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Archive for October, 2006

Tonight I went to a Harbin restaurant that Martin found a few weeks ago. The cool thing about this restaurant is that the laoban actually is from Harbin. Unlike the other Chinese restaurants I’ve been to in Taiwan, this one is pretty authentic. There were great lamb kabobs, quite a few potato dishes (labelled with the mainland name “土豆“, of course), several spicier dishes, and a huge selection of dumplings. It was about $250/person for the meal and it was pretty good! The restaurant is at 光復南路29051.
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Over the last year or so, I’ve been thinking about making an online drill for Mandarin tone pairs. I don’t think I’m very unique in that I had the four tones down within in pretty short time as long as they were in isolation, but struggled with pairs of tones for a long, long time. The homework book for Far East Everyday Chinese I included a pretty useful drill for pairs of tones, that got the wheels turning in my head. It was really useful for me, and it’s not really anything that would have been that difficult to put online. Being the procrastinator that I am though, it’s still not done.

Fortunately for all of us though, John had the exact same idea years earlier and got it done. He just put up a new section, titled “Mandarin Chinese Tone Pair Drills” ,on his site.

The main idea behind these drills is that learning tones of individual characters is not enough. Learning tone combinations is the key. Mastering those combinations necessarily involves extensive practice with tone pairs. A mastery of tone pairs will lead to significant progress with any number and combination of tones in succession. Although I was not fully cognizant of the exact process at the time, I believe it was this method which lead to my own successes in correctly producing tones of Mandarin Chinese in succession.

It’s very similar to what I was thinking of, but it’s clear that he put far more work into the presentation than I ever would have. It has neat little graphics with mirror effects, little flash buttons for each mp3, and better yet, it’s also offered as a free download. It was clearly the result of a lot of hard work. Thanks, John!

Recently, I’ve seen the topic of writing Chinese come up on a few forum threads, and in every single one there’s been a response saying something along the lines of this:

“Knowing how to write Chinese characters doesn’t matter. In this day and age, you can type them in on a computer instead.”

Does knowing how to write characters matter?

  • Yes, it's an integral part of learning a language. (85%, 35 Votes)
  • Yes, but only after becoming a fully literate reader. (7%, 3 Votes)
  • No, we can do all of our writing on computers. (7%, 3 Votes)
  • No, we just should use pinyin for characters we don't know. (1%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 41

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I’ve been thinking about making a static home page for Toshuo.com for quite a while. According to my site traffic logs, most of the visitors to this site are new visitors who come in through search engines as opposed to regular readers. I suspect that most people who stumble across this site have come looking for specific information, and probably aren’t interested in the majority of what I blog about. Not only that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a large number of them weren’t really sure what a blog is.
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My search for a laundromat hasn’t been easy since moving to Zhōngxiào Dūnhuà. This area is way too upscale for its own good. There are about 8 laundromats within a reasonable walk from where I live, but seven are dry-cleaners. That means they want $40 per item of clothing, and that it would cost me about $1300 per week to do my laundry. That’s as much as some people living in cheaper areas pay for rent! Obviously, there’s no way I’m going to pay that kind of money just to wash my clothes. The remaining laundromat is one that charges by the kilogram, $200 per kilogram. As I figure it, I have about 4 kilograms of clothes to do each week. While 800 bucks beats 1300, and they’ll fold the clothes for me, I still can’t afford that kind of craziness.
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This week was “Walk to School Week. The 國語日報 had an article on it:

為了宣導小朋友走路上學的好處,臺北縣市,高雄市選定本週作為”走路上學週”,昨天一大早,台北市教育局長吳清基就站在文昌國小校門口,一一為小朋友的”走路上學週護照”貼上認證貼紙; 台北縣長周錫瑋也到江翠國小擔任一日導護志工.

許多原先騎車,開車帶著小朋友上學的家長,遠遠的就讓小孩下車,讓小朋友經由”安全走廊”自己進入校園.

This is great! The government has decided to declare “Walk to School Week” to draw attention to the benefits of walking to school. Top officials are even standing at the gates of schools to give the kids who walk stickers to put in their “Walk to School Passports”. So what’s the response? Numerous parents who normally drive their kids to school are dropping them off a ways away from school and letting them walk the rest of the way. While I doubt this program will have much success, I’m all for seeing exercise and environmentalism promoted.

I’ll add pinyin popups and translations soon.

Issue No. 3 of the new magazine, Taiwanese, I was pleased to see an article about the “hardcore” buxibans I’ve written so much about. Considering that these schools provide far better than average results for their students, pay far better than average salaries to their teachers, and are exploding at a time when the rest of the market is not, it’s about time we see something in the print media about them.
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There are a couple of fairly new Chinese learning sites I’ve been spending some time on recently. One of them is essentially still in beta, and the designer invited me to try it out. Since it’s not completely ready to go, I’ll talk about the other: Chinese Blast. Chinese Blast is a collaborative learning site unlike any other I’ve seen for learning Chinese. It’s almost like a web 2.0 version of some of the old Anime sub-title projects the really geeky people at UC Boulder used to do… and I like it!
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I’ve recently added quicktags to Toshuo.com. Commenters here have always been able to use various HTML tags, such as <i>, <b>, <a>, and <blockquote>. For those commenters who run their own sites and are familiar with HTML, it’s been usable. Still, I want to make it a bit easier for people who aren’t so familiar with HTML to format their comments. That’s what quicktags are for.
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Tonight, I decided to get a pre-run snack at Sogo. I headed out around 7:30, and stumbled into a sea of protesters wearing red shirts as soon as I stepped out the door. So, I ran back in and grabbed my camera and followed them towards their congregation point at Zhōngxiào Dūnhuà.

They were screaming support for Shī Míngdé and telling President Chén to step down. I’ve never seen crowds of protesters like this in my life. There was even a miniature economy that had sprung up to support the protesters. Street vendors appeared out of nowhere and started selling sausages, water, red shirts, and various other protesting supplies.

Look at that! I sure wouldn’t be seeing anything remotely like this if I were still living out in Guīshān.

I have some photos up on Zooomr.