Browse Our Online Resources and Teaching Tips

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

What? Stroke-order does not matter (that much anyway)?

Stroke order is not the most important thing in learning Chinese reading and writing. Find out what really is.

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Understand learning input and output

In the context of Mandarin speaking and listening, we discuss how the input and output work out.

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Character Frequency List, Xiang Xing Zi, Radicals and More

Several studies on the most frequently used characters all point to the same direction even though the exact numbers are slightly different.

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Why learning Chinese using Pinyin only will create more huddles

For anyone who wants to have a meaningful grasp of Chinese language, they must look beyond Pinyin.

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Class Activities to Expand Your Teaching Toolkit

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.

Topic Card - What is in your mind?

  • Encourage authentic communications between students
  • Build mutual understanding among students
  • Gauge progress and discover areas for improvement

Find someone who ...

  • Encourage the whole class to stay active
  • Encourage communication and information sharing
  • Build trust and understanding among students and teachers

Listening contest

  • Increase students' awareness on pronunciation
  • Encourage students to speak and increase their confidence
  • Build class rapport among students

Frequently Debated Issues

And our side

English translations in Chinese language textbooks. Are these really useful?

Probably not.

Many teachers and administrators believe that English (or other language) translations should be provided to beginner students. They thought the translations will make learning easier. If students don't understand the Chinese text, they will if they read the translations.

However, translations often mislead students in the following ways: (1) when a word carries multiple meanings, translations often give a false sense of one fixed meaning; (2) structures can not be translated well; (3) students often pay more attention to the translations than the Chinese texts; (4) the most undesirable one is that translations prevent students from thinking in the targeted language - Chinese.

When learning characters, do students have to learn radicals?

Given the impact of smartphone and tablet, learning radicals for the purpose of learning characters no longer makes any sense.

The current, mainstream rehtory on radicals is misleading. People claim that, radicals will show you the roots of characters, and help students decipher the meanings, and etc. And they use a very small number of radicals to demonstrate their point.

The fact is, among 200 or so (exact number to be debated) radicals, there are a limited number of radicals which can help students understand meanings of characters, and to a limited extent. If we take a look at the radical page of a standard dictionary, we find that many radicals do not offer such convenience.

The chief function of radicals is to index characters in traditional dictionaries. This index system had been very effective for a very long time. However, at the advent of computers and smart phones, people find other ways to decipher the meanings of characters. And 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. 

Are "listening, speaking, reading and writing" the four pillars of Chinese language skills?

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.

Should a teacher correct student's pronunciations whenever he/she spots an error?

Definitely not.

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.

Should a teacher direct students to TV programs to improve their listening skills?

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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