TPR Chinese

Is there any way to learn Chinese by using the TPR method? I realize that, of course, it’s theoretically possible. But after searching high and low, I’ve found there’s no such school or class available for adults who want to learn Mandarin.

Does anyone know anyone who is available in the Taipei area willing to teach me Chinese using TPR?

That is part of the methodology I use regularly. However, it is not all I use, as TPR by itself is insufficient to reach all the aspects of language. I do use TPR to teach virtually every vocabulary item, however, along with other things (like phonetic mnemonics, which are unfortunately hard to come up with in the Chinese<>English combination!)

I have a paper in preparation now about my own modifications to TPR for Chinese teaching – mostly concerning using contour gestures to indicate tones (makes the tones stick almost 100% of the time, as students can remember the gestures easily). When I’ll get it done is another question, however.

Ask “littlejohn” on this board if you want to see how it goes. I had him for 13 hours of lessons last June. Or PM me if you want. But I’ll be going to the States for the summer, and I’m in Hsinchuang the rest of the time.

I offered to teach a summer class free of charge to demonstrate the new methodology, but Fujen Language Center wasn’t interested, even though I told them they could jolly well charge tuition if they wanted to. Hmmm, a little threatened are we? :wink:

Hey hey!

I’m still interested to learn more about this TPR stuff! I know you’re very busy Ironlady but can you give us more details about your method or show us what you wrote so far. Maybe I could explain this to my future chinese teacher!

Or maybe you want to keep everything secret until you register a patent and make big money? :wink:

Cramming has nerver worked well with me and I’m a bit worried that I won’t be able to learn much of the language if all I can find in Taiwan is this kind of pedagogy.
Any alternative is welcome: TPR, LMVT (learn mandarin via torture), neural bio-chip…


Although I agree with you that using just one method such as TPR is not enough, it is interesting to note that TPR ‘theorists’ claim that it is possible to teahc very advanced grammar concepts thtough TPR.


Well, you can, but I think there are far more efficient ways to do it.

However, the grammar-translation, read before you can speak, write everything methods based on readings unrelated to student lives are definitely not the way to go. :wink: Not that I’m saying that’s how Chinese is taught…oh, well, yeah, actually I am saying that’s how Chinese is taught.

I’m teaching a full new-method Chinese class at Fujen through the church (which is apparently not as defensive about methodology as the Language Center seems to be), but it’s temporarily suspended due to SARS. We might start it up again in the fall.

And yes, I had considered trying to do something with this methodology in Taiwan, but it seems problematic at best. Dunno. The foreign students are all for it, but the problem is that the Chinese teachers (or, more precisely, the administration) can’t accept it. After all, we don’t teach grammar implicitly – oh no! How could anyone ever learn a language? But then again it depends on whether you want to learn about the language, or acquire the language, doesn’t it?

I had to look up TPR on google to figure out what it is.

Does TPR basically mean a total immersion approach that relies on the individual to deduce the language piece by piece, basically the way a child learns his native language?

Seems a little slow, though effective for younger learners. My guess is it’d be harder for adults, who carry a lot of baggage from their original language?

TPR in and of itself is limited (IMHO). I do not teach exclusively TPR; however, TPR is an extremely powerful tool to get beginners up and running in a language – far more effective than the “simple” dialogues used in most beginning textbooks.

TPR, however, is a very important component of the method I do teach. I TPR all vocabulary (even when teaching myself new words, after 20 years of Chinese, when possible) because 1) it really helps to make the tones and the meaning stick, particularly for kinesthetic learners, and 2) it makes people wonder what you’re up to when you practice vocabulary with gestures on the street or while waiting for the bus.

TPR can be used to teach all aspects of a language, but the teacher must be skilled. It’s not really something that you pick up by reading a single article or a Web page, as most people would assume. The main requirement for using it successfully is that the students must understand clearly what is going on in the target language, and that requires some training and a lot of thought on the part of the teacher. This is the main way in which TPR and the method I teach differ from traditional instruction – the requirement is always that the student understand everything from the start. There is no language acquisition going on if you are guessing what something means – your brain can only make those neat linkages and automatic rules if it has something to work with, i.e., meaning plus foreign language to link it to.

I’m still looking for a reputable, viable outlet for the method I teach, if anybody has any reasonable suggestions. I’d love to see a foreigner-run buxiban take over the Chinese teaching business on this island and turn out students who can speak and understand. There are still some issues to work out on reading and writing, and it would be very useful to work with Chinese teachers who understood the new methods, but as darn few of them are interested in learning the new methods (or are so constrained by the institutes where they work that they can’t make use of anything new) it doesn’t look likely to happen in the near future.

Oh well. 5,000 glorious years of Chinese language teaching and all that. :cry:

You may have already considered this, but if you could get yourself affiliated with a university, I wonder if there are American/Taiwanese research funds available for this type of experimental teaching of Chinese to English native speakers. I don’t know anything, but it sounds relatively experimental, and if a practitioner is trying something new, then worthy of study. Actually, might even be a good phd topic, if you’re so inclined.

If you had money, you could go to one of the smaller language schools and give them some of it if they allow you to control the teaching curriculum while you test out your method through the local teachers. There’s general fellowship money, like a Fulbright. Failing this, how about trying to convince a professor at shida to sponsor the research. The professor gets partial credit, and probably would have an easier time getting the funding. You have more practical teaching experience, but maybe a professor’s phd and published articles would make it easier to get research money.

Other than that, it seems like insinuating yourself into a teaching instititue and then showing your fellow teachers your techniques might be another way to go.

I already have a Ph.D. (in Foreign Language Education with specialization in teaching Mandarin), I have been an associate professor at various Taiwanese institutions of “higher education” in the past, and trust me, what you suggest will not work.

The reason it will not work for English teaching here is that this method stresses teaching “narrow and deep”, with the result that students can use the language fluently, understand it easily, but cannot take the kind of extensive, “I memorized that word the day I ate the ‘D’ section of the dictionary” kind of exam that students are frequently confronted with here. The method is for fluency and language acquisition. Taiwan stresses memorization and learning about a language, not using it.

Besides, my real love is teaching Chinese, although I’ve been known to teach other languages with this method (Spanish, Taiwanese).

Also, the method is not experimental…it’s been in use since 1990 and there are more than 1,000 teachers using it in the US to teach Spanish, French, German, ESL/EFL, Japanese and even Latin…although to my knowledge I’m the only one to use it and extend it to cover the idiosyncracies of teaching Chinese.

Relax already…if it ain’t done at Shita – and to be done there, it has to have come out of Shita – it won’t be done in Taiwan in terms of teaching, unless you have major backing from abroad, at the Harvard/Oxford Press/other major publisher level. The method does not use fancy books, thick workbooks or give major homework, all of which are big minuses in the minds of Taiwanese schools.

Far East Book Company hired me out of the US last year, brought me back to Taiwan, (and paid me big bucks) to have the exclusive right to me while they had me on the payroll, intending to start a buxiban using only this method. They chickened out, however, or something…never did start it, and then the Big Weasel decided to wriggle out of the three-year contract. At least this leaves me free to do what I please with my teaching.

have you ever checked out the university of hawaii? they are (were?) stuffed full of grants for studying learning methods regarding mandarin. the foreign language resource center really had its act together. i loved studying chinese with them. they seemed quite open to seeking out innovative ways to teach chinese to westerners.

Cool! That’s great. Need more of those, sometimes I wonder how much research has really gone into foreigner Chinese.

Sounds like the big organizations are too stolid and tradition laid. Wasn’t there a thread before about people wanting to launch their own English bushibans? Maybe you can convince one of them to keep some classrooms for teaching Chinese to foreigners.

I once entertained thoughts of opening a foreigner bushiban actually. I was going to target people who had above average motivation for learning Chinese. It’d be a total immersion program, where I’d help them shape their life style to increase their pace of learning through interaction with locals, and of course they’d take classes too. The rates would be higher because of the higher attention, but they’d have the comfort of knowing that they’d reach an intermediate fluency fairly quickly. Never did act on the idea. :frowning: