Ten years ago I was a student in Osaka. I didn’t have a consistent job on the side so my monthly budget was very limited. But I still wanted to enjoy small luxuries like the Korean BBQ joints and bars the city had to offer so I had to devise a way to amass personal allowances on a consistent basis.

I set up an Excel spreadsheet where I had cells for each day of the month that would be filled with daily subtotals. I also wanted to set weekly budgets (mostly because I needed the extra money for weekend parties) so I appended a column that automatically calculated and showed the amount of money I had saved, or exceeded, relative to the weekly budget. I figured the most realistic way would be to start tracking every single expense because then I’d know exactly how much I was spending.
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Kāfēi by Bridget Coila

Here’s a list of words I recently came across while flipping through the first few chapters of Teach Yourself Chinese and Chinese Made Easy:

  • pen 筆
  • Beijing University 北京大學
  • garage 車庫
  • curtains 窗簾
  • duck’s tongue 鴨舌
  • faucet 水龍頭
  • bloody nose 流鼻血
  • school bus 娃娃車

This is a common plague that affects many (if not most) textbooks: they’re full of impractical crap that you’ll never need. I suspect this is simply because they just want to amass enough volume to get their books published. But if you really want to speed up your progress as a learner of a foreign language, you need to identify what is truly worth learning and what is merely a waste of your time.
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Chinese Fast Food and a Book

I’ve had a complicated relationship with Chinese languages. I learned my first Mandarin words 15 years ago when I was in junior high school. I managed to remember a number of words and expressions but never really got to any point where I could say I was actually studying the language.

Then came Cantonese. I was enamored by Jet Li’s early kung fu flicks as a teenager (which also kindled my interest in Chinese kung fu), so I naturally started picking up words from movies like Shaolin Temple and Fong Sai Yuk. But as with Mandarin, I didn’t progress much.
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Camel Driver

I used to think that packing five novels, a flashlight, two bottles of deodorant, and a pillow would come in handy when I’m on the road. But that’s actually something you should only do when switching apartments.

I’ve been using my current travel checklist religiously for the past three years, and I’ve never had the need to add anything to it. Don’t let the length of your journey encourage to pack more. I’ve battle-tested this checklist when I was traveling in Europe for two months and every subsequent trip (each spanning over at least three weeks), and it has never failed.

Take a look. I’ve bolded the items that should be worn on your person.
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