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Writing Hiragana – い

26 Nov

“I” OR “い” SAYS “EE”

The first stroke looks a little like a fish hook (but not quite written that way). Make a slightly curved vertical line down, then (without picking up your pen) give it a small up-stroke. These characters were originally written with a brush, and this was just a small pull upwards that gave it flair. It shouldn’t be too deliberate – more a fast pull than anything.


Second, on the right – make a vertical line downwards slightly curved to the left.




  • しかい (Shikai) = Dentist
  • せんせい (Sensei) = Teacher
  • い (i) = Stomach

Writing Hiragana – あ

23 Nov

If you want to live, work, or study in Japan, it’s almost required that you start to learn how to write Hiragana. If I wanted to just travel to Japan for a short time, I didn’t need to bother. But if I wanted to be fluent or for extended trips, I need to be able to write the Characters. Many foreigners simply learn how to read Hiragana but are never taught how to write it.  They just kind of guess how to write the letters.  However, if you write the character in the wrong way, it sometimes isn’t clear. Just like English handwriting – if you don’t form your letters correctly, sometimes it’s hard to read. 

So without further ado, here is the first Hiragana Letter and how to write it!

“A” or “あ” says “ah”

First, make a high, short, slightly slanted horiztonal line.


Second, make a slightly curved vertical line downwards.


Third make a loopy spiral like a “fish”




EXAMPLES (From Top 1000 Japanese Words)

  • あさ(Asa) = Morning
  • あお(Ao) = Blue
  • あう (Au) = To Interview

Writing Hangul ~ ㄱ

23 Nov

One of the first Korean lessons my Hányǔ 韩语 (Chinese for Korean😛 ) friends taught me was how to write Hangul.  As one girl explained, many foreigners simply learn how to read Hangul but are never taught how to write it.  However, if you write the character in the wrong way, it sometimes isn’t clear. Just like English handwriting – if you don’t form your letters correctly, sometimes it’s hard to read. 

So without further ado, here is the first Hangul Letter and how to write it!


Start on the top left and make a long horizontal line, then bring your pen left to make the short Vertical line down.


The G/K can actually be written in two ways. Normal K-Friends say it doesn’t really matter, it’s mostly a matter of style preference. Teacher K-Friends say that you use the first method when the character is alone, on top, or on bottom. Use the second method when the character is beside another one.




  • 거 (Geo) = Thing
  • 그녀 (Geunyeo) = She
  • 가지다 (Gajida) = To Take Hold of
  • 곳 (Got) = Place
  • 얼굴 (Eolgul) = Face

Hangul Pronunciation

14 Nov



Clearly Organized


Infographic-based PDF

Outlines the Hangul Pronunciation Rules (including Batchim, Double Consonants, Double Vowels, and more).  Everything carefully designed to include examples, pattern-building organization of letters, and other tricks intended to help you see how the language is built into the blocks.

Also Includes a simple cheat sheet on the Hangul (Korean) Pronunciation rules. If you want to learn more, this cheat sheet is perfect for you.  


  • specific pronunciation rules for each letter, dipthong, and combination
  • how to pronounce and differentiate difficult letters and sounds
  • the difference between the normal, aspirated, and tense letters that confuse so many learners.
  • the rules for double consonants
  • Re-syllabification, Consonant Assimilation, Tensification, and more.

All rules are simplified and stated clearly to ease understanding. Each rule or instruction includes Korean and Romanized examples for you to use as a starting point. 

Although Korean letters look simple when you first start, it soon becomes obvious that correct pronunciation can be very complex.  However, if you follow this cheat sheet, you should start to master it very soon!

Sino-Japanese Numbers

25 Oct

The following includes the Sino-Japanese Numbers used in Japanese for many number-related issues. In appearance, they are the same as those used in Mandarin Chinese, in fact that is where the characters were borrowed from (Sino – meaning “Chinese”). Thus, the numbers are in fact a part of the Kanji writing system.  

While Sino-Japanese numbers are more common according to my Japanese friends, the traditional Japanese numbers are still occasionally used and it is good to memorize the numbers 1-10 in traditional form as well. 

Also notice that the number 4 (shi) can sound like a bad word in Japanese (shi sounds like ‘death’), so it is replaced with the traditional number “yon”. And number 7 (nana) can also be replaced with the traditional number “shichi” depending on the usage.


Number Name Kanji
1 ichi
2 ni
3 san
4 shi/yon*
5 go
6 roku
7 shichi/nana*
8 hachi
9 kyū
100 hyaku*/ichi hyaku
1000 sen/issen*
10,000 man / ichiman
100,000,000 oku
1,000,000,000,000 chō


Although my examples below use spacing to help you see the numbers laid out more easily, the Japanese will often just combine the numbers into one long string. For example, my Japanese friends would write 2109  as nisenhyakukyū if they wrote it out in Romaji. 

**Please notice that the numbers 300 (sanbyaku), 600 (roppyaku), and 800 (happyaku) are different from the usual formula of Number + Hyaku. Not sure why, my Japanese teacher didn’t explain 🙂 I just know that this is true.

Number Name Kanji
1 ichi
2 ni
3 san
4 shi/yon*
5 go
6 roku
7 shichi/nana*
8 hachi
9 kyū
11 jūichi 十一
12 jūni 十二
13 jūsan 十三
20 nijū 二十
30 sanjū 三十
40 yonjū 四十
50 gojū 五十
60 rokujū 六十
70 nanajū 七十
80 hachijū 八十
90 kyūjū 九十
100 hyaku*/ichi hyaku
200 nihyaku 二百
300 sanByaku *note the change 三百
600 roPPyaku *note the change 六百
800 haPPyaku *note the change 八百
1000 sen/issen*
10,000 man / ichiman
100,000 jūman 十万
1,000,000 hyakuman 百万
10,000,000 senman 千万
100,000,000 oku
1,000,000,000 jūoku 十億
10,000,000,000 hyaku oku 百億
100,000,000,000 senoku 千億
1,000,000,000,000 chō

***Please notice that while in English, we count in 1,000s — the Japanese (and Chinese) count in 10,000s.  So in English, we learn one thousand (1,000), ten thousand (10,000), one hundred thousand (100,000), one million (1,000,000), and ten million (10,000,000). But in Japanese, they learn sen (1,000), man (10,000), jūman (100,000), and hyakuman (1,000,000), senman (10,000,000).  Notice that jū(man), hyaku(man), and sen(man)  are all  multiples of 10,000 (Japanese) instead of 1,000 (English).   

Number English Japanese
10 ten jū (ten)
100 one hundred hyaku (hundred)
1000 one thousand sen (thousand)
1,0000 ten-thousand man (ten-thousand)
10,0000 one-hundred thousand jūman (ten man or ten ten-thousands)
100,0000 one million hyakuman (one-hundred man)
1000,0000 ten million senman (one-thousand man)
1,0000,0000 one-hundred million oku (one oku)
10,0000,0000 one billion jūoku (ten oku)

Because of this, you can often see them mark numbers as 1,0000 with the comma after the ten-thousands.  For example 1,0000 instead of 10,000.


Here are examples of every number through ten million (follow same pattern if going farther)

Number Name Kanji
21 nijū ichi 二十一
32 sanjū ni 三十二
43 yonjū san 四十三
54 gojū yon 五十四
65 rokujū go 六十五
76 nanajū roku 七十六
87 hachijū nana 八十七
98 kyūjū hachi 九十八
109 hyaku kyū 百九
219 nihyaku jūkyū 二百十九
329 sanByaku nijū kyū *note the change 三百二十九
439 yonhyaku sanjū kyū 四百三十九
549 gohyaku yonjū kyū 五百四十九
659 roPPyaku gojū kyū *note the change 六百五十九
769 nanahyaku rokujū kyū 七百六十九
879 haPPyaku nanajū kyū *note the change 八百七十九
989 kyūhyaku hachijū kyū 九百八十九
2001 nisen ichi 二千一
3010 sansen jū 三千十
4100 yonsen hyaku 四千百
5210 gosen nihyaku jū 五千二百十
6222 rokusen nihyaku nijū ni 六千二百二十二
20,003 niman san 二万三
30,033 sanman sanjū san 三万三十三
40,333 yonman sanbyaku sanjū san 四万三百三十三
53,333 goman sansen sanbyaku sanjū san 五万三千三百三十三
140,000 jūyonman 十四万
400,000 yonjūman 四十万
654,321 rokujūgo man yonsen sanbyaku nijū ichi 六十五万四千三百二十一
7,654,321 nanahyaku rokujūgo man yonsen sanbyaku nijū ichi 七百六十五万四千三百二十一
87,654,321 hachisen nanahyaku rokujūgo man yonsen sanbyaku nijū ichi 八千七百六十五万四千三百二十一

Cultural Immersion through Names

29 Aug


Are you off on your study abroad trip already? Or planning one for the near future? Good luck! I hope you all have a wonderful time 🙂

Quick Question – What’s your name?

No, I’m not trying to start a bank account with your info. “What’s Your Name” is probably the #1 most asked question of student’s abroad. And seriously, it seems like it’d be the easiest one to answer. BUT THAT’S A LIE!  Names are sometimes the worst thing to try to communicate in foreign languages.  

For me, the answer is “wo jiao Olivia.” At one point it was “Ji ireum eun Olivia imnida” or “Watashi no namae wa Olivia desu” or “Me Llamo Olivia.”  Of course, all of those are potentially wrong or pronounced wrong so I greatly prefer the simple “Olivia.” 

Unfortunately, even when I just say my name by itself, I still ran into a lot of trouble. Why?  Because my name is not pronounceable in some languages! Sure, it come’s out normally in the US. But in Spanish, it sounds like “Oleebeea.”  Korean ~ “Oh Ri bee ah”. Japanese ~ “Ah ree bee ah.” Chinese ~ “O” and they stop.  None of them want to say the “v” and “l” and some even don’t like the “O”!

And I’m not the only person who has this trouble. Peter (“Beetle”), Kristin (Kreeseen), Martha (“Marta”), Elizabeth (“Ah lee sa bet”), Phoebe (“Pho buh” or “Phee buh”), Jack (“Check”), Jared (“Chard”).  Usually when we communicate with people in our new countries, we’re at least trying to speak in their tongue. But with our names, we keep wanting to preserve the original word and it just doesn’t work.  Lots of names do not really communicate in foreign languages or end up butchered. 

So instead you get used to spending 5-10 minutes with every person you meet slowly enunciating the syllables and repeating it over again. It makes you frustrated and them embarrassed.  So PICK A NAME THEY CAN EASILY SAY.

There are many ways you can approach finding a name in the foreign language:

  • Try just translating your own name.
  • Try picking one of their names that has the same meaning as your own.
  • Try picking a name that has the same sound as yours, but maybe a different meaning.
  • Try just picking a brand new name in their language that you really like.

For example, when I first moved to China a lot of people had problems with my name. Like I said above, they got the “O” but that was about it. In fact, with little kids I just became “Teacher O” and my college students preferred “sis” or “laoshi” (teacher).  My name simply didn’t work. 

Finally, I gave up and took a poll. I asked my students to help me come up with a name that worked.  After some research into my name and the meaning of my name (which is important to the Chinese), we agreed that there wasn’t a precise translation in Chinese itself.  Combined with my middle and last names, my full name means “The Gods Bring Blessings of Peace and Wisdom from Heaven.”  The students didn’t like the names that had the same meaning (they felt it lost the beauty of the original sound). And they couldn’t quite get the original sound with the same meaning. So we finally came up with 奥丽维娅 (ào lí wéi yà).

  • ào means “Mysterious or Profound.” 
  • lí is “Beautiful”
  • wéi is “Safeguard or Guardian”
  • yà is sort of like “Pretty Girl.”  

The students informed me that it was important in Chinese to not only have the correct sound, but also the correct characters since sometimes many characters make the same sound. They helped me go through and pick out characters that made the sound and meaning as close to “Olivia” as we could get. 

And it helps so much!  I practiced saying it for a while, and now everyone immediately knows what I’m saying when I introduce myself. They are always impressed that I took the time to come up with a name for them, it shows that I want to communicate with them and build relationships.  I’m meeting them half-way and they will frequently be more patient with helping me figure out their names in exchange.  I’ve added it to my LinkedIn and Resume and it makes them feel more confident introducing themselves.  The people who added me after the Chinese name was added more than doubled than those who added me before.  

Not only that, but I got a history lesson behind Chinese names, a name I treasure because it was made with love by them, and a name that they felt showed my nature. So I have two precious names in my heart – English and Chinese.

Think about it from your perspective. Say you are in America and a student comes up to you with the name “ào lí wéi yà.”  Now, maybe in their language (like Chinese), you have to not only worry about the syllables sound, you also have to know the proper tone. Say it in the wrong tone and the whole name is wrong. For example, “Ma” could be mom or horse depending on how you say it. 0_0  

So you could either try to introduce yourself to Olivia (which you are confident saying) or “ào lí wéi yà” which you frequently butcher and feel like an idiot even attempting.  Odds are, you’re going to go with “Olivia.”

The same is true for all the other people in the world. If you came to China, they would feel much more comfortable if you gave them a name they can actually pronounce easily and correctly. They’ll remember your name better too!  For my students, it’s always easier to remember those who gave me English names than the ones who stick to their original names. This is one of the reasons why Oral English teachers almost always start by having kids pick an English name.  

It’s only fair that we do the same favor for people when we go to their countries. Pick a Chinese name. A French name. A Kenyan name.  Get into their culture and into their language easier by creating a whole new, language-appropriate, name for yourself. It makes conversation and relationships easier for them to attempt and will help you make a more lasting impression.  

Finally, it gives you the chance to re-invent yourself a bit too.  Maybe “Olivia” is shy, quiet, not very adventurous, and not great at friends. But ào lí wéi yà is outgoing, brave, and ready to meet new people!  Sure, it isn’t the same as an official name change / re-invention, but it really does give you a chance to feel like a new person. And since Studying Abroad will definitely change your character and personality – maybe having a new name to go with it is a good thing.  

~ Love you guys! Let me know how your trip abroad goes!  Tell me if I can help with any questions!❤

Chinese Language * Male & Female   

18 Aug

If you ever visit or teach in China, knowing the characters for Male and Female can be very helpful. On your school roster, It’s often very hard to know if the student’s name is for a Boy or girl. So most roster’s tell you – Male or female.  It also helps if you Don’t want to enter the wrong Bathroom by accident. They don’t tell you in English 😛

男 = Nan (2) = Male

女 = Nv (3) = Female

Lovely Language ~3Q

21 Jun

😁  So the other day one of my Chinese students responded to a comment on our WeChat group with “3Q”  Took me forever to figure out what he meant!

In Chineese, the number three (3) is said “san” So 3Q is slang for a Chinglish Thank You or “san q”.😁  The group board then lit up with people laughing at the fact that they have now slanged Chinglish. :p

Lovely Language ~ Chinese “Laoxiang”

2 Jun

Fun Chinese Words ~ 老乡 (Laoxiang) has no exact translation into English. In Chinese, it expresses the concept of someone who comes from the same hometown as you. More specifically, someone who, upon seeing them again, brings back happy, cherished memories of good times as a child. A person who gives you nostalgia.

So Tired!

17 May


Do I look as crazy and tired as I feel? Up till 5am and awake again at 7 am two nights in a row does not a gorgeous Olivia make 😜☕ I even drank my first cappacino to stay awake! Translated a project from Chinese to English for a company developing an ecological cooperation program with the Middle East as a joint effort to combat desertification.

So cool! But it was a doozy of a project including the Presentation, the 20+ page Project Handbook, and several addendum papers. Worked around the clock in between classes for about 48 hours going paragraph by paragraph. Fascinating topic, but I am glad it’s done! My Chinese helpers did an excellent job, and the finished result looks amazing! Especially since we were working with such technical vocabulary! Proud of a Translation well done.

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