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  • In the previous video we discussed how Chinese characters work.

  • In this presentation,

  • we'll be explaining the traditional methodology used for teaching

  • Chinese characters to both native speakers and foreign learners.

  • We will then discuss the typical

  • frustrations that arise from using this traditional approach

  • and examine the cause of these frustrations.

  • After that, we'll let you in on a little secret that will show you how to

  • quickly learn copious amounts of Chinese characters

  • in a fun and interesting way!

  • When growing up in a native speaking environment,

  • the student's journey towards literacy

  • begins in kindergarten.

  • Before they start writing Chinese characters they are first taught

  • phonetic symbols so they can write

  • the pronunciation of Chinese characters.

  • In Mainland China the students are taught the "pinyin" phonetic system,

  • and it uses the Roman alphabetic symbols: A - Z.

  • In Taiwan, students use the "zhuyin" phonetic system,

  • which are the traditional Chinese phonetic symbols.

  • The "zhuyin" phonetic system is better known as "bo po mo fo".

  • After learning the phonetic symbols,

  • the student is immediately "thrown into the deep end"

  • to being learning whole<b> </b>Chinese characters.

  • For the first week or so,

  • the teacher will show the students how to write characters that have

  • fewer strokes so that they can begin to learn the order of

  • which lines to write first

  • (this is called "stroke order").

  • The teacher will stand

  • in front of the classroom and

  • write a big Chinese character on the blackboard.

  • The teacher counts every time one stroke is finished.

  • As the teacher writes and counts,

  • the students follow along with their fingers in the air.

  • After practicing this as a group for a few times,

  • the students then write the character in their practice books 10 times or so.

  • They will turn this in as homework and will be tested on the new character.

  • If they make any mistakes on their homework or tests,

  • they will have to do "punishment writing",

  • which will require them to write the character over and over again.

  • The goal is to ensure that the student

  • absolutely learns how to write the character and never forgets it.

  • This teaching approach is called "rote memorization".

  • Before the little ones finish the first and second grades,

  • they will have already memorized

  • between 800 and 1300 complex characters!

  • This is a very busy period in a 7-year-olds' life!

  • By the time they finish the 6th grade,

  • they will have already memorized 2500-2700 characters by rote -

  • about two-thirds of the most frequently used characters.

  • Also, at some point in the 5th or 6th grade

  • the teacher will have introduced the concept of "radicals".

  • "Radicals" are more accurately translated as

  • "dictionary section headers".

  • Now there's obviously a need for a dictionary of Chinese characters,

  • but it would have to work very differently from a western dictionary.

  • In a western dictionary words are listed alphabetically,

  • but since Chinese characters contain no letters to be organized by,

  • this system wouldn't work so well.

  • This led to the creation of an interesting cataloging system

  • that was based on the intrinsic "building block"

  • nature of Chinese characters.

  • If you haven't watched it yet,

  • you should watch the first video in this series:

  • "A Thorough Introduction to How Chinese Characters Work".

  • As you recall from that video,

  • most characters are formed by combining several simpler pictographs.

  • This "radical" cataloging system organizes Chinese characters

  • in the dictionary based on the smaller parts that they contain.

  • Every Chinese character is classified

  • under one "radical section header" in the dictionary.

  • For example, there is a section header for (木) "tree"

  • and most Chinese characters that contain this pictograph

  • can be found under this section header in a dictionary.

  • Thus, if you encounter an unfamiliar Chinese character

  • but you are able to recognize the "tree" radical within the unfamiliar character

  • you could go to the "tree" section of a Chinese dictionary to locate

  • the unfamiliar character.

  • Then you could learn how to pronounce the character

  • and also learn its meaning.

  • So as I was saying, when you're an older elementary school student

  • who has already learned many characters that contain the radical (木) "tree",

  • the teacher would point out,

  • "See, this part is 'tree' and it's a radical."

  • This isn't taught to students too early

  • because it's assumed it would overwhelm the young student -

  • they don't need to know what section header the characters

  • they are learning are classified under in a dictionary.

  • All they need to do is memorize how to write the whole character correctly

  • along with its pronunciation.

  • All emphasis is strictly placed on learning how to read and write

  • <u>the characters they will need in their daily lives.

  • Foreign learners of Chinese are taught Chinese characters in pretty much the

  • same way as first and second graders.

  • The difference is that very little time is spent in class on writing.

  • Instead most students have a "character practice" book where

  • they can trace Chinese characters to learn the correct stroke order.

  • It's a self-study endeavor wherein the student copies the stroke-by-stroke,

  • line-swoop-slash illustrations presented in the workbook

  • and then practices writing it freehand in the provided empty spaces.

  • This is turned in for homework,

  • and of course there are always quizzes on the new characters.

  • Just like beginner-level native students,

  • foreign students aren't told about radicals or character composition.

  • The goal is purely to get the student

  • to quickly recognize a few words for use in daily life via rote memorization.

  • The student's job is to memorize the correct sequence of lines

  • and try not to mix up the characters.

  • This can be pretty confusing in the beginning,

  • especially for characters with lots of strokes.

  • It's easy to accidentally add an extra line or two,

  • and just as easy to forget to write part of the character.

  • Using rote memorization to learn Chinese characters

  • is an effective method to ensure that the student never forgets

  • how to recognize or write a character.

  • It has proven to work quick successfully for over one billion people!

  • However, any person with experience studying Chinese in this way,

  • both native speakers and foreign learners alike,

  • can attest that it is a dreaded and monotonous chore.

  • Most foreign learners would also add "stressful" and "frustrating".

  • This is because characters are taught as whole pieces

  • with emphasis placed on writing thousands of meaningless lines

  • in the correct sequence.

  • Now this approach has worked for one billion native speaking people

  • who spend their entire lives immersed in a Chinese speaking culture

  • and see Chinese characters on a daily basis,

  • but a foreign learner of Chinese is coming from a very different situation

  • and with a very different mindset.

  • After watching the previous video

  • "A Thorough Introduction to How Chinese Characters Work",

  • you understand that a Chinese character is more than just a sequence of lines.

  • A Chinese character is a picture

  • created by combining several simpler pictographic components.

  • Every single Chinese character portrays a fascinating story,

  • but teachers don't tell their students this.

  • With the current teaching method,

  • these beautiful and interesting characters have been reduced to

  • a soulless sequence of lines to be memorized

  • and written over and over again.

  • Doing this takes away all of the fun, mystery, and 4,000 years of history.

In the previous video we discussed how Chinese characters work.

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B1 chinese character dictionary chinese character write phonetic

Part 2A- Traditional Chinese Teaching Methodology

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    姚易辰 posted on 2013/08/11
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