If you landed on this page, probably you received its link from me.

You can follow me on Twitter.

What will you find here? Just my Mandarin learning notes.

A little bit of background on my journey through Mandarin.-

Since I was a teenager and, at 14 or 15, studied a book that compared the Constitution of few countries (I was and I am interested in learning about cultures), a pet project of mine was to be able to at least read and understand each one of the official languages of the UN (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, Spanish),

I know already some languages on that list to a level that fulfills my purpose (my mother tongue is Italian), while I had to learn and use few more in the past.

In Brussels between late 2009 and early 2010, in order to stay in town, while being stuck in an endless round of job interviews, I asked the local employment office to “scale down” my CV, so that I could be a viable candidate for an entry-level technical job paying enough to sustain my living costs, while studying and looking for something else.

It wasn’t my “dream job”, or something that I had done in the past, but it was something that you can be proficient at (thanks to my past experiences) within mere days (actually, start in hours), improve on a daily basis also by observing those around you, and I worked at it as with any other job that I had before or after: 20 EUR/month or 200k EUR/month, a customer is a customer (if anything- my colleagues complained that I was too polite with customers :D).

A bonus: I never worked less than 8 hours a day before in my life, so I had plenty of spare time to spend on my search and studies.

Nonetheless, I had to build my own “routine”, to avoid becoming “embedded” within the environment, and remind myself daily of my long-term objectives, and my choice was to listen to Mandarin courses for 5km from my home to the office, and Russian on the way back, alternating between those two languages when I did only half the walk.

On Chinese, beside audio courses, the most useful one to “kick-start” my learning was the MIT course that you can find here.

From 2010 until 2013 I did occasionally some rounds on the “writing” side, using material available online from DLI, a USA Government free online resource.

I am currently working through the Headstart2 Mandarin for few basic reasons:

  1. it can be done offline (you can download the course- careful: around 1GB per course)
  2. it contains graded exercises that force you to read, listen, and also talk, while Chinese includes also writing exercises (albeit on a “functional vocabulary” that picks characters basically across the full HSK spectrum, what in Europe is called A1-A2-B1-B2-C1-C2) (the link contains also resources that you can download, e.g. to test your level of Chinese before applying for an official test exam)
  3. each Headstart2 course allows to print a certificate after your complete it; for Mandarin, you can actually have a certificate for the introductory half of the course (10 units, each composed of two tasks structured in few steps), plus a certificate for each module (10, each composed of five steps) of the second half, plus a final certificate (you can have a look at my “work in progress” here
  4. thanks to its multi-media structure, I think that it is actually a free, interesting, and more structured alternative (as it delivers also some grammar and cultural notes) to the expensive, parrot-like RosettaStone courses (which can, anyway, be useful)

While studying, I prepared material not only for Headstart2 (e.g. a transcript in English/Pinyin/characters of each module of the second half), but also for the HSK tests (e.g. a dictionary that lists the words from each level, adding also words from other courses, including MIT and Headstart2).

My plan? To share that material here online, following the “short-story” approach that I adopted with Dutch.

Meanwhile, as an appetizer, you can have a look on YouTube to a short story and video that I prepared to remember the first 30 Chinese characters in Headstart2.

Obviously: comments welcome.

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Zoe Yu says:

    Roberto, thanks for sharing the link with me. It’s a good read. Did you plan it as your personal shudian or a bookstore with other authors?

    • nlschap says:


      I actually consider wodeshudian as a “Chinese learning” extension of my main online “draft collection” (I called it “my own Moleskine”- http://www.robertolofaro.com/blog), where I shared articles on material that eventually will end up in my books or business activities.

      As since 2008 I decided to share online what between late 1980s and 2008 I had shared only with my business network (analysis, reviews, ideas, etc.), in 2009 I also added a first experiment, while learning Dutch, called http://nlschap.wordpress.com (still online- I posted there mainly until 2011).

      With Chinese Mandarin, I decided to try a slightly different approach- instead of sharing my attempts, to share material, links, and cultural awareness articles- using also my habit to read in various languages to find material that maybe is not that well known.

      So, for the time being I have no plan to convert it into a bookstore… at least until I will have relocated elsewhere- then, it will depend on what my business will be (currently I share the free version of my books that I plan to use in my activities on http://slideshare.net/robertolofaro, while the cheap paid versions are on Amazon and Kindle)

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