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.


  1. you're a task-based teacher now, son!

    1. HA. It has to be one of my favorite methods for students with more than a basic command of the language. So much can be learned through self discovery!

  2. "the easier the better", that's also what I strive for, yet, as in other domains, it can it can be hard to achieve :s

    Btw, is your student writing her thesis in Chinese too? When writing a 報告/文章, how long did it take you before fully thinking it all in Chinese?
    Taking myself as an example, I've been in Taiwan for just over two months, and for now, I prefer to first develop my thoughts in English, and then carry on with Chinese, which kinda bothers me, but I am lacking the vocab/grammar to think in Chinese. As time goes, I'm sure it'll get better, but I was wondering your opinion about it.

    1. Hi a,
      Thanks for your comment. I wish everything could be easy, but when talking about complicated subjects that isn't always going to be the case. My student is writing her thesis in English. She is only here in Taiwan for research and to work on her Chinese. As for thinking in Chinese it depends on the day. During some of my more intensive study programs in China and Taiwan I was thinking in Chinese all the time, often because I was only using Chinese. These days, however, it all depends. I'm pretty comfortable with spoken Chinese and than comes out without much thought, or English interference.

      A lot of my writing this semester all goes through an English filter first, but that is because almost all of my textbooks are in English. I actually find this greatly effects how well I write in Chinese. The English tends to mess me up cause I spend too much time trying to translate what the author is saying, rather than just putting things in my own words. When trying to relay very specific information I rely on a translation strategy, rather than just saying it simply in Chinese. It isn't fun, but good practice for someone like me, who will be using a lot of academic papers when writing my own thesis.

      Thinking in a foreign language, to me, seems largely related to the amount of input in that particular language you are being exposed to during a giving time. Couple that with a goal of Chinese output no matter what and you will thinking more in the language, using tricks to speak around a word or idea you really don't know how to say. After that, cognitive processing in that language just seems to happen. At least that is what seems to happen to me. It is certainly an interesting phenomenon, and one that is worthy of a lot more thought and consideration.



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