Friday, September 29, 2006

Kerim Friedman on Freshman Chinese

Kerim, who bravely grades papers written in Chinese (something I don't think I'd ever dare), comments on the need for Freshman Chinese classes in Taiwan's universities to teach research writing rather than (or in addition to?) literature.

At Tunghai, we just finished a four-year freshman language instruction reform project that focused on the first-year English and Chinese classes. The English abstract for the Chinese part of the project (written toward the beginning of the project, I believe), reads as follows:
The goal of Freshman Chinese is aimed at improving student’s language skills. However, the average size of 60 students per class makes it impossible for any teacher to help the students efficiently. Therefore, we decided to reduce the class size down to 30 students in the reading & writing class. For the first two years, we plan to offer 12 classes for the incoming students in the six different colleges, namely, the Colleges of Arts, Management, Social Science, Engineering, Science, and Agriculture. These classes focus on writing, but the theme and reading materials for each class is designed by individual instructor based on his or her specialty. We feel that this arrangement would allow individual instructor to demonstrate his or her teaching skills in a more effective way. Student writing could be creative or expository depending on the nature of the assigned topics. Each student is required to hand in at least 4 short papers and one research paper with substantial length each semester. We hope that we can double the number of such classes in the 3rd and 4th year, i.e., the academic years 2004 and 2005, when the Humanities Building is completed. For the first year of this project, we have published an anthology of Freshman writings in Chinese in June, 2003. In addition, we have finished editing a textbook on literary analysis of short stories and prose of contemporary writers and sent it to the Wheat Field Publisher for pbulication. We held seminars on teaching with outside speakers and our website provides information on our program and channels for communication. Finally, we have a team of faculty devoted to the teaching of Freshman Chinese reading and writing classes.
You can see that this abstract addresses one of the problems that Kerim mentions--the typically large size of Freshman Chinese classes. There does still seem to be an emphasis on creative writing and literary analysis, however. (One comment made at the final meeting on the reform project was that the Chinese department should cooperate with the different colleges to meet their needs and their students' needs--this sounded like a suggestion in the direction of a Chinese WAC [Writing Across the Curriculum] program.)

There's more on the Freshman Chinese project here (in Chinese) at the Chinese Department's website. Perhaps I'll take a closer look at this later.

Monday, September 25, 2006


Now that the summer is over and I'm not at home as much, the destruction/construction work in the downstairs apartment that went on for over two noisy and smelly months is also wrapping up. This is the good news. Now that I'm at the office more, though, they've begun ripping out the (concrete) walls in the Chinese Language Center downstairs from me and drilling through what's left. It's like I'm leaving a path of construction in my wake...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On being "borrowed"

I was going to write some comments about an article I just read on a topic near and dear to me, but as I was reading through the article I found that some of the language and ideas were a little ... too familiar. I saw that the writer cited in the bibliography an essay I had posted on the web several years ago. I made a little comparison between the two and found the following:
  • Near the beginning, there are some phrases that are almost exactly the same as my phrasings. The phrases are all part of one sentence in the introduction. (I'm not Shakespeare or anything, but the phrasing is almost word-for-word.)
  • The writer also used sources that I had used, which is perhaps not surprising, although we are not in quite the same disciplines. The writer used a couple of quotations I had also used.
    • In one case, I had put a long quotation from a secondary source in block quotation format. The writer of this article used the same passage, changed a couple of words, and included the passage in the body of the article without marking it by quotation marks or block quotation format (although there was a parenthetical citation of the source).
    • In another case, the writer used the same two short quotations from primary sources that I had also used in my paper. These were not "obvious" quotes (partly because they are from primary sources). Also, the writer didn't cite the source of those quotations in the bibliography. And the writer's translation of one of the quotations is almost identical to mine. (Again, there is no indication given whether or not my paper was the source of these quotations.)
  • There were also several references to a key concept/term that I had used, but no definition of that concept (something I had provided) or citation of the source of that concept.
The article itself is rather wide-ranging and is longer and goes into more detail than my short paper did. It makes use of secondary sources that I didn't use--mainly because the writer is not in the same discipline as I. So I'm not saying that the writer just copied my ideas--there's quite a bit in the article that wasn't in my paper.

I think it's possible that the writer of the article didn't mean to borrow ideas/language without properly citing them. (Which is also why I'm not saying what the article was or who the writer was, though some readers can probably guess what the topic was.) And I am glad that my paper was at least mentioned in the bibliography and in an in-text citation. And I guess I'm not too surprised that the editors and reviewers of a highly-ranked journal like the one that published this article wouldn't be able to catch these problems before publication. But it makes me sad, and it makes me less willing to put more scholarly stuff on the web. I don't have a lot of great ideas (maybe none!), and if my future as an academic depends on getting my ideas published in some scholarly forum, maybe I'd better keep my mouth shut about those ideas before they're published.

I'm sure I'm not the only person this has happened to. What did you do when it happened to you?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quotation meme

Seen at CultureCat. She says, "Go here and look through random quotes until you find 5 that you think reflect who you are or what you believe."
  1. "In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on."--Robert Frost
  2. "Books to the ceiling,
    Books to the sky,
    My pile of books are a mile high.
    How I love them! How I need them!
    I'll have a long beard by the time I read them."--Arnold Lobel [But there's a grammatical error in the third line...]
  3. "One reason I don't drink is that I want to know when I am having a good time."--Nancy Astor
  4. "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."--Lily Tomlin
  5. "If you can't have faith in what is held up to you for faith, you must find things to believe in yourself, for a life without faith in something is too narrow a space to live."--George E. Woodberry

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This has been circulating around the net--if you haven't seen it yet, take a look! It's hilarious!

(Thanks to Emily for the link to this video...)

Friday, September 08, 2006

New year's resolutions

Susan did this, so I'm going to do it, too: make some resolutions for the new school year (or at least for this semester). The semester is starting soon and I'm not particularly rested for it. (In fact I've got bags under my eyes that you could could put a week's groceries in.) But there's something hopeful about a new semester, so here goes:
  1. "Write incrementally." (I'm putting this in quotes because Krista at Thinkery and Susan said it first. If you don't know what it means, see Thinkery's explanation here.)
  2. Finish the dissertation. (This is one of Susan's goals, too. And Heather's, too. And half the world's, it seems. We'll see who manages to get done first. Bet it won't be me! [There's some positive thinking for you...])
  3. Keep drinking a lot of water. (One thing I've done right this summer is drink tons of water. It's helped me lose some weight and move the "poisons" out of me. Gotta keep up this good habit.)
  4. Stay away from the Pepsis and other sugary drinks. (Colleagues, students, if you see me with a Pepsi in hand, you have my permission to take it away from me. But don't touch my Dr Pepper...)
  5. When weather permits (i.e., it's not super-hot and humid and it's not raining), make every effort to walk to school instead of driving. (Don't want to get there stinky and sweaty, but if I can get up early enough maybe I can actually take my time walking there instead of being in a rush.)
  6. Keep to a schedule enough so that at the end of every day I can look at my daybook and feel satisfied that I accomplished a few important things. (Hope that doesn't sound too ambitious...)
  7. Spend more quality time with the former native Chinese speaker. (We're both going to be really busy this semester, so our time together should be spent on things other than TV-watching and web-surfing. Ahem--so what is it I'm doing now???)
  8. Don't make too many resolutions, promises, and/or commitments that I won't be able to keep. (What was that weekend composition class that I just volunteered to teach? Shoot--I guess I've already sort of broken this resolution. Oh well...)
That oughtta do it.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The "Spicy Blog" of Fengyuan

Went to Fengyuan today on some "family business" ("Yo Adrian!" oops, wrong movie) and came across this sign outside a "hot pot" restaurant. "Spicy Blog"... now that's an eye-catching name for a restaurant. (I'm leaving up the phone number. I figure if I'm going to make fun of their name, it's only fair that I give them some free advertising. Maybe we'll even try it out this winter...)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Favorite motivational line...

From an e-mail from my friend Jon K., who's also dissertating:
Two more weeks until school starts for you. Don't enjoy them, write your dissertation.
Heh heh...