this is the archive for the ‘languages’ category:

a lack of eyes that find beauty

been doing a few mock exams lately, to prepare for the HSK test and stumbled on this reading passage was in one of them:

“有人说, 很难在自己熟悉的地点发现 美丽的景色。 这说明对 自己越熟悉的东西,往往越没有新鲜感, 也就很难发现它的美丽之处。 所以生活中不是缺少美, 而是缺少发现美的眼睛.”

Some people say that it is difficult to find beautiful scenery in a place you are familiar with. This shows that the more familiar you are, the less fresh it is, the harder it is to discover its beauty. So life is not lacking beauty, but there is a lack of eyes that find beauty.

how distractingly poetic, for a language exam! :|

a chinese text adventure

chinese studies are going well, even if, naturally, no one knows whether the exam will actually take place next july. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ still, this is no excuse to slack on the learning, which at the moment means mostly learning new characters and making sure i don’t forget the old ones.

to do this, i’m revising whatever skritter throws at me everyday, using beeminder to make sure i study characters at least 2 hours/week… but it’s often not enough. to reach fluency in the 1200 characters needed to take the hsk4, one has to practice reading them fast and in context — not just in flashcards.

books like graded readers help, for sure… but progress is slow, and honestly, it’s hard to focus when there’a wall of characters in every page, staring at you.

meanwhile, sometime ago i found out about escape, which is a text-based adventure. remember those? you move a character around with text commands, receive a description of what the character is seeing at every step, and try to interact with the world in order to achieve a certain goal. the twist here is that it’s done in chinese, for people learning the language!

i find it a really clever and unexpected use of these text-adventures, as a story is slowly built in your target language, sentence by sentence. and there’s also an integrated dictionary, just in case.

i’ve died a number of times already on my quest to escape, but it’s been lots of fun. :)


one of the apps i use to practice chinese is called clozemaster. a cloze is a text or sentence with gaps that you need to to fill out with words. it’s a nice exercise, that gives the opportunity to practice reading and understanding words in context.

clozemaster turns that into an old school game, with an 8-bit look and rankings per language. naturally, with so many sentences being tested, some of them are bound to be “interesting”. here are some of my favourites so far:

the texts are always so uplifting!

what’s up with the cat?

and my absolute favourite so far, is this one that i got wrong. i chose “sports are the devil”, but turns out impulsiveness is the devil… i don’t know, i think i’m sticking with my version! :P

it works for lots of languages — give it a try if you’re learning one or just want to practice. :)

hanzillion, reloaded

some years ago, i thought i was done with chinese learning and dropped my long neglected domain, where i used to post chinese characters (or hanzi) that i saw on the streets of shanghai… and then regretted it. by the time i checked on it again though, it had already been snatched by someone else. :(

early 2019 found me in the throes of re-learning all the characters, and it made me miss my little hanzi blog like crazy. patiently, i waited and waited, and eventually it paid off because we were able to get it again once it expired — victory! :D i’ve pointed the URL to a simple tumblr blog, and have been re-using old photos from our time in shanghai to post characters now and then. i hope i have enough photos to last until our next visit to asia!

feels really good to once again own the word hanzillion, a word i’ve made up over 10 years ago to describe all the zillion hanzi out there. :)

5 chinese dramas

the whole thing started with meteor garden, a netflix series that our friends were watching at the beginning of the year. we watched a few episodes with them in thailand in the hopes of catching glimpses of shanghai, but while we were seeing it, a strange and magical thing happened: all these chinese words buried in a dark corner of my brain for over 10 years, came back all in a rush of familiar tones and expressions. suddenly i really wanted to understand things again, i wanted more!

so since then i’ve watched a few of these series. here are 5 series c-dramas i’ve enjoyed lately:

meteor garden started me on this road, so it had to go first. it’s a netflix remake of a taiwanese series, but with mainland characters. it takes place in shanghai, where dong shancai is a university student that stumbles on a gang of 4 boys who think they’re kings of the world… adventures ensue! it’s mostly silly and light – but also very infuriating at times. i guess this is why they’re called dramas in asia. :D

i found a love so beautiful after searching for shen yue, the main character of the previous series. in this series, we follow her fumbling attempts at confessing her love for her childhood crush from high school till adulthood. it’s generally cutesy and light-hearted, but you can see how tough high school is for kids in china, especially as the dreaded university entrance exam draws in.

following hu yi tian (the male lead on the previous series), led me to go go squid! where he plays a supporting role — and it also lead me the world of e-sports. i’m glad it did, because this was a fun series to watch! like stepping into a parallel reality, it was amazing to see how intense the world of e-sports is in china and many other countries. i laughed out loud at their idea of what norway looks like though — i can’t imagine it has these many skyscrapers… :D

after that, i found some more dramas on the theme of e-sports and now i know more vocabulary about gaming than i’ll ever need, but i still find it fascinating. love O2O mixes a bit of game fantasy scenes with real world interactions and i liked the story quite a bit as well — it’s an adaptation of a novel by gu man, a chinese writer whose books have been so popular that a few of them have been made into tv series. the support cast is hilarious and yang yang is a darling, but the female lead… ouch. please, someone feed that kid. :(

(sorry, couldn’t find a subtitled trailer!)

and last but not least, boss & me, another drama based on one of gu man’s novels. also titled “shanshan comes to eat”, it’s mostly a happy series following a girl’s misadventures as a new employee in her company, where she eventually falls in love with her boss. she really enjoys eating and was hired to the company not because of her unspectacular accounting skills, but because she has “panda blood“, aka Rh-, which in China is said to be as rare as pandas.

so that’s it — five silly dramas that i’ve watched and recommend, if you have some time and would like to brush up on chinese vocabulary and listening skills. it’s a nice complement to more boring (but necessary) aspects of chinese learning, such as grammar or character writing practice. i’ve set myself a goal to take a higher level of the HSK exam in 1-2 years, and these higher level exams all have a speaking component, so i’m going to need all the practice i can get. wish me luck! :)