There is a moment in the early stages of learning Chinese where I will tell my students something along these lines: “Next week, come to class and be able to write all 10 of these characters from memory.”
“What!? Memorise all 10 of these words?! By heart!?”
I am often met with a sharp intake of breath, and a little shock.
You may know a friend of mine called ‘mudi’ from last week’s article.
A mudi is a ‘goal’ that features in nearly everything I do each lesson, and indeed each day.
This week, allow me to introduce a new member, closely related to Mudi: the Tingxie.
(Note: Tingxie is pronounced 'tingsheer'. Ting, as in ‘ting’ from ‘hunting’, and ‘xie’ like the English word ‘Sheer’)
What is a Tingxie?
A Tingxie is basically a dictation exercise: it literally means ‘listen + write’.
I read out words, and watch as students write them from memory.
Once everyone is acquainted with Tingxie, this new member of our class shows up almost every lesson.
Even though it can be stressful and time-consuming preparing for a Tingxie, I have students who adore it.
Why do I do this?!
Because Chinese is a language that has no alphabet, and is made up of thousands of symbols.
You won't make long-term progress without being able to recognise characters.
When I can see someone is able to write a character from memory, I know they will swim when thrown into a pool of Chinese text.
Writing things down from memory - the Tingxie - is the key.
In our lives, writing things down helps too.
Beyond learning to write a symbol-based language like Chinese, writing has been proven to help us achieve our Mudis (goals), in so many ways.
Here are 3:
1. Writing things down helps us process.
I’ve long remembered this quote, because it has been true for me:
“Thoughts disentangle themselves, passing through lips and fingertips.” - Dawson Trotman
In the book, ‘Emotional Agility’, Susan David also speaks about the power of writing to help process emotions and experiences.
There’s a reason why important contracts are signed in person, and by hand, often with witnesses.
The written word holds weight in real life, and in our minds.
2. Writing helps us get it done.
Research has also shown that writing something down helps you get it done.
Writing your thoughts, and even better, your mudis (goals), is one way to boost the chances that you will make it happen.
3. Writing it means it is strong in your mind
When I see my students are able to write a character from memory, I know we’re going to have a smooth lesson.
It shows me the words are secure in their minds.
Some might argue there are successful people who never write anything down.
I often find these same people are often ones who are so clear in their minds about their goals, they hardly need to write them.
But maybe you, too, have a dream like that: one that keeps circling back around in your mind.
All the research shows writing it down might help you make it a reality.
Apparently, not many people are able to write any of their Mudis (goals) down from memory.
Do yours flow from your mind - or pen - easily?
If not, a little bit of "Tingxie practice" might be just the boost you need.