jpadmin, Author at Jinbupal

Benefits of Changing Your Phone Language to Chinese

Have you ever considered practicing your language skills by changing your phone’s system language to Chinese? I had always heard of people using this technique with their phone, computer, GPS, etc but, until recently, I had never tried it out myself. I’ve started using this method to help remind myself to practice my Mandarin daily and it has been really helpful! Today I’d like to share with you some of the benefits and difficulties I have encountered.

Okay, so let’s kick off with some of the benefits.

BENEFITS:

System menus, messages, notifications, buttons

Not surprisingly, tons of system menus and labels change to Chinese which is a great way to learn new terminology and vocabulary. Note that Siri language is managed through a separate setting, so you can still communicate with Siri in English. Here’s some examples of differences in iPhone menus and apps.

Major apps use Chinese

Many apps that you use every day support Chinese and will start sending your push notifications and other information in Chinese. Check out these examples below of using the Chinese language Facebook and Instagram.

I also enjoy a feature of Instagram in which you can tap on post captions for a translation from your native language to Chinese. Check out the comparison below.

Maps and Navigation in Mandarin

You probably guessed this one, but when you change over your language, Google Maps changes entirely to Chinese. This is really cool because it helps you learn the Chinese names of many different cities around the world, as well as have your GPS navigation spoken in Mandarin!

Wikipedia Google Searches Automatically in Mandarin

Here’s a benefit that I never expected. You may be familiar with how when you use the Safari browser on iPhone, often a Google search will provide a brief blurb taken from Wikipedia and a link to the relevant Wikipedia page. With your phone set to Chinese, these will show up in Chinese as well as the article itself when you click through to the Wikipedia page. This is super cool because it reminds you to take some time and read in Chinese everyday. I have found that I often would rather read in Chinese than take the time to change the Wikipedia page back to English (but you can quickly do that, if you like). Check out the examples below.

Mandarin Webpages

In addition to the benefits listed above, some websites support Chinese, especially if the websites are for companies which sell products globally. This is really cool because you don’t always expect which website will support this so it gives a little spontaneity to your day, providing more occasional opportunities to practice your Chinese skills.

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR:

Banking and Finance Apps

Many apps determine what language to present content in based on your system settings. This can be really cool because most apps on your phone will suddenly convert to Chinese language. However, there are some functions that can be kind of scary to have change to Chinese if you aren’t 100% confident in your skills. For example, some online banking or stock trading apps may have Chinese language functionality and will change over languages. I personally have noticed Paypal as an example of this. Just be aware that if you are making a large transaction and you aren’t confident you understand, you might want to temporarily change back to your native language to do so.

Navigation Apps

Having your phone in Chinese can be all well and good in normal situations, but when you are stressed out and in a hurry, it can be an extra headache. I have found that Google Maps provided Mandarin language navigation can be frustrating at times, even if you understand perfectly, because it does not provide street names. Instead, Google will tell you to turn left in 500 ft without further explanation. You’ll have to look at your phone for clarification on the map most of the time. This isn’t a game changer, but it can definitely add some difficultly if you’re in heavily traffic in the rain. Be careful and consider changing your language back over to English before setting out on a long journey if you are worried. Remember, changing languages requires a brief system reboot (not to mention navigating through the System menu) so it’s not an immediate process.

Spoken Content

This may be unfamiliar to most users, but I think it’s worth noting. I like to minimize the time and energy I spend reading information on my phone, so I have enabled the Speak Selection setting in the Spoken Content menu. What this does is allow you to have your iPhone read selected text aloud. This is helpful if you want to just select the text of an article or email and listen to it being read to you. For more information on how to set this up on iPhone, you can read about it here. Either way, if you rely on this setting, note that changing the system language to Chinese will have some impact on this. You can still select and read text by clicking 朗读 after selecting text. However, the Asian accent voice sounds a bit more robotic to me at fast speeds. In addition, all numbers and dates within the selected text will be spoken in Chinese if the text you are selecting is in your native language. This isn’t a huge impairment but it is a bit of a distraction.

4 Ways to Find Chinese YouTube Content

If you’ve read my post on Chinese YouTube Tools, you already know how to set up YouTube to be the ultimate language learning tool. Make sure you check it out if you haven’t yet, because it provides some excellent tips for getting the most out of your language learning experience on YouTube.

But once you’ve followed all the steps in that post, how do you actually go about finding Chinese videos and YouTube channels you are interested in? This post is intended to answer that question and get you started with a ton of channel options to choose from. Unfortunately, finding Chinese language YouTube channels can be a little challenging if you don’t know where to start. So here is a list of 4 ways you can find YouTube content as well resources we offer with tons of channels sorted by category.

1. Setup your YouTube Location for Chinese speaking countries

One of the most helpful ways of find Chinese content on YouTube is by simply telling YouTube that Chinese content is what you are interested in. The best way to do this is to change the Location setting in your profile. Since Google does not operate in China, you cannot set your location to mainland China; however, you can choose between Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Singapore. Any of these options should set YouTube up to start suggesting Chinese-language videos for you throughout the website. To change this setting, just click your profile icon in the top right and select the Location setting from the menu as shown below.

One of the most helpful ways of find Chinese content on YouTube is by simply telling YouTube that Chinese content is what you are interested in. The best way to do this is to change the Location setting in your profile. Since Google does not operate in China, you cannot set your location to mainland China; however, you can choose between Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Singapore. Any of these options should set YouTube up to start suggesting Chinese-language videos for you throughout the website. To change this setting, just click your profile icon in the top right and select the Location setting from the menu as shown below.

One thing to note is that you might consider creating an entirely separate YouTube profile specifically for viewing Chinese language videos. You might want to do this if you would prefer to keep your YouTube channel subscriptions and recommended videos separate between English (our any other language) and Chinese. Obviously this is just personal preference, but this can be useful for organizing your content.

2. Know the right search keywords

Fortunately, lots of YouTube titles include certain characters that you can search for. I would recommend the following character searches:

  • 中文, 汉语, 国语, 普通话 – This is pretty straightforward, but you can take advantage of the fact that some Chinese YouTube videos have searchable information related to the video being in Chinese. In case you don’t know, these are all terms for Chinese or, more specifically, Mandarin Chinese.
  • 集 – This is the character used to denote an episode of a show, such as “Episode 1”. This will help you search for China language TV series. If you’d like to search for the first episode in a TV series, you could try “第一集” or “第1集”.
  • 电影 –the word for “movie”, straightforward.
  • 字幕 – This word means “subtitles” and searching for this can help you find both hard and soft subtitled videos.
  • Topic specific words – This is more of a stab in the dark, but you can try searching the Chinese translation of a topic you are interested in. For example, you could simply search the word for “art” (艺术). However, most channels will have a more creative name that does not directly include the topic in the title and these are harder to find this way. (Don’t miss #4 on this post! It will help you out a ton!).

3. Search specifically for videos with soft subtitles

When searching on YouTube, click the Filter button and select “Subtitles/CC” under Features. This will only return search results which have soft subtitles (digital subtitles). Unfortunately, you cannot specify which language the subtitles are written in so some results may just be English subtitles rather than Chinese. It takes some trial and error, but this method can help be very helpful to find subtitles that are readable by a pop-up dictionary like Zhongwen.

4. JinbuPal’s Chinese YouTube Library

Lastly, I have taken the time to compile a huge list of popular Chinese YouTube channels. I’ve even categorized them based on channel topic so you can easily pick a few channels that suit your interests. All you’ve got to do to download this entire list is sign up for our JinbuPal mailing list with you email using the form below. A lot of work has gone into compiling this document so I really hope that you enjoy!

JinbuPal Chinese
Youtube Library
View Library

You can learn how to use the tool here.

I’d recommend going ahead and subscribing to a few channels on the list and start watching a few videos. After this, YouTube will start suggesting similar content on your homepage and the sidebar. This will make it easier to branch off and find other videos you are interested in.  Also, YouTube will recommend similar channels on the sidebar of any channel you decide you enjoy. Our channel list is definitely not comprehensive, but it should provide enough options to get you started watching something you are interested in.

Pick a Go-To Source of Chinese Reading Material

One of the most important things for learning any language is having access to content that you are interested in and want to read, watch, or listen to, regardless of the language. By immersing yourself in content you truly enjoy, you are using the language for it’s intended purpose: to communicate thoughts and ideas. The language should be merely the medium through which you accomplish that goal. By following the steps in this guide, you will quickly become familiar with 80%-90% of the characters in Chinese texts so that reading this content will be much more approachable.

I prefer reading news from cn.nytimes.com and techcrunch.cn. I especially like the New York Times because it offers side by side Chinese-English versions of almost every article. Not to mention, it doesn’t require a subscription! It’s going to be really important that you are trying to read difficult Chinese text as soon as possible. This will help you not only gauge your progress, but also help you see for yourself how much Chinese you can recognize very quickly simply by focusing your learning in the most efficient sequence.

To accompany your reading, I would highly recommend that you install the Google Chrome Browser extension called Zhongwen; it is a must-have for learning Chinese! This will allow you show the pinyin, tone, and definition of all words that you encounter online by simply hovering your mouse over the word. It’s pretty amazing! This will remove any time that you would normally have to waste looking up definitions in a dictionary. Similarly, for mobile reading you can use the Pleco app Add-On we already discussed in the iPhones Apps post of this course. With Pleco Web Reader, you can just tap on an unknown word for a quick definition.

Lastly, there is another great tool to help you read in Chinese: LingQ. LingQ is an app and website that allows you to read content in your target language, including Mandarin. Each word in an article or book is highlighted and stored in a database based on your current knowledge level of the word’s meaning. This information is shared across all of the articles you read on the app. As a word becomes more familiar, you can gradually reduce its highlighting. Eventually you mark words as Known and the highlight complete disappears. And the best part is, you can import articles from pretty much any website to the platform for easy reading. This is a paid platform ($12.99/month). I’ve found I gained the most from it after I was already familiar with top 1000 high frequency characters, so that might be something to keep in mind.

In future posts, I plan to discuss more of my favorite books, music, websites, and YouTube Channels in the hopes that this will save you a lot of time.

*I have no affiliation with either of the tools discussed in this post.

Next up: Beginner Series Summary

How to get started learning Chinese Series

Get an Overview of Chinese Grammar

For the most part, Chinese grammar is considered to be pretty simple, so this is a big advantage.  Also, Chinese sentence structure isn’t too incredibly different from English. Like English, sentences have a Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) form and often take the form of multiple clauses separated by commas. Verbs have no conjugations so this makes learning and using verbs much faster than in languages with many different conjugations to memorize. Verbs take on extra meaning about their completion or when they occurred by adding particles and understanding through context. There are also no plurals, definite articles (like “the”), or grammatical genders for nouns. There are more rules making typical sentence word order different from English, but we’ll get to that soon.

To familiarize yourself with basic grammar, I’d recommend working through the grammar articles on this website from AllSetLearning.com. It has extensive grammar points for all skill levels to get you started. One of the reasons I really like this website is that you can see the grammar points sorted within each level (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) all listed on one screen. I’m a huge proponent of this way of showing a lot of information at once as opposed to scouring through different articles and posts for information buried inside.

As a start, I would recommend that anyone first review the word order post, which will provide necessary understanding of basic sentence structure and its differences from English. After that, we can start filling in the gaps with more specific grammar points. I would recommend skimming through most or all of the Beginner A1 grammar points before starting to study characters. While you’re working on learning your first characters, I would recommend working through the Beginner A2 at the same time. This should give a good general idea of how Chinese grammar generally works for basic structures. The example sentences are directly translated so you will quickly become familiar with essential beginner words such as:

  • pronouns like 我,你,他,她,它
  • markers and particles like 们,的,地,得,吗,呢,吧
  • basic verbs and adverbs like 是,在,有,去, 要,很, 会, 能,可以
  • question words like 什么,谁,哪里, 怎么
  • negations with不 and 没
  • measure words like 个

After going through these grammar posts, you should have a basic working knowledge of Chinese grammar. This way, as you develop your knowledge of characters and words, you can begin combining these skills by reading in Chinese as soon as possible from sources that interest you. If you run into more complex grammatical structures that you don’t understand, you can always go back to the AllSetLearning website for more advanced grammar topics.  Reading books or even the news in Chinese might seem a little daunting this early on, but there’s another tool that will really help you tremendously for this. That’s one thing we’ll be discussing in the next post.

Next up: Pick a Go-To Source of Chinese Reading Material

How to get started learning Chinese Series

Tech Pit Stop: Must have Apps for Your Phone

As you start learning Chinese, there are several apps I would highly recommend you download on your phone that will help you tremendously. Don’t wait, grab your phone and download them right away!

1. Pleco

Pleco is an absolute must-have app for learning Chinese and it deserves a spot on your home screen because I guarantee you’ll be using it a lot. This is a Chinese-English dictionary with so much to offer. The dictionary is completely free and I have found that I use Pleco to look up words many times every day. It will give you not only definitions, but also lists of words containing specific characters, character stroke order, example sentences, and audio pronunciations. I would also highly recommend purchasing the in-app Add-On called Document Reader ($9.99) which will allow you to use a Pleco-based web browser to read Chinese. In this browser, you can simply tap words for a pop-up definition or have your phone read the text aloud. (We’ll discuss sources for reading Chinese on the web in the following post). You can do the same with notes and PDFs on your phone. Another function I have seen a lot of people use is the Flash Card System Add-On ($9.99), but I personally have not tried it. They also offer a bundle of features that includes both of these Add-Ons and more for $29.99.

2. Google Translate

Having Google Translate at your fingertips can be very helpful if a thought pops into your mind and you are wondering how it would be translated into Chinese. Google Translate might not be perfect every time, but it definitely offers very useful insight in these types of situations. Also, Google Translate allows you to input characters by handwriting if you don’t know the pinyin. I’ve found this very useful when reading physical books or embedded subtitles. You can even hold up your phone’s camera and use OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to translate the characters on the page! It’s pretty amazing!

3.HelloTalk

Especially if you are starting out self-teaching Chinese, HelloTalk is a very useful app to have. This app allows you to find native speakers who are seeking to do language exchanges. The main purpose is that you can find a partner to practice conversing with. However, I have found it so helpful to have from the very beginning because it has a social media style feed where you can make posts with text and voice recordings that others can reply to. Using this function, you can ask for guidance on your pronunciation or ask others to read out something you’ve written to hear it in a native speaker’s pronunciation. It’s a great way to get quick feedback!

*I have no affiliation with any of the apps discussed in this post.

Next up: Get an Overview of Chinese Grammar

How to get started learning Chinese Series