Can Chinese Proverbs be Useful as Teaching Tools?

As homeschooling continues to grow in popularity, parents and educators are constantly seeking new and effective teaching tools to engage and educate their children. If you’re looking to teach your kids something beneficial to them, you may want to turn to Chinese proverbs, especially if your curriculum involves a foreign language like Chinese.  

Chinese proverbs have been a cornerstone of Chinese culture for centuries, offering valuable insights into history, culture, and philosophy. These ancient sayings can also be useful tools for homeschooling parents and educators.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of using Chinese proverbs as teaching tools and provide practical tips for incorporating them into your homeschooling curriculum. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or educator looking to add some cultural diversity and wisdom to your teaching approach, read on to discover the benefits of using Chinese proverbs as a teaching tool.

Benefits of Using Chinese Proverbs as Teaching Tools?

Chinese proverbs can be very useful as teaching tools because they can benefit any learner in many ways, such as:

Aids in memorization

Proverbs are concise and easy to remember, making them an effective way to teach a message that students can recall later on. Proverbs are often short and concise and use vivid imagery, making them easier for students to remember than longer, more complex text passages. This is especially true for students who struggle with memorization or have shorter attention spans.

Proverbs are also typically passed down from generation to generation, so they have already stood the test of time regarding their ability to be remembered and passed on. This makes them a valuable resource for teachers who want to convey important messages to their students in a way that will stick with them.

The use of proverbs in teaching can also help to reinforce key concepts and ideas that have already been covered in class. For example, a proverb like “practice makes perfect” can be used to remind students of the importance of regular practice and hard work in achieving their goals.

Provides insights into the Chinese culture

Many Chinese proverbs reflect important aspects of Chinese culture and can provide insights into Chinese values, beliefs, and traditions.

Chinese proverbs often reflect the values, beliefs, and traditions of Chinese culture, which can provide students with valuable insights into Chinese society and history. For instance, the proverb “好了伤疤忘了疼” (hǎo le shāng bā wàng le téng) translates to “once the scar is healed, the pain is forgotten.” This proverb illustrates the Chinese emphasis on resilience and the importance of moving forward after experiencing hardship.

Another example is the proverb “吃一堑,长一智” (chī yī qiàn, zhǎng yī zhì) which means “You learn from your mistakes.” This proverb emphasizes the importance of learning from one’s mistakes and developing wisdom through experience, which is a common value in Chinese culture.

Additionally, some proverbs may have historical or mythological origins, providing students with insights into Chinese history and mythology. For instance, the proverb “杀鸡儆猴” (shā jī jǐng hóu), which translates to “kill the chicken to scare the monkey,” has its roots in ancient Chinese history, where punishments were sometimes meted out in a way that was intended to deter others from committing similar offenses.

By using Chinese proverbs in the classroom, students can gain a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and history, which can help to foster cross-cultural understanding and respect. By exploring the cultural context of proverbs, students can develop critical thinking skills and gain a more nuanced understanding of the complexities of language and culture.

Helps in practicing the Chinese language

Helps in practicing the Chinese language

Using Chinese proverbs as teaching tools can help students practice their Chinese language skills as they learn new vocabulary and grammar structures in context.

Using Chinese proverbs as teaching tools can effectively help students practice their Chinese language skills. Chinese proverbs are often rich in vocabulary and use complex sentence structures, making them an ideal resource for language practice.

When teaching Chinese proverbs, educators can introduce students to new vocabulary words, idioms, and expressions that they may not encounter in everyday conversation. This can help students expand their Chinese vocabulary and better understand the language.

Also, Chinese proverbs often use idiomatic expressions and metaphors, which can be challenging for non-native speakers to understand. By teaching Chinese proverbs, educators can help students practice their comprehension skills as they learn to decipher the meaning of these expressions in context.

Besides expanding vocabulary and improving comprehension skills, using Chinese proverbs can also help students practice their grammar skills. Chinese proverbs often use complex sentence structures and grammar patterns, providing opportunities for students to practice and reinforce their understanding of Chinese grammar.

Finally, using Chinese proverbs as teaching tools can help students develop a deeper appreciation for the nuances and complexities of the Chinese language. By examining the cultural and historical context of the proverb, students can gain a deeper understanding of the language and culture and develop a more nuanced understanding of how language reflects and shapes cultural values and beliefs.

It can be fun and interactive

It can be fun and interactive

Chinese proverbs can be fun and interactive and can be used in exciting learning activities such as games, discussions, and creative writing exercises. It’s a great way to engage students and make learning more enjoyable. Here are a few ways to use it to engage students:

  • Proverb games – Teachers can create games using Chinese proverbs as a fun way to reinforce learning. For instance, a teacher can create a crossword or word search puzzle using words and phrases from a proverb. The students can work together to solve the puzzle and then discuss the meaning of the proverb as a group.
  • Proverb discussions – Teachers can use Chinese proverbs as a starting point for classroom discussions. Students can share their thoughts and opinions about the proverb and relate it to their own experiences. This can help students develop critical thinking skills and learn how to express themselves effectively in Chinese.
  • Creative writing exercises – Teachers can assign creative writing exercises that involve using a Chinese proverb as inspiration. For example, students can write a short story or a poem that incorporates the meaning of the proverb in a creative way. This can help students develop their writing skills and encourage them to think creatively.
  • Role-playing activities – Teachers can use Chinese proverbs as a basis for role-playing activities. For instance, students can act out a scenario based on the proverb and then discuss the meaning of the proverb in relation to the scenario they just acted out.

Has universal themes and offers life lessons

Some proverbs convey universal themes that are applicable across cultures and can teach students valuable life lessons.

There are many famous Chinese proverbs; here are some examples and their English translations:

1. 一步一个脚印 (yī bù yī gè jiǎo yìn)

English translation: One step at a time

It’s a saying that reminds one to slowly, carefully, and deliberately do things to succeed instead of rushing into anything.

2. 有志者事竟成 (yǒu zhì zhě shì jìng chéng)

English translation: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

This is a very famous saying that means if someone really wants to do something, they will find a way to do it.

3. 机不可失,时不再来 (jī bù kě shī, shí bù zài lái)

English translation: Opportunity knocks only once.

This proverb reminds us to seize opportunities as they come. Seize the day, as they say.

4. 前事不忘,后事之师 (qián shì bù wàng, hòu shì zhī shī)

English translation: Learn from the past to prepare for the future.

This one’s lesson 101 on disaster management. It’s basically saying that we must learn from history to avoid making the same mistakes of the past or to be better equipped for the future.

5. 授人以鱼不如授人以渔 (shòu rén yǐ yú bù rú shòu rén yǐ yú)

English translation: Give a man a fish, and you feed him for one day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

This is a very well-known proverb that means it’s better, in the long run, to teach someone how to do something for themselves than to give it or do it for them.

6. 请教别人一次是五分钟的傻子,从不请教别人是一辈子的傻子 (qǐng jiào bié rén yī cì shì wǔ fēnzhōng de shǎzi, cóng bù qǐng jiào biérén shì yī bèizi de shǎzi)

English translation: He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.

This is a well-known proverb that encourages the reader to keep learning. There’s no shame in asking; it just shows curiosity and willingness to learn.

7. 一寸光阴一寸金,寸金难买寸光阴 (yī cùn guāng yīn yī cùn jīn, cùn jīn nán mǎi cùn guāng yīn)

English translation: Time is money, but money can’t buy time.

It’s a sobering reminder that time is an invaluable resource that should not be wasted. We only get so much of it in this life, so we must use it wisely and spend it well.

8. 不怕慢,就怕站 (bù pà màn, jiù pà zhàn)

English translation: It’s better to make slow progress than no progress at all.

Something is better than nothing. This proverb means that we must be afraid of stopping, not slow progress. It reminds us to be patient, as some things take time.

9. 知己知彼,百战不殆 (zhī jǐ zhī bǐ, bǎi zhàn bù dài)

English translation: Know yourself and your enemy, and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat.

This military strategy can be relevant to business and sports, among other applications. It’s about being aware of your strengths and weaknesses, including your opponent’s or competitor’s, to make the best strategy for success.

10. 三人行,必有我师 (sān rén xíng, bì yǒu wǒ shī)

English translation: In a group of three, there must be one who can be my teacher.

There’s always at least one person who can teach us something we don’t already know or someone more knowledgeable than us. It also reminds us to surround ourselves with at least one person who is wiser than us.

11. 千军易得, 一将难求 (qiān jūn yì dé, yī jiāng nán qiú)

English translation: It’s easy to find a thousand troops, but a general is hard to find.

This means that finding a good leader can be difficult, which is true of many situations and many communities and nations.

12. 不聞不若聞之,聞之不若見之,見之不若知之,知之不若行之;學至於行之而止矣 (Bù wén bù ruò wén zhī, wén zhī bù ruò jiàn zhī, jiàn zhī bù ruò zhīzhī, zhīzhī bù ruò xíng zhī; xué zhìyú xíng zhī ér zhǐ yǐ)

English translationTell me, and I forget; teach me, and I may remember; involve me, and I will learn.

This means that involvement and participation are the best teachers than simply listening and seeing. The more the involvement, the more we learn in the long run.  

13. 同病相怜 (tóngbìng-xiānglián)

English translation: Those with the same illness commiserate with each other.

This means that sufferers of the same pain, problem, or illness can sympathize with one another. An English equivalent of this proverb or saying is “Misery loves company.”

14. 有缘千里来相会,无缘对面不相逢 (yǒu yuán qiān lǐ lái xiàng huì, wú yuán duì miàn bù xiàng féng)

English translation: You will meet people who are thousands of miles away if it’s meant to be. Otherwise, you will never meet each other, although you live just next door.

Fate brings people together. No matter how far apart they may be, if they’re meant to meet, they will cross paths with one another.

15. 种瓜得瓜,种豆得豆 (zhòng guā dé guā, zhòng dòu dé dòu)

English translation: A man who plants melons will harvest melons, and a man who plants beans will harvest beans.

This proverb simply means that you’ll get what you’ve worked for. It may also translate to “What goes around comes around” or “You reap what you sow.”


Chinese proverbs can be a valuable addition to any classroom, providing cultural insights, language practice, and life lessons in a fun and memorable way. There is value in adding them to the topics to teach your kids.