FDTL 46/99

Chinese language skills for Britain: dissemination of best practice

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Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning

Centre for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language

Institute for Chinese Studies



Academic Report on Session Three: Listening Skills

Project manager:

Prof Glen Dudbridge

Teaching and research team:

Ms Fang Jing (researcher)

Mr. Shio-yun Kan (academic director)

Prof Lu Jianji (senior scholar)

Ms Song Yang (researcher)

Ms Hsiao Jingyi  (student teacher)

1. What did we want to achieve in the listening session

2. Implementation of the session

3. Issues about teaching and learning different language skills

Appendix 1



1. What did we want to achieve in the listening session?

The aim of this session was to teach the listening skills of Chinese language to beginners without teaching any other unnecessary language skills and to bring the language sills of listening to Chinese to a highest level within a limited time. The objectives of this session were to teach beginners to listen to everyday conversation and news broadcasting material so that after a period of learning they would be able to use the skills to listen to conversations and relevant reports in Chinese.

2. Implementation of the session

2.1  Time and place

The listening skills session part one started on 8 October and finished on 7 December 2001 and the part two stated on 14 January and finished on 8 March 2002, a total of 127.5 classroom contact hours over 17 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, Oxford University.

2.1 Teaching materials

About 640 commonly used words, and the majority of basic conversation and news broadcasting sentence patterns were covered through 33 lessons of approximately 25 topics during this session. The students learned approximately 35 words a week. The material was designed to develop listening comprehension skills for both colloquial and written style of Chinese language. (Please see Appendix 1 for examples of the material handed out at the end of each week.)

2.2  Teaching and research team

Five teaching and research team members took part during the session.

  1. The original teaching material was provided by Prof. Lu Jianji.
  2. The Teaching material was adapted Ms Fang Jing, Ms Hsiao Jingyi and Mr. Shio-yun Kan
  3. Daily teaching and classroom exercise material was provided by Ms Hsiao Jingyi and Mr. Shio-yun Kan (4:1).
  4. Tapes and tape related material were made by Ms Fang Jing Ms Hsiao Jingyi, Mr. Zhang Zheng and Mr. Shio-yun Kan.
  5. Indexes were edited by Mr. Shio-yun Kan.

Ms Fang Xinxin and Miss Anna Merton provided administrative and other support.

2.4 Students’ background

Six students registered, of whom four completed the session. Of the four participants from the other sessions who came as non-active participants remained until the end of the listening session. The students’ mother tongues were English, Spanish, Japanese and Vietnamese. They ranged from an undergraduate, two post-graduates, to a university medical researcher, a hospital administrative officer and a part-time administrative officer. This made the teaching of this session difficult, and the difference in linguistic capability between individuals became very apparent through the session.

2.5 Students’ performance records

2.5.1 Effort

Although the attendance was regular, the time that students spent away from the classroom working at their material was very little, as can be seen in the following table.

Hours spent away room the classroom in learning the following items.

Student (Sex)

New words

Phrases & sentences


1   (F)




2[1] (F)




3   (F)




4  (M)




5[2]  (F)




6  (F)





2.5.2 Achievement


Three thirty-minute-tests were carried out over the session in weeks four, nine and seventeen. The first two tests were designed to test students listening comprehension skills for sentences, dialogues and passages in colloquial style Chinese.  The third (final test) was designed to test students’ memory for vocabulary and the skills of dealing with information in news broadcasting. The final test material was taken from the Internet at the time. All the details of these three tests and reports of the tests written by Hsiao Jingyi are in Appendix 1. The results of the tests are displayed below. The italic alphabetical letters represent the students who had participated at least one of previous sessions.


Student (Sex)

Week four

Week nine

Week seventeen

1  (F)




2 (F)




3  (F)




4  (M)




5  (F)




6  (F)




A  (F)




B  (M)




C  (F)




D  (F)





2.6 Outcome

Although this experiment was carried out within a small group of people, the above tables indicate that the people who spend most of time learning do not necessarily achieve the most; likewise, the people who learned other Chinese language skills in the past do not necessarily have the obvious advantages in learning the listening skills.

2.7 Classroom teaching

What did we teach our students first? This was the question which was asked by the members of the BCLTS before we launched session one. The order we used to teach listening comprehension was the same one as we used in teaching reading and speaking sessions that was teaching words, phrase, sentences and finally teach passages. This was consistently carried out in each lesson.

2.7.1 Words

How to teach students to remember the sound of Chinese words is one of the first tasks that we had to tackle. In Prof. Lu’s original plan much emphasis was on exercises for differentiating sounds and intonations, but as we had to introduce both colloquial and formal language in this session we had reluctantly cut down these drills. The emphasis was then put on remembering the words that were taught in class. At beginning an instructor will say the words in Chinese and students had to respond in English. This was done in group. In the first five weeks students had to rely on their own notation for the sound and the provided tape to remember the words away from classroom. After week five pinyin was gradually introduced, as a result, more exercises on intonations and sound differentiation were carried out in class. Some students said that the process of remembering a Chinese word had to go through three stages of sound, meaning and tone, among which remembering the sound was the most difficult one, especially the words with the consonants such as “zh” and  “ch” they sound the same to their ear. For instance, it was difficult for students to distinguish zhīdŕo and chídŕo. The students were asked to remember the words actively in preparation for listening to passages after week five.

2.7.2 Phrases and sentences

The above problems of difficult sounds became less apparent when teaching the students phrases and sentences. That was because students’ focus was on situations rather than words. Even if they heard a difficult sound they would automatically assume the meaning which would make sense in the sentence. This kind of guessing is an essential technique in listening comprehension, which should be encouraged. Many teachers do not like to do so it is because its unreliability and it might encourage students having sloppy attitude towards studies. However, being over-cautious can seriously damage students’ confidence. In the listening session we found that it was important to guide students into a right guessing path. When students were busy working out the sense of sentences it was difficult for them to follow the flow of conversation. Normally teachers would slow down the speed, which loses authenticity. We found that the only way to keep the reading speed up and help students to following the flow of a conversation was to use repetition method. It sounded quite natural. For instance when we wrote a conversation between speaker A and speaker B, both speakers reinforce each other’s important information like the following conversation we used in week nine class.


















Some useful features of Chinese sentence constructions such as the position of time words or duration words in sentences were introduced after week five.

2.7.3 Passages

An active approach was used in listening to passages. The students were always given the questions of the passage that they were going to listen in advance, so that they could prepare the exercises by using the information given in the questions. The preparation for listening to a passage was to anticipate the possible words and to locate the relevant information in a passage. For instance, if a question was about a duration of a visit, the students would try to find the possible words for “visit” such as “”, “”, “访问” or “参观”. They would also try to anticipate the possible location of  the relevant information which could be “访问(十天)” or  “进行(十天)的访问”. Keep focusing on the relevant information, should not be  and follow the flow of the passage During the listening was important if they came cross the information which was difficult to understand immediately, such as large number words they would write them down the sound of the words and work out later.

3. Issues about teaching and learning different language skills

3.1 Are passive skills such as reading and listening very similar in teaching and learning?

Yes, they are and they can be dealt with similarly. For instance, the teaching and learning materials for both reading and listening skills can be put on the Internet, but it is difficult to put the material for active skills such as speaking on the Internet. Both language skills are used to receive information, but the environments are very different. As a result, teaching and learning both skills require many different methods as the following three examples clearly indicated.

  • First of all the requirement of time for understanding a relevant material is different. The reading skills can be done through an analytical approach, because the time for understanding a relevant passage is controlled by students. Because of this, we fully explored the analytical approach in the reading session. On the other hand, the same approach cannot be used for learning listening skills, as the time for understanding a conversation or a piece of news report is not controlled by students. Consequently, the emphasis for teaching listening skills was very much on how to train students’ responsiveness, memory for pronunciation of words and short phrases rather than teaching them how to analyse Chinese grammar.
  • Second difference between the two skills is punctuation of the language. We spent lot of time in the reading session to teach the students how to group words in a long sentence, and how to find the function words in order to break sentences into phrases, as the physical punctuations are often insufficient. However, this was not needed in the listening session, as the sentences and passages were read out by native speakers who automatically break the words into groups for the students.
  • Thirdly, although we touched upon the formal (written) style of Chinese language in the listening session the similarity between reading and listening was on vocabulary rather than sentence constructions. In the listening session the sentences were comparatively shorter and unlike those ones in the newspaper articles of the reading session: as if a full-stop was rare specie or a life-saving land-mark which often triggered a happy and rewarding smile on students’ faces.

Appendix 1

Listening comprehension

Week 4 test

Student answer sheet


1. Sentences (Each sentence will be read twice.)




  1. What time do I get up every morning?


  1. What time do I leave for university in the morning? How do I get there?


  1. What do I do at noon?


  1. Do I have a lesson in the afternoon?


  1. Where is the supermarket? What do I do in the supermarket?


  1. Do I have a TV?


  1. Where do I watch the TV?



2. Weather forecast (The passage will be read three times.)


Fill in the following boxes.




Wind direction


Wind force


Highest temperature



3. Passage (The passage will be read three times.)




Who is Lao Wang’s friend?


What is Zhang Peng’s nationality?


Why do we go to Zhang Peng’s place every evening?


Where did Zhang Peng learn his Chinese?


How did Zhang Peng learn his Chinese?

Listening comprehension

Week 4 test

1. Sentences



What time do I get up every morning?


What time do I leave for university in the morning? How do I get there?


What do I do at noon?


Do I have a lesson in the afternoon?


Where is the supermarket? What do I do in the supermarket?


Do I have a TV?


Where do I watch the TV?


2. Weather forecast





Wind direction


Wind force


Highest temperature



3. Passage


Who is Lao Wang’s friend?

What is Zhang Peng’s nationality?

Why do we go to Zhang Peng’s place every evening?

Where did Zhang Peng learn his Chinese?

How did Zhang Peng learn his Chinese?


老王的朋友姓张,叫张鹏是英国人. 张鹏的中文很好,我们每天晚上去张鹏那儿听张鹏说中文.昨天晚上我问老王张鹏是在哪儿学的中文.他是怎么学中文的.老王说张鹏是在中国学的中文.张鹏在中国学中文的时候常在厕所练习念中文.





. 结果统计

以题目为计算单位, 计有18个题目, 答对的标准以完全正确为准. 模糊, 部分缺漏的答案都不算正确答案结果统计如下:



















第一部份(单句)的答对率是最高的, 尤其是答案只有单一讯息的时候; 如果讯息有两个以上, 如第五题的 (面包和奶制品), 则会增加困难度第三部份(篇章)相对来说, 是比较难的, 尤其是第五题, 答案必须翻译整句加上有些用法是学生不熟悉的, 的时候”, “”, 因此答对的人数并不多.


. 整体意见:


考题比他们预期简单, 答题前先看题目有提示的作用教师念题目时, 分词断句亦能帮助他们理解内容记忆词汇几乎是所有学生的困难随着生词量的增多, 要学习生词, 同时又要记忆已学过的词汇, 对他们来说, 是最大的困难点. 课堂上常用的词汇容易记忆, 但是不常用的则不容易保持记忆当听到不熟悉的音节时, 会因为焦虑而影响其后的理解。不合常规的句子也会增加理解的困难度,如 “在厕所练习念中文”,尽管有的人听出意思,但是因为并非他们学习语言的习惯,所以还有人以为自己听错而犹豫不决。




Dominica: 数字,尤其是数目大的,还有天气词(晴,阴)是最难记忆的,另外,与英文表达方式不同的句子也很令她困扰,如录音带中 28到22摄氏度 ,就跟英文由小而大的表达方式不同,他必须重听几次才能理解。


Germaine: 多音节的生词不容易记忆,单音节则没问题,所以希望课堂上能将生词解释拆解成单音节。



Izumi and David: 希望能多解释中文的语法,中文的表达方式跟英文不一样,有时会让他们很不习惯,如在播报气象时,先报几月几号,就让他们相当不习惯,甚至会干扰到其后的理解。

Robert and Julian: 教师念中文时,分词且慢慢念能够帮助理解,但是慢慢念和以正常速度念听起来的语音似乎不太一样,希望能增加听正常速度的练习。


Listening session

Week 9 test



  1. Where does Mr. Wang work?
  2. Where did Mr. Wang meet Mr. Li today?
  3. Who is Mr. Wang going to meet at the train station?
  4. Did Mr. Wang know Mr. Li before?
  5. What does Mr. Li do for living?
  6. Is the supermarket good?
  7. What does Mr. Li buy everyday from the supermarket?
  8. What time does Mr. Li leave for work?
  9. Why does Mr. Wang have to leave home early every morning?
  10. How does Mr. Wang come to work everyday?


The following dialogue will be read out 3 times.








Li       我每天去我们家附近的超市买东西。

Wang 你家附近那家超市的东西好吗?

Li       东西不好,可是东西很多。

Wang 有什么东西?

Li       有每天的东西也有吃的东西。我每天去大学的时候就在那里买我的午饭。

Wang 你每天什么时候离开家去大学?

Li       我每天早上吃了早饭,听了上午广播的天气预报,就去大学。

Wang 每天上午几点开始广播天气预报?

Li       八点半。你不知道每天上午新闻广播和体育节目以后,八点半有天气预报吗?

Wang 我每天听了新闻广播以后八点十分就去上班。

Li       你为什么很早去上班。

Wang 我在城市外边住。开车进城里来要40分钟。


Listening session

Final test


1 Listen to the words and write down the meaning.

1 百分之五十 2 餐厅  3参加 4当地 5 电台

6问问题 7 选购 8 游览 9庆祝  10祝贺

2 Listen to the passages

  1. Read the questions very carefully and note the words which might appear in the passages.
  2. Locate the words which might be relevant to the answers.
  3. Listen to the short passages and answer the questions. Each passage will be read TWICE.

Passage One, take from People’s  Daily 8 March 2002



Passage Two, taken from People’s Daily Moscow 7 March 2002记者孙勇军报道

New word

军事military 战略 strategy 稳定stable, steady

  • What is Russian Defence Minister going to do on 14 March?
  • What is the Russian Defence Minister going to discuss with his host?


Passage Three, taken from People’s Daily London 6 March 2002 记者史宗星报道:

  • When is the new British Ambassador going to Beijing?
  • Under what circumstances and who gave the Ambassador a Chinese name?
  • What did the new Ambassador say to the Chinese reporters?

这位大使的英文名字是Christopher Hum。上世纪60年代末,他在香港大学学汉语的时侯,老师给他起了个中国名字韩魁发。




 Listening session

Final test

Student answer sheet

1 Listen to the words and write down the meaning.


1                       2                       3                       4 5                     


6                       7                       8                       9              10                               


2 Listen to the passages

  1. Read the questions very carefully and note the words which might appear in the passages.
  2. Locate the words which might be relevant to the answers.
  3. Listen to the short passages and answer the questions. Each passage will be read TWICE.

Passage One, take from People’s  Daily 8 March 2002