Learning Chinese Vocabulary
Vocabulary is the foundation of learning any language including Chinese. One cannot communicate without knowing the correct vocabulary. With the vocabularies learnt, meaning one is able to converse one’s idea, as well as able to apply them in one’s writing, e.g. essays, letter writings, emails, etc. Since it’s so important to learn the vocabulary, how can students do that given there so many words in the textbooks?
For first language learner, vocabularies come to him/her naturally since day one, through daily conversation. He/she needs not learn it the hard way. However, this is only limited to conversation. To be able to read and write, some hard work will still need to be done.
Traditionally, we learn the meanings of the vocabularies and the stroke to write words correctly via memorizing and practicing through spelling (听写). It is still very much the same nowadays, where Chinese language has become the second language for most of our students here in Singapore.
Previously, in the GCE ‘O’ level exam, the paper two would have a section tested on vocabulary. However, students tend to merely memorize the words from the textbooks for the past four to five years, without actually knowing how to apply them in their essays. It has thus not served the purpose of learning the vocabularies. The purpose of learning vocabularies is to be able to apply them.
Parents and students were complaining when the GCE ‘O’ level examination removed the vocabulary section then. However, that was just the right way to do.
Learning vocabulary has to be contextualized, merely memorizing the meaning does not mean you are able to apply them correctly, and this explains why students having problem making sentences using the given words.
In the textbooks, vocabularies that are new to the students are highlighted. These are normally the verbs and adjectives. Besides learning the strokes and meanings of the words, students should also learn how are these words used in the passages. Students may begin to learn to construct their own sentences with the words by imitating how the words are used in the passages. This will not only help you to understand the meaning of the words, but also help you see better how they are being applied, and thus students are able to apply these words in their essays. This is actually the same for learning of idioms too.
Nowadays, with the advance of the Internet, there are many online tools and platforms that we can use to learn vocabularies and their meanings. With these tools and platforms, learning vocabularies is more interesting and efficient.