It’s my second week in Beijing and my Mandarin skills are slowly improving… I can now cheer for China or Australia in Mandarin; take a cab home completely in Mandarin (as long as we don’t chat and the driver can handle my accent) and explain on the phone to a cab driver how to get to my apartment in Mandarin, if friends want to come over (this has only happened once, but it felt great!).
If I want to learn a particular word in Mandarin, I’ve found a great site to use – it’s called nciku (en-see-koo). You type the word in English, and it will give you the various meanings of the word and the Chinese equivalents. PLUS it will ‘pronounce’ the word for you at the click of a mouse.
Best of all, nciku will remember all the words you’ve searched in a ‘vocab’ area (free registration required), which means you can go back and practice later. You can track your progress by checking off the words you know.
Read conversations as they happen
If you check out the site, be sure to look at the conversations section, where you can listen to Chinese conversations and watch the pinyin. Pinyin, the not-at-all-phonetic roman character version of Chinese is used in phrasebooks, but is next to useless if you haven’t mastered the pronunciation.
Like an interactive phrasebook
The themes section of the site has plenty of basic words, along with stock photos and the pronunciation in bot English and Mandarin. Unfortunately, this section doesn’t feature Pinyin, which is a flaw I hope the developers address in a future iteration of the site.
All in all, it’s a great resource… Worthy of adding to the list of resources I mentioned back over here a week ago.