Should you Quit Teaching English while learning Chinese?

The “moreTPRS” group on Yahoo is really where you want to go. They do post stories and there are many comments and critiques of them, so after reading a few of them, you’ll know (through having been told) what makes a good (read: effective for teaching) story. Basically, the keywords are short, simple, and elaborate-able (that is, you can ask many, many questions about it, and exaggerate the answers.)

I really would like to do a set of materials for Chinese using this but tragically if you have no students or worse no institutional affiliation, no one wants to listen to you. :frowning:

[quote=“ironlady”]The “moreTPRS” group on Yahoo is really where you want to go. They do post stories and there are many comments and critiques of them, so after reading a few of them, you’ll know (through having been told) what makes a good (read: effective for teaching) story. Basically, the keywords are short, simple, and elaborate-able (that is, you can ask many, many questions about it, and exaggerate the answers.)

I really would like to do a set of materials for Chinese using this but tragically if you have no students or worse no institutional affiliation, no one wants to listen to you. :frowning:[/quote]

I would listen to you. :wink:

Seriously though this thing “seems” at least to be gaining momentum. I’ve met a few people lately who refer to TPRS as “Oh yeah, I heard that is the best way to teach/learn” sort of thing.

If I was to take a class myself (I won’t unless I win a lottery or something :frowning: ). I’d be really keen that the vocabulary was something I knew I would be able to use. Amateur film production would be great I am guessing, just the basics, like the easiest stuff from my movie making vocab list.

What I am doing these days is finding good scripts and running my students through the best vocab (interesting/useful things they probably would not understand without help) using what I would understand to be something similar to TPRS methodology: exagerated gestrures, pictures, translations, the language circle etc. “AM I YELLING!” always amuses them. Then we take roles and read a portion of the script before finally seeing the film which may be shown with no subtitle, English or Chinese depending on their “level.” If they really need the Chinese it is of course too hard for them. It is suitable though I think for people who are really advanced and people who are, though perhaps not so advanced, really eager. One of students went from 22 to 29 out 30 on the Ibit Toefel test listening section after doing nothing much else but my system for four months so I am pretty sure at least that it is effective and interesting for the genius class!

[quote=“bob”]Seriously though this thing “seems” at least to be gaining momentum. I’ve met a few people lately who refer to TPRS as “Oh yeah, I heard that is the best way to teach/learn” sort of thing.[/quote]The zeal of new converts is probably not the best way to assess a teaching method.

There are still a lot of very good things in the collection of techniques that is TPRS. However, there are also a few unproven ones. Despite claims by TPRSers that the method is the one most closely based on the research, there are some things which don’t have much of a basis in research, most notably the current emphasis on endless (mindless?) circling questions focusing on “structures”, rather than the previous more balanced approach of using some questions and some gestures, focusing on vocabulary (which I believe is the way Ironlady learned it).

So do go and learn about it. Watch DVDs, read the “green book”, use the moretprs list. It could help your teaching. It certainly helped mine. But keep both eyes open, and don’t take all the enthusiastic claims for TPRS at face value.

As Ironlady said, people post stories from time to time on the moretprs list. If you go to the website for that list, you’ll also find some stories in the “files” section. (At least I think that’s what the section’s called. My internet connection is playing up and I can’t check or give you the link right now).
There are also a few free samples available from:
tprstorytelling.com/free_downloads/index.htm

I could be wrong but my assumption was that by running people through the circle and using the same patterns over and over you could essentially teach the most essential aspects of grammar without actually mentioning the G word at all, particularly if evertything you teach is all real world contextualized. If I am teaching a verb that is readily demonstratable for example I’ll say “In ten seconds I AM GOING TO verb” “Are you GOING TO verb in nine, eight, seven seconds? No? I am going to right? OK, four, three, two, one… Ok, I AM verbING” “Do you want to verb? Come on it’s fun. Verb with me. Lets verb for thrirty seconds. Verbing, Verbing” “Verbing is a lot of work isn’t it?” “OK stop” “How long did we verb? We verbED for thirty seconds wow!”

Later they will see the same vocabulary again but in a new context, usually a really short story but sometimes something as complicated as a movie script. What I can say from my experience is that the excitement it generates is palapable. It is natural and fun and it works. Even, or perhaps especially, people with lousy memories are amazed at how much they retain. TPRS is the bomb as far as I can see. Frequently I’ll look up words before class and write the pinyin translation beside the vocab in the story. At the end of the class as a sort of test I ask them to translate that vocab back into English. The real eye opener for me was that the vocab I do this way is a thousand times more memorable to me as well. In other words I learn the mandarin simply by being aware of it while using what I think I know about TPRS to teach that vocabulary in English.

I don’t know. I haven’t done the “new” stuff from TPRS, and the “old” stuff worked pretty darn good for my purposes (teaching or learning Spanish, Chinese, Taiwanese, Tagalog to varying extents).

When I hear the description of the “Grammar circle” I get the impression (unfounded, mind you) that it is somehow a reflection once more of what schools want to see happening. When I taught TPRS in a high school, frankly the only reason I could get away with it was that I had Ph.D. after my name and I frankly didn’t care if I had a job the following school year – both factors gave you a degree of freedom unknown to the others. But people were very suspicious about what I was doing and there is a huuuuuge belief that grammar teaching is the way to go. If you have enough comprehensible repetition, I’m sure it would be helpful, but then again if it’s all look-at-me-I’m-doing-this stuff you lose the abstract qualities and the element of surprise (often) that made the “old” TPRS work so well.

The other thing is that the type of teaching I’ve been doing more recently is one-on-one or at best small groups, not classroom stuff. And there are different needs for a whole room full of people than for a single learner.

Bob, in your case if you have an interest in film, what I would do is pick 4 words and have 3 of them be “general” and the fourth a “special interest” word. You can acquire syntax from storytelling about anything, but there is still a critical mass of “common” vocab that you need to have mastered to grasp the language well, so don’t sell “general” vocab short. If you can’t think how to pick, consider looking either at a frequency list of words (not characters, words) in Chinese or maybe work your way through a list of core vocab for what they call simplified English. In practical terms as an intermediate my goal would be to acquire a word to take care of every general basic concept (of course defining that is the problem).

So, bob (I feel uncomfortable writing that without a capital “b”, but that’s the way you like it, right?) you’re getting the 70 or so repetitions per target “structure” per lesson that Blaine Ray et. al currently recommend? That’s the bit that bothers me a little. It’s hard to get more than a couple of dozen repetitions of any language form without the language becoming meaningless; repetition for the sake of repetition. Even if all 70 repetitions are contained in meaningful input in which learners remain engaged, there are a great many other factors beside frequency in input which affect the acquisition of grammar.

Several years ago the focus was more on lexical vocabulary. And that focus was achieved not only through various kinds of repetition during storytelling, but also through gestures and “classical” TPR. The grammar was there in the stories of course, but was not the main focus. (When I say focus, I mean target structures defined by the teacher. From the students’ point of view, it’s implicit focus, though the “grammar pop-ups” of current TPRS constitute explicit focus). I think this previous incarnation of TPRS was better in some ways. Actually, some of the big TPRSers still teach like that. But current canonical TPRS omits the TPR and does the 70 or so reps per grammatical structure per lesson.

[quote=“bob”]I could be wrong but my assumption was that by running people through the circle and using the same patterns over and over you could essentially teach the most essential aspects of grammar without actually mentioning the G word at all, particularly if evertything you teach is all real world contextualized. If I am teaching a verb that is readily demonstratable for example I’ll say “In ten seconds I AM GOING TO verb” “Are you GOING TO verb in nine, eight, seven seconds? No? I am going to right? OK, four, three, two, one… Ok, I AM verbING” “Do you want to verb? Come on it’s fun. Verb with me. Lets verb for thrirty seconds. Verbing, Verbing” “Verbing is a lot of work isn’t it?” “OK stop” “How long did we verb? We verbED for thirty seconds wow!” [/quote]This is good stuff but more akin to the TPR circling of Berty Segal and Michael Miller than to TPRS past or present. And I wouldn’t want to carry on doing this for too long at a time.

[quote=“bob”]Later they will see the same vocabulary again but in a new context, usually a really short story but sometimes something as complicated as a movie script. What I can say from my experience is that the excitement it generates is palapable. It is natural and fun and it works. Even, or perhaps especially, people with lousy memories are amazed at how much they retain. TPRS is the bomb as far as I can see. Frequently I’ll look up words before class and write the Pinyin translation beside the vocab in the story. At the end of the class as a sort of test I ask them to translate that vocab back into English. The real eye opener for me was that the vocab I do this way is a thousand times more memorable to me as well. In other words I learn the Mandarin simply by being aware of it while using what I think I know about TPRS to teach that vocabulary in English.[/quote]I’m not sure about the value of translating back into English, but apart from that it seems that the things you do are generally from a comprehension-based approach, which is good. Why do you feel the need to call it TPRS?

As I said above, there is often a certain kind of uncritical zeal among TPRS practitioners. They often praise TPRS and criticise everything else as “traditional teaching”, as if there is no other alternative. That may well be because they have never come across other alternatives. But others, especially the teachers on the fringe such as those in the elementarytprs group, have a more balanced approach and are open to various techniques and activities provided that they fit under the general umbrella of a comprehension-based approach. After all, one of the key points of TPRS is that it is “personalized”, but how can it be truly personalized unless it includes a variety of techniques to suit various students at various times?

[quote=“ironlady”]When I hear the description of the “Grammar circle” I get the impression (unfounded, mind you) that it is somehow a reflection once more of what schools want to see happening.[/quote]I think it’s something Blaine Ray really wanted to do and felt was better. I feel it could be bad form to post things from another list here, so I’ll just link to a couple of posts that sum up Blaine’s view on the changes.
groups.yahoo.com/group/moretprs/message/78672
groups.yahoo.com/group/moretprs/message/78671
But I don’t see how it’s possible that they could be getting better results with the new approach. It doesn’t work better for me, and it’s not really backed up by SLA research. (The translation bit is alright though I think they overdo it. But the endless repetitions of structures aren’t so great in my opinion).

[quote=“ironlady”]…there is still a critical mass of “common” vocab that you need to have mastered to grasp the language well, so don’t sell “general” vocab short.[/quote]This is so important. As you say, it needs to be mastered. People need to become really familiar with the most common meanings of the most common words. I think that the Lexical Approach people had the right idea about course content, but not much idea how to teach it. And TPRS and other broadly comprehension-based approaches have good teaching methods, but perhaps a rather haphazard way of selecting key language. It would be great to teach objectively-determined core vocabulary with sound communicative methods. Pity not many people are doing this yet.

[quote=“ironlady”]If you can’t think how to pick, consider looking either at a frequency list of words (not characters, words) in Chinese…[/quote]Ccould you provide links to any Chinese word frequency lists? I was learning the most frequent characters with Supermemo, but was trying to do it thoroughly, with detailed info about common collocations, etc., on each card, and it was just really brain-unfriendly. I’ve found it’s much more effective to have a word per card. But I don’t know where to get the frequency data. It would be really good to have a list to work through.

Word. :notworthy:

I know I am supposed to start with story that contains more general vocab that I should absolutely be learning but the idea of writing a silly story in Chinese really grabbed my attention. I would add a NSFW tag but doubt many kids can read PinYin. :wink:

(Sorry bout the tones - the words I am trying to develop more familiarity with are the ones with tones pai1she4 - film, dao3yan3 - director, guan1zhong4 - audience, jing4tou2 audience)

                                       Gushi  

Jidong - Jintian women pai1she4 yi bu ying3pian4. Hao bu hao?

Slinky - Ni yao bu yao wo toudiao wo yifu?

Jidong - Bu yao ba! Kan jing4tou2 limian.

Slinky - Ni she4ying3ji1 hai mei da3kai1

Jidong - Dui bu qi.

Jidong da3kai1 she4ying3ji1

Jidong - Hao le. Qin kan jing4tou2 limian.

Slinky - Hao. Ran hou ne.

Jidong - Tou diao ni yifu!

             Wenti

W - jidong yao4 pai1she4 yi bu dian4ying3 ma?

H - Bu. Ta yao pai1she4 yi bu ying3pian4

W - Jidong shi dao3yan3 ma

H - Bu. Jidong shi laoshi.

W - Slinky shi shenme?

H - Slinky shi pengyou.

W - Shei shi tamen de guan1zhong4?

H - Mei you

W - Weishenme tamen yao pai1she4 yi bu ying3pian4?

H - Wo bu zhidao zhe shi yi ge gu4shi.

note: That was “fun.” Certainly better than another mind numbing review of the vocab list.

[quote=“joesax”] … but apart from that it seems that the things you do are generally from a comprehension-based approach, which is good. Why do you feel the need to call it TPRS?
[/quote]

Probably because half of what I know about language learning/teaching came out of thinking about things ironlady says and she says she teaches with TPRS. :blush: Or perhaps it is just because the concept is so great, Total Physical Response Storytelling. Wow. I like it. I haven’t seen Blaines videos yet or really kept up with whatever changes might have occured in how the higher ups think about it. Anyway, there is no end to this. It’s not math. Some people will get bored with too much repetition, others will love it. Some will appreciate the pop ups, others look at you like you are bonkers. We’ll never nail this thing down.

[quote=“bob”]Or perhaps it is just because the concept is so great, Total Physical Response Storytelling. Wow. I like it.[/quote]No Total Physical Response Storytelling for you! :wink: TPRS now stands for “Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling” as they wanted to downplay the actions/gestures. And as Blaine Ray says, they own the trademark so they can define it how they want.

[quote=“bob”]It’s not math… We’ll never nail this thing down.[/quote]Precisely. Which is why the nailing of the method down to 3 steps of TPRS and 70 reps per structure and 3 locations in a TPRS story bothers me a bit.

I know of books that have a “frequency list” of individual characters (i.e. most common 500, etc)
but never heard of a similar book for words, as opposed to characters… do you specifically know
of such a book, or perhaps a list available on the web somewhere ?

[quote=“joesax”][quote=“bob”]Or perhaps it is just because the concept is so great, Total Physical Response Storytelling. Wow. I like it.[/quote]No Total Physical Response Storytelling for you! :wink: TPRS now stands for “Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling” as they wanted to downplay the actions/gestures. And as Blaine Ray says, they own the trademark so they can define it how they want.

Hey – I’ve got it. We (joesax, bob and I) can officially start our own language teaching method specifically for Chinese. (Now we need a spiffy moniker, of course). Let’s use the word “narrative” rather than “storytelling” anyway, it sounds better!

Of course it makes people uneasy to boil things down that much. But thae thing is, if you start from the 3 locations/70 reps/3 steps (well, I learned it with more steps, uut whatever combination of numbers you subscribe to) and then specifize the procedure to your own student(s) at the moment, you’ve got a winner. The basic idea really works. IMHO the basic idea isn’t even about reps or stories or anything else – it’s about “less is more”. The whole thing is how to present less for a longer time without boring people, pretty much.

Now, open free-for-all for the name of our new method. It has narratives, directional gestures, tonal spelling (of course! :raspberry: ), SuperMemo, and…??

(Actually it would be both ironic and cool if a couple of frustrated foreigners managed to come up with a principled way of presenting Chinese that outpunched the last 5,000 glorious years of Chinese language teaching, wouldn’t it?) :sunglasses:

What! Nobody asked bob the god of the abstract nonsensical, repetitive and rhythmical, though a poor speller. There must have been some kind of mistake. bob likes the gestures. They don’t work well for concepts like “yellow” or “green” but for that we have lemons and limes, both of which of course seque nicely as they do into “cut” “squeeze” and “Wow, sour!” But alas, perhaps ironlady is right, we need to open our own school. “He left right? brain film studio and language school” is under copywrite, but I know the owner and think he could be persuaded given the right combination of phantasmagorical elements.

[quote=“ironlady”]Hey – I’ve got it. We (joesax, bob and I) can officially start our own language teaching method specifically for Chinese.[/quote]Sounds great!

[quote=“ironlady”](Now we need a spiffy moniker, of course). Let’s use the word “narrative” rather than “storytelling” anyway, it sounds better! [/quote]All I can think of right now is “Narratives for Understanding Unfeasibly Difficult Languages” (the acronym is pronounced “noodle”).

bob is the kind of spiffy monikers. I’m sure he’ll be able to come up with something.

[quote=“ironlady”]The basic idea really works. IMHO the basic idea isn’t even about reps or stories or anything else – it’s about “less is more”.[/quote]Well, that’s a very healthy way of looking at it. You’re right that the basic idea is very effective.

I know of books that have a “frequency list” of individual characters (i.e. most common 500, etc)
but never heard of a similar book for words, as opposed to characters… do you specifically know
of such a book, or perhaps a list available on the web somewhere ?[/quote]There are a few books around. Do a Google search for “Chinese word frequency”.

I found a useful resource:
elearning.ling.sinica.edu.tw/eng_teaching.html
You can get a list of up to 300 words at a time. The instructions are a little misleading. Of course you can enter rank numbers above 300, but the total range can’t exceed 300. So you can get the list for ranks 1 – 300, and also for 301 – 600, but not for 1 – 600 all at the same time.

Bob,
I don’t think the story you outlined would work too well as a NUUDL(soon-to-be-TM) narrative. It’s too complicated.

If your four words are:
pai1she4 - film, dao3yan3 - director, guan1zhong4 - audience, jing4tou2 scene
(and this seems feasible, because you have a verb and a couple o’ nouns in there), I might go with something like (I’ll do it in English):

Famous director Bob wants to film.
Director Bob is filming for a special audience. The audience is all drunken English teachers who think they see elephants.
So Director Bob needs to film a scene with elephants. His audience will love this scene. They will love what Director Bob films, if what Director Bob films has lots of elephants in it.
But Director Bob does not know where to find a scene he can film that will make his audience happy.
Director Bob asks his friends on Forumosa, “Zenme ban?” His friends on Forumosa do not film elephants, but they know where there are many elephants in Taipei.
Director Bob says, “Aha!” He goes to the 7-11 on Hoping Road and films for thirty seconds.
Because there are many elephants in the 7-11 on Hoping Road, Bob is very happy. He films a wonderful scene. The scene has …
Director Bob takes the movie that he has filmed and his audience sees the movie. Director Bob’s audience of drunken English teachers loves the movie. They love the scene with the elephants in the shower best. They also love the scene where an elephant kisses Bo Derek on the 32nd Floor of Taipei 101.
Director Bob is happier than a drunken English teacher, because the audience loves the elephant scenes in the film he has filmed for them.

(This sounds complicated but actually the framework is almost always the same, as has been mentioned: Someone needs to find something. He goes to a place. He finds it. Everyone is happy. Traditionally there was more travel involved but that depends on how twisted your imagination is. He could just as well have gotten incorrect information that his audience would like to see scenes of George Bush naked cavorting with PeeWee Herman, and then it turns out that his audience throws up and pours 1,379 bottles of Super Supao over Director Bob’s head when they see the scene with George Bush in the film that Director Bob has filmed for them…etc. etc. I personally have a tremendously twisted imagination, which is why I much prefer teaching adults with this method rathe rthan high schoolers. I don’t have to watch what I say so much. :unamused: )

Do you see what I mean? The story is really, really, REALLY simple. It’s just all the embroidery that keeps it going…and going…and going…and going…and the in-jokes that develop as you work with a student or students over a period of time make it more fun.

We could always try to Skype sometime and I’ll NUUDL you the story above. I should be able to tell it to my satisfaction in not more than 30 minutes (the first time around…) There are so many details of what really happened not included above!!! :smiley:

The clouds part and the sunshine pours in. God is happy.

                            Jidong Finds a Monkey
 (the world's first TPRS old school movie with phantasmagorical elements)

Open to camera moving slowly down a small path. Dense jungle on either side. Silence side from the sound of birds etc. After a few moments the camera emerges into a clearing. A serious looking cast of characters looks straight into the camera as it slowly zooms in, settling finally on Jidongs face. Silence. Suddenly…

Jidong - AM I YELLING?

The cast of characters is startled and jumps in unison, a little too in unison.

Huh - huh?

Transformagirl - TA WEN TA HOUJIAO MA?

bobsaid - Jidong asked if he was yelling.

Oh - Oh, Jidong asked if he was yelling. That’s…odd.

Oh repeats everything bobsaid says, only faster.

Reporter - It’s a tense situation ladies and gentlemen. Jidong asked if he was yelling and huh said “huh?” transformagirl translated and bobsaid repeated the English only in reported speech. Oh repeated what bobsaid but with fast relaxed pronunciation. It’s quite the linguistics lesson. Lets see what happens next

Huh - huh?

transformagirl - Hoa ji de jingquang… Kan kan yixia. Xianzai fasheng shenme…

George - YES.

Jidong - YES WHAT?

George - YES YOU WERE YELLING.

Jidong - Oh, we could dance…

Jidong begins dancing to a song called “jackhammer”. He is eating a banana.

Danny Daoyan - CUT!

Slinky - Oh! I’m hungry.

Reporter - Things are really getting exciting now ladies and gentleman. Jidong is eating a banana and the director is angry about it.

Huh - Huh?

Transformagirl - Oh hao xinfen oh. Daoyan zhuyi jidong zai chi yige xiangjiao. Ta hao shengqi oh!

bobsaid - Reporter said that things were really getting exciting now…

Oh - Oh, Things are… That’s excitING. I’m excitED

Danny Daoyan - There is no banana in the script.

Jidong - How can there be no banana in a script about monkees?

Huh - Huh?

Transformagirl - Zhei bu juben guanyu houzi. Meiyou xiangjiao. Zenme ban?

bobsaid - Jidong asked How there could there be no bananas in a script about monkees?"

Oh - So bob asked… That’s… a good question.

Danny Daoyan - Sacred Blue Tabernacle (Danny Daoyan has quite a strong gutteral French accent)

Huh - Huh?

Transformagirl - Huh?

George - I thought we were going to find a monkey.

Huh - Huh

Transformagirl - Wo xiang women yao zhodao yi ge houzi.

Bobsaid - George said that he thought we were going to find a monkey.

Oh - Oh, George said that he thought we were going to find a monkey.

Jidong - We ARE GOING TO find a monkey. Here’s the map.

Jidong spreads the map out on the ground. It is a roughly drawn but attractive enough looking document with a big X and the words “The Monkey is HERE”

Jidong - We are here.

George - Yes but we are at the wrong here.

Huh - huh?

Transformagirl - Huh?

Slinky - Be here now.

Huh - huh?

Audiolingual (speaking Chinese) - Be Here Now is a literary reference to a book entitled “Be here Now” by Baba Ram Das. It was popular in the seventies…

Note: The script is a work in progress naturally and were anyone so inclined as to translate they would find themselves the object of a gratitude so profound, so unconditional… What can I say? Angels should be so lucky…

[quote=“joesax”][quote=“ironlady”]Hey – I’ve got it. We (joesax, bob and I) can officially start our own language teaching method specifically for Chinese.[/quote]Sounds great!

How about Chinese Understanding Using Narrative Teaching? Or perhaps Frustrated Foreigners Unveils Chinese Knowledge?

Bob,
Whatever yao you are chi-ing these days, is it available over the counter by any chance?? :smiley:

[quote=“ironlady”]Bob,
Whatever yao you are chi-ing these days, is it available over the counter by any chance?? :smiley:[/quote]

Just bananas I swear…

Just noticed the skype invitation by the way. I am gussing though that you are coming to the grim realization that your little b buddy bob isn’t exactly the brightest bulb on the block. He wouldn’t know a skype if it snuck up and bit him on the patooty basically.

I take it though that you are enjoying “Jidong Finds a Monkey” so far and that brings some consolation at least.