March Instagram Language Challenge Culture & History / Language Resources

These past few months, the talented blogger and language learner, Lindsay Dow, over at Lindsay Does Languages has hosted the #IGLC, a challenge to help her fellow language lovers improve their languages by using prompts.

This was my third month participating, and I decided to once again alter just how I took part in the challenge. The first month I posted images with new-to-me vocabulary. The second I recorded short scripted videos of me speaking Chinese and Croatian. This past month, I shared cultural tidbits related to each prompt. In April, I’m recording unscripted videos of me speaking Chinese (yikes!). So you’ll get my mistakes and all!

Instagram recently did a browser based update, so you can now follow hashtags on your browser as well as users so I can finally share a link to the challenge with you. You can join us here.

PS. As a side note, I am co-hosting the May IGLC along with Lindsay!

Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary + Fun Cultural Tidbits About China

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1. Trying something new with the IGLC by sharing cultural tidbits. Cultural Facts: Did you know that in China it’s common to go on a short walk after a meal called a sànbù 散步?

2. Today’s IGLC prompt was date. In Mandarin Chinese “I like you a lot” is 我很喜欢你 wǒ hěn xǐhuǎn nǐ。To say “will you go out with me?” One says 你愿意和我约会吗?Nǐ yuànyì hé wǒ yuēhuì ma?

Cultural Facts: In China, it’s not uncommon to bring friends along on dates as a kind of chaperone. Parents and grandparents are often still involved in their children’s love lives although it is becoming less common for them to set up blind dates for their kids. One of China’s most famous dating tv shows is known for the statement “I’d rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle” from one of its contestants. Chinese often view marriage as pragmatic rather than as one of love – the man’s financial situation can often be important to women seeking a spouse. Of course, these are generalizations and the above facts vary from region to region and person to person.

3. Today’s #iglc is people so I decided to use tourist 游客 yóukè. Fun cultural facts about tourism in China:

  • China was closed to tourism from 1949 to 1974. By 2010 it went on to arguably become the third most popular country to travel to.
  • The Great Wall, according to legend, was supposedly built based on a layout given to the people by a friendly and helpful dragon.
  • The Forbidden City is said to be the world’s largest palace. It has almost 9,000 rooms and covers 72 hectares. It was built between 1406 to 1420.

4. Today’s #iglc is action so I chose scuba dive which is 水肺潜水 shuǐfèiqiánshuǐ. To say my hobby is scuba diving: 我爱好是水肺潜水。

Cultural Facts: Did you know that part of the Great Wall is underwater? In 1981, in Tian Jin, an area where the wall ran was flooded to reduce water shortages. There is also an underwater city in Qiandao Lake. April to June is the best time to go to China for diving.

5. Today’s word for the #iglc is yellow. I don’t have much in that color but I do have gold. This is my microphone. 话筒 huàtǒng in 话筒 jīnsè

Cultural Facts:  In China gold or yellow is considered the most important color. Yellow represents neutrality and good. Yellow is also a symbol of heroism.

6. The next #iglc is food so I picked hotpot since that’s what we made at home tonight. 火锅 huǒguō which is very similar to fondue.

Cultural Facts: Hotpot has a 1,000 year history,having arguably originated in Mongolia. It began with meats like beef and horse, but as the dish’s popularity spread, it’s diversity grew. You now see seafood, noodles, an assortment of vegetables and meat as options. I personally love Chinese fritters soaked in the soup base.

7. Today’s #iglc prompt is open. We’ve 再打开的窗口了 because the weather has been unseasonably warm. Zài dǎkāi de chuāngkǒu.

Cultural Facts: In China, open windows are important even in winter because changing the air in the house is healthy – the dirty air goes out and clean air comes in. There is also a tradition on New Years to open every door and window at midnight to allow the old year to go out.

8. The next #iglc prompt is hobby. One of my 爱好 is playing old Nintendo games. And new! My favorite is 塞尓达传说时光之笛 sài ěr dá chuánshuō shíguāng zhī di (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time).

Cultural Facts: In China consoles like the N64 were actually banned until January 2014.

9. Today’s #iglc is speak so I am sharing a photo and quote about language. Quote in Mandarin Chinese is 引用 yǐnyòng.

Cultural Facts: a famous quote from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu (whose name is actually Laozi meaning “old master”) is “Those who know do not say. Those who say do not know.” And “The best people are like water, which benefits all things and does not compete with them.” He is regarded as the founder of Taoism, an ethical, political and religious tradition.

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10. Today’s #iglc is versus. So white tea vs green tea 绿茶 lǜchá vs black tea 红茶 hóngchá – which is your preference?

Cultural Facts: In China black tea is called red tea. There is a lot of history in tea and a tea culture known as 茶文化 cháwénhuà。Tea drinking customs occur for a variety of reasons – as a sign of respect, for family gatherings, to apologize, to express thanks, and to connect. One can say thanks for the tea they were served by tapping their bent index finger on the table (convenient for if you are served while in the middle of a conversation).

11. The #iglc prompt is out so I decided to do eating out. 你想不想出去吃饭?Nǐ xiǎng bù xiǎng chūqù chīfàn?

Cultural Facts: In China there are unspoken rules for who sits where at a table with the guest of honor seated in the chair far across from the door. Food is typically served on a lazy Susan and shared amongst guests at the table. The main entree is called 主食 zhǔshí. 请客 qǐngkè treating guests is an important part of Chinese dining etiquette – there is a great article on the Yoyochinese blog about it.

12. Today’s #iglc is action and before I really focused on language, I had many hobbies. I liked to do 手艺 shǒuyì and create things that were handmade 手工制造 shǒugōngzhìzào.

Cultural Facts: Popular hobbies in China include pingpong, badminton, basketball, kite flying, keeping pets (by the way, did you know that some Chinese keep pet crickets?) and the more traditional mahjong or calligraphy. Of course, these are generalizations and there are several other popular activities in China.

13. Today’s #iglc is there. We spent our day there in Dana Point Harbor 港 gǎng.

Cultural Facts: In Victoria Harbor, the harbor of Hong Kong, you can see the symphony of lights. It is an organized light show between 44 skyscrapers and monuments with music. It lasts almost fifteen minutes and varies in theme.

14. The #iglc was water so here is a photo of a concert 音乐会 yīnyuèhuì in the water 水 at Dana Point Harbor 港 gǎng.

Cultural Facts: Speaking of 水, I just learned there is a fake Venice in China in the north-eastern Liaoning province. It is beautiful, but in my personal opinion, not as pretty 漂亮 as Suzhou (check out photos I’ve pinned on Pinterest!).

15. Today’s #iglc is mom, so here’s a photo of my mom and I 我妈妈和我.

Cultural Facts: In China, after bearing a child, there is a tradition of the mother sitting one month in confinement. As part of this practice, they cannot drink cold water, bathe, they must keep warm (sometimes to the point of discomfort), they cannot drink coffee or eat raw fruits and vegetables, and they must eat bland foods.

16. Today’s #iglc prompt is read or book. I am at my first Chinese class today 学习中文.

Cultural Facts: Today I was informed by my Chinese teacher, that books are significantly less expensive in China than they are in the US. Where a book might be $8-20 here, they are only $2 or so dollars in China.

17. 我是音乐人 I am a musician. 我吹萨克斯 I play saxophone. 我喜欢听音乐 I like listening to music.

Cultural Facts: In China, traditional music is typically performed by small groups or soloists. The instruments in these groups can include dizi, sheng, paigu, gong, paixiao, guan, bells, cymbals, bottle gourd silk, erhu, zhonghu, dahu, banhu, jinghu, gaohu, gehu, yehu, cizhonghu, diyingehu, leiqin, guqin, sanxian, yueqin, yangqin, guzheng, ruan, konghou, liuqin, pipa, and zhu.

18. I often like to wear feathers 羽 yǔ as earrings 耳环 ěrhuán these are my first words for jewelry 首饰 shǒushì. I am also a fan of really long necklaces 项链 xiàngliàn and I often make them myself by hand 手工制造.

Cultural Facts: In China, young children are given longevity locks to give the child health and good luck. It has a long and fascinating history.

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19. We decided to take a break or rest from work and enjoy a warm spring day at the beach. Rest isxiūxí 休息 and beach is hǎitān 海滩.

Cultural Facts: Hainan is the smallest and southernmost province of China – it is also an island (actually it’s more like 200 islands scattered across mainland China’s southern coast). 海南捣 hǎinán dǎo Yalong Bay is the most popular and well-known of its beaches.

20. Today’s #iglc prompt is little useful word so I have selected recipe 食谱 shípǔ. I love to cook 做饭 zuòfàn and I keep a 书得食谱 (I hope that is recipe book!) with recipes I have collected from around the world.

Cultural Facts: Chinese cuisine is regional and there are “8 Culinary Cuisines of China”: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Hunan, Jiangsu, Shandong, Szechuan and Zhejiang. My favorite is Szechuan because it uses peppers and garlic and often employs baking.

21. I did my first #视频 shìpín review 上个星期 shànggexīngqī of Flashsticks I was nervous 紧张 jǐnzhāng in front of the camera 摄像机 shèxiàngjī but I survived! Thank you so much everyone 大家 for all of your positive feedback. 非常感谢!谢谢!

Cultural Facts: In China there are more than 2,000 universities and entrance is highly competitive. It is said that more than 80% of Chinese students are sleep deprived due to their intense study habits.

22. Finally getting my Eurolinguiste Facebook page in order. To organize is 举办 jǔbàn.

Cultural Facts: Fēngshuǐ 风水 is the Chinese system for harmonizing your surrounding environment. It literally means wind-water. It relates to invisible forces that tie us to the earth called qi.

23. Despite the fact that I #写 in #汉语 #每天 my penmanship is still horrific!

Cultural Facts: There are several Chinese scripts including the Greater Seal script 大篆 dàzhuàn and Lesser Seal script 小篆 xiǎozhuàn which is the precursor for modern Chinese script. Calligraphy is considered an art in China and it is widely practiced. There are three styles – kaishu (standard), xingshu (semi-cursive) and caoshu (cursive). Penmanship is highly valued in China.

24. Trying to cram in the rest of the #iglc prompts and today’s is dairy. Milk is 牛奶 and yogurt is 酸奶 suānǎi. My favorite dairy item however is 奶酪 nǎilào.

Cultural Facts: Even though it is said that 90% of Chinese are lactose intolerant, the popularity of cheese has increased in China over the past few years. Le Fromager du Pekin is a artisanal cheese maker and the majority of their customers are said to be foreigners.

25. Today’s #iglc is prompt is comfy! 舒服. My martial arts clothes are comfy 我武术的衣服很舒服 Wǒ Wǔshù de yīfú hěn shūfú.

Cultural Facts: In China, martial arts are categorized by being either external 外家拳 wàijiāquán or internal 内家拳 nèijiāquán. They are also sometimes categorized geographically. Martial arts are tied to tradition and spirituality and are known as either 功夫 gōngfu or 武术 wǔshù.

26. Even with all of our technology 技术 jìshù,nothing beats a handwritten 手写 shǒuxiě note.

Cultural Facts: The postal system in China was established in 1877 by the Qing government with five branches in major trading cities. Their current system, however, is based on the model created by the People’s Republic of China in 1949. Their post boxes are green and look like short, round columns with gold or yellow text.

27. And the #iglc is fruit or 水果. I make an effort to try a new fruit each time I go to the 商店 market. Even if I don’t know what the fruit is, I buy at least 两个新 two new to me fruits every trip. I’ve tried the most 好吃 delicious fruits and not so delicious (one tasted like perfume… Beurk…). My favorite fruit is the pear 梨 lí.

Cultural Facts: The kiwi 奇异果 Qí Yì Guò is China’s national fruit. There it is known as the Chinese gooseberry.

28. I love 爱 to cook 做饭 we have a market 商店 nearby so I am always picking up new ingredients when the mood strikes. I post one new regional recipe 食谱 on my blog everyday 每月 and just shared one for crostini.

Cultural Facts: The Chinese food you have in the US is totally different from what is actually popular in China. I’ll let NTDTV take over on this one:

Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

What did you do to improve your vocabulary in your target language this month? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

P.S. Let’s be friends on Instagram!



I’m a language lover, traveler and musician sharing my adventures and language learning tips over at Eurolinguiste.

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  • Thanks Hsiao! Tim Doner is talented! I’ve enjoyed watching his videos. It’s very motivating.