Sunday, September 27, 2009

Learning to Read - Baby Steps!

Web Dew
Originally uploaded by Reiffhaus
So you've decided to learn to read and write Chinese - or if you're still on the fence and looking for a few more reasons to, read this.

But if you don't know any characters, how do you start? It seems a bit daunting!

I've developed a way for beginners to learn to recognize characters, based on the books I've written (with the help of my two wonderful editors, both native Mandarin speakers AND Chinese teachers). This set of books is comprised of a textbook called Very Practical Chinese - 45 Conversations to Know (VPC for short), which includes 16 hours of MP3 compatible audio, and its companion, the VPC Study Guide, which breaks down each line of the dialogue. Our books focus on everyday conversations and making grammar easy and accessible. They also have a huge glossary, heaps of slang, idioms, tongue twisters and jokes. You can read more about them here.

Once finished, I started to think about supplementary materials to help my readers learn to read and write. I came up with "Black Out" Photocopiable Templates that let the reader cover parts of the dialogue in order to test their memory. From here, I made "Fill-in Pinyin" Templates, printable worksheets where the Pinyin and English gloss are whited out, leaving space for you to write your answer and test yourself!

From there, it struck me that for beginners, bigger would be better! That, and a way to be interatctive with the characters, which seems to be a better way to memorize new information than just passively staring at it (think of the "Memory" card game we all played as kids), and so the "Line-by-Line Flashcards" were born. I've got Chapters 1 thru 9 done (more are on the way). The idea is to arrange the cards while listening to the dialogue, or from memory. Then see if you know the tones for each of the characters in every line (best accomplished by using on of the "Fill-in" Templates at the same time). Finally, flip them over to see the tones!

If you've already learned a few hundred characters, these are too remedial for you, I think, but if you're brand new at it, they're a very good way to cut your teeth and ease your way into memorizing characters!

Best of all, you can try my system for free! Simply:

1. Open a Sample Chapter from the VPC Book (Ch.1, 2, and 3) are online and its accompanying audio files. (You'll find the Study Guide Notes for each here as well.)

2. Go to the Line-by-Line Flashcards for Ch.1, 2, 3. Print them on double sided paper.

Give it a try and see:) I'm about to post new worksheets on my website that I call "Fold-over" Vocabulary Reivew Sheets, which will be great to jump to after you've gotten a few hundred characters memorized using the Line-by-Line Flashcards.

For those of you who prefer to review new words and characters on your computer, Online Flashcards for the VPC Chapters (through to Chapter 24), which were created by my industrious student, Bruce, are now available! He has graciously made them available to other students at Flashcard exchange, for which I am greatly indebted to him. Check out the VPC Online Flashcards here!

1 comment:

  1. I have tried the on-line Chinese video lessons of New Concept Mandarin. I love the on-line video classes. It is the only on-line course that I have found that starts from the absolute beginning and explains things in a simple yet interesting way (as well as giving literal translations). Other beginner courses seem to forget that beginners don't actually know any Chinese yet, and are unable to understand complex sentences before being taught the basics!