When foreign learners come to learn Chinese in China, they hope they can speak the Chinese language fluently. In order to achieve this learning goal, teachers should make efforts in classroom teaching to practice their oral language. It is an effective way to train their spoken language by the way of describing certain materials such as comics, photos, animals, or even specific actions, which is helpful to stimulate their interest.
In order to help students to open their mouths to speak the Chinese language during the process of learning Mandarin Chinese, teachers can prepare a comic with simple and brief contents that are easy to understand for students to describe. The choice of comics should according to the student’s language levels and it should be closely related to the teaching contents.
For those students who just begin to learn Mandarin in China, teachers can encourage them to express by asking “这是什么?” and “那是什么” after they learn the sentences with “是”. If the students are in the intermediate level, they should describe more about the situations and the environment. And for those learners of the advanced level, can describe the psychological activities and implied meanings and so on.
For the purpose of training students to observe and describe the features of people, thus practicing the comprehensive usage of the words for the five sense organs and colors, teachers can provide some photos for students to describe. Students who study in China should first observe the photos carefully and then describe the features of the persons in the photo.
Of course, this activity can be processed in another way in Mandarin learning courses. Each student prepares one photo. Teachers gather those photos on the platform and ask one of the students to stand out. Another student will be demanded to describe the picture he take according to his memory. Then the first student should find out the picture as soon as possible according to another student’s description.
In the description, students should try to use some specific words for the features described. For instance, “美国小伙子，22岁，较长的金色头发，圆脸，有点儿胖，穿浅蓝色的短袖衫”. If another student can find it out in the limited time, both of them will be marked by one point. To help them study Chinese better, teachers can describe the photo until the student realizes that the photo being described is the one he prepared.
Another effective method to train students’ ability to generalize the features of things and describe them with their own organized language, is teachers in Chinese language schools can ask them to describe animals. Each one describes one kind of animal and the others should guess what the animal is.
Each student goes to the stand beside the platform and describes a certain animal. But students should replace the name of the animal with the character “它”. For instance, “它有一对长长的耳朵，眼睛是红色的，它有一身可爱的白毛，喜欢吃草……”. When students learn to speak Chinese in this way, they may meet some animals that are difficult to describe and guess. In this case, teachers should tell the animal’s name and ask students to discuss how to describe it.
When teachers intend to lead in new teaching points or review the learned points, they can do it by asking students to describe certain actions. First of all, teachers should prepare some real objects such as pens and books. The names of those objects should be learned by students before. Teachers can take out the pen and demand students to say “那是一支笔”. If the point is “动作的进行”, the teachers can pretend to write and the students who study Mandarin Chinese should speak out like “老师在写字”.
Once the students master the new grammar points, teachers can use this way to practice over and over again. Of course, this way can also be applied to review the learned contents. To practice more for students to learn Mandarin Chinese, teachers can ask students to do the actions and the others describe. In this way, teachers can connect many points together and learn or review them together.
If you are currently self-studying Mandarin Chinese, you can check out our blog post Self-study Mandarin Chinese: Dos and Don’ts.
Describing is a very effective method to practice students’ ability to speak the Chinese language. In classroom teaching, teachers can ask students to describe the comics, the photos, the animals or even the specific actions.