I've emailed a Taiwanese English teacher I know and asked her to comment.
Student or Learner
I'm currently a TCSL student and have just read this article that talks about the problem regarding teaching Chinese as a second language in Taiwan.
It points out that "One of the more bizarre aspects of Mandarin language instruction in Taiwan is the reliance on English."
The writer suggests that Mandarin teachers in Taiwan almost universally use one of the worst language education textbooks ever written, which is translated into English for students.
And says that if they (ESL teachers in Taiwan) taught English the way they had been taught Chinese, they'd be fired.
The conclusion is that "The problem in Taiwan is that their methods are not just not fully developed, they are methods that everyone else has discarded."
I'd like to know how everybody from different countrys with a differt mother tongue learns Chinese(or your second language)?
Don't you learn your second language with help from your first language?
And, how about in China? What's the Chinese as a second language teaching method in China?
(If there's anyone here who has been to China to study Chinese...)
Do Chinese teachers in China teach foreigners Chinese in Chinese only?
How can this be achieved when the students are bignners who don't know a single word in Chinese?
And, what is a so-called "fully-developed teaching method" like?
If there's a Chinese (or a teaching *** as a second language) teacher here who knows how to handle this practically,
please share it in details with me!!
I'd be really, really appreciated...
I've emailed a Taiwanese English teacher I know and asked her to comment.
As a Chinese teacher for two years, I don't mind saying I use little English when teaching Chinese, especially for the elementary level students.The first step is usually the most difficult and I don't want to terrify my students when they just start learning one of the most difficult languages; however, too much English in class is not allowed. The textbooks with Chinese translation are very common. First, English is an international language. Second, the translation part in the books is supposed to help students comprehend and the learners can ignore this part if it doesn't help at all. One of my students did because she is a Japanese and English translation doesn't help her at all. Therefore, she learned through recognizing Chinese characters and similar pronunciation between Chinese and Japanese at her beginning. My Korean student did as well. They both ignore the English translation. Third, my friend, who is the assistant manager of Chinese textbooks Publisher, Far East, told me they mainly exports the books to the United States( or Canada). Maybe that's why the textbooks in Taiwan are written with English translation. I went to Beijing last winter and checked the textbooks there. I have to say most of them are similar to those in Taiwan and only few of them are Chinese-Japanese, Chinese-Korean, or Chinese-Spanish, such as HSK practice tests. ( HSK stands for Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi which is a Chinese Proficiency Test.) I can not see anything wrong if students make well use of their mother tongues to learn Chinese, like my Japanese student did, and learn it effectively. However, be careful with how you use your mother tongue when learning Chinese and it can be a negative element for your learning if you can not use it properly. Consult your teachers and find the best way.
As for the Chinese teaching methods, every teacher has their own teaching styles but be careful choosing language centers in Taiwan. Some language centers take students who just want to extend their visas by attending schools;therefore, the teachers, learning partners and learning environments may not meet the needs of those who do want to learn Chinese. I think the language centers in universities there are usually better and I recommend the one in Taiwan University. The teachers there don't use English to teach Chinese and they are well-trained. Most of them ever went to foreign countries teaching Chinese, very experienced and professional. I saw many students studying Chinese there after they had studied in Beijing for a while. I think you can see the 'fully-developed teaching methods applied in the Chinese learning classes. I don't know the methods teachers are using in Beijing. Maybe you can go to Beijing University link and see what you can find there.
I teach students in different ways and it depends on students' backgrounds, language levels, and their purposes of learning. For beginners, I teach greeting, numbers, shopping practical expressions and cultural things in the first few classes. This helps them to get involved in the Chinese society more easily by effective basic conversation. I don't recommend the beginners to learn writing because that is so frustrating for foreigners. The character strokes are complicated but beginners can try simpler characters if they want to learn writing, such as sizes da(big), zhong(medium) and small(xiao). They are useful when ordering drinks or buying clothes. Only Japanese and Korean students are pleased with writing because we have similar character systems. My French student knew nothing about Chinese two years ago and her major in Paris now is Chinese. I asked her to pay attention to the tone which makes Chinese very different from the other languages and we did a lot of pronunciation drills. More accurate pronunciation and expressions and being patient with practice are a good start and that makes beginners more confident when communicating with natives. She was very conscientious and she was a Chinese speech contest champion. Repetition also helped her to enhance her vocabulary and I asked her to use new words in her daily life and keep a record of how she used words. She did very well and she talked with many natives as well. Taiwanese are very friendly as long as you try to speak to them. They always encourage you even if you know how to greet people only. Go to these links http://taiwan.8m.net/study.html and http://ccms.ntu.edu.tw/~iclp/. You might find something you need there. Or you can use online chat and this is especially good for shy beginners and www.zhongwen.com has very good Pinyin chat system. You can also meet a lot of Chinese learners with different levels there. Enjoy your learning in Taiwan.
tdol, thank you for forwarding my message.
And mmyuyu, thank you for your reply, which is very detailed and concrete.
Can I just ask a few more questions regarding your reply?
You mentioned about "the tone which makes Chinese very different from other languages".
Can I ask you how you train your students to distinguish the 4 tones?
I think for most non-Chinese speakers,
the 4 tones just sound the same.
Even if the teacher repeats saying "yi1-yi2-yi3-yi4" for a hundred times,
they just sound to be the same "yi"!
With a beginner who doesn't know a single word in Chinese,
how do you communicate with them and even explain things in Chinese?
Also, you say that you don't recommend the beginners to learn writing.
At what point would you recommend them to start writing?
Wouldn't they want to learn writing at the same time when learning speaking?
And, don't you let them start writing those basic strokes when they are learning b, p, m, f in MPS form?
Or...maybe the conversation class is seperated from character-writing class?
And, how did you become a Teaching Chinese as a Second Language teacher?
Were you a Chinese major?
(This is just out of my curiosity, you don't have to answer it if you find it private.)
Thanks again! :D
BTW, it's nice that we can also ask questions about other languages at using"English".com :D
I am sorry I didn't reply till now. Thanks for your further questions which deserve Chinese teachers and learners attention. Tone is really a big problem and tone problems happen to students of all levels. Leaners with particular tone problems need to spend even more time to correct themselves. I usually don't teach tones like repeating and I like to teach students pair phrases instead. I do pair pronunciation practice such as shui(3) jiao(3) which means dumplings and shui(2) jiao (4) which means sleep, wan(2) which means play and wan(3) which means bowl or late, bei(1) zi which means cups and bei(4) zi which means bed cover, etc. I will also use visual clues such as pictures to emphasize the different meanings caused by different tones in Chinese and it helps me to explain in class as well.
I teach four skills at the same time but the writing skill development will be last introduced to my class. I usually teach writing after few basic conversation and reading classes. Basically, Chinese characters are images which might be combined with sounds or other elements. So I draw pictures to let my students know how the character is formed. Sometimes I use CD ROMS or Chinese learning web sites which offer animation films of Chinese characters formation. They offer good visual effects and this helps students effectively and can be very motivating. However, some students only want to learn speaking and listening so I teach writing according to individual needs.
I teach writing and reading at the same time because reading helps to facilitate writing skill development. For example, I might ask students to identify and circle the words they have learned when they are doing reading. Recognizing characters might also help learners to pay attention to the components of characters and the meanings of words while reading. ( Some components have meanings themselves.)
Lastly, I went to National Taiwan University to take training courses for Chinese teacher and I work for the International Rotary Club which has a program called Youth Exchange Program. I am responsible for teaching exchange students Chinese and I also do private classes. Further questions are always welcomed and I hope my reply really answer your questions.
By the way, I forgot to tell you that there are more textbooks written in Japanease and Koreans in China if you are interested in them. You can also find few in Taiwan.
English doesn't exist in a vacuum.Originally Posted by Eway
How difficult is it for foreigners to hear the differences in tone?
Hi tdol,Originally Posted by tdol
This is a good question and most learners, especially the beginners, practice tones in class where more standard tones are used than what they hear at any social occasions. Also, some teaching materials are not so authentic and it is hard for them to compare all the tone changes in few textbook. All language learners easliy become panic when they can not hear clearly. For example, da(3) ren(2) , which means hit someone and da(4) ren(2) which means adults. It might not be so hard for learners to distinguish these two phrases in class but it is more difficult if they are used in sentences. Wo(3) men da(4) ren(2) hen(3) kai(1) xin(1) ( We adults are very happy.) Wo( 3) men da(3) ren(2) hen(3) kai(1) xin(1) ( We are happy to hit people.) If there are more phrases like these added to the conversation, learners have to be all ears. :) Normally, pepople speak with emotions which might change the tone quality as well. For example, hao(3)( falling and rising tone) which means yes. But speakers might say it like hao(short with very quick falling-rising tone) which means yes, yes, no problem or the speaker is in a rush and he/she might not really answer you. If it goes like hao( a little falling, longer-lasting rising and u sound added at the end), it might means the speaker is impatient to answer you ,which means all right all right, so.... Real communication is not what the words mean but also what the speakers really mean.