Haiwen Wang Reports on ACTFL-CLTA 2011

I attended the ACTFL-CLTA 2011 Annual Conference in Denver, CO, November 18-20. I joined the panel “Controversial, Self-selected, Localized: Teaching Materials for Communicative Competence Development” as a discussant and led a discussion after the presentations on November 19. The panel consisted of a discussant and three presenters, Yun Li (Harvard University), Jiajia Wang (C.V. Starr-Middlebury School in China, Kunming) and Rong Li (The Hong Kong Polytechnic University).

This panel discussed using controversial topics and self-selected, localized teaching materials to enhance CFL students’ communicative competence as they pursue advanced levels of Chinese language studies.

The first presentation reviewed the tradition of discussing controversial issues in social studies contexts and the sociolinguistic background of using this kind of material in foreign language education, and then focused on principles for classroom practice with these kinds of topics.

The second presentation used Yunnan’s Minorities, a class currently offered at the Middlebury School in Kunming, as a case to illustrate the design of a content-based CFL course that combines advanced CFL acquisition, content materials, and local social-cultural context.

The third presentation introduced the practice of designing educational materials for high-advanced level students who have particular academic or professional interests. Also discussed was the practice of using morpheme, one of the most important elements for vocabulary study at the advanced level.

In the discussion session, I mainly discussed “extensibility” in advanced level language course curriculum design and related teaching methods, based on the second and the third presentation.  According to the first presentation, I also emphasized how controversial topics can be used in CFL classes to prepare students for pluralistic intercultural communications.

I also attended several panels, and some of presentations were interesting and impressive:

  •   Panel on “Potent Tactics: Conquering the Demands of Business Chinese Language Delivery”

The panel addressed how to conquer growing demands on business Chinese in terms of effective methods of instruction with consideration given to the diverse backgrounds of U.S. students. In this panel, Qinghai Chen, University of Michigan, introduced “The Routledge Course in Business Chinese,” a textbook designed for fourth-year students who “wish to progress their language training and prepare to tackle real-life business situations confidently and effectively.”

Daoxiong Guan, University of California, Santa Barbara, analyzed the method of “learning Business Chinese via case studies.” In his view, it provided the real business world and everyday business activities. It matched up much better with the nature of business Chinese in terms of authenticity, practicality and typicality. It also provided students useful information, practical knowledge and a wide-angle view of working or doing business in China. Meantime, it would be helpful to teachers in designing communicative approach-based language courses, such as class discussion and topic related tasks.

Jane Kuo, University of California, San Diego, shared her survey findings with the audience for students in her business Chinese courses:

* Intention and expectation to work in China or in a Chinese company (97%).

* commitment to expand business Chinese knowledge (96%)

* strong interests in learning Chinese culture (86%)

* strong desire to improve reading and writing (80%)

  •  Panel on “Classical Chinese, Vocabulary Teaching, and Differentiation”

This panel discussed how classical Chinese should be taught in a modern Chinese language course as well as how to design differentiated learning tasks.

Kai Li and Fang Liu, Oberlin College, presented on “Advanced Chinese Language Curriculum with a Classical Chinese Component.” They showed the relationship and difference between vocabulary in classical Chinese and in Modern Chinese through a large number of examples. They indicated that understanding original meaning can help students to learn vocabulary in modern Chinese with a classical component efficiently and effectively.

Li Jin, Depaul University, also gave a presentation on “Differentiated Peer Interaction in Second Life” which was very interesting and brought us fresh ideas. She demonstrated the teaching software that was developed from the e-game “Second Life” and was used for the post-class language practice activity. Although her peer work method was questioned (she paired higher level students and beginners, and asked the higher level ones to help other students), the activity she designed was creative and  attractive.

  • Panel on “Media Materials Development and Curriculum Design”

The presentations focused on how media materials should be developed and used to help students improve their Chinese language proficiency. They left the audience with a favorable impression.

Yan Li, University of Kansas, presented on how to achieve linguistic goals by non-linguistic means through teaching Chinese movies.

Yang Wang, Brown University, showed us detailed weekly schedules and study guides for a film narration class, and discussed developing film-based materials for narrative competence in Chinese.

Hsin-hsin Liang, University of Virginia, introduced a newly created Chinese media course and a theme-based curriculum design. She provided students with a list of topics that covered most students’ interests in the class. She also invited a visiting scholar to join the class discussion and to evaluate student reports. Most importantly, Professor Liang paid much attention to building students’ ability to continue self-learning in this high advanced level course.

During the conference, I learned lots of new methods and information. The experience I gained in the ACTFL conference is great and very helpful.

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