Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

Teaching Chinese in America


Magnus77
 Share

Recommended Posts

  • New Members

Greetings. 

I am a Mandarin Chinese teacher in an urban high school in America's Northeast and I wanted to use this forum as a way to see what other Chinese teachers are doing in America to teach Chinese, Chinese culture and meet the state requirements and needs.

 

I've been teaching Chinese in a charter school for 5 years and now I'm in a big mega huge urban high school. I have 5 classes and the classes range from Chinese 1 to Chinese 3.  I have 2 Chinese 1 classes, a Chinese 2 class and a Chinese 2 honors and then a Chinese 3 class.  The school is very supportive and the students are typical American high school students: big into their phones, TikTok and realizing college is around the corner.

 

I wanted to start this thread to possibly entice other Chinese teachers in the US to share how they do things in their classes, how they motivate their kids and share best practices.

 

Question 1: What textbooks do you use?  Do you use textbooks?  Do you use Duolingo?  Do you enjoy the classes?  

 

Ready...?  GO!

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

I desperately want to see this thread survive and thrive. I think I remember that you attempted to start it once already, about three years ago. My suspicions and my experience in studying Chinese in the US leads me to believe that there are significant differences in the way Chinese makes it onto the curricula of high schools, colleges, and universities in the US of A. In the Northeast, there are Ivies, and a significant number of small, independent colleges that think they're Ivies (think Bates, Colby, and some of the Seven Sisters) that have had Chinese in their catalogues forever. In the Midwest and the South, big universities have been participating in US government sponsored Flagship programs since the Cold War. I would think that these differences would color how Chinese seeps down into secondary and local tertiary education, how it's taught, and the materials used, in a big way. I'm hoping that you can stir up enough interest to look deeper into these details. There are others here who have taught Chinese in America and posted about it before. Most seem to be still around. I hope that they will rise to the occasion and cough up some more basic details. But you're the one who has to get it started. Please don't give up...

 

As a bit of friendly advice, I would suggest a little bit more background on you and your situation might shake some of the coconuts from the trees. For example, you mentioned charter schools. I always thought of charter schools as alternatives for public schools for lower income families who weren't Catholic, and couldn't afford private schools. Can they afford to offer Chinese? Correct me and my misconceptions.

 

And on a personal note, your English seems native, so I'm assuming, maybe incorrectly, that you're not a native Chinese speaker. If not, where and how did you acquire your Chinese. A peek into your background would be fascinating to me, at least. Over the years, I've had a blinding array of language teachers, and native speakers, although indispensable for many things, were not always the most insightful or best prepared in certain areas.

 

I'm available for endless pushy suggestions, but my possible contributions are woefully out of date, and after a certain point, centered more on North and South East Asia,, so maybe PM-ing me would be a way I might be more helpful. But I really want you to get this bus on the road, so I wish you the best of luck.

 

TBZ

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Quote

you mentioned charter schools. I always thought of charter schools as alternatives for public schools for lower income families who weren't Catholic, and couldn't afford private schools. Can they afford to offer Chinese? Correct me and my misconceptions.

 

Where I live (New England, USA), charter schools are more experimental and specialized, and not necessarily for lower income families.  For example, a performing arts charter school, and in fact one where half the instruction is in Chinese and half in English.  For all I know (not much) there may also be charter schools that are especially good for kids with learning disabilities.  My understanding is that charter schools are a venue for trying unorthodox teaching methods that might not fly until proven.

  • Helpful 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not a teacher, but I did major in Chinese in undergrad. I'm hoping since this thread is a couple days old that you'll accept my input.

 

On 11/14/2022 at 8:05 AM, Magnus77 said:

What textbooks do you use?

Integrated Chinese and the Princeton textbooks (事事关心, etc). We had to know the material before we came to class, and when we came to class, we did the exercises in the book with partners to practice our speaking. It was always awkward in the beginning, but it got us talking and helped us improve substantially.

 

The 事事关心 books taught topics that generated political and social discussion (the one-child policy, young pretty people marrying old ugly people for money, welfare policy, academic pressure from parents, etc), and they also made people laugh. That really helped get people engaged, and I found it made a big difference in people's willingness to talk.

 

On 11/14/2022 at 8:05 AM, Magnus77 said:

Do you use Duolingo?

We used no apps. I've admittedly never used any apps geared towards language-learning, but I've seen other people use them and follow forums where they're discussed a lot, and it seems to me that those apps are useless for teaching anything but basic vocabulary and maybe a little grammar, and that they try to trick students into thinking that language-learning is quick and easy. Perhaps I'm dead wrong — so many people use these apps, and if they're really serving their intended purpose, then that's wonderful — or  perhaps I'm just too old-fashioned, but I don't think I'd ever have benefited from an app while learning.

 

(Excluding Pleco — more on that below)

 

On 11/14/2022 at 8:05 AM, Magnus77 said:

to share how they do things in their classes,

I wanted to mention that

  • We were never allowed to speak English during our classes, even from day one. It was a hell of a learning curve, but we got better very quickly because of it.
  • We weren't allowed to use pinyin unless we needed pronunciation help (so, we couldn't read a pinyin version of an in-class activity, and we couldn't write pinyin on our homework/tests unless we wanted points docked)
  • We were required to write all of our papers and homework for the first five semesters. Our homework included writing our characters over and over again

 

On 11/14/2022 at 8:05 AM, Magnus77 said:

how they motivate their kids

Lots of my classmates dropped because they felt learning Chinese was an insurmountable task, especially in terms of learning characters or chengyu/literature. In hindsight, my teachers should have done these things:

  • Explain how characters work — the fact that the radicals are re-used, that the characters themselves are re-used, that they embody meaning, etc. So many people dropped because they thought that they'd have to learn 50,000 characters, but in reality, even an educated Chinese person knows about a fifth of that)
  • Explain what classical Chinese is (that is, if students come across it in text, they should know that it's okay to be confused and that they're not expected to understand)
  • Explain that some media coming out of China can have multiple languages spoken in it (I think it was Ip Man that threw me for a loop the first time I saw it. I was so confused as to why I could understand some people completely but not others)
  • Explain how to properly use Pleco. The free version is good, but if they really want to learn Chinese, students need to pay for an English-Chinese dictionary. The Pleco add-ons are worth every single penny, and they will not regret buying them. (The basic bundle with various dictionaries (plus things like OCR) is good for beginners; the pro version is a waste of money unless you're advanced, at which point it is the best thing on the planet)
  • Finally, explain that chengyu have stories behind them, just like the saying "don't cry wolf" has a story behind it in English. That first semester of Chinese is a huge learning curve, and when you throw in things like "horse horse tiger tiger," it can be the tipping point that makes people throw their hands up. (Note that it's kind of hard to find chengyu stories in English, so as part of a personal project, I created a free website site here that translates popular chengyu stories and includes usage examples, historical context, etc. Again, it's free, and it doesn't have ads either — it's just supposed to help language-learners.) Also note that lots of chengyu come from thousands of years ago, so it's to be expected that students can understand individual characters in a chengyu but have no idea what it means. Also explain that chengyu are used often and aren't just a random thing that the teacher is forcing students to learn for no reason. 

Things my teachers did great:

  • We had conversation hour every week, and we played games like 麻将 or charades. It was good, mindless fun, and we learned a lot
  • Lead class as though it were a discussion, not a lecture. This kept everyone engaged (or on their toes, at least). We also did lots of debates, character matching competitions, etc
  • Provide quick feedback on homework
  • Made us feel comfortable making mistakes. Everyone and their mother got corrected in class, and people eventually got used to being corrected. for a language like Chinese, where pronunciation can be so difficult, this was so important
  • Had students help one another. It wasn't uncommon for a student to help another student if the teacher was off helping someone else or was writing something on the board. It really was a team effort.

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions!

 

  • Like 3
  • Helpful 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 11/20/2022 at 5:26 AM, laowai-guide said:

Note that it's kind of hard to find chengyu stories in English, so as part of a personal project, I created a free website site here that translates popular chengyu stories and includes usage examples, historical context, etc. Again, it's free, and it doesn't have ads either — it's just supposed to help language-learners.

 

I use your website---it's great!  Understanding the chengyu backstories is often key to making sense of the chengyu.  And because it's in English, I understand the story at a deeper level (if I want to, I can go read a Chinese version too).  Some of these chengyu backstories appear on the HSK5 and HSK6 exams---if you know the chengyu backstory, you basically get free marks.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • New Members
On 11/16/2022 at 2:13 AM, TheBigZaboon said:

I desperately want to see this thread survive and thrive.

Me too. Thanks.

On 11/16/2022 at 2:13 AM, TheBigZaboon said:

I think I remember that you attempted to start it once already, about three years ago.

You are right. I even forgot that. 2019 in October I posted this: 

Posted October 23, 2019 at 12:58 PM
I teach Chinese in Western Massachusetts to High School students and I would love to see how many Chinese teachers (foreigner and Chinese) are out there and share some ideas with each other.  

 

Possible Topics: 

-Expectations

-American students

-Lesson plans

-Using Chinese programs in class

-Self study

-sources and resources

 

and many more!

Is there something like this on Chinese-Forums?  I wasn't able to find it anywhere.

On 11/16/2022 at 2:13 AM, TheBigZaboon said:

My suspicions and my experience in studying Chinese in the US leads me to believe that there are significant differences in the way Chinese makes it onto the curricula of high schools, colleges, and universities in the US of A. In the Northeast, there are Ivies, and a significant number of small, independent colleges that think they're Ivies (think Bates, Colby, and some of the Seven Sisters) that have had Chinese in their catalogues forever. In the Midwest and the South, big universities have been participating in US government sponsored Flagship programs since the Cold War. I would think that these differences would color how Chinese seeps down into secondary and local tertiary education, how it's taught, and the materials used, in a big way. I'm hoping that you can stir up enough interest to look deeper into these details. There are others here who have taught Chinese in America and posted about it before. Most seem to be still around. I hope that they will rise to the occasion and cough up some more basic details. But you're the one who has to get it started. Please don't give up...

Ok. I won't give up.  in terms of WHY high schools and colleges teach Chinese, well of course because it's a heck of lot more important in our world today than French or other languages.... sorry French speakers.  I wish schools would emphasize financial literacy more and economics... but hey, Chinese is good too!

 

On 11/16/2022 at 2:13 AM, TheBigZaboon said:

As a bit of friendly advice, I would suggest a little bit more background on you and your situation might shake some of the coconuts from the trees. For example, you mentioned charter schools. I always thought of charter schools as alternatives for public schools for lower income families who weren't Catholic, and couldn't afford private schools. Can they afford to offer Chinese? Correct me and my misconceptions.

Charter schools and this was mentioned below too....  but charter schools have much more freedom to do with he money that they want to do.  BUt in Massachusetts were I live and work, the state requirement is 2 years of consecutive foreign language studying.  So boom.  That is the requirement.... it behooves the district and their leaders to find those teachers to give students choices.  

 

On 11/16/2022 at 2:13 AM, TheBigZaboon said:

And on a personal note, your English seems native, so I'm assuming, maybe incorrectly, that you're not a native Chinese speaker. If not, where and how did you acquire your Chinese. A peek into your background would be fascinating to me, at least. Over the years, I've had a blinding array of language teachers, and native speakers, although indispensable for many things, were not always the most insightful or best prepared in certain areas.

I was born here in America and therefore a native speaker yes.  It took me 22 years to get to where I am today.... I went to China and lived there over that 22 years for about 5 years altogether and I have been studying a lot for those 22 years. The big test for me was the Massachusetts Test for Educator Licensure... which was a test for teaching Chinese.  It took me 4 tries.  It tested me on everything.  Reading writing listening and speaking.

On 11/16/2022 at 2:13 AM, TheBigZaboon said:

I'm available for endless pushy suggestions, but my possible contributions are woefully out of date, and after a certain point, centered more on North and South East Asia,, so maybe PM-ing me would be a way I might be more helpful. But I really want you to get this bus on the road, so I wish you the best of luck.

I really appreciate your enthusiasm and I'm starting all this because I love learning from others and I want to share a little of what I've learned in teaching Chinese too.  Also deep down I want to know if I am truly preparing these students for college Chinese level classes.... 

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...