help bg
Go Back

Two Proposals on How to Improve Speed of learning Chinese for European and American Students

In European and American counties, Chinese course is usually considered as one of the most difficult language for learning. In a very popular language division of the difficulty of foreign languages made by a subordinate agency under the State Department, Chinese as well as Japanese are classed as the most difficult linguistic category. For a new Chinese learner whose mother tongue is English, if he learns Spanish, Italian or other western language, he may reach the level of using this language to have effective work after learning it 600 class hours. However, Chinese and some other difficult language need more than 2200 class hours to reach the same level. In American universities, there are usually 120 to 150 class hours for students learning foreign languages every year. In accordance with this speed to count, about 15 to 20 years have to be spent; he can reach to the advanced level of Chinese. Ironically, many Chinese teachers have been influenced by the theory that Chinese is difficult to learn, therefore, they assert to slow down Chinese learning speed and try to attract more new learners for this. Slowing down the speed may let the learner feel more comfortable in a short period, but after a term of learning, the learners will find that their level is too low and cannot make a real communication in Chinese and they may lose their confidence and have the think of giving up. In my opinion, to attract more European and American students to learn Chinese, the right direction is speeding up but not slowing down. We should let our students reach the level of using Chinese to have higher-leveled Chinese communication in 600 or less class hours’ learning. Then about how to improve the speed of Chinese learning, the author has two proposals:

Using computer input to instead of writing Chinese with hand

Primary Chinese course is very difficult for American students, if we only think about listening and speaking. In China, we have a very popular view that Japanese and Korean students have more advances to learn Chinese than European and American students. My teaching experience is that in the very beginning , American students are superior to Japanese and Korean students in the aspect of learning Chinese pronunciation although they may have some problems of intonation, they can learn an amount of simple Chinese sentences in a short time and use them very well to have basic communication. However, things will be different when we think about reading and writing, for Chinese characters are big barrier for many American students.

To reduce students’ study burden and overcome their fear, some teachers and schools’ method is to decrease or even give up teaching Chinese characters and only teach them pinyin instead. In a short-term, this can truly reduce students’ burden. But it does more harm than good in the future. That is because once the student has dependence for pinyin, he will have the think of giving up when he restart learning Chinese characters after one or two terms of learning pinyin.

If you want to know more about zhong wen, please continue to follow up.

Learning modern Chinese literary language in Chinese course should start from non-literary works

The other difficulty for improving Chinese is literary language, for there are many differences on rhetoric and syntactic patterns of Chinese literary language or formal spoken language and common spoken language. When they are seniors, students have to come into contact with literary language unavoidably. But which kind of literary language should we start with? Because most of the Chinese teachers are graduated from the Department of Chinese Literature, they are more interested in literary works. Then short stories are listed into the important contents for senior students to learn.

In my opinion, this teaching method has problems. The key point is that different writers have different writing styles so that the literary works lacks obvious common features. Many short stories are the mixture of literary language and natural spoken language, but not the specific literary language. They are not good for students to grasp the usage of the specific literary language.

In my teaching experience, I have an unforgettable memory that a student who studied in one of the top US universities and had very favorable opinions of himself could not understand any news or articles on the People’s Daily he found after he had studied Chinese passionately for three years. He said to me, “I wrongly chose to learn Chinese. I have wasted my precious time, for the effects and the efforts I paid are disproportionate completely. If I chose another language, maybe I can even write novels in that language, let alone reading newspaper.”

According to this lesson, I would like to solve this problem by choosing proper review articles and news on newspaper. Although these materials lack of literary elegance and seem very difficult at the beginning, they are actually easier to grasp, for their features of specific and repeated writing types. Through two-o- three-week practicing, most of the students can understand short news on newspaper and CCTV. This is a great progress for students. It can enhance their confidence in learning Chinese. Meanwhile, the practice of review articles writing can help students who study Chinese to express their own opinions to all kinds of social issues in more formal language.

After students get confidence, the range of writing type can be broadened. Teachers can give students short stories and essays to read and let them to imitate the writing styles. Some students’ works have reached the level that can be published. Many of them really published their works on Chinese newspaper and magazines, which gave them more confidence. One thing that should be pointed is that in fact these students were new learner of Chinese three or four years ago. Their progress is very fast actually.

Usually Chinese teachers always emphasize the importance of foundation in Chinese course. But the specific attitude of American students is the anxiousness to achieve quick success. Of course it is a failure when they can’t reach their goal after three-or-four-year study. The greatest challenge is how to let students speed up their study efficiency and progress from the primary level to higher level. We should study how to organize the four years’ teaching contents according to this expectation.

By Keats teacher

Please use vertical scrolling on your mobile device.