Learning To Speak Mandarin – The Road Ahead

When we talk about studying Chinese what we mean by that, in 2010, is really studying Mandarin, also known as standard Mandarin. Compared to Cantonese, which is the second most spoken out of around 50 languages ​​in contemporary China, Mandarin is far larger. Cantonese is pretty much confined to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Mandarin on the other hand is also spoken in both these areas, and the entirety of the rest of the country. This did not come about as an accident. 100 years ago there were more languages ​​and Standard Mandarin was not known as standard. The Mandarin of today is an amalgamation of different dialects but is mostly made up of the old Beijing one. The reason that it is so common today is that it has been artificially promoted by the central government for obvious reasons: one modern nation needs one common mode of communication.

When we talk about Mandarin language studies people often say that they are rather tricky. They are not a walk in the park, but it is my sincere belief that people make it out to be a much more difficult task than it is in reality. The thing we need to remember is that Mandarin is very different from languages ​​that have been derived from Latin or the Germanic branch of European languages. But once those differences have been deal with, learning the rest of the language is much less tricky than it would seem when you are just setting out on that particular journey. These initial bumps in the road can be categorized into two distinct groups; the difficulties of writing Chinese Mandarin and the difficulties of speaking Chinese Mandarin. I write difficulties but in reality it is less about difficulty and more about differences.

The first of these two categories, written Chinese, is mostly hard because there is no alphabet. Instead you need to memorize a great deal of pictures, aka characters. The key to success in this matter lies in not thinking of them as pictures when you try to commit them to memory but rather thinking of them in terms of their underlying structure. The two golden nuggets of information that you need to become familiar with is the building blocks that make up the vast majority of characters, called radical, and the way that these radicals are written, the stroke order. Once you have these two concepts firmly logged in your head you will begin to see the characters as a process of writing and not as a finished product. The picture is complicated but the way that it is formed is as easy as pie. It is a bit like riding a bike really – once you get up and going you will cover a lot of ground very quickly and you will never loose that initial effort you put in while learning the first couple of hundred or so the right way.

The second of the categories, spoken Chinese Mandarin, is mostly different in terms of pronunciation. The grammar really is not that hard. Chinese Mandarin pronunciation, however, is. It is hard because as we know Mandarin lacks an alphabet. Instead of being made up of letters that make a sound when put together we have pictures which give little or no indication regarding how the words sound when spoken. To muddle things up even more the Mandarin language is not only dependent on syllables, it also involves modulation of the pitch. This is what is more commonly known as tones, and it makes Mandarin a tonal language.

However, both the difficulties with getting to grips with Characters and their radicals and stroke order, and the trick to wrapping your tongue around tonal modulation while speaking, can easily be dealt with in a small class size. Learning Mandarin without the individual attention of a teacher is very hard, but once you have someone to correct your pronunciation and show you what you are doing wrong when writing, you are on the home stretch, speeding ahead to proficiency in the language that holds the key to the greatest paradigm shift of our century – the rise of China as economic and political super power.

Introduction to Teaching English in Japan

Would you like the chance to spend some time in Japan but feel turned off by whistle-stop package tourist trips? If so, teaching English may be the answer. There is no better way to get to know a country than by living and working there. By teaching English you become a part of Japanese society, rather than just an observer looking in.

Teaching English is big business in Japan. Despite the collapse of the so-called bubble economy Japan remains one of the richest and most sophisticated nations on the planet, and this status is largely due to its success in overseas trade and investment. Thus, to get ahead in Japanese society, proficiency in English is a significant advantage. Add to that the fact that being able to speak English is simply considered cool and the huge demand for English teachers becomes clear.

Don’t Japanese people learn English at school?

Yes they do. Usually for 6 years or more. The problem is that, unlike most of the school curriculum, English isn’t taught particularly well. Japanese schools tend to follow traditional teaching methods in which the teacher stands at the front and lectures the class. Students are expected to absorb rather than question. The method produces excellent results for subjects like history and mathematics, but not for communicative, participative skills like language. School English education is likely to consist of lots of reading and writing, lots of grammar practice, but very little – if any – spoken communication.

Do I need to speak Japanese?

Not at all. Of course, if you can pick up a little nihongo (Japanese) it will make your daily life easier, but it won’t help one bit as a teacher. The reason is that the most effective way of teaching language is to use only the target language. Thus the only language used in English lessons is English.

How do I start?

Well, you could simply buy a ticket to Japan and start looking for work. Unfortunately, without a work permit, that strategy is illegal. Unless you have a Japanese spouse you need to find a job that will sponsor you for a visa. It is possible to travel to Japan as a tourist and approach a few of the numerous schools advertising for teachers asking if they are prepared to sponsor your visa application.

It helps to undergo some TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) training before looking for work. Not only will this give you some basic teaching skills and confidence, but it also shows potential employers you are serious about teaching and not just a backpacker looking for some financial re-fuelling.

TEFL courses are advertised in most English speaking countries. The more useful ones are provided by working English schools and offer face-to-face teaching practice with real learners.

Accommodation

If you are employed by the JET program or one of the big English school companies they will more than likely arrange accommodation for you. You are of course free to find your own housing if you so wish.

Living in school-found accommodation has the advantage of an English speaking contact to sort out repairs or other problems. The disadvantage is that it’s difficult to quit a job that may not be for you while living in their accommodation. I have also heard of at least one school that charges its teachers a significant premium over market rental rates for use of its accommodation – so beware!

There are several English speaking accommodation agencies advertising in the free English language press, and these generally provide decent accommodation, but at a price.

An alternative favored by many single English teachers are the so-called “gaijin houses” (literally foreigner’s house). These are basically hostels that rent out basic, but adequately comfortable, rooms mainly to non-Japanese clientele. Usually bathroom, kitchen and sometimes communal sitting room are shared. Gaijin house advertisements are to be found in the free English language press.

The Art Of Flattery – Using Flattery To Become More Attractive

Many people completely hate the word "flattery" and to even say there is an art to this makes them shudder with total disgust.

In a culture where everything is either right or wrong with very little room for the "grays" in between, I can understand why the word "flattery" rubs people the wrong way. I can also understand why many are sickened to the stomach because flattery is often associated with compromising one's values ​​and integrity.

But is flattery always a bad thing? And does flattery always have to be insincere? Does flattery make you more attractive and should you use the art of flattery on the men / women you find attractive?

Personally I find that mild flattery does often move things along more pleasantly than outright candidness. While excessive insincere praises intended to put the other person into the position of owed something to the flatterer is cheap and cheesy (and often reveals emotionally "needy" personality out for approval), a little flattery does help to quickly warm up first meetings or bridge relationship gaps.

For example starting off your conversation with a statement like "You look gorgeous" is certainly better than starting with "You forgot to put on your make-up today". By offering positive reinforcement, you are not only making the person feel good about herself but you are taking the small extra effort to actually show the person that you care about how she feels. She may come back with "I do not have my make-up on" to which you can respond with "You still look good". But when you say "I could not even tell you did not have make-up on" or "You look like you have make-up on", you've crossed over to the excess insincere praise.

In terms of bridging relationship gaps, a little flattery goes a long, long way. Say you are the "hottest" woman in your workplace or even at a party, taking the time to shake hands with the office boy or cleaner, or saying "hi" to the "geeky-looking" guy standing all by himself not only makes their day (they will be talking about it for days) but moves them away from feeling like a "nobody" in the eyes of society to "somebody" to those present (and to himself). Just by a simple gesture you show the person that you care about how they feel. Did I mention you'll be ever so "hotter!"

Having said that, I do not advocate using flattery to manipulate another's self-doubt or use their feelings of inferiority against them. Using flattery for personal gain has its own "come back to bite your ass" consequences. You can not get round using flattery to always get what you want without starting to feel empty, phony, lonely and depressed. You can never genuinely and deeply connect with others if you are manipulating their feelings.

Also keep in mind that flattery works for about 95 percent of people. Recognizing situations where flattery is appropriate is the secret of the art of flattery!

How to Encourage Your Customers to Leave a Consumer Product Review

A consumer product review can be a wonderful tool when it comes to helping you build your sales, but it does not do you much good if you can not convince any of your consumers to leave one when they go! Knowing your consumer product review to work for you requires you to have consumers that are willing to take that extra five minutes out of their day to let you know what they really think. Here's how you can convince them it's worth their time and effort:

1) Offer a small discount on their next purchase to consumers who fill out a consumer product review after they have received their product. This is guaranteed to bring you the results you want-who can say no to saving money? Just remember to keep the discounts within the limits you can afford. It's one thing to offer a 25-50% discount on their next purchase to everyone who gives you five minutes out of your day, it's quite another to look at the cut that's going to take out of your profits when they actually use it.

2) Offer to place them on your mailing list to receive further discounts or coupons after they have filled out a review. You've seen it before; "Answer three easy questions about your shopping experiences and join our mailing list to receive discount coupons and special offers." Again, all of your consumers are essentially cheap at heart; if they were truly satisfied with their experiences they would be happy to have the opportunity to save money in the future. (Hint: Let them know exactly what you'll be sending them, and if you can give them a look at a previous mailing. This eliminates the fear of SPAM.)

3) Spend money to make money. There are a number of companies that offer professional consumer product review services; for a fee they will review your products and put a professional review onto your site. If this makes you flinch, relax. There are plenty of companies that do it. The reviewer gets a free product and fifteen to twenty dollars, you get a great review to show to your returning customers. Everyone wins!

4) Be sure to ask for their contact information when they register for your forum so you can contact them regarding a bad review, but do not go overboard. An e-mail address will suffice, and it will inspire more confidence in your clientele that you're not secretly planning to load their mailboxes up with SPAM.

5) Include a product review card and a website address where they can post a consumer product review with your products when you mail them. While these surveys often find their way into a trash can, every once in a while you'll find someone who's willing to fill it out-and every completed survey is an extra ace in the hole for you.

Many consumers look at a request for a consumer product review and cringe, thinking, "I do not have time for this." It's going to be up to you to convince them otherwise, and these tricks and tactics will get you off to a great start.