Tutoring Spanish #3

We started by looking at a test from class. Mostly done correctly, a few words not known here and there. The main section with problems was distinguishing between estar and ser.

Looked at an essay as well.

A few things to be aware of,

de el -> del

a el -> al

los/las for plural

Beginning to learn past tense and starting with some regular verbs. Probably should learn some other common verbs that may be irregular. Two that came to mind are tener and estar.



Those two are actually similar.

We listened to more of Slow News in Spanish. Doing better with it. Want to be aware of when you need to add the letter ‘h’ to the front of words.

For listening/pronunciation, good to pay attention to the difference between the letters ‘e’ and ‘a’

santos vs sentir
Salinas vs cenemos

Sometimes words are spelled with the letter z instead of s and it sounds very similar, that’s probably a matter of learning more words and how they are spelled.

One thing we also heard in the podcast is that the ‘y’ sound in ‘ya’ and ‘me llamo’ sometimes sounds like a ‘j’ sound depending on who is speaking.

Also, you would say ‘somos amigos’ not ‘estamos amigos’.

Tutoring Spanish #2

We started by looking at three sentences I came up with to focus on a few issues

Mis padres con mi hermana y yo somos cuatro personas.
Cuadros y círculos están en el pared de mi cuarto.
En una semana en Julio vi seis ciudadanos de Perú.

Partly for grammar, mostly for pronunciation.

After that we looked indirect object pronouns in the book for a little while.

Then we listened to a podcast called ‘news in slow spanish’.

Listening and then writing and correcting both how to write things and pronunciation.

Went over the days of the week and the months.

And focused on pronunciation a bit in ‘El Principito’.

A few other things to remember are that z/s have the same sound. And that b/v are kind of a mixture. Revisited that you don’t pronounce ‘h’ in words like ‘hablar’.

Tutoring Spanish #1, Verb Conjugation and Gender

We started by looking at an early test. There were a few mistakes, but mostly she understood the corrections.

I listened to counting from 1-10 which was mostly fine. A few problems from 11-20 and 30, 40, 50, etc.

We looked at verb conjugation a bit as well as the genders for adjectives as well as making adjectives plural.

Corrected a few issues with pronunciation including making the letter ‘t’ sound like ‘d’.

Compared three somewhat similar sounding words


Talked a bit about accent marks and where the accent usually falls.

It seems like listening to more Spanish could help, possibly a podcast. And continuing with duolingo could also help since it does become more challenging.

“Why do Chinese English students always believe that speaking with a native English speaker will somehow improve their spoken English?”

Question from Quora and my response:

Likely because it is something that can greatly improve their spoken English if done effectively. And will probably help some even if not done very effectively.

Of course, speaking with a native English speaker can also be done in a way that is not terribly effective at helping improve someone’s level of English.

You probably know people who practice things and do not seem to improve quickly. Or you may think about something people do frequently, for example driving, but also do not rapidly improve after the beginning stages.

Comfort vs Panic

If you mostly say and hear things that are familiar, you reinforce what you know, but may not learn a lot.

If you mostly do not understand what you hear, the situation becomes uncomfortable and frustrating.

Figuring out how to be in between those two states can help learning.

Patience on both sides is necessary.


If both people in the conversation are very aware of the other person, it can help.

Maybe one person is speaking too quickly. Slowing down might help a great deal.

Or maybe one person says too much at once. If the first part was not understood and the other person is still trying to figure it out, it’s unlikely they will understand more.

One way I practice language that can help quite a bit in earlier stages of learning is the game on this site. It has helped me be able to have conversations better and makes the conversations I do have more helpful.

“I am a Chinese student. How can I improve my spoken English without staying in an English-speaking country?”

Question from Quora and my response:

In a bit of a similar situation myself. I am learning Chinese while living in California in an area without a lot of Chinese people.
There are a few Chinese people and even some Chinese classes, so I try to go to those.
But mostly, I practice the language online. I would recommend one website and one app to find native speakers.
iTalki (website)
HelloTalk (app)
You can find professional teachers on iTalki as well as people just looking to practice speaking. If your level of speaking is beyond a year or two, sometimes just practicing speaking with a person who is not a teacher can also help a lot. In the beginning stages, a trained teacher will probably be more necessary.
I have been learning Chinese for two years. One way I practice listening and speaking is with a game I made up.
It helps me learn new words and also helps with pronunciation.
If you are more advanced, you may just want to have more conversations and ask the other person to correct you as you go.


12 Videos Across Two Years of Learning Mandarin Chinese

Started in March 2014. For nine months I listened quite a bit and repeated what I heard on the Pimsleur program. I got it from the library.

At that point I began to explore other options. I knew a few people who spoke Chinese and I began taking a beginning Chinese class. I also joined something called the ‘Add 1 Challenge’ with Brian Kwong. That is a group of people learning languages together.

The idea was to be able to have a conversation with a native speaker after 90 days. So having that goal in mind, I found ways to make it happen.

I started talking to people that I found through iTalki. Got some apps like Chinese Skill and HelloTalk. Read about strategies online, talked to people who also learned Chinese. Signed up for Chinese Pod for a bit. Did many different things and figured out what was effective for me at different points in time (that kept changing).

Even made up a game that helped me (described on this site).

I was working on learning Chinese every day. I had a bit of a strained 15 minute conversation at the end of the 90 days of the challenge. During the summer I kept working on it, but slowed down a bit. Then I joined the challenge again in the fall of 2015.

After another 90 days of working on Chinese pretty much every day I had a much more comfortable conversation for about thirty minutes.

Realized that I posted 12 videos showing my progress throughout the last twelve years.

12 videos through Two Years of Learning Chinese

January 7, 2015 (After nine months working through Pimsleur)

#Add1Challenge: Learning Mandarin

January 13, 2015

Add 1, Day Zero

February 13, 2015

Day 30 Add1 Challenge, Mandarin Chinese

March 15, 2015

Add1, Day 60, Speaking Mandarin

April 12 2015 (First Recorded 15 Minute Conversation)

Add1 Challenge, Day 90, Neal Speaking Mandarin for 15 minutes

July 29, 2015

Listen Speak Game Demo

August 29, 2015

#Add1Challenge Learning Mandarin, 90 Days, Round 2

September 7, 2015

#‎Add1Challenge‬ Day 0: Learning Mandarin in 90 days (Neal, Round 2)

October 10, 2015

Day 30 #Add1Challenge Mandarin Round 2

October 15, 2015 (Chinese teacher asked me to make a video for her class)

CHN 101 Chinese Class Talk, University of Oregon

November 7, 2015

Add1 Day 60 Mandarin Round 2

December 8, 2015 (Final recorded conversation for second round, 30 minutes)

A1C Day 90 Mandarin Neal Round 2


Video for CHN 101, Shi Laoshi 石老师, University of Oregon

(Chinese/Pinyin/English Translation)

1. 大家好

2. Dàjiā hǎo
wǒ jiào Neal
wǒ zhù zài jiāzhōu
wǒ xuéle zhōngwén yī nián bànle

3. Hello everyone
My name is Neal
I live in California
I learned Chinese year and a half

Made this video at the request of your teacher of CHN 101, Shi Laoshi 石老师.

It seems like most people in China start learning English at an early age, however, they often learn to read/write more than speak and therefore many Chinese people would like to practice speaking English. If you are learning Chinese, that means that potentially there are many Chinese people who can help you learn the language. This website started as a way of explaining a game I created to practice.

Most things become more fun and useful as you get better at them, same case with Chinese.

In terms of learning characters, if you want to really get them, you may want to start with the radicals. There are about 200 Chinese radicals, kind of like our letters, what the characters are built out of. Memrise can help quite a bit for that. I’m using this course there now, http://www.memrise.com/course/47843/common-simplified-chinese-radicals/

Feel free to ask any questions using the comments form and check out this website more.

Learning from Mistakes in Chinese, Mistake #1

You can feel bad about mistakes or you can learn from them.

Chinese isn’t the easiest language in the world, so I make mistakes all the time. But I don’t feel bad about them. I also do not ignore them.

When I do math and physics, many times I’ll try something and see that it doesn’t work. That is also how many things have been invented. By trying something out, you see how well it works and how it may need to be adjusted. With math problems, it’s often better to cross out something that didn’t work with a single line, rather than erase it. It’s good to know what you tried and how you will change things from there.

With Chinese, it’s a similar situation. It helps to see what doesn’t work as well as what does work and why something didn’t work.

You can find many examples of correct Chinese. And probably without too much trouble, you can find examples of incorrect Chinese. I thought it might be useful to have some examples of incorrect Chinese with the corrections. You might be able to learn from my mistakes just as I do.

In the Chinese Skill app, you get an angry panda when you make mistakes! But you also can see the correction.

Here’s one I got wrong,

Chinese Mistake take the subway

I somewhat got the meaning, but left out one key idea about getting home. I mixed up where the person was trying to go. They started from the airport and were trying to get home, not trying to get to the airport!


Accents and Emphasis in Spanish

I have been talking with another person in the #add1challenge about Spanish and listened pretty carefully to her day zero video, in which I could hear what she sounded like in Spanish right now.

One thing you can do pretty quickly to improve how you sound is to know where the accents fall for words.

Found this web page with a few rules. The rules are not too complicated. And after learning them and then observing when you listen, you should be able to improve how you speak in this regard quickly.


I started learning Spanish in high school, took it for three years there. That gave me some foundation for Spanish.

Six Words in 1.2 Seconds! Hearing the Wrong Thing, Examples in English and Chinese

The other day I was playing the Listen Speak Game and a couple rounds made me laugh.

I got only one word right out of six! And with a different person in a different round, the other person got two words (out of 10) that I said correctly!

We were playing in HelloTalk, so when you miss more than half of the words, the whole thing gets crossed out (even if a few words are right).

Here is the round in Chinese,


I have been learning Chinese for a year and a half, so I recognize a few characters, but not too many. I convert characters to pinyin most of the time. Have been working on learning the characters better though.

The first word, 您(nin), I actually know, but most of the time I would use 你(ni), so I didn’t expect that. Part of the reason I could get mixed up was that although it says 5″ (5 seconds), the actually speaking lasted for about 1.2 seconds.  So six words in 1.2 seconds, a little bit fast!


Here is the round where the other person got two words out of ten. Really, almost three since the person said ‘learn’ instead of ‘learning’.


Two of those words are important to the meaning of the phrase, Chinese and learn, but overall the attempt did not get an understanding of what I said.

I said the ten words in about three seconds, so at what I thought was a fairly slow speed.

10 words 3 seconds

I did not feel bad about missing most of the words though, it was said quickly. And by seeing that I missed most of the words, the other person can better gauge my level and either simplify or slow down the rate of speaking a bit, slowing down would have helped a lot.

For the example with English, since I did not speak too quickly, the other person can listen again to the recording and learn from it. I can do the same thing, although it would help to have a slower recording!

What I can realize from the English example is that I should not try to say sentences that are more complex than that and probably should use some of those same words in another recording to see if the person can now recognize them.