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There she goes again, going off about reading in Chinese

November 10, 2019

I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. But really, reading (in any language) is truly the way to cement language. If you read a lot in English, your fundamental grasp of English grammar and style are cemented without memorizing rules that half the time don’t work. You don’t know why, but you know what’s right.

The same thing in Chinese. The more kids read. Or, let’s be honest, if they read at all, the better they get.

I’m focused on this because it was so much my experience. I studied at the University of Lund in Sweden for two years. After my first year there, my Swedish was pretty proficient. But then our teacher told us that as a final project we were going to read a novel. I thought she was insane. But she had a stack of relatively easy-to-read novels to choose from and we all started in. Mine was about the life of an old woman living in a long-term care facility. It was sad (and led me to end up working in a long-term care facility in Lund myself) but also amazing — I could read it! I didn’t look up words (we weren’t supposed to) but just read for meaning. As each chapter got easier and easier, I read more and more. By the end, I was reading it almost as easily as I’d read English.

Mind you, Swedish is written with the Roman alphabet, it’s got a ton of cognates and a pretty easy grammar for someone who speaks a Germanic language like English already. But it really pushed me to an entirely new level in Swedish and I kept reading more books. Even today, more years than I care to think about later, I’m still quite fluent in the language.

So, with that bit of personal history, once again I suggest you introduce your kids to fun to read books in Chinese. And as some push on that, here’s an essay about a Chinese teacher in Iowa who used easy-to-read novels in Chinese to get his students ready for the AP Chinese exam. Of course, immersion students are so much further along than high school students that middle school kids could easily read the books he’s talking about.

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How to Pass the AP Chinese Exam: Secrets from a Teacher with a Perfect Pass Rate

My students call me 柏老师, however you can call me Grant Brown. I am a Chinese language high school teacher from Iowa. Over a period of a couple of years, I was able to take my students studying Chinese from a 50% pass rate to a 100% pass rate on the AP Chinese exam. This is what I did.

The Story

I have been teaching Chinese in high school for several years. When I was in college, I started studying Chinese and gained such a love for the language that I went on to obtain a masters degree in Chinese and lived in Guangzhou, China, for a number of years. There are not many of us Americans who teach Chinese, however I think we are able to bring a unique perspective to the classroom.

When I first started teaching Chinese, we mostly followed the textbook. I thought I was doing a good job in covering the content of the textbook, but the only the students who had grown up in Chinese speaking households were the ones passing the test. We steadily worked through the Chinese textbooks and progressed towards more advanced material, yet my student’s ability to understand and produce Chinese in terms of speaking and writing was quite weak.

Please read more here.

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