Adam Khoo Learning Centre

July 22, 2020

Tips to Study Chinese

Helpful tips to study Chinese Language

It takes a lot of effort to master a language, especially Chinese, which involves both alphabets and strokes. Here are some tips from us!

1. Oral and Listening (35%)

Oral and Listening are the most important components in Chinese learning. When a child is born, he or she will not know how to read or write. The first thing a child learns is to speak and listen. If parents want to cultivate a child’s interest for Chinese, it’s better to start with oral and listening as well.

  • To increase the input of Chinese language. It will take a newborn baby a year or more just to speak a few words. That’s because the baby needs to accumulate enough inputs, before he or she is able to convert the inputs into words that they are able to understand and use.
  • Do some reading every day. Parent can read the stories to the students or students can read on their own. For a start, parents can choose the books with more pictures and less words. As the students improve, parents can choose the books with topics that students are interested.
  • Watch Chinese-speaking movies, dramas or cartoons. After that, parents can encourage students to share the things that they have learnt, liked or disliked about what they watched.

2. To practice speaking.

Practice makes perfect! It’s crucial to practice speaking at home.

  • Children should communicate in Chinese at home whenever possible, especially if their parents are able to speak in Chinese.
  • Make it a habit to discuss certain things in Chinese at home or at school. If it’s too difficult to speak Chinese regularly, it will be useful for children to set a certain day to discuss certain things. During the discussion, students can practice speaking, and also practise running through the thinking process they would encounter when phrasing certain ideas, which will be tested in the oral exam.
  • Correct the sentence structure. Usually it’s not recommended to correct student’s grammatical mistakes in oral immediately, because it may reduce students’ interest. However, if they constantly make the same mistakes, they must be corrected. Otherwise, it will not only affect their oral but also their writing. For example, “我们吃饭先,再做功课。” This is grammatically wrong. Some students will write this in their composition due to their habit of saying it. Thus, parents and teachers need to correct students if they do so. The correct version should be: “我们先吃饭,再做功课。”.

For PSLE students, Oral and Listening are the easiest to get marks. For those students without a strong foundation in Chinese Language, oral will be key to whether you can pass PSLE.

  1. Reading passage: Tonality and fluency are very important. In order to do that, students must know how to read all the words that is required. For the students with a weaker foundation for Chinese, they should constantly practise by reading all the passages of the textbooks.
  2. Describe the picture: Students need to divide the whole pictures into different segments and describe them in certain sequences. Students need to add in their own comments about whether the actions are right or wrong and what you would do if you were them. For the students that are weaker in Chinese Language, they can focus on topical practice, and cover topics such as, park, playground, library and canteen etc.
  3. Conversation: Students need to answer the questions based on what the examiner asks. They would also need to know when and how to provide examples. If students are able to link the questions to what they have experienced in their life, it will be much easier for them to share more with the examiners.

3. Paper 2: Comprehension and Language Application (45%)

Paper 2 is usually seen as the most difficult for students. It tests the students’ ability to comprehend the language, and tests mainly vocabulary and comprehension. These cannot be dramatically improved overnight because it needs accumulation of knowledge on a daily basis. There are still some tips to help students with these.

  1. Vocabulary:
  • Increase vocabulary through massive reading.
  • Recognize all the words that are required in the textbooks.
  • Make sure all the spellings given by teacher are mastered.
  • Understand the meaning and usage of various words or phrases.
    • To understand the words or phrases via sentence-making. Making sentences is a good method to test whether students really understand the meaning and usage of the words or phrases.
    • To understand the words or phrases via pictures. This is especially helpful for the visual students.
    • To remember the words and phrases based on the components. For example: “贫” means poor. It consists of “分” and “贝”. “贝” means money in ancient China. “分” means giving to others. Thus “分” and “贝” together means giving money to others. This will make it much easier for students to remember how to write the word and it’s meaning.
  1. Comprehension:
  • Cultivate language intuition through massive reading. Language intuition is not only important for comprehension but it is also critical for fill in the blanks component, etc.
  • Think critically. Sometimes, the reason why students couldn’t understand the passage is not because they don’t recognize the words, but they are unable to understand how the story develops due to lack of life experiences. Discussion after reading is useful for both comprehension and composition.
  • Master the skills to answer different questions through practising. English and Chinese are both languages. Students can apply the skills they learnt for English to Chinese as well.
  • Time management is very important. Students need to complete all the questions. They would definitely not be able to obtain any marks if the question is not answered. Regardless of whether it is a MCQ or open-ended question, students will only get marks if the questions are answered.

For PSLE students, in addition to what was mentioned above, the following tips will help you to gain some additional marks.

  1. Understand the different types of questions and how to answer them. For example:

Q: 为什么……?  A: “因为……。”

Q: 从哪里可以看出……? A: 从“……”可以看出。

  1. Find the key words from the questions and passages. For example: Q: 猴子为什么要拔掉杏树,改种桃树?If students don’t understand the words used in this question, it’s very important for students to find out the meaning of these important words in the passage. Usually, hints to the answer could be found where these words are used in the passage.
  2. Master inferential skills. For example: Q: 文中形容“小心慎重”的意思的词语是什么? In one part of the passage, it goes like this, “I don’t know even know her, why did she give me an apple?”. This reminds me of the story of Snow White. I begin to be “谨慎”. Put yourself in the shoe of the character in the story. If a stranger gives you an apple, and you know the story of Snow White, you will know that you are suspecting the intention of the person. So you have to be careful. For the question, you might not know what does “慎重” mean, but you would definitely know know “小心” which means careful. Then, applying inferential skills like we did in this example, you can answer the answer correctly. If students are able to apply inferential skills, this seemingly most difficult question to students might turn out to be the easiest one.

4. Paper 1: Composition (20%)

Composition is the component that students enjoys the least. In fact, many students dislike it because they have to write many words. Moreover, they don’t know how to express themselves in the composition.  Some students have results that are remain relatively stagnant for composition. It seems as if no matter what they do, they cannot achieve higher marks. Here are some tips for composition:

  1. Keep a diary and pen down your thoughts in Chinese every day. This activity requires students to practice their vocabulary, sentence structure and thinking process. Students need to go through all these before they can pen down their thoughts in their diary. All these daily efforts will be paid off when writing composition.
  2. Accumulate your own collection of good phrases, idioms or sentences. It’s a good habit to write down all these good phrases or sentences whenever you come across them. They can be found from novels, comprehension passages or even others’ composition.
  3. Read widely. Reading is a very important input for composition writing. Without enough reading, it’s tougher to write better passages. Students are not old enough to have many life experiences, thus reading widely will make up for the lack of experiences.
  4. Practice writing. This is where students apply all the knowledge they accumulated over time. After their first writing draft, it’s necessary to get others to correct the draft for you, before you rewrite it again. It’s a long and tedious process, but students will learn a lot along the way.

For PSLE students, besides what was mentioned above, here are some tips that would be helpful for short-term preparation.

  1. Memorize some typical beginnings and endings of compositions. This will be especially helpful for the students who are weaker in composition, because it will not only save time but also leave a good impression for the readers.
  2. Make sentences with commonly-used idioms. There are two benefits when you do that. The first benefit would be that you are now able to reduce the misuse of the idioms in the composition. The other benefit would be that you would have would be the increased usage of vocabulary in your composition writing. For example:

“四脚朝天”- Students understand that it is used to describe how people look after they fall. However, they would tend to use it in this manner: “ 他从树上摔下来,四脚朝天。”. They fail to realize that, the sentence should instead, be: “他从树上摔下来,跌了个四脚朝天。”

  1. Keep reading good model essays. All these essays will provide the students with a knowledge bank of beautiful story plots and common-used phrases and idioms. Learning from others will definitely increase the pace of your learning process.

With all these tips, time to work towards acing your next Chinese exam!


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