Saturday, January 02, 2010


It's good to know there are upcoming changes to the teaching and testing of Chinese to cater to students who have difficulty in the language because an increasing number of them are growing up in English-speaking backgrounds. I presume some of the changes might include a more bilingual approach such that the use of English will be used in Chinese class to facilitate better communication and foster understanding (i.e., comprehension) between teachers and learners.

In the past, the most frustrating thing was being restricted to only use Chinese in class, and how could I answer the teacher's questions if I didn't understand the question? How could I ask if I couldn't formulate the question? How could I read if I didn't have a Rosetta Stone to translate from? It was a downward spiral of "negative talk" and punishment that drove our mutual antipathy in the bad old days.

Today, though, I no longer feel so negatively towards Chinese. I believe I've picked up more of that language through informal means than I ever did than in the ten years I spent in the classroom. It's still embarrassingly pathetic, but I can get by and better with more practice.

But this entry isn't about me, for whom it's all too little too late. It's about the kids studying GP with me. Against the grain, many of them have grown up in predominantly Chinese or dialect-speaking backgrounds. Though their experience in my class is probably not as dire as mine were in my day, English is tough on them especially at the level we expect them to use it. Grammar can be confusing, vocabulary is immense, spelling isn't always 'like it sounds'. Not to mention that we want them to think, reason and logicize in a language that isn't their first choice of communication.

If we're trending towards accommodating English-speaking kids in Chinese class, maybe it's also time to slaughter GP's sacred cow of "only English to be spoken in class" for our more Eastern-rooted kids. A little compromise for the sake of clarity and keeping everyone on the same page would help a lot more than enforcing a dogma that does little to encourage the kids to use the language more.

* Heh. Looks like a Korean word, doesn't it?

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