Jianhua Shen Presents at ACTFL

I presented as part of a panel on Friday, November 18, 2011, reporting studies on what modern written Chinese really is and how instructions on Chinese writing may be conducted to help students to improve their Chinese language proficiency. My presentation was “On Strategies of Narrative Writing for Advanced Students from Error Analysis.”

My main point was that in higher-level Chinese writing exercises, students usually are required to write more argumentative essays than narrative essays, mostly due to the common perception that argumentative essays are more difficult and important because they utilize more formal styles of expression and structure. However, in actuality, students actually come across more difficulties when writing narrative essays than argumentative essays. After acquiring 40 narrative essays from fourth-year students, I analyzed common mistakes in grammar, diction, and textual rhetoric: 1) within a single sentence; and 2) within a paragraph. From these mistakes, we can learn that: 1) in high-level classes, instructors cannot simply assume that all students have no problem with basic grammar or sentence structures that were taught in previous classes; and 2) in intermediate or elementary level classes, instructors should not rely on explaining the meaning and structure of some complicated sentence or grammar, but should instead emphasize the usage, especially when students can or cannot always use that sentence or grammar.

I also attended some panels and the following were of particular interest:

  1. Professor Chaofen Sun from Stanford University presented “Uniqueness and the Optional Use of the Relative Marker 的 DE.” He talked about when 的DE will be used and when it can be omitted from the uniqueness of the noun. For example, “my father” in Chinese can be “wo fuqin” or “wo de fuqin.” His research will be very helpful for Chinese instructors because the usage of DE is one of the most complicated grammar points for all levels of Chinese teachers and learners.
  1. Professor Yongping Zhu from the University of Mississippi presented “The Acquisition of Chinese Resultative Complement for Chinese Learners.” Because resultative complement is a very special structure in Chinese, and each verb can take different resultative complements, it is very hard for students to understand or use them. Professor Zhu did a survey and studied the difficult levels of three types of resultative complements. He also proposed a teaching method based on his study.
  1. Ping Xie from CIEE presented “Using Innovative Technology to Design Interactive Homework.” She analyzed the weaknesses of traditional homework finished on a piece of paper and introduced using Wei Bo (micro-blog) as a platform for students and teachers to interact after class. Using Wei Bo, students can record their daily activities (improving their narrative skill), read others’ postings (improving their reading skill) and give comments (improving their ability to express). She also showed some pages of students’ Wei Bo homework, which were very impressive.
  1. Professor David Porter from the University of Michigan presented “Written Chinese for Adult Beginners: An Experimental Web-Based Approach” and introduced a website for adult learners to learn Chinese characters. The website so far provides six lessons in audio immersion, audio practice, vocabulary study, vocabulary review, reading practice and exercise.
  1. Professor Hsin-hsin Liang from the University of Virginia presented “Theme-based Curriculum Design in a Chinese Media Course.” She discussed how she created a media Chinese course for fifth-year level students. For example, she gave students a topic “China and the World” and asked students from Japan to do research reports on “China and Japan,” students from India to report on “China and India,” American students to report on “China and America,” etc. Students can use all media resources, including websites. In this way, Chinese and media can be combined and media can be used for language learning.

There were also other panels that were very interesting and inspiring:

  • Qinghai Chen introduced a business Chinese course at the University of Michigan and a soon-to-be-published textbook.
  • Yan Li from the University of Kansas talked about how to use movies to help students understand the non-linguistic feathers.
  • Yang Wang’s “Developing Film-Based Materials for Narrative Competence in Chinese” was very interesting and helpful for teachers who teach courses like “Chinese through Film.”

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