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Learn Chinese With Ease

Master the Chinese vocabulary through this effective learning method!

For a strong foundation when learning Chinese, it is important to develop a strong vocabulary. However, relying solely on memorising the thousands of commonly used Chinese characters and their resulting exponential word combinations may overwhelm children’s interest in learning the language. Instead, we should approach the learning process from the children’s perspective, adopting an interesting and practical method to make learning Chinese easier and more effective.

Learning Through Everyday Activities

When children learn words without the proper context, they may struggle to express themselves with the news words as they cannot associate them with their daily lives. Indeed, children will learn more when new words are illustrated with real-life examples.

Take the Chinese character for hand (手) for example. Start by associating it with the items that they are familiar with, like mobile phones (手机) or watches (手表). Then go a step further to teach them the various meanings a single word can have, like in 手心, which means the palm of our hands; and 手足which means the hands and feet, but can also describe siblings. Another example is晴, which is usually associated with fair weather. Parents can bring their children outdoor on a fine day to illustrate the associated words, like 晴朗 (clear), 晴天 (sunny), and放晴 (clear up). Parents can also highlight the associated words when watching weather forecasts on television. When new words are taught through repeated usage in their daily activities, it makes the learning experience more enjoyable and enhances children’s confidence.

Making A Lasting Impression

Instead of learning by memorisation, parents can consider using a “comparative” approach to teach children to identify the similarities and differences between words. For example, the antonym of 退后 (retreat) is 前进 (advance), and the antonym of 退步 (regress) is 进步 (progress).Though this method, children learn to grasp the meaning of various words quicker whilst leaving a lasting impression of the words in the process.

For the more complicated case of synonyms, it is important to understand the differences to use them correctly. In the example of 严肃 (serious) and 严格 (strict), the former refers to a solemn or thoughtful character or manner, and the latter refers to a demand that rules concerning behaviour are obeyed and observed. Through providing the context in their usage, we can help make the usage of both terms less confusing for the children. For instance, “爸爸的表情严肃”(“Dad has a serious expression”) and“教练的要求严格”(“Our coach has strict requirements”).

Building New Words With Experience

Children can be taught to learn new words using their existing experiences as most of the Chinese characters that they have already learnt can be combined to form more new words. They can try inferring the meaning of the new words through the shape, enunciation, and meaning of characters that they had already learnt. For example, though 吵 and 闹 mean noisy, children can deduce the meaning of the combined word (吵闹) through the meaning of the individual characters.

Since 2017, Singapore’s Chou Sing Chu Foundation (CSCF) has been publishing the Practising Your Way to an A  – The Students’ Guide to Chinese Vocabulary to help students learn new Chinese words. This series of three books is designed to meet the learning needs of primary school students at all levels with 180 new Chinese words that the students will come across in their studies. Chinese and English explanations, and examples from the daily life are included to help students gain a deeper understanding. Quizzes from everyday scenarios are also included to improve students’ ability to distinguish between Chinese words of similar appearance or pronunciation. CSCF will also launch a new series of commonly used Chinese vocabulary for primary school students soon, so stay tuned!