Chinese Resources

Monday, July 18, 2011

“填鸭式” (tiányāshì): Stuff The Duck

After a two month hiatus I'm glad that I can get back to blogging. The past two months have been incredibly busy, with a lot of life changing things going on. In late May I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Just a week later I took a road trip across America, helping my girlfriend take all her belongs to Fremont, California, where she started her residency program. A week after that I was China bound. For the past 4 weeks I have been living in Beijing, China and studying at Central University for Nationalities(中央民族大学).

I am currently attending Associated Colleges in China (ACC) K-12 Chinese Teachers Training Program, a six week long summer training program dedicated to increasing proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, while simultaneously attending lectures and discussion labs that are focused on how to effectively teach Mandarin Chinese. I am blessed to have a wonderful group of fellow students (who also happen to be Chinese teachers during the school year) with me on the program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the ACC Summer Programs, they are know for their incredibly high expectations of students, and their blazing fast pace. The average student who attends ACC's six week program will cover roughly one year of college level Chinese.

Before I started the program, I was curious as to how the students and teachers are able to achieve so much in so little time. After the first hour of class I found out, they "stuff the duck," or as we say in Mandarin 填鸭式 (tiányāshì). For two hours of class we become Chinese learning robots, mimicking our teacher's every sentence pattern. While the original form of 填鸭式  has fallen under a lot of scrutiny due to its apparent inability to clearly teach "why" something is the way it is, that is not my take for learning a foreign language. After over three weeks in ACC's Summer Program I would say that it is an effective tool for learning Chinese. And here is why:

  • In a class setting it allows for maximum repetition of target language goals.
  • It forces language learners to use new grammar patterns to express their opinions (over and over and over again)
  • After a single student is done saying the sentence every other student is forced to repeat (again) the sentence, thus maximizing the students ability to listen to new sentence patterns as well as speak them. 
The above is only possible because the teacher has complete control over the lesson plan, and what  students are allowed to say. For the past three weeks I have not be able to truly express my own opinion in the classroom unless it strictly pertained to the topic we were covering. Because of the structure of the class students are able to hear sentence patterns and new vocabulary at least 80 times during the course of the two hours. Of course, I also have another two hours of class a day where I can freely speak about the topics we are discussion, but of course the use of newly learned grammar patterns and vocabulary is ideal.

Assuming that students do their part outside of class to review materials studied during the day, it is a rather successful way of teaching a language. Of course, my program is geared toward this style of teaching. And, although I'm living in Beijing, I haven't had much time to get away from campus to do any exploring, I'm simply too busy studying all the time (grumble, grumble).

While it has been hard work the results are staggering. I can feel my Chinese constantly growing stronger and my grasp of the grammar points and vocabulary words is quite strong. Although, that might also be related to the 10+ hours that I have put in on Anki since my arrival in China, and the language pledge that we signed at the beginning of the program. Regardless, I feel a strong command over roughly 500 new vocabulary words related to effectively teaching Chinese.

If anything, this has been the prefect way to prepare for graduate school in Taiwan.

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