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TCcookie

Teaching English to a Chines Visitor with no Foundation for Four Days

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TCcookie

Hi, all. I translate for my primary source of income but passively take on Chinese tutoring/teaching jobs when they come up through Thumbtack. It doesn't pay as well as translation for the time taken, generally, but it's nice to have a student or two to get me out of the house and enjoying the journey of language learning together.

 

I got an odd request (I'll post more of the odd details later in another forum--they'd distract from my purpose here) from a man whose Chinese friend with virtually no background in English is coming to visit and wants to have English lessons over a four-day period. I do not have any formal educational background in teaching English as a second language, but I do fine and meet expectations when I give Chinese lessons and tutoring sessions, and I've gotten good responses when I've taught English to Chinese students in various contexts in the past, so I figured I'd take this job.

 

This one is different, though, because the student has almost no prior experience in English--she only knows a handful of 单词 that she uses frequently and picks up every now and then. Honestly, I'm kind of intimidated. I think it will go okay, but I wanted to ask board members here, particularly those with a TESOL background and native Chinese speakers who have learned English for advice on a couple points, the most pressing one quite specific:

 

1) What resources for learning English at a basic level can you recommend that we use? Since our time together will be so short--only ~4 hours per day for four days--I anticipate most of our time will just be drilling and practicing new vocabulary with some simple grammar thrown in. She wants resource that she can take home with her to continue learning, so that is what I am most concerned about, materials-wise. I was thinking a good picture dictionary would be excellent. What Chinese-language resources are you all familiar with that might be good choices for this?

 

2) Anyone have any tips in general on how to approach the situation to make it as useful for the student as possible?

 

Many thanks. I've been a member of this board since I began self-study of Chinese back in 2002 or so. It has been a TREMENDOUS resource, though I mostly just lurk, and I haven't been particularly active, even in reading, since my early intense self-study period effectively ended around 2006. I'd like to get back to it.

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TheBigZaboon

Not able to post a long reply, but try to find her a few tutorials and English teaching apps that she can put on her phone or tablet that she may not be able to access in China, if that's where she's from. Some might be for kids, but they have lots of those in China, so go for monolingual ESL apps for adults, if you can find any.

Also, check to see if she has Pleco, and be sure she knows how to use it before she leaves.

 

I second your picture dictionary suggestions, especially Dorings Kinderly and the like.

 

Sorry I don't have more ideas at the moment.

 

TBZ 

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ChTTay

Duolingo works in China and is decent. I’d recommend that as an APP for a total beginner. 

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NinjaTurtle

Cookie,

 

I have found the best way to teach ESL/EFL is though very short, meaningful, translated dialogs. Write meaningful dialogs in English on the left side of the page, then write the Chinese on the right side of the page. Start with greetings. Here is an example of what I do with Chinese students.

 

Start with greetings.

 

Hello. 你好。 Ní hăo.
How are you? 你好吗? Ní hăo ma?
I’m fine. 我很好。 Wǒ hěn hăo.
Thank you. 谢谢。 Xìe xie.
And you? 你呢? Ní ne?
I’m fine too. 我也很好。 Wǒ yě hěn hăo.

 

Then start with the verb to be.

 

Is this a pen? 这是笔吗? Zhè shì bǐ ma?
Yes, it is. 是的。 Shì de.
Is this a pen? 这是笔吗? Zhè shì bǐ ma?
No, it isn’t. 不是。 Bú shì.
What’s this? 这是什么? Zhè shì shénme?
It’s an eraser. 是橡皮。 Shì xiàngpí.

 

Then start with verbs.

 

Do you study? 你学习吗? Ní xuéxí ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我学习。 Shì de, wǒ xuéxí.
No, I don’t 不,我不学习。 Bù, wǒ bù xuéxí.
Do you walk? 你走路吗? Ní zǒulù ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我走路。 Shì de, wǒ zǒulù.
No, I don’t 不,我不走路。 Bù, wǒ bù zǒulù.
Do you run? 你跑步吗? Nǐ pǎobù ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我跑步。 Shì de, wǒ pǎobù.
No, I don’t 不,我不跑步。 Bù, wǒ bù pǎobù.
Do you teach? 你教吗? Nǐ jiào ma?
Do you cook? 你烹饪吗? Nǐ pēngrèn ma?
Do you smoke? 你抽烟吗? Nǐ chōuyān ma?

 

Add direct objects.

 

Do you eat vegetables? 你吃蔬菜吗? Nǐ chī shūcài ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我吃蔬菜 。 Shì de, wǒ chī shūcài.
Do you eat cabbage? 你吃卷心菜吗? Nǐ chī juǎnxīncài ma?
Yes, I do. 是的,我吃卷心菜。 Shì de, wǒ chī juǎnxīncài.
Do you eat spinach? 你吃菠菜吗? Nǐ chī bōcài ma?
No, I don’t. 不,我不吃菠菜。 Bù, wǒ bù chī bōcài.
What kind of vegetables do you eat? 你吃什么种类的蔬菜? Nǐ chī shénme zhǒnglèi de shūcài?
I eat lettuce, cabbage, and celery. 我吃卷心菜,卷心菜和芹菜。
Wǒ chī juǎnxīncài, juǎnxīncài hé qíncài.

 

Slowly add dialogs with indirect objects, prepositional phrases, multiple prepositional phrases, it-for-to sentences, present perfect, subjunctive mood, on and on, until ending up with very complicated questions and answers.

 

At the lower intermediate level, the student can also start doing short, two-minute speeches. Start with the topic Self-Introduction. All 'speeches' are followed with a question-and-answer period which hopefully can be expanded into a discussion. The teacher can also make such speeches, which makes for good listening practice for the student.

 

Google Translate is a huge help in preparing these dialogs.

 

https://translate.google.com/

 

-----

 

Methodology

 

Both of you take turns reading a "dialogue" while both of you look at the written-out "dialogue". Then, both of you do the dialogue again, but this time you (the teacher) look at the page while she (the student) does not look at the page.

 

Each time, you ask her the question, she answers, then she asks you back the same question. The pattern is, ask a question she will answer with a yes, then ask her a question she will answer with a no, then ask her a question  with a wh- word (who, what, why, etc.)

 

The goal is for her to be able to ask and answer the questions without looking at them written on paper.

 

Having the Chinese written out on the right side of the page eliminates a lot of problems. No need for her to go fumbling through a dictionary. This also guarantees you will never ask her a question she doesn't understand, nor is able to conceptualize the answer.

 

In the beginning, go heavy on the grammar. As she advances to the intermediate level, switch from a grammar-based approach to a situation approach (shopping, cooking, sports, music, etc.)

 

I would add that, for an absolute beginner, even reading individual words in English may be difficult. In this case, use flash cards, with English on one side and Chinese on the other. If even individual-word flash cards are too difficult, start with single-letter flash cards.

 

In addition, I once had a student so basic she couldn't read ABC's or Pinyin. In this situation, teaching her ABC's and Pinyin was the first step, and everything else had to wait.

 

One more thing. It may help to write out and then read together the words as individual words in a vocabulary list (not in sentences), then read them again later in sentences. This gives the student time to learn new vocabulary before using them in sentences. (No doubt she will struggle with the pronunciation of the word "vegetable", so she may need to practice pronouncing it in isolation before pronouncing it in a sentence.)

 

 

 

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mungouk
51 minutes ago, NinjaTurtle said:

Then start with the verb to be

 

I struggled with this as a beginner, because going from E->C, as I understand it, 是 isn't really "the verb to be", but can only actually be used to connect nouns, and not a noun and an adjective.

 

compare:

  • 我是英国人 - I am (a) British (person)      
  • 我很饿 — I am hungry.      

I've read somewhere that 是 has a different linguistic name ("Copular" is it?) that suggests it's not an ordinary verb at all.

 

Does this cause similar problems with Chinese learners of English?

 

 

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NinjaTurtle
38 minutes ago, mungouk said:

我很饿 — I am hungry. 

 

This is correct, but in English "is" is a verb and should be referred to as such. But for people learning Chinese, you are correct, this distinction should be made. The copulative aspects of "verb" and " 动词" are different.

 

38 minutes ago, mungouk said:

I struggled with this as a beginner

 

I did too!

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anonymoose

Why don't you ask her what she wants to learn, and what she wants to get out of it?

 

12 hours ago, TCcookie said:

I anticipate most of our time will just be drilling and practicing new vocabulary with some simple grammar thrown in.

 

For me (if I were learning a foreign language from scratch), this would be boring and pointless. I know everyone has different views on this, so I'm not speaking for others here, but I feel grammar is central to starting a new language - not just something to be "thrown in". What is the point of learning vocabulary if you don't learn the grammar that allows you to use it? Besides, having the necessary grammar to facilitate usage of the vocabulary will make the vocabulary much easier to remember.

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TCcookie

Thanks so much for all your thoughts! Thanks especially to @NinjaTurtle for the detailed example. That is is similar to an approach I had been mulling but much more systematic and concrete--very helpful!

 

8 hours ago, anonymoose said:

Why don't you ask her what she wants to learn, and what she wants to get out of it?

 

We spoke for the first time yesterday evening, over the phone. She is basically starting from scratch and has no language-learning experience, such that she doesn't even know what she can expect to get out of it. Managing expectations is a major challenge of this assignment because her American friend hosting her here does not have any language-learning experience, either.

 

8 hours ago, anonymoose said:

I know everyone has different views on this, so I'm not speaking for others here, but I feel grammar is central to starting a new language - not just something to be "thrown in". What is the point of learning vocabulary if you don't learn the grammar that allows you to use it? Besides, having the necessary grammar to facilitate usage of the vocabulary will make the vocabulary much easier to remember.

 

I 100% agree. This is why I have always despised most in-school language programs, avoided Chinese classes in college, and basically learned Chinese through the incomparable Routledge Grammar Series. This situation is odd, though, because of the expectations-managing aspect of it and the fact that we will be meeting together for only three hours on each of four days. The student actually lives in the US, in Missouri (I'm in Arizona), and I was thinking that a bank of essential vocabulary could, given the time constraints, at least help her have more units of meaning to throw out to get basic information across and function a little better.

 

I'm thinking I'll follow a model similar to what @NinjaTurtle suggests, which should keep us quite busy with a just a few basic irregular verbs and a handful of basic regular verbs (plus related objects, adjectives, and such).

 

Another challenge is that she has no reading capability. I think that trying to learn English orthography in four days is WAY too much. I've been thinking of finding some app to help her study IPA before she gets here and then just to use that for our time together, and then she can learn English orthography with the help of that on her own later after she returns home. What do you all think of that? Do you know of any good apps available in the US for learning English sounds in IPA with Chinese menus/explanations/etc.?

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ChTTay

As above, definitely ask the student what they want to do. She’s coming to the U.K. for a short time period, it’s likely she could study in a room by drilling vocabulary at home by herself.

 

You could look at more situational learning. Go out on some mini-trips to the supermarket, zoo, cinema, mall, etc. 

 

Do a bit of prep before hand, practice during and review after. For the supermarket it could include vocabulary for things she actually buys then also the checkout process. You could practice that with her first, then she could watch you do it, then do it herself.

 

Just an idea! Less boring for you and her.

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anonymoose
51 minutes ago, TCcookie said:

She is basically starting from scratch and has no language-learning experience, such that she doesn't even know what she can expect to get out of it.

 

51 minutes ago, TCcookie said:

The student actually lives in the US, in Missouri

 

51 minutes ago, TCcookie said:

Another challenge is that she has no reading capability.

 

What is her background? I find it strange in this day and age that a Chinese person can end up in Missouri, having essentially zero knowledge of English and no reading capability? Or is she of the older generation and a recent arrival?

 

Edit: Never mind. I've found the answer.

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abcdefg
14 hours ago, anonymoose said:

Why don't you ask her what she wants to learn, and what she wants to get out of it?

 

Agree with @anonymoose -- This needs to be the starting point. And if, by chance, she has no fixed idea, if she says "Oh, anything, my boyfriend insisted on it and is picking up the tab," then just stick to practical, every-day stuff and get lots of feedback from her as you proceed.  

 

Have you thought of some "family sessions?" Perhaps for 30 or 40 minutes out of each day, have the boyfriend present as well so you can get an idea of what he hopes his friend will  learn, what he hopes you will teach her? He is doing something bold, and should be encouraged. Would have been much easier for him to spend the money on a pair of Ferragamo shoes or a Gucci handbag. 

 

6 hours ago, ChTTay said:

You could look at more situational learning. Go out on some mini-trips to the supermarket, zoo, cinema, mall, etc. 

 

I like this idea a whole lot. I've done that with young English learners here in China. I take a small scratch pad and jot down words that come up as we move around. Then at the end of the day, convert them into flash cards, with English on one side and Chinese on the other. We review them at the end of the lesson, she can study them at home overnight, and we review them again at the start of the next day's session. Spaced recall is the key to retention. 

 

Hope you are able to help this girl. That would be doing something very kind and very useful for her, you would be expanding her horizons, opening up possibilities that she might not have envisioned before. 

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NinjaTurtle
17 hours ago, TCcookie said:

Another challenge is that she has no reading capability.

 

Then you might have to go with Plan B, which is doing everything auditory and not using any written English.

 

The teacher speaks. (The students repeats.)

 

这。(这。)
This. (This.)
是。 (是。)
Is. (Is.)
一个。(一个。)
A. (A.)
笔。(笔。)
Pen. (Pen.)

这是一支笔。(这是一支笔。)
This is a pen. (This is a pen.)

这是一支笔吗?(这是一支笔吗?)
Is this a pen?  (Is this a pen? )
是的。(是的。)
Yes. (Yes.)
是的。是笔。
Yes, it is.

 

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