This resource centre is for both students and Chinese teachers who need answers for a few perplexing Chinese grammar points, who are searching for in-depth analyses of what it takes to learn Mandarin, or who want some inspirations for a class activity which can produce the best learning result.
We are glad that we are able to share knowledge, both conceptual and practical, with students and fellow Chinese teachers around the world. Some ideas can be applied directly into Chinese classes or practice routines. Some ideas can bring out a conceptual change in how Chinese should be learned or taught. Topics are varied and indexed. New articles are added from time to time. Make sure you come back for more!
Don’t be confused about when to use “两 liǎng” and when to use “二 èr” any more.
When learning Chinese, it is important to understand the function of “的 de” is associative, not possessive.
Chinese learners and teachers must pay attention that “了 le” does not indicates past tense. It is about change.
Understand the origin and learn some of the meanings and usages of “就 jiù”, which is often overlooked or misunderstood.
Understand the difference between “一点儿 yī diǎnr” and “有一点儿 yǒu yī diǎnr” in Chinese.
Mistranslating “很 hěn” into “very” is only because we don’t have other options.
What is the best way to learn Chinese grammar? Most people did not know that modern Chinese grammar has a Latin origin, which has created many thorny issues.
Try a better and easier way to learn Chinese grammar. Ignore most of the grammar points and grammar exercises.
There are many differences between spoken Chinese and written Chinese. In this article, April introduces three of them.
Short animated videos are made for students to review their lessons in Mandarin Express Intro Level, and to practice speaking Mandarin.
Short and engaging animated videos are provided for students to consolidate lessons in Mandarin Express Basic Level.
Engaging animated videos are for students to practice and review what they have learned in their Chinese class, Mandarin Express Pre-Intermediate Level.
These short animated videos explain some interesting facts which students are likely to encounter when learning Chinese.
Watching these short videos, and get a quick understanding of what our Chinese courses offer.
Articles Written by April Zhang for in-depth Chinese Teaching & Learning
Cantonese or Mandarin? Traditional Chinese or simplified Chinese? What it takes to succeed in learning Chinese? Get your answers here.
Choices of Chinese reading materials are limited. That’s why many students opt for reading children’s books. But that’s not the best solution.
Many Chinese words share the exact same pinyin and that creates so much confusion that the only solution is to learn Chinese characters.
Start learning Chinese characters? Recognise some common Chinese fonts too!
Five effective ways to improve your Chinese pronunciation. More importantly, improving your Chinese pronunciation without you knowing it.
Cantonese has some unique characteristics which are different from Mandarin. But they also have a lot in common.
If there is one thing to guarantee the success of learning Chinese, what would that be?
There are so many dialects in China, and Mandarin is one of the many dialect groups of Chinese.
Effort was made in two fronts to simplify Chinese characters, to reduce the number of strokes, and to reduce the number of characters.
There are disadvantages of learning Mandarin in Hong Kong, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
There could be hundreds versions of Putonghua out there with slight differences from one another. One of them is Putonghua with a Beijing accent.
Instead of spending thousands of dollars, a virtual learning tour to China is cheap, and provides many benefits for students to learn Chinese.
Learning Mandarin can lead to anxieties. Overcoming these anxieties requires understanding them first.
Understand more on how cultural differences and different upbringing environments lead to tensions between the teacher and students.
Ten arguments for learning Mandarin are analysed and find out which one can drive students to the ultimate success.
Many Chinese words are originally from other languages and Chinese people simply made them their own.
Dragons are magnificent, but it is people whom students will talk to. Let's re-think about how to represent Chinese culture in textbooks.
Both strokes and components are building units, while the latter gives us a deeper insight of the intrinsic beauty of characters.
Many resources are there for listening training. Understand them better and use them well.
This article offers actionable advice for non-Chinese students’ to train their ears.
Find out what the biggest misconception is and gain some insightful ideas about Chinese radicals.
Understand what IBDP Chinese curriculum requires and tests, and get help with choosing the appropriate level of IB Chinese to study.
What is HSK? Why do people take HSK? Who benefits the most? Find out the answers to these questions and more.
Learning pinyin has great advantages. But it is not without its problems. Find out the real issues about pinyin and how to overcome them.
Chinese characters are visual, like paintings. They can make an immediate impact upon people, even if they can not read Chinese.
For non-Chinese speakers, who start learning Chinese in their teens or adulthood, the difficulty inherent in the process of memorising Chinese characters is very real. It is something they have to overcome.
For students who want to have a meaningful grasp of Mandarin, they must look beyond pinyin, as pinyin will confuse the hell out of them!
Stroke order is not the most important thing in learning Chinese reading and writing. Find out what really is.
In the context of speaking and listening, we discuss how the input and output take place in learning Chinese.
There are several ways to start learning Chinese characters. A list of most frequently used characters is one of them.
This beginner’s guide to pinyin teaches you how to use English as cues, most of the time, to grasp Mandarin sounds.
English-Chinese bilingual books are used by many to learn Chinese. To what extent these books are helpful for adult learners of Chinese?
There are different ways to address father and mother in Chinese. And traditionally, father and mother carry different connotations in Chinese culture.
Books printed in both Chinese characters and pinyin have their usages. Developing Chinese reading skills could be one of them if we know how.
Engage students' attention, give them opportunities to move around, and get some competitive spirit going on! Use these activities to bring your Chinese classes to life. And there are more practical and handy activities available in Teacher's Manuals.
Reading a long Chinese article
Involve students in their Chinese learning process
Practice analytical and critical thinking skills
Deliver presentations in Chinese
Other Great Resources Recommended by April
The easiest way to gain understanding of China is to read about China. When reading Chinese is difficult, students can read books written in English.
Read about well known Chinese people who have left permanent marks in Chinese history. These books, written in English, are must reads.
There are two types of flash cards, Chinese character cards and word cards. Chinese character cards typically contain one character per card, showing the stroke order of the character, the meaning, a few combinations as examples, and sometimes a couple of sentences. And word cards generally contain one word per card, showing the meaning of the word and some sentences as examples.
It is more useful when students make their own flash cards than they use the ready made ones. The commercially available flash cards include too many new characters in their examples and that makes more than half of the content in the cards useless.
When students use the flash cards that they made themselves, students gain the biggest advantage flash cards can offer, which is students are able to review key Chinese characters and words quickly. And they can do it whenever they have a few minutes to spare.
The biggest disadvantage of using flash cards is that, when flash cards become the focal point of study, students will miss out the opportunities to do more targeted exercises which will improve their Chinese general comprehensions.
Therefore, it is necessary to strike a balance when using flash cards and to make sure that flash cards are only supplementary tools.
Researchers typically identify 4000 - 5000 characters in prints or online, which includes both simplified and traditional characters. The breakdown is that most frequently used 1000 characters account for 86–91% of the characters occurring, and the most frequently used 2000 for 95–98%. It seems like that, after students learn 2000 characters, they should be able to read newspapers. In reality, they still can’t.
The problem is that, with a focus on accumulating individual characters, students miss a focal point of the Chinese writing system, that the foundation of Chinese texts is words, not characters. Even when students recognise every character in a Chinese text, it is possible that they still don’t understand what they are reading.
Technically, learning pinyin is learning to speak Chinese. In fact, pinyin is not so essential at all. Students can make up their own spelling system with their own languages and can still learn to speak Chinese.
Pinyin, especially tones, is being talked so much because it is closely related to Chinese pronunciations, which are often over emphasised. There is a joke saying a foreigner was trying to order dumplings in a restaurant. But he did not say the tones right, and got slapped because the waitress thought he wanted to sleep with her. This joke itself is a joke. It was in a restaurant for crying out loud! That is the trouble of emphasising pronunciations and tones too much. In doing so, we turn a blind eye to the material conditions of verbal communications in practical situations.
Read more about pinyin here:
Classical Chinese (wenyanwen) is difficult to learn, and people get by fine without learning it. Therefore, students don’t have to learn classical Chinese. Rather, learning classical texts gives them advantages.
Over the millennia, classical Chinese texts have left many traces in the modern Chinese language, permeated in tones of fixed expressions, and been influencing people’s thinkings. Learning some classical Chinese texts help students understand the origins of many expressions, Chinese idioms and even behaviours, and allow them to establish effective communications with Chinese people.
Moreover, classical Chinese texts offer students an opportunity to get a glimpse of Chinese historical, social and cultural changes over thousands of years. This is the coolest way for students to engage in dialogues and gain valuable insights on China.
This is the reason that Mandarin Express Intermediate Level B includes a substantial amount of classical Chinese.
Many people believe that English translations should be provided to beginner students in their Chinese textbooks. They thought the translations will make learning easier. If students don't understand the Chinese text, they will if they read the translations. And quite often we see three different scripts in Chinese textbooks, Chinese characters, pinyin, and English translations.
We don’t agree. Translations laid side by side with the Chinese texts often have the following undesirable effects: (1) students often compare the Chinese texts word by word with the English translation, and arrive at the wrong conclusion, attributing a false translation to a Chinese character or word; (2) Chinese structures can not be translated well into English. Thus the English translations makes it hard for students to fully appreciate the Chinese texts; (3) students' attention is often drawn to the English texts which they can read quickly, and lose their focus on the Chinese texts; (4) the worse of all is that translations prevent students from thinking in the targeted language - Chinese.
In short, English translations discourage students from engaging in the process of learning Chinese. This is the reason that both the Mandarin Express series and the Chinese Reading and Writing series do not have English translations in print.
Radicals have played an important role in learning Chinese. However, spending too much time on radicals no longer makes any sense.
Before, learning radicals was an effective way for students to understand the “bushou”, which was pretty much the only way for them to look up a character in a dictionary. Nowadays, students can use their Chinese learning Apps.
Before, many beginner students learned characters according to their radicals. Now we have a better way for them to do the same thing with more efficiency.
Also, it is often claimed that, learning radicals helps students understand the meanings of characters, such as ｲ relates to people, 口 relates to mouth. But it is only true to a small portion of radicals. It is also claimed that radicals help students guess the sounds of characters. Again, it is not always the case. Many radicals can not explain the meanings of Chinese characters, neither give clues to the sounds.
It is good to know some facts about radicals. But it is not necessary to spend too much time on radicals, especially not spending too much class hours.
Movies are fun to watch. But using movies in Chinese classes with the expectation that they can improve students' listening skills is to be carefully thought out.
For lower level students, it is more effective when they are exposed to controlled listening exercises, including: (1) listening exercises which come with the textbooks and work books; (2) moderated and authentic communications between students and teachers; (3) communication oriented exercises among peer students. Read more here: Controlled exercises - How lower level students develop listening ability.
As students make progress, the following resources will gradually show up in Chinese classes and with some help from the Chinese teachers: (1) field trip to a Chinese speaking environment, or learn how to use a virtual tour instead of a real one; (2) YouTube clips in Chinese; (3) Chinese movies and TV dramas; (4) Chinese news and other TV variety shows. Read more here: Train for exceptional Mandarin listening ability - higher level students.