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Should you study good chinese phrases?

In recent years, much emphasis has been places on studying and memorising effective chinese phrases. chinese idioms, similes, etc. (成语,俗语,彦语). Chinese tuition teachers and school teachers have been giving students booklets of 成语/彦语 books for them to memorise before their exams. There are chinese tuition classes in singapore just for teaching these phrases. However, are these really effective? Should you get a book of chinese phrases and start studying them?

Using idioms/similes/quotes in chinese essays

Many chinese teachers and chinese tuition teachers tell students that using good chinese phrases such as idioms, quotes in their composition will help. Thishas caused some students to go to the extreme to memorise tons of phrases and attempt to use all of them in their essays to show the chinese teacher that they are proficient in the language.

Truth is, using sophisticated chinese phrases, difficult words and quotes from famous people WILL improve your chinese marks. However, that is provided that you use them correctly, wrote them correctly and that the rest of your essay is not horribly written.

As an ex-MOE chinese teacher and chinese tuition teacher who marks tons of essays every week, I have to admit that it is easy for me to tell when a student knows what he is writing. Students who memorise chinese phrases without understanding them completely tend to use them in the wrong context making the phrase(s) inappropriate, causing them to LOSE marks instead of improving their essays.

In addition, students who do last minute memorising also write words wrongly, making it very obvious that their chinese is weak. The inclusion of good chinese phrases also doesn’t help to offset the rest of the mediocre content.

My Advice

At my chinese tuition, both group tuition and private tuition, I would provide a list of good chinese phrases for my students. Understanding the meaning of the chinese phrases is very important. Hence, I often task students to find out the meaning of the chinese idioms as homework. If they are able to explain the meaning of the phrases clearly then they wouldn’t have a problem using them correctly. Students should also understand the minute differences in some chinese phrases and which to use in different context.

There are some chinese phrases which can be used in many different context. They are very flexible and can often be found in the introduction, conclusions and transition between paragraphs. We call them 过度句 in secondary school chinese essays. There are even paragraphs which students can memorise entirely and throw it out duing the exam. There is nothing wrong with that, many students in my chinese tuition do it and they have been proven to improve grades.

Are books with effective chinese phrases necessary? Not really, you can find them online. In the resource page of this site, you can find many lists of good chinese phrases, words, sentences selected and compiled for you. However, in my chinese tuition classes, I do recommend my students to get model essay books that show them how to effectively use the chinese phrases they have memorised. That is very important.

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