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.

1 comment:

Mabel Liao said...

Glad to hear that TungHai is going to improve the declining ability of
student’s Chinese writing. The deteriorating writing ability has existed for a long time since the prevalence of web language has dominated the way of expressing ideas.
When I teach the fifth graders, sometimes I get confused by their idiomatic usages within a few sentences, not even mention about the whole composition. It’s really a suffering to grade students’ composition, and the feeling is ambivalent with tears and laughter.
When I was a freshman at TungHai, I remembered that most of the teaching contents are about literature. Without enough practice of academic writing, I believe my writing ability has decreased a lot. Writing is painful when you can’t think of anything to write, however, it can stimulate creativity and imagination in the process.
I still feel thankful for the teacher who has encouraged me to write and helped me deliver to the newspaper when I was an elementary student. When I saw my poem published in the newspaper, the excitement was beyond description. It’s a pity that I don’t keep the original copy for the poem.