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Making Mandarin reading relevant

February 21, 2012

Reading Makes Language Relevant

By Kurt Hamm

What teacher would not like to hear a student say “Even though Chinese was hard, my teacher made it interesting – so interesting that I studied with passion. If it wasn’t for my Chinese teacher I would never have made it this far.”?

If your students took a tour of Beijing and returned to tell the class about it, what do you think they would talk about the most? Would it be the Great Wall and the countless museums, temples and shops that the average tour guide takes everyone to, or would it be that great evening when they got lost in a 胡同 and ended up having a great conversation with a guy everyone called 老板 in a little restaurant that had a seating capacity of about 25 people?

It is time to get your students off the tour bus and into that restaurant (without ever leaving the classroom). Reading will accomplish this. People who can’t read are limited in several ways. When people meet socially the conversations are usually about hobbies, interests and current events. That sort of communication is fun but it isn’t a great way to expand a student’s vocabulary. Words that don’t occur in common conversation far outnumber the word list of “daily activities” lessons.

I propose two kinds of reading to get students excited about taking their Chinese to a new level. First, reading story books enhances fluency, increases vocabulary and helps students develop a sense of the culture. Second, create a real cultural element in your class by using internet articles and blogs. Reading will make the language relevant to students’ lives and create enthusiasm for advancing their language level.

Please read more at The Mandarin Center here.

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