Archive for December, 2008

Why read in Pinyin?

While browsing the net recently, I came across a post by a very respected teacher of TPRS that advocated using characters instead of Pinyin when teaching reading in Chinese.  (This was based on observations of teachers, not on the teacher’s personal experience). Since it was a post and not a discussion, I may be putting […]

Two Dreams

I read and post regularly to various foreign language teaching interest lists, and recently on one of them there has been a rehash of the ancient argument “Does overt grammar teaching help?” While the discussion has been, um, lively at times, it has lately taken a rather poetic turn, and it was interesting to read […]

Sure Holiday winner

Walking in the room and writing “Santa Claus” on the board in Chinese and English seems to be a sure winner. (Of course, throwing in “Hanukkah Harry” at times demonstrates a sense of balance if not sense.) I had a story ready to go this morning (once more, we are on shortened periods due to […]

Lit stations to supplement TPRS

I (obviously) swear by TPRS to produce the maximum oral proficiency in students in the minimum time, and there’s nothing that can compare for building listening skills. But the method was built with Spanish in mind, and then expanded to encompass other alphabetically-based languages. In Chinese, it simply is not feasible (at least not with […]


We’re on a two-hour delay schedule for snow (the fact that this was a fairly wimpy snowfall notwithstanding). Putting this on top of a day and a half of missed classes last week for a bad ice storm, plus my being out yesterday for a release day, means that pretty much everyone has forgotten what […]

Directional gestures

Directional gestures are something I’ve been doing with Chinese teaching for about six years, but this is the first year I’ve had enough students at the same level to see what the broad effect of them is. (Of course, to be rigorous, it’s impossible to separate the directional gestures from the tonal spelling from the […]

Picking up words

We are now midway into our fourth month of Chinese classes with my beginners (probably around 42 hours of class time, since we meet 42 minutes a day in theory). I have never presented the word “because” 因为 as an item, but I have used it in speaking to the kids, and since they don’t […]

On keeping Pinyin in its place

Pinyin is great. You can type with it. You can look stuff up in the dictionary with it. You can chat with it online. When Pinyin is not great, though, is when it takes the spotlight away from characters, such as on a page students are supposed to be reading. During the year of Russian […]

Picture support for emerging readers of Chinese

One of the most frequent questions I’ve heard recently is “How can I get my Western learners of Chinese to read characters?” I think we take a somewhat schizophrenic approach to teaching Chinese at times. On the one hand, we are constantly reminding people how it is a “Class 4″ language — so difficult — […]

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