Organizer and Chair: Claudia Ross, College of the Holy Cross
Discussant: Michel Oksenberg, Asia Pacific Research Center
The National Task Forces on Basic and Post-Basic Chinese are organized under the auspices of the National Foreign Language Center (NFLC) and its affiliate, the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages (NCOLCTL), to develop frameworks for the teaching and learning of Chinese. The Task Force on Basic Chinese is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities to improve the first stage of instruction at which students acquire a basic overview of the language and establish a foundation for continued learning. It is directed by Dr. A. Ronald Walton, Co-Director of NCOLCTL, chaired by Dr. Cornelius Kubler, of Williams College, and includes representatives of Chinese language programs in public and private secondary schools, colleges and universities in the United States. The Task Force for Post-Basic Chinese is funded by the Ford Foundation and has focused on the middle level of Chinese language study in which students acquire a general competence in speaking, listening, reading and writing and prepare to begin advanced work in their areas of specialization. It is chaired by Dr. Claudia Ross of the College of the Holy Cross and past-President of the Chinese Language Teachers' Association, and includes representatives of Chinese programs at colleges and universities in the United States and Taiwan, including the Executive Director and President of the Chinese Language Teachers' Association, the Director of the Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Study in Taipei and the Director of the Graduate Institute of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language at National Taiwan Normal University.
Once the domain of highly motivated graduate students with well-defined career goals, Chinese courses now enroll more undergraduates than graduate students, and even programs at the secondary school level are increasing. Enrollment in Chinese courses at the college level increased 15% from 1986 to 1990 to almost 20,000 students (Modern Language Association survey), and American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages statistics indicate that over 7,000 high school students were studying Chinese in 1990. These figures do not include enrollment at Chinese community schools, which teach Chinese to students of Chinese heritage all over the country. Moreover, enrollments in Chinese courses at all levels have resumed vigorous growth after a temporary blip in the early 1990s.
In short, today's students are both more numerous and have more diverse backgrounds in Chinese than their predecessors. Furthermore, as job opportunities for people with Chinese language skills expand, students see the study of Chinese as an integral part of their training in a wide range of careers beyond academia and government. The traditional offerings at the college and graduate level which emphasize written translations from Chinese to English no longer adequately serve these new students. Moreover, the relatively early commencement of Chinese language study means that the skills of many new students exceed the level of difficulty of the courses that many colleges and graduate programs offer.
This panel will address these changes in Chinese language study at the end of the 20th century. It will make recommendations for meeting these challenges that include the setting of national goals for Chinese language achievement, the coordination of programs at the secondary and post-secondary level, the incorporation of Chinese language sources in non-language courses, and for the overall planning of Chinese programs across disciplinary lines.
Preparing Students for Careers in the China Field: What Do China Specialists Need
Vivian Ling, Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Study in Taipei
Shou-hsin Teng, National Taiwan Normal University
A generation ago most American Sinologists were academicians who researched and taught about China to other Americans in the United States. Opportunities for research in China were limited and few job opportunities existed outside of academia or the government. China scholars needed to be able to read Chinese. Conversational skills and writing skills were of secondary importance.
The situation is changing dramatically. Non-academic employment opportunities are increasing as are opportunities for long-term residence in the Chinese speaking world for both academic and non-academic China specialists, and opportunities are projected to expand into the 21st century. These jobs require a high degree of linguistic ability and cultural knowledge including the ability to work within the conventions of Chinese society.
These changes have put tremendous demands upon Chinese language programs, which must develop stronger and broader skills for a larger and more diverse population of students. This panel will identify the core knowledge, the pre-specialized language skills and cultural information that Chinese language programs need to develop in their students in order to prepare them for a successful transition to specialized study. The panelists, Dr. Ling and Dr. Teng, bring a dual perspective to this issue. As long-time heads of stateside Chinese language programs they have extensive involvement with the pre-specialized training of Chinese language students. As past and present directors of the IUP-Taipei program they have been able to evaluate the preparation of students for intensive in situ language study and the effectiveness of study abroad in making the transition to the specialized, advanced level of language study.
How Far Can You Go in Chinese Language Learning, and How Do You Get There?
Cornelius Kubler, Williams College
Jing-heng Ma, Wellesley College
The Foreign Service Institute estimates that it takes approximately 1,200 hours of instruction in Chinese, the equivalent of five hours per week of college-level Chinese instruction for sixteen semesters, to reach the beginning of the 'advanced' level in which students have general communicative ability on non-specialized topics. Clearly, students do not spend that much time in the stateside language classroom, nor are programs equipped to offer that many years of language instruction to students. Yet many students reach the advanced level. They do so by following a learning path that typically includes language intensive study in a Chinese speaking society and the self-directed acquisition of specialized material.
This presentation will outline the recommendations of the Task Forces on Basic and Post-Basic Chinese regarding the goals and approaches at the Basic and Post-Basic level, and the need for each level of instruction to assist the learner in developing responsibility for the acquisition of increasingly advanced skills.
Is Your Institution Ready for the Coming Generation of Chinese Studies Students?
Jerome Packard, University of Illinois
A. Ronald Walton, National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages
Students start Chinese language study earlier than in the past, and their learning backgrounds are more diverse. Their preparation ranges from non-intensive high school study to native speaker oral proficiency and their goals are much broader than those of the typical graduate student a generation ago. This situation is a challenge for programs in Chinese language and Chinese studies, which often find that their language tracks and course offerings, especially at the advanced levels, do not meet the needs of the new generation of students.
This presentation makes recommendations to programs and institutions which address these challenges. They include the standardization of certain national goals for Chinese language learning and the subsequent "articulation" of Chinese language programs (the coordination of programs from one level to the next); the use of technology and multi-media as supplements to classroom instruction; the use of standardized assessment instruments to gauge language skills independently from "seat time"; and the greater integration of study abroad and utilization of post-study abroad language skills in Chinese studies programs.
Area Studies and Language Studies: Let's Talk
Madeline Chu, Kalamazoo College
Timothy Light, Western Michigan University
This presentation is a closer look at the need for coordination in the curriculum planning and course offerings across disciplines in Chinese studies programs.
Most Chinese studies programs are loosely bound administrative units which share an area focus and a budget, and in which each discipline plans and monitors the progress of its own students. This was a reasonable system in the past when the language competence of students rarely reached a functional level while they were pursuing course work. But the new generation of students have the time to develop functional language skills at an earlier stage in their studies, and Chinese studies programs should provide structure in terms of early integration of study abroad and the enlistment of non-language disciplines in the development of advanced language skills in the students' areas of specialization. Student needs and suggested institutional responses are outlined in detail in the presentation.