When learning Chinese, the biggest barrier for students is not what they know or don’t know, but their attitude and feelings. This means that Chinese teachers should adopt the right methods to help students overcome their fear and enable them to feel positive about learning the language.
“Chinese is too difficult!” We’ve all come across this statement, and it reflects the fear that many students have towards Chinese. This fear may have originated from the fact that too much attention has been placed on what they cannot do, consequently making their learning process more difficult.
Chinese is not an easy language, but does a perfectly “easy” language exist? Some may say that Chinese characters are hard to memorise and write, especially when compared to the English alphabet. It is true that Chinese characters have complex structures, however within the strokes and radicals, there is a pattern to be found. When we are able to discern the pattern and understand the underlying rules of Chinese, the language becomes much easier to crack. This is why Wo Hui Mandarin has parallel but independent pathways for spoken and written language so that students can focus on one new thing at a time.
As teachers, we should guide students to hone in on the things they are able to do. As every Chinese character has a meaning of its own, often students will be able to guess the meaning of new words based on what they have already learned. For example, when they have learned “马”（horse）and “车”（car), the meaning of “马车”（carriage） becomes immediately apparent. If they have learned “香”(fragrant) and “水”（water), it would be no difficult feat to guess what “香水”（perfume）means. For someone whose native language does not belong in the Indo-European family, there are no straightforward ways to associate the word “Chameleon” with the reptile itself, but in Chinese, chameleon is simply “变”（change） “色”（colour） “龙” （dragon), this combination is so incredibly intuitive, not only that, the characters are very basic too!
What is more, in English we say “I see her”, if we want our students to learn the reverse – “She sees me”, they will need to know three new characters. Chinese on the other hand? After teaching a student “我看她”(I see her), they can immediately come up with “她看我”(She sees me) using the same three characters. When they realise: “Wow, I can do this!”, their confidence level quickly rises.
At Wo Hui Mandarin, we strongly believe that what students can do is much more important than what they know. From now on, try helping students dissipate their fear of Chinese by placing emphasis on what they can do, allow them to learn and use the language with more confidence. We would love to know if this article has been helpful for you, share with us via [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.
Wo Hui Pilot
Wo Hui Mandarin is a web-based teaching and learning platform for use in schools, supporting Mandarin as a Foreign Language acquisition from complete beginner to iGCSE level and beyond. “Pilot” is a free course comprising of 36 spoken and 36 written sections of work—enough for 2 school years of lessons, if you have a 1 hour class per week. With a subscription, you can also access further content and features. In order not to impede students’ progress in the early stages, spoken and written forms are focussed on separately. If you wish to learn more about Wo Hui “Pilot”, please register at pilot.wohui.co.