Why do we want to read Chinese? If you want to be immersed to the country’s culture by reading Chinese books and newspaper, being able to better communicate with Chinese by enhancing your vocabulary base and sentence structures, or to actually understand all the signs and words when you’re physically in China, then you cannot get away with Chinese reading.
Do you also want to master your Chinese reading skills successfully? Here, we have a few tips and suggestions for our beginner, intermediate, and advanced learners.
Aim: Bridge the gap between Pinyin and characters
As a Chinese beginner, learners are likely to have learned a number of vocabulary, and be able to read short sentences, with the help of pinyin, an official system used in Standard Chinese, which helps you to pronounce a Chinese character correctly. However, to progress to a higher level, being able to read Chinese characters is essential, that’s because the more words you learn, the more you’d realize words with same pinyin can indeed be of different characters, hence different meanings. If this point is neglected, one may easily mix words up and struggle to understand the words they read. To address this, we have two tips for you.
Tip 1: Start with radical recognition
A Chinese radical is a graphical component of a Chinese character that makes up characters. Usually, it gives you an idea of the meaning of words. For example, ‘亻’, the human radical, forms words related to people, including ‘他tā = he’ and ‘们mén = character makes subjects plural’. Further example,’氵’, the water radical, implies the character to be water related, including ‘游yóu = swim’, and ‘河hé = river’.
Tip 2: Study with flashcards
It makes your journey of learning Chinese characters much easier if you manage to find a fun and engaging way. Therefore, using flashcards is recommended, and you can always conveniently bring the set out and practice a little whenever you’re free. If you’re more of a digital person, there’re many apps out there providing this function, for example, Quizlet, which not only you can create yourself flashcards, but the set of words can turn into games and tests, which consolidate your learning even further.
Aim: Understand long sentences & short passages
When you reach this stage, it’s often the time when you start to read longer sentences and short passages. However, what you can do to thoroughly understand them more smoothly and easily?
Tip 1: Audio-Assisted Reading
Repeat this method a few times when reading a sentence or short passage. Despite being able to practice the pronunciation and fluency, it’s a good way to strengthen your word recognition with the combination of sound and sight. By hearing a native speaker speaks with natural intonation, you’d find it easier to understand the content and phrasing.
There’re many resources that offer you this function, including audio supported textbooks, or apps, such as DuChinese and Decipher. Both of these apps offer various articles for reading tailored for different levels, which you could choose to read with or without pinyin. While both are supported by audio, DuChinese also allows you to choose the audio speed to ensure your ability to follow.
Tip 2: Read out loud
Along with audio, you’re recommended to also read it out when you do your reading. That’s because it’d even enhance your word sight recognition, while reinforcing your memory of words.
Aim: Comprehend long articles
If you’re an advanced Chinese learner, you’d probably be able to read long and relatively complicated articles independently. Yet, some students struggle to comprehend the essays thoroughly, so what should be aware of to efficiently read long articles?
Tip 1: Pick key words
Imagine you’re reading a novel or newspaper, and you spend time to read the words one by one? It’d take ages, isn’t? Therefore, Chinese, similar to other languages, requires you the skill to identify the key words from each sentence, which you can make sense of and form meaningful main topics. This would also speed up the pace of reading.
Tip 2: Summarize each paragraph
To hone your reading comprehensive skills, this process cannot be neglected. First, instead of reading the long article in one go, read by paragraphs. This allows you to have less information to digest, enabling you to grasp the main idea of each passage. Second, summarize the paragraphs in your own words. This provides you a real opportunity to think deeply and test yourself on your understanding towards the content. Moreover, it’s a very effective practice to train your ability to convey messages accurately and express yourselves with Chinese.
Next, if you're keen to know about our tips on improving your Chinese listening skill, check out our other post, 'How to Improve Listening Skills Effectively'.