I'm sure a lot of people on this website have taught English in their time. I was wondering if anyone has or is teaching Chinese? I wanted to know if anyone has any teaching curriculum materials or any ideas on how one would go about teaching Chinese to people from 7-15 years of age? My girlfriend's younger sister who is 11 is learning Chinese from a Chinese lady and can't string a sentence together in Chinese, but she can write a few characters after a year. I was thinking that teaching speaking first for a while even before getting into writing would be a good way to go. Anyone got any thoughts?
verazhang100August 20, 2013, 01:46 AM
I used to teach Chinese in school in U.S. If you are looking for a official curriculum, I suggest you go to the state gov edu site to find a curriculum.
richAugust 22, 2013, 05:41 AM
I always wonder how many people out there are teaching Chinese in schools who are NOT Chinese, nor ABC/BBC/CBC etc. Other languages have tons of non-native yet perfectly fluent people teaching the language, yet Chinese seems to be one where there needs to be a Chinese face present (of course in China they want a white face present to teach English, but I think that is for a slightly different reason). Every job I have looked at in the past 10 years in America to teach Chinese requires not fluency in the language, but a Chinese-born native speaker. Ugh.
Really? I haven't noticed this type of prejudice where I am yet, but maybe I will. Most people would assume that learning Chinese from a Chinese person is the best way, but I'm a believer of at least learning the basics from a competent non-Chinese person who speaks Chinese because they have been through the same processes of learning Chinese that you will go through. I mean without John's explanations of things here, I would not have learnt so quickly. One of my lecturers at university was Chinese, but his explanations involved him repeating the word to himself a few times and giving the English translation that was already in the book. But yeah, I can understand where you are coming from.
This makes perfect sense to me - there is enough supply of chinese natives to fill the jobs, and, more importantly, the level of ability among non-native 'speakers' (including those who would say they are 'fluent', those who lived in china for 5+ years, those who took a bunch of university courses, those with various hsk levels, etc) of chinese is very low. Chinese takes a great deal longer to learn than european languages (I think the state dept estimates it at 4 times as long), but maybe more importantly, almost all non-native speakers are never able to fine-tune the mpre subtle points of the accent. Mastery of the tones of words might comes for a small group, but far fewers seem to get things like whole sentence intonation, devoicing of consenents (b, d, g, z etc), etc down, and their 'fluency' often is tied down to various specific contexts (ie, someone used to living in china and chatting people up comfortably often stumbles all over himself if trying to discuss politics, economics, etc, and the reverse is likely too). Basically, there might be a a few dozen people in the world who have the requisite ability, but they are very unlikely to be looking for chinese teaching jobs, and even more unlikely to be applying for any given job - so why force yoruself to weed through 1000s of applications from people who vastly overestimate their own ability on the slim to none chance that you will stumble on one of them?
I would agree that a foreign learner's advice could be very helpful to introductory students, but you'd still want the primary teacher to be chinese so you gove the students a decent model for learning the sound system. Really, as long as the input and insights of non-native learners go into curriculum design and the training of the actual teachers, you will get most of the benefit (some peer guidance from higher level students in the same school can also help). Or of course have a co-teacher, like here at cpod, but that is often not feasible.
Note ABCs or other heritage learners should likewise be passed over for such jobs - in fact they are probably the poorest choice of all, laciking the insight of a non-native learner into the learning process and almost always combining that with a fairly low level of ability (in comparison to a true native speaker)
None of this is intended to deny the great rewards that come from learning Chinese (the fact that most people even at the highest levels will not become perfectly native is not really much of a concern, and in terms of practical effect, any slight weirdness left in your Chinese is likely to be perceived as charming). Likewise, I agree that non-native insights are invaluable. In particular, my early practice in pronunciation was guided heavily by John's writings on the subject over at sinosplice, and he probably is one of the greatest coaches alive for providing guidance in studying Chinese.
“devoicing of consenents (b, d, g, z etc), etc down, and their 'fluency' often is tied down to various specific contexts”
I wanted to ask you want you meant by devoicing of these consonants, if they were devoiced wouldn't that just make them p, t, k, and s? I'm not sure what you mean, care to give an example?
I definitely agree with the second part of this statement. People ask me if I'm fluent which I usually reply with "it depends what we're talking about". I mean, I can talk about a range of topics, but I couldn't talk about politics because 1) I don't really care for politics 2) I haven't learnt any politics related vocabulary and 3) I can't follow Chinese politics. Even in English I can't really talk about politics so why should I expect myself to be able to in another language? But anyway, for a teaching job, I don't think one would be expected to be fluent in a native wide range of topics, I think they should be expected to teach most of the sentence structures in a relatively wide range of topics, but after that I would expect the student to be autonomous enough to teach themself specialised vocabulary, or ask a native speaker who is specialised in that area to help.
Sure - I didn't put it very clearly in my initial post. This is a subtle point, but in Chinese none of those consonants are voiced, and continuing to voice them is a major source of the 'harshness' quality one perceives when listening to the vast majority of english native speakers speaking Chinese. So if we look at the pairs of sounds p - b, k- g, t-d (which you already identified in your post), in english they are differentied by both aspiration (a puff of air) for the left one and voicing for the right one, but in Chinese the only difference is in aspiration, with no voicing at all. This is why the old wade giles romanization system used the symbols p and p' for what pinyin calls b and p (and so on in dispensing with g and d), and this in turn is why 台北 is written Taipei...I seem to remember the p in the english word 'spy' is unaspirated, so that would be the chinese b sound.
It is also important to note that chinese makes up for this by a much bigger aspiration difference, so a chinese p, k, and t are all acompanied by a much stronger puff of air than their english counterpart, thus maintaining a sufficient distinction between them.
Likewise, zh, z, j, are all not voiced in Chinese..but often are when spoken by even very high level learners of chinese. Not that any of this is going to interfere with understanding, but as far as my personal opinion goes, improper voicing makes chinese sound very harsh and ugly...though really the main problem probably lies to an unthinking use of pinyin in begining education, and it would be much better if learners first started by thinking of p and b as, say, two varients of a p, and then learning to intensify their breath of air on one and cut it out for the other. Fixing it later is still possible, though very few people seem to do it (perhaps it is too boring to practice, one hand on your throat to feel for vibrations and the other in front of your mouth to confirm strength of breath, haha)...
On your other point, fair enough - though I think even ignoring the specific topics (of which there certainly are interest limitations), most learners tend to be much more fluent in a certain register along the informal chatting to intellectual debate/ highly colloquial to highly formal ranges...Certainly, this is not invariably true though...
Do you happen to have an example of a native English speaker pronouncing these consonants incorrectly? A sound file or a youtube clip or something?
I think if we were to learn b and p as two kinds of p, that would be confusing for most learners. Especially because most speakers of English will still interpret them as b and p. Korean has b and two versions of p, or it could be the other way around, and I mean that is confusing enough for me. I think it just needs to come down to the speaker's ability to really observe language. IPA is a good way to analyse languages, but even that cannot fully capture true pronunciation. Those people who have an almost perfect accent of the foreign language they are learning most likely didn't learn pronunciation down to every fine detail, rather just listened and copied as much as they could or for some lucky people, just came unconsciously. So anyway back to my point, I think to avoid confusion, I think even though b and p do not completely correspond to Chinese pronunciation, I think it is a lot less intimidating this way.
http://videoweb.nie.edu.sg/phonetic/papers/ICPhS-Saarbrucken.pdf: just an article you might find interesting.
You don't need a video clip - just listen to any of your classmates or friends who are learning chinese speak. But really this isn't the sort of thing where that would be particularly helpful - until you've trained your brain to recognize these distinctions, it will probably sound fine to you. Even a native chinese speaker may not be able to identify the specific problem as being voicing '浊音', though they will definitally percieve things as being off, and given a little guidance should learn to identify the source of the problem.
I looked at the article - it found a vast difference in voicing, and no difference in length of aspiration (which seems steange to measure - I think the difference is in strength of aspiration, not length in time). The authors write their conclusion as if arguing with their own data though, or perhaps trying to make their results sounds more interesting than they are - basically, they showed the difference in voicing that everyone expected.
I think you are assuming too much to think this is the kind of thing that will resolve itself naturally - rather, It seems to be the kind of problem that crystalizes and becomes more permanent as time goes on. And in fact the problem here is that pinyin is appealing to english intuitions and thus bypassing that primary attempt at copying true native sounds. I wasn't proposing some sort of hyperanayltical approach to early learning, rather that there is no need to dumb it down and encourage people to unthinkingly apply an english b and p, and so solidify habits that will likely be with them forever, when the difference could be highlighted, and the decision left to individual learners whether they want to spend the effort to master this or not.
But sure, I never argued you or anyone else needs to spend the time to fix it (which may not even be possible after a certain stage), nor do I believe it would be cost effective to all learners to even pay attention to such distinctions in the begining. Sure I percieve this kind of voiced foreign accented chinese as ugly and grating, but most people aren't very sensitive to such things, and most Chinese natives won't care if you sound a litttle weird. That having been said, I think if you have this kind of ingrained pronounciation problem (as well as the many other similar problems foreign learners often exhibit at the advanced levels, in fact this is almost certainly a minor problem in comparison) then you probably aren't the best model for students and a school is better off hiring from the pool of native speakers. Sure, most students will end up not fully mastering such things themselves, but at least best to give them a chance and a decent model rather than ensuring that they will be mimicking all sorts of non-native weirdness.
Anyway, I think we've discussed this point to death (it was a very minor part of my original post, just one minor example of the kinds of weirdness present in 'fluent' chinese speakers).
That's kind of assuming that people learning Chinese around me are making this mistake. I went on youtube to find a video of a native English speaker speaking Chinese and to be honest, I was too distracted by all their other mistakes (pronouncing 问 like English "when") to be able to really listen to the harshness you speak of.
I don't think I'm assuming too much for the problem to resolve itself. I've encountered people who went from a Chinese accent to a really authentic New Zealand accent, and they aren't the kind of person who would have studied the New Zealand accent down to whether this consonant is or isn't aspirated. Of course not everyone has this ability, but if someone has a natural ear for language, I wouldn't be surprised if they achieve a good accent even after speaking Chinese accent English for years. Anyway, at the end of the day, not everyone is going to achieve a perfect accent even if they are told about how b isn't an English b, some people are just not fixated with accent or are just not built that way.
Lastly, I think that even if people have this 'harshness', it still doesn't discount them from being fluent. I wouldn't say that a Chinese person who says 'da' instead of 'the' but speaks with few pauses and a good vocabulary isn't fluent.