I've decided to sporadically blog on all the great Mandarin learning posts I come across recently.
First up is Albert from Laowai Chinese. He posted a blog post on 你好 being a misleading greeting. In my experience, many of my Chinese 朋友 and 老师 use 你好 often, but that's probably 'cause of the Western environment. Today, I heard an older Chinese women greet one of my friends like this: 你现在上课了吗？ Meaning do you have class now? This seemed like an interesting greeting. It's very similar to 吃了吗 discussed in Albert's post, in the way that context determines the greeting. I reckon 3-4 in the afternoon would be an odd time to ask 吃了吗？I all else fails, I reckon you can fall back on greeting someone determined by the time of day: 早上好，下午好，晚上好。
Another blog post is a guest post by Megan on Charlie's blog Discovering Mandarin. She comments on the trouble with Mandarin pronunciation concerning x & q versus sh & ch. At first I was also baffled by the the differences, especially those pairs, but also the difference between zh and ch. Here studying linguistics helped me a lot. I did a module in phonetics and the difference between those two became very easy for me to distinguish. Without going into technical details the range of j -> q -> x and zh -> ch -> sh have the same principle in mind in terms of releasing air. The best way to practice these sets is to add an 'i' to it. ji & zhi have very little air released. Hold your hand in front of your mouth. You will feel a small puff of air. Now qi & chi have a strong initial puff of air but then it stops. This is called delayed release. xi & shi throughout their pronunciation doesn't stop the flow of air. I hope you understand.
Then one post for the intermediate folk from John on Sinosplice: it's on the 3-2 tone error swap. At first I gave a blind eye to tone errors, as I felt that I've not even begun to master tones normally, but since reading his post, I've given attention to my tone usage, especially the 3-2 tone error. Really informative. Also, Sinosplice has had a redesign so go check it out. The site is an amazing source of Mandarin tips and China in general.