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Chinese Project Notes 1: On Shopping Trips and Sentence Sources

In the spirit of putting one’s money where one’s mouth is, Ihave set a $40-$50/month Chinese media budget, which allows for about 4-5 books or DVDs. So, today (July 18, 2007) I was learning sentences mined from an order confirmation notice I got from 博客來 ( where I had bought the stuff, and it struck me how much quicker I was at this now than the last time I tried.

It really demonstrates that the power of an SRS isn’t really on that first day, but weeks and months down the line when your constant practice has given you a gift that is as powerful as it is under-appreciated: familiarity. Perhaps it’s not so much that we “learn” a language as it is that we become familiar with it; we get used to it. Or not, I don’t know.

The other thing this shows is that sentences/phrases can and do come from anywhere and everywhere. The whole world is there for you to learn anew. This is part of why I enjoy learning new things (such as Chinese or ice-skating), because it takes you back to being a child — everything is for the first time again, fresh, waiting to be discovered. I mean, nothing could be more mundane than an order confirmation email — until it was IN CHINESE(!!!). Chinese text is almost magically…charming, wondrous, cool to me, just like Japanese text once was (until I got so used to seeing and reading it that it’s pretty much just text to me now…hmm, actually, it still is charming, just slightly less so).

As it happens, the email contains English, but I successfully averted my eyes from the dreaded Roman script. Plus I used a mixture of Chinese-Chinese and Chinese-Japanese dictionary lookups, with a bias towards monolingual lookups. This only strengthened by belief in monolingual dictionaries — I found a much clearer, more detailed, more accurate explanation of the word ” 則” (ze2) in the monolingual dictionary than in the bilingual. It seems to me that a language is best explained/analyzed “in itself” — or, rather, the best explanations/analyses of any language are generally found “in itself”.

By the way, here is a list of what I bought, to give you an idea of what I’m doing:

  • 吃了那隻青蛙 (Chinese translation of Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog. I already own the Japanese version) NT$153
  • 動物星球頻道:貓霸王 (A Discovery Channel Documentary on Cats) NT$199
  • 玩具總動員-10週年平裝紀念版 (Toy Story, 10th Anniversary Edition. At NT$365, it’s pretty pricey, but then it’s to be expected of Disney. I like getting Disney movies because the vocab is really simple).
  • 頭文字D (Initial D, starring Jay Chou!) NT$199
  • 模特兒的故事 (A Korean soap opera dubbed and subbed into Chinese. I got it because it’s cheap at NT$199, and it’s the entire show, all 20+ episodes)

Shipping to Japan was an extra NT$353, making a grand total of NT$1458, which comes to JPY5,405 or US$44.40, according to today.

So, 1 book and 4 movies. All the movies have both Chinese audio and subs. Some have Cantonese as well, which may prove useful down the line. As you can see, it’s a mix of foreign media dubbed into Chinese, and some pure Chinese stuff.

A couple of months back, again at, I bought Chinese translations of Japanese comics. I also got a Chinese comicization of the famous trilogy 無間道 (Infernal Affairs), which was remade into a Hollywood film, The Departed. I haven’t seen the Hollywood version, but for my money, I wish they’d just promoted the original movie in the US; it was already a really, really well made film: great acting, great story, great production values. Maybe someone thought American audiences weren’t ready to make the cultural jump, but that’s not giving American audiences enough credit. 周 潤發 (Chow Yun-Fat) and 呉 宇森 (John Woo) have already successfully shown the world outside of the Sinosphere that there’s more to Chinese action cinema than martial arts.

Well, we’re not here to talk about movies or use English, so off I go back to work.

  4 comments for “Chinese Project Notes 1: On Shopping Trips and Sentence Sources

  1. January 9, 2009 at 21:04

    Hi there,

    Time to read your Chinese Project from start to most post. I am currently checking out to see if it’s something I could use too. But why Taiwan and not proper China (if the Taiwanese folks forgive me for such a label 🙂 ). It must be MUCH cheaper there, huh?? I just got the second part of New Practical Chinese Reader from my library, but you can buy that from the publisher and pay an embarrassingly low price (like 30 Yuan/book!).

    OK, maybe you’ll get more shopping done in the next parts of these Chinese projects posts. I’m just taking one step at the time.

  2. January 9, 2009 at 21:35

    (I screwed up here ’cause i mixed up the TEXTBOOK and the WORKBOOK at first. Hope I managed to untangle the mess I made, before posting 🙂 )


    # 美金:12.95元
    # 定價:583元

    for the WORKBOOK


    My memory didn’t serve me well: 67.00 CNY = 9.80041 USD for the TEXTBOOK


    and # 美金:34.95元 # 定價:1748元 for the textbook

    in Taiwan. Kind of different prices.

  3. efeilliaid
    July 2, 2009 at 19:48

    Dear Khatz,

    I love Infernal Affairs! Seldom have I seen such a good thing on the screen. Do you know if there is any Japanese “comicization” of this trilogy available?


  4. Harold
    November 22, 2009 at 08:26

    Why Taiwanese books?

    These are some reasons that appeal to me.

    They are written in Traditional characters which is where I am starting.

    They are the only place you can get bopomofo which I find much more accurate in the pronunciation of Mandarin than pin yin. I know both and studied in Taiwan.

    There are many more interesting books available because Taiwan unlike China doesn’t censor what it allows to be published.


    If you want to learn simplified characters and don’t really care what you read and…
    then go with books from China.

    Either way, just stick with it and follow the edicts of our Supreme Leader, the Honorable Lao Ka Tsuh.

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