basic-chinese-phrases

7 Awesome Tips for Teaching Basic Chinese Phrases

Knowing basic Chinese phrases isn’t just a necessity for Mandarin learners. It can also be a literal lifesaver.

Maybe we’re being a bit dramatic here, but think of it this way. Many of your students probably plan on traveling to China soon. Maybe you’re specifically teaching a “travel” or “business” Chinese class. Without knowing how to ask for help or signal an emergency, your learners could be in serious trouble when traveling or studying abroad.

You’re in luck, though. We made a list of awesome methods for teaching Chinese phrases quickly and successfully to students, as well as easy and extremely useful phrases to give your students early on in the class.
 


 
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What Makes Learning Chinese Phrases so Important?

There are many reasons why a teacher should use activities and new techniques for teaching Chinese phrases. But what makes teaching these specific phrases so important?

  • They’re perfect for any type of beginner class, be it Chinese 101, beginner tutoring, travel Chinese or business Chinese.
  • Each phrase is a necessity to learn when traveling to a Mandarin-speaking country, so your students will get important information right from the get-go.
  • Many of these phrases aren’t too complex to pronounce for a beginner learner who has the hang of basic tones.

Teaching Chinese phrases with activities and new techniques can really make a class run smoother. Let’s get into these awesome phrases and activities!

Basic Chinese Phrases Every Mandarin Teacher Needs to Add to Their Beginner Lesson Plan

These phrases are not only simple but vital for when one is traveling abroad in a Mandarin-speaking country.

  • 你好 (nǐ hǎo)—Hello.
  • 再见 (zàijiàn)—Goodbye.
  • 洗手间在哪里? (xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ?)—Where is the bathroom?
  • 大使馆在哪里? (dàshǐ guǎn zài nǎlǐ?)—Where is the embassy?
  • 救命! (jiùmìng!)—Help!
  • 报警 (bàojǐng)—Call the police.
  • 不 ()—No.
  • 是 (shì)—Yes.
  • 好 (hǎo)—Good.
  • 不好 (bù hǎo)—Bad.
  • 谢谢 (xièxiè)—Thank you.
  • 别客气 (bié kèqì)—You’re welcome.
  • 我是… (wǒ shì…)—My name is…
  • 劳驾 (láo jià)—Excuse me.
  • 对不起 (duìbùqǐ)—Sorry.
  • 多少? (duō shǎo?)—How much?
  • 我不知道 (wǒ bù zhīdào)—I don’t know.
  • 我听不懂 (wǒ tīng bù dǒng)—I don’t understand.
  • 你会说英语吗? (nǐ huì shuō yīngyǔ ma?)—Do you speak English?
  • 我在学汉语 (wǒ zài xué hànyǔ)—I am learning Chinese.
  • 我汉语说不好 (wǒ hànyǔ shuō bu hǎo)—My Chinese is not very good yet.
  • 我来自… (wǒ lái zì)—I am from…

basic-chinese-phrases

To really help your students memorize these phrases, try teaching them with FluentU.

Unlike other Mandarin teaching programs, FluentU teaches with real-world material like clips from Chinese movie and TV shows, pop songs, news and magazine articles, commercials, documentaries and more. As a result, students get to experience Chinese culture as they learn how to communicate naturally, like a native speaker.

Plus, FluentU’s curriculum is way more fun than your traditional textbooks and teaching materials. Students learn phrases like the ones in this post in context, giving them a better grasp on the language.

And best of all, you can use FluentU alongside these exciting tips and activities below.

7 Awesome Tips for Teaching Basic Chinese Phrases

1. Get Students Used to Real-world Conversations

This is a simple method that some teachers shy away from because it puts the student on the spot, which makes one expect them to shut down pretty quickly.

However, when it comes to the process of learning, this is a great approach that many students will definitely be receptive to.

It’s simple. You give your lecture, give your students time to study, then work one-on-one with each of them or assign them each a partner. They will then use the vocabulary from the lesson to communicate in a real-life conversation with each other.

Example:

You have taught your students:

  • 谢谢 (xièxiè)—Thank you.
  • 别客气 (bié kèqì)—You’re welcome.

You will have them face each other and hand a piece of paper back and forth, properly thanking and accepting the thanks of the other person until their pronunciation and comprehension of the phrases are perfect.

2. Have students Partner up and Practice with Flashcards

Flashcards have been used in classrooms around the world for hundreds of years and there is a good reason for that. They work! They’re simple, easy to make and stimulate the part of our brain that works with memory.

Example:

Commit a lecture to teach your students phrases like:

  • 不 ()—No.
  • 是 (shì)—Yes.
  • 好 (hǎo)—Good.
  • 不好 (bù hǎo)—Bad.

On four different flash cards per person, write the Chinese characters and romanization on one side of the card and the English translation on the back. Have students pair up and “quiz” each other with the flashcards until they have sufficiently memorized each character and word.

3. Print out Grids to Help Students Memorize Hanzi

If your students are struggling with 汉字 (hàn zì)—Chinese characters, nothing helps them visualize exactly where different radicals start and end like worksheets, particularly hanzi grids.

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Hanzi Grids is a fantastic resource for printing out hanzi grids instead of tediously building them yourself. Simply create a worksheet containing the hanzi you wish to have your students practice, set the sizing and spacing, then print. That’s all! You can choose between triangular or square grids, but English speakers tend to have an easier time utilizing the spaces in square grids.

4. Construct a Story Together

This activity may take a bit longer to flesh out, but it still makes for an interesting and compelling lesson. Simply come up with a story or have your students create a story that contains vocabulary words or phrases you’ve taught them. Then have the class pick out where the vocabulary words are in the story.

Example:

Teach your class phrases and words like:

  • 你好 (nǐ hǎo)—Hello.
  • 再见 (zàijiàn)—Goodbye.
  • 洗手间在哪里? (xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ?)—Where is the bathroom?
  • 大使馆在哪里? (dàshǐ guǎn zài nǎlǐ?)—Where is the embassy?

Beforehand, write a brief story entirely in Mandarin. Tell them the story or have them read a printed version and have them point out where the specific phrases are. Even if they are beginner learnings and can’t understand or interpret the other characters in the story, being able to pick out the right written or spoken words will help them improve their eyes and ears in Chinese.

5. Utilize Worksheets and Printables

basic-chinese-phrases

Worksheets! How we love you. A good worksheet can take a student out of their head from the lecture and work on Mandarin in a tangible, physical way. Plus, nothing works are improving a student’s ability to write Chinese characters like a worksheet. You can even find free worksheets online that are designed for small children, teaching cultural lessons, associating pinyin with English and so much more.

Our personal favorite resource for worksheets in Mandarin would have to be Ling-Ling Chinese’s page dedicated to tons of different types of printables.

6. Use Videos and Other Media

You know better than anyone that students get burnt out really quickly in a class that is entirely based around lectures and homework. And realistically, you probably do too. Try using videos, films, television shows or other media to liven up a class. This can include going online and searching for Mandarin dramas with pinyin subtitles or utilizing Chinese videos in class to improve your students’ language skills.

7. Use Matching Games for Hanzi, Pinyin or Grammar Concepts

Matching games, like flashcards, are great for stimulating our memory abilities. They’re also ridiculously easy to incorporate into class time and even entertain your students while they learn. A little bit of friendly competition never hurt anyone!

Example:

Select multiple phrases such as:

  • 对不起 (duìbùqǐ)—Sorry.
  • 多少? (duō shǎo?)—How much?
  • 我不知道 (wǒ bù zhīdào)—I don’t know.
  • 我听不懂 (wǒ tīng bù dǒng)—I don’t understand.

Like with the flashcard example, print out the characters and their respective pinyin for each card. Only this time, print out a second copy of each one. Cut them into cards and simply have your students play a traditional memory match game!

Or, you can give your students the link to an online matching game for Mandarin and have them practice at home.

 

Ready to get your students hyped about basic travel-necessary Chinese phrases? Just about every one of the activities we mentioned work perfectly for all aspects of your lesson plan, not just these phrases in particular. You might be surprised at how receptive your students will be!


Em Casalena is a published author, freelance writer and music columnist. They write about a lot of stuff, from music to films to language.

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