Chinese Language Blog

Using Children’s Fairy Tales to Practice Chinese Posted by on Aug 17, 2020 in Vocabulary

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When I first arrived in China, more than a decade ago, I had a hobby: visiting book stores.

I used to stand in awe in front of shelves full of books written in this beautiful ancient language. I stood there and wished one day to be able to open any of these books and read it, maybe even talk about it. But I knew I had to take small steps, so I began by buying children books. To make it easier I bought children’s fairy tales (童话 tóng huà) I was already familiar with from my childhood. Such as:

These classical stories, originating in folklore of regions far away from China, have nothing to do with the Chinese culture. But I enjoyed the reading and being able to practice my Chinese on the way.  I’ve learned essential verbs, many nouns, and a variety of adjectives and phrases that have enriched my understanding of the language.

If you are a fan of famous folk tales, like me, I advise you to use them as a fun tool for learning Chinese. Here are some tips to make this tool useful:

  • Begin with your favorite tale. You are more likely to realize your goal if you will enjoy the process.
  • Buy your own copy, so you will be able to scribble notes as you wish.
  • Mark all the new words. Don’t imagine that you will memorize them all, but do your best to make them stick out. The more you scan them the more your mind will remember them.
  • Put the book aside for a while and read it again after a period. Repetition is important. After several readings you will be amazed to realize how much you have learned.
  • Use Chinese to tell someone, or yourself, the story. At first, you can recite sentences from the book. To challenge your language skills, use your own words. Insert Chinese idioms, choose synonyms, use different adjectives, try to tell the story from the perspective of another character. Anything that will force you to make your own new sentences.
  • To help you start, here is a list of related nouns:

王子 wáng zǐ = prince

公主 gōng zhǔ = princess

国王 guó wáng = king

女王 nǚ wáng = queen

城堡 chéng bǎo = castle

王国 wáng guó =  kingdom

继母 jì mǔ = stepmother

巨人 jù rén = giant

人魚 rén yú = mermaid

  • For those who want to practice characters – write down a paragraph or even more by yourself.
  • If you enjoyed the practice move on to the next fairy tale.



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