Archive for Language and education

Writing Chinese characters as a form of punishment

There has been a flurry of reports about a teacher in Sichuan province forcing tardy students to copy a crazy character with 56 strokes a thousand times, e.g.:

"Complex 'character test' facing tardy Chinese students" (10/29/15)

This is the whimsical, whacky character for a type of noodles that is popular in Shaanxi province.

Never mind that some people say the character has 57 strokes, while others say that it has 62 strokes, this zany monstrosity is a bear to write.  Having to copy it a thousand times would indeed be a kind of mindless, mind-numbing torture.  Furthermore, the sound that has been assigned to it — biang — is not part of the phonological inventory of Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM) and the ostensible phonetic component of this symbol did not develop naturally as part of the sound system of traditional Chinese characters.

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Hakka: "Guest families"

Hakka (Kèjiā 客家 ["guest families"]) is the name of a Chinese ethnic group and their language.  Their name refers to the fact that, although they came from the north centuries ago, they are now scattered in various locations throughout South China and, indeed, the world.

Although the Hakka amount to approximately only 4% of the total population of China, their influence on politics, the military, culture, and other spheres of life in the past two centuries has been disproportionately large

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Political gat kruiping

In "Should Africa speak Mandarin?" (ZimDaily [8/31/15]), the phrase "political gat kruiping" occurs twice.  Upon first occurrence, "gat kruiping" is defined as "brown nosing".  Since this is in the context of "introducing Mandarin in schools next year to pupils between the grades 4 and 12", I was curious about the nuances and form of "gat kruiping".

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Autonomous learning

I had never heard of this concept before, but apparently it is a hot topic, especially among government circles.

On Wednesday, I spoke at this workshop:

Application of the Autonomous Learning Environment in Foreign Language Education LEARN Workshop

Date: Tuesday, July 28th and Wednesday, July 29th
Loyola Columbia Graduate Center
Columbia, MD

The workshop was sponsored by the Federal Business Council in collaboration with several offices of the federal government that are involved with foreign language study and application.

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A quick exit for Cantonese

On his blog, "Throwing Pebbles", the journalist Yuen Chan describes how hard it is nowadays to find a decent elementary school in Hong Kong that offers instruction in Cantonese, rather than in Mandarin:

"Mother-tongue Squeezed Out of the Chinese Classroom in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong" (7/22/15)

This despite the fact that Cantonese is the mother tongue of around 90% of the population of Hong Kong.

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OMG! American English

The star of this popular Voice of America program is Jessica Beinecke (Bái Jié 白洁).  Her Mandarin is quite amazing; indeed, I would say that it is nothing short of phenomenal. Here's a sample:

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Bopomofo vs. Pinyin

There has been a considerable amount of discussion concerning the relative merits of bopomofo and Pinyin in Taiwan in recent weeks.  A typical article in this vein is "Fèi zhùyīn fúhào jiàoxué, zǎo xué duōzhǒng pīnyīn xìtǒng 廢注音符號教學,早學多種拼音系統" ("Abandon teaching in Mandarin Phonetic Symbols; learn a variety of alphabetical systems from a young age") in Xiǎngxiǎng 想想 ("Thinking-Taiwan") (4/24/15).

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Paperless reading

Just a little over a year ago, I made the following post:

"The future of Chinese language learning is now"  (4/5/14)

The second half of that post consisted of an account of a lecture that David Moser (of Beijing Capital Normal University and Academic Director of Chinese Studies at CET Beijing) had delivered a few days earlier (on 4/1/14) at Penn:  "Is Character Writing Still a Basic Skill?  The New Digital Chinese Tools and their Implications for Chinese Learning".

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"English will not be longer problem for your!"

Yvonne Treis sent in this photograph of a sign at an “America English” language school in Addis Ababa/Ethiopia that she took in May 2009:

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Myopia in East Asia

[The following is a guest post by Dr. Ian Morgan of the Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia and Zhongshan Ophthalmic Center, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.  It is in response to "Chinese characters and eyesight" (11/12/14), which generated a lot of interest and discussion, and which references the work and views of Dr. Morgan.]

I came across your blog and the comments on the relationship between Chinese characters and myopia quite recently, and I thought it was worth a quick response.

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Education in Xinjiang

A government sponsored mural in Kashgar:

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Censored letter

A current cause célèbre in China concerns a letter that was supposedly written by a little boy to the President of China, Xi Jinping:

"‘Not as skinny as Obama, like Putin is okay.’ China censors schoolboy’s suggestion that Xi lose weight" (12/18/14)

"A 9-year-old told China’s president to lose some weight—and censors shut him down" (12/18/14)

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Chinese characters and eyesight

There was an interesting article in the Economist a couple of day ago:  "Why So Many Chinese Children Wear Glasses" (11/9/2014)

Myopia is epidemic in China, and the percentage of those with this affliction is increasing each year.

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