Beginners of Chinese are most commonly presented simultaneously with vocabulary that contains four distinct parts.
- the English meaning
- the pinyin
- the tones on top of that pinyin
- the Characters
According to Krashen’s Input Hypothesis learners will struggle to acquire more than one new piece of information at a time. The input needs to build on the existing knowledge without too many sudden jumps. The problem facing learners is that they are asked to aquire in essence three, but in practice two. The pinyin and tones can be learnt at the same time, but it’s my beleif that attempting to learn the hanzi and the tones at the same time is too difficult for most students. Chinese is built up of two almost completely independent systems.
I have generally learnt vocabulary with attention to tones, and after mastering that vocabulary orally, sought to learn the written forms. This way I move from no knowledge to pinyin and tones (i +1), then later from knowledge of the pinyin and tones to knowledge of the pinyin/tones and the hanzi (i +1).
After reading about it in one of our textbooks I became really captured by 快板. The traditional artform combines story telling, humour, wit and rhythm.
While I will never be a master, I’ve gotten my own set, and have enlisted a teacher to help me learn the ropes. There are two distinct schools of Kuaiban, one in Beijing, and the other in Tianjin.
It was one of my goals this year to learn Kuaiban, and while I will never be a master, never be good even, I have loved learning it, I’ve improved my Chinese through it and its one more interest I can share in common with the people I meet here.
This is a new documentary! The trees of Yangzhou are exported all over the country, to line the streets of other cities. I go to the hub of this activity, Jiangdu, to find out what contributes to the success and the health of these trees, and also the flowers! These are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, they wake up at 4am and work all day, they do that every single day of the year. I’m really happy with how this video turned out – again, all in Chinese…
It wasn’t without problems though, I’m usually very vigilant about making sure that my clothes look neat before we start filming, but in the very last speech, I totally dropped the ball — watch from 19 mins. This wasn’t a very big deal but one that I have to make sure I don’t ever make a mistake with again.
We had a lot of trouble finding flowers, and this meant that the director couldn’t tell me when I was going to do one of the longer speeches, and then when she wanted to take it would say – “ok, are you ready”. In my initial videos my longer speeches regularly have inaccurate tones or long pauses. This reflects really badly on me, and I think it detracts from the whole documentary My process has evolved so that I when I get the speeches I first find all the words I don’t know, and write in the meaning and tones. I think seperate each speech onto its own page, and break up the sentences into intonation units. This could be five or six words I say without any pause, so I know exactly when to take breaths. I write this in large pinyin, filling a whole A4 page. I then practice saying each of them. At the start of each day I find out which one(s) I will be saying that day, and practice to the level that I can say them perfectly in the morning. I ask for a minimum of 15 minutes notice before we film the longer speech (出境）during that time I practice saying the speech over and over again until I reach the point where I say the whole lot without any mistakes, or any disfluency. When they say ‘action’ it still takes two or three attempts to really nail it – but the final result is always something I can be really proud of. This was the episode where I refined that process, and I think I’ll stick with it from now on.
Chinese education has long been perceived as only emphasising rote learning, and placing complete trust in the ability of exams to dictate general life-preparedness and ability. I read two reports and a couple of articles that give insights into the historical, cultural and policy influences on the Chinese education.
The high societal value placed on education and performance exams can be traced back to the 603AD introduction of the civil examination system. The system enabled self studying candidates from any part of the country, from any family background to become a Government official – the best paying and most stable form of employment in China from then until the present day. This system was fair in that anyone who worked hard enough to succeed in the exams could more dramatically up the social ladder, and the textbooks (standard classics) were common to almost all households and easily obtained. The system was less than fair in that there were no formal schools, and wealthy families that had the means to afford tutors were much more likely to pass the exams.
Today more than half of all graduates from Chinese universities sit the government official exams, despite only between ten and twenty per cent being accepted. Getting into the government is not all glamour, as many people will work as things like police officers in subway stations, or basic administrative clerks for their whole working lives with no influence or variation in their working life. Despite this, these jobs are still seen to be the best because of the generous wages and dependability.
The ongoing influences of this system has meant that families and students still believe that individual hard work is the single most important factor to educational success; memorisation of texts followed by high scores on individual examinations is the only true mark of proficiency; and paying more for education is the only way to get ahead (and this sentiment really lines the pockets of cram schools and foreign teachers, as parents have apparently unlimited money for their children’s education. (SH and HK OECD 2010)
Sandwich stories are a type of text for language learners that integrates selected target language vocabulary into the broader structure of a story in the students first language. As students consume more stories, the number and type of target langauge words which are included increases incrementally. The context of the stories makes acquisition of the vocab much easier than it would be otherwise.
This is an example:
“Long ago, there was a母鸡(mu ji) who lived with three friends: a cat, a pig and a rat.The母鸡was非常(fei chang) hardworking, but her friends were非常lazy. Every morning, the母鸡got up非常early, but her friends always got up非常late.” You see, the two Chinese words, “hen”(mu ji) and “very”(fei chang), will be easily understood and remembered as you read along through the story. The repetition of the target items is not mechanic but natural and plot-specific and therefore interesting.
The advantages of this method are:
- Learners aren’t required to memorise words, they encounter them as they go without need to actively commit them to memory
- The students enjoy reading and learning is not difficult or intimidating
- Progress can be measured through the level of books, the distance they are from texts which are entirely in the target language
This is a longer academic article on them: http://wenku.baidu.com/view/89eeb1f00242a8956bece4c8.html
I really love this method, its a pity I didn’t have any access to it when I was learning Chinese, because a page full of random characters is about as bewildering as it gets. At least with Japanese I could read all of the loan words in Katakana and the hiragana words.
There are four key areas:
There are two major types of motivation: integrative and instrumental (reference). When a student is interested in learning a language because it is important to who they are, for personal reasons, then this is integrative. For example if a student has friends who speak that language, is interested in the movies, tv shows and music, or simply wants to move to a country where that language is spoken, then they are instrumental learners.
In contrast instrumental learners see learning the language as a way of getting something that they want, or have to do. For example a person moves to Australia, and must learn English to buy things, get a job and survive. They are not interested in English, but they must learn. Also, a student who learns English only to pass 高考, they are also instrumental learners. They only care about passing the test, they are not really interested in English
What we know from the research (ref, ref) is that integrative learners learn much more easily, quickly and completely. For them learning is not boring, and they don’t have to force themselves. Overall, the long term ability to take tests will also be improved.
Many Chinese worry that they have an accent when speaking English. This is not a problem as long as the English can be understood. Generally 90% accuracy is enough to be understood very easily. English speakers are used to people speaking with accuracy and even if there are fairly significant inaccuracies, people can guess from the context.
There are two aspects to Pronunciation: individual words, and sentences. However, the process to practice them is the same. Listen to the individual words on an electric dictionary or a website. Also read the phonetic alphabet for the word. Practice listening to the word once, and then imitating the pronunciation as best as you can. Repeat this up to ten times times per word, and it’s best if you space the practices over time. The key is that your mouth gets used to connecting the sounds together in the same order. Because your mouth is used to making Chinese sounds, it is important to spend time repeating the English sounds to get used to that motion.
When reading sentences it is often difficult to link the words fluently together. The best practice is to listen to a single sentence that you have the script for, and then repeat after listening. Try to imitate as closely as possible. Read each sentence three times. Once the level is more advanced, reading out loud from the book is a good way to improve fluency.
Vocabulary is remembered through a process of meaningful encounters with the word. Reading the word once, or copying out a word ten times in a row doesn’t usually count as a meaningful encounter. This impression is really low. There is no exact number of meaningful encounters needed, but if they encounter is extremely meaningful then it might be remembered the first time. Generally students need 5-7 meaningful encounters with a word. This might seem like more, if you include non-meaningful encounters. For example, you want to learn the word “complicated”. These are the ways to interact with a vocabulary item:
- Read the definition
- Read the item and definition out loud
- Sing the word in a song
- You are taking a test, you don’t initially remember the meaning of “complicated”, but then when you try to remember, you succeed, and you answer the question correctly.
- While reading a book, you see the word “complicated” and recognise the meaning
- While watching a movie or tv show, you see/hear the word “complicated” and recognise the meaning
- While talking to a person face to face, they say the word “complicated”, and you remember that you are learning the word, and recognise it.
- You write a sentence to another person, or in an essay which uses the word “complicated”
- You are speaking to someone, and you use the word “complicated” in a sentence.
The lower down the list, the stronger the impression. If you only interact with the word by reading the definition, it might take up to 20 times to really remember the word, but there are too many words, so it is impossible to succeed by only reading the definitions.
Grammar which is similar to your first language is easy to learn and use, pay more attention and learn grammar which is completely different. First read the explanation of the grammar in your first language. See if there are any comparable grammatical structures in your first language. If there are, then try to understand the grammar based on that structure, and pay attention to any differences. Collect as many examples of how the grammar is used. Read the examples out loud, and try changing a couple of the nouns, without changing the structure of the sentence. Write your own sentences using the grammar and get them checked by a native speaker. Saying the sentences using the grammar out loud, and using it in conversation.
With each episode watched by over 300 million inside China, Fei Cheng Wu Rao is close to the biggest TV show in the entire world. I want to write something about my experience for the benefit of future male contestants who are not Chinese. In comparison to the majority of contestants I felt quite successful. I didn’t make any major errors where a lot of girls turn of their lights in quick succession, I had a baodeng which is where a girl confesses her love for me before my segment has finished. I had seven lights on at the end of the last video and had to turn off three lights. And overall it was a funny and entertaining piece of television.
It’s possible to apply through the website and normal channels. But for foreigners the best thing to do is to buy a ticket to the show in the audience anyway you can, go to the audience and then they will usually sit you in the front row if you look foreign. They will usually give a short interview, and get you to do things that they could choose anyone for. They will probably ask you if you want to be on the show if you can speak Chinese at all. Get the directors phone number, as many as you can, or as is appropriate. Don’t try to talk too much to the Hosts, they can’t help you get on, and they don’t waste time speaking to audience members, or contestants for that matter, unless its being filmed. The directors are definitely the most important people to know. Especially directors that are not amazingly handsome or beautiful. They usually are much more reliable and better at their jobs.
Later, you should text message them when the next interview time is. They will respond with a date if they can help you, if not they don’t respond. Non-response doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it just means the timing is bad. Contacting them once every two weeks with reworded requests for an interview won’t be overbearing. If you live in Nanjing it will be about twice as easy to get an interview. If you need to go to Nanjing to have the interview, you should just go, it’s worth it.
When it comes to the interviews, it happens all day, with little happening in the morning other than filling in forms, and then a lot of waiting for your time with the director in the next room. If you have ever been on another dating show in China it could be a problem, but you need to be honest with them about everything. Tell them what you do here, how much money you earn (don’t lie), do you have a house, do you have a car. Just tell them the truth. Don’t lie about anything, if they find out they will ask you for 50,000 RMB. What you can lie about is the number of girlfriends you have had. No contestant on the show has ever had more than five. Having more than three is reason enough for some girls to buzz you. Just pick either two or three, and only talk about Chinese girls if possible. Its completely acceptable to lie about this, just don’t tell them directly that you are lying. I told them that I had Japanese girlfriends, and they said its better not to say anything about Japan on the show because China hates Japan. End result – the number of gfs I’ve had is heavily reduced.
When you get the the interview, speak about your hobbies and work which are interesting. If there is nothing interesting about you, like you just play basketball and teach English, then just cover it quickly and move on. If you really love certain types of foods, then this is considered very interesting, or if you like cooking. The key is to speak about what kind of things you look for in in love, and find contrasts between that and China. Things that are different will make for really great TV if they come up. For example, you love girls who are taller than you. In China no girl will get with a guy shorter than her, and the opposite is true. It just doesn’t happen. You really just need to be friendly and be able to contribute some interesting talking points, and you will be home. The reality is that foreigners in China have a very limited set of jobs/ occupations they can do, and the people with interesting jobs, would never want to be on the show because they want to stay under the radar for practical reasons.
After you are accepted, they will organise to film all day with you on a weekend day in your home city. You should find a good looking girl to pretend to be your ex. Make sure that she looks Chinese, and for the love of God not too fat. If you can’t find any good looking girl to help you, it means you are a loser and it influences the female contestants. All your friends should be Chinese, or at least speak in Chinese. They never translate any other languages, even though at the time of filming always say they can. No one at FCWR has time to translate some random foreigner. You will have a meeting with the VCR director before hand most likely, and suggest that you can write a script. You should try to portray yourself in the best light possible, don’t say anything offhand, and control the VCR content as much as you can. If you don’t feel comfortable saying something, just refuse to say it because its not “how you feel”
The following weekend it will be time to film the show! Walk about confidently, and don’t speak the moment you get out of the lift. Dajia hao, wo shi Name, laizi Country, your age. and then smile. You don’t need to do any skills, just being foreign is enough. If you can sing that’s good, but if you are not awesome don’t do it. If you don’t understand something just say so, people won’t discriminate too much. People will just keep speaking, its not a big deal, you will just say less.