Mandarin Chinese Conversation Groups

Mandarin Chinese Conversation Groups give adults who are beginning to learn Mandarin Chinese an opportunity to practice speaking.

Blacksburg Chinese School
Mandarin Chinese Conversation Group 

For more information, please contact Ye Ding, Principal, Blacksburg Chinese School, [email protected]

Blacksburg Chinese School (BCS) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, composed of community volunteers and dedicated language and culture instructors. BCS’s mission is to promote cultural awareness and harmony and to be an active and contributing member of a diverse society.

Update 1/24/22: These groups are currently not meeting. I have kept the group descriptions in hopes that they may someday meet again.

Happy Chinese Coffee Chat Group (via Zoom)
kuàilè zhōngwén kāfēi xiánliáo xiǎozǔ
Wednesdays, 1:30 – 2:30 PM U.S. Eastern Time

What topics? Whatever you wish!

Ground rules? Goodwill, patience, and tolerance for errors. Friends don’t give friends unsolicited advice! Try to avoid instructing or correcting others.

For whom? The group is primarily for adult beginners but Mandarin Chinese speakers of all levels are welcome!

Cost? Free!

Please contact Anne Giles for the Zoom link.

Beginners’ Mandarin Chinese Conversation Group

This group is currently on hiatus.

The Beginners’ Mandarin Chinese Conversation Group provides an opportunity for beginners to practice speaking in a safe, supportive space.

We speak only Mandarin Chinese for the first portion of the meeting. We listen quietly while members pause to find their words. We refrain from interruption, correction, or instruction. During the last portion of the meeting, we speak English, often laughingly explaining what we were trying to say, asking questions, and sharing resources.

Since people may feel awkward and vulnerable, we ask members to offer each other good humor and generosity of spirit.

We are experimenting with formats. Currently, the facilitator shares a screen of content in English, Pinyin, and characters. Here are questions we have used. Here is a list of questions for ESL/EFL classrooms. (Thanks to Benfang Wang for the link.) Group members take turns answering questions about the content and then asking each other the same or related questions.

Group Protocol

  1. Arrive on time.
  2. Speak only Mandarin Chinese for the first 45 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 4 seconds of silence to think. A typical pause in speech lasts only about a quarter to half a second. If, within about 4 seconds, you can’t quite remember the word you want, please say:

    “Apologies. Next person, please.”
    Bàoqiàn, qǐng xià yīgè rén

  7. Foster conversation. Use the content provided by the facilitator to ask questions of fellow group members.
  8. Balance speaking and listening. Strive to make sure all who care to speak have had equal time.
  9. 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.
  10. During the last 15 minutes of the session when English is spoken, be ready to ask questions, express concerns, share resources, and offer suggestions for conversation-fostering questions for the next session.

The facilitator:

  1. Opens the Zoom room and welcomes participants.
  2. Maintains the Chinese-only protocol. If a member speaks a language other than Chinese, the facilitator will say:
    “Please speak Chinese.”
    Qǐng shuō zhōngwén
    “Please use the chat.”
    Qǐng shǐyòng liáotiān kuāng
  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.)”
    Xià yī wèi, xièxiè
  4. Provides content via screen share to begin the conversation.
  5. In the unlikely event of a problem, the facilitator mutes or uninvites a participant or closes the meeting.

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.

The meetings are free, held by Zoom, and all adults are welcome.

. . . . .

The Beginners’ Mandarin Chinese Conversation Group met from August, 2020 through January, 2021. It is on hiatus for now. The intent is to continue to evolve to meet the needs of its members. Here is the first description of the group. For two sessions, we met at an earlier time to accommodate time zones and invited italki instructor Benfang Wang to facilitate our meetings. For assistance with content and translation, Anne consulted extensively with italki instructor Depeng.