by Jennifer Zhu
Like most Chinese language learners, many of my students have difficulty with listening comprehension in the beginning. If I speak at a normal or slightly faster-than-normal pace, they usually can't understand what I say. As such, I have tried different methods for them to improve their listening skills, and the results speak for themselves -- the following method is the quickest way my students improve.
Since it's difficult for non-advanced-level students to clearly distinguish each Chinese word, the quickest way to improve listening skills is to learn to instead listen for the keywords in the topic or sentences. Here are 3 ways I have used to help my students efficiently pick out keywords.
• Sentences with “是 (shì)”.
“wǒ” means “I/me”, “shì” means “to be”, “equals to”, or “is/am/are”. We can use this sentence structure to introduce our name, nationality and so on.
• Questions with an interrogative pronoun.
“nǐ” means “you,” “jiào” means “to be called,” “shén me” means “what”.
• Sentences with a verbal predicate.
• “Yes / no” questions with “吗 (ma)”
“ma” is a question word that we put at the end of the sentences to make a ‘yes or no' question.
Normally, nouns and verbs provide the most useful information on a topic.
• The majority of the time, they are modified by a measure word.
Grammar: Number + measure word + noun
• They can act as a subject, an object or a complement, but never as a result. A noun can occasionally be adverbial, but not often.
• They may not be modified by the negative adverb “不 (bù)”.
• They may not be reduplicated (unless it's for a “cutesy” effect, usually when speaking with small kids).
• The main function of verbs is to be in the predicate of a sentence.
• The majority of Chinese verbs are transitive, which means they take an object.
• Verbs CAN be negated by the adverb “不 (bù)”. However, other than verbs of emotion, they CANNOT be modified by “很 (hěn).”
• Most Chinese verbs can be reduplicated, softening their meaning slightly.
• Most verbs can be modified with the aspect particles “了 (le)”, “着 (zhe)”, and “过 (guò)”.
• Personal Pronouns: 你 (nǐ), 我 (wǒ), 她/他/它 (tā)
• Numerals and Quantities: 一 (yī), 二 (èr), 两 (liǎng), 三 (sān), 七 (qī), 十 (shí), 百 (bǎi), 千 (qiān), 万 (wàn), 亿 (yì), 半 (bàn)
• “是 (shì)” and “的 (de)” may be used in almost every Chinese conversation.
Of course, if you want to be able to fully understand native speakers, you still need to practice with full conversations in different contexts, using a wide variety of materials like Chinese movies, videos, songs etc. There is no shortcut, but there are highways!
If you have any questions about Chinese learning or just want to say “hi” to me, please add my WeChat: jenniferzhu6, or scan the QR code below. I will also add you to a WeChat group where you can practice your Chinese for free, if you want.
Jennifer Zhu is a professional Chinese teacher with over 10 years of teaching experience with eChineseLearning.com, an online Chinese school providing customized 1-to-1 Chinese lessons. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages.
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