Learning Chinese in Singapore in 2022: How It’s Going

As you may know, I have been trying to learn Mandarin Chinese.

A previous post talks about how it started.

This post talks about how it’s going.

Upshot: I took the official HSK 3 test and the HSKK Beginner test on Sunday. I think it went well!

Here’s what I’ve been doing for the last two months to prepare.

Update July 12: Scores are in!
HSKK Beginner: 85/100.
HSK 3: 284/300.
Yay! 🙂

Continue reading Learning Chinese in Singapore in 2022: How It’s Going

How not to learn Chinese in Singapore

I have been trying to learn Mandarin since before I moved to Singapore in 2008. I have made embarrassingly little progress.

That’s starting to change.

At a cost of SG $245, I have registered for HSK Level 3 and HSKK Beginner in mid-June 2022. The HSK is the Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi, the standardized test for Mandarin Chinese. HSKK is a separate speaking test.

When I take the test, I will have been studying Chinese either for twenty years, or two months, depending on how you count. I’m good at languages, but this is going to be tough. I am taking stock of the resources available to me and trying to decide what to do and how. This process includes reflecting on all the things I’ve done before.

Continue reading How not to learn Chinese in Singapore

Books I read in 2021

This year I finished 52 books, about a book a week on average. That’s less than previous years, but there were some REALLY long ones: Les Miserables, not one but two translations of The Tale of Genji… and a fat amateurish non-fiction book about the experiences of Singapore educators that felt even longer than it was.

I might finish Atlas Shrugged, another really long one… Still a few hours left! XD

This year, 60% of the books I read were non-fiction. All my favorites were non-fiction (in bold below). Classic fiction titles were mostly chosen by the leader of the local book club I’m in in Singapore, The Hungry Hundred Book Club.

I’ve posted about the foreign classics on my other website, We Love Translations: World Literature in English.

Many books (both fiction and non-fiction) were about Singapore and/or written by Singapore authors; some were not Singaporean but were Southeast-Asian or Asian.

Why?

Well, my reading is following the book group selections and also the “last in, first out” rule that whatever I buy, I have to read it next, not ‘eventually’. I thought of this rule several years ago as a strategy for reining in book purchases, and I’m finally starting to follow it. There’s still a huge backlog, but the backlog has stopped growing. Yay.

See below for a sorted list of the books I read in 2021.

Continue reading Books I read in 2021

Pine Crane Prolong Year

I purchased this fine piece of analog pixel art (cross-stitch embroidery) from a Carousell seller named Jess and had it framed by the craftsmen at Barakkath Frame Maker in Chinatown. I’m delighted with it!

The Chinese characters are:

松鹤延年
sōng hè yán nián
pine crane prolong year

Pines and cranes are symbols of longevity. The flowers are a kind of peony (tree peonies, moutans, or mudan). They are medicinal as well as ornamental.

See close-up below.

Continue reading Pine Crane Prolong Year

Buying Books in Singapore 2021

Too much anxiety-inducing news and screentime these last few months, am I right? Grab a chunk of dead tree and travel in your mind to another world, learn a new skill, or come to understand some interesting idea. Your year needs more books. This post will tell you how or where to get them.

See below for lists of:

  • Book Shops at Bras Basah Complex
  • Other Indie Book Shops in Singapore
  • Local Sources for Children’s Books
  • Local Retail Book Chains
  • Local Publishers
  • Local University Book Shops
  • Local Online Booksellers
  • International Online Booksellers
  • Special Book Sales
  • Person-to-Person Websites

Updated June 2022.

Continue reading Buying Books in Singapore 2021

Singapore Siu Dai 1 and 2 by Felix Cheong, illustrated by PMan

Both servings of Singapore Siu Dai offer comics and brief comedy sketches that exaggerate the ironies of life on the island and lovingly poke fun at aptly named fictional characters meant to caricature the island’s people.

Though I can’t help but feel that the target audience consists of people who are familiar with acronyms like MOE (Ministry of Education) and the ubiquitous Singlish speech particle ‘lah’, there’s a glossary that explains these and other potentially opaque terms, noting whether they are Malay, Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin or Singlish.

Luckily for foreign readers, one of the entries explains the phrase ‘siu dai’, which means ‘less sugar’, the idea being that these sketches depict Singapore, warts and all.

There’s a third Siu Dai book that I haven’t yet managed to snag.

When I Read Singapore Siu Dai 1 and 2

Singapore Siu Dai 1
Date started / date finished: 17-Nov-20 to 17-Nov-20
Length: 129 pages
ISBN: 9789810788582
Originally published in: 2014

Singapore Siu Dai 2
Date started / date finished: 19-Nov-20 to 23-Nov-20
Length: 139 pages
ISBN: 9789810925499
Originally published in: 2014

The Complete Eh, Goondu! by Sylvia Toh Paik Choo

This is the grandaddy of all the other books on Singlish. This paperback, containing reprints of two originally separate volumes from 1982 and 1986, contains a wealth of acronyms, onomatopoeias, words, phrases, and chants in or derived from English, Malay, and the locally spoken Chinese dialects Hokkien, Cantonese, and Teochew.

Continue reading The Complete Eh, Goondu! by Sylvia Toh Paik Choo

When and Why I Read The Complete Eh, Goondu!

This is a list of Singlish words and phrases with explanations, grouped into chapters.

Genre: Reference (English, Singapore)
Date started / date finished: 26-Oct-20 to 19-Nov-20
Length: 221 pages
ISBN: 9789814328456
Originally published in: 2011
Amazon link: The Complete Eh, Goondu!

Singapore MRT station names as famous brand logos

Singaporean graphic designer Hang Kwong Lim struck internet gold when he transformed the names of all Singapore’s MRT stations into logos resembling those of famous local and international brands.

My first thought was “Hm, that’s interesting…” and my next thought was “Oh, I recognize some of these,” and my doom was “I think I’ll share this with my boyfriend.” The two of us proceeded to spend over three hours together on Skype puzzling them out.

Some answers were really obvious, some were less obvious, some came in a flash of uncanny insight accompanied by a feeling that was equal parts pride and utter mystification in the face of the veiled mysteries of the workings of the human mind. A few of them, I admit, we got by the simple expedient of using Google’s “search by image” feature. I only looked at answers in Facebook comments for the last two, because TBH I didn’t realize the answers were there.

Keep reading for a complete list of answers and my thoughts on this delightful excursion into the world of branding. Visit the Mothership post first if you want to work out the answers on your own!

Continue reading Singapore MRT station names as famous brand logos

I don’t think it means what you think it means.

Carousell is a fantastic classified ad platform. It embodies one of my favorite proverbs, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

However, to find the treasure, you have to hunt. There are clues, but sometimes the clues are misleading.

In particular, I’ve noticed that people use words for different kinds of furniture in surprising ways.

There are people who use the word cabinet to describe a piece of furniture when it is clearly a shelf—and vice versa!

Deciding what to call something is hard. Especially if you’ve got more than one language rattling around in your brain.

See below for proof.

Continue reading I don’t think it means what you think it means.