Free Mandarin Resources

***Friday, May 27th, 2011 – For an updated resources list, refer to

Here is a long list of free resources for learning Mandarin, which I have sifted out of all the other resources I encountered while searching on Google:<wbr>learn-chinese/index.htm<wbr>read-write/traditional/index.<wbr>php learn 4000 characters with animated character strokes great site for tv and radio links, fsi course etc <wbr> writing chinese characters, spaced repetition
As you can see, some of them I’ve already given cursory labels, and I hope to have time soon to go through and label all of them.
Labels or not, they’re worth taking a look at, of that I assure you:)

This site was referred to by Chris in the LingQ Forum

in a recent post. It is very similar to LingQ in that learning also takes place through simply reading and listening, but it has a couple of interesting features which I think any language learner can appreciate. Check out the intro video at

However, despite these cool features, it cannot compete with the INDEPENDENT language learning power of LingQ, namely that on LingQ the LEARNER decides what he or she studies and can import his or her own content, without having to rely on some website to do it, in addition to the fact that you can’t save words on this site.

Regardless, I think it’s a cool concept, it just needs a bit of work.

In the future when Arabic is offered on LingQ, this might be a good supplementary website from which you could take words and phrases and save them in your LingQ wordlist, for example.

The Key to Good Pronunciation: Exaggeration

This is a re-post of one of my recent contributions ( in the LingQ Forum, with a couple slight additions:

Good pronunciation is very much a question of attitude towards and acceptance of the foreign culture, and it’s impeded by fear.

Fear of sounding ‘too foreign’, of leaving the comfortable boundaries of the sounds and intonation of your native language.

In my opinion, exaggeration is the key to good pronunciation. EXAGGERATE everything you do in the language, based on what you see and hear native speakers doing. Try to look (that is, move your mouth and face) and sound like them, imagine you are them.

All of this, of course, must be preceded by lots of natural exposure to the language, i.e. listening and reading. Remember that Steve didn’t speak Russian for two years after he started learning, that is, he gave himself time to assimilate the sounds and intonation of the language before he started speaking.

Steve actually talks about this subject in his interview on Radio Canada

and in this thread on the forum

Once you’ve heard a lot of English and have become accustomed to hearing and understanding different accents, it’s important that you choose one you’d like to imitate and try your best to emulate it. Otherwise you will always have a foreign/international accent (and there’s nothing wrong that).

Check out this video (and YouTube channel and blog, in that order) on Language Learning and accents from Hyunwoo Sun, a Korean tutor at and a popular YouTube polyglot

and watch this Chinese cop and the way he imitates a New York accent by exaggerating (and ends up sounding pretty good)

Skritter : Learn Chinese and Japanese characters faster and retain them longer

I came upon Skritter, a cool website for learning how to WRITE and remember Chinese and Japanese characters, while searching for free online learning resources for Chinese. Watch the intro video here:

According to the site, Skritter allows you to

  • Learn Chinese and Japanese: in your browser, no installation.
  • Write your characters: use a mouse, writing tablet, or touchscreen.
  • Track your progress using SRS (Spaced Repetition Learning System): so you review only what you need to review.
  • Use textbook lists plus over 4200 simplified and traditional characters included.
You can sign up for a free 2-week trial for the Chinese site, after which you have to pay.

The Japanese site currently free, as it is still BETA.

Acappella, my other love

In case anyone’s interested, here’s a video of my UC Berkeley Acappella group Artists in Resonance (AiR) performing ‘Heartbreaker’ by Pat Benatar on campus in the Music Department.

I also recommend Under the Bridge, Motown Philly, and Mr. Roboto, where you can see me and Rafi hold down the bass, and Lie Low, where I get a solo in! Oh, and you can skip the intros/skits 😉

We sure had a lot of fun back then.

Getting started in Japanese

This post is for everyone who’s always wanted to get started learning Japanese but never knew where to start.

‘Human Japanese’ is, in my opinion, the least painful and most entertaining introduction to all aspects of the Japanese language, and it’s what helped me most when I got started. It includes a short history of the Japanese language, a comparison of Japanese to English, and then a thourough and engaging intro to the writing system and basic grammar and vocab over the course of 40 chapters, including audio for all the words and phrases. The trial version is free to download (see link below).

The other resources (#’s 2, 3 and 4) are indispensable for learning Hiragana, Katakana and the Kanji, and #5 is for those who intend to study Chinese as well and want an efficient way to learn the 800 most frequent characters (which comprise 75% of written Chinese).

Ok, here’s what you do to get started in Japanese:

1) Go to

and try out Human Japanese, which, as I said above, is the best introduction to the writing system, grammar and vocabulary of Japanese I’ve seen.

***2) Download Nihonaid from

which is a program you download that utilizes mnemonics combined with Spaced Repetition Learning to maximize the rate at which you learn first Hiragana, then Katakana, then the Kanji.

3) Sign up for a free membership at

where you can learn the Kanji online using James Heisig’s system and have access to other learner’s mnemonic devices for the characters.

4) Check out the wealth of resources for learning Japanese at

5) (Optional) Invest in

Tuttle Learning Chinese Characters

which will not only help you to remember the meanings of the characters, but will also help you remember the Chinese pronunciations of the characters, as these are built into the mnemonic devices given.

I wish you success in your Japanese studies, and welcome any comments or questions!

I’ve posted a video on LingQ’s YouTube channel LingQ Plaza

Under the following link you can see the recording of my conversation in Spanish with Albert (Alsuvi)

The conversation went quite long, so I split it up into 4 parts.

I hope you enjoy the video and I welcome any feedback on the video (and on my Spanish!)

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