For the sake of helping foreigners learn “practical” Chinese in the shortest time, we have investigated what they are most eager to say in Chinese. Subjects were asked to answer questions in their native language. Statistical data show that their answers are mostly related to interrogation. For instance, “what’s your name?” “Where is the shop?”, “How much is this?”, etc.. Hence, the idea occurred to us to compile an “extremely” elementary oral Chinese textbook with interrogative sentences as the core.
As an oral Chinese textbook, its language should be practical and easy to learn. In line with this principle, we have divided the book into sixteen lessons. Each of the eleven interrogative words constitutes one lesson, and the other five lessons are respectively entitled “Polite Words”, “Asking Senses an Feelings”, “Asking Needs and Hobbies”, “Requests”, “Farewells”. Each lesson is made up of “Basic Sentences”, “Substitutions”, “Questions and Answers”, “Texts”, and “Exercises”.
Students must master the “Basic Sentences”, because they are the core of each lesson. The purpose of “Substitutions” is to enlarge vocabulary and to practise the drills of basic sentences. “Questions and Answers” are the focal point, focusing on interrogation, helping students parctise asking questions. The “Texts” are composed of words and expressions which have appeared in previous lessons, as well as some new ones. Students then raise questions with the instructor over the content of the text. The first four sections of each lesson are presented in both pinyin (Spelling) and Hanzi (Characters). The “Exercises” focus on interrogation, and are written solely in Pinyin. For the students’ convenience, we include the Chinese Alphabet at the beginning of the book and a general glossary at the end. All the new words are translated into English and French.
After its compilation, this book was tried out by selected students. It was well received, for it met the students’ needs: being original in its choice of subjects and materials, focusing on learning how to ask question. While using this textbook, the students were enthusiastic about communicating. So their speaking skill improved rapidly.
The book is made to allow beginners four to five weeks of study.