Learning Chinese Online During COVID

It has been over one year since COVID has ravaged the world and changed a lot of our daily lives. Education seems to be on the fore front of people’s minds, when will the kids be able to go back to school? When will college kids get to socialize and attend their universities in person? How is the virtual online class experience going for the children, and what kind of impact will it have on their psychological and academic well being?

Fortunately there seems to be a silver lining in the COVID world of education, where as the answer to children going back to school is a resounding “Yes!”, arguably, in the world of language education there are some advantages to learning languages online. Students, both adults and children alike, have found that while socializing is important in any learning environment the online classroom also has its advantages. Let us try to outline a few:

#1 – Utilizing an online platform such as zoom or google meet allows for teachers to record their classes, and then send those recordings to students. Especially when learning a tonal language like Mandarin, there are many advantages to being able to go back into the recording of your interactions in class and see “ahh, my teacher said it this way, and I kept saying it another way.” It trains the ear, and, you can press stop and play to repeat and try to get that tone right.

#2 – The classroom style itself is more regulated. While spontaneity is of course important for learning in the classroom and really speaking a foreign language itself, it is also helpful that the quiet students in the classroom now get to speak more and interrupt other students less. Arguably, when teaching online you can pay more attention to the individual student.

#3 – Sharing of files is possible and more efficient in the online environment. Instead of having a teacher in the front of the classroom trying to outline things on a whiteboard, you now get to interact with your teacher online and click a file (and have her update it) to see what mistakes you have made and save those for later when reviewing.

#4 – The breakouts…if you haven’t taken an online language class then you should experience the breakout rooms (at least, that is what they are called on zoom). It is basically the ability for the teacher to create a separate room, and funnel students into it. It is pair work that is truly personal, where you can practice your language patterns with your partner and no one else can hear you in the classroom.

While Mandarin is a great language to learn online, there are also other languages that have proven to be useful when learning, such as Arabic, Thai, Japanese, Cantonese and Korean. So don’t just stop at trying one language? Or something like that.

We hope that this article encourages students to try learning languages online. Of course there are disadvantages that we are happy to hear and please leave your comments in the chat. Thank you!

The Other “Chinese” Language…Cantonese

Thank you for visiting the learn chinese nyc blog, the blog that talks about learning Chinese in New York City. It is an interesting topic to bring up, but we should add to this blog the option of learning Cantonese, instead of just the traditional assumption that the word Chinese automatically means “Mandarin” Chinese.

When traveling through mainland China, you will find that all Chinese are generally educated based on the mandarin language, and all Chinese can generally understand and communicate in Mandarin. However, when speaking in depth with a Chinese person, you will find that Mandarin Chinese is in fact sometimes not their native language. There are multiple “dialects” of Chinese throughout China that the Chinese people will generally speak at home.

Now, why is this relevant to someone learning Chinese in New York City? Well, why do you want to learn Chinese? You might think that it is the language of the future, the business language, a strong career builder for you. While these assumptions could be correct, you could also be interested in learning Chinese because of a significant other in your life. And if this is the case, you have done your homework and asked your potential family-in-law “Hey, I would like to communicate and understand some of what is going on around the dinner table. What language should I learn?” And in response, they would have told you almost without hesitation “Mandarin”.

However, after dinner talking with your significant other, you might have come to find out that what the family was speaking was not Mandarin Chinese but Cantonese. Interesting you ask her, but, we live in Chinatown in Manhattan, home of a large Chinese population and when we go out to eat everyone is speaking Mandarin, correct? Wrong, you might come to find out that even Chinatown has a lot Cantonese speakers, in fact, it could be the main business language on the street.

The point of this article is not to discredit mandarin Chinese as a choice for language learners, in fact, you will see that it is quite a commonly understood and useful language across the world. However, there could be a preferred language amongst Chinese that is being spoken that you don’t recognize, and that language could easily be Cantonese.

Cantonese can actually be taught, and yes, there are classes for it. While it is rare compared to Mandarin Chinese, Hills Learning (spoiler alert the learning center supports this blog) does teach Cantonese classes either online or in person at their NYC location. Cantonese is very much alive, just basically because people who live in NYC / Hong Kong / Southern China, etc still speak it and use it to communicate.

Chinese Learning Center…Adds Spanish!

Nihao Nimen:

So anyone looking for Chinese lessons these days might hear this story. It’s a common story told throughout the world of language learning, and that is, the three most powerful languages to know are Mandarin Chinese, English, and…Spanish. At least in New York City.

So it only seems natural for a learning center (Hills Learning FYI is the sponsor of this website) to have Mandarin Chinese for its adult students, but also to add Spanish. How this fit will play out is another story, the center mostly has Asian languages and its student body reflects the demographics of students interested in those languages.

Their program will prove to have a unique tint on students who Learn Spanish in NYC. Please check their website from time to time for further information on their programs and how each level class is progressing, and what levels they’re currently offering.

Zaijian! Xie xie


Mandarin Language Center – Offering Arabic

Dear Learn Chinese Readers:

The sponsor of this website, Hills Learning, has decided to start offering more than just Mandarin and other Asian language classes. Their new program is teaching Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic with spoken Eqyptian and other dialects.

Surprisingly, Mandarin and Arabic do have something in common, their difficulty. According to the Defense Language Institute’s rankings, both languages are Category IV languages:


The languages also have similar interests for residents in New York (Hills Learning is located in NYC). Both languages have many people seeing the importance of them on the world stage in terms of business and politics. Both languages also have interests because of family ties or significant others from those countries.

After teaching Mandarin for many years, Hills Learning’s staff recognizes the importance of pronunciation of languages. Their Arabic Classes in NYC focus on the spoken part of the language, getting the consonants and vowels right. Although Arabic isn’t tonal it does have many sounds that are not familiar to English Speakers.

I hope this article was of interest to Chinese language learners, please contact us for any questions.

Job Offering for Mandarin / Cantonese Speakers

Randstad Staffing is seeking Customer Service Representatives to work in a call center answering questions regarding healthcare and benefits.  Candidates must speak Mandarin and/or Cantonese. If you meet the requirements below, please send me your resume for immediate consideration.


Start Date: 12/12/2013                   Address: New York, New York 10004

Hours: 8 hours a day =40 week

Pay: $16.00 Hour

Duties / Responsibilities:

  • Provide assistance to consumers seeking health care coverage including providing information on financial assistance programs and public health care programs (Medicaid, FHP, and CHIP).
  • Process applications for health care coverage via the telephone including building tax household, household income, eligibility determinations, and interpreting of determinations.
  • Process enrollments into QHPs, plan changes, and dis enrollments.
  • Processing of life events and special enrollment period. Assist Brokers and Navigators with inquiries and eligibility and enrollment issues as appropriate.
  • Transfer/referrals of calls to appropriate entities including in-person assisters, LDSS staff, issuers, other consumer support resources, and SHOP Service Center specialists.
  • Perform co-browse interactions with consumers seeking assistance with the application process via the HBE Portal.
  •  Assist customers including prospective enrollees and people assisting enrollees or acting on their behalf, via the phone and web in accordance with all Department and the client performance standards, policy and procedures, and protocols.
  •  Assist in explaining plan enrollment options including but not limited to covered services, participating providers, and cost.
  • Provides information and direction to callers regarding web-based, mail-in and telephone application/renewals, and other programs as applicable.
  • Facilitates the fulfillment of caller requests for materials via mail, email, or download. Responds to all inquiries consistent with confidentiality and privacy policies and refers callers to alternate sources when appropriate. Accesses, reads, and interprets data elements on all applicable client based and state systems to provide support, resolve inquires, and educate callers.
  • Escalate calls or issues to the appropriate designated staff for resolution as needed. Enters appropriate data and information into the applicable systems to process applications and/or update caller information, confirm the accuracy of the customer information and uses every call as an opportunity to provide education and support.
  • Attends meetings and trainings as requested and maintains up-to-date knowledge of all programs and systems.
  •  Performs other duties as assigned by management.


Education Required: Previous experience in customer service. Associates/Bachelor Degrees a plus.

Background & Experience Required: Preferable experience in Call Center human services, human services, health care or service-related field.

Business Chinese Terms for New Yorkers



While English is the lingua franca of the world, currently, monolingual people who only know English do miss a lot of what goes on.  Especially, when the linguistic diversity of newest Americans is so great. The millions of immigrant children that enrich US national linguistic reservoir prove that fact. Among them, the vast majority is Chinese speaking people. Besides, right now China is on the rise. That’s why one can expect that interest in the Chinese language will be constantly growing.

Here’s a list of business Chinese terms for New Yorkers:

1)       福利制度 (fu2li4 zhi4du4) – the welfare system

Definition: A program that provides assistance to needy individuals and families.

Example: 在美国福利制度经常被滥用。
Meaning: The welfare system in the USA is very often misused.

2)      通货膨胀 (tong1huo4 peng2zhang4) – inflation

Definition: A rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.

Example: 新政府的主要任务是减低通货膨胀的水平。

Meaning: The new government’s prime task is to reduce the level of inflation.


3)      技术交流 (ji4shu4 jiao1liu2) – technology exchange

Definition: The flow of technological know-how and technological services in and out of a country.


Meaning:  The technicians and experts of both parties should hold meetings from time to time for technology exchange.

4)      经济停滞 (jing1ji4 ting2zhi4) – economic stagnation

Definition: A prolonged period of slow economic growth (traditionally measured in terms of GDP growth).

Example: 这个国家进入了经济停滞时期。

Meaning: The country has entered a period of stagnation.

5)      经济指标 (jing1ji4 zhi3biao1) – economic index

Definition: A statistical indicator that tracks economic health from different perspectives.

Example: 本文运用了一系列简单的经济指 标以阐明工程技术的作用。

Meaning: The paper uses a number of simple economic indices to elucidate the role of engineering.

6)       经济衰退  (jing1ji4 shuai1tui4) – economic recession

Definition: A business cycle contraction, a general slowdown in economic activity over a period of time.

Example: 现在经济衰退终于过去了。

Meaning: The economic recession has finally finished.

7)       经济合作  (jing1ji4 he2zuo4) – economic cooperation

Definition: Voluntarily arrangement in which two or more entities engage in a mutually beneficial exchange instead of competing.

Example:  欧盟是俄罗斯的重要经济合作伙伴。

Meaning: The EU is a major economic partner of Russia.

Chinese Classes – What to Choose this Summer?

So it’s almost summer time, and what better time to learn Chinese? What a great excuse to get out of the heat and stay in doors in air conditioning and learn more about the fascinating culture and language. However if you’ve done some of your homework, you’re sure to find that there are multiple choices for you to pursue your Chinese language studies. This article’s aim is to help narrow those choices down by asking you the right questions.

The first question is, 1 – Why are you learning Chinese? If the answer is for a general casual benefit, such as I’d like to learn Chinese because I want to eventually travel there, or for work in the far future I can see myself using Chinese, then you have quite a variety of options open to you. Group classes might be better suited, especially as a group class also provides you with classmates who can teach you how they learn and also be potential study buddies. Group classes are also cheaper than customized private lessons.

There are two kinds of group classes, one which meets once or twice a week, and one that is more intensive. A course that meets once a week might not be a bad choice for someone that wants to learn the basics, and is also able to study (even for a little bit) outside of class. It also has the potential to be a long term course, as long as the teacher and students work well together.

However as the summer approaches we would also recommend a second offering, which is intensive Chinese courses. At Hills Learning, we’ll be offering two levels of intensive courses. China Institute and colleges in the city also sometimes offer these intensive courses throughout the summer. It’s worthwhile to consider this option, if you have the time and would like to learn a large amount of language in a short amount of time.

The second choice for Chinese classes is private lessons. It shouldn’t be any surprise that with private lessons, you’ll get more personalized attention and usually progress quicker. Private lessons are usually recommended when the student has been in group classes and it hasn’t worked in the past, feels that he or she is a very effective self studier (more effective than others), or for the more clear reason that private lessons will give business people “more bang for their buck.”

Which brings us back to the “why” question again, if you’re looking to learn the most amount of Chinese in the shortest amount of time, private lessons actually might be for you. For example, you’re traveling to China this summer and would like to communicate on a basic level before going there. Or, your company will be transferring you to China and you’d like to develop the ability to meet and greet in meetings and function in daily society. Where there’s a “pressure” to learn Chinese, private can sometimes be more effective than a group learning environment.

So the first question we asked is why, but there’s also a second important reason to ask students of Chinese and that is 2 – What level are you? If you’re a beginner in the language there’s no real reason to read further, however if you do have some background in Chinese then the situation might get a little more complicated as to if private or group classes would work for you.

Three Categories of Students

1 – If you’re a non-Chinese native, didn’t grow up speaking the language but have only taken it in college / other language schools, then either group or private will probably work for you. Just make sure to compare your prospective school’s curriculum with the curriculum you’ve taken in the past, what textbooks they use, what are the goals of the classes (Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening). Most importantly, don’t be afraid to contact the school and ask them how they would place you.

2 – If you’re a non-native Chinese and have lived in China for a significant amount of time, you should consider either private or an advanced course in Chinese. Please keep in mind when you join a group class you might be involved with students that have only taken courses in America, and might have a different conversational aptitude than you. Always ask about the class environment and how much Chinese versus English will be used.

3 – If you’re a near native Chinese speaker, or grew up in your household speaking Chinese but never learned to read or write, we’d probably first recommend private lessons. There are also group classes out there, but please make sure to check if they’re geared towards students of your situation. You’ll be bored joining a complete beginner class only to learn how to read and write.

Of course, we have seen American Born Chinese join our more advanced group classes and enjoyed it thoroughly, just be ready to practice the characters and writing systems outside of class.

We hope that this article gave you some direction for choosing the right Chinese class this summer. Please keep in mind 1 – WHY and 2 – WHAT IS YOUR LEVEL before choosing a group class in New York City. Good luck and happy learning!

Chinese Grammar Pattern of the day – 以…..为例

Mandarin grammar can be challenging for anyone learning the language. In some ways it is simpler than the grammar of European languages because there is no subject / verb agreements to worry about. However, it is significantly different from what most Westerners are used to. Hills Learning offers our students a multi-part series on Chinese grammar patterns. Regular practice will ingrain these patterns and help you master Mandarin grammar and correctly express your thoughts.

1)      以…..为例  (yi3……wei2li4)

Meaning: to take something/someone as an example

Example: 加入世贸并不意味消除腐败,一些南美国家为例,腐败并未因入世而减少。

Meaning: Being a member of WTO does not lead to elimination of corruption; one can take South American countries as an example, where the level of corruption remains the same.