Why a high school student should study Chinese?

July 31, 2013, 08:12 PM posted in I Have a Question

Hey everyone,

I know that China has a long, interesting history, I know Chinese culture is refined, and I know that China is getting more powerful by the day, but these are often of no interest to high school students. I'm looking for some reasons to study Chinese that are "cool" and "current," i.e. something that a typical kid might related too. Anybody have any ideas?



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July 31, 2013, 09:31 PM

Yeah this has been a big problem with promoting Chinese language to younger people.  The only things I can think of that gives China those kinds of elements is martial art movies and the fact that Chinese characters look "cool".  I'm sure China will produce some more things that will give it that cool factor, but that could be a while.

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Yeah, it's a tough one, as evidenced by the lack of replies here. If you think of anything, please write back. Thanks!

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August 02, 2013, 09:11 PM

I personally don’t think looking for something ”cool” about Chinese is necessarily going to solve your problem. For a start Teachers are never “cool” to their students so what you perceive as “cool” will not seem “cool” to them.

 I would suggest you follow this strategy

1.     Know what you are going to teach. I mean here you have to be clear about the topic you are going to teach in great detail. It is one thing to have a degree in a subject but it is quite another to try and teach it to teenagers. You suddenly discover whole areas that confuse your students , but that you understood instinctively, so you have never really given any thought as to why it is the way it is.

2.     Know who you are going to teach it to.  Your students will all have different strengths and different learning styles. You need to know as much about each one as possible. With some classes you can talk a little longer ,but with other classes you need to keep the explanation short and let them learn by doing it.

3.     Then teach ‘em it. Each lesson on a board at the front tell them

 a.This is what we are going to learn today.

 b.At the end of the class you will be expected to be able to do  this…and this…and this..

Time your lesson out .

A starter,

B main point of the lesson

C plenary before they leave your class.( Studies show that students can only remember the last 5 mins of your lesson. Make sure you spend it telling them again what it is you are teaching.



1.Praise them whenever they do something right. It is true that it is the Teachers job to point out their mistakes, however most Teachers spend 90% of their time being negative. Look for things that they do that you can say something positive about.

2. If they cannot grasp the topic you are teaching them, then don’t just plough on regardless. Better to stop and say “You still have not understood this correctly , but we are going to stop now and return to it again in another class.

This way they know they are not getting it correct. You have more time and can re think how to teach it more effectively.

3. When you are under pressure in class always be fair. Always remember there is nothing students resent more than an injustice.


So don’t worry about being “cool” worry about being an efficient teacher, and an effective communicator .

Good luck! The first 5 years are the worst.

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Thanks, I agree with much of what you say here.

A big thing that is stressed in education these days is to make the material relevant to the learner's life. While some middle school students are interested in China for its history, culture, and growing economy, others just think those reasons are lame, have no relationship with their lives at all. Along with the traditional reasons I just mentioned, I want to portray China as a dynamic country that has a lot to offer kids that are interested in the here and now.

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August 02, 2013, 09:36 PM

Maybe you could think about Chinese content that connects to students' interests like relationships, technology (computers, cell phones), sports and celebrities.

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Definitely. If you have any concrete suggestions, especially regarding current celebrities, please share.

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well may be you could use some of the chinesepod dialogues related to those tops in your class? or get them to talk about their favorite celebrity in Chinese? thats as concrete as I can come up with.

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August 03, 2013, 03:53 AM

Probably, what's cool for a highschool student is dictated by social pressures, as much as anything. So, find some other highschool age people that are interested in Chinese for your child to hang out with. Failing that, learning Chinese opens a world that is as strange and rich as any fantasy writer can come up with. We really aren't taught much about Chinese history or culture. It could be a "strange new world" for Captain Kirk to beam down to, for as much as the general Western public knows about it.

Oh, yeah, and it is a real place that you can actually go to.

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Actually, I find that kids are taught a lot about Chinese history these days. I have been teaching it myself. I still think that there is stuff out there that young kids can get into that aren't in the history books and aren't meant to make a big deal about cultural differences. From living in China, I know it's out there. I just don't know anything about it.

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August 03, 2013, 05:45 AM

In San Francisco there is a Chinese Teacher called Shaz  Lawrence and she has this web site with lots of interesting resources and teaching ideas for Chinese. She is very good and into teaching using Ipads ,video in class .I think she is very innovative and progressive.


In England there is an organisation called Dragons in Europe run by Marcus Roach


They have produced lots of material for both Primary school and Secondary school. Some is free and some you have to buy.



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August 03, 2013, 06:24 AM

My friends and I studied Chinese at highschool in the 1980s.  

Frankly, back then, few of us had any interest in China or Chinese.  The teachers showed us films from China, brought a Beijing opera troupe to perform at our school, told us many many stories from Chinese history and culture.  They organized a yearly trip to China for the later year students, but you had to study for six years before you could go.  When I think back now I think it was a great program and they really did a lot of things to try help us understand the culture, but kids are kids.

Very few things connected with us - it was just so very different.  And no Chinese around us spoke any Mandarin anyway (all were from HK and spoke Cantonese) so it seemed quite useless in real life.  And it didn't seem to link into future career planning at all.

However, when we met young people from our school or others like it who had gone to China, studied there, and come back able to speak Chinese and told us some stories about travelling, partying, seeing amazing things - that made an impact on us.  Suddenly it seemed like you could potentially visit and have adventures. 

Even then it seemed frustrating.  After four years we hadn't been taught how to ask where the toilet is.  So why were we learning if you couldn't even survive one day?  And having textbooks that talked about the highlights of everyday life being making dumplings or going to the number 7 book store did not help.  China sounded like a very dull place indeed.

Chinese didn't fit into my goals for the rest of my life, and my parents couldn't afford the trip to China, and anyway I couldn't find the toilet if I ate a bad dumpling, or even imagine the number 7 book store having different books to the number 3 book store, so I dropped the subject.

Years later, China changed rapidly and became very attractive for work and travel, which changed our motivation rapidly.  Many of my friends speak fluent Chinese and live in China (after flunking the subject in highschool in some cases), and quite a few are married to Chinese.  

And the rest of the world has changed, in many cities you can hear Mandarin spoken on streets, you can download Chinese dramas, major Hollywood movies regularly have scenes in China, and you are frequently playing online games with Chinese people. 

So I'd recommend anything that can help make it part of their life and life's goals rather than a subject. Connecting students with real Mandarin speakers of a similar age and having them use Mandarin. Encouraging visits to China and returning people to share experiences.  Use the media now available easily (movies, online games, music, comics, internet resources) to connect students leisure time with Chinese.  Encourage students to explore how they might study or visit China themselves later in life. Maybe even ask them to describe a goal or dream involving China or Chinese.

And then help connect what they learn to achieving that dream, understanding that media, speaking with those children, playing that game, whatever.

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That's pretty amazing that Chinese was offered at your high school in the 80's. I think Japanese was the big language to learn back then.

You said:

"Use the media now available easily (movies, online games, music, comics, internet resources) to connect students leisure time with Chinese. "

This is what I want. If only I had lots of time to research this stuff. I have stuff I like of course, but it's a bit dated or appropriate for someone my age, late 30's. If you think of any links to send my way, please do.

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Yeah other Australian schools were big on Japanese or even Indonesian (plus the usual traditional French and German) but mine saw the future a bit more clearly.

For Media sources, you can try www.watchmoviesinchinese.com which has lots of dubbed Chinese movies (Pixar, Disney, hollywood action films). These are really easy to watch, easy to understand, and culturally relevant. Chinese movies are also available - www.yesasia.com has a great selection of them, I'm thinking that students might get into kungfu movies, or maybe sports oriented movies (or Shaolin Soccer kind of things). Lots of cartoons are dubbed in Chinese - I have been watching old Spiderman cartoons in Chinese lately, there are lots of others. Frankly, understanding a 5 minute segment of these kind of films could be a good goal. You can download subtitles for many of these from shooter.cn which gives you instant transcription lines and dialogs (of course translations are not exact and dubbing sometimes differs from subtitles, but it sometimes works out well).

For example, on of my flashcards uses 那个人在玩游戏 (which is the translation for "That man is playing Galaga" one of Iron Man's great lines in the Avengers movie). My flashcard includes the audio and a screenshot. Much more fun than learning from a textbook. I'm learning political terms from the subtitles for House of Cards - but this is not recommended for children...

For comics, a lot of Japanese stuff has been re-done in Chinese and is interesting. Doreamon is pretty easy to read. One-Piece is a good pirate themed comic. Even understanding a single story or a single page would be something quite interesting to achieve - "I can read a comic in Chinese" surely has some bragging rights. Chinese original stuff I am less familiar with unfortunately, but there's certainly a lot out there, I just can't recommend it by name.

Online games - I haven't looked much into this.

Music - lots of music available online with lyrics too. If you were teaching Korean, Gangnam style would work very well due to its familiarity. But maybe Chinese rock, rap, hip-hop, dance, etc will seem interesting enough if not entirely familiar. A lot of songs now mix English and Chinese which does make it much more accessible. Again, being able to understand just the chorus of a song might be quite an achievement. www.rockinchina.com would be great place to start.

Consider also "A Bite of China" which is a great documentary about food in China which really is visually interesting (like watching a superb nature documentary). High quality production, some of the food looks quite delicious.

Hope this helps.

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August 03, 2013, 08:03 AM

Hannah Heyes and Emily are both teachers who have developed interesting ways of using Blogs to engage their students

Emily ‘ s web site is http://emilylaoshi.edublogs.org/about-emily/

Hannah ‘ s web site is  http://hannahhua.edublogs.org/


Well worth looking at their ideas.

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Ooh, there's some neat stuff on Emily Laoshi's page. Looks like a documentary on Chinese rap. Fun.

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August 08, 2013, 02:53 PM

Well, the Chinese government announced that anime, comics and iOS games in Chinese language will be the next major industry, so hopefully some of those things will appeal to high school students...