16 June 2017

Memory in Mandarin

This term, I started to explore how long term memory helps students to learn Mandarin.  There are some students who struggle when they are asked to write the Chinese characters. In order for one to write the exact Chinese characters, one is required to go through information processes in order to produce accurate Chinese characters. Furthermore, by understanding the importance of information processes in learning, educators can be more effective in enhancing specific procedures and teaching methods to accommodate the struggle faced by some.

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that there are differences between short term memory and long term memory. Short term memory  relates to what we are thinking about at any given moment in time. It is created by students paying attention to an external stimulus, an internal thought, or both. It will initially last somewhere around 15 to 20 seconds unless it is repeated.  On the other hand, long-term memory means that the information is relatively easily recalled. The short term memory can transfer to become long-term memory if repetition, elaboration and distributed practice are developed well in the learning journey.

There are several examples of elaboration that are can trigger students learning which helps to promote long-term memory in classroom. Not only these activate critical thinking, they also activate creative thinking for students at the same time.


How to generate Long Term Memory in the Classroom? 



1. Get the students' attention

·         use cues indication when you are ready to begin to teach

·         move around the classroom and use voice inflections

2.  Use image rather than word

·         create a fantastic impression

·         a mental picture is created and saved in long term memory

4. Present information in an organised manner

  • Show a logical sequence in learning the particular skills
  • go from simple to complex when presenting new concepts

5. Show students how to categorise related information

  • present information in categories

5. Apply the method of linkage

  • link the Chinese characters to an ideas or things to    be remembered

7. Use rhyming (songs, phrases) in teaching and learning process

·         information used to be remembered is arranged in a rhyme form

·         make learning fun and interesting

8. Provide for repetition of learning

  • recap the essence of the last lesson
  • schedule a periodic review of previously learnt skills


Figure 1: The Principles & the respective examples of the teaching method processes in order to generate Long- Term Memory.


Information processing is just like attention and memory changes with age and influences students’ thinking. This theory has led to instructional changes that enhance scholastic performance as well. We as teachers should encourage our students to think in creative and critical ways. Teachers can make the lesson more fun by providing the opportunities for students to learn. A well-prepared structured lesson is able to encourage the meta-cognitive knowledge acquisition in students’ learning.

Soon Saw Imm
Mandarin Teacher


Atkinson, R., & Shiffrin, R. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control     

     processes. In K Spence & J Spence (Eds.). The psychology of learning and motivation:  

     Advances in research and theory (Vol. 2). New York: Academic Press.

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Information Processing - Simply Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/information-processing.html


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