Dr. Chen Yao Quan
Doctorate of Literature, Xiamen University
Chinese Language Department Senior Curriculum Specialist,
Adjunct Lecturer, UniSIM
The teaching of Chinese literacy utilises a number of methodologies. Among these are techniques such as 'fen san', 'ji zhong', 'yun yu', 'zi li' and computer recognition.
For years, local primary and secondary schools’ Mandarin syllabus has been utilising the 'fen san' recognition methodology and Singaporeans are familiar with it. Words to be learned are incorporated into Mandarin textbooks and students learn to recognise Chinese characters while reading the text. Through continued reading, students gain confidence in the recognition of Chinese characters.
Though this method has its academic merits, it has disadvantages as well. One shortcoming is that the learning process takes a longer time than desired. An average person requires the knowledge of approximately 3000 words for day-to-day use. A textbook typically introduces around 10 new words per lesson. This means that after completing 6 years of primary education, the student has only learnt 1800 words and will only manage to comprehend 3000 words by the time they complete secondary school. This directly impacts the speed at which the student develops his or her Chinese literacy.
To overcome these inadequacies, experienced teachers with stronger ability would combine a variety of Chinese character literacy methods to achieve better results in a shorter period of time. An example of the use of a combination of the 'ji zhong' recognition method and the 'yun yu' recognition method can be found in the passage《家乡变新样》.
In《家乡变新样》, the author stringed together 28 words, forming a verse, allowing students to master these words by way of reciting and humming, much like the English pop culture of rapping. Children generally love to sing and hum and the words found in these verses not only rhyme, but are easy to read and gentle to the ear, thus arousing the interest in learning the Chinese language. However, the biggest drawback of such verses is the vast difference from the spoken language. In the early stages of language learning, the importance of linguistics far exceeds that of reciting verses.
With over 40 years of experience in teaching, textbook author and Prinicpal of well-known private language school, Han Language Centre, Mr. Ann Jong Juan, who is intimately familiar the various teaching methodologies and their pros and cons, has developed a system that addresses these issues. Much thought was given to the development of the Hanzi 800 application as it takes into account the localization of material, the current needs of Chinese language learning, the learning psychology of young students and utlisation of various methodologies appropriate for their learning journey.
The following characteristics are found in Hanzi 800:
80 interesting and familiar short stories are presented by way of a lively cartoons and games with 800 of the most commonly used words as a base.
Many of these commonly used words are repeated in different stories. This enables students to repeatedly revise these words in terms of pronunciation and usage, which, over time, allows these words to be committed to memory.
The application provides a 2-way interactive environment where students will be able to enhance their listening, spoken language and literacy skills on their own with zero or minimal supervision from teachers and parents.
To capture the attention and keep the interest in learning the Chinese language, students will find that the stories in this collection are mostly original, presented with a sense of humour and novelty.
The application aims to stir interest of students in Primary 1 and 2 to learn the Chinese language. As such, the production team has taken into consideration the level of proficiency and the learning psychology of children in this age group.
This application does not ignore Chinese character recognition although it focuses on honing listening and speaking skills. This is because the 4 pillars essential to gaining literacy in the Chinese language are listening, speaking, reading and writing. It is paramount that the gradual learning process starts with listening and speaking. If the foundation of listening and speaking are done well, then reading and writing skills can easily be developed.