Mixing up Chinese words

I find it weird how, in English, my attention to detail is pretty amazing/anal but in Chinese, it’s abysmal.  Thanks to my past experience in editing and proof-reading, I will often notice (and be irked by) something as minor as an italicised comma, even when just reading for fun.  I won’t even mention spelling or punctuation mistakes.  I’ve always been a good speller, because I could usually tell a word was spelled wrong if it didn’t look right.

In Chinese though, I will often completely mix up characters that look similar – and even some that don’t!  The first ones I noticed myself mixing up were: 陪 and 部.  An understandable mistake.  Same with 夏 and 复.  But then I also found myself mixing up 填 and 坝, which are really not that similar at all.  I created a list of characters that I kept mixing up, thinking that if I figured out which particular element was confusing me, I would be less likely to mix them up in the future.  That has helped, to an extent.   Continue reading

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How to avoid speaking English to Chinese friends

A difficulty I’ve encountered while trying to practise Chinese with my friends in China is that most of them speak to me in English!  This is not surprising at a beginner or even intermediate level, when your level of Chinese is likely far inferior to their level of English, so that, even if your Chinese friends aren’t deliberately “using” you to practise their English, you’ll most likely end up in a situation where you’re speaking far more broken English than Chinese.  Obviously, this is not good, as it doesn’t help you improve your Chinese, and even can even worsen your English!

Here are a few suggestions for how to avoid that trap.

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