How the University Chinese language &
culture program evolved...
28 years ago my husband was hitch hiking on a surfing trip on the east coast of South Africa. Little did he know that he would meet someone who would contribute to a major change in his life. T.C Sun , a Taiwanese business person stopped on the highway in his van and offered him a lift. He was on a sales trip and his van was full of samples which he was presenting to shops along the east coast. They got chatting and Matt was fascinated about learning about where TC came from and Chinese culture . The 8 hour road trip to Cape Town gave them both the opportunity to learn more about each other. T.C later became known as Uncle TC to Matt's family and over the next couple of years Matt and Uncle TC became good friends. Later TC's family visited from Taiwan and Matt was invited to stay with TC's sisters in Taiwan. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn first-hand about Chinese culture , language ad martial arts that Matt was taking a growing interest in and he decided to go.
After arriving in Taiwan Matt enrolled in a university mandarin program while living with TC's sisters family. His sister and husband could not speak a word of english and Matt found it a bit of a struggle . However it was because of this challenge that he was able to pick up Chinese faster than he would of had he only studied at university and gone back to a dormitory each day . The university , as with most universities in Taiwan , also used traditional teaching methods . The teacher lectures. The students listen. There were also very few , if any, activities to stimulate and activate different parts of the mind to promote effective language learning.
The Birth of an Accredited
University Mandarin Program
With the help of my husband and a faculty of Chinese teachers from Providence university , we launched an off-campus mandarin program 12 years ago. We built the program from zero to 280 students from 58 different nationalities in a period of 5 years. It gave us a tremendous opportunity to learn what worked and what didn't. Beginner classes for the most part were much bigger in student numbers but as the levels got higher to intermediate and advanced the student numbers tapered off. Part of the reason was simply that students had to move because of their work or family and other reasons. But what we also noted was that students were becoming bored of sitting in a classroom. Learning a language is best done through a wide range of fun and motivational activities .Although some structure can be given to a lesson plan by writing it on a white board , it should not be the norm.
New Modern Non-traditional Ways of
Each Person is unique and different. There are certain methods that may work better for you in learning. However there are certain principles and actions which if we all take , will relate to the most effective and efficient way for learning a language. There is also one super fast way to speed up the learning process of mandarin. In my 12 years experience as administrator for Providence university off-campus mandarin program , I noted that students that were happier and retained a good sense of humor were able to pick up the language faster. Being too serious , frustration and anger inhibit language learning. Another very important factor that plays a major role in how fast a person learns is "the more you speak, the more you learn". Getting students to speak what they just learned is real learning. Learning by doing. One has to get to the stage where you are "thinking and dreaming" in Chinese. For this reason our team has been actively involved in designing and regularly re-designing a mandarin university course that embraces creative activities to learn the Chinese language. Through a wide variety of games , activities , debates with words and sentences , team performances , acting , singing and music are just some of what we do to motivate people - combining these activities to create an innovative and creative out-of-the-ordinary mandarin program has been our focus. The addition of games and strategies is consistently reinventing the way the Chinese language is learnt - by as many games and activities as is possible to get students to speak. One analogy explains it quite well - when you are training your body get fit - it starts getting used to the level and tone of the same repetitive exercises day in and day out. But if you throw a tough swim in every second day or a serious hill to run up , your body gets fitter. Its the same with the mind - one needs to activate and stimulate it from different angles. An intensive Chinese mandarin course needs to be "intensely" motivating. "Modeling" is a modern way that mentors and trainers use to help people create quick and effective success in their professions. It is a proven method that works and One wonders why so very few language learning centers use it.