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Learn Chinese Words by Means of Association

Many foreigners feel it is difficult to learn and remember Chinese characters when they learn Chinese in China. Some of them think the characters are too complex to remember, some people feel some characters are too similar to tell apart. Therefore, teachers should take the responsibility to help them remember characters and words firmly for better Chinese leaning. A good way is to remember by building relationships, whatever they are.

The first one comes into our minds may be finding common points of Chinese characters. Foreigners wholearn Mandarin Chinese all know that Chinese characters are composed of phonetic indicators and meaning elements. Therefore, teachers can offer some groups of characters or words with the similar elements for students to find the common point.

For example, the common point of the group of characters “汉、江、海、河、汤、池” is “氵”. For these characters “古、叶、右、可、只、史”, foreigners who study in China may know the same element is “口”. Besides, the similar aspects can be word meaning or grammatical formation. For instance, the words “动静、是非、呼吸、多少、得失” are all composed of antonyms morphemes.

Except for the common points of Chinese words, we can train students’ memory of memorizing characters by finding the different words from a group of words. When teachers teach Mandarin language by this method, they should first list a group of words of the same category, among which one word has nothing to do with all other words. Students should select the different one after analyzing.

Here is an example to illustrate. Among these words “教学楼、办公室、宿舍楼、大操场、大使馆、图书馆”, students should know “大使馆” is not the same category with the others. And for “四川、河北、山东、江苏、广州、广西”, “广州” is not the same classification. This method is beneficial for foreigners to study Chinese in analysis ability, memorizing ability and summarizing capability.

The two methods above are relatively simple because the words are all given. To gain the difficulty level, teacher can help them with the method of making association. In Chinese language school, the method of associating relevant words with the given one word is effective. Besides, it is good for activating classroom atmosphere and promoting each other.

To play this game, teachers in Mandarin learning courses should first simply explain a certain word to help students associate it to some other words with relation. After students write them down, teachers ask them to answer. Some brief explanations are needed if necessary. For instance, the word “结婚” may remind students of the words “幸福、教堂、戒指、婚礼、孩子、家、钱”.

In order to help students who learn Chinese language to consolidate their memory, we can also associate in a relay form. The first student says one word has relationship with the given one. Then the second student should do association on the basis of the former one. For example, for the word “首都”, it should be “北京→天安门→雄伟→长城→历史→悠久→文化→故宫”.

In the same way, teachers can prepare some real objects such as pens, towels, and train tickets and so on. The cards with some words are also available. When you go to school to study Mandarin, students are divided into groups, then one representative will be chosen. The leader of group one get one object or card form teacher and says five relevant words and one student of group two should make one sentence related to the context.

For example, the relevant words for “毛巾” might be “香皂、水、脸盆、人、洗手间”. Accordingly, the sentence could be “一个人在洗手间洗脸”. This method is often used in Mandarin language courses in Chinabecause it is helpful to gain students’ understanding to some words.

By using the method of making association, students can learn more words when they are learning one word. Therefore, it is very effective in Chinese characters and words learning and memorizing. 

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