About Chinese words

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About Chinese words

Postby kattay » Fri Jun 10, 2011 9:06 pm

Chinese words are 象形文字, ie. the character looks like the object it means. For example:

Image
日 comes from this pictorial representation of a sun.

Image
山 comes from this pictorial representation of a mountain.

Over the centuries, ancient Chinese used the 象形words as a base and created more words out of the original 象形.

Example 1:

Image
看is made up of 手(on top) and 目 (at the bottom). When we put our hand above our eyes, it symbolises we are looking at something, so that’s 看. This word is formed using the basic 象形 but based on the intention of the combined basic 象形.

Example 2:

Words such as 猪,狗,猫,狼 etc all have the same character on their left hand side, ie. 反犬旁. Whenever we see this character on the left side (偏旁), we know that the word refers to an animal.

Example 3:

财refers to money, property, like 财产,发财. Ancient Chinese used the method of combining a sound side (声旁) and a meaning side (形旁) to create this word. 财sounds like 才. And贝 refers to money as seashells were used as a form of currency in the past. Thus by combining the 2 characters together, it combines the sound of 才and the meaning of 贝 and thus created 财.

So, how can we make use of such characteristics in the Chinese words to help our children learn Chinese?

Here are some suggestions to teach our children Chinese words:

1. Relate the words to the objects the words mean. Show them the similarity between the object and the word. The visual relationship between the word and what the object means can help the children remember the words more easily.

2. Prepare a picture of the object (if it’s a basic 象形字). Ask your child to trace or write the word on the object. Or, you can ask your child to draw the object and write the word on the object.

3. Help your child identify the sides (偏旁) and teach him what the sides are usually associated with or what the sides mean (as in eg. 2 and eg. 3). This is especially useful when the child learns more words that look similar (usually in upper primary). It helps them to differentiate these similar looking words and remember them correctly.

As a last note, since Chinese words are 象形文字, not phonetic, we should teach them without hanyu pinyin. Chinese is not hanyu pinyin. If we introduce hanyu pinyin too early, children end up relying on them and reading from them instead. Hanyu pinyin comes in handy when children progress to reading a story on their own, and there are some words they don’t know yet.

For parents who need hanyu pinyin to aid them, it's fine to get story books with hanyu pinyin. But the focus should be on the Chinese words. You can pick out certain words you want to teach your child and write it out separately on a piece of paper, then relate it back to the story.

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby Wan » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:53 am

kattay,
R u a Chinese Teacher? At what age should we introduce hypy to a child with phonics background? How many Chinese words does the child need recognise b4 introducing hypy to him?

I spoke to my son's K2 Chinese teacher. She told me hypy will not be introduced until P1. She suggested to introduce 四声at this stage bcos it is something unique to Chinese/hypy, won't confused with phonics. I'm still thinking how to teach my son in a fun way. Any suggestions??

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby kattay » Sat Jun 11, 2011 7:42 pm

Hi Wan,

I was a Pri Chinese teacher. P1 children will spend the 1st term learning hypy. So if you want to introduce your child to the new "language", you can do it before he starts school. The time frame depends on the pace you want to teach. Hypy has 21 Pinyin Initials (声母), 35 Pinyin Finals (韵母) and their combinations. With that, you can roughly work out the time frame you need.

Hypy helps a child to read Chinese words; not the other way round. So he doesn't need to know certain no. of Chinese words before he learns hypy. Sure, you can start with the 4 tones (阴阳上去).
Image (走路,上山,滑下,再上山,再滑下)
In fact, when teaching hypy, you should teach it with the tones, not just a,e,o,u,ü,ou,ao,ai etc...

Maybe you can help him to associate the sound with some visual effect. Choose a simple word and use the object it means to represent the hypy sound. Eg. 8 for bā, pull (萝卜) for bá, mob (拖) for bă, father (爸) for bà.

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby kattay » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:37 am

Many children are confused about the use of “的”, “地” and “得” in a sentence. They are three of the common mistakes I have to correct last time. These 3 are high frequency words and they are all read as “de”. So when children want to pen down the word, they are not sure which to use.

Here’s some tips on how to use these 3 important words:

1. “的” is used in front of a noun (ie. A word used to name a person, animal, place, thing, and abstract idea). Words in front of “的” usually describe or restrict the noun behind.
Sentence structure: Descriptive/ restrictive word + 的 + noun
Eg. 我的妈妈;公园的景物美极了;有趣的情节; 轻轻的河水
妈妈,景物,情节 and 河水 are nouns, so we should use “的” in front of them. 我 and 公园 restrict the noun behind; it’s not her mother but mine, it’s not the school’s scenery but the park’s. 有趣 and 轻轻 describe the noun behind.

2. “地” is used in front of a verb (ie. An action word). Words in front of “地” usually describe the verb behind.
Sentence structure: Descriptive word + 地 + verb
Eg. 他大声地回答问题; 愉快地唱歌;用力地踢球;开心地笑
回答,唱歌,踢球 and 笑 are verbs, so we should use “地” in front of them. Word in front of “地” describes the actions after it; it usually tells you the “how” of the action, eg. how did he answer the question (他怎样回答问题?他大声地回答问题)

3. “得” is used after a verb. Words that come after “得” further elaborate the verb in front. The emphasis is on the verb in front.
Sentence structure: Verb + 得 + words that elaborate the verb
Eg. 打扫得很干净;笑得流出了眼泪;走得很快;跳得很高
打扫,笑,走 and 跳 are verbs. If “很”,“真”and“太”are used in a sentence, “得” will usually precede these words.
Eg. 跳得很高,时间过得真快,收音机开得太大声了

However, there are exceptions to the general rules above, depending on what’s the emphasis of the sentence.
Eg. 他高兴得跳了起来 (He is so happy that he jumps into the air)
高兴is a descriptive word and 跳 is a verb. The emphasis here is his happiness, not his jumping action. So we need to use “得” before the verb in this case.

Another example:
A) 看了这场电影,她感动得哭了。
B) 看了这场电影,她感动地哭了。
In these 2 sentences, the only difference is “得” and “地” but it makes a lot of difference in the meaning. Sentence A emphasizes on “感动”, “哭了” elaborates on her emotion (ie. How touched is she?). On the other hand, sentence B emphasizes on “哭了”, “感动” is added to describe how she cried.

We can teach the children about all these rules, but the best way is for them to read more.

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby allseasons » Wed Jun 15, 2011 12:37 pm

Hi Kattay,

Many thanks on your sharing about the use of “的”, “地” and “得”. Sometimes my son asked me, I couldn't explain because my written chinese is so poor. On P1 textbook, there are many pinyin with changing tone. Any rules on this? And based on your experience, how do you teach students to do chinese composition? Any suggestions for me? I bought chinese composition book from popular try to ask my son to practice on it. Sometimes, I feel the structure of the sentences he wrote is not correct, but I don't know how to explain... :cry:

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby kattay » Thu Jun 16, 2011 12:01 am

Are you referring to 轻声and 变调? Some of the most common examples are:
轻声
- In repeated nouns (重叠名词), like 爸爸,妈妈,姐姐,the second word is a轻声字.
- If “子” is the second word in a 词, like 桌子,椅子,叶子, it’s read轻声.
- “吧”, “吗”, “呢”, “啊” at the end of a sentence are read轻声.
- “的”, “地”, “得”, “了”, “们” are read轻声.
- “一” in between repeated words -> becomes 轻声, eg. 看一看, 想一想

变调
- 3rd tone ( ˅ ) + 3rd tone ( ˅ ) -> 2nd tone ( / ) + 3rd tone ( ˅ )
Eg. 洗 (xĭ) + 脸 (liăn) -> 洗脸 (xí liăn)

- “一” (yī, 1st tone) + 4th tone ( \ ) -> “一” (yí, 2nd tone) + 4th tone ( \ )
Eg. 一样,一块

- “一” (yī, 1st tone) + 1st/ 2nd/3rd tone ( -, /, v ) -> “一” (yì, 4th tone) + 1st/ 2nd/3rd tone ( -, /, v )
Eg. 一般,一排,一起

- Other repeated words, like慢慢 and 绿油油, the second and third word(s) are changed to the 1st tone.

On composition writing, you can train him in a few ways:
- be more observant, describe what he sees
- be creative in his description, eg. 红红的太阳像一粒火球,高高挂在天上。
- write about how he feels
- use 成语,歇后语 etc

Your son is P1 only? There are some rules to the Chinese sentence structure but it will take me some time to write them all down. Regular reading is the best way to improve one's language skill, be it storybooks or other model compositions. It helps the kids to internalise the correct sentence structures and learn the "beautiful" sentences used.

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby HappyFaye » Sat Jun 18, 2011 3:33 pm

Hi Kattay,

Really appreciate your clear explanation. Now only I understand the differences between the three 'de'.

My P5 boy has problem remembering 即 and its combination with other words. Any suggestion to help him understand and remember better?

Also, how to help a child remember 按部就班?I normally will break down the word or group together if possible or explain based on story of the phases, if I can remember. But somehow I just can't think of a better way to explain for DS to retain the info well.

TIA

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby allseasons » Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:50 pm

Hi Kattay,

Thanks a lot for your note on pinyin 轻声and 变调. It helps a lot for me to explain to my son. But some of them are still confusing for me, e.g.

1. The pinyin of 宝宝 (textbook 1B page 66). In the text book it is written as 'bao3 bao3'. I thought it should be 'bao3 bao', the second 'bao' is neutral tone (轻声). So, which one is the correct one?

2. There are many other characters / phrases in the textbook that have changing tone (变声) with the pinyin. For example: 碰过来 (textbook 1B page 3). The pinyin in the textbook is peng4 guo (neutral) lai (neutral). It is not peng4 guo4 lai2. My son kept asking me why, he even asked me if the textbook was printed wrongly. I don't know how to explain..

Oh, my eldest son is P2 now. That's why I start to let him practise chinese composition. But my chinese is so limited, and my spoken chinese doesn't have a good structure. That's why I couldn't explain or correct him with his sentence structure. Ohhh... really hope one day you will have time to share about the rules of the Chinese sentence structure, so my children and other members here will benefit it.. :xedfingers: Thanks again ya Kattay... :smile:

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby kattay » Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:40 pm

Hi HappyFaye,

I'm not quite sure what you mean... do you mean he can't remember the difference between the different 词, like 即刻,即将 and 即使?Maybe you can try using a tree diagram (or mapping), and write out their respective meanings, sample sentence and relationship, if any. Like 即刻 is now and 即将 is the future. 即使 is often used together with 也. The content of the sample sentence can be exaggerating or very real to him, so that it leaves an impression on him. Eg. 考试即将来临,我应该即刻复习。You can give an example and ask him to come up with one himself.

Most of the 成语 has a 典故. Usually knowing the story will help children remember the 成语 better. It doesn't work on him? Explain to him the meaning and ask him to explain it back to you in his own words, and construct a sentence on his own.

Hope this helps :smile:

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Re: About Chinese words

Postby kattay » Sun Jun 19, 2011 11:59 pm

Hi allseasons,

The 2nd 宝 in 宝宝 shold be neutral tone. Not sure why they print as "bao3 bao3". :scratchhead:

"过来" is another exception. When it's a verb that shows direction, it shall be read with a neutral tone. Eg. 过来, 过去, 起来

Sure, whenever I post on my blog, I'll share it here.

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