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wushijiao

Chinese in the classroom

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wushijiao

What are your views about using Chinese in the classroom, especially if you have a coversational level? It seems quite ridiculous to me to spend 5-10 minutes eliciting and pre-teaching vocabulary before an activity when it could be done in 30 seconds using Chinese. Equally ludicrous, I know some teachers who have excellent Chinese, but spend half the class yapping away in Chinese, essentially using class time as their own personal spoken lesson. I think it’s best to speak Chinese in class for only a few reasons:

1) When you know a term that has a simple, direct translation and you want to save time rather than waste time eliciting

2) To get the students attention when they are bored. Speaking just one sentence, or making a cheesy, stupid joke, can sometimes wake students up.

3) To explain something when you have failed to convey the meaning in English.

In other words, I try to speak Chinese in class very sparingly. What has your practical experience shown you? Does anyone know what theorists would say?

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roddy

I think a direct translation straight into Chinese is going a bit too far, but equally there's no point in being dogmatic about it. I usually started by trying to elicit - which is good for vocabulary anyway, as in the process the students recall a lot of thematically linked stuff - but if they weren't getting anywhere I'd give them the nod to use those pesky little electronic dictionaries.

Roddy

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wushijiao
I usually started by trying to elicit - which is good for vocabulary anyway, as in the process the students recall a lot of thematically linked stuff

Good point.

Does anybody else have an opinion? Or if you are a non-teacher, as a student of X language, do you prefer 100% immersion with no L1 in the classroom? :conf

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wix

When I was teaching in Taiwan I deliberately avoided using any Chinese in class. It was for a number of reasons. The main one is to create an atmosphere where people only use English. this is something students can't really get outside the classroom. Also students need to start thinking in English rather than translating everything they hear. If they are continually exposed to English this shift in thinking will take place without them even realising it.

I definitely think there are instances when you can justify the use of Chinese (or whatever the students L1 is) but you have to be smart about it. It is too easy to fall into a trap of relying on it and teaching badly rather than thinking of better ways to teach using only the target language.

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Altair
Does anybody else have an opinion? Or if you are a non-teacher, as a student of X language, do you prefer 100% immersion with no L1 in the classroom?

I am not a foreign language teacher and have not been in a language classroom in decades, but here is my perspective. I generally agree with the drift of the previous comments, but actually do not like 100% immersion. I prefer a mix of approaches with a high-level of immersion. Only immersion can effectively teach certain things that the teacher may not even be consciously aware of the need to teach; however, 100% immersion tends to be ineffecient for some purposes and even leave some other questions unanswered or unasked.

An example of where I do not like immersion is in vocabulary acquisisition. Even in languages where I have advanced levels of fluency, I tend to make much more use of bilingual dictionaries than monolingual dictionaries, because I find them more targeted to my needs.

Consider explaining to a Chinese learner what 叫 jiao4 means using only Chinese or Chinese examples. From the Chinese point of view, the meanings are fairly unified. From the English point of view, you can miss how "howl," "to be named," and "ask" are linked. I would like to learn a word such as this in a format like, "叫 jiao4: 1. call, be named, call upon to. 2. call out, shout, howl." In this way, the relationship between the meanings is clear without trying to fathom some definition like "to vocalize for a variety of purposes."

Such an approach does not exclude using elicitation as well, but only as an auxiliary exercise.

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