Handy resources and tips you can use right away into your Chinese teaching to second language learners. Make your Chinese class go beyond expectations. Topics include class activities, teaching reading and writing, grammar points, materials for special occasions, and more!
Curated Articles to Enhance Your Teaching Skills
Stroke order is not the most important thing in learning Chinese reading and writing. Find out what really is.
In the context of Mandarin speaking and listening, we discuss how the input and output work out.
Several studies on the most frequently used characters all point to the same direction even though the exact numbers are slightly different.
For anyone who wants to have a meaningful grasp of Chinese language, they must look beyond Pinyin.
Engage students' attention, give them opportunities to move around, and get some competitive spirit going on! Use these activities to bring your Chinese classes to life. And there are more practical and handy activities available in Teacher's Manuals.
There have been numerous times that someone pointed out to April Zhang that both the Mandarin Express series and Chinese Reading and Writing series should have English translations. After hearing it for so many times, she suspected that she has turned a deaf ear to sound advice.
Many teachers and administrators believe that English (or other language) translations should be provided to beginner students in their Chinese textbooks. They thought the translations will make learning easier. If students don't understand the Chinese text, they will if they read the translations. And quite often we see three different scripts in Chinese textbooks, Chinese characters, Pinyin, and English translation.
Our opinion is that, translations laid side by side with the Chinese texts often have the following undesirable effects: (1) students often compare the Chinese texts word by word with the English translation. When a Chinese character carries multiple meanings, translations often give a false sense of one fixed meaning; (2) Chinese structures can not be translated well into English. Thus the English translations makes it hard for students to fully appreciate the Chinese texts; (3) when English translations are as prominent as the Chinese texts, students' attention is often drawn to a much more familiar language, the English translations. Thus students are not as focused as teachers would like them to be; (4) the most undesirable one is that translations prevent students from thinking in the targeted language - Chinese. The answers are right there, why try to work out the meaning by themselves. Therefore, a crucial phrase of learning is lost in translations.
It is often claimed that, students should learn radicals to get to the roots of all characters. radicals will show connections between characters and their meanings, and help students understand and remember characters in an efficient way. And a very small number of radicals (about 30 of them) are used again and again to demonstrate this point.
We believe this argument on learning Chinese radicals is misleading.
The chief function of radicals is to index characters in traditional dictionaries. This index system had been very effective for a very long time. In order to index thousands of Chinese characters, those learned scholars devised around 200 or so (exact number to be debated) radicals to do the job. If we take a look at the radical page of a standard dictionary, there are a limited number of radicals which can help us understand meanings of characters, and even that is to a very limited extent. Many radicals have nothing to do with the meanings of characters. They do what they are supposed to do, to index the characters.
Fast forward to our modern age, characterised by the ubiquitous appearance of smart phones, learning radicals for the purpose of learning characters no longer makes any sense. Students can well adapt without learning any radicals.
This is the reason that we don't teach radicals in Chinese Reading and Writing series. But it does not mean we don't talk about them in the class. We recommend teachers introduce radicals in workshops, presenting a historical view on radicals. and how they functioned before.
For any phonetic languages, "listening, speaking, reading and writing" are definitely the four basic language skills. But for Chinese, they are not enough.
In a phonetic language, the connection between the spelling and the sound is so strong that one can be easily translated into the other. A good example is the movie The Reader (2008). One major reason for Hanna to be able to teach herself reading and writing was that she was learning / reading English texts. She would have had no chance if she was learning / reading Chinese texts.
In Chinese, the connection between the writing form and the sound is close to zero. Besides the four usual basic skills, we must add the fifth one: recognising. Students must go through a process which they connect the characters with their sounds.
Teachers really should control their impulse of correcting pronunciation errors as they happen.
Students who are most vulnerable to pronunciation over correction are beginner students. They often find Chinese sounds strange and also difficult. It is hard for them to distinguish similar sounds, and also hard to distinguish the same sound uttered by different people. They often feel uncertain whether or not they have produced correct sound.
To address this issue, students must go through numerous repetitions. However, if a teacher corrects too often and too much, students will suffer serious stress. Over-correction of pronunciations disrupts the flow of learning, and puts too much emphasis on pronunciation and too little time for everything else. It also makes a class boring.
Moreover, there are so many different accents out there in the real world, why not tolerate that students also have their own accents!
Ideally, teachers spend 5 to 10 minutes maximum for pronunciations in each class, and concentrate a pattern. Therefore, the best way is to after "progress", not "perfection". Small and miniature pronunciation drills targeting a special form or pattern, mixed with some fun, work really well.
Gradually, students will be able to distinguish different sounds and their pronunciation will improve steadily.
Use it with great caution, or until they have finished Mandarin Express Intermediate Level A!
A good way to improve listening skills is to listen level-appropriate listening materials.
From beginner students to high level ones, we recommend the following in class: (1) listening exercises which come with the textbooks and work books; (2) moderated and authentic communications between students and teachers; (3) communication oriented exercises among peer students.
The next few sources are the ones that teachers must use with great caution, as they could be information overload and produce unwanted results: (1) field trip to a Chinese speaking environment; (2) communicate with Chinese friends; (3) YouTube videos; (4) movies and dramas; (5) Chinese news and other TV programs.
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