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Some Language Knowledge which Teachers Should Know when Teaching Chinese to Foreign Students

Even you are a native Chinese and have been speaking Chinese for more than ten years, but if someone asks you to talk about the characteristics of Chinese speech sounds, I suppose that few people can really tell something. This is not strange, for we are the users of language, not the researchers. Some unprofessional school to study in China doesn’t pay attention to this when they are teaching the overseas students who learn Chinese language. However, the teacher who have been teaching Chinese for many years believe that it is necessary for teachers to grasp some basic knowledge. Otherwise, you will lose your face when you can’t answer the questions that the students ask you.

If your students just start to learn Mandarin, the basic knowledge will be quite important for you. If the students have already learnt the pronunciation, the phonetic knowledge is also useful for you to teach Mandarin language.

What is Chinese language? Chinese language is the language that the Han People speak. Someone will ask: that is not right. My Uyghur friends also speak Chinese! Yes, they do. But it is not the mother tongue of Uyghur, but the tool for them to communicate with Han People. In the big family which includes 56 nationalities, every nationality has its own language. It is only because Han People takes 92% of Chinese population that Chinese language becomes the common language of Chinese ethnic peoples.

Chinese belongs to the Sino-Tibetan language family; English belongs to Germanic language family and Japanese and Korean belong to Altaic language family. Therefore, Chinese language has long distance from English, Japanese and Korean from the origin of the language. This also causes the difference between these languages and Chinese.

Some students who study Mandarin in Yunnan once asked: why they could not understand what the people were saying when they came to learn Chinese in Yunnan after they have studied Chinese for several years. The reason is quite simple. The local people are speaking dialects. Then some students who learn Mandarin abroad may ask whether dialects belong to Chinese.

For this question, we should understand it from the general aspect and narrow aspect. The narrow definition for Chinese language refers to Putonghua; the general definition for Chinese language refers to the eight major dialects and many other sub-dialects in China. The grammars of all kinds of the dialects are basically the same and their vocabulary is accordant generally, but the tones are quite different. After learning this characteristic, we will suggest the students who study Chinese abroad that the best place to learn Chinese is definitely the mainland of China.

If you come to learn Chinese in China, you can experience the diverse pronunciation of Chinese dialects while you are learning Putonghua, which will be quite interesting.

The present students who study in China will start with learning pinyin. Therefore, if the teacher has forgotten Chinese pinyin, he had better find a primary student’s Chinese book to have review on it. Chinese pinyin has 26 letters in total, which has been known by most of people. These 26 letters are Latin letters, but not English letters and definitely not American letters. I suppose that many people are not clear about this point. We need to make it clear here.

Learning about these points above is important for teachers to teach the new beginners of Chinese language. In the process of teaching, teachers should also pay attention to correcting the pronunciation of students and try your best to make the process interesting and lively. For example, when you are correcting the pronunciation of “zh, ch, sh” of your student, you can tell them like this, “Your tongue needs to be curled back into the middle of your mouth.” Meanwhile you put your palm flat and upward and bend your four fingers so that the students who study Chinese can learn the position of tongue intuitively.

For students who don’t know how to pronounce the aspirated sounds, the teachers can take a paper in front of the faces and pronounce “p” and “b” in turn and let the students observe the movement of the paper. The sound which has made the paper move is the aspirated sound. On the contrary, it is the unaspirated sound.

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