Archive for Pedagogy

Firestorm over Chinese characters

It began with a one page think piece by Ted Chiang in the New Yorker (5/16/16) that we describe and discuss here:

"Ted Chiang uninvents Chinese characters" (5/13/16)

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Which is harder: Western classical languages or Chinese?

Joseph Manning kindly called my attention to this post by Kathleen Coleman on the blog of the Society for Classical Studies (SCS):  "Nondum Arabes Seresque rogant: Classics Looks East" (2/2/16).  The Latin quotation is from a poem written by Statius to mark the inauguration of Domitian’s seventeenth consulship in AD 95.  It means "nor yet do the Arabs and Chinese file petitions", something that the Romans hoped they would one day submit.

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Chinese without a teacher

That's the title of a book by the formidable British Sinologue,  Herbert Allen Giles (1845-1935).

In the early 1890s, Herbert Giles perfected the system of romanization for Mandarin that had initially been devised by Thomas Wade around the middle of the 19th-century, which is why it is called Wade-Giles.  This was the standard romanization of Mandarin in the English-speaking world for nearly a century, until it was displaced by Hanyu Pinyin when the People's Republic of China secured its acceptance by the United Nations and the International Organization for Standardization.

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Chinese proverbs

A frequent topic of our Language Log posts has been about how best to learn Chinese, e.g.:

"How to learn to read Chinese " (5/25/08)

"How to learn Chinese and Japanese " (2/17/14)

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

Two things I have stressed:  1. take advantage of properly parsed Pinyin or other phonetic annotation and transcription; 2. utilize the full resources of digital, electronic, hand-held, and online dictionaries and other devices to assist and enhance the learning of reading and writing.

Whenever a well-designed, efficient pedagogical tool appears, I am always pleased because it means more rapid acquisition and less suffering for students.

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Zuckerberg's Mandarin, ch. 2

Just a little over a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled to China and the world that he was willing to speak publicly in Mandarin: "Zuckerberg's Mandarin" (10/23/14).

That post includes a video which allows us to watch and listen to his every gesture and word.  Now he's back at it again at the exact same location, Tsinghua University, China's premier engineering and science school:

(Or see: "Mark Zuckerberg’s 20-minute speech in clumsy Mandarin is his latest attempt to woo China," 10/26/15.)

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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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"Horse of Cart"

Tom Mazanec has been seeing a series of strange ads all over the Shanghai subway.  They're for a company that does one-on-one oral English practice over Skype, called 51talk.com.

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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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Language lesson

This is painful to watch, but here we go:

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Chineasy2

I was hoping that, after writing "Chineasy? Not", I wouldn't have to concern myself with this pedagogical bugaboo again.  Wishful thinking!  For reasons that escape me, the Chineasy juggernaut continues to rumble forward

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25 Questions for Teaching with "Word Crimes"

The following is a guest post by Lauren Squires.


While "grammar nerds" are psyched about Weird Al's new "Word Crimes" video, many linguists are shaking their heads and feeling a little hopeless about what the public enthusiasm about it represents: a society where largely trivial, largely arbitrary standards of linguistic correctness are heavily privileged, and people feel justified in degrading and attacking those who don't do things the "correct" way. What's behind linguists' reactions are at least three factors.

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