Versatile Chinese Language Teachers

[Source]    People’s Daily Overseas Edition [Time]    2018-01-17 11:05:36 

Zhang Fan (first from right), Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Namibia, , introducing Chinese courses to students at the career-planning exhibition of the university in Windhoek, the country’s capital.(Photo by Chen Nan, Xinhua News Agency)

Recently, interviewed Jing Yongtai, the Chinese teacher of Arabella, granddaughter of the U.S. president Donald Trump. Jing is a 27-year-old Chinese international student who has switched between several different majors such as environmental engineering, chemistry, mathematics and business, before ultimately deciding to major in early childhood education and secondary in mathematics at college. With such rich experience, she taught Arabella Chinese when working in a language center in Upper East Side, New York, in 2013.

Jing Yongtai is an epitome of TCSL (Teaching Chinese as a Second Language) teachers in other countries—versatility is almost like a standard feature of them. Now let’s take a look at other Chinese language teachers worldwide to see how they show their talents.

Ability of Speaking Is not Equivalent to Ability of Teaching

Speaking of TCSL, many may mistake that if one can speak Chinese, then one can teach it. But the truth is: not everyone who can speak Chinese can be a Chinese language teacher.

“You must know well about all the professional knowledge,” said Yueyue (nickname), a Chinese language teacher in Tianjin University, “You need to have a comprehensive, systematic, meticulous and accurate view of the Chinese language you are going to teach.”

Chinese is a very extensive and profound language. To be a qualified Chinese language teacher, one needs to thoroughly grasp the complicated Chinese knowledge, so simply “being able to speak Chinese” is far from enough. In Yueyue’s opinion, “Teaching Chinese requires one to have a mastery of a foreign language, which is not only beneficial when communicating with students, but also to understanding their ways of thinking through the language. Besides, since the students usually have different cultural backgrounds, the teachers need to gain cross-cultural communication skills to respect, understand, and identify the cultural gaps so as to help the students learn Chinese in a better way.”

“Take our Institute as an example, the Chinese language levels of the students here vary a lot, which is a big challenge to our teachers: they need to come up with different teaching methods accordingly,” said Xu Haiming, Chinese Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Naples “L‘Orientale”, Italy.

High Entry Barriers to TCSL Practitioners

It was learned in the interview that the entry barriers are very difficult to overcome for new TCSL teachers – an extremely high level of comprehensive quality is required.

“There is no need to mention the importance of professional knowledge,” said Xie Yang, a volunteer Chinese teacher in Poland whose students are all from universities. “Such knowledge and skills not only run through from lesson preparation to teaching, but also in all aspects of interaction with students. The college students may raise many questions when they are learning a new knowledge. Once my student asked in the class: why should we translate ‘I am good’ as ‘我很好’ rather than ‘我是好’? Questions raised in class like this cannot be avoided, the teacher must respond immediately, which is absolutely a challenge to your knowledge reserve.”

The requirement of comprehensive quality can also be seen from the curriculum setting of Teaching Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (TCSOL), which is designed for the TCSL teachers. It is known that students majoring in TCSOL need to study abroad list of subjects such as General Linguistics, Modern Chinese, Ancient Chinese, Summary of Chinese Culture, and Introduction to Teaching Chinese as a Second Language. And apart from the compulsory courses, the students also have to learn teaching techniques, a second foreign language, Chinese traditional culture and talents such as playing Chinese instruments, playing chess, Chinese calligraphy or Chinese painting. Almost every student in this major has at least one kind of Chinese traditional talent.

“You have to know something about everything,” said Xie Yang after some thinking. “The Confucius Institute I work in is a new one, and I’m the only teacher, so I literally need to do everything.” In order to enable the students to experience Chinese culture, she had to organize all kinds of events in person such as teaching students to cook Chinese cuisine, sing Chinese songs and learn Chinese traditional talents.

A Special Talent Contributes to Career Development

Chen Wen (nickname) travelled from Thailand to China to learn Chinese. As a student, he hopes that the teacher “could play well and get along well with the students, while being able to transform the abstruse theories into understandable content for them to learn”. It is such a high requirement indeed.

Huang Hui (nickname) is new to this career, and after long years of studying, she finally can put her knowledge into practice. She said emotionally, “It is one thing to know, and another thing to teach.” Huang believed that teaching designing is essential, “Set up some typical scenario to explain the knowledge and find some material around for the students to practice. Only by doing so, can the students understand the knowledge more accurately, find what they are learning useful, and thus gain a sense of achievement.” And when the students cannot fit into the teaching methods, teachers need to make some change immediately. “Sometimes you even need to arrange the seats. Once we were doing a scenario of house renting, and I let the students to perform on the platform one group after another, but it didn’t work out—they often became speechless suddenly and the conversation just stopped.” Then Huang moved the tables and chairs, and made it look just like an agency setting so that the students could talk face to face. “Changing the external environment made the students feel more involved, thus the class became more effective.”

To the teachers, a special talent would help them to improve teaching effectiveness. Wei Ling has a professional background of music, so she could teach Chinese songs with high proficiency. “Chinese songs differ a lot from foreign songs in melody, and the reason lays on the culture the Chinese music presents. We should not only teach students the lyrics, but also enrich their experience by showing them Chinese culture through music.” With a specialty of vocal music, Wei Ling is adored and welcomed by her students. “They invited me to karaoke bars.” Wei found it interesting, “This talent quickly brought me closer to the students. Actually, the relationship between teachers and students has a significant impact on teaching effect: a harmonious relationship can reduce the students' resistance to difficult knowledge and thus improve the teaching quality.”

(Story by Lin Jiayi, People’s Daily Overseas Edition, Page 9, January 12th, 2018)


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