By Arron Juang
Three years of writing and a school-funded research trip to China culminated last year in Chinese Teacher Hongchen Wang’s latest book, 25 Ways to Understand the Chinese Language, published on August 18 by the New Link Chinese Group.
The 122-page text, his fourth for American students, serves as a reference for beginner to intermediate Chinese students and as an introduction to the Chinese language’s history and syntax for general readers, according to Mr. Wang. The book is split into six sections covering the language’s history, pronunciation, characters, vocabulary, and sentences. Three appendices explain how to use Chinese dictionaries, common words, and idioms.
“A lot of people learn languages in the dark without knowing the situation, following the teacher step by step,” he said. “My book is like a roadmap for the course, giving students the map and letting them choose their own destination and route. They are the driver, not the passenger.”
Mr. Wang’s colleague, Chinese Teacher Yinong Yang, praised the work’s comprehensiveness.
“It’s a great book,” he said. “I’ve only read parts of it, but it’s a good introduction to Chinese because it covers so many topics.”
Mr. Wang’s students have also received the book well.
“[The book] highlights Hongchen’s unique approach to the learning process and demonstrates his keen ability to relate information to students of all levels,” Mr. Wang’s former tutee, Zachary Cohen, wrote in its introduction. “This book will serve as a means of enrichment that will undoubtedly foster a deeper appreciation of the language.”
Though Mr. Wang does not intend to make the book a formal part of the Chinese curriculum, he said he plans to use it as an out-of-class resource for his students if he runs out of class time to finish answering their questions.
He began the book roughly three years ago, prompted by a desire to organize his growing collection of answered student questions in an organized, accessible manner. Mr. Wang finished it last summer after using the school’s grant money for professional development to travel to China and consult with professors at universities in Hong Kong and Beijing.
Mr. Wang started his writing career over two decades ago with columns for newspapers and magazines in China and the United States. But after he taught Chinese to Americans in the late 1990s, his inspiration to write redoubled.
“I think it’s very important for a language teacher to be bilingual,” he said. “And if I can learn English well enough to write a book, I think it means that my method of learning a new language works and is helpful to my students.”
Available new on Amazon for $8.08, 25 Ways to Understand the Chinese Language is free in the Upper and Middle School libraries and on Mr. Wang’s bbns.org class page.