Difficult Language, Effective Approach


Dongdong Chen

Seton Hall University



Learning Chinese is considered far more difficult for English-speaking students as compared to learning French (e.g., DeFrancis, 1984). It is no doubt that the tough pitch contours and the complicated writing system with seemingly irregular strokes generate the difficulty, however, in fact how an instructor conducts his/her class will directly and crucially affect studentsí learning outcome as well as their enthusiasm with the language learning. Can Chinese be taught in a way that would make the learning much easier and more enjoyable? What are the effective teaching methods that would assist students to overcome the learning problems and facilitate them to learn Chinese more efficiently? Are there any useful models in the ESL teaching that can be applied to the Chinese language classroom so as to make the teaching more successful? This paper attempts to address these questions in search of an innovative teaching approach towards the Chinese language.


Specifically, the following two questions will be explored in more detail. (i) To what extent can computer technology be incorporated into the Chinese language classroom? (ii) Which method is more practical for the teaching of Chinese: teacher-centered learning or student-centered learning? Pros and cons of the computer-mediated instruction will be discussed with respect to the teaching and learning of Chinese characters; strengths and weaknesses of teacher-dominance vs. student-dominance in class will be examined in regards with American college studentsí backgrounds and expectations.