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 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.

Chinese Learning in New York – Look for Trial Lessons

This article is written by a staffer at Hills Learning, please check out Chinese Classes NYC for further info on options available for learning Chinese.

There are a variety of language schools in New York City to learn Chinese with, from universities that have 4 class a week packages including drills and courses, to Chinese language institutes that offer Chinese and cultural classes. Each institution has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some would say are more fitted to certain types of language learners of Chinese.

Language institutes and “Chinese only” institutions are focused on more serious Chinese language learners. Most curriculums have been approved by the Chinese government, and are designed to be a more stringent language learning experience. This kind of instruction is good for self starters and studiers that just need courses to reinforce their language learning, and also can keep up in more rigor learning environments. Colleges also tend to have fast paced classes.

Other institutions offer group classes and private lessons. They understand that different language learners have different backgrounds and abilities, and will need to adjust their curriculums and teaching styles accordingly. The drawback to these solutions is private lessons tend to be more pricey, as classes will have to be tailored to fit specific student needs and interests.

Whichever institution the Chinese language learner chooses, always ask if there’s the possibility of a trial lesson. Hills Learning offers periodically low priced trial lessons to learn chinese in new york. Other institutes as well usually offer “demo lessons” or free trial lessons to try your teacher. This will usually give an insight into the institution, but more importantly the atmosphere of learning that the student is about to enter.

With interest in Chinese growing rapidly, there is sure to be multiple new options for Chinese learning in the coming years in New York City. Existing schools will have to become more creative with their offerings to attract students and be the most important language learning option. Please keep your eyes peeled, and good luck with choosing the right institute for you!

Mandarin studies slowly enter the mainstream

SAN FRANCISCO – Bursting in from recess, 15 children take their seats and face the woman they know as Teacher Yang.

“What day is this?” she asks in Mandarin Chinese.

“Confucius’ birthday!” the fifth-graders shout in Chinese.

“Why do we celebrate Confucius’ birthday?”

“Because he’s the greatest teacher in the history of China!” exclaims a brown-haired girl with decidedly European features. She too is speaking Mandarin.

English is rarely heard in Lisa Yang’s class at the Chinese American International School, despite the fact that few students are native speakers of Mandarin and fewer than half come from families with Chinese ancestry. At a time when the U.S. is frantically trying to increase the ranks of students in “critical languages” such as Mandarin, students here are way ahead of the curve.

Founded 25 years ago, this small private school in San Francisco does what few other American schools do: It produces fully fluent speakers of Mandarin Chinese, by far the most commonly spoken language in the world.

“In the early days – probably up until 10 years ago – we were considered experimental, kind of ‘out there,’ ” said Betty Shon, head of finance for the school, which runs from preschool through eighth grade. “I’d get questions like, ‘What kind of parents want their kids to learn Chinese?’

“Now, there’s just no question. We get families who relocate to the Bay Area just so their kids can go to the school.”

Language ‘explosion’

Mandarin Chinese, the official language of the People’s Republic of China and the most common of numerous Chinese dialects, is suddenly hot in American schools. With China poised to become the world’s leading economy sometime this century, public and private schools are scrambling to add Mandarin to their roster of foreign languages or expand Chinese programs already in place. As many as 50,000 children nationwide are taking Mandarin in school.

“I think we would have to characterize what’s happening with the expansion of Chinese programs right now as an explosion,” said Marty Abbott, director of education at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

“It really is almost unprecedented. … People are looking at China as a force to be reckoned with. … And to ensure that the U.S. has the ability to conduct trade, to sell our goods and to work with the Chinese, certainly having an understanding of Chinese language and culture is an advantage.”

Culture shock

The drive to develop Chinese-language programs has not been without its bumps. A shortage of trained, credentialed teachers has made it difficult for some schools to join the race. When schools do get teachers, they often recruit them straight from China – a recipe for a cacophonous culture clash.

Robert Liu, who taught in China before coming to Venice High School, remembers his first two years in a U.S. classroom with the benefit of hindsight. It was not an easy adjustment, he said. In China, “respect is the Number 1 thing. Students respect their teachers,” he said. Mr. Liu found a different paradigm here, where respect must be earned and teachers spend much of their time maintaining order.

“You have to quiet them down and find different activities to attract them or they will lose attention,” he said.

Mr. Liu stuck it out and revamped his teaching style, and Venice supported him (although a few of his students complain that his teaching style is still a bit too static for their taste). But plenty of Chinese teachers wash out after their first year, leaving behind bewildered students and chastened administrators.

The Chinese American International School, or CAIS, has avoided many of the problems with foreign teaching styles by insisting that teachers who come from China, no matter how experienced, work as teacher aides before they take a classroom of their own.

“If you take a teacher from mainland China or from Taiwan, without support, without acculturation, most likely they’re going to fail,” said Kevin Chang, the elementary school director at CAIS.

It also helps that class sizes at CAIS are small – the largest have 20 students, and most have fewer. Tuition is $17,200 to $18,000 a year, and nearly a quarter of the students receive financial aid.

There is no definitive accounting of the number of Mandarin programs in American schools. But the Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages estimates that the number of students in Mandarin classes in public secondary schools has risen from 5,000 six years ago to as many as 50,000 today. The U.S. Department of Education puts the number at about half that.

The number is expected to rise. Pressure and encouragement are coming from far-flung sources, including the White House, the Chinese government and the College Board, which is offering an Advanced Placement test in Mandarin for the first time next year.

National security matter

In January, President Bush proposed $57 million in federal spending to encourage the teaching of languages considered crucial to national security, including Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In announcing the plan, the administration noted that, in contrast to the number of Americans learning Mandarin, “more than 200 million children in China are studying English.”

Mandarin, with its lack of a phonetic alphabet and thousands of characters, is considered a relatively difficult language to learn. But “if it’s hard, they don’t know it,” said Christie Chessen, who has a daughter in second grade and a son in kindergarten at CAIS.

She speaks no Chinese herself. Her children’s idea of fun, she said, is to practice writing Chinese characters. She constantly finds herself thinking, “Oh my God, my kid is doing something that I will never in my lifetime be able to do.”