Teaching Chinese Parts of Speech

As we discussed last month, proper Chinese grammar is one way to improve our kids’ Chinese fluency. Our previous activity focused on classifiers, qualifying words which count nouns, because it was a quick and easy way to help your children sound more like native speakers.

ACTIVITY OF THE WEEK

This week, we will help our children learn about the different parts of speech such as nouns (名詞/míng cí/), verbs (動詞/dòng cí/), and adjectives (形容詞/xíng róng cí/). If you’re feeling ambitious, you can also teach adverbs (副詞/fù cí/), prepositions (介詞/jiè cí/) and the rest of the 8 parts of speech.

As a quick refresher:

  • A noun is a person, place, or thing.
  • A verb describes an action, state, or occurrence.
  • An adjective is a word or phrase that modifies a noun.

You may wonder why we are even bothering teaching the Chinese parts of speech to children living in Anglophone societies. Because grammar is a way to speak about a language and its components, it’s helpful for children to know the correct terms and the basic structure of how Chinese works and flows. After all, even native English speakers learn how the English language is structured and works.

This knowledge can help children with their written and spoken Chinese skills. The more your children understand Chinese grammar, the more native they will sound. Most native speakers learn grammar both passively through their surrounding environment as well as actively through schooling. Since children who grow up in non-Chinese environments do not have the benefit of absorbing grammar passively, we need to consciously equip them with proper Chinese grammar so they can sound as native as possible.


 

PARTS OF SPEECH IDENTIFICATION ACTIVITIES

 WHAT YOU NEED 
  • (optional) Character cards (either your own, or you can try the new Sagebooks Study Cards) separated into nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
  • 3 small buckets/boxes/areas
 HOW TO PREPARE 
  • Write three small signs/labels for noun, verb, adjective (in either English or Chinese)
  • Mix up the character cards

    

Parts of Speech Identification Activity 1 (age 3+, single or multi person)

1. Mix up the character/word cards and then place them in a pile.
2. Have the first person pick up a card, read it, and place it the card in the correct bucket of noun, verb, or adjective. If they are right, they get a point.
3. Take turns until all the cards are used up.
4. Whoever has the most points wins. (Alternatively, you don’t need to keep score at all.)

If your children are younger, you may want to just do nouns and verbs because adjectives can be a harder concept.

 

Parts of Speech Identification Activity 2 (age 3+, single or multi person)

1. Mix up the cards and deal them out equally face down.
2. See how quickly each child can sort the cards into their appropriate category of noun, verb, or adjective.

Again, you can make this easier for younger children by having fewer cards as well as categories.


 

MAD LIBS

 WHAT YOU NEED 
  • Chinese stories or sentences you can copy and paste into a computer or handwrite on paper.
  • Pencils and paper
 HOW TO PREPARE 
  • Find simple sentences or stories in Chinese (or make up your own). The simplest thing to do is take Basic Chinese 500 lessons or Treasure Box and use them as reference.
  • Copy and paste into a word file and then remove the parts of speech you want them to replace. Alternatively, you can just hand write the sentences and leave the parts of speech blank.
  • Make sure you write what part of speech you want the child to use in the blank.

Mad Libs Activity (age 5+, single or multi person):

1. Place the character word cards face up in the groups of nouns, verbs, and adjectives (optional).
2. Read the first part of speech you need and have the first player choose the word they want to use from the appropriate pile.
3. The next player will choose the next part of speech you need.
4. Keep going until all the blanks you need are filled.
5. Then, read aloud the story with the characters they used.

If your children are younger, you can again, limit the blank parts of speech to nouns and verbs. Additionally, you can provide sample nouns and verbs from which your children can choose since that is easier than coming up with their own words.

To increase difficulty, you can increase the number of blanks the kids have to supply words for. You can also have the children take turns being the “narrator.” The narrator asks for the blanks, writes the responses into the blanks on the page, and then reads the finished product at the end.


 

SENTENCE CONSTRUCTION

 WHAT YOU NEED 
  • (optional) Character/word cards (either your own, or you can try the new Sagebooks Study Cards) separated into nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
 HOW TO PREPARE 
  • Separate the word cards into nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
  • Suggest possible formulas your children can follow. (eg: Noun + verb + noun; Adjective + noun + verb + noun; Noun + verb + adjective + noun; Adjective + noun + verb + adjective + noun)

   

Sentence Construction Activity (age 5+, single or multi person):

1. Place the character word cards face up in the groups of nouns, verbs, and adjectives.
2. Choose which formula you want the kids to follows.
3. Have the first person choose the first part of speech and lay that card down.
4. The next player will choose the next part of speech you need.
5. Keep going until the formula is done.
6. Then, read aloud the sentence with the characters they used.

If your children are younger, you can again, limit the blank parts of speech to nouns and verbs. To make the activity harder, you can lay out all the word cards and set a timer. Within the 5 minutes, see who can create/write the most sentences using any of those formulas.


We would love to hear your comments and see pictures of your kids doing the activities. Make sure you join our Sagebooks HK Parent Support Facebook Group and share with us!

TIP OF THE WEEK

Follow the interests of your child.

We generally retain the information about our hobbies, interests, and obsessions a lot more and with greater enthusiasm than the other stuff.

Same with your children.

If your child loves Pokemon, then focus more on Pokemon for awhile. Find books and stories about Pokemon in Chinese. Look up coloring sheets with their Chinese names on them. Learn the names of all the Pokemon in Chinese. Beg family or scour sites for Chinese Pokemon cards.

Don’t worry if your child seems to be absorbing useless trivia about Pokemon in Chinese. In addition to learning the names in Chinese, your children will also increase their vocabulary from watching or listening to the Chinese animations and stories. They will learn new Chinese characters from reading the Pokemon cards and memorizing the names. They will pick up all sorts of random things that will widen the scope of their Chinese language skills – and all because they love that subject and would likely do anything for rewards related to Pokemon.

Have these tips been helpful? We’d love to hear from you in our Facebook Group and we hope to see you there.

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