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  1. Scott Sommers
    Thank you for the interest in my blog, and I encourage anyone to post comments at
    as well.

    The main point of my posting was that CSL instruction, as it is commonly practiced at the major university-affiliated Chinese schools, is not following the same lines of development as the instruction of European languages or Japanese. Instruction in English was only one aspect of this problem. The significance of this was that Taiwan is not prepared for the language learning needs of the large number of non-Chinese speaking women who are marrying Taiwanese men.

    I have been told that students at the Graduate Institute of Teaching of Chinese as a Second Language at the National Normal University in Taipei
    are taught methods more in-line with the methods pioneered for use with other major languages. This is not reflected in the instruction that goes on in any of the major university-affiliated CSL schools. I suspect that it is not the case with any of the instruction available for those who are in most desperate need of Chinese language instruction.

    English is the most widely taught second language in the world. Virtually none of this instruction is given in the first language of the speaker. Nor would such instruction be possible in most cases. This is the same pattern I experienced studying Japanese in Japan. Even at low-grade language schools, no instruction was given in any language other than Japanese.

    Given the pattern of second language instruction in other countries, I see no reason why Mandarin Chinese learned in a place where Mandarin Chinese is the widely spoken official language should need instruction in any language other than Mandarin Chinese.[/list][/code]

  2. Webmaster,
    Interested in Language
    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • British English
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      • England
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      • England

    • Join Date: Nov 2002
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    Hi Scott, and welcome to Your blog looks interesting - does it have an RSS feed?
    I'm not a teacher, so please consider any advice I give in that context.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Chinese
      • Home Country:
      • Taiwan
      • Current Location:
      • Taiwan

    • Join Date: Dec 2003
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    Wow, I didn't realize there have been 11 messages...
    Well, mmyuyu, thank you again for your very patient explanation.
    Especially the part about pair phrases.
    It does give me a very clear idea about how you help students to distinguish the 4 tones.
    But, wouldn't your students get even more confused when they have to learn a bunch of pharses in accordance with their very similiar pronunciations at the same time?? :?
    And...can you help me with another problem?
    Can you tell / explain / demonstrate or whatever the differences between the preposition "向" and "對",
    and "被" and "由"?
    I've been thinking and asking people but nobody can really give me an explanation though knowing how and when to use them...

    And, Scott,
    I hope you're not offended that I discuss about your article here instead of posting comments at your blog.
    It's simply because I want to know different opinions from different people.
    I now study at Shi-Da and yes, it is very common that the teachers use English.
    Especially in a beginners' class,
    the teacher would do simutanious interpretation probably all the way through.
    For example,
    the teacher may say "Turn to page one." in Chinese first,
    then say the same instruction in English.
    (Maybe they should be paid as an interpreter, whose salary, I believe, is much higher! )
    I also doubt this kind of method to a certain degree.
    In this case mentioned above,
    I believe the teacher can do the action of turning to page one himself or herself.
    The students would be able to understand what the teacher wants them to do and at the same time learn to recognize the instruction in Chinese.
    You see, if they translated everything into English for the students,
    woudln't the students just wait for the English translation instead of trying to figure out the Chinese?
    This is the practical aspect.
    As for the theoratical aspect,
    I believe it's widely accepted that "language doesn't exist in a vacuum". :)
    What I mean here is that a language should not be taught seperately from its culture.
    And one language forms its own logic.
    For example,
    the English ideas of "ajective" can not run parellel to the Chinese ideas of "ajective".
    And the Chinese ajectives would rather be interpretated as "stative verbs".
    By using English, Chinese is probably being taught "out of its context".
    Another thing is,
    I think the teacher would be encouraging the students to understand Chinese in an English way.

    BUT, I believe the teachers at Shi-Da do realize these.
    Many of them are well trained, with Ph.D degree in linguistics or language teaching.
    And very experienced, many of them have taught Chiense in different countries.
    They also told us they have students who are ESL teachers in Taiwan and they often question their teaching-Chinese-in-English method.
    So they are not unaware of this issue.
    Of course there are teachers who would adopt body language, photos, etc. and avoid using English.
    But even those very well-trained and experienced teachers agree that using Chinese only would really slow down the teaching procedure.

    Maybe you can see this as a "cultural shock" and try to abandon the English judgement?
    As we all know that no matter it's learning or teaching a certain language as a sceond language,
    we must confront with many cultural differences.
    For example,
    you may find that Amerian students are encouraged to ask questions, participate in discussions and so on,
    while Asian students have been trained by their education to keep their mouth shut and respect the teacher's right to teach / speak.
    Hmmm....I don't know....maybe I need more experience of learning and teaching language to be really sure about this English-or-not issue...
    By the way, as far as I know,
    the teachers would use English to teach Chinese when teaching beginners,
    but not the students of a higher level.
    So, allow me to make a joke here,
    maybe you're still at beginners level?? :wink:

  3. Scott Sommers
    No problem posting here. I just thought that my blog has a lot of readers who might have opinions on this they'd like to share.

    Your comments raise 2 points. The first is that we need to distinguish between your situation at school and the situation I described concerning Chinese language education. There is a big difference between teaching English in Taiwan (EFL) and teaching Mandarin Chinese (CSL) here. I can still see no reason for speaking significant amounts of English in a class composed of some non-English speakers learning Chinese in a place where the official and most widely spoken language is Mandarin Chinese.

    Second, let's turn to the question of using Chinese in an EFL classroom. The practice is widespread in Taiwan (and other places). In your post, you correctly describe the response of some foreign teachers of English to this method as based in their cultural assumptions about language teaching. That is why they assume that a violation of the principles of SLA they learned in school are an expression of poor methodology. But my feelings about this are a little bit different.

    It appears to me that the use of Chinese in the EFL classroom in Taiwan (and other places) is an entirely new method of language teaching. In Japan, a very similar method goes by the name of Yakudoku. I believe that SLA is of limited value in language teaching, but the power of SLA is that there is a huge body of research that supports its use. No such body of research exists for Yakudo or the related method used in Taiwan.

    In fact, not only is there no extensive research on Yakudoku, no such research is even being done. The rational for the use of these methods is often given not as based in research findings, but as based in a historical or cultural logic that is often describing as 'making sense to Asians' or something like that.

    I'll try to summarize what I'm saying about using Chinese in the EFL classroom. This is often described as the 'bad methodology' of local instructors. I do NOT believe this. I do believe it is an attempt to build a new methodology of language teaching. This is a methodology based not in empirical validation, but in a logical argument about what should make sense to Asians.

    And one last point. Thanks for ignoring my incredibly bad typing skills.


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    Re: Language teaching problem

    Hi Eway,
    Sorry again for the late reply. All these four words are prepositions. The proper usage of the first pair 對and 向 is 對 , a preposition for people and events, must be used with a specific object. For example, we say wo dui hai xian guo ming. ( I am allergic to seafood.)向 is a preposition for time and place and it means going in the direction of. For example, ta xiang xue xiao zou. ( He goes in the direction of the school.) Another pair is 由 and被 and they are both prepositions too.由is a preposition for time and place and it means starting or the beginning stage of doing something and it also means the end of doing something. For example, wo jin tian you zhe ye du qi. ( I start reading from this page today.) 被is usually used with a specific object and the verb used with bei must be a transitive verb.For example. wo bei mama chu fa. ( I was punished by Mom.) It is ususally used to present the passive voice. However, you might find native speakers use them in a mixed way. Language changes over time so we can not really say they are wrong when they say wo xiang ta shuo( I said something to him.) This happens to spoken language often and it is acceptable to natives.But grammatical? I hope I do answer your questions. Chinese is an old languag and some people use it in their own ways, especially spoken form.

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    Re: Language teaching problem

    I forgot to answer another question you raised.:P My students did feel confused sometimes but I prefer teaching them pair phrases by telling them true stories, such as the mistakes the former students made in the restaurants. ( chi shui jiao and qu shui jiao-eat dumplings and go to bed). After telling the story, I will ask them, 'ni yao chi shui jiao hai shi qu shui jiao?( Are you going to have dumplings or going to bed?) It depends more on how teachers teach.

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    Re: Language teaching problem

    Hi Scott,
    I am sorry that CSL in Taiwan can not meet some learners' needs. However, you dont mind I say not all the teachers use English to teach Chinese there. According to your experience of learning Japanese, it is really nice that your Japanese teaacher did not use any other languages to instruct Japanese. I am not so 'lucky 'as you but my Japanese teacher used Chinese to teach us.The point is I do learn something from her though it was a short-term course. I would rather put more emphasis on how the teachers teach.

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    Re: Language teaching problem

    Hmmmm . . .

    As I know nothing about teaching English in China, I shall nothing about teaching English in China. However, it is certainly so that in Indonesia that (a) the quality of the teaching-materials in use in most schools is sub-optimal because in Indonesia the fast and lazy buck rules, and (B) the pedagogy that informs their teaching is correspondingly dinosauric.
    Mark in Perth.

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    Re: Language teaching problem

    I've experienced teaching ESL. I've been teaching english in Indonesia. I think, our problems are similar. I often recognized that my main problem is the less-motivated students. It comes to reason, they have learned a foreign laguage that they didn't use everyday, in practical. So they wondered: "Why must I learn it?" Yes. They concern more about their daily needs. Only few students who concern about learning English. At school, they only effort to gain 'lesson score' rather than mastering English. It doesn't matter for them whether they master English or not, as far as their score is not bad in the semester report.

    BTW. I've learned they prefer joy, fun learning. I've tried to arrange it, i.e. trough games in my teaching. They are keen on the joyful learning. Well, it can motivate them. at least they think that learning English is joyful, and so I hope they will love English more.

    Talking about mother language interference in English, that comes to reason, in my mind. They have mastered that language, more and former than English that they have just learned. I imagine, a long-long time in the future, many languages will interfere each others, and no strange languages any more. So dont' be so sad about Chinese interference in English , just do what we can do that make our duty run better. Ok.

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