Wouldn’t we all like to know the secret to success in learning a language? Particularly one that’s as challenging as Chinese? Well, we’ve stumbled across an approach that might be simpler than you’d expect, yet it makes so much sense: it must be taught in a cultural context. “Well that’s hardly groundbreaking news,” we hear you muttering through gritted teeth as you fling yet another Chinese textbook at the wall. But we think there’s more to this theory than meets the eye, so we’re going to pop along to a special coffee meet-up with language expert and CIS’ Head of Chinese, Huali Xiong, on 17 November at the Tanderra Club, and you’re also invited! Using lots of real-life examples, Huali will talk in detail about why success in speaking Chinese will only happen if your child is taught in a cultural context, and how it’s done at CIS. Here’s a sneak peek of a few things she’s likely to talk about on the day…
We’re sure most of you agree that a language course would be lacking a certain something if it didn’t cover the cultural context in which the language is spoken. But in our experience, ‘culture’ often feels a little tacked on in language lessons while the focus is more heavily placed on the all-important components of listening, reading, speaking, and writing. For students at Canadian International School (CIS), Chinese culture is an integral part of learning the language. By that, we mean that lessons not only cover key linguistic components but also everything from values and beliefs, to history, and even how Chinese speakers think.
Why does the school do this? There are so many good reasons, when you stop to think about it! The most obvious is that linguistic competence alone really isn’t enough to be proficient overall – if you want to communicate effectively, you need to understand the framework you’re operating in, otherwise you’re just learning meaningless symbols. This might be fun, but not the best use of your child’s time, or your money. Another great reason is to avoid those embarrassing slip-ups (hello, inappropriate Chinese character tattoos that seemed like a good idea at the time). If you know nothing about the culture, how will you know you’re behaving or conversing appropriately? Your cries of “but that’s what the dictionary says!!” won’t be of much help if you’ve just offended a local.
Huali Xiong is a world-renowned Chinese language expert. She has been the Head of Chinese at CIS for over two years, bringing more than 30 years of language teaching experience to the role. She holds a BA in English and Literature from Xiamen University and an MSc in Education from the State University of New York. She’s also the author of 130 books, including the best-selling Big Apple Chinese Programme, a collection of reference books for teachers of Chinese as a foreign and heritage language. Primary schools around the world, including CIS and others in Singapore, base their Chinese curriculum on this program. Huali is responsible for overseeing all aspects of CIS’ Chinese curriculum and in August 2014 she helped set up the school’s successful Chinese-English bilingual program. Check out this quick video for a sneak peek inside the program:
We also know from our past chats with Huali that she has some brilliant tips on how to keep kids motivated when they protest that Chinese lessons are ‘boring’ or ‘too hard’. It’s worth attending just for those nuggets of gold!
What: Parent coffee meet-up with Chinese expert Huali Xiong
When: Thursday 17 November, 10-11.30am
Where: Tanderra Club, Block 73 Loewen Road, #01-21, Singapore 248843
Cost: Free, including coffee and light refreshments
This post is sponsored by Canadian International School.