New Approaches to Learning Chinese: The Most Common Chinese Radicals (Chinese-English)
author: Zhang Pengpeng
publishing house: SINOLINGUA BEIJING
number of editions: first edition in 2001
number of print: fifth print in 2006 (Chinese-English)
number of pages: 147 pages
format: 16 format
Specially designed with brand-new approaches for foreign students beginning to learn Chinese. 108 most commonly used radicals are introduced in this book, sequenced from the simple to the more complicated according to their number of strokes. Each radical is explained by its name, meaning, function, origin, way to write and the number of strokes, and followed by several compound characters sharing the same radical. The students will be attracted by the culture and art richly embodied in Chinese characters, which, instead of being the “stumbling blocks” as they have often been considered before, will become “magnets” drawing them step by step to the innermost charm of the Chinese language. French versions are available. Paperback
This set of courses is specially designed with brand-new approaches for foreign students beginning integrated into a whole, there are three courses in this set: Intensive Spoken Chinese, THE Most Common Chinese Radicals, and Rapid Literacy in Chinese.
Beginning with pinyin only, instead of dealing with both pronunciation and character recognition, students will find the Spoken Chinese course easy to master, and will be able to communicate in Chinese in no time.
The concentrated training in character learning will enable the student to enter into the reading stage in an unprecedentedly short time and taste the satisfaction and enjoyment of fluent comprehension.
In the Radicals book, the students will be attracted by the rich content of culture and art embodied in Chinese characters, which, instead of being the “Stumbling blocks” they have often been considered, become “magnets” drawing them step by step to the innermost charm of the Chinese language.
The Chinese language has for too long been perceived as being beyond the grasp of the foreign learner. This misconception has been caused, unfortunately, for the most part by an improper teaching approach.
For several decades the spoken and written forms of Chinese have been taught simultaneously to beginners. There is nothing wrong with this approach in teaching Western languages like French or English that employ a phonetic system or alphabet as an aid to learning pronunciation, but it is certainly not the best method for teaching the Chinese spoken language and Chinese characters. The reasons for this are threefold:
1. Chinese characters cannot be read phonetically. Chinese characters developed from pictographs into ideographs. This means that there is no direct relationship between the form and structure of Chinese characters and their pronunciation. So the hotchpotch teaching of both the spoken language and Chinese characters at the beginning stage will not help foreign learners master pronunciation, and the characters will, is anything, only be a stumbling block to their acquisition of oral fluency.
2. Each Chinese character is made up of components that follow a specific stroke order and rules of formation. So it is logical that the simple component be taught first, progressing to the more complicated component and whole characters. But in the approach of teaching speaking and writing simultaneously, whatever is learnt in the spoken language will be followed by a corresponding written character. Obviously, in this approach the characters are not chosen systematically according to their structural compositions, and so the rules that govern the writing of Chinese characters are not reflected, making the teaching and learning of characters only more chaotic and difficult.
3. Chinese characters should form the basis of courses in reading texts. Single syllable characters can be combined to make various disyllabic or multi-syllabic words. There are unlimited combinations that can be made by adding characters to change or expand meanings. If you know how to pronounce some characters, it follows that you will be able to read the word they form. Knowing the meaning of certain characters will help you understand the meaning of the word they make. As you learn more characters, your ability to recognize more words increases. Learning words thus becomes easier. Since character recognition determines word recognition, the main objective in teaching Chinese characters should be to raise the learner’s level of character recognition.
However, this is not possible with the “writing following speaking” approach. When teaching colloquial Chinese we naturally use words instead of characters as the basis of teaching because the word is the smallest unit in making a sentence. When teaching the word 中国 for example, we will invariable explain its meaning with the English “China”, but the two characters that make up the word 中 “middle” and 国 “kingdom” are not explained. Traditional Chinese language teaching has always used “character recognition” as the criterion in judging a learner’s ability to read texts. The “writing following speaking” approach simply disregards the necessity of teaching the characters on their own and does not give the characters the place they deserve, thus greatly reducing the efficiency of teaching Chinese reading.
Our new approach may be summarized as follows:
●In the initial stages of learning, “spoken Chinese” and “character recognition and writing” should be taught separately.
●Teaching materials for oral class use mainly a system of romanization called Hanyu pinyin. The students are not required to deal with the characters. There are obvious reasons for this. Learning to speak Chinese becomes a lot easier using a phonetic system of romanization.
●While teaching spoken Chinese we start to introduce systematically the form of Chinese characters: the strokes, these “stubling blocks” become much more friendly in this way, and the students are given a key to the secret of Chinese characters which will help them greatly in their later reading stage.
●Then proceed to the reading stage by learning to read characters. Only when the learner is able to speak and has learned the form and structure of characters can we begin to teach him how to read. Texts should be specially designed, focusing on character recognition and word formations, with the aim of quickly enlarging vocabulary and acquiring reading ability.
●In the reading stage character learning should be combined with continuous spoken language training and reading aptitude training. The texts should be put in the form of dialogues and narrative prose pieces written with the characters learned in each lesson, so they are very short, and easy to read and remember. The exercises should include comprehensive forms of listening, speaking, reading and writing that are closely linked and complementary to each other.
What is discussed above can be illustrated as below:
Initial stage: Oral Course (Learn to use pinyin); Writing Course (Learn the basic structural components of characters)
Second stage: Comprehensive course include Character learning (intensive training); Oral training (application of characters); Reading (Prose, etc.); Writing (characters and sentences)
Based on the above design and consideration, New Approaches to Learning Chinese has been devised, which includes three textbooks:
Intensive Spoken Chinese (oral course)
Includes 40 conversational lessons, about 1,000 commonly used words and numerous grammatical notes.
The Most Common Chinese Radicals (writing course)
Contains about 100 Chinese radicals and the basic structure of Chinese characters.
Rapid Literacy in Chinese (comprehensive course)
Uses 750 commonly used Chinese characters and 1300 words formed from them to make 25 short sentences, 25 conversational dialogues and four narrative prose pieces.
Beginners who have completed Intensive Spoken Chinese and The Most Common Chinese Radicals can proceed to Rapid Literacy in Chinese. So by going step by step they will feel that learning Chinese is not difficult at all. Furthermore, there is much that can be learned about Chinese culture from Chinese characters, besides their alluring charm and fascination.
To the User
This book introduces to foreign students the basics of how to write and learn the Chinese characters in the most efficient way.
Chinese characters developed from pictographs which were formed in a regular way with a certain number of components that are comparable to the 26 letters in the English alphabet. However, these components are different from the letters in the English alphabet in that 1) the components are much larger in number, about 300 in which over 100 are in common use; 2) the components are not arranged in a horizontal line but in the upper-lower, left-right, inside0outside and other forms; 3) the components are combined in a logical or meaningful way. Therefore, once one knows these basic components and the rules for arranging them, one can write almost all the Chinese characters. This is not only a time-saving approach, it is also an easy way to remember the form and meaning of a character.
The format of the lessons is as follows:
1. Starting from the most basic strokes
All the components are formed of strokes, and before one can learn the components, one has to be familiar with these strokes. The book introduces the eight basic types of strokes, with the variant forms, stroke names and rules for forming them.
2. Learning the characters through the radicals
Structurally Chinese characters can be classified into two kinds: one-component characters and compound characters. The first kind can be further categorized into pictograms and indicative characters, and the second kind, into associative characters and picot-phonograms. The compound characters are composed of one-component characters or components evolved from them, and the two kinds generally constitute the radicals. Therefore, radicals can be taken as the most basic components of Chinese characters. In addition, radicals also appear as meaningful components in the associative characters and picot-phonograms. Thus, teaching the characters through the radicals makes it easier to analyze the structure and meaning of the picot-phonograms and the associative characters. As almost all Chinese dictionaries use radical indexing systems for characters, it is essential to prepare the students for the use of dictionaries.
Introduced in this book are the 108 most commonly used radicals, sequenced from the simple to the more complicated according to the number of their strokes. Each radical is accompanied by its name, meaning, function, origin, way of writing and number of strokes.
3. Focusing on the combination of components
Under each radical there are several compound characters containing it. Each compound character is given its pronunciation and meaning. Emphasis is placed on the logical relationship between its components, its meaning and the structural type of its components.
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