshàng chī wán fàn gěi yāsuìqián. Liǎng máo qián shì zuìgāo dele.

When we were young, we always looked forward to the morning of the first day, or even the night before, when our parents used to give us “lucky money”.

Dayong (03:06 – 03:08)


Liǎng máo qián jiùshì zuìgāo dele?!

0.2 RMB was the most you received!?

Uncle Ye (03:08 – 03:25)


Nà shíhòu bǐjiào qióng, fùmǔ dōu bùshì shénme gànbù, dōu shì kào láodòng shídǎshí zhēng lái de xiěhàn qián, shēnghuó bǐjiào kǔ, yīniándàotóu, jiālǐ zuò yītiáo yú dōu bùnéng yī dùn chī wán. Yī guō tāng, fàng yīdiǎn zuǒ liào, zuòle, dì èr tiān chī yú dòng, yùyì nián nián yǒuyú, dòng dòng yǒuyú. Wǒ de mǔqīn nèitiān jiù mǎi yītiáo yī jīn duō huòzhě liǎng jīn duō de cǎoyú, dàn gàosù wǒmen bùnéng yī dùn chī wán, chī wánliǎo míngnián jiù méiyǒule. Yào nián nián yǒu “yú”. Dòng zhě yǒu “yú”, jiùshì shuō bǐfāng jiùshì wǒmen míngnián shí zuòshì dōu kěyǐ zhuàn dào qián, kěnéng yǒu “yú”.

We were very poor back then. Our parents weren’t government officials. They didn’t work in some government office. They relied on honest manual labor to earn a living. Life was harder.

Vocabulary List:

HànzìPīnyīnDefinitionPart of Speech
1.春节快乐chūnjié kuàilèHappy Spring Festival
2.盼(着)pàn (zhe)to hope forv.
3.欢天喜地huāntiānxǐdìwith boundless joy; overjoyedadv.
4.钻来转去zhuàn lái zhuàn qùto come and go; go back and forthidiom
5.diéto foldv.
6.红包hóngbāoRed envelopen.
7.压岁钱yāsuìqiánlucky moneyn.
8.干部gànbùgovernment officialn.
9.劳动láodòngphysical laborn.
10.年三十晚上nián sānshí wǎnshàngChinese New Years Eve nightn.

We hope to study Mandarin in China together some day soon. Don’t forget to follow CLI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

IIE China Fellowships Deadline Approaching

IIE China Fellowships Deadline Approaching

Want to study in China for free? The Institute of International Education (IIE) is offering three generous scholarships with quickly approaching deadlines:

Application deadline February 15th, 2016:

1)The Research Ph.D. Fellowship

The Research Ph.D. Fellowship ranges from six months to two years, provides funding to U.S.-based students who wish to pursue doctoral research in China. Apply here.

2)The Ph.D. in China Fellowship

The Ph.D. in China Fellowship ranges from three to four years, provides funding to students holding master’s degrees who wish to pursue their Ph.D. degree in China. Apply here

Application deadline March 11th, 2016:

3)Freeman-ASIA Scholarships for Undergraduate Study Abroad in East and Southeast Asia

The Freeman Foundation’s generous support for the relaunch of Freeman-ASIA builds on prior grants to IIE that funded more than 4,500 American undergraduates in Asia from 2001 to 2014. The newly available awards will advance IIE’s Generation Study Abroad, a five-year initiative aiming to double the number of U.S. students abroad by the end of the decade by mobilizing resources and commitments across the higher education, philanthropy and corporate sectors.Apply here.

Current grantees of the Research Ph.D. Fellowship represent a broad range of academic and research interests from across the arts, education, humanities, and social sciences. Take a look at what some recipients are doing on the Current Grantees section of CCSP’s website.

5 TEDx Talks that inspire language learning

5 TEDx Talks that inspire language learning

We’ve gathered 5 TEDx Talks that cover a variety of techniques you can apply to your own language learning journey. Browse through the videos and our summaries to extract the techniques that speak to you. Please note: our fifth talk is a speech by Josh Kaufman and his research showing how powerful the first 20 hours of accumulated practice are in learning anything. Enjoy!

#1 Deborah Fallows

Debirah Fallows is certain that adults can learn foreign languages. In this speech she talks about “how you can use your very powerful adult brain to learn something that is pretty difficult and also quite amazing, a foreign language, and especially Chinese.”

#2 Benny Lewis

Today Benny Lewis speaks over 10 languages. At age twenty-one he knew just one, English, but not for lack of trying. Benny had spent six months abroad in Spain yet learned nothing. He says he had to change his attitude and approach before he could learn a second language, let alone become a polyglot. Benny says the key was having passion for exploring a given language. Here’s a list of his key points:

  1. Be passionate about the target language and connecting with the people who speak it
  2. Use spaced repetition and image association techniques like the memory palace
  3. Make 200 mistakes a day, go out there and embarrass yourself
  4. Don’t wait until you speak the language perfectly to get out there and use what you know

#3 Sid Efromoivh

Sid Efromoivh shares his love for language learning plus five techniques he uses to study a language including making mistakes, finding a ‘stickler’, and using what he calls “shower conversations.”

#4 Dr. Conor Quinn

Dr. Quinn’s advice on language acquisition is simple:

  1. Aim for effectiveness vs perfection
  2. Check your shame at the door and learn linguistic coping skills like talking around words you don’t yet know
  3. Learn the mechanics of the mouth in a given language vs the sound itself
  4. Study rhythm, melody and cadence of a language – internalize the cadence
  5. Start learning from the egocentric experience of the body – for example, “my eyes they see and look, my ears they listen they hear, my hands they pick up they put down, my mind it feels it loves it thinks”

#5 Josh Kaufman

In this speech Josh explains how 20 hours of study can yield impressive results.

  1. Deconstruct the skill to the core parts that interest you
  2. Get resources that help you self-correct
  3. Remove distractions and give yourself time to do this one learning task for 45-90min
  4. Stick it out for at least 20 hours even if you feel like you are getting nowhere

Did you find these videos helpful? Do you have any questions you’d like clarified? Leave your thoughts and questions in the Comment section on this page and we’ll reply.

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We hope to study Mandarin in China with you some day soon. Don’t forget to follow CLI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 下次见!

3 Helpful Learning Techniques from Hacking Chinese

3 Helpful Learning Techniques from Hacking Chinese

“I have seldom been taught the most important thing of all: how to learn a language.”

Olle Linge

A lot of emphasis is placed on “what to learn” throughout one’s journey to acquire Chinese language ability. Olle Linge, founder of Hacking Chinese, approaches language acquisition from a different stance; he focuses on “how to learn.” We at CLI respect the wisdom that Mr. Linge has accumulated and made accessible to the public since 2010.

This blog post focuses on CLI’s top 3 most powerful learning techniques which Olle discusses in-depth on hackingchinese.com. We encourage you to use these strategies on your personal journey to learn Mandarin.

#1 Spaced repetition software – a.k.a. SRS

Olle makes a simple and strong case explaining why he believes in the power of spaced repetition. Here’s what he has to say about his experience with the spaced repetition software Anki:

“At the moment, I’ve studied >20,000 Chinese words and if you gave me a test on all of them, I would score 90-95%. More amazing still, I only spend about 30 minutes a day maintaining vocabulary.”

If you are not familiar with spaced repetition software we recommend that you check out our recent post “What is Anki?

Wikipedia defines spaced repetition as “a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect.”

There are several articles at Hacking Chinese about SRS. This one is a great starting point.

#2 Timeboxing

Timeboxing simply means setting a limited duration of time to focus on a single task. Olle states that “timeboxing works best for tasks that are continuous.” He suggests targeting durations between 10 and 15 minutes. Olle also emphasizes the importance of “creating for yourself a task you are 100% sure that you will be able to complete.”

“It means that rather than saying that you’re going to review vocabulary using spaced repetition software until you’re done, you say that you’re going to work hard on reviewing characters for exactly ten minutes.”

Olle provides an example for applying the timeboxing technique using Anki. If you are not yet familiar with Anki, we highly suggest you download and use it (it’s free). “I start Anki and use the built-in timeboxing settings. I think I can concentrate for fifteen minutes and I set the timer. Fifteen minutes later, I have reviewed eighty words. Then I feel happy for having achieved something, but I don’t review more words right now. Instead, I spend ten minutes to look up some characters that have been confusing me. Then I move back to Anki. Another fifteen minutes and eighty words pass by. I take a break, brew some tea, look out through the window for a while. Then I do another fifteen minutes. Then, seeing that I’ve already gotten through a substantial amount, I decide to play some Starcraft. In total, I complete around 200 words, feeling happy and satisfied with every step along the way.”

“Without breaking a major goal like learning Chinese into several smaller parts, it will feel overwhelming, but if you break it down to bite-sized pieces, it suddenly doesn’t look all that scary.”

Read Olle’s full article on timeboxing.

#3 Memory aids and mnemonics

Properly using memory aids and mnemonics will increase one’s ability for memorization.

Hacking Chinese has many great articles elaborating on the various methods one can apply, including Remembering is a skill you can learn and Memory aids and mnemonics to enhance learning.

“The most common mistake people make when it comes to memory is to treat it as being something fixed; either you’re born with a brilliant memory or you’re not.”

To prove that memory is a skill set one can develop Olle points to the story of Joshua Foer, the author of Moonwalking with Einstein, New York Times contributor, and TED speaker.

We hope you apply these learning techniques to your own journey of Chinese learning and we look forward to studying with you in China! Please leave any questions or comments in the ‘Comments’ section of this posting.

Follow Olle on Twitter and Facebook. Follow CLI on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


What DID Confucius say?

What DID Confucius say?

Despite how often pop culture references the wisdom of Confucius, history records almost no indisputable facts about the man himself. Watch the following video then dig deeper into the subject by investigating this recent TED-Ed Lesson.

“Most of the quotations you hear attributed to Confucius are made up. Consequently, if you want to know what Confucius actually said, read him yourself. One of the most influential translations of the Analects was by the Victorian-era missionary James Legge. You can read Legge’s translation alongside the original Chinese text online.”

Bryan W. Van Norden

Top 5 Videos From ChinesePod TV: Qǐng Wèn Series

Top 5 Videos From ChinesePod TV: Qǐng Wèn Series

In our next installment of top Mandarin learning YouTube videos we will focus on ChinesePod TV’s 请问 Qǐng Wèn series.

#1 Everything/Nothing, Everywhere/Nowhere & Everybody/Nobody in Mandarin

Gwilym and Fiona teach us how to use the Mandarin word 都 dōu to communicate “everywhere/nowhere,” “everything/nothing,” and “everybody/nobody.”

#2 How to Add Emphasis to Your Chinese

In this Qǐng Wèn lesson Fiona and Fang Lǎoshī teach us how to place emphasis on the right words.

#3 6 Must Know Measure Words in Chinese

Gwilym and Fiona are back at it in this very practical Qǐng Wèn lesson. Watch this video and you’ll learn how and when to use the measure 个/個 ge, 张/張 zhāng, 双/雙 shuāng, 件 jiàn, 辆/輛 liàng, and 只/隻 zhǐ.

#4 Time Word Tips in Chinese: 上 and 下

In this Qǐng Wèn Fiona and Gwilym tackle the very common challenge beginner Mandarin learners often face when talking about time. Watch this video and come away with several very practical and memorable strategies that will help you progress in your journey to learn Mandarin.

#5 Different ways of saying “otherwise” and what they each imply

In this intermediate Qǐng Wèn Fiona and Fang Lǎoshī teach us the difference between 否則 fǒuzé,不然 bùrán,and 要不 yàobù.

We hope to study Mandarin in China with you some day soon. Don’t forget to follow CLI on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. 下次见!

What is Anki?

What is Anki?

“Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it’s a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can greatly decrease your time spent studying and greatly increase the amount you learn.”


For decades studies have shown that spaced repetition can dramatically improve one’s retention and recollection of information. Anki applies this theory into an easy-to-use interface in which users can create original flashcards or download preexisting sets appropriately called “decks”. Anki is also available as a smart phone app which can be synced to its desktop counterpart for a fluid learning experience between devices. Anki is a free open source program. Download it here.

Use the following tutorials from Fluent Forever author, Gabriel Wyner, to install Anki.

Anki Tutorial 1 – How to install Anki and make your first flashcard

Anki Tutorial 2 – Installing the Fluent Forever Model Deck

Anki Tutorial 3 – How to install a downloaded Anki decks (with Media)

This last tutorial will teach you where to find and how to add shared decks to your Anki.

Where to find shared decks and review basics


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