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Conclusion 9.1 Introduction As mentioned at the beginning, the primary goal of this book is to help teachers and students understand the theoretical and practical models in Chinese language pedagogy and acquisition. By the time readers reach this chapter, they may realize that some issues are considered conclusive, while many others remain open for further discussion or investigation. Chapter 2 and Chapters 4–8 have discussed substantially the content that students at different levels should learn in the Chinese language classroom and Chapters 3–8 have provided various teaching and learning methods based on reports of teachers’ experiences and the research of pedagogical specialists. Nevertheless, some issues relevant to these subjects, such as policies and attitudes toward the Chinese language both inside and outside China and the interrelationship between teaching and learning, were only briefly mentioned. We, therefore, devote this last chapter to further discussion of these issues. In addition, this chapter discusses some of the resources for teaching and learning Chinese and offers a look at the direction of future work. 9.2 (Un)commonness of Chinese Is Chinese a common language? For non-native Chinese, the answer to this question is primarily derived from the policy implemented in teaching Chinese as a foreign language (FL) by a nation and the attitude of the people toward the language. In countries, such as Singapore or Korea, Chinese may be considered a common language along with English. In the United States, however, Chinese is still labeled and statistically supported1 as a “less commonly taught language” in comparison with such commonly taught foreign languages as Spanish and French. Some teachers may attribute the situation to the lack of students interested in learning Chinese. We would argue that the situation actually reflects China’s political, economical and social status in the global forum and China’s relationship with other countries. In the 1960s and 1970s, China almost completely closed its door to the outside world; so not many people were interested in learning the language or about the culture. Even if some people had 9 266 Teaching and Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language the desire to learn the language, if their government had a strained relationship with the Chinese government, it was forbidden. This, in fact, was the situation in Malaysia in the 1960s and 1970s. In this case, it is not a surprise that Chinese would be considered an un-common language by the Malays. Although the situation in the twenty-first century United States differs from that of Malaysia in the 1960s and 1970s, (that is, the US government does not impose any policies on its citizens preventing them from learning Chinese), many Americans still have not realized the pragmatic importance of the Chinese language, therefore do not encourage their children to learn the language. “When there is no demand, there is no Chinese class” as one of the middle school principals in the state of Washington put it. Presumably, this is one of the major reasons why many middle schools and high schools in the United States do not offer Chinese as a foreign language. When investigating the mindset of Americans toward learning Chinese, we find that only those who are exposed to international affairs and point of views are likely to realize the potential role the Chinese language will likely play in their children’s future and hence encourage their children to learn the language. For a majority of Americans who do not learn much from media reports about Chinese culture, history, economy and social development in the last decade, however, Chinese is merely an extremely difficult language to learn and China is still an underdeveloped communist country. To this group of Americans, there is no compelling reason to learn. This misperception, as with all misperceptions, will require time and effort if it is to be changed. It appears that to change the image of Chinese from an undesirable to a desirable language in the world — to shift its status from an “uncommonly taught language” to a “commonly taught language” in other words — requires the cooperation and collaboration of both the Chinese government and people and the government and people of interested countries. In recent years, the Chinese government has indeed made noticeable efforts to promote the study of Chinese as FL both inside and outside China by establishing the China National Office for Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (Hànbàn), by building Confucius Institutes around the world, and by setting up centers world-wide...


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