Travel, Teach, Live in China

How to Teach Chinese Writing
By:Audrey Farley

When teaching Chinese writing, always be respectful of students' needs. Be patient and attentive to their progress and development. Teach Chinese characters in order of their complexity, beginning with pictographs. Supplement instruction of characters with historical analysis.

Teach pictographs before advancing to any other units. Pictographs have evolved over the last 5,000 years, but they were originally pictures of physical things and object. They are the most basic characters of Chinese writing and the easiest to learn.

Introduce ideographs when students have mastered basic pictographs. Ideographs are graphical representations of abstract concepts and ideas, such as "love" and "friendship." Because ideographs are not based off of tangible things, they are not intuitively recognizable.

Introduce phonographs only when students have a basic understanding of pictographs and ideographs. Phonographs are characters that compound pictographs and ideographs, so it is important to teach them only when students are fluent with the other types.

Incorporate historical analysis. Chinese characters have evolved over time, and they are reflective of different periods and cultural traditions. Enhance students' understanding of and appreciation for Chinese writing by teaching the history of characters and the contexts from which modern compounds derive.

Be patient with pronunciation. Depending on the class objectives, you may not worry about pronunciation at all. But if you want to teach oral recitation of Chinese writing, then wait until students are ready. Students of foreign languages often feel very insecure speaking in a tongue other than their native when in front of classmates and peers. Foster a comfortable environment by encouraging students to participate aloud at their own pace. You can also play audio of Chinese speakers to help students make connections between the semantic-phonetic compounds (characters that contain two components, one indicating meaning and one indicating pronunciation) that they read and the sounds that they hear.


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