Flash cards are a simple and common tool for studying foreign languages. It is well used for Chinese learning, especially for learning Chinese vocabulary – Chinese characters, words, and Chinese expressions.
There are many ways, and here I am going to talk about 4 types of flash cards we can usein Chinese vocabulary learning.
Text-Only Chinese Vocabulary Flash Cards
Text-only flash cards feature a Chinese word on one side and the English translation on the other. This type of flash cards is the simplest yet very effective if used well.
When designing text-only flash cards, we should put pinyin into consideration as pinyin serves an aid in pronouncing the Chinese words/expressions.
In language learning, we can use passive review and active recall methods. Passive review, as the name suggests, refers to processing learning materials passively. Active recall, on the other hands, means stimulating actively memory during the learning process.
Flash cards have two sides. We can learn the Chinese words or expressions (the front) and then check the English meaning and pinyin (the back) and this method is called passive review – to review what we’ve learned.
If the flash cards have the English translation on the front side and the Chinese words or expressions on the back side, we need to recall actively the Chinese words.
Picture Chinese Vocabulary Flash Cards
Pictures are useful for specific objects such as sun and bike since they help make the connection between the objects and Chinese words without another language like English.
Picture Chinese vocabulary flash cards can have two formats: a. One card features both the picture and the Chinese words;
b. The front side of the card features the picture and the back side features Chinese words.
Picture flash cards are extremely useful when the images are Chinese culturally specific, for example, Spring Festival celebrations, Chinese food, Chinese medicine and more. For example,
Chinese Character Flash Cards
Chinese characters require effort to remember. Flash cards are very helpful for Chinese character studies. Depending on the purpose of character learning, character flash cards can be in different format.
For younger learners, recognising the Chinese characters is usually the prime purpose. If the purpose is to recognise the characters only, it is a good idea to have the Chinese character only. Flipping through the character cards helps children to establish the impression of the characters and therefore recognise them.
For more advanced learners, learning a Chinese character is not only to recognize and pronounce it, but also to write it following the right stroke order and understand its meaning in words when combining with other characters.
When designing flash cards in order to meet this objective, we can include the element of character stroke order on the front side. On the back side we can feature its meaning, pinyin as well as some examples of Chinese words which contain this character.
Flash Cards for Learning Context in Chinese
We remember a word easily if we associate it to a particular setting or a specific person. Many times, words are combined to form a fixed expression. Take the word 爱惜 for example, 爱means to love; 惜means to cherish; 爱惜means to cherish and to treasure. It makes sense to learn the word rather than the two characters separately in isolation.
As we all know, the same words may mean different in Chinese. If we put the words in context, it becomes clearer to understand the meaning as well as the use of the word. That also means that we could create different flash cards for the same word, but in different context.
How to show context in a flash card?
There is a commonly used test in foreign language classes: cloze test. It is “an exercise, test, or assessment consisting of a portion of language with certain items, words, or signs removed (cloze text), where the participant is asked to replace the missing language item. Cloze tests require the ability to understand context and vocabulary in order to identify the correct language or part of speech that belongs in the deleted passages. This exercise is commonly administered for the assessment of native and second language learning and instruction.” (Wikipedia)
For example, from the same page from Wikipedia,
Today, I went to the ________ and bought some milk and eggs. I knew it was going to rain, but I forgot to take my ________, and ended up getting wet on the way.
We can use the principles of cloze test when we design flash cards reflecting context.
All these 4 types of flash cards can be used to help Chinese vocabulary learning. We can start with character only flash cards or Picture Vocabulary flash cards, especially for younger learner. Gradually we can use flash cards for learning Chinese characters or in context. With the aid of flash cards, you will see great progress in Chinese vocabulary learning.
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