This past December, I participated in The 2012 International Conference of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language Conference. In this conference, there were several topics covered. The ones that stood out exceptionally were: Teaching Methodology, Language Analysis, Research, and Material and Grammatical Analysis and Presentation. I found these topics to be very helpful to my current teaching methods.
For Teaching Methodology, I learned answers to questions like if less time is used to teach pinyin would it adversely affect the quality of instruction or student retention? We also touched on teaching Chinese through Chinese media, for example, dramas and TV shows. Multimedia learning courses provide a broad range of materials for engaged and meaningful learning of both language and culture. Research has shown that having meaningful language input and providing opportunities for negotiated interactions play crucial roles in optimal language learning.
As for Language Analysis, we reviewed and differentiated certain critical concepts in teaching advanced Chinese, e.g., semantic vs. pragmatic knowledge of vocabulary, formal vs. official language, or context vs. text in teaching vocabulary, to reveal what is particular about an advanced Chinese language teaching. We also covered the effects of task types on second language fluency and foreign accent by randomly selecting speech samples from four task types, namely, spontaneous speech in classroom settings, telling time, simple picture descriptions and complex picture descriptions.
In the Research portion of the conference, we learned about teaching methods from various parts of the world, from Hong Kong to Korea to Texas. We learned about tailoring courses to be Chinese-for-Specific Purposes, as in how language-learning should be designed for a specific reason based on the students’ needs, and also how to define need as well as types of students. We also learned about the Putonghua Public Examinations in Hong Kong, the unique post-colonial region in Asia and its struggle to find the correct formula to equally test the students.
Lastly, the Material and Grammatical Analysis and Presentation touched on a broad range of topics like The Use of Attributes in Chinese and English, Referential Communications in Chinese As a Second Language, and a study about an advanced Chinese learner in the United States. Teaching and learning Chinese as a foreign/second language has recently drawn much attention in the fields of applied linguistics and second language education. The latter topic case study illustrates the effectiveness of Concept-Based Instruction (CBI), the Vygotskian sociocultural theory approach, to help teach Chinese rhetoric to L2 learners.
Overall, the conference was a great success. I was able to meet instructors from all around the world, and it was a valuable learning experience to hear how we are all adapting to teach Chinese for the better with its growing popularity. We can only hope to continue to improve in times of advance technology, and with a conference like this each year, it makes it all the easier to catch up and learn.