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Sunday, November 29, 2020

How to improve Chinese Classical Text Comprehension for SPM students

My son is taking SPM Chinese and there is an section in the paper on Classical Text Comprehension. We are a non-Chinese speaking family so it is rather hard for him since he is not taking any tuition and we have difficulty helping him. I turned to the Malaysia Primary and Secondary school parents FB groups for help and recommended tips. Here is are some tips given by the parents who have sat for the paper themselves.

Understand the content. 

Firstly, you have to understand the context and background first including the motif of the speaker. To get a better understanding of the context, the story and the history, it is suggested to

1. Watch Chinese historical dramas set in ancient China to improve understanding on Chinese history and spark interest. You can even watch them in Cantonese and read the subtitles if Mandarin is too difficult for you. Even the Mandarin ones will not fully use Classical text speech, the idea is to understand the story and history.

2. Read the stories behind the ancient text to understand the context. You can read the story books, comics or even read them in English depending on your level of understanding. The idea is to understand the context and the stories. Below are some examples.

(i) Comics - Chinese Classical Comics for example 蔡志忠 Tsai Chih Chung comics. His comic strips are mostly written in classical Chinese, about Chinese tradition, cultures and idioms.. etc. The comics come with present day Chinese explanations.

(ii) Storybooks - If you are able to read the whole set of Chinese classical stories, you will be better able to understand the questions. You can also read Jin Yong novels.

(iii) English/Bilingual - If your Chinese is not that good, you can read the stories in English. For example you can read the comics from Asiapac on 3 Kingdoms, Madam White Snake etc in English to get a better understanding of the subject. 




Know the text

文言文is a bit tricky as one word will have many meanings.

1. Get a dictionary to translate ancient text to modern text or use Baidu to search.

2. Know and memorize the commonly used classical text phrases and keywords. If you have friends in the same level in CIS, try asking for their notes. The teachers of most CIS do wonderful work of listing the common words. 

3. Make use of apps to find dictionaries and other references.


4. Practice- Classical Chinese have similar keywords which appear often in the exam questions. Try to do as many past year questions as possible so you can see the pattern and know which keywords are a must know. Then just try to connect the dots in between those key words

The following blog post has useful tips on how to answer the SPM Chinese paper including Classical Text Comprehension (文言文理解) section. Check it out.

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