Wissenschaftlicher Sammelband, herausgegeben von Thomas Tinnefeld - unter Mitarbeit von Christoph Bürgel, Ines-Andrea Busch-Lauer, Frank Kostrzewa, Michael Langner, Heinz-Helmut Lüger, Dirk Siepmann. Saarbrücken: htw saar 2014. ISBN 978-3-942949-05-7.
Taking a Leaf from Each Other’s Book: A Comparative Study of Vocabulary in Chinese Textbooks from China, the UK, and Germany

Yi-Ling Lillian Tinnefeld-Yeh (Saarbrücken, Germany)

Abstract (English)
Focusing on the A1 band of the Common European Framework of Reference for Language Learning (CEFR), the present study explores the introduction and presentation of new words as well as Chinese characters in three Chinese language learning textbooks published in China, the UK, and Germany respectively. Three categories are selected for analysis and comparison on the assumption that the strengths of one textbook can be taken as a point of reference to complement the drawbacks of another: (1) the distribution and presentation of vocabulary, (2) the naturalness of language, exemplified by modal particles and formulaic language, as well as (3) the presentation of Chinese characters. Pedagogical implications arising from the findings of the study are suggested in the hope that the textbooks can be improved by taking a leaf from each other.
Key words: Chinese language learning textbooks, vocabulary comparison, Chinese characters

Abstract (Deutsch)
Ziel des vorliegenden Beitrags ist eine Untersuchung der Einführung und Behandlung neuen Wortschatzes und der jeweils korrespondierenden Schriftzeichen in drei Lehrwerken des Chinesischen, die in drei verschiedenen Ländern entstanden sind - in China, Großbritannien und Deutschland. Dabei erfolgt eine Konzentration auf die Stufe A1 des Gemeinsamen europäischen Referenzrahmens für Sprachen (GeR). Unter der Prämisse, dass die Stärken des einen Lehrwerkes als Bezugsrahmen für die Kompensation entsprechender Schwächen der anderen Lehrwerke dienen mögen, werden für den Vergleich und die Analyse drei zentrale Kategorien zugrunde gelegt: (1) die Wortschatzdistribution und -darstellung, (2) die hier anhand von Modalpartikeln und formelhafter Sprache exemplifizierte Natürlichkeit der Sprache, und (3) die Behandlung der chinesischen Schriftzeichen. In der Hoffnung auf die Wirkung der in dem Beitrag intendierten gegenseitigen Vorbildfunktion der Lehrwerke werden schließlich einige sich aus der Untersuchung ergebende pädagogische Implikationen präsentiert.
Stichwörter: Chinesisch-Lehrwerke, Wortschatzvergleich, chinesische Schriftzeichen

1 Introduction

With the growing economic ties between Germany and China, the recent years have seen an ever increasing number of Germans seeking to learn more about China and the Chinese language. Against this background, a bi-national project called "the Chinese-German Language Year 2013 / 2014” came into being in 2012 so as to further intensify cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Prospective learners of Chinese may wonder how difficult it is to learn the Chinese language. The US Foreign Service Institute (FSI), the Federal Government's primary training institution for officers and support personnel of the US foreign affairs community, provides a clue for orientation. According to the FSI, native speakers of English learning Chinese require far more instructional contact hours (2200) than when learning other languages such as German (750) and hence Chinese is categorised as one of the difficult languages (FSI 1973). The major linguistic difficulties that learners of Chinese usually encounter are the tonal pronunciation system and the Chinese writing system, i.e. the characters (Kupfer 2003, BBC 2006, Mitrovic 2006, Guder 2009). Another difficulty lies in the Chinese vocabulary that imposes a considerable hindrance to the learning speed. Due to the lack of shared cognates with Chinese, speakers of European languages have difficulty making associations with the target language.

In this sense, the significance of vocabulary in the process of language learning should not be underestimated. Wilkins asserts that “while without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed” (Wilkins 1972: 111). Several studies (Pikulski & Templeton 2004, Sénéchal, Ouellette & Rodney 2006, Wagner, Muse & Tannenbaum 2007, Chang 2007, Stæhr 2008, 2009, Webb 2009) also lend support to Wilkins’s statement, confirming that lexical knowledge has a significant, interwoven relationship with all the four language skills. In the context of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL) in which the classroom is the primary source of input, textbooks - apart from the input provided by the teacher - play an indispensable role in learners’ vocabulary acquisition. Such being the case, the way in which vocabulary and characters are presented in Chinese language textbooks, particularly in the textbooks published in different countries, is an interesting issue to be further explored. And this is the very issue that the present paper will focus upon.

Confucius (551 BC - 479 BC), generally acknowledged as the greatest educator and scholar in Chinese history, said, “when I walk along with two others, they can serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them.” (translated by James Legge 1893: 202). Following this motto, the present study aims to present special strengths of each of the selected textbooks. The objective of this approach is for the respective publishing houses to take a leaf out of each other’s book so as to enhance all three textbooks.

2 Selected Textbooks and HSK Vocabulary List

Three CFL textbooks, all targeted at adult learners and / or university students and following a four-skills integrated communicative approach, have been selected for the present study:
  • New Practical Chinese Reader (Textbook 1, English version)
  • Discover China (Student’s Book One)
  • Liao Liao
2.1 Selected Textbooks
2.1.1 New Practical Chinese Reader
As the successor of the time-tested Practical Chinese Reader published in the early 1980s, the New Practical Chinese Reader (hereafter referred to as NPCR) was published by Beijing Language and Culture University Press in China in 2004. In 2010, the second edition was released. As a textbook series of six volumes, NPCR is designed for beginning to intermediate level university students and adult native English learners as well as learners with English as medium of instruction. Though designed for English speakers, NPCR is available in several different language editions and is said to be one of the most acclaimed CFL textbooks. According to the Beijing Language and Culture Press1, a total of nearly 2000 universities across the world are currently using NPCR.

2.1.2 Discover China

Discover China is a collaborative work by a consortium of Chinese language experts and teachers from China and the UK. It was co-published in 2010 by Macmillan Science and Education and one of China's biggest educational publishers, Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, affiliated with Beijing Foreign Studies University. Consisting of four levels, this textbook series is designed for beginning to intermediate level university students and adult learners in English-speaking countries. It was awarded Best Export Title by the General Administration for Press and Publication of China in 2012.

2.1.3 Liao Liao

Published by one of the leading German publishing houses (Hueber) in 2009, Liao Liao is one of the few Chinese textbooks written by a German native for German adult CFL learners. It is also one of the very few textbooks in the present CFL market which follows the guidelines of the CEFR. Consisting of 15 lessons in one volume, Liao Liao clearly targets at learners in the German language zone who wish to reach the CEFR A1 and A2 levels. In 2010, Liao Liao was awarded the Friedhelm-Denninghaus Prize of the German Association of Teachers of Chinese Language (Friedhelm-Denninghaus-Preis des Fachverbandes Chinesisch e.V.) (Hueber 2010) for encouraging learner autonomy by employing an inductive and communicative approach.

The aspects mentioned above show that the three textbooks are the most representative ones presently employed for teaching Chinese as a foreign language, which justifies their choice as data for this study. Given the fact that all learners of any foreign language have to pass the beginning level and that the majority of European learners of Chinese are at the beginner’s level, the study will focus on the A1 band of the CEFR.

Since no CEFR levels are indicated in the NPCR and Discover China course series, the first volume out of six of NPCR and the first level out of four of Discover China will be taken as the relevant study object at the A1 level. Despite the fact that Liao Liao, as a one-shot book, clearly indicates its target as A1 and A2 CEFR levels, no salient borderline is set between the lessons at the two different levels. Hence, the whole book will be taken as the study object.

2.2 HSK Vocabulary List
In this context, it is of importance to take HSK into account. The abbreviation HSK stands for Hanyun Shuiping Kaoshi, also known as Chinese Proficiency Test. It is the only official standardised test in China to evaluate the Chinese competence of non-native speakers. Responding to the levels of the CEFR, a new version of the HSK test was launched after a reformation of the test structure and the proficiency scale system in 2009.

The new HSK was launched with the release of a new graded vocabulary list of 5,000 words distributed into six levels. Table 1 below shows a direct comparison between the new HSK and the CEFR, with the number of words for each level indicated.

(written test)
(oral test)
HSK Level 6
Over 5000
ca. 3000
HSK Level 5
HSK Level 4
ca. 900
HSK Level 3
HSK Level 2
ca. 200
HSK Level 1
Table 1: Comparison between the New HSK and the CEFR

In 2012, a slightly updated version of the vocabulary list was released. Be it the old word list or the new one, the official HSK vocabulary list serves as a convenient source of reference for many CFL learners, teachers, researchers and textbook writers. For the purpose of the present investigation, the 2012 version2 of the vocabulary list for A1 level learners will be taken as a reference.

3 Analysis and Evaluation

3.1 Categories of Analysis
To have quantitative and qualitative evaluation, the following categories have been framed for the investigation of vocabulary in the three textbooks. These categories are:
  • the distribution and presentation of vocabulary,
  • the naturalness of language,
  • the presentation of Chinese characters.

3.2 Evaluation
3.2.1 Distribution and Presentation of Vocabulary
The following section concerns the analysis and evaluation of the distribution and presentation of vocabulary. It is further divided into two subparts: the distribution of lexical items and the presentation of lexical items in single learning units. Distribution of Lexical Items
In terms of vocabulary instruction, one frequently discussed issue concerns the question of how new words can be presented more efficiently. Among different approaches, one that is often employed is to present relevant words in semantic sets or clusters. Although some researchers question the effect of semantic clustering, arguing that this approach impedes rather than fosters vocabulary acquisition (Nation 2000, Erten & Tekin 2008), others suggest that it contributes to the facilitation of vocabulary learning as a supportive technique, assisting learners to expand the network of their mental lexicon (Ellis 1995, Ame 2002, Xu & Li 2011).

With this idea of semantic clustering in mind, the three textbooks will be examined with regards to the distribution of lexical items. In the given context, expressions of poli-teness will serve as the object of analysis as they represent an important set of information relevant for the A1 level, especially in an Asian context. From the present standpoint, these expressions of politeness comprise the communicative devices greeting, thanking, and apologising. As a reference, the relevant lexical items included in the HSK 2012 vocabulary list for A1 level learners are used. (See Table 2)

Table 2: Expressions of politeness in the target textbooks

Given the positive effect of presenting words in semantically related sets, words such as xièxie (‘Thank you’) and búkèqi (‘You are welcome’) or alternatively bú(yòng)xiè (‘Don’t mention it’), duìbuqǐ (‘Sorry’) and méiguānxi (‘It doesn’t matter’) should logically be introduced to learners together as sets so as to respond to their intuitive needs of communication. As can be seen from Table 2, NPCR echoes this expectation by grouping the two sets of basic greetings, and presenting them in the same lessons, respectively. Discover China, however, presents the set of xièxie and búkèqi in different units. As regards the set of duìbuqǐ and méiguānxi, though introducing duìbuqǐ right in Unit 1, Discover China does not include méiguānxi as an item in the vocabulary list of Book 1, hence failing to take learners’ communicative needs into account. Liao Liao, though presenting duìbuqǐ and méiguānxi together in Lesson 11, does not respond to the expectation of the togetherness of xièxie and búkèqi as a duo. While xièxie makes its appearance right in Lesson 1, búkèqi is only introduced 9 lessons later in Lesson 10.

Based on these results, it is plausible to conclude that NPCR, with its approach of presenting words and expressions such as basic expressions of politeness in semantically related sets, can act as a model for the other two textbooks. Presentation of Lexical Items in Single Learning Units
To see how lexical items are presented throughout a teaching unit, the techniques and / or tasks centering on vocabulary in the three textbooks will be examined in the framework of the conventional teaching sequence of pre-, during- and post-phases. Table 3 below provides an overall picture of how vocabulary is dealt with in these textbooks.

As can be seen from Table 3, Discover China takes the treatment of vocabulary as a central, fundamental issue throughout a given teaching unit, presenting vocabulary and designing relevant learning activities respectively in the pre-, during- and post- phases so as to consolidate the learning process. An extra vocabulary learning activity that provides topic-related supplementary words is added at the end of each unit for the expansion of the vocabulary bank. As regards NPCR, though it gives prominence to target lexical items by presenting them in vocabulary lists directly following the dialogue texts, no activity is designed to elaborate and consolidate the learning. Concerning Liao Liao, the treatment of vocabulary hardly receives any attention. Neither a word list nor any relevant learning task is to be found in the learning units.

The two different views on vocabulary acquisition that Discover China and Liao Liao are oriented to, namely “intentional learning” on one hand and “incidental learning” on the other, merit further discussion. In his article, addressing the issue on intentional and incidental second-language vocabulary learning, Hulstijn stresses that “in L2 pedagogy it is important to design tasks which focus learners' attention on vocabulary learning” (Hulstijn 2001: 369). From the pedagogical point of view, he concludes that “incidental and intentional vocabulary learning should be treated as complementary activities which deserve both to be practised” (Hulstijn 2001: 369).

Taking this pedagogical point of view as a reference for the evaluation of the vocabu-lary presentation in the three textbooks, Liao Liao, which adapts an incidental, implicit approach, would be strongly recommended to pay more attention to a vocabulary-highlighted layout by means of a new word list or marginal glosses and come up with word training activities. The same would apply to NPCR, which needs to go beyond the mere presentation of word lists. In addition to these recommendations, specific tasks drawing learners’ attention to vocabulary need to be provided. Taking all the points mentioned above into consideration, it could be reasonable to state that Discover China, which goes in for both incidental and intentional vocabulary learning approaches, can serve as a point of reference for NPCR and Liao Liao.

Vocabulary List
in each lesson/unit
Discover China
Liao Liao
New words are integrated in the “Vocabulary and Listening” activity.
Two new word lists are presented following two dialogue texts respectively with words from the previous lessons marked in a different color.
From Lesson 7 on, a list of topic-related supplementary words is added for flexible learning.
Two new word lists are presented: one for the conversation text; the other for the “Reading and Writing” activity.
No word list. Some selected words are presented sporadically as single items next to texts.
New and previously learnt words are reviewed in a
“Review and Practice” activity
extra activity
More topic-related words are introduced in the “Vocabulary Extension” activity.
A comprehensive “Vocabulary List” lists all the words, target words and non-target words being presented in different colors.
Table 3: Presentation of lexical items in the sequence of pre-, during- and post- teaching
phases in single learning units in the three textbooks

3.2.2 Naturalness of Language
Since most textbook dialogues are concocted for the purpose of language learning, it is worth exploring whether or not the language presented in the dialogues captures the essence of naturally-occurring discourses. In this study, the naturalness of language in the three textbooks will be exemplified by modal particles and formulaic language. Modal Particles
One of the phenomena that permit a reliable evaluation of the naturalness of language is the presentation of the so-called Chinese modal particles.
Lee-Wong, after summarizing different Chinese terms such as ‘helping words’, ‘mood words’ and ‘sentence-final particles’ used by different researchers to describe modal particles, points out that
these particles are essentially discourse-dependent: they often do not have a definite denotative or referential meaning, but they are mainly used, among other things, to convey speakers’ attitude, feeling, stance, and/or disposition in a discourse context (Lee-Wong 1998: 2).
The uniqueness of Chinese modal particles is perhaps best captured by Östman (1981: 84), who stresses that Chinese is based on a differentiated pitch variation system which requires an extensive use of particles so as to express information which, in languages like English, is rendered by intonation.

According to the statistical analysis by Zhou et al. (2010), whose study is based on the 27 million-word corpus of one of the most widely circulated Chinese newspapers, People’s Daily, two of the most frequently used modal particles are A and BA. Hence A and BA are taken as indicators here to investigate the naturalness of dialogues presented in the three textbooks.

In Table 4 and Table 5 below, the common functions of A and BA illustrated with example sentences6 are indicated.
Although NPCR integrates both modal particles, A appears five times, featuring the functions of enthusiasm and doubtful questioning of this modal particle. Concerning BA, it nearly escapes notice with only two occurrences throughout the 14 lessons. In Discover China, BA, however, receives comparably more attention with eight occurrences throughout 12 units. Discover China not only treats BA as a vocabulary item, but also dedicates a grammar activity to it with an inductive learning exercise in Unit 10 (Discover China 2009: 121). In comparison with its treatment of BA, Discover China, nevertheless, does not integrate A in any of its dialogues or texts. No trace of Ais to be found in Discover China at all.

A and BA are presented with a more salient picture in Liao Liao. Throughout the dialogues presented in Liao Liao, both Chinese modal particles are found with a comparatively high frequency - 10 occurrences of A and 25 occurrences of BA, which consequently enhances the naturalness and spontaneity of its scripted dialogues. It is also worth noting that all of the four functions of A are exemplified in Liao Liao. The same is the case with BA in Liao Liao. In Lesson 6, where a dialogue features the topic of price negotiation, three of the four common functions of BA are included, giving a vivid and authentic picture of the use of BA in a daily life context for making suggestions, requests, consents, and questions for confirmation.


Expressing enthusiasm
Expressing obviousness or impatience
Used at the end of an order, warning, etc.
Expressing doubtful questioning
Table 4: Common functions of A


Indicating a suggestion, a request or a mild command
Indicating consent or approval
Forming a leading question which asks for confirmation of a
Indicating some doubt in the
speaker’s mind
Table 5: Common functions of BA

Table 6 below shows the occurrences and example sentences of Aand BAin the three textbooks. The individual functions of Aand BAare indicated at the end of each example sentence (see the numbers of the respective functions in Table 5).

(14 lessons)
Discover China
(12 units)
Liao Liao
(15 lessons)
  • Hǎo a !
(L9, p.113) (i)
  • Nín huì shuō
Hànyǔ a ! (L11, p.150) (i)
  • Nǎ yí wèi a ?
(L13, p.188) (iv)
  • Zhè shì hǎo shì a ! (L14, p.186) (i)
  • Shì a ! (L14, p.186) (i)

  • Tā shì shéi a ? (L2, p.21) (iv)
  • Nín yě shì a ! (L5, p.48) (i)
  • Shì a. (L8, p.70) (ii)
  • Nǐ de Hanyǔ zhēn hǎo a !
(L9, p.76) (i)
  • Shì Zhāng Qiàn a.
(L10, p.92) (ii)
  • Cài, jiǔ dōu zhēn hǎo a.
(L11, p.100) (i)
  • Weiner xiānshēng de Hanyǔ zhēn hǎo a ! (L11, p.100) (i)
  • Wǒ hàn wǒ tàitai dōu bú zài jiā a. (L13, p.114) (ii)
  • Nín yào dǎ biǎo a !
(L14, p.125) (iii)
  • Nín mànzǒu a ! (L14, p.125) (iii)
  • Hǎo ba !
(L12, p.169)
  • Qǐng zuò ba !
(L12, p.170)

  • Mǎi zhè tiáo ba ! (U8,
  • Hǎo ba. (U8, p.94) (ii)
  • Wǒmen yìqǐ qù gòuwù-
zhōngxīn mǎi ba ! (U10, p.117) (i)
  • Wǒmen chī Yìdàlì cài ba ! (U10, p.117) (i)
  • Wǒmen yìqǐ qù tiàowǔ ba ! (U11, p.127) (i)
  • Xiàwǔ qù ba.(U11, p.127) (i)
  • Qù Xiānggǎng ba. (U12, p.136, 137) (i)
  • Zhè dōngxi tài guì le ba !
  • Lǎobǎn, nín mǎi yī song yī ba ! (L3, p.37) (i)
  • Nǐ dōu mǎ ba! (L4, p.35) (i)
  • Zhōngguó shǒujī bú guì ba ? (L4, p.35) (iii)
  • Shì dàobǎn guāndié ba ? (L4, p.38) (iii)
  • Nǐ hái hěn niánqīng ba. (L4, p.35) (iv)
  • Lái kànkan ba. (L6, p.54) (i)
  • Dǎ yìdiǎn zhé ba ! (L6, p.54) (i)
  • Nǐ gěi gè jià ba ! (L6, p.54) (i)
  • Hǎo ba ?(L6, p.54) (iii)
  • Sì kuài ba. (L6, p.54) (i)
  • Xíng ba ! (L6, p.54) (ii)
  • Nín shuō ba ! (L10, p.88) (i)
Table 6: Occurrences and example sentences of Aand BAin the target textbooks

Based on these results, it may be concluded that with the special consideration Liao Liao gives to the use of Chinese modal particles, it steps up a notch above the other two textbooks in terms of the naturalness of spoken language input which it provides for learners. In this respect, Liao Liao shows great potential to serve as a model for NPCR and Discover China. Formulaic Language
There is no denying that formulaic language - i.e. sequences and expressions such as speech formula, fixed expressions, idioms and proverbs - plays an important role in successful communication (Dunn 2006, Ohlrogge 2009, Schmale 2012). Van Lancker-Sidtis & Rallon (2004: 219) state that “overall, all studies reviewed indicate that formulaic expressions constitute a significant proportion of discourse”. For language learners, formulaic expressions or phrases do not only serve as scaffolding for the development of their language fluency and accuracy, they also function as a cultural keyhole through which learners can peek at the target culture. Due to the importance of such expressions and phrases for authenticity in language use, the presentation of formulaic language in the three textbooks will be examined.

Table 7 below illustrates formulaic language introduced in the three textbooks. Five subcategories - colloquial expressions, fixed expressions, set phrases, four-character idioms (chéngyǔ), and proverbs have been chosen to present an overall picture of the data collected and to compare the data in detail.

A glance at the table reveals that NPCR does not cover set phrases, four-character idioms and proverbs. In Discover China, set phrases and proverbs are not included. Liao Liao, on the contrary, presents formulaic expressions across all the categories indicated. It is easy to see, then, that Liao Liao’s strong point lies in the treatment of formulaic language. This is true both quantitatively and qualitatively. For those language instructors who take formulaic language to be an important issue in learning Chinese, this textbook will be their first choice7. NPCR, even though it cannot reach Liao Liao’s standard, still represents an acceptable treatment of formulaic language. Discover China, on the contrary, does not give as much attention to it as the other two textbooks, thus presenting itself as a textbook which attaches importance to other domains of language learning. In this sense, Liao Liao sets an example for NPCR and Discover China in terms of the language authenticity that it provides for learners.

3.2.3 Presentation of Chinese Characters
The Chinese written script employs single individual distinctive symbols, or rather char-acters. As Chinese characters Hànzì (or “morphemes” from the perspective of logographic writing systems) originated from drawings of objects and a symbolic depiction of things, they are pictographic and ideographic and, thus, highly imaginable (Lu et al. 2010, Chuang & Ku 2011). Take the character rén (person, people) (Chen 2013), for example:

Formulaic Language

Discover China

  • hǎo (L7)
  • Wǒ wèn yíxià.(L7)
  • Wǒ kàn yíxià.(L8)

  • zhēn bàng (U3)
Fixed expressions
  • Tài hǎo le! (L6)
  • hěn yǒu yìsi (L6)
  • zhēn yǒu yìsi (L9)
  • Zhù hè nǐ.(L13)
  • zhù nǐ lǚxíng kuàilè (L14)
  • bù hǎoyìsi (L14)
  • màn zǒu (U4)
  • Tài hǎo le! (U6)
  • Jiāyóu! (U11)
Set phrases
Four-character idioms
  • bújiàn-búsàn (U8)
  • yílù-shùnfēng (U10)

Table 7: Formulaic language in the target textbooks

Many of the pictographic characters have become radicals or fundamental components of contemporary characters8. A crucial issue concerning the teaching of Chinese characters is, therefore, how to help learners develop associations between orthographic forms and semantic meanings by constructing mental images to relate the characters with their meanings (Tomizawa et al. 2013) and to “activate a word-to-image referential connection” (Kuo & Hopper 2004: 32).

This issue being raised, the three textbooks will be further analysed pertaining to how information about Chinese characters is presented and how the Chinese characters are taught. The following overview illustrates the features of each textbook in terms of the presentation and introduction of Chinese characters:

  • Under the title Chinese characters, the information presented in each lesson falls into three sub-categories: 1. Key information, 2. Learn and write basic 
  • Chinese characters, 3. Learn and write the Chinese characters appearing in the texts.
  • Key information, apportioned into each lesson, covers the following topics: basic strokes of Chinese characters, rules of stroke order, combined character strokes, the combination of strokes, Chinese character components, the structure of Chinese characters, consulting a Chinese dictionary, using radicals, consulting a Chinese dictionary arranged by pinyin alphabetical order.
  • Picture illustrations of some selected characters are given in each lesson to show the association between the respective target characters and their meanings.
  • A character index in alphabetical order is included in the appendices.

    Discover China
  • In the “Getting Started” unit (2010: 12-13), brief information about radicals and character writing, including the basic strokes and the rules of stroke order is given.
  • Under the title "Character Writing", each unit (12 units in total) features two common radicals in characters from the context of the unit, totalling 24 radicals in Book 1. The "Character Writing" part is composed of three activities, following the introduction of the two target radicals: 1. Look at the characters and identify the radicals, 2. Match the words with the meanings, 3. Trace the characters in the boxes.
  • Apart from the introduction of 24 common radicals, extra etymological infor-mation about Chinese characters is presented under the title “Enjoy Chinese” as a learning activity in three review units. Review 1 (2010: 60) features the character lǎo (‘old’) and words associated to it. Review 3 (2010: 148) features the character xué (‘to learn’) and some associated words such as 学生 xuésheng (‘student’) and 大学 dàxué (‘university’). Review 2 (2010: 104) provides a task requiring learners to match modern characters with their ancient pictographic images.

    Liao Liao
  • Throughout the whole book, only one part in Lesson 1 (2009: 11-12) is dedi-cated to the instruction of Chinese characters. Under the title “汉字 Hànzì-Schritfzeichen” in Lesson 1, information about 10 different types of Chinese strokes is introduced, followed by a task that requires students to count the number of strokes as well as to recognise the stroke types.
  • Brief information about the Chinese radicals is provided (2009: 11) with two rad-icals as examples - (‘woman’) and (‘child’, ‘son’), which are also independent pictographic characters. The evolution of the two characters from the ancient to the contemporary forms is illustrated.
  • An exhaustive list of 214 Chinese radicals with example characters is presented in the appendices.

As can be noted from the description above, all three textbooks give due attention to Chinese radicals. As far as the approach for the instruction of Chinese characters is concerned, NPCR attaches great value to a systematic and holistic presentation of information. Nevertheless, the information it presents goes one way without interactive learning activities or tasks designed around it to involve, activate and motivate learners.

As regards Discover China, the information it provides is not as comprehensive as that given in NPCR, but a close look at these selected pieces of information reveals that they are brief and concise and directly followed by learning tasks with examples, which arguably is time-efficient and can be pedagogically effective. By starting with the introduction of common radicals and the task of matching radicals with their ancient pictographic images, Discover China paves the way for learners’ awareness of radicals, helping them to develop a sense of Chinese characters. Concerning Liao Liao, apart from the exhaustive radical index in the appendices, only part of Lesson 1 offers information about Chinese characters, with some learning activities designed to give ex-amples. No other learning activities are provided in the whole book, as is the case with NPCR. Pedagogically speaking, introducing common radicals through activities such as identifying the radicals of characters can be taken as a functional approach to raise learners’ interest and their awareness of the structural forms of Chinese characters, particularly at the beginners’ level when learners still have presumed difficulties with the Chinese written script and when their preference for the development of speaking and listening skills holds priority over that of reading and writing skills.

Taking all this into account, in the sense that Chinese character learning can be and should be an exploratory and inspiring linguistic and cultural experience, the way in which Discover China presents Chinese characters as well as its design of integrated learning activities are to be recommended as a reference for the other two textbooks.

4 Discussions and Limitations of the Study

4.1 Findings and Pedagogical Implications
Three pedagogical implications, intentionally formulated in a catchy and retainable way here, can be drawn from the findings of the present study.

4.1.1 Make it Bitable and Accessible
Concerning the distribution of new lexicon introduced in each learning unit, the present study has examined the three textbooks in their treatment of semantic clusters, using words for basic expressions of politeness included in the A1 vocabulary list of the official HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) for reference. In this domain, NPCR can serve as a model.

A pedagogic implication concerning semantic mapping is the implementation of this concept in the presentation of words in the form of a word list or a vocabulary index. In addition to an overall word list which presents words by their sequence of appearance in the texts, as is the case with NPCR and Discover China, and a vocabulary index that shows words in alphabetical order, as is the case with all the three textbooks, it is suggested that an overall vocabulary index be provided, with lexical items grouped by semantic field and / or categorised by theme and / or by part of speech so as to reinforce and enhance learners’ vocabulary retention.

Concerning the presentation of lexical items in single learning units, Discover China stands out from the other textbooks in that it distributes new words tactically into pre- and during-activities and consolidates them in the post-activity. Supplementary topic-related words are introduced in the vocabulary extension activities for flexible learning. Apart from that, two new word lists are provided, accompanying a dialogue text and a reading text, respectively. All the words are presented again in an overall vocabulary list at the end of each learning unit, with target words and non-target words set out in different colors for easy reference and for learners to visualize the number of words that they have learned. From a psychological and a pedagogical perspective, it is important that textbook writers take into account the learners’ potential mental burden that arises from their confrontation with long lists of new words to be learnt by heart by dosing the new words into small, “bitable” portions and by designing reinforcement activities or tasks for learners to review and practice them. As an alternative to confronting learners with lists of new words, those words that are easy to comprehend can be presented in the form of a marginal glossary.

4.1.2 Go ‘Modal and Natural’

Since modal particles often appear in daily use to make language more vivid and to express intense feelings or attitudes, the occurrence of Chinese modal particles can be taken as a salient feature of natural conversation. The present study examined the presentation and occurrence of modal particles in three Chinese language learning textbooks and found that Liao Liao presents the best picture of modal particles in terms of quality and quantity. As mentioned above, the author of Liao Liao is a German na-tive, while the authors of the other two textbooks are Chinese natives, although Discover China was composed in joint cooperation of CFL and EFL experts. In this study, it is most stimulating to find that the naturalness of language seems to be given considerably more attention by German textbook writers. A possible reason for this phenomenon might be the fact that the linguistic feature of modal particles is also to be found in German. For the authors and publishing houses in China that aim to expand their market into the German language communities, this aspect certainly represents an issue that merits more consideration and further exploration.

As for the integration and presentation of formulaic language, the present study has found that Liao Liao stands out from the other two textbooks, qualitatively and quantitatively speaking. In Liao Liao, peculiar Chinese formulaic language, such as commonly used four-character idioms and proverbs, are introduced, which is not the case with NPCR and not so much the case with Discover China.

4.1.3 Befriend Radicals
A crucial pedagogical issue concerning the teaching of Chinese characters is how to encourage and motivate learners, particularly beginners, to embark on the journey of linguistic “character building”. A good starting point certainly is to raise learners’ aware-ness of the radicals since most of them are rather imageable and thus imaginable. Another argument for the practice of radical awareness is that it facilitates learners’ recognition of characters, which partially paves the way for the training of Chinese typ-ing right at the beginning level since learners merely need to select the right characters instead of handwriting them.

Among the three textbooks, NPCR and Liao Liao represent two opposite trends: NPCR goes for an extensive introduction to the system of Chinese characters while Liao Liao places little emphasis on it. It may be argued that the development of oral and listening competence in CFL settings should take priority over that of reading and writing competence and, hence, class time spent on character instruction should be reduced to a minimum. An eclectic approach may, therefore, be a welcome idea, as is found with Discover China.

Three more aspects concerning this issue also need to be addressed. Firstly, radicals frequently combined with other components to form characters should be introduced first. Apart from that, the example characters illustrating these common radicals should be selected from frequently used words. Words listed in the HSK vocabulary lists across different levels serve as a good source of reference in this case, for they enjoy a high frequency of use. In addition, modern multimedia resources as online complementary support for textbooks should, if possible, be offered to encourage learning to go beyond the classroom setting. Publishing houses can provide interactive Internet software or mobile applications featuring vocabulary flashcards or animations for the writing of characters for learners to have easier access to practising vocabulary and character writing.

4.2 Limitations of the Study
It should be pointed out that two factors may affect the generalisation of the results of this study. To begin with, the study was confined to using the beginning level volumes of the NPCR and the Discover China series while Liao Liao is a one-shot book for A1 to A2 level learners. A further study will thus be needed to examine the three textbooks at A1 and A2 levels, including the presumed A2 level volumes of NPCR and Discover China.

Furthermore, the three textbooks are designed for two target groups with different lan-guage backgrounds. NPCR and Discover China target learners with English as their mother tongue or medium of instruction, whereas Liao Liao is for learners with German as their mother tongue or language of instruction. As such, target learners’ general learning styles and preferences, their learning experiences with other European languages as well as their potential attitudes towards Chinese words might have been decisive factors that led to the different approaches for treating vocabulary in the three textbooks. An additional study, using the three textbooks as study objects so as to explore to what extent learners’ mother tongues and their prior learning experiences of other languages influence teachers’ and students’ choices of textbooks would be an inspiring and worthwhile enterprise.

5 Conclusion

The present study has analysed the ways of vocabulary presentation and instruction in three textbooks and confirmed the suggestion that the forte of one textbook can serve as a model for the others. NPCR’s forte is the distribution of lexical items by cluster formation. Discover China is best at presenting lexical items in single learning units and treating Chinese characters, while Liao Liao is the best choice to familiarise students with the naturalness of the Chinese language. If the respective strength of each textbook were exploited by the other textbooks, i.e. a leaf being taken out of each other’s book, the outcome would lead to the best possible learning effect for students, with their language knowledge, language skills as well as their language attitude being enhanced.

All in all, it can be stated that it is possible to learn Chinese efficiently with all the three textbooks. They all serve the purpose they aim at: to promote the Chinese language and to facilitate the learning of students desiring to learn this beautiful language which is also considered “top language worldwide for business other than English" (Lauerman 2011).

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Instead of zàijiàn (‘goodbye’), Discover China introduces yīhuìr jiàn (‘see you later’) in Unit 4 “Chinese to Go” box (p. 50) and bújiàn-búsàn (‘Let’s not leave without seeing each other.’ ‘Be sure to wait.’ ‘Be there or be square.’), yīyán-wéidìng (‘That’s settled’) in Unit 6 “Chinese to Go” box (p. 84).

Apart from zàijiàn (‘goodbye’), Liao Liao also introduces bújiàn-búsàn (‘Be there or be square.’) in Lesson 6.

Apart from duìbuqǐ (‘I am sorry’), Discover China also introduces bùhǎoyìsi (‘sorry’, ‘excuse me’) in Unit 9, NPCR introduces it in Lesson14 while Liao Liao does so in Lesson 7.

Cf. Pleco for Android (Chinese English Dictionary) under the entries of ‘Aand ‘BA; free download at http://www.pleco.com/android.html; 02.12.2013.

Nevertheless, it is arguable whether proverbs like Shuō (dào) Cáocāo, Cáocāo jiù dào. (‘Speak of the devil and he will appear’) (in L5) should be introduced to learners at such an early stage for beginners, not to mention the unique Chinese four-character idioms which denote profound cultural and historical information and allusions. Although some four-character idioms like mǎmǎhūhū (‘so-so’) (in L1) and bújiàn-búsàn (‘Be there or be square’) (in L7) are often used by Chinese natives in the daily life context of natural dialogues, other four-character idioms like láokǔ-gōnggāo (‘to have worked hard and performed a valuable service’) (in L6) tend to be used as formal, written language.

To take a simple case, the charactermíng (‘bright’) is composed of the pictographic char-acter (‘sun’, ‘day’) and the pictographic character yuè (‘month’, ‘moon’).