2005 Annual Meeting: Border-Crossing Sessions


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Session 193: Cinema in the Chinese Language Classroom: Sponsored by the Chinese Language Teachers’ Association

Organizer and Chair: Gloria Bien, Colgate University

Discussant: Chih-ping Chou, Princeton University

Keywords: cinema, film, language, pedagogy, modern, and contemporary culture.

As technological developments facilitate the use of film in the language classroom, and as the Internet vaporizes the classroom walls, language instruction has moved rapidly away from the "drill and kill" days of yore. The use of film may enliven classroom atmosphere, but how can it be harnessed to serve more serious pedagogical purposes? How can it accelerate the achievement of proficiency? How can it enhance training for fieldwork and primary research? How do we deal with copyrights? Or with cinematic goals, values, and techniques? The panelists, who are trained in film studies, language and literature, as well as linguistics and second language acquisition, will address these and related issues from different perspectives, and with specific example film clips.

Hoare will introduce web listening exercises, developed in collaboration with Qin Hong Anderson, using clips from contemporary films, address linguistic, cultural and copyright issues involved, and report on student reactions. Spring will discuss social contexts and cultural nuances that affect language use, and such cultural issues as local identity, gender politics, and private vs. public domains in films. Chan will discuss using film dialogue to teach idiomatic usage and speech variants in authentic language environments. Bai will discuss developing linguistic and pragmatic competence, appreciation and critical understanding through film. Chou, as discussant, will also share new ideas on using films in teaching Chinese, and introduce a new reader which comprises ten films in the text.

Listening to Chinese Cinema: Film Clips for Elementary Chinese Listening Comprehension

Stephanie Hoare, Cornell University

While contemporary Mandarin feature film is an aesthetic construct, it is also authentic linguistic material, made by native speakers for consumption by native speakers, and it can provide language students with a closer approximation of the conversation they will encounter in a Chinese social context than the often simplified language of the classroom. In order to improve and reinforce our beginning Mandarin students’ listening strategies, and teach them more about the context of communication in Chinese, we have created web-based listening exercises for our Elementary Mandarin Chinese courses using short clips from Chinese feature films. Each of our exercises presents a clip of up to one minute in length, along with a series of questions in English about the clip, to which students submit their answers on line. This presentation will demonstrate the efficacy of contemporary film in a project like this, through contrast with other common classroom uses of film, with attention to the linguistic and aesthetic issues involved, our pedagogical methods, copyright issues, and student reactions. In doing so, it will show our colleagues how they may successfully adapt all or part of our approach for use in their own programs.

The Role of Film in Enhancing Cultural Literacy

Madeline K. Spring, University of Colorado, Boulder

Film can be a powerful tool for presenting cultural values and interpretations of historical events. Frequently students, though they may have some proficiency in the language, are unaware of social contexts and cultural nuances that are present in everyday interactions with speakers of Chinese. These misguided perceptions sometimes result in cultural blunders that may inhibit effective communication. This paper, accompanied by brief film clips, will discuss how the cinematic experience can actively engage students to identify and examine specific cultural issues such as attitudes toward gender politics, public vs. private domains, and local identity.

Pop Goes the Film: Toward a Pedagogy of Idiomatic Chinese

Shelley W. Chan, Wittenberg University

The increasingly prosperous film industry in China has been beneficial to Chinese language teaching outside China. Film provides students with an audio-visual context of the language being used and enhances their cultural understanding. More importantly, as a popular form of art, film is the best teaching material for students, especially those who have a few years’ experience of studying the language, to learn idiomatic and up-to-date Chinese.

Enjoying the story, students nonetheless often feel frustrated by the language spoken by the film characters. The major reasons of their frustration include the idiomatic expressions, new vocabulary words, and language variants that they rarely have a chance to obtain from textbooks carefully edited for foreign learners.

This paper focuses on film usage in the advanced Chinese classroom. How should the instructor design for a film session to achieve her/his goals, and how should s/he get the students prepared for the session? What is an "appropriate" film to show for language teaching? What are the effective techniques to employ film in the language classroom? How could the instructor possibly turn the frustration into a motivation? With these questions in mind, the present writer proposes that student frustration may not be negative; it could serve to prepare students psychologically and practically in the authentic language environment, while in the meantime their struggle could lead to an acquisition of idiomatic Chinese, hence new heights in Chinese language learning.

Developing Advanced Language Competence through Film

Jianhua Bai, Kenyon College

The presentation deals with how Chinese films are used effectively in the teaching and learning of Chinese. Specifically we will provide pedagogical guidelines: (1) for developing advanced language competence in listening, speaking and writing through viewing, discussing and writing about Chinese films that are interesting, motivational and relevant to students needs in terms the content; (2) for developing pragmatic competence through the analysis and discussion of the contexts provided by the films, i.e., using Chinese appropriately in accordance to the situational, social and culture contexts; and (3) for enriching students’ appreciation and critical understanding of Chinese social and cultural issues. We will also consider some of the challenges such as the time and careful planning it takes to integrate films effectively into the language classes.