How Many Hours to Proficiency?

Does anyone know approximately how long it would take a native Chinese speaker in Taiwan to get to say level B1 or level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ([wikipedia][/wikipedia])?

The reason I ask this is that I want to discuss this with my supervisor in planning the classes for next year.

So far, I would say this of my students at my junior high school:

Approximately 80% of my students, when I first started working here, could not even do what is listed under A1.
Another 10% of my students could do what is listed under A1.
The remaining 10% of students fell/fall somewhere between A2 and B1.
No students were/are at B2 or above.

I’m pretty much assuming that the English classes they have with their Taiwanese teachers are rather meaningless (other than preparing the kids for multiple choice cloze tests about English linguistics) given that when I gave my ninth grade students (and everyone else) an informal oral test at the start of this year, virtually none of them could answer more than two of the following six questions (and many couldn’t even understand the questions):

What is your name? How old are you? How do you feel? What are your hobbies? How many people are in your family? Who are they?

I’m going to try to state the case for having concentrated classes from the 3rd grade (I also teach a couple of periods per week at a local elementary school) so I can simply get the sheer number of hours up. In other threads, I’ve suggested that at less than one full period per week, the students get about 20 hours of input from me per year (it’s actually 18-24 hours based upon different estimates). Even if I were to get my current fourth grade students all the way through to the end of the ninth grade, I’d still be looking at somewhere in the vicinity of 200 hours. Obviously, if I could see those kids two, or even three or four, times per week (because I do actually have some eighth grade students who get two private lessons with me each week when their classmates have English lessons with their Taiwanese teachers and we have some extra “club/activity” periods also), I’d really be able to get the hours up. What are realistic expectations in terms of the level I could get them to (assuming that their instruction from their Taiwanese teachers will both help and hinder in different ways)? … ish-hocam/

A1 – 80-100 GLHs

A2 – 180-200 GLHs

B1 – 350-400 GLHs

B2 – 550-600 GLHs

C1 – 750-800 GLHs

C2 – 1000-1200 GLHs

This is the figure some Turkish guy has dredged up. (GLH means guided learner hours). I can’t find any stats for native Chinese speakers.

This could be cross referenced to IELTS proficiency.

Dutch learners will naturally learn English faster than Chinese learners so keep that in mind.
Many factors play a role. The age of the learners and there motivation level, their general ability etc etc.
Don’t think that all native speakers are at C2 with all four skills. They are not. Be careful with these types of calculations. I think it can be fairly accurately predicted up to B1 and then many other factors come into play.

I’m just talking in terms of one year equalling about 20 hours of instruction from me. Even over seven years, that’s still very little, especially with Chinese as their L1. The point I want to try to make to my supervisor is that he can spread me so thinly as to not make any real difference at all or he can try to give certain kids a lot of time with me and I can make something of a difference (even though it probably wouldn’t be enough time still). There have been times this year where I haven’t seen students for three weeks because of two cancelled lessons. After that time period, they pretty much forgot what I taught them three weeks before, so I had to reteach it. In a month, we basically went nowhere then. If I had them twice or three times per week there would be far greater continuity.

tom: Thanks for that link. The author of that article stated:

In another thread I calculated that the average person who starts English in the third grade and continues through until graduating university will receive something like 1,100 hours of English in the formal education system. Yet how many of those would be considered B2+ level? Very few, I should imagine.

[quote=“GuyInTaiwan”]tom: Thanks for that link. The author of that article stated:

In another thread I calculated that the average person who starts English in the third grade and continues through until graduating university will receive something like 1,100 hours of English in the formal education system. Yet how many of those would be considered B2+ level? Very few, I should imagine.[/quote]

The negative backwash from the exams is the main problem. Teachers teach towards whatever objective they are set, and in that respect the JHS an HS teachers are doing a pretty good job.

tom: They are and they aren’t. Maybe they’re fairly good at teaching to those tests, but that’s a bit like painting the bullseye after firing the arrow. They don’t do well on anything that’s internationally recognised and their students can’t actually speak or write English to save themselves.

But the goal is not to speak or write English. The goal is to pass the test, so that the teacher gets a good performance evaluation. You’re not going to have much luck trying to sell YOUR agenda to school administrators that are measured by different criteria. Even if they agree in principle, the reality is that every teacher and every school is in competition with every other teacher and every other school for students. And the students come because the school has a reputation for getting people through tests that are designed to Taiwanese values.

I saw a figure somewhere of 400 hours being worth one band in the IELTS test. That’s quality instruction for an average student. I would agree with the view that Taiwanese students are not ‘average’ in terms of the gap from L1 to English, and that your efforts will be undermined by contradictory input from the recognised authorities (local teachers) teaching the recognised truth.

If you’re going to sell this idea to anyone, you need to present it in terms that make sense to them. Last I heard, logic wasn’t part of the decision-making process even if you can demonstrate quantifiable results.

[quote=“GuyInTaiwan”]tom: Thanks for that link. The author of that article stated:

In another thread I calculated that the average person who starts English in the third grade and continues through until graduating university will receive something like 1,100 hours of English in the formal education system. Yet how many of those would be considered B2+ level? Very few, I should imagine.[/quote]
Very few are getting quality instruction, by any definition. A lot of the students just tune out and don’t pay any attention in class anyway. I saw this at a Christian college I subbed at - the students had been studying English there for 6 months, 5 hours a day 5 days a week. (This after years of English study in junior high and high school.) For many people, that would be enough to reach fluency - not perfection, but at least enough to be able to carry on a conversation and read a book. And yet most of the students were at the beginner level; some seemed complete beginners, who couldn’t even understand or answer questions like “What is your name?” But if you observed their classes, you could see part of the problem: in the classes with a Taiwanese teacher, the whole class was spent with the teacher lecturing in Chinese about English grammar. There would be maybe 2 sentences of spoken English an hour. As well, many of the students didn’t even pretend to be listening: they’d sit at the back and chat with each other, or do their homework.
So yeah, they had 600 hours of English instruction, but I think a language exchange at the local Starbuck’s with a native speaker of English for an hour a day for a week would have shown better results.

One point is that all the existing estimates of “how long does it take” are based on traditional teaching methodology. I am not aware of any data on how long it takes to achieve certain proficiency benchmarks using, say, full CI-instruction until structure is acquired and then extensive reading/listening thereafter. Everything is in the “mainstream” paradigm.

Instead of how many hours does it take maybe the question should be what is the best way for a native English speaker to acquire Mandarin.

The best answer probably is one year at a school and then get yourself incarcerated for two years afterward.

I would say the answer to this question lies with the student and their willingness to take responsibility for their own learning and not blame it all on the teacher.

Loretta: You’re precisely right. I was actually having this very same conversation with my wife this afternoon. Given Taiwan’s declining birthrate, no one can afford to deviate from the test results paradigm.

bababa: You’re entirely correct. As I was typing one of those replies this afternoon, or thinking about one, I could hear my supervisor in the eighth grade classroom next door. His lessons usually begin with a couple of minutes of drill and kill on that lesson’s vocabulary words, followed by a forty minute linguistics lecture in Chinese. He is someone who says to me that he wishes that the kids could actually use English in meaningful ways to really communicate and that he doesn’t want to just teach to the test. I’m not sure what to make of that. He’s aware of the problem when I talk to him about it, yet it’s business as usual. At least some teachers are blissfully unaware of that issue or simply don’t care. Yet he continues to do more of the same. I just can’t get my head around it. The one good thing though is I largely get left alone to do whatever I want, which is why I’d love to get some of these kids for more time.

The other thing I forgot to mention above was that if I could spend more time with them before they hit adolescence, then I’d have far fewer disciplinary issues. By far my worst class (the ones I’m always describing as a bunch of cunts) are the ninth grade students who simply don’t give a fuck and who can’t, and won’t communicate with me. They won’t meet me half way. Most won’t even meet me 10% of the way. I realise adolescents can be that way inclined regardless, but I figure kids who have known me for a few years and spent a serious amount of time with me and are used to doing things differently (and so don’t view me as some sort of alien/exotic animal) are less inclined to completely stonewall me. The seventh grade kids are fucking crazy, but we’re starting to figure each other out and roll with it. It’s like opening the gates to the lunatic asylum some days (actually most days!) with them, but I can handle them and there is some sort of connection being formed. My fourth grade students are going to be kind of rad by the time they get to junior high school.

The thing would be to get some real professional development going, and I’ve been trying to do that, but I can tell they’re not serious about that, though I’m still going to try. I still feel some sort of obligation as a teacher to improve things. I’m fast reaching the end of my care factor, though I do still want to try to optimise my own professional situation. Pretty much though, from the signals I’m getting, I think that within a year, I’m basically just going to be riding this thing out for about the next decade for financial reasons (i.e. until I reach my number), whilst making my life as easy as possible in the interim, and then I will basically walk away from the EFL world in this country for good, except maybe doing a handful of privates on my terms.

I am pretty sure that for things to change here, a crisis of some sort would be required, I’m just not quite ready to fully embrace that cynical position yet. Talk to me again around Christmas.

ironlady: That’s why I’m really interested in getting into this TPRS method, especially with younger kids (whom I think would be much more willing to give it a go). If I could get a class of third or fourth grade students a couple of times per week, maybe by the end of elementary school there’s a good chance I could have made some serious stides forward with them.