Mandarin Chinese Conversation Group Forming

UPDATE 2/22/22 Very sorry but these groups are not currently meeting.

If you are a beginning student of Mandarin Chinese and would like to practice speaking with other beginners, you are invited to join an online conversation group.

A small group is currently meeting on Saturdays via Zoom at 2:30 PM U.S. Eastern Time. Please contact me for more information.

Update 1/10/21: An updated description of the group is here.

Liu4 - six

The group is free. In one hour, each of up to 6 members will have approximately 10 minutes of speaking time. I, Anne Giles – also a beginner – will serve as a facilitator. An instructor will not be present.

To simulate a language immersion experience via Zoom, only Mandarin Chinese will be spoken during the first 50 minutes of each session. During the last 10 minutes, we will use English to check in with each other on how we are doing and to discuss logistics for the next session.

The Chinese-only portion of the session will make for confusion, awkwardness, and long pauses. Since only beginning speakers will be present without an instructor, we’ll use the protocol below to help us along. Group members are invited to offer each other good humor and generosity of spirit.

Ideally, group participants are interested in taking the HSK exams. As of this writing (August 4, 2020), the group’s conversation will be limited to the vocabulary and grammar tested on the HSK 1 exam. (Feel free to find online sources of this information. I am not an expert and cannot recommend any one particular list.)

Participants are expected to have their cameras and microphones on during the entire session. To protect the identity, confidentiality, privacy, and safety of all, please take no screenshots and make no recordings of any kind, of anyone, or of anything during the session.

Group Protocol

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Speak only Mandarin Chinese for the first 50 minutes of the session.
  3. Interrupt no one.
  4. Correct no one.
  5. Observe silence during the expected, needed, and to-be-respected long pauses necessary for group members to formulate their thoughts.
  6. Limit yourself to one minute of silence to think. If you can’t speak in one minute, simply say:
    “Apologies. Next person, please.”
    Bao4 qian4, qing3 xia4 yi1 ge4 ren2
  7. Balance speaking and listening. Strive to make sure all who care to speak have had equal time.
  8. Use chat for synergy! In the chat, post questions and comments, in both Chinese and English. Any members can post answers and ideas and we can all learn and grow together.
  9. Ask each group member the questions provided by the facilitator at the beginning of the session.
  10. During the last 10 minutes of the session when English is spoken, be ready to ask questions, express concerns, and to type into the chat suggestions for conversational questions for next session.

The facilitator:

  1. opens the Zoom room and welcome participants.
  2. maintains the Chinese-only protocol. If a member speaks a language other than Chinese, the facilitator will say:
    “Please speak Chinese.”
    Qing3 shuo1 zhong1 wen2
    “Please use the chat.”
    Qing3 shi3 yong4 liao2 tian1 kuang1
  3. maintains the “one-minute-to-think” rule. If a participant has exceeded one minute to think, the facilitator will say:
    “Next person, thanks. (Next position, thanks.)”
    Xia4 yi2 wei4, xie4 xie
  4. provides opening questions to begin the conversation and/or provide an image for asking and answering questions via screen share.
  5. In the unlikely event of a problem, the facilitator uninvites a member or closes the meeting.

I don’t know what the interest level will be. People from all over the world are welcome. I’m hoping we will be in breakout rooms of about 6 people each.

If you’re interested in participating, please fill out my contact form. Please ask any questions you might have. Once I hear from you, I will email you the Zoom link.

Answering these questions at the beginning of the session may help us get started:

How are you?
Ni3 hao3?

What is your name?
Ni3 jiao4 shen2 me ming2 zi4?

(What is your family name?)
(Ni3 xing4 shen2 me?)

Where do you live?
Ni3 zhu4 zai4 na3 li3?

You are from what country?
Ni3 shi4 na3 guo3 ren2?

Since my ability to speak Mandarin Chinese is currently limited to talking about cooked rice (mi3 fan4) and my four cats (remembering to say si4 zhi1 mao1 instead of si4 ge mao1), I can imagine we will reach a point where we are looking wide-eyed at each other from our Zoom windows, speechless. I will laugh with delight, think we are being very brave, and hope you will, too.

I am grateful to italki instructor Depeng for allowing me to consult with him about the formation of this group and for help with translation.

(The accompanying image is a photograph of my attempt to use my watercolors to paint a lucky number and remind myself that 六 liu4 means “six” even though the character has five strokes. My house guest, a visiting scholar from Brazil who has been to China, asked about the difference between liu4 and ren2 and that’s why one 人 is painted, too.)

Here are phrases that may be helpful to use while we are in the group.

With any questions or concerns, please do contact me.

Last updated 10/24/20