Spread the love

What is expected of our kids for Chinese comprehension?

Chinese comprehension, or 阅读理解 yue4 du2 li2 jie3, is one of the major components of the end-of-year (EOY) exam that Primary 2 to 6 kids are expected to do.

For this examination section, our primary school kids are supposed to read a given passage, comprehend its content and then answer a few questions based on their understanding of it.

There are 2 kinds of Chinese comprehension in the paper – multiple-choice-questions (MCQ) and open-ended (the kind where our kid needs to phrase their own answers).

Why is Chinese comprehension so tough?

Chinese comprehension is something that most kids are weak in, and most kids are quite resistant about doing them.

Luckily, you don’t really have to do multiple practices or exercises to be good at Chinese Comprehension. More on that later.

For now, let’s learn why Chinese comprehension is so hard for our kids:

Chinese comprehension is a test of many skills

As Chinese name for comprehension goes, 阅读理解, 阅读 means reading in Chinese and 理解 means understanding.

Hence, to be good at Chinese comprehension, a kid has to be good in multiple areas – reading, understanding, writing and expressing.

1. Comprehension in Chinese vs comprehension in English

Let’s start with the 阅读 part, which is essentially reading the Chinese passage.

Before we talk about answering any Chinese comprehension question, the first hurdle that our kids have to cross is to understand what they’ve read in the Chinese comprehension passage. This is the “comprehend” part.

How many Chinese characters can your kid recognise?

Chinese comprehension passages have an added layer of difficulty unlike its English counterpart because our kids need to be able to recognise Chinese characters before they can read them.

If your kid has problems doing that, it’s going to quite tough for them to read the passage, let alone understand it.

If they have no problem with the Chinese words, the next concern will stem from understanding. After all, being able to read the passage can be different from understanding it.

Does your kid have the patience to finish reading the Chinese passage?

Since most of the Chinese comprehension passages can be quite long, some kids may switch off when they see a wall of text.

As a result, they tend to skim through passages, missing out on important points or jumping to conclusions about what they have read. This will affect how much and how accurate they understand what they have read and result in them giving the wrong answers for the comprehension questions that come later.

This is the 理解 part.

2. Answering the Chinese comprehension questions

Next comes the Chinese comprehension questions. When it comes to answering this questions, there are another 2 hurdles to cross.

Understanding what is asked

First, our kids need to understand what the comprehension questions are asking in Chinese in order to answer them correctly.

Do their answers reflect what they are thinking

Then, they’ll need to make sure that they answer the question. While they are doing that, they’ll also need to be able to express their thoughts accurately in Chinese. Kids who are weak in Chinese will find this hard because most of the time, what they write means a different thing from what they have in mind.

So which of these challenges does your kid face difficulty with when they are doing their compre?

Now that we’ve identified the common problems that kids have with Chinese compre, let’s learn how we can do well in Chinese comprehension.

5 Tips to improve Chinese Comprehension

Here are the top 5 tips I have to improve their Chinese reading comprehension skills to do well. Build these habits into your child’s daily routines and you’ll be one step closer to AL1.

1. Practise reading Chinese with the Chinese textbook your kid uses in school

Yes, I’m referring to the 欢乐伙伴 (huan le huo ban) Chinese textbook.

How this helps your child understand comprehension passages better

The Chinese textbook contains all the essential vocabulary that you need to master for your current primary school level.

This means that if you can read all the Chinese characters in your school textbook, you’ll have no problems reading the characters that appear in your Chinese comprehension passage.

What if your child finds this hard?

Well, you can start with the Chinese textbook that they’ve used the previous year to make it easier.

Getting your child to read a textbook that is one level lower will not only help them revise the words that they’ve missed out, but also help them builds up their confidence in the Chinese language over time.

Once they are ok, you can then switch the Chinese textbook back to the current one that they should be using.

2. Watch Chinese cartoons / animes / drama with Chinese subtitles

Most kids love this method because this activity is fun and interesting to them, requires no effort but works wonders.

This is also a tested and proven method tried by yours truly. (Yes, that’s the personal secret of how someone from an English-speaking family can become a Chinese teacher ^^”)

How this helps your child read better

As our kids watch these Chinese cartoons, animes or drama, we want them to watch and hear how the characters speak. The Chinese subtitles will come in handy as they look at them either consciously or subconsciously. They can revise the Chinese characters that they’ve already learnt in school and they can also pick up how new Chinese characters look like as they are being used in different contexts.

Over time, it’s going to be a huge boost to your kid’s comprehension skills. The more Chinese characters they know, the easier it is for them to understand what they are reading in the comprehension passage.

If you need some suggestions, let me share some personal favourites here:

3. Read Chinese comics or Chinese-translated Japanese mangas to improve your reading skills

We don’t want our kids to keep looking at the screen all the time.

Another way to help them improve their Chinese comprehension skills offline is to get them used to reading Chinese text.

This can be in the form of Chinese comics or Chinese-translated Japanese mangas. You can also try Chinese storybooks if you want, but from experience, I realised that kids are more resistant to these.

How this helps your child’s comprehension skills

There are many benefits to reading Chinese comics or Chinese-translated Japanese mangas. There’s a good variety that caters to the interests of kids and also, the dialogues are often short and easier to digest, so kids actually tend to focus better and this in turn trains their patience to read too.

What we want to achieve here is for our kids to learn how to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words from the context (the keywords and phrases) within the story. Once they master this powerful skill, they can apply the exact same skill to decipher the difficult words they see in their Chinese comprehension passages in school.

If you need some recommendations of the starter comics I used with my primary school kids, here are a few personal favourites for your consideration. You can get these reading resources quite easily at Popular bookstore:

4. Read Chinese storybooks

If you ask any Chinese teacher what’s the best way to improve Chinese, I’m sure they’ll tell you to ask your child read Chinese books. Since I’m not just any Chinese teacher, this is never the first tip I tell my parents.

Reading Chinese books sounds good in theory, but it’s hard to get your child to do it in real life.

However, should your child be open to it. Here’s what I can advise:

First, pick the right Chinese storybooks that are suitable for your child’s reading level. Don’t buy the books according to any recommended Chinese storybooks list. Most of these lists are imagined according to the average standard of Chinese that a primary kid should have but we all know that each kid is different.

Instead, get your own kid to choose.

This will ensure that the storybooks appeal to their interests. It doesn’t matter if they choose those with simpler language or those that come in pinyin, the goal is for them to keep reading and persist even if there are a few new Chinese characters here and there that they don’t recognise. Don’t make them feel overwhelmed. Them picking up a Chinese storybook is already much better than none at all.

5. Use daily conversations to practise answering Chinese comprehension questions

Before you imagine it as a Q and A session with your kid, the idea is not to be mechanical about it.

Create opportunities for your child to practise answering questions in Chinese by asking them casual questions like how’s their day in school (你今天在学校好吗?)or what they have done (今天在学校做了什么?)in Chinese and hear what your kid has to say.

The goal here is to encourage them to answer in Chinese so that they can practise their answering skills and express themselves better using the language.

Don’t expect them to answer you in full Chinese at the start. It’s ok if they answer in English and mix in a few Chinese words. It’s already more Chinese than what they usually speak. Do it in moderation.

If your kid gets stuck while answering you in Chinese, be encouraging and teach them the right way to answer or find out how to do that together. This can be a family bonding activity.

Speaking works just as well as writing and it’s thrice as fun! I’m sure your child would be happier sharing their interesting stories with their beloved mum/dad rather than answering boring Chinese comprehension practice questions! ;p


I hope this post has given you a better understanding of Chinese comprehension and sparked some ideas that you can use to help your child improve their Chinese comprehension skills.

Check out these other posts on to learn how to do better for your Chinese composition or oral exam if you are aiming to improve your Chinese in primary school.

Leave a Reply

Close Bitnami banner