“Now we can use chopsticks”

«’Today we will learn how to use chopsticks’. As soon as I finished this sentence, the students became excited and eager to have a try».


Currently there are over 4,000 Chinese language teachers and volunteers teaching Chinese in Confucius Institutes, primary and secondary schools and universities throughout the world. While spreading Chinese language and culture, these cultural envoys personally experienced exchanges and interactions with different teaching practices and other cultures. The column of Teachers’ Voices is a channel where Chinese language teachers and volunteers can share their teaching experience with each other. There will also be a collection of stories on their unique experiences in foreign lands these cultural envoys can share with our readers.

Liu Mei, Volunteer Chinese Teacher at Kathmandu University High School, Nepal

Using chopsticks is a “piece of cake” for us Chinese. But for foreigners, it is rather difficult. Don’t take these two little sticks for granted. If you don’t want to go hungry, you are advised to learn to use them skillfully.

“Today we will learn how to use chopsticks.” As soon as I finished this sentence, the students became excited and eager to have a try.

First, we should learn the basic method for using chopsticks. In fact, there is no single best method and many develop their own. As long as you can bring food to your mouth with the sticks, it is OK. As the Chinese saying goes, “Whether black or white, the cat that can catch mice is a good cat”. This is true in the case of chopstick use too. But for my beginners, I thought it best to choose a certain method for them. The first step is to hold them firmly. Put the stick on the middle finger and, with the thumb, press it firmly against the middle finger. Then the tip of the thumb and the index finger are used to control the other stick to form a pincers with the two sticks to pick up food. The first stick remains fixed and the other is maneuvered to hold the food against the first stick as it is lifted to the mouth.


Having learned the basic lesson, the students began practicing.

  • Level-1 Exercise: Select two boxes. Crumple sheets of paper into balls and put them into one box. Have the students use their chopsticks to transfer the paper balls to the other box.
  • Level-2 Exercise: Make much smaller paper balls for the same exercise.
  • Level-3 Exercise: Divide the students into several groups for a competition. The group that transfers the most paper balls in a certain period wins.

The last step for my students was “actual battle”. All the students eagerly ran to the cafeteria. Luckily, that day’s meal was fried noodles. It was a golden opportunity to practice using chopsticks.

When the students showed me their empty plates, saying: “We can use chopsticks now”, I was very happy, just like a general who had just won a battle.

Confucius Institute Magazine 4

pdfPublished in Confucius Institute Magazine
Number 4. Volume IV. September 2009.
View/Download the print issue in PDF


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