Cracking the Intermediate Plateau (Podcast)

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“Wow! Your Mandarin is Awesome!” Decoding Chinese Politeness I'm Learning Mandarin

Anyone who has learned Mandarin will be familiar with how encouraging Chinese people tend to be towards those of us who take an interest in their language. For the most part this is great. All we have to do is say 你好 in order to be showered with praise and encouragement. But at times it can also be quite tricky to navigate the unwritten rules of Chinese polite culture. To the new Mandarin learner it isn’t always clear when praise is sincere as opposed to merely small talk. Throughout my learning experience I’ve also found it a challenge to get honest feedback on my Mandarin as opposed to exaggerated and undeserved praise. On today’s podcast I invited three of my language buddies, Helen, Mingna  and Katherine. Helen, like me, is a fellow Mandarin learner while  Mingna and Katherine are both students from China. Together we explore  how Chinese politeness can impact language learners in both positive and  negative ways.

*The I’m Learning Mandarin Podcast is now available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify . If you enjoyed this content please subscribe on your favourite podcast provider and leave a review. You can also subscribe to this blog to have new posts and podcasts pinged straight to your email.

As an intermediate Mandarin learner, one of the main challenges I face is acquiring lower frequency words. In any language the most frequent few thousand words account for over 90% of words used in daily conversation. Mandarin is no different and, although I typically understand the vast majority of words in a sentence, it’s those rarer words which can throw me off. 

So how can we overcome the intermediate plateau and learn enough low frequency words to become proficient? 

That’s where today’s guest Andrew Methven comes in. Andrew first started learning Chinese whilst on a backpacking trip in China in 2002-03. He eventually went on to train as a translator and interpreter, before joining a startup in the UK focussed on China. More recently, he started the newsletter: https://slowchinese.substack.com designed to help intermediate and advanced learners fill in key gaps in the vocabulary. 

Every week Andrew shares new words, phrases, idioms, colloquialisms and slang with the goal of helping readers maintain and improve their Chinese, while staying up to date with latest language trends. Andrew’s experiences of backpacking through China as well as his insights into overcoming the long intermediate plateau are fascinating and insightful. 

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