Shida's professionalism


#1

Shida’s professionalism

CFL (Chinese as a Foreign Language, duiwai hanyu jiaoxue – dueyway hannyeu jiaushyue) teachers in Taiwan are a mixed bag. As far as I can tell, there are two types of teachers at Shida:

1] Older ones who got their jobs by virtue of knowing the right people (guanxi – guan.shih) and having a tolerable northern accent. Some of them turned out to have a talent for teaching and have accumulated valuable experience. Unfortunately, classes taught by dedicated teachers with a knack for teaching are not easy to get into.

2] There is also a new generation of younger teachers (some of whom have done undergraduate work in English or Linguistics) with MAs in CFL , but not so much experience. I have experience with both.

I came to Taiwan as a graduate student at NTU (MA in Chinese Lit) thirty years ago and never had to attend a language school except very briefly when my 4-year visa ran out. The MTC teacher I was assigned pretended to be from Beijing but I immediately caught her sprinkling Rs where they didn’t belong – she soon admitted that she ws NOT from Beijing, but she had briefly studied in Peip’ing (Beiping/Beeipyng – the old name for Beijing) many years before. When I wrote some essays on Chinese linguistics, she corrected non-existent mistakes (she couldn’t recognize technical terms in Chinese linguistics), which was rather frustrating, as I wound up being the teacher so to speak (I had to fill in the gaps in her knowledge). I was very polite and made the best of a less than ideal situation by sticking to topics she could handle so that I could learn a little. I was basically killing time, but that’s life!

A few years ago, I audited some classes (but became too busy to continue and register as a full-time student) in the Graduate Institute of Teaching Chinese: ntnu.edu.tw/tcsl/English/complete.htm and got to know a different aspect of Shida. The GITC faculty consists of a team of dedicated and well-trained professors teaching enthusiastic young graduate students (almost all women) about modern Chinese linguistics, computer technology and the latest pedagogical techniques. What’s more, many teacher-trainees are sent abroad for practical experience. If your teacher is a graduate of this program, you will probably be much more satisfied.


#2

Interesting post. What do you mean you “audited” some classes ?


#3

I found it interesting that when the Graduate Institute advertised for professors some years back, I was not even given the courtesy of an interview, despite holding a Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics (Pedagogy of Chinese) from a well-known US university. I can assure you they didn’t get too many resumes with THAT degree!

I question how much they really want to innovate in the field. Most of what I’ve seen so far has not been particularly revolutionary. I am not seeing major, meaty articles in the journals regularly read by Chinese teachers here or abroad. The CLTA in the States does what it can, but… the “Chinese Language Teaching Association” or whatever it is here in Taiwan seems insular to the extreme (you must register something like 12 months in advance to deliver a paper at their annual meeting) and anyway it seems to be a “subgroup” of some language school. Ditto for the “something-something Chinese Language Teaching Promotion something-something” group (not sure of the wording exactly).

To bring Chinese instruction even with the level of French, Spanish, German…etc. will be a long job, even if we don’t consider the special requirements of the language (tones, characters, Romanization issues, etc.) and the learners here (short stays, very individualized goals, etc.) Chinese is lagging woefully behind these languages, and far, FAR behind EFL/ESL pedagogy. I think it has to do with the “cultural mystique” – 5,000 years of glorious Chinese history, etc. etc. Obviously no one could possibly learn it as easily as we learn other languages – yet it is merely a language. While it does have its challenges, it should be nowhere near as hard to learn as the current level of pedagogy makes it out to be.

Just my NT$0.66. When I was at the MTC in 1984, I thought it was fine – but then again, I didn’t know any better then. :wink:


#4

Sad, but understandable – paper qualifications are often not enough. One also needs to think about connections (guanxi/guan.shi) and face (mianzi/miann.tz). Many years ago (late 70s), a colleague of mine who had done his MA in Russian linguistics in Moscow applied for a job at Chengchi University. While other staff members were present, he greeted the chairman of the department in fluent Russian. When he noticed that the chairman’s face was turning red, he realized that he had committed a faux pas. The chairman told my colleague (in Chinese?) that he was not qualified to teach at Chengchi U. because he did not have a PhD in Russian Literature. Perhaps your PhD was not good enough because it was not from Beida! :wink:

Chinese language instruction, especially CFL, has never been a high priority in Taiwan, but mainland Chinese pedagogy has had the benefit of official support from the very top (Chairman Mao said that language is something all comrades must learn well). The PRC textbooks for CFL that I’ve seen have been rather uninspired (and uninspiring), but at least official standards )needed for curriculum planning) have been laid down. The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi/Ha[color=red]nn[/color]y[color=red]e[/color]u Sh[color=red]o[/color]eip[color=red]y[/color]ng Ka[color=red]o[/color]shy[color=red]h[/color] – a sort of Chinese TOEFL) , for example, was developed over ten years ago, but Taiwan has yet to develop anything comparable. Nobody in Taiwan has written any CFL learner’s dictionaries, either (there are several in Mainland China). While Mainland China was busy destroying its educational system during the Cultural Revolution, Taiwan had many years head start in promoting overseas teaching of CFL. The market share and the freedom to innovate was there, but nobody took advantage of it. Sad. :frowning:


#5

“Audited” means I sat in on various classes as an unregistered student who did assignments but was not assigned a grade. Isn’t that what “audit” usually means? :slight_smile:


#6

[quote=“Oldtimer”]The PRC textbooks for CFL that I’ve seen have been rather uninspired (and uninspiring)
[/quote]
What? You don’t like Gubo and Palanka?? Heresy!!

[quote=“Oldtimer”]The HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi/Ha[color=red]nn[/color]y[color=red]e[/color]u Sh[color=red]o[/color]eip[color=red]y[/color]ng Ka[color=red]o[/color]shy[color=red]h[/color] – a sort of Chinese TOEFL) , for example, was developed over ten years ago, but Taiwan has yet to develop anything comparable.
[/quote]
No, even scarier, Shida is now developing their own version. Same problems as before – what are we testing in this item? Lots of technical problems with question formats and content, but better than tests I’ve taken in the past at Shida, at least. And they did make an effort to norm it by getting people to take it this past month. 3 levels (beginner/intermediate/advanced). We’ll see how it comes out – but I have to say I’m not too optimistic, because of the problem of getting enough students to norm the thing and make it reliable before mass-marketing it.

Have you seen the (sort of new, published 2000) Oxford “Starter” dictionary? Nice! Very nice!

I’ve got materials ready to write, plenty of them, but can’t get in anywhere to do so. Oh well. Them’s the breaks.


#7

“Audited” means I sat in on various classes as an unregistered student who did assignments but was not assigned a grade. Isn’t that what “audit” usually means? :-)[/quote]

Ah right, I was wondering whether you had been employed by the university or some other body to assess the quality of the classes or suchlike. I took “audit” to mean assessing whether the classes met some official target. Where I currently am there is a body which audits university courses, and I wondered whether there was such a thing in Taiwan. Bit naiive of me really to think Taiwan might be doing that.


#8

Ah, I feel like the Good Fairy or something…Hexuan, Hexuan, because you believe… :shock: another translation job crossed my desk about a year ago: a longish paper that was the final report of a certain committee which had done an audit on a certain very well known university’s school of something well-known, here in Taiwan. (I’m not being cute, there really are confidentiality issues operating here from the translator’s perspective). But yes, somebody is auditing, and the report was NOT the 100% glowing assessment you might have expected in the past. An interesting aside was that the client complained mightily about my translation into English. I think they expected me to “whitewash” it quite a lot, but I didn’t. Anyway they paid in the end. :laughing: