Newspapers, magazines, novels, hone the ability to comprehend written texts in Chinese
Chinese reading comprehension is a necessary and an active skill. We read notices, articles and documents for information. We read poems and novels for pleasure. Whatever we do, we need to understand the message and the argument, to conjure images, or to follow the plot. Moreover, we like to judge whether or not the message is important, the argument is sound, the images are beautiful, or the plot makes sense.
For lower level students, their Chinese reading abilities are developed in a controlled environment, where they learn only 320 Chinese characters, practice drawing word boundaries, and step by step advance their Chinese reading abilities. For higher level students, there is a different approach, which is that students boost their Chinese reading abilities through responding to the content. This is the approach that Mandarin Express Pre-Intermediate and Intermediate Levels take to help students obtain exceptional Chinese reading abilities.
To encourage students to respond to the content of the Chinese texts, topics must be engaging and provoking personal engagement, that students have feelings or opinions about the topics or the arguments which they’d like to express. And hence they engage in studying the Chinese language, learning new characters and words, memorising structures, and practicing voicing their opinions in Chinese.
Good topics sparkle great discussions, which are vital in higher level Chinese classes. Excited and engaged students always learn better. Good topics can also fend off boredom, which is the number one killer of a Chinese language class. Some people argue that topics should be tailored to students’ profession, that lawyers read legal articles, or accountants read business articles. However, such an approach will narrow the benefits of reading down to a very linear special purpose, and neglect the fact that we all have other interests than working for a living.
Therefore, Mandarin Express series provides a more varied diet, covering life events, business, history, science, journal articles, menus, advertisements, recipes, poems, novels, and more! These Chinese texts are more likely to be discussed by everyone in the class.
From “artificial” Chinese texts to “authentic” Chinese texts
From Mandarin Express Pre-Intermediate Level A to Intermediate Level B, students move from reading and studying “artificial” Chinese texts to “authentic” Chinese texts.
“Artificial” Chinese texts refer to the texts which, to some extent, have been simplified or restructured to meet certain requirements, such as not being too difficult or too easy, neither having too many new structures or none. And “authentic” Chinese texts refer to the texts selected from mainstream publications, such as newspapers articles, short stories, novels, speeches, and etc.
For lower level students, most “authentic” Chinese texts are too difficult. There are too many new characters and words, and the writing style might be unfamiliar to students. But for higher level students, “authentic” Chinese texts are such a rich reservoir, full of exciting ideas!
With a little technique, practice makes perfect
To be able to read the whole text through, from the first word to the last, for detailed comprehension is an important skill. In addition, students also need to be able to skim a text for a general idea, or to scan the text for any particular information. All these skills need to be developed and practiced.
Therefore, for the purpose of practicing different Chinese reading skills, appropriate reading tasks must be in place in order to fully utilise interesting reading texts. And the reading tasks are not only placed after the reading finishes, but also before the reading begins.
For example, in Mandarin Express Intermediate Level A, before reading starts, students are given a few words for them to explain in Chinese, so that they can get some hint on the content and the topic of the reading text. This bit of prediction makes them more engaged readers. After the reading finishes, there are a few questions for them either to provide some general understanding or to give some particular information. After the questions, they are encouraged to select, research and present a point in which they are interested. This is how a long Chinese article is put to good use.
With sufficient practice, students will be able to hone their Chinese reading abilities and enjoy reading great works written in Chinese.