As summer assaults northern China, we've retreated indoors, battened down the hatches and embraced a life of air conditioning, frequent showers, and furtive expeditions in search of bottled water, ice cream and watermelon.

And while we wait for the scorching heat to subside, we'd love nothing better than hear what you're up to this summer. No matter what your level of spoken Chinese, call us at the toll-free number listed on our text page, enter your lesson-specific PIN number and start talking. We'll automatically queue your recording for review by one of our teachers. They'll listen to it during working hours and get back to you with feedback by email. This is the next best thing to having a one-on-one lesson. All you need is a working telephone. And it's a part of our regular subscription.

What are you waiting for? Forget how to say summer or too browbeat by the heat to do much except moan? We've put a number of useful words in the vocabulary section for this lesson. If the cat has your tongue check them out and whip up some sentences you can toss our way when you're on the phone.