S2 ~ 01 ~ 你回來了!You're back!

Mandarin From the Ground Up

02-08-2021 • 20 mins

We're back for another season! In this episode,  Xiao-Li (小李) comes back to Taiwan.

Learning how to digest (and even to be entertained by) material that you don't completely understand is an important skill for learning a language. In this episode, we introduce a new dialogue, but don't translate it all at once like we did in Season 1. Instead, I'll introduce some of the key words and phrases, and we'll let your language intuition work to try and figure out the rest. It's ok if you don't get all or even most of it; it's the challenge of grappling with the exercise that makes us grow, not simply knowing the right answer.

Tomorrow, I will release the dialogue on its own, so that you can start to practice and master the material more and more over time. Repetition is important; each time you listen, you are reinforcing new connections in your brain, and you may notice things you didn't notice during previous repetitions.

And in the next episode, I will translate this dialogue completely, line by line, so that you can fill in whatever gaps remain in your comprehension, possibly enjoying many "Aha!" moments.

Today's Lesson Outline:

  1. Introduction: Language is music.
  2. Dialogue at normal speed.
  3. Dialogue at slow speed. Listen and repeat.
  4. Learn some vocabulary and phrases from the dialogue.
  5. Listen to the dialogue at normal speed again. See if you pick out any of the new words or phrases you just learned.
  6. Dialogue at slow speed again. Try to picture the scene in your mind.


As a visual cue and for reference, here are the words we learn in the lesson, and example phrases:

Chinese characters only (scroll down for pinyin and translation):

    1. 回來
  1. 還好
    1. 你還好嗎?
    2. 我還好啊
    3. 還好啦!
  2. 還是
    1. 我還是很開心
    2. 還是很謝謝你
    1. 回到
    2. 我們到了
    3. 我看到你
    4. 我買到了
  3. 飛機
    1. 飛機上
    2. 你在飛機上做什麼?
    3. 車上
    4. 路上
    5. 路上小心
  4. 都在
    1. 我都在睡
    2. 你都在吃
  5. 貼心
    1. 你好貼心
    2. 你最貼心
    3. 你真貼心
  6. 趕快
    1. 趕快吃!
    2. 趕快去!
    3. 趕快來!
    4. 趕快買!
  7. 好久不見
  8. 真的假的


With pinyin and translation:

  1. 回 / huí / return
  2. 來 / lái / to come
    1. 回來 / huílái / to come back
  3. 還好 / hái hǎo / alright, not bad
    1. 你還好嗎?/ nǐ hái hǎo ma? / Are you alright?
    2. 我還好啊 / wǒ hái hǎo a / I'm alright.
    3. 還好啦!/  hái hǎo la! / Not really, no big deal
  4. 還是 / háishì / Still..., nevertheless...
    1. 我還是很開心 / wǒ háishì hěn kāixīn / I'm still very happy
    2. 還是很謝謝你 / háishì hěn xièxiè nǐ / Still, thank you; I'm still thankful.
  5. 到 / dào / arrive; completion
    1. 回到 / huí dào / to arrive back, to return
    2. 我們到了/ wǒmen dàole / We have arrived.
    3. 我看到你 / wǒ kàn dào nǐ  / I see you (I successfully completed the action).
    4. 我買到了 / wǒ mǎi dàole / I (successfully) bought it.
  6. 飛機 / fēijī / airplane
  7. 上 / shàng / on, above, previous
    1. 飛機上 / fēijī shàng / on the plane
    2. 你在飛機上做什麼?/ nǐ zài fēijī shàng zuò shénme? / What did you do on the plane?
    3. 車上 / chē shàng / in the car
    4. 路上 / lùshàng / on the road, en route
    5. 路上小心 / lùshàng xiǎoxīn / Be careful en route (often said when someone is departing).
  8. 都在 / dōu zài / continuously, incessantly doing something
    1. 我都在睡 / wǒ dū zài shuì / I slept the whole time.
    2. 你都在吃 / nǐ dōu zài chī / You've just been eating this whole time.
  9. 貼心 / tiēxīn / Considerate, thoughtful
    1. 你好貼心 / nǐ hǎo tiēxīn / You're so considerate.
    2. 你最貼心 / nǐ zuì tiēxīn / You're the most considerate.
    3. 你真貼心 / nǐ zhēn tiēxīn / You're truly considerate.
  10. 趕快 / gǎnkuài / hurry up, quickly
    1. 趕快吃!/ gǎnkuài chī! / Hurry up and eat!
    2. 趕快去!/ gǎnkuài qù! / Hurry up and go!
    3. 趕快來!/ gǎnkuài lái! / Hurry up and come here!
    4. 趕快買!/ gǎnkuài mǎi! / Hurry up and buy it!
  11. 好久不見 / hǎojiǔ bùjiàn / Long time no see.
  12. 真的假的 / zhēn de jiǎ de / Really?! (lit. real or fake?)


Language as collaboration

Many years ago, before I starting to learn Mandarin, I took a trip to Italy. Though I spoke basically no Italian, I found that just trying to imitate the way people there spoke went a long way towards generating good will, and seemed to make many people want to try harder to communicate with me, despite the language barrier. I began to see speaking a language as a collaborative act, almost like making music, where listening and imitating are important parts of playing in rhythm and staying in the same key.

What I take away from this is that learning to speak any language, including Mandarin, is more an attitude than a technical skill. If you're willing to listen carefully and really open yourself up to the language -- to try your best to sound like a native speaker, even if you're a total beginner -- then you can go a long way with very little. You'll have more chances to practice, and you'll form stronger connections and make friends, which is what it's really all about. And, of course, you'll actually learn the language a lot faster.


Thanks for listening!


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