Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Comparing Teachers' Judgments of Learners' Speech in Chinese as a Foreign Language

Academic journal article Foreign Language Annals

Comparing Teachers' Judgments of Learners' Speech in Chinese as a Foreign Language

Article excerpt

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Introduction

Because the volume and complexity of unrestricted natural language is more than second language (L2) learners can deal with all at once in either classroom or real- world settings, language educators make choices on their behalf, selecting and ordering a correct but reduced set of language elements to introduce at each particular stage along the proficiency scale. These choices are made with respect to all the components of language-phonology, morphology, vocabulary, syntax, discourse, pragmatics, and nonverbal features-and the results provide the foundation for curriculum development as well as resource selection and assessment. Although Chinese as a second language has been taught in elementary, secondary, and postsecondary schools for more than 25 years in Australia, Chinese is a relatively new addition to the curriculum in Western countries, and when compared to European languages and to Japanese it is still relatively underdeveloped; that is, there is a shortage of elaborated curricula, resources, pedagog- ical content knowledge, and documented teaching practices that address the very par- ticular linguistic and learning demands the language makes on students. Similarly, there is a lack of information on assessment prac- tices and procedures as well as assessment protocols. Moreover, research into the effi- cacy of high-leverage teaching and learning strategies for learners of Chinese is compar- atively embryonic, especially with respect to primary and secondary students. To initiate and inform dialogue within the Chinese lan- guage teaching (CLT) community over shared learner expectations, this study com- pared the judgments of students' oral pre- sentations rendered by three groups of teachers: first language (L1) teachers of Chi- nese in China, L1 teachers of Chinese in Australia, and an L2 Chinese teacher group in Australia. The aim was to ascertain the nature and range of features that the three groups noticed and found acceptable as well as to identify differences in perspective, in- cluding those that are tacitly understood as well as those that are overtly stated.

Literature Review

As the teaching of Chinese as a foreign lan- guage (CFL) continues to grow, there is a need to establish a solid, specifically Chinese foundation that can be shared by learners, teachers, resource designers, curriculum writers, and assessors as well as by other stakeholders. These expectations need to be generated from the range of shared be- liefs, values, and practices within the foreign language field as a whole and recognized as such by the wider language teaching- learning community. To develop such a foundation, those involved with Chinese language education must look both out- ward, to the experience of teaching and learning other languages, as well as inward, to the experience of those involved with the teaching and learning of Chinese. Seeking other language expertise in the development of standards in foreign language pedagogy leads inevitably to the work of Valdman (1961, 1989), whose four principles to guide the elaboration of norms have long set the recognized standard in the field of second language acquisition (SLA) (Gass, Bardovi- Harlig, Sieloff Magnan, & Walz, 2002). Valdman's principles state that the language selected must:

1. reflect actual speech of the target lan- guage in authentic communicative situations;

2. conform to the native [L1] speaker ideal;

3. conform to expectations of both native [L1] speakers and nonnative [L2] speak- ers concerning being appropriate behav- ior for foreigners;

4. take into account processing and learn- ing facts. (Valdman, 1989, p. 21)

In 25 years, across the range of lan- guages, there has been little argument about Valdman's principles 1 and 2, while norms for principle 4 continue to evolve from the findings of research on the effects of new ideas and technology. …

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