Bubble tea!?

Bubble tea (a.k.a ‘boba’ by the Hipsters…开玩笑) is a tea based drink usually filled with tapioca pearls. The drink was originally made in Taiwan and is famously known as an East Asian beverage. In the recent years the drink has become increasingly popular in the West and explains why you may have seen Boba stores popping up in the UK in big shopping centres and such.

I have been asked about bubble tea many times, and so I thought it was best to answer some of the questions in a standalone post. I usually get asked when I take a friend to try it and I have to quickly brief them whilst they’re in the queue. The FAQ would be ‘what’s that black stuff in the drink?’. The answer is simply tapioca pearls (basically the ‘bubbles’). The tapioca/boba has a chewy texture like a slightly hardened jelly that you can eat along with your drink. Bubble tea usually comes with a straw that has a larger hole than normal straws so that you can suck the tapioca along with your tea. Recently shops have started to ask customers if they would like tapioca with their drink (or charge 50p extra for tapioca to be included in the drink) since many people find it unsettling to have things floating in their tea which force them to drink and chew at the same time. However there are toppings other than tapioca. Some of the most popular toppings would be aiyu jelly (which has a rather tasteless taste), grass jelly and red bean. You can even get popping boba, which is coloured tapioca pearls that have flavoured juice inside them that you taste once you bite them (often fruit flavoured).

So that’s tapioca sorted, what about the drink itself? Bubbletea is a tea based drink. Usually the teas are divided into fruit and milk. Fruit teas taste a bit like juice (which I recommend if you want something to quench your thirst), and milk teas have a milk base (so it may remind you of your English breakfast tea). Some shops also sell teas in different forms such as frozen ice, mousse and lattés. The frozen ice is sort of like a slushie and although it is quite popular with tapioca, the tapioca will harden quicker due to the freezing temperature of the drink. The mousse is also quite interesting as it has a foam layer on top of the tea that you have to shake before drinking to mix the two together. In all honesty it’s pretty much the same as a milk tea once you’ve shaken the cup, but do try it if there are interesting flavours.

Most shops have the same traditional flavours of milk tea such as Matcha (Japanese green tea), Oolong, Jasmine, Brown sugar, Chocolate; as well as standard fruit flavours such as Strawberry, Mango, Passion Fruit and Lychee. In most shops you can also mix flavours, although this is usually limited to two flavours and kept within fruit or milk tea bases. I would recommend a mixture of Mango and Passion fruit which complement each other very well, especially if you’re unsure of what to have the first time and don’t want to try something too new. You may also notice on the menu that you can have your drink with either a Green or a Black tea base. I only recently found this out, but a Green tea base is slightly weaker in terms of flavour, and a Black tea base is slightly stronger. Although I don’t pay too much attention to it, in certain shops I would recommend a Black tea base since their flavours are not always very strong, however I generally stick to using Green tea.

Once you have chosen your tea flavour(s) you will be asked if you want your drink hot or cold (although certain drinks only come in one form) and which level of sweetness you would like your drink to be. Personally I like to have my drinks cold with no ice because the ice cubes get in the way of the pearls and can also dilute the drink as they melt. I also think that milk tea drinks taste better hot than fruit teas. I’ve found that the fruit teas have a strange almost bitter aftertaste when served hot, which would probably be even stronger with a black tea base. If you want to try a hot tea, a safe option would be a hot chocolate flavoured tea which can be quite nice (if it’s mixed properly). You can make a judgement as to which flavours will taste nice hot, for example I once tried a hot Rose milk tea which brought out the rose flavour more strongly than in its cold tea counterpart but eventually made me feel a bit sick x_x Of course this is only my opinion and you should try out different flavours and combinations of teas if you get a chance so that you can find your own favourites.

As I mentioned earlier as well as being asked which temperature you would like your drink to be served as, you will also be given the choice to determine the sweetness level. Some shops are more precise than others, like some stores in Korea which will ask you to state a percentage number for how sweet you would like your drink. The most basic options are to keep the sugar level at regular, extra sweet, or less sweet. Within these levels you can sometimes request further levels of sweetness like extra extra sweet (x_x) or no sugar at all. Although it’s quite easy to keep the sugar at regular level, you could try different sugar levels to see how greatly it affects the overall taste.

The first time I saw a sign for a Bubble tea shop I imagined a Bubble Gum/magical flavoured drink that I felt the need to try! It was only a year or so later that I found another shop selling the elusive beverage, and once I found out what it really was I was quite satisfied. Incase you didn’t already guessed, 奶茶对身体不健康 –Bubble tea is quite unhealthy, so try not to have it too frequently. You can try to opt for flavours that are ‘less unhealthy’ than others, perhaps like a hot lychee green tea with less sugar. Of course the sugar levels will play a big role in this, however the drinks are mainly deemed as unhealthy because of the flavoured syrups that are sometimes mixed in with the teas and also because the tapioca itself is quite high in calories. So you have been warned~

If you ever visit Taiwan you can go to the shop where Bubble tea was originally created and have a session making your own authentic teas. From what I remember the creation of the drink was quite interesting, but I’m afraid we’ve run out of time for a history lesson today. If you would like me to expand on the topic in the future or perhaps talk about how to make your own Bubble tea at home then do let me know.

This post has already become quite long so I hope you have a good understanding of what Bubble tea is! You may now be wondering where you can purchase such a magical drink? I decided to talk about this in a separate post so stay tuned and I will reveal such details and more!~

If you try Bubble tea for the first time, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Chinese Music 4

In this final part of my Chinese Music series I will be sharing songs that were not included in the previous posts but still deserve to be showcased. Expect an array of songs quite different to eachother, from videos that may surprise you, to possible new favourites that need to be given a chance😝我们开始吧?

I wanted to begin with a song shown to me by 一位同学. The song is ‘Scream’ by Grimes  a sort of dark Electronica song I didn’t expect to hear in Chinese! The next song reminds me of the one I just shared, and if anyone knows what genre to classify it as, do let me know. Please listen to 第二個我 ‘Second Me’ by 路子樂隊 (known as WAY5 in English).

I thought I should show you one of the famous Chinese singers I left out in Part 1 about Chinese pop music. Jolin Tsai is very popular in Taiwan and so please enjoy her collaborative dance song ‘I’m Not Yours’. What I did learn from parts of the mv that I did watch is that the narrative of the song is somewhat mystical…in a dark sense, and that some of the English lyrics were interesting to say the least. To balance out the negative energy, here’s another pop song that I withheld for this post. Here is Hit5’s ‘Shine On Me’.

The next song can only be described as super cute😋 Without an mv I can only imagine a man in his 30s singing this while playing the guitar to a women riding away on her bicycle on a sunny day ^-^ Not quite selling it? You’ll have to listen to it yourself then; 因为爱情 (Because of Love) by Chan Faye Wong. Another song that can be described as cute but for more obvious reasons is 麒麟 Unicorn Baby’s 小小閨蜜 ‘Best Friend’.  Or is Gao YanKai’s 快樂出發 ‘Happy Departure’ cuter?

Next is 不可思議 by Aarif, who I initially noticed because of his interesting name. The title of the song (bukesiyi) is the name of an idiom meaning ‘Unimaginable’. I’m not too sure how to describe the song itself but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually produced in 2002. If you would prefer more of a sad song perhaps you would like ‘Things I’d never do’ by Kenji Wu. Following on is 浪费 ‘Unrequited’ a ballad by Yoga Lin. I quite like the melody so I may download this myself, as well as the next song: 宝贝 ‘Baby’ by Zhang Xuan, which has been in my head since revisiting it a few days ago.

Some things cannot be conveyed through words and need to be independently witnessed. The next song isn’t as dramatic as I’m making it out to be but do check out the video for 小水果 ‘Small Fruit’ by the Chopstick Brothers. The creative video is set out like a video game and you probably wouldn’t imagine it if you listened to the audio in isolation to the mv. The next song features a comedic mv which is also quite interesting to watch. Here’s what I translated as ‘Explosion Song’ by 黑龍 (Black Dragon). Incase you want more, here’s a bonus song similar to the last two.

Next is an upbeat humorous song called ‘Lady Bro’ by two members of the boy-group MIC. The video speaks for itself. I think it’s fitting to next show you ‘Father’ by PSY which is sung in both Korean and Chinese and describes the hardships faced by a toiling father. Here’s two more songs also on the theme of family, but in quite different styles. 我媽是我媽 ‘My mum is my mum’ and 我愛我的家 ‘I love my family’.

I gotta say I do appreciate certain stylistic features of the olden days xD Perhaps it doesn’t count as ‘olden’ but indeed the golden days, as the next song seems to be set in the 80’s; Mavis Fan’s 你的甜蜜 ‘Your Sweetness’. Yet another song I will add to my download queue is this cover of Kimberly Chen’s 爱你 ‘Love You’. When first finding this cover I remember noting that it had a rock take on the original, and although I’m no longer sure how true that is I do still like the cover~

Many songs in the playlist for this post have proved difficult to describe, the next song being no exception. Check out Wang Rong’s ‘Rolling’ for fun costumes and a funky repetitive dance number. As a contrast you can listen to the traditionally eery ‘Beauty Song’ by Zhang Ziyi from the film ‘House of Flying Daggers’. The next song also features traditional Chinese instruments, but should not sound as eery. An OST from the TV drama ‘City of Desperate Love’ . I especially like the female singer’s calming voice 称赞!

The last few songs are kind of a random mix I didn’t want to leave out. First is the dance mv of a song by the girl group 1931, which I found after talking to one of the members! I also thought of including another male pop artist, so here’s ‘I Don’t wanna lose you’ by Zhu YuanBing. I couldn’t miss out a song by G.E.M, another very popular Chinese female singer. Here is her song ‘Heartbeat’ which has an inspirational mv conveying the idea of working hard to achieve goals despite personal hardship or social out casting. Similar to this is Xiao HongRen’s ‘One More Chance’. If all of this was too much to take in you may be in need of something a little more calming. To end our playlist is ‘Flower’, an instrumental song by Jia PengFang.

What did you think of the songs I’ve shared in this post? I’d like to think a lot of the songs were quite different from eachother so it was quite fun^^ Did you find any new songs to listen to in my Chinese Music series? I had a LOT of songs to go through to create it, but that let me explore a lot of interesting songs. What do you think of Chinese music? Let me know your thoughts~

If you need to describe ‘interesting’ music videos, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

P.s. Lastly, it may not be a song but I wanted to share a Chinese poem that epitomises the importance of tones in Chinese! x_x

Butterfly Lovers 梁祝

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The Western Valentines day festival is becoming more and more celebrated by the younger generation of modern China. However, instead of focusing on Valentines; let me tell you a legendary Chinese love story.

The love tragedy of the Butterfly Lovers is seen as the equivalent of the ‘Oriental Romeo and Juliet’ and is counted as one of China’s Four Great Folktales. It has been shared across China and other parts of East Asia for over 1600 years since its conception in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (although it has also been traced to the Tang), and has since inspired many artistic interpretations of the tale.

The title of the story in Chinese is 梁祝 (Liang Zhu) and is derived from a combination of the names of the protagonists of the story. Each version of the story has slightly altered details, which is why I have written my own collective summary.

Zhu Yingtai is the only child of the wealthy Zhu family. The story was set in a time where women were expected to stay at home and tend to household duties, however Zhu (female protagonist) yearned to pursue scholarly studies. After unsuccessfully asking her father a number of times for permission to take up studies, her father finally agreed that she could join a school if she could find one that would accept a female student. Zhu was clever and decided that she would join a school by disguising herself as a boy (similar to the actions of Hua Mulan). And so she left her home in Zhejiang to travel to Hangzhou to stay with her aunt whilst she began her school. Every morning she would disguise herself as a boy. Zhu became sworn brothers with her classmate Liang Shanbo and as the months passed by she realised she was in love. Zhu tried to drop hints of her gender, but Liang did not pick up on them. One day Zhu’s father sends her a letter telling her to return home immediately. She packs her things to leave but is saddened because she wants to stay with Liang. Liang hears of her departure and decides to accompany his ‘brother’ on his journey home. Zhu conceives a plan and tells Liang that once he finishes school and finds a job, he can ask for Zhu’s sister’s hand in marriage so that the two friends will still stay close by to each other. Zhu reminds Liang of this plan before they depart. A year passes and Liang has gotten a job and saved enough to travel to Zhu’s residence. Zhu was overjoyed to be reunited with Liang and without restrain she revealed she is actually a woman. Liang understood his feelings more clearly after learning Zhu’s true identity. Liang asked Zhu’s father for her hand in marriage but he refused, revealing that she has already been betrothed to Ma Wencai, a wealthy merchant. Liang was devastated and as he left to return, he collapsed and died. When Zhu learnt of Liang’s death she becomes miserable and consents to the marriage on the condition that the wedding procession pass by Liang’s grave. On the day of the wedding, as the procession neared Liang’s grave, the wind howled and there was a thunder storm. A lightening bolt broke open the grave and Zhu leapt inside. When her relatives came to pull her out they realised that the coffin was empty. After a moment had passed, out flew two butterflies dancing merrily together. Zhu and Liang were finally together.

As mentioned earlier, the story of the Butterfly Lovers has inspired a culture of Liang Zhu ‘art’. Examples include; operas, violin concertos and films. If you are interested in exploring these further, I have included a video link of a violin concerto inspired by the tale. The photograph at the start of the post is taken from Xinhua news, and I have included a link to a short article written by them talking about a Korean troupe (including the members shown in the photo) who had performed the story whilst touring China.

Although the story is not from our time many still find it quite relatable, but I’ll leave that for you to ponder about. 我不太喜欢爱情故事但是我很欣赏这样的古典故事~也想说这部小提琴协奏曲非常好听!What did you think of the tale?

If you want to appreciate classical Chinese love stories, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Chinese Music 3

Hello again! 我回来了~ As hinted at in the preview I had provided, today’s post focuses on slow Chinese music. I’m not sure of which genre to officially class it as, but I will be sharing with you some calming and slow tunes. As with the previous posts in this series, whilst I have been showcasing a range of artists, there is no way I can introduce you to all the existing Chinese musicians and artists. In addition, 虽然 I have shared songs by a few particularly popular artists like Wang Lee Hom 但是 I have purposefully tried not to bombard the posts with only the Chinese artists that are the most well known (like AngelaBaby) and instead showcase some that may be moderately or less well known, but still produce great music. Following on from this (as also mentioned in the preview) the songs from today’s post will be taken from my personal favorites >.<

The songs I will be sharing are some that I really enjoy listening to, but I will not be arranging them in any specific order of preference. The first two songs on the list are , as we move on from the theme of the previous post. 首先我们就要听 Soft Lipa’s ‘我們都有問題‘ (‘we all have problems’). The style of this song reminds me of something that Epik High would make, and I remember when I first found the song that I got excited over being able to understand a lot of the lyrics😅. The next song is another slow rap that I had saved away in a playlist I made specifically for this blog-post series, and now that it’s resurfaced I’ve realized that I quite like it. The song in question is ‘IN DA SUN’ by Teezy. I thought the animation was a cool twist too. The next song seems like natural progression of the former two. Although I wouldn’t class it as rap and my friend seems to think it’s ‘rhythm and blues’, but the label doesn’t really matter. Before we move on, take the time to listen to ‘Special Person’ by Khalil Fong.

Let’s move on to some ballad~ Here’s song that is possibly my favorite Chinese ballad, ‘Set Me Free’ by Zhang LiYin. Like many other songs in this post, it’s very calming and I find that its really nice to leave on in the background when doing small tasks. If you want to hear more of the artist, I would recommend this music video which includes her songs ‘Agape’ and ‘Not Alone’ in the form of a mini film. Next is ‘Silence’ (anjing) by Jay Chou. It’s quite a well known song and it’s another song I think can be casually left on to play as you resume tasks.

The next three songs are quite dissimilar to each other in how they would be classed within the broad category of ‘slow Chinese songs’. What I wanted to share with you first is‘Come back to me’ by Bii. It’s not wholly in Chinese as some of the lines are in Korean too, but I think that makes it all the more interesting. I did question whether to put this is the previous post; however I felt that this song does also bring a calming vibe, even if it is slightly more upbeat than the others on today’s list. Perhaps to balance this a bit I am sharing a calming piece of Chinese music. ‘What the Pipa says’ can be seen as a calming instrumental composed with traditional Chinese instruments. People often say that it’s good to listen to classical music whilst doing work (and I realized I have mentioned this in one of my posts too xD), but next time why not try listening to this? 噢 Third is a song you may very well have heard of; ‘Jasmine’/茉莉花 (molihua). The version I have shared isn’t my favorite, but that one 我找不到了. Though I do like the interpretation, I personally prefer the version my old teacher introduced to my class. I have a recording of us singing it together, but unfortunately that cannot be shared on this platform.

As I said before, none of these songs were shared in a particular order; however I did save a special song for last. If you read the preview you would have heard it already and may recall me mentioning that it’s slightly old fashioned, but something I really like. Last but not least is ‘Suzhou Nocturne’ by Bai Hong. The song is from 1944 and I feel that this gives it a beautiful antique quality.

I shared a lot of songs that I think are quite special and I hope you can find something you like. This will be the end of the main part of my Chinese Music series. Check out the previous two parts of the series if you haven’t already and let me know what you think about Chinese music!

If you want to share some of your favorite music, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Chinese Music 2

For the second installation of this series we will be focusing mainly on Chinese Rap (说唱) and Rock (摇滚音乐), although if you saw the preview I left for this post you may have already guessed that. For this specific post I will be exploring what I’m calling ‘hard’ rap and rock. I’m not sure if it’s a technical term, but you will understand what I mean when you listen to a few of the songs in the list. I will be leaving the softer and more mellow tunes for a later date.

Let’s begin with some rock~ To start us off with the list I will be showing you the music video for ‘Wolf’ by Weibird Wei (alliteration appreciation). This song, as well as the others on the list are by no means ‘heavy metal’ rock but you may appreciate the guitar riffs and tone of the artists’ voices. If you get scared easily I would advise you not to watch the MV as it shows semi-gory scenes of a man turning into a wolf; however you can instead watch the version of the official lyric video! The second song is by the band 五月天, literally translated as ‘Mayday’. I came across Mayday when I was in a music shop in China and decided to buy one of their albums! The song I have picked for you to listen to is a soundtrack for the movie ‘Huang Fei Hong’ (based on the eponymous KungFu legend) called ‘Your Legend’. I also noticed that despite the fact that the band tends to create rock music, the individual voices of the group are instinctively soft, creating quite a harmonious balance. On the other hand our next song by the Taiwanese rock duo, Power Station showcases slightly more rough cut voices. Listen to their song ‘Energy’ and tell me if you hear the difference.

I’m not sure why but this next song was one of my go-tos when people would ask me about Chinese rap. Without further ado take a listen to ‘U.O.E.N.O’ by PNC. I do quite like this song, but I warn that the repetitiveness may become a bit boring after a few plays. I thought I would also slip in a song by Uniq (another boy group that sings in both Chinese and Korean) called ‘EOEO’ because the title sounds so similar to the previous song (great excuse for another good song)! The next songs we will be looking at aren’t typical rap, but not quite trap either. I will leave it unlabelled as to not restrict their genres, but they follows a recent trend of flow. The first song is ‘Airforce’ by Barry Chen and features none other than current Japanese legend rapper and Airforce advocate, Kohh. The next song is ‘MTMSMBMM’ by ETZ. It has a slightly slower vibe, and I warn that I did hear a few bad words when playing it back.

Generally speaking, Chinese music isn’t recognised as popular music as it falls behind K-pop and J-pop, which is why I was pleasantly surprised when I initially came across good Chinese music of different genres such as rap. The final song of todays post is what I had included when I created the preview and shows that Chinese contemporary music does follow trends of popular world music. For your enjoyment, here is a short Chinese cover of Drake’s Hotline Bling by NEOSO 😝

For now these are all the rock and rap I will be showcasing to you~ Take a listen and maybe you will find something new you will like. 本来我听中国说唱的时候特别兴奋哈哈!希望这次你也挺开心听我给你分享的新中国歌曲~

If like me you want to listen to good Chinese rap, good luck 世界😅

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Chinese Music 1

What do you think of when you read the title of this post? Kpop; music for meditation; the soundtrack to a martial arts film; or not many thoughts because of low expectations? Maybe your thoughts were more positive and express Chinese music as being 形形色? This post will allow you to explore some of the different types of music China has to offer, and revalue some of the expectations you may have had if Chinese music is not something you actively listen to. I should point out now that this post will be somewhat interactive as engaging with the music I will be sharing will require you to open links to the songs in a separate tab or browser. Secondly as this is quite a broad topic, it only makes sense that this post will be split into a series of parts. For the first in the series I will be focusing on certain aspects of Chinese pop music.

流行音乐 Chinese pop music is also known as ”C-pop”, short for ’Chinese-pop’. This is not to be confused with ”K-pop” which simply refers to ’Korean-pop’ (and not the name of a new popular band, as my friend had once assumed). Chinese pop has its own 特色 and for you to get a feel of it’s variation, I will introduce you to a few pop songs by different Chinese artists with slightly different styles.

One of the most popular pop artists of China today is Wang Lee Hom, the American/Taiwanese, singer/actor (the list goes on; he dabbles in the arts). He likes to experiment with different genres, like his EDM release with Avicii ‘Lose Myself’; but it best known for his heartfelt ballads. For instance one of his most recent releases, ‘Heaven and Earth Overturned’. One of his more successful songs is a soundtrack to a movie he starred in ‘Love in Disguise’ (看得不错), which in English is called ‘Things you do not know’. The song is fairly well known and inspired many covers. Here’s a version I quite I enjoyed, and I might aswell throw in this version by Shila Amazah.

One of my favourite Chinese pop artists is JJ Lin. I bought one of his albums when I was in China by chance and he’s still releasing great music. A song I really like of his is ‘Brave New World’, for both the melody and message. He also featured in a song with Jung YongHwa, leader of the Korean boy band CNblue, called ‘Checkmate’.

Interestingly there has also been a Chinese boy group created by a Korean entertainment company, with the group called M4M. If you want to take a listen to their music, heres one of their songs called ‘Sadness’. The rest of their music isn’t as well known, but they are a talented group nonetheless. A more well known group however is the trio the TF Boys! I don’t know much about the group, but they’re really popular Here’s one of their music videos! And their most recent patriotic release.

Although this is a post about Chinese music, there are noticeable crossovers with the Korean music industry. For example there are many Korean songs that have been created with a Chinese counterpart; that is to say that they have been recorded in both Korean and Chinese. Let’s listen to a few! First is Miss A ‘I Don’t Need a Man’ a song conveying a message of female independence. Next is Wonder Girls ’Tell Me’. Hearing the original when it first came out made me quite surprised to find the Chinese version earlier this year! The final group I shall share is Super Junior. This twelve member boy group (more like man group actually) has a sub group known as ‘Super Junior M’ whose songs are in Mandarin. Perhaps my favourite song would be ‘Break Down’ which we sang at Karaoke in China, although in retrospect it wasn’t the best choice. However a more recent release is their song ‘Swing’, which shows them transforming their work offices into a dance studio~

An example we cannot leave out when talking about this trend is the Korean boy group EXO, whose USP is branching into the Korean and Chinese markets by creating all their songs in both languages. Fyi: EXO is under the same company as Super Junior. The song I have chosen to share with you is by Exo-M (also the Mandarin counterpart of the group) and it’s called ‘Christmas Day’. It’s a song with a chilled R&B vibe that can be listened to 365 days of the year, not just Christmas😉. The group have recently released their second Christmas album ’Sing For You which generally has a slightly more upbeat mood. Click here to listen to one of the slower title songs~

Three of the Chinese members of Exo-M left the group to pursue solo careers as singers and actors, however they have been quite successful on their new paths. Luhan for instance broke the Guinness World Record for the number of times his name had been searched in the Chinese social media portal Weibo. He recently released his first solo songs, however I recommend you to listen to his rendition of a Chinese classic, ‘Tian Mi Mi’ (甜蜜蜜/Sweetness). I also feel obliged to share with you some music from my favourite of the three, Huang ZiTao. I will share with you two of his songs that are quite different to each other, ‘I am the Sovereign’ and ‘Alone’.

Of course this does not cover all of the types of pop music that exist in China, but hopefully now you have a better idea of what is out there. The rest of this series will include some Chinese hiphop and trap as well as music enjoyed by previous generations, and more traditional calming music that may be helpful when reviewing the previous post.

If you want to start listening to Chinese pop music, good luck 世界。

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.

Effective working

Those of you who are part of an academic institution may be reaching the midway point of your first term! With this you may be beginning to feel stressed about the oncoming workload, or something along the same line of thought. But fear not! In today’s post I hope to put forward some practical steps you can follow which will allow you to organise your learning so that you can maximise your time and 减少压力 🙂 I too will need to be following these more closely as I embark on my fourth week of University.

This happens to be one of the topics I have been somewhat planning for quite a while in advance and simply had to wait for the appropriate time to convey. Unfortunately I have misplaced the points I had noted down in preparation 所以I will write this as I go along; which may be more sincere anyway~ Lastly, I wanted to point out that this post will be beneficial for your general learning techniques but is not specific to studying Chinese. Therefore I may compose a separate post about ways to revise Chinese in the near future. For now you will notice however that the points will be numbered in Chinese for the sake of passive revision of Chinese numbers.

一 Firstly, the reason I have posted this at the start of the academic year, now that you may have adjusted to your new learning environment is because effective learning starts from ‘day one’. I’m sure you may have heard this before as it is very sound advice, but you essentially need to not leave things till last minute. Easier said than done, trust me I know. When you are set a task, perhaps record it on your planner to make yourself aware of the time you have to finish it. You could also set yourself a deadline earlier than the actual due date in order to tackle procrastination. But even simpler than that and something you may not have been told is that you should just start. Put pen to paper and just write (depending on the task of course). Your work will only begin once you start, and if you attempt the task early on you will leave yourself time for development. It would also be very satisfying to have finished a task prior to a deadline which gives you time to do other things. It’s okay if the result you reach is not reflective of your highest standard because you will be giving yourself time to improve its quality. Do heed this advice and try at least once to start the task you are given early on and then continue from there. A teacher once told me to “not think and just start”, but I would alter this and advise you to not overthink and just start.

You may reflect on some of your past days as being wasted, however that is also not the case. Credit yourself for the work you have done and skills you have gained to prepare you for the rest of your course(s). Is there a task you have been too anxious to begin? Give yourself some time after reading this post to start jotting down some ideas and just do it!

二 Another point I think is very important is to remind yourself that it’s okay not to be okay (-thanks Jessie). It’s completely natural to experience stress and although I have talked about this in a separate post, just remember that it’s fine to feel low sometimes and it’s not a sign of weakness. Certain stress could indicate that you have been working too hard, and if that’s the case then take a break and resume your work once rested (there will be more on this below). Once you have taken time out of working to reflect on your personal well being, use your stress to propel you to work harder. There are constructive ways of going about it, but at first you can use your stress or frustration to motivate you to complete your work so that it’s simply put behind you (in ‘the dustbin of history’).

三 A smaller point to bear in mind as you work is to prioritise certain tasks over others. Some tasks will require more time than others to complete due to the nature of the task, but you will also need to decide what to dedicate your time to depending on your own personal reasons E.g. Having difficulty processing thoughts may mean that you will allocate more time to completing an essay and less time creating a summary poster for a recently completed module.

四 Following on from this, it’s a good idea to try working in different settings to figure out where you work most effectively. It’s probably best to get this out of the way at the start of the year because of Point One in this post, but if this advice is reaching you a little late then that’s okay too because you can now find a new environment to work in to change up your routine and keep things interesting. Working in a different space every now and then can also be helpful in keeping your brain engaged in your work. It’s also a good tactic for refreshing your mind as an extension of Point Two. Don’t use this point as a distraction from actually doing your work, but do try to venture out to a few different spots to see where you work best. Some examples include:

  • Library
  • Café
  • Park
  • A desk at home
  • Common room
  • Lecture hall/classroom
  • A friend’s house/dorm
  • Random (safe) hipster building

五 One good exercise to try when working is to keep a pen in your hand with some scrap paper. You don’t need to write anything intelligible, simply write what comes to mind without thinking or just scribble (if it works properly it’s also a great to find out what’s been occupying your thoughts!). The movement of your hand will stimulate your brain as you will be working more actively. This is especially effective for tasks that consist solely of reading.

六 One of my past teachers once told me that an effective way of maximising your revision is to engage multiple senses. This can be achieved in different ways of course, but so you get a sense of how to go about it, I’ll list some techniques below that you can try for each sense…

  • Touch – Try step five.
  • Hearing – Try listening to this on low volume on the background as you work. Mozart is a good option too. Try Point Seven。
  • Smell – Get some fresh air and leave the window open for a while if you are able to. Try burning oils when studying. A good combination is rosemary, basil (three drops) and peppermint (two drops). The scent will be associated with your revision and therefore should be burnt out at the end of a study session. For your exam you can also put the same scent on a tissue or your sleeve to act as a memory trigger.
  • Sight – Try using different coloured pens and papers for different pieces of work
  • Taste – Eat healthily and drink water as you work. Lentils and fish are supposed ‘brain foods’, but basically do not neglect your greens and try to vary your diet. Certain foods will slow you down, and being hungry can demotivate you to work so try not to skip meals (我的情况也是这样的).

七 Something I tried during my A-levels was recording my revision notes. 例如 I asked a few friends to record certain quotes from my literature texts that I was expected to know from memory to help me remember them. We recorded the scripts in various weird accents that made the quotes more memorable, and I would say it was quite effective. What’s more, you can make audio recordings of long pieces of texts that you need to be familiar with (like a model essay for instance) and then listen to them when you have nothing to do whilst travelling, on the treadmill at the gym, need to fall asleep…and well you get the idea. Subconsciously at least you will definitely pick up some key information.

八 In this penultimate point I wanted to talk about a method of motivating and inspiring yourself if you ever find yourself overwhelmed by work, or feel that all hope is lost. This is something I created myself towards the end of last year and I recommend you to try it for yourself, although you may be apprehensive at first. What I did was write down a few motivational messages on small pieces of paper, fold them up and put them in a small box. Simple right? The plan was to randomly take one out of the box if I ever needed an extra push, but a strange mental stigma usually prevented me from doing so. However knowing that they existed did the trick anyway. For this to be effective, you should write down messages that are personal to you, rather than the typical quote you can find in search engines that are later used as photo captions. You can remind yourself of a certain person who has faith in you, a phrase that keeps you going, or simple logic like ‘if so many people get through this each year, so can you!’. Simplicity is key with this, so once again don’t overthink but try to note down some meaningful sentiments. Write your notes in different colours for extra appeal and then store them in a jar or a box and take one out when you feel like you really need it. Lastly, try not to refer to the notes too often so that they are more potent in your rare moments of despair.

九 A lot of the points I’ve put forward are likely to aid the system of work you have already put into place for yourself. Therefore assuming that you already are, or soon will be into the swing of work, you also need to make sure to 休息 –rest. If you overwork yourself you will eventually ‘burn out’ and prevent yourself from sustaining a good pace of work. Try following the advice I have given, and don’t become so engrossed in work that you neglect your physical and mental needs. 不要睡眠不足! Try to get enough sleep, and give yourself time to relax.

As this has been a slightly lengthy post I hope it has given you time to reflect and has provided you with some practical advice you plan to put into practice. Let me know if you try any of the points I have discussed, and feel free to ask questions about the topic.

If you want to work more effectively, good luck 世界.

从欣妍 – From Xinyan.