Marina, who now lives in Beijing, has more than seven years of experience teaching Chinese to kids and adults, both as individuals and in groups. Her classes are very interactive and focuses a lot on training her students how to speak. She helps many students from various countries prepare for the HSK via the Skype lessons. This time, we have invited Marina to answer this quick Q&A to give you some tips for learning Chinese, especially in preparing for HSK. You can get to know something about her as well.
1. What is your favorite part about teaching Chinese?
My favorite part about teaching Chinese is the cultural exchange. Let’s use the Spring Festival as an example. Many students know of the existence of the Spring Festival, but they don’t know the customs and origins, such as why we need to paste Spring Festival couplets, set off firecrackers, wear red clothes, affix the “Fu” character upside down on doors, or why we should eat dumplings, fish, and New Year cake. The relevant vocabulary and sentence patterns can also be acquired during this cultural exchange, and this kind of learning is also more relevant and engaging to the students. They not only learn language lessons, but they also learn something about the Chinese people.
2. Many students are interested in HSK. Can you tell us why taking HSK is necessary? Besides HSK, are there any other official Chinese tests that learners can take?
At present, HSK has become a passport for foreign students who want to apply for a job in China or who wish to study in Chinese colleges. It is a necessary condition to acquire a scholarship to study in China and is an important means for school-teaching evaluation. It is an important basis as well for recruitment, determining salary, and gauging promotions in government departments and multinational enterprises. HSK also sets clear test objectives and makes it easier for students to improve their Chinese ability in a planned and productive way. It`s a way for students to learn Chinese systematically. Besides HSK, American students can also take the SAT Chinese test. For children, YST is a good choice.
3. Can you share some suggestions on how to prepare better for the tests?
First of all, you should read the Chinese Proficiency Examination Handbook and Chinese Proficiency Test Outline in order to understand what will be required in the examination. Of course, all this preparation can be done with the teacher, which will make it clearer and easier. After you understand the examination structure, you will need to review your listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills as the HSK test tends to focus on the systematic learning of these skills in addition to grammar and vocabulary. And make sure to master the required vocabulary of the outline. For HSK level 5-6 It’s important to practice reading speed, because there are so many reading materials. If you don’t read fast enough, you may not have enough time to finish it. It`s recommended to take a HSK preparation course before taking the actual HSK examination.
4. Is there any student who has impressed you a lot?
There is this one student from Myanmar. She has been studying Chinese for just about two and a half years, but has already passed HSK5, and is now preparing for HSK level 6. She can converse in Chinese on a wide range of topics and is able to communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers. Besides taking the normal Chinese lessons, she also attended a local Chinese language club in Myanmar and goes there to practice every weekend. I helped her prepare a lot of Chinese presentations. This method quickly helped her improve her Chinese level from intermediate to advanced.
Another student I have is from Switzerland. He is the kind of student who learns the language slowly, but he works really hard. After every class, he will put all the new words and the important sentences we took up during the class into his vocabulary list, and then practice every day. In one whole year he watched a Chinese TV series and learned all the subtitles sentence by sentence. This is really helpful for improving listening and understanding difficult sentence patterns and words.
5. What do you like to do for fun outside of work?
I have a three-year-old son, therefore outside of work, most of the time I stay with him. Besides work, I also enjoy my time with my family.