FDTL 46/99

Chinese language skills for Britain: dissemination of best practice

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Academic Report on Session Two: Speaking Skills

Project manager:

Prof Glen Dudbridge

Teaching and research team:

Ms Fang Jing (researcher)

Mr. Shio-yun Kan (academic director)

Prof Zhang Zhanyi (senior scholar)

Ms Song Yang (researcher)

Ms Liu Xiaoyu (teacher)

1. Organization of Session Two

2. Teaching issues

3. Conclusions

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Teacher’s report by Liu Xiaoyu





1. Organization of Session Two

1.1  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, Oxford University.

1.2  Teaching materials

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.)

1.3  Teaching and research team

Five teaching and research team members took part during the session. Prof. Zhang Zhanyi [1] provided the original teaching material; Mr. Shio-yun Kan adapted the material ; Ms Liu Xiaoyu[2] carried out classroom teaching and wrote weekly revision material; Ms Fang Jing [3]made the tapes and tape related material; and Ms Song Yang [4]edited the indexes.

Ms Fang Xinxin [5] 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 following items


New words



Oral presentation









































1.6 Outcome

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.

2. Teaching issues

2.1  Teaching pronunciation

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.

There were some pronunciation problems that related to students’ mother tongues. For instance, beginners find it difficult to tell the difference between words beginning with zh and j, ch and q, and sh and x. This is because the written form of Pinyin is too similar to English, and it was for this reason we decided to delay the introduction of Pinyin pronunciation. It was felt that the right time to teach Pinyin would be when the students had learned enough words to communicate, and enough expressions to cover basic Chinese pronunciation.

2.2  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.

2.2.1        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 …” 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 tčbié and kčbié. 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.)

2.2.2        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 would say:

“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 in Chinese?”

2.3  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       jiŕo shénme

tā       jiŕo shénme míngzi

lăoshī            wčn      tā       jiŕo shénme

lăoshī            wčn      tā “ni jiŕo shénme míngzi?”

lăoshī jintian wčn      tā            shénme

As well as holding revision classes every Friday, we made handouts of all the material that the students had learned during the week.

3. Conclusions

3.1 Teacher’s report and further comments

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.

  • The 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.
  • The 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.

Appendix 1

Example of material handed out at the end of each week:

Lesson Eight

Is Mr. Wang Qiang there?

 一. (One)

We 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.


a. 喂,我是彼得。王强先生         在吗?

     hi, I am Peter. Wang Qiang Mr. in MA.    

Hello, this is Peter. Is Mr. Wang Qiang there?


b. 在。我      王强。         彼得,你        什么 事?

     Yes, I   just  am Wang Qiang. Peter you  have what matter

     Yes, speaking. Hi, Peter, what’s up?


a.                  饭。

     I    want invite you eat meal.

     I  would like to invite you for a meal.


b.                  了!  什么  时候?

   extremely good LE!      What time

   Great ! When ?


a.    星期                             半。

     next week three evening seven o’clock half

7.30 next Wednesday evening.


b.   什么  地方?

    at what   place



a.  北京    饭店。

     Beijing Hotel.


b. 好,谢谢,再见!

    good, thanks, goodbye

    OK thanks, bye!



二. (Two)

There are some new words in the above dialogue.


  1. 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 there?

彼得 吗?        

you are Peter MA      Are you Peter?

他们 这个 吗?        

They want this MA      Would they want this one?

你们 知道  吗?       

 you know MA                Do you know?


     2.   先生 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 important person.


     3.   王强  Wang Qiang is the name of a person.

Wang is a surname and Qiang is a given name. A surname is followed by a given name in Chinese. A title such as 先生Mr. is place after a name or surname as in 王强先生 Wang Qiang Mr. Try to say the  following names.


      Chairman  Mao Zedong

      Mr. Deng Xiaoping

      Premier Zhu Rongji

      Miss  Zhang Lingling.


      小姐 means miss.

      太太 means Mrs.


4.   to be in, on or at (a place) is used as a verb in the following sentences.

      a                  吗?             Is Wang Qiang at home?

           Wang Qiang is at home MA

      b. 家,   爸爸 家。      Yes, he is, but his father is not at home.

          is at home, his father not is at home

      a. 爸爸   哪儿?                  Where is his father?

           his father  is at where


5.   The adverb ( jiu ) has many meanings in Chinese. It is used to emphasize    

   the verb to be in the following sentences.


      a.        强。              I am Wang Qiang.

            I  just am  Wang Qiang.


      b.         这个。     I just want this one ( but not any other ones).

            I  just want this one [MW]


     6.   means matter, affair, thing, or business.


     a.                     ( I ) have got matters to attend to/ things to do.

      have matter (to attend)     .

           什么                What is the matter?

      have  what  matters

     b.                            Nothing.

       not have matters.


  1. means want to, intend to.  It is placed before the main verb of a sentence and is

used as a modal verb, as indicated in the following sentences.

a.             北京。      He would like to go to Beijing.

he intend go Beijing

     b.        什么      What would you like to ask?

            you intend ask what


8.  We have learned 请问 please ask which means may I ask …. or excuse me as a set phrase. can also be used as a verb and means to invite, as here:

     a.        吃饭。          I would like to invite you for a meal.

I  invite  you  eat meal

     b.        哥哥               Who is inviting your older brother?

        Who invite your older brother


 9.  了!  too, very  is used as an adverb.

     The expression means great!

10.  星期  week

    a. 这个 星期      This week

       this one [MW] week

    b. xia means below, next


       next  week


    c.  星期三       Wednesday

       week  three


           Other weekdays are:

       Monday     week one

       Tuesday     week two

       Thursday     week four

       Friday     week five

       Saturday     week six

       Sunday is 星期日week sun in Chinese.


      Read after me from Monday to Sunday, please!

  11.  晚上evening

   The following time words can also be useful when we want to make conversation.

      上午        morning

     up noon

      中午         noon

     middle noon

      下午       afternoon

     down noon

12.  When we read out the time, means o’clock.  


      seven  o’clock


      eight  o’clpck


      Place 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…


       上午   七点       7 o’clock in the morning (7 am)

       morning   7  o’clock


13.  means half. When it comes to telling the time means half an hour

       means minute and means second.

14.  地方 means place. Try to work out the meanings of the following sentences.

     a. 这个  地方         北京。

        this one [MW] place is Beijing.

     b. 那个  地方         什么 地方?

        that one [MW] place is what place

  15.  好,再见!

       We have learned 你好 hello. Here, means OK.

       again is used as an adverb and  means see. 再见 means see

       you again.

三. (Three)

1. Try to practise the following words.

先生            Mr


星期            week

           to be in, on at

再见            again see

什么            what


           to be

时候            time

      2. Invite your friends to have dinner or to do something with you.


四. (Four)


1.       Say from Monday to Sunday in Chinese;

2.       Tell your classmates what are you going to do from Monday to Sunday.

Appendix 2

Example of material handed out at the beginning of each week


Lesson Eight

Is Mr. Qiang Wang there?


Part one: new words

1. (personal name)

2. Mr.

3. be in/on/at

4. question particle

5. hello

6. just

7. matter, things, business

8. would like to

Part two: expressions

A. (extremely  good  particle!)                        Great!

B. (you  have  what  business?)                        May I help you?

C. (you  have  business  particle?)                        Are you busy?


Teacher’s report by Liu Xiaoyu


FDTL - Speaking












 先从话题或情景开始,让学生了解本课可能接触的词汇或句式,然后按词汇词组句子的顺序导入。初学时先给英文,再给中文。比如:“what,名字—what name,什么名字—call what name叫什么名字—you 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”。 



  课文句子-- 李方结婚了吗?
















 师生问答:如“难”:你觉得学汉语难吗?- 不是我觉得汉语(不/很)难。

                 “因为”:为什么你拿着雨伞?- 因为今天下雨。







如学完“去什么地方旅游好?”,学完后学生两三人一组对话。有时用图画辅助,如学了“跟(不)一样” 和“比”,给甲乙学生不同的图画,或内容不同,或图片顺序不同,让他们不看对方的画,用汉语进行比较。






用图片辅助练习一些难音,如zh组,复合元音,也把一些易混淆的音做了比较练习,如z组和j组,ou uo,前鼻音和后鼻音等。除个别学生母语影响较顽固造成混淆,比如:tc(泰国),xs(英国),rl(泰国,日本,苏丹)外,效果比较好。声调在强调时(比如说课文和绕口令)效果显著,在语流中仍不能令人满意。                                                                                         



词汇 -- 按词类划分,方便学生看到词类大致回忆起用法。用语言游戏来复习,比如词汇接龙(后一人的第一字要与前一人的最后一字发音相同,如果声调不同,要指出来。),量词搭配(每人各写五个名词,五个量词,把所有名词打混,所有量词打混,任意抽出一个名词一个量词,如果不能放在一起,要分别找到合适的搭配。)

 基本句型 除了给出本阶段所学过的重点语句外,在前两次里还出了句型替换,鼓励学生用学过的词语自己作出符合汉语规则的表达。也可以用语言游戏,比如两人各说一句话,第三人要用学过的副词,连词,固定表达式等把两句话拉上关系变成一句。

语法小结 由于本课程不把语法分离出来讲,只是通过大量的模仿和按汉语顺序翻译英文让学生自己比较与领会,所以需要必要的提示(如“在”多种意义和用法)和集中比较(比如作为介词的“对”和“给”,“一点儿”和“有点儿”,“了”和“过”,“正在”和“着”,做状语和补语的形容词的位置和意义等等),用表格等形式给出。

 说话的情景 让学生了解本阶段所学过的话题。由于在巩固练习中已经做得比较充分,这时可以略去不做。
















[1] The Vice President of Beijing New Asia University.

[2] Language lecturer at Peking University.

[3] Instructor in Chinese, University of Oxford.

[4] Instructor in Chinese, University of Oxford

[5] Assistant to General Secretary, The International Society for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language