Chinese Barbecue Cooking Activity to Teach Chinese Vocabulary & Grammar

Chinese Barbecue Cooking Activity to Teach Chinese Vocabulary & Grammar
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Why Use a Cooking Activity?

The high majority people who decide they want to learn Chinese also like Chinese food. A cooking activity can be a fun way to teach Chinese to students. Students will learn helpful vocabulary such as words for kitchen equipment, seasonings and spice, foods and verbs for cooking fluently. A bit of Chinese grammar and some Chinese sentence structures can be learned also.

The best way to use cooking activities is to combine the actual activity of cooking with visual and audio presentations of the targeted Chinese language. For example, a ready-made PowerPoint slide the shows new characters, words and sentences will be needed as well as audio recorded instructions. In this academic Chinese lesson, you will also want the student to repeat the Chinese instructions as well as explain his or her cooking process using Chinese.

Learning Objects

This Activity is designed for the upper-elementary level. This will not only be effective at teaching Chinese, it will also teach your students something about Chinese culture. Chinese Barbecue, or 烧烤 (shaokao) is cooked up on the streets of China everyday. Here is a step by step summary of the Chinese language that should be learned during this activity.

  1. How to say “prepare” in Chinese and the sentence “prepare your food and seasonings.”

  2. How to say “cut” in Chinese and the sentence “cut your meats and vegetables.”

  3. How to say “place the food on the stick” in Chinese.

  1. How to use 把 in Chinese.

  2. How to say “start the fire” and “cook the food” in Chinese.

  3. How to say “the food is finished” in Chinese.

  4. How to say “put out the fire” in Chinese.

  5. How to say “let’s eat” in Chinese.

  1. How to use “一边…一边…” in Chinese.

  2. How to say “cheers” in Chinese.

Getting Started

Give a handout of the Chinese words, grammar and sentence structures to be learned during the activity. You want to consider the level of the language students. English should be used as little as possible; rely on the actions and objects to be your natural translator. And remember to have audio and visual aids ready. Have a PowerPoint or some other form of visual presentation ready to break down each Chinese character and the Chinese sentence structures. If you are not a native speaker of Chinese, have audio recordings of Chinese speakers saying the targeted sentences.

Teach While Cooking

Teach the sentence words for preparing materials to cook. For example, physically prepare your cooking materials while teaching the sentence 准备你的菜和调料 (Zhun bei ni de cai he tiao liao). This literally means “prepare your food and seasonings.”

Teach the phrases for cut or chop your vegetables and meats: 切你的蔬菜和肉 (qie ni de shu cai he rou). 切 (qie) means to chop or cut, and especially used in cooking.

Then you can explain that you need to put the chopped meat and vegetables on their individual sticks. While doing this, you will want to teach the phrase 把菜串起来 (ba cai chuan qi lai); this means to take the food and put it on the kebab stick. After this, all the food will be prepared.

Words and Phrases

Stop and go over the 把 (ba) character; this character is very useful and is most commonly used as a particle marking the following noun as a direct object.Give a few sentence examples:

把文件送到办公室 (ba wen jian song dao ban gong shi), which means “send the document to the office.”

把钱给我 (ba qian gei wo), which means “give me the money.”

It is time to get the fire going, so teach “start the fire”: 生活 (shenghuo). Then you can teach the words for “make food”: 做菜 (zuo cai).

Once the food has been cooked, say “the food is done,” or 菜做好了 (cai zuo hao le) and “turn off the fire,” or 关火 (guan huo).

Stop to go over the use of 了 (le); this character most commonly signifies the Chinese past tense, or that something has been completed. It can be placed after the verb or at the end of a sentence or clause. Give a few examples to the class.

我做完了我的作业 (wo zuo wan le wo de zuo ye). I finished my homework.

我吃够了 (wo chi gou le). I ate enough.


Now, it’s time to eat those delicious eggplant, green bean, beef and rib kebabs! Teach the students the phrase “let’s eat”: 我们吃吧 (wo men chi ba).

If the class is old enough, you can explain that people typically drink beer while eating 烧烤 (shao kao). Teach the sentence 我们一边吃烧烤一边喝啤酒 (wo men yi bian chi shao kao yi bian he pi jiu). Explain that this 一边。。。一边 (yi bian…yi bian) structure is a commonly used expression to show when two things are being done simultaneously. Give a few examples and ask the students to try making their own sentences, if they are capable.

我喜欢一边开车一边听音乐 (wo xi huan yi bian kai che yi bian ting yin yue). I like to drive and listen to music at the same time.

我常常一边大便一边看报纸 (wo chang chang yi bian da bian yi bian kan bao zhi). I often read the newspaper while I’m pooping.

Lastly, review or teach everyone how to say cheers in Chinese: 干杯!(gan bei). Then you will want to, of course, drink!

In the handout for the students, you will want to include many of the different types of Chinese barbecue options as well as supplementary verbs and phrases.

People learn by being involved. Actually doing the motions of cooking will enable students to understand and remember the Chinese language involved. This activity can be applied to almost every kind of Chinese food; for example, teaching a class how to make Chinese dumplings.


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  • Photo by AudeFrance under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr