There are several ways of learning Chinese vocabulary. We can use visual aids, demonstration or explanation and other methods. Mind maps, or spider grams, as visual forms of note taking, are very effective in learning Chinese vocabulary.

What Are Mind Maps

Usually a mind map starts in the middle of a page with a central idea and expanded outwards in all directions. The expanded branches should contain related thoughts and ideas making it easier to organize the information. Mind maps are great for learning Chinese vocabulary. The individual but relevant words are linked together in a visual way, which helps the brain to see the connection and therefore remembers better and more quickly.

For example, the mind map below shows the central idea “秋天“(Autumn) in the middle with the branches containing relevant vocabulary to Autumn such as 树叶,南瓜,万圣节,玉米,葡萄,野餐,板栗. As you can see, you can use images to represent each word, which makes memorizing them even easier.

Autumn theme mind map- use mind maps to learn Chinese Vocabulary

How to Create a Mind Map

To create a vocabulary mind map, we need to have a theme. Then we can group vocabulary by the theme. Let’s say, we are going to create a “Month” mind map. We can ask some questions such as

  • How many months are there in a year and how about their names?
  • What are the seasons in a year?
  • Which months belong to each season?

We can then come up with a mind map like this one:

Month Mind Map- use mind maps to learn Chinese Vocabulary
The list can be expanded further with question such as

  • What are the major festivals in each month?
  • What are the typical activities in each month?
  • And so on

This mind map can become a really comprehensive vocabulary map with all relevant words. The process of creating the mind map itself is a great learning.

How to Use Mind Maps for Chinese Vocabulary Learning

For Chinese vocabulary learning, mind maps can be used, but not limited,  in the following ways:

  • Vocabulary of the same theme

    Vocabulary of the same theme can be organized together into categories. Take “情感(emotion)” for example,

    Emotions Mind Map- use mind maps to learn Chinese Vocabulary


    The different emotions are linked together. The images help explaining their meanings and establishing the link between the words and their meanings.


  •  Phrasal Verbs

    Verbs can be learned via mind maps too. For example,

    Zuo Verb Mind Map- use mind maps to learn Chinese Vocabulary

  • Expressions

    Expressions can be groups by different scenario. For example,

    Greeting Expression Mind Map

  • Synonyms / Antonyms

    For example, below is a mind maps with the synonym words to 看

    Synonym Kan Mind Map- use mind maps to learn Chinese Vocabulary

    There is another example of the antonyms to position words.

    Position Word Antonym Mind Map- use mind maps to learn Chinese Vocabulary

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Related Resources:

Top 100 Commonly Used Chinese Characters

20-Day Chinese Character Building Challenge

(the characters in this list are tailored to children)

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