- Teaching and Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language: A Pedagogical Grammar
In response to the growth of the Chinese economy, many institutions have established new programs in Mandarin instruction. The launching of the Advanced Placement (AP) Chinese Language and Culture Course and Exam in fall 2006 has provided another impetus for many K-12 students to take up the challenge of learning Mandarin, one of the category 4 languages in the United States. According to the survey on foreign language enrollments in U.S. institutions of higher education conducted by the Modern Language Association (MLA) in fall 2002, Chinese, with an enrollment of 34,153 students, was the seventh most commonly studied language in American colleges and universities in 2002, having increased 20 percent since the last MLA survey in 1998.1 One of the urgent issues in the field of teaching Chinese as a foreign language (henceforth, FL) is the shortage of qualified and certified teachers for the increasing number of students. Teaching and Learning Chinese as a Foreign Language: A Pedagogical Grammar (henceforth, Pedagogical Grammar), by Janet Zhiqun Xing, serves "as a manual for teaching and learning Chinese as [a] FL at all levels, training potential Chinese teachers, or designing a Chinese language curriculum" (p. 3) and provides a much needed resource for the field of Chinese language teaching and learning in the English-speaking world.
Special Features of the Book
Pedagogical Grammar provides a whole picture of the current development in teaching Chinese as a foreign language (henceforth TCFL). It is a well-written resource book that makes particularly good use of a wide range of scholarships from foreign language pedagogy and Chinese pedagogical linguistics. [End Page 284]
The insights gained from research are interwoven with Xing's own perspectives as a linguist and a classroom practitioner, making this book genuinely user-friendly in content and approach. Readers will find the terms and guidelines easy to understand and follow in this text, unlike many other grammar books. Each chapter reviews past and current approaches to teaching and learning the chapter's subject, explains their limitations, and then suggests a working model. As a grammar book and as a methodology for teaching grammar, Pedagogical Grammar will be very useful for teachers who have not received formal training in pedagogy or Chinese grammar. Xing should be particularly applauded for promoting "the teaching method that focuses on teaching when, where, and why a certain sentence is used in discourse and discourages any practice of teaching sentences apart from their discourse functions" (p. 164).
Pedagogical Grammar consists of nine chapters, with an introduction and conclusion framing seven specific topics. Xing shares with readers two fundamental elements in the fields of pedagogical grammar and Chinese language pedagogy: content (what to teach and learn) and process (how to teach and learn) (p. 27). Based upon Xing's own teaching experience and research in Chinese pedagogical grammar, her students' learning experience, and foundation established in the field of TCFL during the past twenty years, she presents the challenges, explains the theory, describes what has been accomplished, and proposes guidelines for curriculum design, teaching materials, and teaching methodology.
Employing a three-layer approach to present the system of TCFL, Pedagogical Grammar has a very clear and organized structure: starting with a general overview of the filed (chapter 1), moving to a discussion of content (chapter 2) and methodology (chapter 3), the two major areas affecting all phases of teaching and learning Chinese. It then focuses on individual elements of the Chinese language including pronunciation, characters, sentences, discourse, and culture (chapters 4 to 8). The last chapter discusses the relationship between learning and teaching, provides information on teaching and learning resources, and suggests the direction of future work. The book ends with seven useful and informative appendixes of sample syllabi of various levels, reference books, commonly used textbooks, and study-abroad programs.
Although the book certainly provides a...