Chinese Resources

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Teaching update 10/28/12

For the past year I've been working with a student on their Chinese in those spare moments of life. This person also happens to be a good friend, which can make it hard for me to go into total teacher mode. Especially since I keep class prep to an all time low. Recently, however, my student has found new inspiration and has been working hard on a full summary and presentation of what she has been doing in Taiwan for the past two years. She is a P.h.D. student so much of her life has been filled with research and collecting data for her case study. 

Unlike the past couple of months where casual conversation filled most of our class time, this month has been filled with a lot more task based learning strategies; or learning by doing. Similar to my own classes at NTNU, I had my student create a 大綱 outlining what she wants to cover in this presentation and why. The outline was all done in Chinese, and we have been slowly expanding the idea into something bigger during every class. The goal isn't to turn her presentation into something it isn't, which is why she is basically writing the entire thing herself. I feel like my mantra for this project is "the easier the better" in regards to what she is trying to say in Chinese. While I've suggested some useful grammar patterns and vocabulary along the way, this is totally her project. Like my own classes I've been taking online, my role is more to make sure that what she is saying simply works and makes sense in Chinese more than anything. 

While this might not be the best way to acquire new vocabulary or sentence patterns (expect in specific scenarios) I feel that it is a much better representation of what my student has actually accomplished during her time here in Taiwan. Not only in Chinese class, but in life in general. The coolest thing about this for me, as a teacher, is simply that I get to help her figure out the best way to tell that amazing story to others. I don't expect her to sound like 大山, especially given all the things she does in Taiwan that simply can't have a Chinese focus, but I do know that after we finish working on this project together she will be understood... and for second language learners that goal needs to come first.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

One of these corrections is not like the other.

In the interest of fully exploring iTalki, I have decided to take advantage of their "notebook entry" feature over the past few days. Notebook entry, like the name suggests, is a place where one can write a journal entry for friends and other iTalki members to see. The goal is that a native speaker of the target language will take the time to correct your article, thus improving your target language.

While this is a good idea, and great writing practice, it is clear after just two journal entries that the quality of corrections will very greatly between users, and that most native speakers have no training in teaching a second language what-so-ever. You end up with corrections that simply rely on the speakers 語感 (linguistic feeling) rather than provided you with reasons as to why is is a mistake, or why a word doesn't make sense in the context etc.

Take an example of two different corrections from my own journal entry on "the preparatory stages of research." One user's corrections (seen below) has taken my opening paragraph and made drastic changes, but has not provided any reason as to why the changes are being made. Are my sentences grammatically incorrect, or do they just think that their way "sounds" better... I simply don't know.

On the other hand, I got another correction from a user who actually took the time to provide me with the necessary information I would need to actually learn from this writing exercise (see below). I am given options between words, and clarification between what is wrong, and what simply sounds clearer. Also, after the corrections, the user actually took the time to explain why the corrections were made. In this case, my usage of words like "很" or "可" take away from an academic voice that I am aiming for in the paper, which the user explains. Unlike the corrections above, which is ambiguous at best, I can use this information when working on future writing assignments.

In sum, we should be wary of the corrections made on these types of sites, and careful in choosing what kind of feedback we actually want to follow. Also, a quick tip to using sites like iTalki. If you find a correction you like, be sure to express your thanks by providing the same types of feedback to that users writing. That is, of course, if you want them to correct something for you again!
The preparatory stages of research (研究之前的步驟)
假使要作研究,我們應該從普遍的問題(1)問(2)開始,不過哪一個問題呢?在這方面,我們其實有各種選擇,譬如:自己本身的經驗或興趣、其他發表過的研究等、第二語言習得之外的資料等等。這些出處(還是要說源頭)(來源) (出處、源頭都可以,可是我覺得來源最好)不但可以啓發研究的內容、並且可以幫助我們使用不同的角度觀察一些第二語言習得(學習第二語言)(第二語言習得ok, 可是我覺得"學習第二語言"更好)的現象。

Excellent work.
希望這對你有幫助,如果有任何疑問,歡迎寫訊息問我 : ) 
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