As a Mandarin Chinese tutor, I work with students ranging from elementary school to graduate school. Their level of Chinese fluency might differ, but one question I always get is: “How do I introduce myself?”
Mandarin Learning Tips Blog
In the West, we don’t think a lot about the origins or meaning of our names. By contrast, Chinese names have immediately recognizable meaning, and are thought to strongly influence a person's destiny. A good Chinese name is chosen for its sound, the visual appeal of its characters, various literal and metaphorical meanings, and sometimes even an astrological interpretation of its character components. The different approach to choosing names in China helps explain why Chinese people sometimes end up with English names like Apple, Cherry, Rain, or Mars (yes, these are real examples), or why it is common to be asked in China what your name means when most English names don’t have any worldly meaning. Choosing a Chinese name is an opportunity to reinvent yourself, but names should be chosen carefully, as they are an important part of making a good first impression.
The HSK 汉语水平考试 (Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì), or Chinese Proficiency Test, is the standardized exam roughly equivalent to a TOEFL for Mandarin. It covers academic, professional, and daily life Chinese skills, making it appropriate for anyone who wants to obtain official credentials for their Chinese ability or just track their learning. While the majority of test takers are students, the HSK is a great way for professionals to impress prospective employers with commitment to learning Chinese, and an opportunity to continue improving your Chinese in a measured process.
If you know Chinese 3,000 characters, you have enough vocabulary to read a newspaper or understand conversations in the workplace. The problem most people have is that 3,000 feels too far away or many of the characters look alike. Indeed, 3,000 is a lot, but Chinese characters are composed of smaller elements that make them easier to recognize and distinguish. To learn Chinese efficiently, you can take advantage of these clues to a character’s meaning or phonetic pronunciation as mnemonic devices. Deciphering the meaning of character elements gets progressively faster as you build new knowledge on top of previous knowledge of characters that share the same character elements. Paired with some creative imagery of your own, these mnemonic devices allow you to skip traditional methods of rote memorization almost completely, and just focus on retaining your mnemonics through another a second mnemonic trick called special repetition. What is indispensable about doing things the old fashioned way, however, is real interpersonal practice, which builds the most important type of memory, episodic memory.