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The Chinese Language is Increasingly Important

Since its inception, bilingualism has been the cornerstone of Singapore’s education curriculum. Mastery over English, as the lingua franca, and a mother tongue significantly improves the employment prospects of students both locally and internationally. Chinese is one of the four mother tongues offered in schools and remains both a compulsory and competitive subject. Today, both Chinese and non-Chinese parents realise the growing prominence of Chinese as an international language, outstripping English as the future global lingua franca. Efforts to promote Chinese language learning include the establishment of the Singapore centre for Chinese Language (SCCL) and the national Speak Mandarin Campaign. These are some learning resources for speakers of various levels of proficiency. 


As such, time and attention should be devoted to mastering this language. The way to do this is through private home tuition for Chinese. A private Chinese tutor will accelerate Chinese language learning and mastery. 


4 Main Problems Faced by Parents

Parents remain continually perplexed about why their children are burdened with studying a difficult language, such as Chinese. This also fuels their frustration when their children underperform, affecting their overall aggregate and their admission eligibility and competitiveness. These are the 4 major problems encountered by parents:

  • A large population of Singaporean Chinese are at ease solely communicating in English at home and work. Consequently, their young children are not exposed to the language early, delaying the developing and acquisition of the language 
  • The lack of a nurturing home environment leads to more apathy for the subject in school and in social spaces
  • Some students wilfully neglect Chinese as English proficiency still currently more important for admission into desired tertiary courses
  • Rote learning and memorisation of model composition and essays make learning dry and mechanical. 

The problem of language learning is usually systemic as the students’ homes are the best place for practice to take place. Some parents acknowledge their own inadequacy in teaching or imparting language skills. As such, it is important to invest in a dedicated Chinese tutor to ensure that your child has a competitive edge!


88 Weeks is Auspicious but an Absurd Amount of Time!

Like with any language, mastery involves constant practice. A 2015 online publication by the US Department of State showed the estimated time needed for non-native speakers to acquire various foreign languages. It estimated that native English speakers take minimally 88 weeks to attain advanced conversational proficiency in the Chinese language. This translates to approximately 2,200 hours before a native English speaker can confidently communicate in Chinese. This is the longest duration recorded in the study. By comparison, at the same level of conversational proficiency, Swedish or Italian is the fastest to acquire, requiring only 24 weeks since these are more linguistically similar to English. 





4 Key Differences Between English and Chinese 

These following reasons shed light on linguistic differences affecting language learning. 


  1. Inflection and Tones

Chinese is a tonal language. The addition of tones to Chinese characters potentially confuses non-native speakers and makes the learning process difficult. To begin learning, students have to be able to comprehend the four tones. Students have to be able to make the different tone sounds with their mouths, forming mental associations with characters and the respective tones. Unlike Chinese, speaking different English words with different inflections does not fundamentally change the meaning of the word. As such, the auditory aspect of the Chinese language impedes quick learning because there are many variations, each with a distinct intonation with different meanings. 


  1. Absence of Phonetics 

The Chinese language does not belong to the same language family as the English language. As such, there is no use of the English alphabet. It is a pictorial language that relies on strokes and radicals to make up individual Chinese characters that eventually make up Chinese words. This means that the language only after you learn the alphabet. You need to learn all these components and memorize each distinct Chinese character in order to read it. 

  1. Heavy Memorization

To learn Chinese, learning and recognising Chinese characters is inescapable. On top of that, students need to memorize 4 different components – meaning, pronunciation, tone and character. Furthermore, students have to repeatedly write the radicals that make up the character in order to remember the look of the character. Unlike English, there are more variations and the similarity between some characters throws students off. 


  1. Ambitious Language 

In the Chinese language, there is a distinct use of homonyms (words with the same pronunciation but different meanings) and a lack of grammar. An example of a Chinese homonym is the character ‘ta’ which stands for the three gendered pronouns –  ‘he”, “she” and “it”. This easily raises confusion and makes the oral-auditory aspect of the language more nuanced.  An example of a ‘looser’ grammatical structure is the complete absence of verb conjugations, making word transformation and tenses more difficult to express.



Despite the known challenges of the Chinese language, a BBC news article reported a study that found that “people who speak Mandarin Chinese use both temporal lobes of their brain to understand the language.” This is very different from English-language speakers who use only the left temporal lobe. The difference is attributed to the “use intonation to distinguish between completely different meanings of particular words.” As such, learning Chinese does indeed boost your brain!


Primary School Chinese Syllabus 


The primary school Chinese language syllabus prioritises 4 fundamental skills such as reading, writing, conversing and comprehending. All students will take Standard Chinese syllabus until Primary 4.

With the introduction of Subject-Based Banding (SBB), students will sit for an internal school examination to decide their appropriate band – Higher, Standard or Foundation. At Primary 5, students take the Chinese band chosen by parents. Students who have shown consistency and interest in Chinese can take up Higher Mother Tongue (HMT) in addition to Standard Chinese. Students have to perform well in order to remain in their preferred band. At the start of Primary 6, students ultimately go with the band decided by school and sit for that respective paper during PSLE. Students taking Higher Chinese will sit for 5 subjects. These students, however, will receive special aggregate deductions if they perform well. 


The PSLE Standard Chinese examination includes 4 components – Composition (20%), General Paper (45%), Oral (25%) and Listening Comprehension (10%). To excel, students need to pay more emphasis on comprehension and oral abilities, which collectively account for 70%. 


In this regard, having primary school Chinese tuition, students do not remain tight-lipped during oral! Their tutors will help them widen their vocabulary banks and teach them how to read, write and converse confidently! Language experts agree that the formative years are best for learning languages. Having a private Chinese tutor will ensure that your child has that advantage and develops a lifelong passion for Chinese. Parents who miss out severely under-estimate the future importance of Chinese society and the world. 


Secondary School Chinese Syllabus 

In secondary school, Higher Mother Tongue Language (HTML) will be offered to students who performed at those at the (1) Top 10% for PSLE or (2) Top 30% in Standard Chinese or (3) Obtained a Merit for PSLE Higher Chinese. This presents a significant advantage because performing well for secondary school Higher Chinese can lead to special deductions off the total aggregate score. 


Other specialty programmes include the Chinese Special Programme (CSP) for exceptionally performing students; and Chinese as a Third Language for non-Chinese students. 


The secondary school syllabus builds on the language skills from primary school. To do well for secondary school Chinese, teachers and tutors agree that students must command more vocabulary and must be able to express thoughts and opinions on hot-button issues like the aging-population, climate crisis and other news-grabbing headlines. For this, a private tuition teacher for Chinese can help students engage in intellectual topics and to present these convincingly. 


There are 6 main types of Chinese syllabi:

  • Higher Chinese
  • O-Level Standard Chinese
  • N(A)-Level Standard Chinese 
  • Chinese Basic
  • Chinese Special Programme 
  • Literature in Chinese 


With the plethora of Chinese language programmes, secondary school Chinese tuition is more important and necessary than ever! Private Chinese home tutors offer their wealth of experience, ensuring that students grasp the language with ease and interest! 


Junior College Chinese Syllabus 

At the Junior College level, students who took Higher Chinese and performed well, will not have to sit for GCE ‘A’ Level Chinese. 


Promotion criteria from JC Year 1 to JC Year 2 is stringent and is usually contingent that the student passes Chinese. The GCE ‘A’ Level Chinese paper is taken in JC Year 1 and if the student fails, they risk being retained. This delays their candidature for other GCE ‘A’ Level subjects, disrupting their education and prolonging it by a year. Most local JCs only allow their students to retake papers once, and so if students repeatedly fail Chinese, they may not take the paper as a candidate under the school. 


As such, continuing with Chinese tuition in Junior College is imperative so that students can clear the subject. A private Chinese tutor would be able to offer diagnostics and strategically formulate a plan to help tertiary students perform well within the tight one year of preparation! 


Be familiar with MOE’s latest Chinese Syllabus at all levels


3 Idioms for Infinite Wisdom for Learning

The Chinese language is highly illustrative and draws from its own bank of wisdom. These Chinese idioms will shed the light on the benefits of effective tuition. 


  1. Practice makes perfect

(Hanyu Pinying: shú néng sh?ng qi?o, qín néng b? zhu?)

At Nanyang Academics, we stand by the importance of constant practice. Through constant practice, students will have the opportunity to improve their written, oral and comprehension skills. Teachers are the fountains of knowledge and they can help improve your child’s grades. Student should possess the mental fortitude to preserve in their studies and be inspired to perform at their personal best. 


  1. There is no limit to learning

(Hanyu Pinying: xué wú zh? jìng)

Lifelong learning is important for keeping the mind agile and alert, especially in higher institutes of learning.  Nanyang Academics private Chinese tutors hope to impart this important lesson early in student’s lives. Education stops when the point of inquiry ends. It is important to keep an openness to new knowledge to be nourished by mentors and educators.  


  1. Nurturing talent takes time, so start early! 

(Hanyu Pinying: shí nián shùmù, b?i nián shù rén)

Just like the idiom above, talent takes time! Often, the mistake of youth is that we want things to happen immediately. Students need to understand that honing a language is a lifelong commitment and they should not expect to improve overnight. Nanyang Academics ensures that we groom your students as early as possible, sowing the seeds for their eventual success in life. 


Nanyang Academics: Your Chinese Specialists!

Finding a competent and reliable private Chinese tutor need not be a hassle! Nanyang Academics’ private Chinese tutors can be easily engaged and they enrich your child’s Chinese-language learning! Some of the advantages include:

  • Having creative teaching methods for all educational levels.  
  • Being cognizant of the student’s learning abilities and needs and adapting accordingly. 
  • Building the child’s confidence over time to develop a strong command over the Chinese language.
  • Incorporating speaking and writing skills for holistic learning.
  • Our local Chinese tutors are passionate about teaching and promoting their mother tongue language.  


Request for a tuition assignment today!