Learning a language – It’s too hard for me!

(Based on a true story) A Canadian-born Chinese girl appealed to her mother: “Mom, I don’t want to learn Chinese.” Her mother said, “Look, we are Chinese. You must learn the Chinese language!” The girl replied, “But it is too hard for me!” Her mother gave out the final verdict, “No matter what, you have […]

Languages and Business Opportunities

This morning I and my wife went to a Chinese café for breakfast. Somehow they offered free Chinese newspaper. I looked for the headline expecting some specular world event to unfold. To my disappointment, the headline read “華裔移民第二代 喜中西合璧婚宴” (2nd-generation Chinese prefer Chinese-Western fusion wedding banquets). It also showed the photo of a businessman who […]

Speak Only When Ready – But When Will You be Ready?

There was an interesting exchange between Steve the Linguist and Benny the Irish Polyglot. I downloaded the podcast more than a week ago but only managed to get through it on a red-eye flight back from Seattle yesterday. In brief, Steve thinks that we should first immerse ourselves into a lot of input activities and […]

Learn Mandarin from Cantonese and Vice Versa

Finally, I have persuaded my wife to go to Mandarin class. She had her first class last Thursday. OK, this was not her first attempt, but at least I regard this as a new beginning. There is always hope. Coming back from the class that night, my wife started firing all kinds of pronunication questions […]

The Quadriplegic Mayor

Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan caught the attention of the international media back in 2006, when he accepted the flag at the closing ceremonies of the Turin Winter Olympics. He is Canada’s first disabled mayor and also the first quadriplegic mayor of a North American city. The mayor was paralysed after a tragic skiing accident when […]

An Innovative Way to Practice Conversations

Today, I have accidentally discovered an innovative way to practice conversations. This approach has the following advantages: It is free It is purposeful (you don’t carry out a conversation just for the sake of carrying out a conversation) There is potentially unlimited number of topics to talk about You can converse with different partners all […]

Languages Spoken in Toronto

After more than a year of waiting, the data finally came out last week. Statistics Canada released the language-related statistics of the 2006 census. Here are the top 20 languages “spoken most often at home” in Toronto, my home town, and their corresponding head-counts and percentages: English – 2746480 (55.31%) Italian – 185760 (3.74%) Chinese, […]

Xie Xie, Mr Prime Minister

The Australians voted for a new prime minister this past Saturday. Kevin Rudd will become the 26th Prime Minister of Australia in about 2-weeks time. I don’t know much about the Australian politics, but one thing Mr. Rudd has caught my attention (and probably of many others too) is his fluency in Mandarin. Of course, […]

Mandarin Tongue-Twister

Last Friday, I went out for lunch with a few Mandarin-speaking colleagues. We went to an authentic Northern-Chinese Cuisine. We knew it was authentic because it was certified by someone among us who actually came from Harbin, China. At some point during the lunch, someone brought up a well-known Mandarin tongue-twister. Being the only non-native […]

A Negative Comment

I was walking down the Las Vegas Boulevard last week with 2 colleagues, both were native Mandarin speakers. We have known each other for years, well before the time I picked up Mandarin. So we usually communicate in English. Imagine how inconvenient they were not being able to speak their native languages because of my […]

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