When learning Chinese Grammar, less can be more

The traditional way of learning and teaching Chinese really needs to be changed. It is especially damaging to beginner students. 

In a traditional Chinese classroom, students listen to their teachers most of the time, try to learn (and often fail) a long list of new words, followed by a long list of grammar points. Students rarely focus on trying to use the language to express themselves or to have a natural conversation, instead, they do tons of exercises which are dry and banal. The drawback is that the more they study, the more they become tongue tight, or they form bad habits from the start.

The limitation of hundreds of grammar points

There is always a grammar section in Chinese textbooks which take such a traditional approach to teaching and learning Chinese. 

In such a textbook, there are on average ten grammar points per lesson and twenty to thirty lessons per book, so the total number of grammar points which students have to learn per textbook is around 200 to 300. If there is a second book in the series, the number will be doubled. Indeed, the number is so massive that these grammar points become useless as an effective guide. 

To make the situation worse, some grammar points follow Latin grammatical concepts, which do not work well with Chinese. 

Learning Chinese should be a fun experience. But all these grammar points and grammar exercises, in addition to a long list of new words in each lesson, make learning Chinese hard and painful.

How to learn Chinese grammar?

If you can not ignore the hundreds of grammar points in your textbooks, neither can you summarise by yourself, nor are you following my Chinese curriculum, you can do the following:

Firstly, pay attention to sentence structures, which orchestrate words into coherent, and sometimes beautiful, Chinese.

The good news is that Chinese has a lot less structures comparing to any European languages. The word order is super flexible. No tenses of whatsoever. And beginner students of Chinese ought to have a fantastic and easy time learning grammar! More complex structures come in for higher level students. But there are not that many. 

Secondly, learn some special word usages in Chinese, such as the difference between 二 and 两.

The good news is that students never have to learn more than a couple at a time. There is absolutely no need to worry about “adjective”, “adverb”, “verb”, or “noun”, as in Chinese, a noun can be a adjective, and an adjective can become a verb. 

Thirdly, ignore the rest. 

The motto is: learn less and learn better.