Conference Report by Haiwen Wang, Lector, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures
I attended the ACTFL-CLTA 2009 Annual Conference which was held in San Diegol, California on November 20-22, 2009. On November 21,~I presented my project, “Advanced Colloquial Mandarin and Formal Chinese Writing”. My panel consisted of the modertator, Julian Wheatley (MIT), and three presenters, Stephanie Divo (Cornell University), ShuPei Wang (Brigham Young University) and me. I was pleased the audience showed interest in the topics we discussed.
During the conference, I learned a lot from other presenters. Some panels and presentations were very impressive. Tne panel, “Acquiring Chinese Culture through Social Networking Technologies”, discussed how three leading social networking technologies, You Tube, Facebook, and Second Life, which when integrated in university level Chinese classes, can benefit CFL students’ acquisition of Chinese culture. The presenters provided quantitative and qualitative data and demonstrated the advantages and caveats of using the technologies in culture learning. The panel, “Form-Focused Instruction in Task-Based Language Teaching of L2 Chinese” discussed the role of form-focused instruction in meaning-oriented task-based language teaching of L2 Chinese. The three presenters, Jennifer Liu (Indiana University), Honggang Jin (Hamilton College) and Fangyuan Yuan (United States Naval Academy), introduced and analyzed form-focused instruction for advanced Chinese development, incorporated planned focus-on-form instruction in task-based language teaching, and considered the role of explicit knowledge of formal structures in timed argumentative writing.
The panels “Discourse! Pragmatics and Chinese Language Education (1 ) and (2),” which were given at 1:00pm-2:00pm and 3:00pm-4:00pm on November 21, left a deep impression on me. The three presenters of the panel, Yun Xiao (Bryant University), Agnes He (Suny-Stony Brook University), and Liang Tao (Ohio University), explored discourse phenomena, such as speech modification, conversation repair, and referential choice, and their implications for Chinese language pedagogy. The second panel explored the three topics in the context of Chinese: (1)Discourse/pragmatics and Advanced Mandarin Textbook Development (Duanduan Li, University of British Columbia); (2)Assessment of Oral Proficiency under the Pragmatic Framework (Weiping Wu, The Chinese University of Hongkong); and (3) Developing spoken texts based on natural conversation (Hongyin Tao, UCLA). Tao’s presentation introduced his current project- the CALPER spoken Chinese project. The project collected authentic discourse data from native speakers of Mandarin. On the basis of the collection, it explored the grammar of spoken Chinese to create teaching materials. Research has shown that exposure to meaningful input plays a critical role in learner language improvement. Authentic speech exposes the learner to input that is not readily available in constructed texts and with rich varieties of expressions and communicative strategies that can only be observed in connected text. I think Tao’s presentation was attractive, because of my personal interest in teaching spoken Chinese with natural materials. Our Advanced Chinese course curriculum includes listening parts which focus on colloquial Chinese and text parts which
focus on formal written style. How to improve students’ listening and speaking skills by using authentic spoken material and by teaching the rules of spoken Chinese, and bow the spoken part plays a support role to the constructed texts. These are worthy questions to me; they might be interesting topics for teachers of advanced level courses.
I think the experience I gained at the ACTFL conference was valuable and helpful. I learned some new methods and got a lot of information during the conference.