Academic Report on Session Two: Speaking Skills
Teaching and research team:
Fang Jing (researcher)
Shio-yun Kan (academic director)
Zhang Zhanyi (senior scholar)
Song Yang (researcher)
Liu Xiaoyu (teacher)
1. Organization of Session
2. Teaching issues
Teacher’s report by Liu
Time and place
The speaking skills session
started on 23 April and finished on 20 July 2001, a total of 97.5
classroom contact hours over 13 weeks with 1.5 hours tuition 5 days a
week from 5 to 6.30 p.m. The participants were taught as a single
group in the Language Laboratory of the Institute for Chinese Studies,
Over 500 commonly used words,
and the majority of basic sentence patterns and grammar points, were
covered through 30 conversation topics during this session. The
students learned approximately 40 words a week. The material
was designed to develop conversation and oral presentation skills.
(Please see Appendix 1 for examples of the material handed out at the
end of each week.)
Teaching and research team
Five teaching and research
team members took part during the session. Prof. Zhang Zhanyi
original teaching material; Mr. Shio-yun Kan adapted the material ; Ms
carried out classroom teaching and wrote weekly revision material; Ms
made the tapes and
tape related material; and Ms Song Yang
edited the indexes.
Ms Fang Xinxin
and Miss Anna Merton
provided administrative and other support.
1.4 Students’ background
Fifteen students registered,
of whom six completed the session. Of the four students from the
Reading session who came as non-active participants three remained
until the end of the Speaking session. The students’ mother tongues
were English, Turkish, Japanese, German, Arabic and Thai. They ranged
from undergraduates and post-graduates, to a university doctor, a
college administrative officer, a museum researcher and three language
instructors. This made the teaching of this session difficult, and the
difference in linguistic capability between individuals became very
apparent in the later stages of the session. This could be one of the
reasons why attendance levels fell towards the end of the session.
1.5 Students’ performance records
The time that the students
spent working at their material away from the classroom was monitored
throughout the session, as can be seen in the following table.
Hours spent in learning the
Although individually recorded
tests were carried out regularly (see Teacher’s Report), it was
difficult to give marks which would reflect the students’ true
performance in class. Besides, some students were intimidated by tape
recorders. (Sometimes one could hear them swearing at or apologising
to the machine.) Some students simply refused to record their test or
skipped the test class completely. However, the recorded tests did
indicate the remarkable progress that the individual students made
during different stages of the session.
Our FDTL project team believes
that the speed at which a student can learn and remember foreign
language pronunciation depends on how far the language relates to his
or her immediate environment. If a pronunciation exercise relates to
the student’s everyday life, it should be easier for him or her to
master than a meaningless drill.
The aim of this experimental
session was to teach students to grasp basic Chinese pronunciation so
that they could quickly establish communication with native Chinese
speakers. The emphasis was on communicative skills rather than
accuracy of pronunciation and intonation. In order to achieve a high
level of communication within the limited period of 13 weeks we
decided to use the following two approaches:
- At the
beginning of the session we put more emphasis on teaching words and
phrases, rather than individual characters, as the smallest
components in sentences. This was because the mother tongues of most
students consisted of multi-syllabic words and expressions. Words
and expressions were closely related to students’ everyday life from
the start, so that they could be used both in and out of the
classroom. Characters were always introduced in the context of words
or expressions, and wherever possible new characters were introduced
via new expressions that contained at least one character that had
been learned before.
Teaching words and sentences
Communicative skills were
important for this experiment and it was decided that the material
should be based on topics which related to real situations, in order
to build up students’ vocabulary. As it was impossible for us to
create a Chinese language environment, the methods of teaching were
limited to imitation, repetition, translation and classroom drills.
Teaching and learning words
We decided to make tapes of
the key new words, expressions and sentence patterns for the whole
week and hand them to the students on a Monday. During the first five
weeks. the tapes were the only pronunciation tool available for the
students to use outside the classroom. The tape would say for example
“New Words: 1. what shénme; 2. you nĭ…” We realised that
the disadvantage of using tapes would be that the quality of the
recording might give rise to confusion. For instance, “t” and “k” are
difficult to distinguish on tape, as in tèbié and kèbié.
The students would have to rely on the teacher to correct their
pronunciation in class. We also decided to hand out simple written
material to guide the students as they went through the tapes. (Please
see Appendix 2 for examples.)
Teaching and learning sentences
We decided to use imitation
and repetition methods for teaching and learning new words, and to use
elicitation methods, translation, sign language and images to revise
and consolidate vocabulary. After revision the students were able to
turn their passive knowledge of Chinese into active skills to form
sentences. For instance, after learning some new words the teacher
“You have to tell a Chinese
friend that we are going to school by bus.” This would give the
students a clear purpose. Then the teacher would say: “In Chinese it
will be: we take a bus to go to school.” This would indicate the
Chinese word order. After that the teacher would ask: “How do you say
we in Chinese? … How do you say take bus in Chinese? …How do you say
go? …How do you say school?” The translation of the words was treated
as vocabulary revision. As the words in the questions had already been
laid out via the Chinese word order, it meant that no grammar had to
be explained. The teacher then would ask: “How do you say the sentence
Comprehension, practice, drill and consolidation
We decided to use substitution
exercises to consolidate sentence patterns. For instance, we could
replace the nouns we and school in the sentence pattern
we take a bus to go to school with other nouns that the
students had learned. We thought that another crucial aspect of
communication skills was comprehension, without which speaking skills
would be pointless. In order to teach this skill, the teacher added
sentence components to a basic sentence pattern, and the students were
encouraged to use the same method to form longer and more complicated
sentences. For instance, a basic sentence such as what is his name
can be developed through the following patterns.
tā jiào shénme
tā jiào shénme míngzi
lăoshī wèn tā
lăoshī wèn tā
“ni jiào shénme míngzi?”
lăoshī jintian wèn tā
As well as holding revision
classes every Friday, we made handouts of all the material that the
students had learned during the week.
3.1 Teacher’s report and
Ms Liu Xiaoyu has written a
very detailed and coherent report on the teaching elements of this
session, and there is no need for me to repeat her findings here.
However, when the outcome of the session is compared with our initial
ideas, there are a few points that can be made.
result of delaying the introduction of Pinyin for a few weeks
was good. After 4 or 5 weeks the students were longing for a
standard written form for Chinese pronunciation that was superior to
their own version. Introducing Pinyin at that moment was
ideal and it made the teaching of Pinyin less painful. Students
could then easily distinguish the so-called ‘difficult sounds’ when
the Pinyin for a word was taught.
result of teaching sentence patterns instead of teaching grammar was
also good, but as there were professional language teachers and
students in the class, who had learned their other languages
analytically, grammar questions were unavoidable. More grammar
explanations could have been handed out as additional material at
end of each week for those who were familiar with the traditional
way of learning foreign languages.
Repetition and translation methods of teaching were effective, but
we felt that if one applied them too much students would not be able
to free themselves from their teachers’ guidance or from their
mother tongue, damaging their confidence. Situation-related
role-play exercises should be used for consolidation purposes.
Example of material handed out
at the end of each week:
Is Mr. Wang Qiang there?
have learned the words for year, month and
date in Chinese, but we may have to learn more time words if we have
to make an appointment to see somebody. Let’s talk to a Chinese friend
called Wang Qiang on the phone.
hi, I am Peter. Wang Qiang Mr. in MA.
Hello, this is Peter. Is Mr. Wang Qiang there?
Yes, I just am Wang Qiang. Peter you have what matter
Yes, speaking. Hi, Peter, what’s up?
I want invite you eat meal.
I would like to invite you for a meal.
extremely good LE! What time
Great ! When ?
next week three evening seven o’clock half
7.30 next Wednesday evening.
at what place
good, thanks, goodbye
OK thanks, bye!
There are some new words in
the above dialogue.
MA is a
question particle which is placed at the end of a statement, to
change the statement into a question.
Wang Qiang in MA Is Wang Qiang
you are Peter MA
Are you Peter?
They want this MA Would they want this
you know MA
Do you know?
has several meanings in Chinese. It can mean Mr., and it can
also be used to address a senior person such as a scholar or an
is the name of a person.
is a surname and
Qiang is a
given name. A surname is followed by a given name in Chinese. A title
place after a name or surname as in
Wang Qiang Mr. Try to say the following
Chairman Mao Zedong
Mr. Deng Xiaoping
Premier Zhu Rongji
Miss Zhang Lingling.
be in, on or at (a place) is used as a
verb in the following sentences.
Is Wang Qiang at home?
Wang Qiang is at home MA
Yes, he is, but his father is not at home.
is at home,
his father not is at home
Where is his father?
is at where
5. The adverb
jiu ) has many meanings in Chinese. It is used to emphasize
verb to be in the following sentences.
I am Wang Qiang.
I just am Wang Qiang.
I just want this one ( but not any other ones).
I just want this one [MW]
matter, affair, thing, or business.
( I ) have got matters to attend to/ things to do.
have matter (to
What is the matter?
have what matters
not have matters.
means want to, intend to. It is placed before the
main verb of a sentence and is
as a modal verb, as indicated in the following sentences.
He would like to go to Beijing.
he intend go Beijing
What would you like to ask?
8. We have learned
which means may I ask …. or excuse me as a set phrase.
also be used as a verb and means to invite, as here:
I would like to invite you for a meal.
I invite you eat meal
Who is inviting your older brother?
your older brother
very is used as an adverb.
this one [MW]
Other weekdays are:
Monday week one
Tuesday week two
Thursday week four
Friday week five
Saturday week six
sun in Chinese.
Read after me from Monday to Sunday, please!
The following time words can also be useful when we want to make
12. When we read out the time,
o’clock after a number to tell the following times:
one o’clock two o’clock ten o’clock twelve o’clock
Please remember the Chinese sequence of time: year, month, date, day,
part of day, hour, minutes…
7 o’clock in the morning (7 am)
morning 7 o’clock
half. When it comes to telling the time
means half an hour
means place. Try to work out the meanings of the following
[MW] place is Beijing.
[MW] place is what place
We have learned
is used as an adverb and
1. Try to practise the following words.
to be in, on at…
2. Invite your friends to have dinner or to do something with
Say from Monday to Sunday in Chinese;
Tell your classmates what are you
going to do from Monday to Sunday.
Example of material handed out
at the beginning of each week
Is Mr. Qiang Wang there?
Part one: new words
1. (personal name)
3. be in/on/at
4. question particle
7. matter, things, business
8. would like to
Part two: expressions
A. (extremely good
B. (you have what
business?) May I help you?
C. (you have business
particle?) Are you busy?
Teacher’s report by Liu
FDTL - Speaking
called what name, what’s your name,你叫什么名字”。如果句子里的词都学过，教师说英语，让学生尝试自己说出中文来。后来是如果有新词，只给新词的英文，别的直接说中文，比如“like，喜欢—我喜欢—我喜欢东西—我喜欢你的东西—我喜欢你写的东西”。