Let Our Students Fall in Love with Mandarin – Learning Chinese at Stamford School
English translation by Dr. Peter Darmawan
(Note: “Chinese” in the article below refers to the Chinese language.)
In the past, as a Chinese language teacher, I often hear students complain “Chinese is difficult!” and occasionally “I hate Chinese!”. Needless to say, upon hearing all these, I felt really sad. However, after two years, I realized that the student complaints are getting lesser, more and more students are more receptive to the Chinese and better still, some students are slowly falling in love with the Chinese language.
How to make Chinese easy to learn? How to make students like Chinese? These are questions that I always think about. Although my university degree is in teaching Chinese for foreign learners and have prior teaching experience before coming to Indonesia, the unique culture and language environment as well as differences in the type of students has presented me a big challenge in teaching Chinese. Moreover, in the beginning when I arrived, I faced a brand new learning environment and there was no colleagues or seniors that can give me guidance. The only choice I have was to slowly figure it out on my own.
Teaching materials selection and adaptation
The school uses teaching materials from Singapore <<Primary Chinese>> and <<Secondary Chinese>>. The teaching materials are prepared based on the culture and history of Singapore’s perspective. For Indonesian students who are not familiar with the culture and history of Singapore, learning these materials added the degree of difficulty. I discussed together with my other Chinese teacher colleagues on how we can reduce the learning difficulty. We then decided to teach from the same teaching materials but with reduced learning difficulty by a targeted approach of selecting materials and relating it to the Indonesian culture. Another way is to use the main language points described in the textbook and adapt it to be suitable and relatable to Indonesian students. At the same time, acknowledging the difference in Chinese language capability of our students, we have selected <<Learn Chinese With Me>> for those students who are weaker in Chinese.
The difference in students’ Chinese language capability
Due to the difference in the students’ Chinese language capability, from Primary 4 onwards, we have banded the students based on their language capability. Those who are better at the language will continue to learn <<Primary Chinese>> while those who needs a little more help will learn <<Learn Chinese with Me>>. The Chinese teachers will have a different learning objectives and approach in the two groups.
Nurturing the love for learning
Our own interest is the best teacher. Enhancing the interest of students towards the Chinese language is the most important factor in learning Chinese. We have been constantly evolving our teaching methodology and bringing in new teaching approaches through various interesting class games, animated power point slides, video animations, iPad lessons and using various software and applications for learning. We have evolved past the traditional way of teaching where students just sit and listen to the teacher. The use of iPad for Chinese language lessons is one of the latest initiatives by our school as useful teaching methodology. Students can use the applications on the iPad to practice and learn new materials effectively. In addition, students can also create their own games based on what they have learned previously. The various teaching approaches will eventually make our students feel that learning Chinese is really fun.
Creating an indusive Chinese language environment
There is an inherent lack of Chinese speaking environment because the number of students with family members who can speak Chinese is still very little thus only a small number of students have the opportunity to use Chinese at home. Most of our students only have chance to use and practice Chinese only during Chinese lessons in school. Because we talk very little and use very little, it is only natural that the learning of Chinese becomes difficult. Therefore, in order to create better and more Chinese speaking environment, we have organized various Chinese language related activities and competitions such as Chinese New Year celebration, making moon cakes during Mid-Autumn festival, making lanterns, Chinese Karaoke competition, Chinese storytelling competition and sending our students to participate in various summer and winter camps organized by the China government.
Through the concerted efforts of the Chinese teachers, the work of Stamford School Chinese Department is increasing and consequently, students’ enthusiasm for learning is also increasing. Every Chinese teacher in the school will continue to work hard to improve our teaching skills and make Chinese attractive to our students. We hope that more and more students will truly love Chinese and learn Chinese well.