Category Archives: Chinese Language Instruction

Learning Chinese Initiatives in Australia Flop

Check out this article on the results of a push to teach Asian languages in Australia. From the article:

“Most parents just don’t see the sense in learning Asian languages. What chance is there really that their daughter will need her schoolgirl Indonesian to do business deals? What cultural payoff is there in learning Korean that a child in this essentially European country couldn’t get twice over from learning French?”

Yep.

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Time Magazine Article: A Mandarin School in Minneapolis

Fascinating article here about a Mandarin immersion school in Minneapolis. I believe that attending an immersion school like the Yinghua Academy for several years is one of the only ways a person can become truly fluent in Mandarin while still living in the United States.

From a cross-cultural perspective, check out the part of the article that discusses some of the cultural adaptation challenges the Chinese and Taiwanese teachers are facing. These folks are living in an entirely different world now. I’d love to go and talk with them for a few hours about what the Americans are thinking.

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Newsweek Article on Learning Mandarin

Newsweek recently posted an article entitled “The Mandarin Scam: So you want to learn Chinese? Your best bet is to say at home.

The author takes issue with the quality of Mandarin language instruction, and the teaching methods used, in China. He concludes that a student of Mandarin Chinese would be better off using online options or staying home and learning.

While I don’t doubt that there are problems with the way Mandarin is taught in China (students who study Mandarin in Taiwan have their fair share of complaints), there is one thing I am sure of: It is ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to learn to speak Mandarin fluently if you never live in China or Taiwan.

I suppose there might be a rare exception–someone who moves to an enclave of Chinese speakers abroad and learns to speak Mandarin that way, but for most, they will never achieve fluency until they live abroad in Taiwan or China and speak Mandarin all day, every day, for six months to a year.

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Chinese Programs in American High Schools

There’s an article here about a two week summer Chinese language program for high school students in Princeton, New Jersey.

It looks like the program is quite effective in getting students excited about learning Chinese. One part of the article raised a few questions in my mind:

In the Level 2 class, the students learn how to write in Chinese.

”This is where they really transfer into literacy,” Mr. Chang said. “We do a little bit of writing, and little bit of speaking. It’s really difficult.”

Transfer into literacy? How much training have the students had prior to this course and, more importantly, how can a person transfer into Chinese literacy in two weeks? If the students were fluent in spoken Mandarin, then it might be time to learn to write, but before then, I think attempts at learning to write are premature.

In general, I’m happy to see program like this, which incorporate discussions of Chinese culture as well as language, proliferating around the world.

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Chinese Language Education in America: The Craze Continues

I continue to find reports from local newspapers in municipalities all over the United States, writing about the local Chinese (and sometimes Arabic, Russian, and Japanese) language programs the local schools are piloting.

Here’s a recent article from Frederick, MD: A New Way of Speaking Things

A 3 week program for middle schoolers, taught by native Chinese speakers, involving some cultural instruction in addition to a bit of language instruction. From the article:

The first summer classes in Frederick County were given in 2005 during the Maryland Summer Center, with the help of a Maryland Department of Education grant.

Frederick County was the first to offer world languages, Murphy said.

This year’s program was open to students of all levels, extended to three weeks and expanded to include space for five local native Chinese speakers who may eventually become language teachers.

The teaching participants were paid $25 per hour and worked with Frederick County world language resource teachers, who helped them organize class plans and also provided feedback.

“I’m hoping to show people in Frederick County that Chinese is a viable language,” Murphy said.

I applaud efforts like this. And with that applause, I add my observation that there is still a strong need for expertise in Chinese language instruction and cross-cultural communications for many of these programs. Contrary to popular belief, there are NOT hordes of qualified Chinese teachers, administrators of Chinese language programs, and curriculum developers for such roaming the school districts of the United States.

These are early efforts, and are increasing over time. The district the article writes about seems to have its act together. I’ll be watching with interest as Chinese language instruction becomes more expert, professional, and effective in the United States.

Heck, the Oracle (my wife) and I would be happy to pitch in and help with a local Chinese language program in the States sometime down the road.

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