Schools that insist on no English being spoken in class

I was reading another post recently here (forget which one) and it made me think of my experience at a Taiwanese CLC.

I went to one school in Kaohsiung, and they insisted that no English be used in the class. In fact, if the teacher uses English, which the teacher does understand, they can get in trouble with administration. It was as if they felt that by just only hearing Mandarin in the course, we would pick it up. They also insisted on finishing the units, even if not everyone was on the same page.

For me, I am a very visual person, and need to see the connection between what Im saying in Chinese and its English meaning. The words have to have a specific use for me…
For example, I was looking for the word yesterday for can you help me for a minute 你可以幫我一個忙嗎. Since I needed this word, I also remember it. But just being told to read from a book and memorize grammar doesn’t work well for me.
Therefore, I didnt find this method very useful. But I guess it works for some people?

I changed schools to one that wasnt stuck up about this fact, but they also had some issues too. I find that there is always 1 or 2 people in the class that don’t want to learn, but they have time to kill and so like to disrupt or monopolize the teachers time. But that’s a rant for another time.

I want to go back to Taiwan next year to study again and work part time hopefully, but I don’t know if there are any other schools out there that use a different method.

This is what I call “something that sounds like a really good idea in theory”. The problem is that using the native language (or a common language) guarantees the quickest route to comprehension, but it can easily be overdone. If you don’t comprehend what you’re hearing, you will not “pick it up” in any meaningful way other than as a chunk of meaningless language you can parrot. (I can recite the loudspeaker message for some of those little blue trucks in Taipei but I couldn’t tell you what they were selling or precisely what they are saying. I guess one is the screen-door repair guy and the other one is selling some kind of chicken – but I digress.) But if you are only or mostly hearing explanations in English of what Chinese means, rather than the Chinese that means it, you’ll never acquire the Chinese language.

There are admittedly some Chinese schools where there are problems with some teachers finding Chinese class a great time to practice their English, because many of them majored in English and/or really enjoy it, and here are a bunch of foreigners, and “they don’t understand what I’m saying in Mandarin” (true enough) so the logical and enjoyable thing to do is for the teacher to speak English. Students often have a hard time with this and complain, which is why some schools might put this sort of regulation in place.

I do speak English when teaching Mandarin, but since I am pretty sure that no one ever acquired Mandarin while listening only to English, I keep it to a bare minimum, only enough to establish meaning. There is written English on the board while I’m teaching, and that is always visible for anyone who needs to check their comprehension. I ask students to translate quickly into English to check their understanding. (I am teaching in the US, however, where it’s pretty much a given that my students will speak English; but some variation of this would work in Taiwan).

The point is that the reason English is needed in class is that the Mandarin is not comprehensible. Make the Mandarin comprehensible – able to be 100% understood at all times by the students – and there’s almost no need for English other than as a super-quick comprehension check tool.

The “we’re going on to the next chapter anyway damn the torpedoes and if you don’t get it you’re obviously not studying enough” school of language teaching is another topic entirely. :fume:

thanks for your reply…
My biggest issue is that I freeze up when I try to speak at times. It is esentially a lack of confidence that spills over when i speak… something I need to work on, and the class didnt help much with.

In the classes I’ve attended (3 different language schools in Taichung), English was rarely used, but there was no specific rule against it. What works for me was when the teacher did her best to explain a new word or concept in Chinese and if I still didn’t get it, then English was used as a last resort - either from a classmate or by my looking it up in the dictionary. Similarly if I saw a classmate not understanding a concept, I would let the teacher do her best to explain it in Chinese and if I could tell he still didn’t get it, I might chime in with the English, which usually resulted in the teacher thanking me for bailing her out. However I didn’t like it when a teacher (or fellow student) would automatically chip in with the English before the teacher had the chance to explain it thoroughly in Chinese first.

Another issue I would see is that a lot of classes had students from countries where English was not their first language, so even though English definitions and explanations are given in the textbook, English usage in class was kept to a minimum since it wouldn’t help these other students anyway.

Regarding moving on to the next chapter whether we understood the material or not, that varied from school to school. In some schools, the teachers were under pressure to complete a set number of chapters per semester, because in the following semester the next teacher would continue from a preset chapter. However other schools were more flexible, letting the teacher complete as much as she could, and then letting the next teacher just continue on from wherever that was.

[quote=“dan2006”]thanks for your reply…
My biggest issue is that I freeze up when I try to speak at times. It is esentially a lack of confidence that spills over when i speak… something I need to work on, and the class didnt help much with.[/quote]

Repetition is what you want. Memorization is way overrated. WAAAAAY overrated.

You haven’t heard those words enough in unexpected contexts so that they have been acquired thoroughly. When you have thoroughly acquired an item of language, it will “fall out of” your mouth when you need it. Otherwise, you’re just playing with a code book, trying to encode something in Chinese, and you don’t have all the rules in front of you, most likely (so there will be errors of grammar, pronunciation, usage etc.)

Listen a lot to things that you can understand 100%, and quite a lot to things you can understand 98%. (Easier said than done – there is not much material like that out there). Use audio flashcards of sentences that you can understand – things you have done in class. Get a Chinese friend to write up and record some “variations” on them. If you’re doing (a horrible thematic unit :raspberry: ) things like “this is red” then get them to do a whole bunch of them: “This is blue.” “The car is red.” “The car is green”. “The car isn’t green, it’s blue.” “My hair is green.” and so on.

Audio flashcards:
Record your items as individual mp3 files, adding a second of silence to the beginning and the end. Import them into an album on ITunes.
Enter the lyrics for each one – the Chinese characters and/or pinyin at the top, then about seven or eight line returns, then the English meaning.
Sync to your iPod or iPhone and set the playback to random items from the album.
This way, you can hear the item in Chinese, and glance at the Chinese written form first for a little help, then, if needed, scroll down to see the English (this is using an iPod Touch or iPhone that will display lyrics.)

This is what I call my “emergency” method of language learning --it’s not nearly as effective as full-on optimized immersion (what I teach) but in cases where you can’t get a teacher who will do optimized immersion with you, at least you’re getting some element of randomness in teh presentation of the utterances, you have a way to make sure you know what they mean, and the repetition really does allow you to be able to use the items after a time. I’m doing Mohawk this way – the words are dauntingly long at first, but after three miles with twenty or thirty utterances walking the dog, I’m able to recall some proportion of them accurately with no prompting (i.e., they fall out of my mouth when needed). It takes a long time this way, but that’s the degree of “acquisition” you’re looking for --automatic response to and use of the items.