Language teaching problem

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Eway

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Dear all,

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.
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/2004/06/the_langauge_te_1.html

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...
 

Tdol

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I've emailed a Taiwanese English teacher I know and asked her to comment.;-)
 

mmyuyu

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Sep 20, 2004
Dear Eway,
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.
 

Eway

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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
 

Eway

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BTW, it's nice that we can also ask questions about other languages at using"English".com :D
 

mmyuyu

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Hi Eway,
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.
 

mmyuyu

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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.
 

Tdol

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Eway said:
BTW, it's nice that we can also ask questions about other languages at using"English".com :D

English doesn't exist in a vacuum.;-)
 

Tdol

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How difficult is it for foreigners to hear the differences in tone?;-)
 

mmyuyu

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tdol said:
How difficult is it for foreigners to hear the differences in tone?;-)
Hi 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.
 
S

Scott Sommers

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Thank you for the interest in my blog, and I encourage anyone to post comments at
http://scottsommers.blogs.com/taiwanweblog/
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
http://www.ntnu.edu.tw/tcsl/
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.
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Red5

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:hi: Hi Scott, and welcome to UsingEnglish.com. Your blog looks interesting - does it have an RSS feed? ;-)
 

Eway

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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! :shock: )
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:
 
S

Scott Sommers

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Eway,
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.

Scott.
 

mmyuyu

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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.
 

mmyuyu

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Eway,
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.
 

mmyuyu

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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.
 

mark in perth

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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.
 

dodidodix

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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 :-D, just do what we can do that make our duty run better. Ok.
 
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