Tag Archives: chinese characters

Ting Xie: Or, how I stopped worrying and learned to love Chinese characters

Ting Xie, Ting Xie, where for art thou Ting Xie?  Deny thy stroke order and refuse thy shape; or if thou wilt not, but be sworn my pinyin and I’ll no longer be a Chinese student.

Clearly, studying has gone to my head and loosened some screws. It has also tightened others– namely, the ones that help me remember the way to write Chinese characters, the same way every time, so that I can produce them on command when I hear them. And that is the essence of “Ting Xie” (聽寫), or in English, dictation (The literal translation is “listen, write”).

I have done a little dictation before in French, but this is a completely different ball game.  In my Chinese class, we write pinyin (romanized spelling of the pronunciation), tones (1 of 4, or none), and draw the characters.  I prepare by looking up every character’s stroke order, and then practicing each character 5-15 times, as well as writing and reading all of the possible sentences and phrases we might be tested on.

It is a fairly tedious way to study– however, inexplicably, it works.   Continue reading

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Learning Chinese: Fragrant Intestine with 9-Layer Tower

buying some sausages

Photo by ctsnow courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Blog readers, meet Eva.  She is my Taiwanese college roommate from Stanford, one of my best friends, and kind of a sister to me.  She and her family have been my cultural translators for Taipei and Taiwan (although she currently lives in Boston), and I will be referring to their help and guidance throughout my adventure.

She has also been a great language buddy with whom I’ve been practicing my burgeoning (and bumbling) Mandarin. And at the risk of turning this into a food blog, one of the most effective ways to learn Chinese vocabulary I’ve found is through discussing food!

So before I left, I asked Eva what her top 5 favorite Taiwanese foods are, that I must try when I arrived in Taiwan.  Her answers provided a great lesson in Chinese language and the fascinating etymologies of meaning that lie embedded in each combination of characters. Eva’s list of Taiwanese highlights was as follows:

1. Beef noodle soup- 牛肉麵 (niu rou mian)

2. Stir fried vegetables, in particular, watercress- 炒空心菜 (chao kong xin cai)

3. Potstickers- 鍋貼 (guo tie)

4. Grilled Sausage with Basil- 烤香腸和九層塔 (kao xiang chang he/han jiu ceng ta)

5. Stinky Tofu- 臭豆腐 (chou do fu) Continue reading

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