Newspapers, magazines, novels, hone the ability to comprehend written texts in Chinese
Chinese reading comprehension is a necessary and an active skill.
We read notices, articles and documents for information. We read poems and novels for pleasure. Whatever we do, we need to understand the messages and the arguments, to conjure images, or to follow the plots. Moreover, we like to judge whether or not the message is important, the argument is sound, the images are beautiful, or the plot makes sense.
For lower level students, their Chinese reading abilities are developed in a controlled environment, where they learn only 320 Chinese characters, practice picking out words in sentences, writing simple stories, and advance their Chinese reading abilities step by step.
For higher level students, the approach is different. Students boost their Chinese reading abilities through responding to the content. This is the approach of the Mandarin Express series, helping students obtain exceptional Chinese reading abilities.
The focus of Mandarin Express Intro and Basic Levels is for students to start speaking Chinese quickly and clearing on a variety of topics. Pinyin is the main learning medium, and the Chinese texts are simple and the structures are straight forward.
When students move to Mandarin Express Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Levels, the focus is for students to expand their Chinese character base, to learn more complicated sentence structures, to read longer forms of Chinese texts, and to give their opinions and present their arguments.
Thus, one of the objectives of completing Mandarin Express series is for students to acquire the skills of comprehending long analytical articles and also responding to these articles in a similar manner.
The following techniques are used to make this learning experience stimulating and rewarding.
Good topics sparkle great discussions. Excited and engaged students always learn better. Good topics can also fend off boredom, which is the number one killer of a Chinese language class.
Therefore, to encourage students to respond to the content, topics included in Mandarin Express series are engaging and with diversified views. These topics do not tailor to any particular professions, such as legal documents for lawyers or IPO articles for CEOs, because this linear approach narrows down learning Chinese to a special purpose, which is not appropriate for students who are still developing their overall Chinese skills.
In Mandarin Express series, a broad spectrum of topics, such as businesses, history, recipes, opinions, facts, arguments, and science, is covered. Students are invited to share their experiences, feelings and opinions, and they are encouraged to do original researches.
From “artificial” Chinese texts to “authentic” Chinese texts
From lower levels to higher levels of Mandarin Express series, students gradually move from reading “artificial” Chinese texts to “authentic” Chinese texts.
“Artificial” Chinese texts refer to the texts which have been simplified or restructured to become level appropriate learning materials. The texts can not be too difficult, nor too easy. Tasks are challenging enough but can always be completed within a limited time span.
“Authentic” Chinese texts refer to the texts selected directly from native Chinese materials, such as newspapers articles, short stories, novels, speeches, Classical Chinese texts, and so on. These texts are all high quality materials and they are unedited.
For lower level students, “authentic” Chinese texts are usually too difficult. But for higher level students, “authentic” Chinese texts are such a rich reservoir full of exciting ideas.
From “before” to “after” the reading
As the Chinese texts gradually become longer or denser, it is important for students to be able to read everything through and gain detailed information. Also, students need to be able to skim a text for a general idea. And students need to be able to scan the text for any particular information. All these skills need to be developed and practiced.
Therefore, for the purpose of practicing different Chinese reading skills, appropriate reading tasks must be in place. The reading tasks are not only placed after the reading finishes, but also before the reading begins.
For example, in Mandarin Express Intermediate Level A, before reading starts, students are given a few words for them to explain in Chinese, so that they can get some hint on the content and the topic of the text. This bit of prediction makes them more engaged readers.
After the reading finishes, there are a few questions for them either to provide some general understanding or to give some particular information.
Finally, they are invited to select, research and present an argument of their own.
Thus, a long Chinese article is being analysed from different angles and is put to good use.
With sufficient practice, students will be able to hone their Chinese reading abilities and enjoy reading great works written in Chinese.