Just Friends?

Just Friends?

Jared Turner and John Pasden

BREAKTHROUGH LEVEL (150 unique characters)

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Dapeng and Wendong are best friends attending the same college. When the beautiful Zixin arrives on campus, they soon discover they both share an interest in her. To preserve their friendship, they make a promise not to pursue her. However, when Wendong sees Zixin going for a ride in Dapeng’s car, the truce dissolves into a battle between the two friends trying to gain the affection of Zixin. Whom does she really like, or are they “Just Friends?”

Adaptation Notes

Any learner that has managed to learn 150 Chinese characters knows it is not an easy task, and the prospect of reading a real text in Chinese seems discouragingly far off. Typically textbook dialogs are the only reading material available for years on end. That’s why being able to read an actual story with only 150 Chinese characters is a very big deal, and a huge help to the fluency development of early-stage learners.

The stories told at this 150-character Breakthrough Level are special, however. Nouns, verbs and adjectives at this level are in short supply, and the stories revolve around the limited vocabulary by necessity. This is why Breakthrough Level stories are not adaptations of western classics. They are original stories co-written by John Pasden and Jared Turner, specifically designed to be engaging to readers despite the limitations.

Since the limited vocabulary of the Breakthrough Level does include quite a few words relating to students and school, this gave birth to the idea of a story based on a simple love triangle. Set within a new corner of the “Mandarin Companion Universe,” these are all new characters although you might find one or two familiar faces if you look hard enough.

Finally, a note about the title. The English title Just Friends? is not an exact translation of the Chinese title 我们是朋友吗? (Wǒ-men Shì Péngyou ma?), and yet each title is relevant to the story in its own way. We don’t want to give any spoilers here, but after finishing the story, you should see how the two titles work together to frame the story.


  • 钱大朋(Qián Dàpéng)
  • 谢文东(Xiè Wéndōng)
  • 周子心(Zhōu Zixīn)
  • 谢妈妈(Xiè Māmā)
  • 谢爸爸(Xiè Bàba)

Sample of Just Friends?












  1. 星期四 Xīngqīsì tn. Thursday
  2. 晚上 wǎnshang tn. evening
  3. 在一起 zài yīqǐ phrase to be together
  4. 说话 shuōhuà vo. to speak (words), to talk
  5. 男生 nánshēng n. boy, male student
  6. 喜欢 xǐhuan v. to like
  7. tīng v. to listen (to)
  8. 可是 kěshì conj. but
  9. 大家 dàjiā n. everyone
  10. xiào v. to laugh, to smile
  11. 好了好了 hǎole hǎole phrase all right, all right
  12. 那又怎么样 nà yòu zěnmeyàng phrase so what?
  13. 一下 yīxià adv. briefly, for a second
  14. 出去 chūqu vc. to go out
  15. 这时候 zhè shíhou phrase at this time
  16. 看到 kàndào vc. to see
  17. 这么 zhème adv. so…
  18. wǎn adj. late
  19. 一个人 yī gè rén phrase alone
  20. 书店 shūdiàn n. bookstore
  21. 回来 huílai vc. to come back
  22. 的时候 de shíhou phrase when…
  23. diǎn v. to order (food)
  24. 不行 bù xíng phrase not OK
  25. 开车 kāichē vo. to drive a car
  26. dài v. to take

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