On Some Approach to Teaching of Chinese Characters Introduction Course

UDC 811.581
Publication date: 21.12.2018
International Journal of Professional Science №4-2018

On Some Approach to Teaching of Chinese Characters Introduction Course

Somkina Nadezhda

Cand. of Hist.Sc., Associate Professor
Department of Chinese Philology
Saint-Petersburg State University

Abstract: The Chinese Character Introduction Course is one of the initial parts of Chinese language course taught at Saint-Petersburg state university. It was tested on the 1st year students for the past 8 years. The results of their final exams show significant improvement in comparison with their predecessors, whether in radical or characters learning, as well as in overall mastering of Chinese language. The article deals with basic information, tools, and exercises used within the course. Basic information includes history and evolution of the Chinese writing system, classification and evolution of the Chinese characters, visual structure of characters, the notions of “stroke”, “radicals”, “semantic dominant”, “phonetic element”, etc., traditional and simplified forms of the Chinese characters. Main exercises include looking for a given stroke, radical, or element within a given character, dissociate characters into component parts, working with a dictionary, calligraphy practice, etc. Control tasks include daily dictations and final test. By the end of the course students learn to recognize, read and write 214 radicals and basic strokes, get the basic understanding of inner logic of
Keywords: Chinese language, Chinese characters, calligraphy, teaching method, Chinese Character Introduction

  1. Introduction

The main difficulty for Chinese language students is Chinese characters learning, moreover, education of professional Sinology scholars requires a solid foundation on which further knowledge will be built. This makes the Chinese Character Introduction Course (hereinafter CCIC) highly important, but at the same time rather laborious both for students and for instructor. The CCIC is an initial and an integral part of Chinese language course at St. Petersburg State University. The CCIC is aimed to develop basic writing skills, get the idea of ​​internal logic of Chinese character composition, learn 214 radicals and basic strokes, learn to identify radicals and strokes within characters, learn to work with a dictionary.


  1. Materials and methods

The amount of classroom hours allocated to the CCIC is not fixed, depending on the number of students in the group, their comprehensive skills and learning abilities, etc. Its volume is 36-48 hours (18-24 academic classes), while the general Chinese language course in the first semester is estimated as 208 hours. The theory of the CCIC is mainly based on the book “Introduction to Chinese Characters: Educational Reference Book” [1], while practical exercises were at first improvised during classroom session and later improved according to teaching and learning needs, taking into account mistakes made, questions asked, and sticking points encountered.

The CCIC requires the following set of tools:

  1. One thick squared notebook (48-96 pages) for writing down radicals, rules, and other basic information, used as reference book.
  2. Two small squared notebooks (12-18 pages) or Chinese worksheets for character handwriting, used as a worksheet for handwriting training.
  3. Fountain pen




1. Storozhuk AG, 2017. Introduction to Chinese hieroglyphics: Educational reference book. SPb, Russia.
2. Ivchenko TV, 2012. New horizons. Integral course of Chinese. Beijing, CPR.
3. Computer Professional Education Alliance, 2005. Wubi and word processing with short training course on machine guidance (Version 98), Beijing, CPR.
4. Jiang XL, Cohen AD, 2012. A critical review of research on strategies in learning Chinese as both a second and foreign language, DOI: 10.14746/ssllt.2012.2.1.2.
5. Chan YC, 2013. Learning to Read Chinese: The Relative Roles of Phonological Awareness and Morphological Awareness. PhD Theses, Kansas University.
6. Hsiung HY, Chang YL, Chen HC, Sung YT, 2017. Effect of stroke-order learning and handwriting exercises on recognizing and writing Chinese characters by Chinese as a foreign language learners. Computers in Human Behavior 74: 303-310 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2017.04.022
7. Zhang JX, 1987. On the strokes of characters in modern Chinese. Beijing, China.
8. Chang LY, Stafura JZ, Rickles B, Chen HC, Perfetti CA, 2015. Incremental learning of Chinese orthography: ERP indicators of animated and static stroke displays on character form and meaning acquisition. Journal of Neurolinguistics 33: 78-95, DOI: 10.1016/j.jneuroling.2014.09.001