The Teaching of Mandarin Chinese in the UK and beyond
1. Research on Chinese character learning strategies: A critical review by Yu Bin
There are two main types of writing systems in the world: alphabetic and ideographic. Chinese uses ideographic characters, different from English where an alphabet is used. This is one of the reasons why the English speakers find it enormously challenging to learn Chinese characters. Beautiful and mysterious characters may be a trigger of interest in the beginning. They are also the element that demotivates learners from going further.
What beliefs do English learners have about Chinese characters? What difficulties do they encounter when learning characters? What strategies do they use? Are there any effective approaches to improve their learning? How can teachers help them to learn characters? To these questions, we are still searching for answers. In this article, I will review the works of academics both in and outside of China in these areas throughout the last couple of decades, in particular concerning theories and practice regarding learning strategies for learning Chinese and Chinese characters. The purpose of the review is not only to see where we are standing currently but also to suggest where we can go to contribute to strategies for learning of Chinese characters.
Chinese character, learning strategy, English speaking learners
About the author
Yu Bin is a teacher in the School of Chinese as a Second Language, Peking University and is currently working for the UCL Institute of Education Confucius Institute. Her research areas include the acquisition of Chinese as a second language and language education, with a special interest in Chinese character learning strategies for English speakers.
2. Strategies for Teaching Mandarin as a Foreign Language in Secondary Schools in England: A case study of two Mandarin lessons in a private school and a state school by Qian Xu
With the growing power of China, Mandarin has become a popular foreign language worldwide. This paper aims to explore the strategies of teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language to pupils from non-Chinese speaking backgrounds in order to provide the Mandarin teachers with some recommendations for teaching at both a theoretical and pedagogical level.
The paper first explains the background of the growth of Mandarin teaching and learning. Second, qualitative research is conducted in the context of two secondary schools in the UK. In order to investigate a wide range data from different school types, the classroom observations are carried out in both a private school and a state school. On the basis of the observations in schools, I present vignettes of the two Chinese lessons. I demonstrate how both pronunciation and character recognition are major challenges for pupils who are familiar with alphabetic language systems. Then, teaching strategies regarding the two challenges are further discussed and analysed. Finally, further research on Mandarin teaching strategies is put forward in accordance with the limitations of this paper.
Non-native, Mandarin pronunciation, character recognition, teaching strategies, British secondary schools
About the author
Qian Xu works on the practice of bilingual learning and teaching. Her research looks into the process of learning foreign languages and her particular interest is in the pedagogy for learners whose foreign languages maintain significant differences compared with their native languages. After the completion of her Master Course at the UCL Institute of Education, Qian has been working as an EAL (English as an Additional Language) teacher in an international school in China. Her major pupils are from Korea, China and Japan.