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The most convenient way to learn Chinese the way it is actually spoken and used. Start with our basic lessons, and in no time you'll be listening to music, watching films and television and engaging in the actual language. With free daily podcasts, a vibrant community, online study tools and much more, PopupChinese is the most powerful and personal way to learn mandarin.
Updated: 3 hours 42 min ago

Radicals within Radicals

Tue, 08/11/2009 - 01:00

In our previous lessons on how to write Chinese characters we taught you the two fundamental rules for drawing Chinese characters. Draw them from left to right and top to bottom. Today we add a third rule of thumb that is just as easy to remember:

从外到内:月、风、内、肉、用、周、网、同、义、床、厅、闲、闭、问、闻、闯、病、疼、房、局、句、勾、勺

As in the list above, Chinese has many characters with a box-like structure. It is common to run into characters with strokes or radicals drawn inside spaces created by other strokes or radicals. A good example is the character 闲, which has the 木 radical drawn inside the 门 radical. The general rule of thumb in these cases is to draw our exterior casing first, and then fill in the interior.

There are a few exceptions to this rule that we will cover in later lessons. But generally speaking, if you can keep these three rules in mind you are already capable of correctly writing about 70 percent of the Chinese characters out there. So click through to the Writing section of this lesson and start practicing. Our Writing Pad will correct any mistakes you make and help you internalize proper stroke order. It is also a lot of fun. Once you know the proper stroke order print out a copy of our hanzi writing sheets for practice on the go and incorporate character writing into your regular study program. Good luck and happy writing!

Speaking Practice - Windows versus Mac

Mon, 08/10/2009 - 07:00

It is the defining dichotomy of our age: which operating system do you use, and why? And that's why we're going to give you the chance to talk all about it in our speaking practice lesson for today. Just pick up the phone and call us. And if you're feeling particularly at a loss for words, check out our vocabulary section where we've compiled a number of related words that might come in handy for expressing your love-hate relationship with high tech.

Premium subscribers please visit our text page, dial the toll-free telephone number listed there and key in your PIN number. Then tell us your stories of computing misery or glory. Once you've finished your call your recording will be automatically submitted to our teachers for review. We'll listen and get back to you in a day or two with feedback on your spoken Chinese.

Windows versus Mac

Sun, 08/09/2009 - 16:00

It is the defining dichotomy of our age: which operating system do you use, and why? And that's why we're going to give you the chance to talk all about it in our speaking practice lesson for today. Just pick up the phone and call us. And if you're feeling particularly at a loss for words, check out our vocabulary section where we've compiled a number of related words that might come in handy for expressing your love-hate relationship with high tech.

Premium subscribers please visit our text page, dial the toll-free telephone number listed there and key in your PIN number. Then tell us your stories of computing misery or glory. Once you've finished your call your recording will be automatically submitted to our teachers for review. We'll listen and get back to you in a day or two with feedback on your spoken Chinese.

Film Friday - University Days

Fri, 08/07/2009 - 16:00

Sadly, our clip for today has nothing to do with James Thurber's hilarious short story of the same name. It also has nothing to do with Brad Pitt, even though you might hear his name in the dialogue. It does take us back in time though, and shares a close connection with China by way of Disney's recent Kungfu Panda. So take a listen and write to echo@popupchinese.com if you can identify our mystery film for this week. A great prize awaits our winner.

University Days

Fri, 08/07/2009 - 01:00

Sadly, our clip for today has nothing to do with James Thurber's hilarious short story of the same name. It also has nothing to do with Brad Pitt, even though you might hear his name in the dialogue. It does take us back in time though, and shares a close connection with China by way of Disney's recent Kungfu Panda. So take a listen and write to echo@popupchinese.com if you can identify our mystery film for this week. A great prize awaits our winner.

HSK Intermediate - Listening Exercise #7

Thu, 08/06/2009 - 16:00

Conan trembled as the invigilator continued with the HSK. His was the code of force, yet there was nothing to smash here and no-one to bruise. And as the test wore on his headband seemed to tighten until his temples burned under the strain. "Test make head hurt," he finally moaned as his outer vision failed. And then the room plunged into darkness and the Great Warrior was no more.

Our sample HSK exam for today is an Intermediate listening test, and we hope you do better than Conan did. Our questions can be found both on the quiz page, as well as in the podcast and transcripts which accompany this lesson. Test yourself online, or download the materials and study offline at your leisure. Good luck!

Listening Exercise #7

Thu, 08/06/2009 - 01:00

Conan trembled as the invigilator continued with the HSK. His was the code of force, yet there was nothing to smash here and no-one to bruise. And as the test wore on his headband seemed to tighten until his temples burned under the strain. "Test make head hurt," he finally moaned as his outer vision failed. And then the room plunged into darkness and the Great Warrior was no more.

Our sample HSK exam for today is an Intermediate listening test, and we hope you do better than Conan did. Our questions can be found both on the quiz page, as well as in the podcast and transcripts which accompany this lesson. Test yourself online, or download the materials and study offline at your leisure. Good luck!

KTV Wednesday - Zhang Xuan - Baby

Wed, 08/05/2009 - 16:00

Zhang Xuan is an upcoming singer from Taiwan who got her start playing in bars and other live music venues in Taipei. "Baby" is probably her most famous song, and we hope you'll like it as much as we do. A simple love song set to acoustic guitar, the lyrics have a childlike sense of wonder and endearment. That's the feeling we get from the constantly doubled lyrics, at least. They're sweet.

Note: if you're in China you can also find this video on Youku.com.

On a closing note, it's worth mentioning that Zhang released her newest album "City" earlier this year. None of the songs on it are yet as recognizable as this one, but we think it is going to be her breakout album, so you might want to check it out the next time you're in a music shop.

Zhang Xuan - Baby

Wed, 08/05/2009 - 01:00

Zhang Xuan is an upcoming singer from Taiwan who got her start playing in bars and other live music venues in Taipei. "Baby" is probably her most famous song, and we hope you'll like it as much as we do. A simple love song set to acoustic guitar, the lyrics have a childlike sense of wonder and endearment. That's the feeling we get from the constantly doubled lyrics, at least. They're sweet.

Note: if you're in China you can also find this video on Youku.com.

On a closing note, it's worth mentioning that Zhang released her newest album "City" earlier this year. None of the songs on it are yet as recognizable as this one, but we think it is going to be her breakout album, so you might want to check it out the next time you're in a music shop.

Elementary - The Hostile ATM

Tue, 08/04/2009 - 16:00

Before you came to China, you may have thought the point of telephone banking was to save everyone a bit of time and money. Banks could avoid paying for a full teller while you could conduct your business a bit more efficiently, right? Now you know the truth. In China automated banking is less a service and more an attempt to figure out how badly you really want your money.

Since this is a podcast about robots, we asked Brendan and Echo to liven things up a bit with some exciting banking stories. But they failed. Miserably. So if you're looking for exciting yarns of financial adventure you'll have to go elsewhere. But if you want to learn some useful vocabulary that will serve you well the next time you're engaged in repetitive number crunching or feel like ripping someone's head off, this is exactly the podcast you need.

Elementary - The Hostile ATM

Tue, 08/04/2009 - 01:00

Before you came to China, you may have thought the point of telephone banking was to save everyone a bit of time and money. Banks could avoid paying for a full teller while you could conduct your business a bit more efficiently, right? Now you know the truth. In China automated banking is less a service and more an attempt to figure out how badly you really want your money.

Since this is a podcast about robots, we asked Brendan and Echo to liven things up a bit with some exciting banking stories. But they failed. Miserably. So if you're looking for exciting yarns of financial adventure you'll have to go elsewhere. But if you want to learn some useful vocabulary that will serve you well the next time you're engaged in repetitive number crunching or feel like ripping someone's head off, this is exactly the podcast you need.

Speaking Practice - Tone Sandhi - Two Third Tones

Mon, 08/03/2009 - 16:00

Our lesson today focuses on tone sandhi, and particularly the change we make in the pronunciation of two third tone characters when we put them together. You're probably already aware that in these situations our first third tone character morphs into the second tone. But have you had much chance to practice? And has anyone ever given you feedback on how you sound?

This is the first speaking lesson we've ever done that comes with a dedicated podcast. We suggest listening to it first, and then working through our generative fix for extra practice. When you're ready click through to our text page, where you will find our toll-free telephone number listed in the side column along with your PIN number for this lesson. Call us, make a recording, and you can expect to hear back from us in a day or two. Good luck!

Tone Sandhi - Two Third Tones

Mon, 08/03/2009 - 01:00

Our lesson today focuses on tone sandhi, and particularly the change we make in the pronunciation of two third tone characters when we put them together. You're probably already aware that in these situations our first third tone character morphs into the second tone. But have you had much chance to practice? And has anyone ever given you feedback on how you sound?

This is the first speaking lesson we've ever done that comes with a dedicated podcast. We suggest listening to it first, and then working through our generative fix for extra practice. When you're ready click through to our text page, where you will find our toll-free telephone number listed in the side column along with your PIN number for this lesson. Call us, make a recording, and you can expect to hear back from us in a day or two. Good luck!

HSK Beginner - Fill-in-the-Blanks Exercise #29

Sun, 08/02/2009 - 16:00

The crew grew silent as the shipboard crane deposited their find, winched up over four hundred meters from the ocean's bottom, on the rolling deck of their small tug. After years of research they had finally found it. Lost at sea when the Ming Dynasty fell, this box had been so precious to the Empire that someone had braved the Straits at its most perilous to keep it from the invading hordes. Or had the sinking been intentional?

Staring at their find, Rearden wondered what the last Ming Emperor had been thinking when he hung himself. Could it have been of this? Its surface was faultless, absolutely seamless even, and the only sign of its once human providence was the faint Chinese script still visible on the front casing. "Those are the instructions on opening it," he said to no-one in particular. "It looks like we'll need someone who knows how to read Chinese...."

Fill-in-the-Blanks Exercise #29

Sun, 08/02/2009 - 01:00

The crew grew silent as the shipboard crane deposited their find, winched up over four hundred meters from the ocean's bottom, on the rolling deck of their small tug. After years of research they had finally found it. Lost at sea when the Ming Dynasty fell, this box had been so precious to the Empire that someone had braved the Straits at its most perilous to keep it from the invading hordes. Or had the sinking been intentional?

Staring at their find, Rearden wondered what the last Ming Emperor had been thinking when he hung himself. Could it have been of this? Its surface was faultless, absolutely seamless even, and the only sign of its once human providence was the faint Chinese script still visible on the front casing. "Those are the instructions on opening it," he said to no-one in particular. "It looks like we'll need someone who knows how to read Chinese...."

Film Friday - Looking for Work

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 16:00

Your internship at Greater Henan Sewage not exactly what you had in mind when you signed up for a summer in China? If you think you've got it rough there, try volunteering for the job in this week's clip. Or better yet, try to figure out what job this actually is. Identifying our mystery film should be a real challenge even for those of you with excellent Chinese, so we have an excellent prize for the winner. Be sure to get your guess in to echo@popupchinese.com for a chance to win.

Looking for Work

Fri, 07/31/2009 - 01:00

Your internship at Greater Henan Sewage not exactly what you had in mind when you signed up for a summer in China? If you think you've got it rough there, try volunteering for the job in this week's clip. Or better yet, try to figure out what job this actually is. Identifying our mystery film should be a real challenge even for those of you with excellent Chinese, so we have an excellent prize for the winner. Be sure to get your guess in to echo@popupchinese.com for a chance to win.