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The untold spy story of WWI

In 1910 a proposed Alliance between Germany and France (See New York Times Article ) worried Britain so they sent someone to 'sniff around'.

The story is a personal journey of discovery set in the vibrant energy that is Zanzibar. Susan finds herself in the palace of the great Sultan of Zanzibar as private tutor to his children. She immerses herself in the heady experiences of that rich island. From making friends with her personal servant, Subira, to falling in love with Asim, a senior member of the Sultan's court. Susan delights in the discovery of Zanzibar and the discovery of herself. The only shadow being that she was recruited by British Military Intelligence as a spy. That compromises her love for Asim and will eventually cut the silken thread that is her journey into the exotic.

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Pinyin 拼音 

(拼 pin = piecing together and 音 yin = sounds)




The 4 'tones'


Every Chinese word is composed from a ‘sheng mu’ and a ‘yun mu’.

Sheng mu comese first in a word, it is like a consonant.

The yun mu comes second, it is like a vowel, and has four tones.

The tone shapes the word.


The four tones (+ a 5th Neutral Tone) are:

m ā;      m á;      m ǎ;      m à

妈          麻          马          骂

Mother  hemp    horse    scold

1st       2nd       3rd       4th




1st    High and Level in a 'singing' voice - It is said softly but distinctly - if you say it sharply and distinctly it is easily mistaken for the 4th Tone - I had that problem when I was learning. When I tried to say the first tone Chinese friends would say, "no, no, no ... that is 4th tone" - when I learned to soften the first tone my Chinese friends recognized it.

2nd    Starts medium in tone, then rises to the top. Think about it as 2 pitches. Start with the first pitch and then go up to the second pitch. It will have a rising inflection.

3rd    Starts low, dips to the bottom, then rises towards the the starting point - a bit like a low rumble really, not like a swooping roller-coaster ride - you will mainly hear it as a low rumbling steady sound in China when people speak naturally.

4th    Starts at the top, rises slightly, then falls sharply and quickly to the bottom (it can sound like a short sharp high sound because it starts at the top) - it is said sharply and with emphasis



Some Advice - Do not get too hung up about tones. Yes, they are vital if you want to speak Chinese correctly, but they are a tool only, a guide. Chinese people do not think about them. The best way to get the tones right is to listen and practise speaking. It will come naturally eventually, just like it does with a child in China learning to speak.

If you are not sure of a tone then it is indeed useful to check which one it should be.

But, think about it, you can't possibly remember all the tones for all the words. And, you certainly couldn't speak fluently if you mentally checked which tone to use before saying a word.

So, as we are constantly saying, the only way to get the tones right is to use the language. You are never going to get the tones right by simply studying Chinese.

Speak, Speak, Speak - Listen, Listen, Listen

Also, think about someone learning English. They speak with a strong accent and it is hard to understand. Yet, I am sure we all encourage that person to try, and go out of our way to understand what they are saying. Well, it is the same in China.

Although, most Chinese would rather practise their English than help you with your Chinese. That is your battle ...


I have been learning Chinese for several years now and I have many friends in China who I can speak to now, thanks to ChinesePod.
In particular, the 'Speak it Right' series on the how to say the tones is the best explanation I have come across. In fact, it is the only explanation that makes sense ......... trust me.



This Video has an excellent explanation of how Chinese words are constructed