Is there any good way to help students learn Pinyin quickly and accurately?

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How to make students master Chinese Pinyin quickly is a common problem for many young Chinese teachers when they begin to teach Chinese.

Pronunciation is a key part in Chinese learning. Poor pronunciation directly affects students’ expression and understanding. So teachers should not rush to finish the phonetics part in the first few classes. Generally speaking, at the beginning, at least 10 to 15 school hours are needed to consolidate phonetic knowledge and pronunciation skills. After that, the study and correction of pronunciation should run through the whole teaching process.

Students always want to have a set of logic and framework as the basis of knowledge when they study anything, and so does language learning. So when teachers explain phonetics to them, they should firstly give students the basic framework, and then slowly expand it into specific content.

Firstly, teachers should explain to students that Chinese is divided into Pinyin and Chinese characters. Pinyin is a scheme of Chinese character phonetic annotation with Latin letters. It is a tool to assist the pronunciation of Chinese characters. The function of Pinyin is only to annotate Chinese characters, which can not be used in parallel with Chinese characters. The popularization of Pinyin has played a great role in unifying the pronunciation of Chinese characters and promoting Mandarin.  

Then Pinyin is also divided into three parts. On the left is the initial consonant of a Chinese syllable. There are totally 21 of initial consonants. On the right is the simple or compound vowel of a Chinese syllable. There are totally 39 of vowels. On the top are tone. The tones include four intonations. Chinese is character by four tones, so one word with many tones is very common.

Six basic vowels can be taught by displaying the shape of a mouth. Students can take a small mirror and look at the teacher’s demonstration while imitating.

When teaching the first few initial consonants, teachers can firstly tell students where the pronunciation part of this sound is. For example, b, p, m are bilabials, so can be put together to teach. And teachers can let students feel their sound from their lips. When pronouncing m, n, l, r, teachers can ask students to put their hands on the vocal cord to feel the vibration.

In practice, teachers can use gestures to simulate the change of tongue position. For example, when pronouncing z, c, s and zh, ch, sh , the presentation of gestures will make students feel much easier to distinguish flat tongue sounds and warped tongue sounds.

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Teachers should know the tongue position, lip shape, pronunciation method of each vowel and initial, and the tone adjustment of each tone. Teachers should be good at distinguishing some easily mixed phonemes, such as b-p, non-aspiration vs. aspiration, so that students can understand what aspiration is and how to produce aspiration.

Teacher’s own pronunciation should be clear and accurate, and the listening should be very keen, in order to be able to clearly understand the problems in students’ pronunciation.

RISH Chinese Summer Camp offers classes for real beginners to learn the fundamental of Chinese language from Pinyin.

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