Textbooks are overrated

After learning Chinese for a year or so, you’ll likely to become bored with the continuous flow of boring and indistinguishable textbooks. It’s at this point that you have to make a choice – either become so bored that you give up learning Chinese, or find some new content to study!

Depending on where you are learning Chinese, your access to learning materials might be limited, or not very varied. A good tip is to start looking outside of the standard learning material, and start reading content that is meant for native speakers. Who said you have to stick to books written specifically for foreign learners of Chinese? If you like computers and the Internet, then start reading Chinese language computer magazines and related websites. Likewise if you’re into business and economics, there are more than enough books available in Chinese to keep you busy.

When choosing a Chinese language school to attend, then look for schools that offer a variation of courses and that don’t stick rigidly to a textbook-based syllabus. You might find courses in news reading, business language, computing, Chinese culture and many other topics. The best courses are the ones were the teacher chooses material that is up-to-date and relevant, and selected to meet the specific needs of the class.

The main point to remember here is that you’re not automatically locked into to one textbook or textbook series – if you’re bored then find another. Don’t think that you have to stick with a series just because you’ve started it, it may just be that it’s not suited to your learning style or interests.

Do you prefer to stay on track with a strict textbook syllabus, or do you prefer the freedom of self-study or a custom syllabus?

  • Interesting point. I’m studying Mandarin in a formal setting (university) so I can’t just leave my textbook if it becomes boring. However, I wish I could, not because it becomes boring, but rather in that I wish our textbooks were more focused. I’m learning words like radish (萝卜) which I don’t even use in English and stuff like Maple Leaf (枫叶)

  • This is exactly my point, I found most of the textbooks were the same old story of some westerner (usually form the US) coming to Taiwan and renting a flat. Gets boring really fast.
    Luckily I’m learning Chinese in a language centre that runs 3 month terms, meaning I can try out different classes and teachers.
    I’m studying News Reading and Advanced Reading at the moment, both of which do not use textbooks – all of the course materials are arranged by the teacher and the class has a lot of discussion. After this kind of class I could never go back.

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  • I have the same point of view like you, and have tried many ways to bring in new materials for students. However, it is still hard. I felt that I need to rewrite everything in order to make most of the students understand. I am starting a second year college class in the fall (Chinese 3A), and still debate if I should just find materials or order textbook for the stuents.

  • Depending on the level of the students they might benefit greatly from a custom syllabus. I personally really enjoy a course that is up to date and relevant, covering topics that suit the requests of the students, but I also know that some students like to stick to the book, where they have a strict lesson plan to follow.

    Please post back and let us know what you go with in the end.

  • I will. Thank you.
    In order to prepare students reading authentic materials in the future, I have asked them to use online dictionaries. I found that iPod Touch Chinese-English applications are one of the best tools in classroom. Students can write on the iPod (iPod Touch, too) and find the meaning of the word in a second.