Many students who study Chinese find the hardest part of learning Chinese to be writing the Chinese characters (Hanzi). Although currently China and Singapore are using the Simplified Chinese characters, there still exist many mind boggling Chinese characters that are comprised of many strokes.
Some candidates for the most complicated Chinese Character include:
The first two actually have 64 strokes each, and it would be hard to find a competitor that has more strokes than 64. (If any reader finds out, please inform me!) Incidentally, the first character is made up of four “Dragons”. The third character in the list has 52 strokes, which is not too bad.
However, all three have repetitions of a single word, and hence are not that complicated in the strictest sense of the word.
If we are looking at the most complicated (non-repetitive) Chinese word, I think the title belongs to Biang, which is used in the term Biangbiang noodles. I have eaten it once in a Chinese restaurant in Singapore, it is a bit like dry Ban Mian.
Biang has 58 strokes, and as one can see, is nothing but simple. Thank God this word is not commonly found in spelling tests!
The biggest headstart a child can get is at Primary 1, in the Singapore Education System.
This is because prior to Primary 1, there is no standardized education system, and hence students have a varied depth of knowledge. After Primary 1, students enter the public schooling system, and hence have much less extra time to study in advance to get a headstart.
Hanyu Pinyin is a romanized way of writing Chinese characters, using the English alphabet. It is extremely useful in this current century, since most users will be using Hanyu Pinyin to type Chinese characters on the phone or computer.
Also, students from English speaking backgrounds are highly advised to study Chinese in advance before Primary 1, as naturally they would be at a disadvantage in Mother Tongue compared to their Chinese speaking classmates.
Hanyu Pinyin has many rules of “grammar” and cannot be written anyhow. One of the rules is encapsulated in this Hanyu Pinyin poem:
（1）有a 不放过； （2）没a 找o、e； （3）i、u 并列标在后； （4）单个韵母不必说
Intonations is the hardest part of Chinese Pronunciation, as Chinese words have four tones. “Ma” in the four different tones means totally different things. “Ma (First Tone)” can mean mother 妈, “Ma (Second Tone)” can mean numb 麻, while “Ma (Third Tone)” can mean horse 马! For completeness, “Ma (Fourth Tone)” may mean scold 骂! Hence, from this example it shows how important Hanyu Pinyin is.
Here I will share some tips for Chinese Composition in Singapore. Hope it helps! 🙂
Know the Commonly Used Local Terminologies
1) Dengue Fever, a disease caused by mosquitoes in Singapore, is called 骨痛热症. Students need to know this phrase as it is commonly tested in compositions, often in the form of “How to Prevent Dengue Fever”. （如何预防和控制骨痛热症?）
A true story is that when a teacher set 如何预防和控制骨痛热症? as the question, many students did not know the meaning of 骨痛热症 and hence interpreted it literally as “Bone Pain” and “Disease caused by Hot Weather”. Hence, their entire composition revolves around using massage to sooth bone pain, and installing fans and air-conditioners to deal with hot weather, which is totally out of point!
Students need to read more Chinese newspapers to increase their vocabulary, which will definitely help in their composition skills.
Use Good Phrases (appropriately)
The next level after students can write a passing grade essay, is to add good phrases like Idioms, Proverbs (成语，俗语，谚语） into their composition. Students need to add them appropriately and sparingly, as markers would be very wary of students “spamming” good phrases, especially in the wrong context.
Adding good phrases in the correct context would have a very beneficial effect of impressing the marker, leading to higher marks in vocabulary section of the essay.
Studying Chinese well has tremendous benefits from childhood all the way to adulthood. Here is a short list of the benefits of studying Chinese at all stages of life (with focus on the Singapore education system).
Children fluent in Chinese learn to count much faster. According to famous author and researcher Malcolm Gladwell, four year old Chinese children can count, on average, up to forty. American children, at that age, can only count to fifteen, and don’t reach forty until they’re five: by the age of five, in other words, American children are already a year behind their Asian counterparts in the most fundamental of math skills.
Bilingual children have a better ‘working memory’ than monolingual children. A study conducted at the University of Granada and the University of York in Toronto, Canada, has revealed that bilingual children develop a better working memory -which holds, processes and updates information over short periods of time- than monolingual children. The working memory plays a major role in the execution of a wide range of activities, such as mental calculation (since we have to remember numbers and operate with them) or reading comprehension (given that it requires associating the successive concepts in a text).
Primary School (PSLE)
Students good at Chinese will naturally have an advantage when it comes to the PSLE, especially under the new system (without T-score). Grade system means ‘one subject can’t save another’. In the past, students who are exceptionally strong at English, Math and Science, but weak at Chinese still have a good chance of entering the top schools, as their strengths can more than compensate for their weak Chinese scores. However, now under the new system, pupils who are weaker in certain subjects may lose out under a new grades-based scoring system to be introduced.
Students who have taken the Higher Mother Tongue language paper at the O-level and have obtained a minimum grade of ‘D7’ are exempted from taking formal MTL lessons and examinations. JC life is very busy and hectic, and the extra hours from being exempted from Mother Tongue lessons could be put to good use for studying other subjects.
Students who are fluent in Chinese have the added option of studying in universities in China under scholarships, or under an exchange program. Chinese universities usually have a language requirement, especially for those courses taught in Chinese.
China is a major trading partner of Singapore. Singapore is China’s 9th largest trading partner, while China is Singapore’s 3rd largest trading partner which consisted of 10.1 percent of Singapore’s total external trade from the previous year. (Wikipedia)
Check out this amazing video of kids (of non-Chinese descent) speaking perfect Mandarin! They are really a role model for all kids learning Chinese, and is perfect evidence of why it is a good idea to learn and master Chinese in the 21st century.
This is another video of Kevin Rudd (Foreign Minister of Australia) speaking perfect Mandarin!