How to learn Chinese

Updated: Feb 13, 2018

Without grammar, very litlle can be conveyed,

Without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed.

-David A. Wilkins(1972)



Vocabulary is very important for Chinese learning. It makes a huge difference in the pupils’ academic result. In any situation, the range of vocabulary used is highly significant in determining the students’ grades in educational assessments as well as aid them in expressing themselves in Chinese.




In Wharton Student Care Centre Pte Ltd, we realized that students who could understand more words are more likely to improve their reading speed, listen and understand to a larger extent.



Here is an example to exemplify the importance of strong language understanding. (The following is a question from a primary 4 class test of Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School.)

On the left question, the main possible reason for the inability to get this question correct is due to the lack of understanding of these words.



In Wharton Student Care Centre Pte Ltd, the teachers often ask the students to make three sentences using a word which they are confused about to enhance their level of comprehension. This is a good way to correct our students’ grammar mistakes as well. As showed in the picture on the right, sometimes it is not only about the grammar and meaning of the words, but also the wrong usage of the chinese idoms which resulted from the lack of sufficient reading. The improvement of our students will be very slow if we only train their grammar and vocabulary rather than their expression. Hence, they need to input more through the extra reading.


Moving on, we have a Primary 5 student of CHIJ Our Lady Queen of Peace who is currently attending tuition classes (tuition is a part of our student care services which doesn’t need to charge extra fee).


She currently manages to ace the rest of her subjects but unfortunately due to her lack of exposure and practice with her family, she is unable to score in Chinese. An example to highlight the importance of vocabulary in shown below.


Upon Inspection, one will notice that the reason for her multiple errors is due to her limited vocabulary in Chinese.



In Wharton Student Care Centre Pte Ltd, our Chinese teacher worked with her to set up study plan for her to improve her Chinese in preparation for her PSLE the following year. We mainly focused on three aspects to help her, writing exercise, leisure reading and doing more exercise following the new PSLE question type format as a guideline to give her more practice as she is already in primary 5.



Firstly, we wrote out a plan to include additional practices on a daily basis. She is required to mark the questions which she has completed then our Chinese teacher would teach her the pinyin of the unknown words in an immediate way and explain the meaning to her. Afterwards, she was asked to do spelling exercise, ensuring that she can Internalise the words.




Secondly, reading is a very fun way to raise interest in the language, spark a child’s creativity and increase exposure to Chinese words. Our teacher recommended story books for her base on her reading ability. At the beginning, she was recommended books with pinyin to make the reading easier and we hope that as her progresses, her Chinese standards could be strengthened and she will able to comfortably enjoy books written by famous Chinese children’s novel writers.



Our understanding for Chinese can be compared to the nervous system, the more densely connected the network is, the faster and easier it is to utilise the appropriate words in situations. Students who can add more nodes in their language system will then have an advantage in linking it to something related, further aiding in expressing themselves. This reiterates the power of reading since it broadens the scope of their Chinese vocabulary, empowering them to be more confident in expressing themselves.



In Wharton Student Care Centre Pte Ltd, doing spelling exercises, drilling and conscientious reading is crucial in improving their grasp of the Chinese language.


With the vision to inculcate the love for the Chinese language and empower them with the confidence in speaking mandarin, our teachers have the utmost passion and dedication in guiding and facilitating the learning of Chinese.

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