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Author: lafnlab

Michael Hawkes is a professional computer technician who writes open source PHP code as a side hustle, and spends the rest of his spare time playing with his cats, working in the garden, and attempting to learn the violin. He is the sole-proprietor of 10th Street Media, LLC.

Rude awakenings


This morning I was awoken by a fire alarm. Today is Sunday, so I wanted to sleep in. However, I heard people talking in the hallway outside my apartment, and I smelled smoke. I got up, put on some shoes and a winter jacket, grabbed my cell phone, and went outside. I saw many firemen. My neighbor’s apartment door was open. I knew I wouldn’t be able go back inside for awhile, so I walked to Starbucks.


学习中文我觉得我可以放假中国,可是我不知道哪里。我有一些中国人同事,一些从北京,和一位从吉林。我也有一位老师从广州和一位从四川。中国有很多地方,我不可以决定。有的时候我想去北京,深圳,广东,香港, 和台北。





我想一个中文俱乐部是很念。学生们可以听说中文,聊天中文问题, 和互助学习。

呆宝静 - It’s OK

One of the things I’ve struggled with in Chinese is finding Chinese songs I find interesting. Most of it is just pop music. It’s OK (no pun intended), but it’s usually not very interesting. There are a lot of ballads (boring), but some dance songs which are at least more energetic. What I’ve been trying to find is Chinese rockers and rappers. Who are the Chinese equivalents of Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, or The Clash? Are there punk rockers who sing in Chinese?

Yesterday, I found a website ( and there was a thread in there about Chinese rock music. One of the posts linked to a Chinese rock video on YouTube, and I found the video above in the Related Videos section.

I can pick out phrases here and there, but nothing more. I’ve found the lyrics somewhere else on the web, so I’ll probably go over them and try to figure out what they mean. Musically, she reminds me a bit of MIA.

American girl speaking Chinese

The other day I looked on YouTube for a video of Mark Zuckerberg speaking Chinese, since I wanted to find out if he spoke better Chinese than I do (he does). In the related videos section, I saw the video embedded above.

The video is quite humbling because she speaks Chinese very well compared to me. I can understand some of what she’s saying, but not all.


Getting ready

Next week I start my fourth semester of Chinese classes. One thing I’ve learned from past experience is that it’s very easy to forget it, if you don’t keep studying, at least a little bit. To keep 中文 mostly fresh in my mind, I decided to deleted all my flashcards in Anki and started over.

In the classes, we use Integrated Chinese by Cheng & Tsui. As someone who is TESOL certified, it’s pretty good material for college age (and maybe high school age) students. In first semester Chinese (EALC-C131 at IUPUI), we covered chapters 1 – 5 of Integrated Chinese, Level 1, Part 1. In the second semester (EALC-C132), we covered chapters 6 – 10 of that, and chapter 11 of Level 1, Part 2. For the third semester (EALC-C201), which we just finished in December, we covered chapters 12 – 16. Supposing we cover five chapters this semester (in EACL-C202), we finish Level 1, Part 2 and begin on Level 2, Part 1. A syllabus hasn’t been posted yet, so I don’t know for sure.

When I created a new set of 生词卡 (flashcards), I began with the 40 or so radicals at the beginning of IC 1-1, then added the Chinese numerals for 0 through 10, plus 100, 100, and 10000. After that, I started adding the vocabulary from the chapters, finally finishing last night. I don’t know how many card there are, but it’s several hundred, at least.

Aside from trying to keep the Chinese words fresh in my mind, I think it’s probably also good prep for the HSK 3, which I plan to take in March.

I’ve written a page on Using Anki to learn Chinese, because how I use it is a bit different and it might be useful to other learning languages.



Today is my birthday. I won’t have a party, but later on I’ll get a free mocha from Starbucks.


我是查理 (wǒ shì Chálǐ) means Je suis Charlie or I am Charlie. While I never heard of Charlie Hebdo before yesterday, I believe freedom of the press is a requirement for a vibrant democracy.

My thoughts and condolences got out to the family and friends of those killed in Paris yesterday.

Blogging in Chinese

Last spring I took the HSK 1 and passed. The HSK (汉语水平考试 Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì) is a test of Chinese language proficiency.

Level 1 is pretty basic. There are 150 vocabulary terms to know, and some listening and reading sections with multiple choice questions. As far as proficiency goes, HSK 1 is the most basic. It’s mainly simple sentences, like “I am a student,” “I am from New York,” etc.

Level 2 is also pretty basic, but it has 300 vocabulary items to know. It also has multiple choice questions for listening and reading sections. I took the HSK 2 a few weeks ago, and will find out my score in January (edit: I passed). When I took the HSK 1, it was a pencil-and-paper test, but when I took the HSK 2, it was a computer based test.

Blogging in Chinese is mainly about preparing myself to take the HSK 3 this coming spring. From what I understand, the HSK Level 3 has a section that requires the test takers to write something. By blogging in Chinese, it forces me to practice writing. HSK 3 has 600 vocabulary items, and the questions are a bit more complex. The topics relate to aspects of daily life, such as travel, shopping, food, clothes, and so on. Not terribly complex, but probably enough to get around in China, such as for a vacation.

HSK 4 has 1200 vocabulary items, HSK 5 has 2500, and the HSK 6 has 5000. People who pass the HSK 5 should be able to read Chinese language newspapers and magazines.

In addition to the HSK, there is the HSKK, which is an oral exam. Last semester, my teacher urged us to consider taking that as well. The HSKK has three levels, none of which I’ve taken yet.

The HSK and HSKK are run by Hanban, which is in Mainland China. The HSK uses Simplified Chinese. There is a similar test in Traditional Chinese that is run by the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. In English, it’s known as the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL). Since the Chinese curriculum at IUPUI is taught using Simplified Chinese (I think all of the teachers are from Mainland China), I’m taking the HSK, and not the TOCFL. Plus, the HSK is offered locally, while the TOCFL isn’t.





我学习中文在印第安纳大学与普渡大学印第安纳波利斯联合分校(a/k/a IUPUI)。去年(2013年)秋天学期我修了第一次中文课。上个秋天学期我修了我的第三次中文课。一月我要修第四次中文课。



有的时候我听中文音乐。我懂得一些生词。我想听温岚,蔡依林,百安,王力宏,吴建豪,和 Lollipop F。