FDTL 46/99

Chinese language skills for Britain: dissemination of best practice

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Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language

Institute for Chinese Studies



Reading: Guide for Teachers

Although the objective of this session was to teach ab initio students, we decided to make use of original newspaper articles from as early a stage as possible. After the first few preparatory weeks we took unedited articles from newspapers published in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The 17 articles selected deal with social, educational, economic, political, military and foreign relations topics. When it came to the vocabulary lists based on the articles we included only the most regularly used expressions for students to learn, in attempt to encourage them to make good use of their dictionaries. The Vocabulary Index, Sentence Pattern Index and Tips Index are therefore suitable for most newspaper revision classes at intermediate level.

The meanings of single characters are explained in the right hand boxes within the vocabulary lists for each lesson, and are designed both to help students remember new expressions and also to help them become aware of how Chinese words are formed. Grammar points are highlighted in red in the reading passages and are explained in the Sentence patterns and function words section of each lesson.

Please note that as the teaching of reading skills alone is not a conventional way of teaching the language it is essential that the following reading and reading-related skills are covered.

  • 1. The use of dictionary is one of the essential skills for reading, and is often neglected in conventional teaching. In the first 3 weeks the following skills must be taught.

    ·        Recognition of radicals and components of characters

    ·        Counting of stroke order

    ·        Recognition of pinyin (learning the pronunciation of Chinese words can help students to remember vocabulary, but accuracy of pronunciation should not be over-stressed for reading skills)

  • 2. Remembering regularly used words is important for building up reading speeds. Students should not only be asked to learn and remember the words on the vocabulary list but also should be made aware of the related words. For instance, when they learn a new verb they should also pay attention to its object. Teachers in the class should check these words regularly.
  • 3. Analysing sentences and extracting the gist of a paragraph is also an important skill to teach. Students should be able to identify the basic sentence pattern of a long sentence and find the subject, main verb and object.

    ·   The grouping of words and identification of how   expressions are put together should be taught during the reading practice.     

    ·        Recognition of writing styles of (such as colloquial or formal) should be taught. Four character expression patterns should also be analysed in the class.

    ·        Reading speeds very much depend on how much vocabulary students have learned. It does not take long to teach newspaper reading analysis. Therefore the most important thing is to help students to remember as many as possible of the most regularly used newspaper words.

    The material can be covered within 127.5 contact hours.  In the first 10 weeks the main texts are printed out in simplified characters and for the last 7 weeks in full-form characters. The first 3 hours of each week are used for teaching new words and revising the words and sentences from previous weeks, followed by teaching new sentence patterns and passages.