I want to learn Chinese grammar (e.g. sentence structure), however, I am a highly visual person and feel a visual learning process would help me the most.

I have already taken a beginner Chinese Mandarin class in school but somehow feel it could've been taught visually and I might have learned better. I feel the way my teacher has gone about it with reading textbooks full of text is hurting me.

Anyway, wondering if similar visual thinkers have found ways they've used to understand the grammar faster and better.

  • You're asking about both grammar and characters... That's quite broad. I suggest you only ask about grammar, because there is already a question about characters. Also another related question.
    – Alenanno
    Aug 25, 2012 at 11:50
  • I guess your teacher has to notice this fact about you and adjust their teaching programme accordingly. If they don't, it's a bad teacher! :) Aug 25, 2012 at 12:20
  • @Alenanno ah I see. Will update question and ask only about grammar. Thanks. there's lots of students and I'm a quiet student. I imagine it's difficult to tailor to everyone's way of learning.
    – damx
    Aug 25, 2012 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Full Disclosure: I haven't tried this for studying Chinese but in English it seems to work quite well. I haven't a Doctorate in Educational Sciences or the like but have been teaching grammar to all ages and many nationalities of close to 10 years.

The method is based on Cuisenaire rods(coloured rods of differing lengths, the smallest being 1cm long(white) and the longest being 10cm(orange) the intermediate rods increasing in length one cm at a time.) While originally these rods were used to explain complicated mathematical concepts visually, Caleb Gattegno brought this concept initially to teaching literacy, and then to learning foreign languages. It came to be part of a teaching system called the Silent Way(since then has largely fallen out of favour.)

OK, done with history. Gattegno used these rods to replace parts of speech(or syllables for sentence stress) and then would drill the students on proper placement. With my students, and a handful of different colour pens, we would construct sentences based on colour. The learning curve was steeper than many educationalists had claimed and I finally found it worked for extremely visual learners, and those with ADD(in my experience two boys 13 and 15 years old).

As an example take the sentence:


Since we already would have established the parts of speech as having corresponding colours, for the sake of the example.

我 is blue 想买 is green 几个 is orange 方形 is orange 扣子 is red

So when you see this sentence your mind should automatically associate the part of speech/colour with that position and by imagining other words of the same colour inhabiting those regions reinforces the structure(drills).

Perhaps these structures will help to the explanation:



把has no colour as a participle.(In English, I left the prepositions, articles and conjunctions, etc. black(vid. no special colour)) Because I am familiar with these colours I can easily see the grammatical difference. My tutor can explain the difference semantically.

I don't believe I can add colour here and I haven't found an organization online that is using the same methodology. I am currently training my Chinese tutor in this method because I find I know it very well and it works for me. Also, I have helped many adults pass government exams on grammar and writing using this method. As you said, I feel textbooks hinder rather than help and have slowly been building my own "textbook" according to this and other methods I like for myself.


Your question is a little related to this question

In @dusan's answer, it is recommended to try Memrise.

I have just started to try it, and have decided to use it for a long time. (all the more so that it also supports Spanish, Latin, German, Russian, and many other languages).

It is sheer visual learning, backed with Space Repetition. Lessons goes like a breeze...

When the tests covered the some words that I already knew... I really like/preferred their combination of visual and mnemonics. I won't give up my lesson books, but this site looks really great, and as long as i'll learn new sinograms with it, I'll continue using it.

Try it.

Edit: and I have discovered there are dozens of sets of lessons !

  • Actually, memrise does not really teach grammar, only vocabulary, as far as I am aware. Even if it is a good tool, I am not sure it answers the question.
    – Xavier T.
    Aug 27, 2012 at 12:26

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