The necessity of learning Chinese language in Australian schools emanates from the increasing significance of China to Australia. It is evident that one out of five individuals in the world is a Chinese. Moreover, China suffices to be a regional neighbour, the largest trading partner, a rising global economic power, a vital source of foreign workforce, and a significant source of students that intend to pursue education in Australia. Apart from being a source of vacationers that visit Australia’s tourist attractions, China is also a major tourist destination for Australians. Australia’s biggest immigrant settlers also emanate from China (Orton, 2008). Considering the above reasons, the Australian Government has deemed it necessary to teach Chinese in its learning institutions as a way of easing the interaction between the citizens of both countries (Sit, 2013). The study focuses on the effective ways of teaching Chinese to secondary students in Australia. It also addresses the significance of teaching the Chinese language to the students.
The review of literature provides an analysis of the current trends and the models that are useful in attaining high proficiency levels in learning Asian languages especially Mandarin Chinese. The review focuses on the Australian setting. Besides delving into the traditional LOTE models of teaching and learning, the review also encompasses modern strategies that enhance the learning of Chinese languages in Australian schools. Keeping in mind the findings of the Rudd Report, the review selected three main areas for analysis: the use of technology in teaching Chinese, in country or abroad study of the language and the use of the immersion principles. The review also includes the benefits or motivations behind the study of the Chinese language; bearing in mind the significant position held by China to Australia.
Use of Technology: Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL)
Computer assisted language learning (CALL) has gained prominence in its utility in teaching and learning foreign languages (Lu et al., 2013). As a result, the technique suffices to be one of the methods of teaching Chinese to Australian secondary school students. However, students find it difficult to learn the Chinese language using the technique due to the difficulty associated with learning the Chinese characters (Hu 2003). However, the development of the MacZi software programme has eased the learning of the language using the CALL technique. Teachers use the programme during the early phases of learning the language. The software application combines sound, animation and graphics to teach the language to the beginners.
Apart from enabling the understanding of basic Chinese vocabularies, the programme yields interactive instruction as well as teaching students on basic tasks such as character recognition, elementary writing using pinyin and tone-sound discrimination (Lee, 2008). Using the programme enables the students to perform tasks that require a teacher-classroom setting in the absence of the technology. However, the utility of the programme necessitates the teacher to instruct the students on the ways of conducting individual assessments, the understanding of the particular skills that require learning and the methods of acquiring the skills (Hofstede, 2001). Self-evaluation enables the students to determine their levels of progress in learning the language.
The programme enables the students to practice the characters until they master them. The Character Set model enables students to learn both radicals and the stroke order. However, attaining best results requires the inclusion of a native-speaking instructor that assists in the demonstration of sound pronunciations. Rather than using the CALL technique, other forms of technology such as the use of the World Wide Web, electronic discussion lists, emails, internet chat, and interactive multimedia have also enhanced the learning of the Chinese language by Australian students (Lu et al., 2013).
There exists several immersion categories used to teach Chinese to Australian students. Early full immersion is one of the immersion techniques used in teaching Chinese to Australian students. Commencing at kindergarten, early full immersion programs target functional bilingualism among the students. During the programme, the majority of the instruction takes place in the Chinese language. Towards the end of the programme, students gain substantial understanding in sentence enrichment and verb conjugation. Next, the students enrol in the late full immersion programme towards the completion of their primary studies; particularly during Years 6 and 7 (Orton, 2008). During the years prior to entering secondary school, the teacher uses Chinese fully as the instruction language. However, upon enrolling into secondary school, the students receive 50% of their instruction in Chinese. At this level, students are able to communicate properly with native speakers of the Mandarin Chinese language. However, their communication lacks native traits that present among native speakers.
Therefore, at the secondary level, the students can communicate properly in Mandarin Chinese even though they are distinguishable from native speakers. Short intensive immersion is the other category of immersion that targets oral proficiency and every day communication. It entails ten-day courses that aim at achieving the objectives. Enhanced individual attention and the intensity of the programmes are some of the benefits of the programme (Orton et al, 2012). However, there are certain challenges associated with the use of the programme. For instance, the ability of the students to absorb large amounts of language information within the short period and the mixed ability levels are some of the challenges associated with the use of the programme in teaching Chinese to Australian students.
Teaching Chinese also entails the use of content-based or partial immersion programmes. Generally, immersion programmes have outperformed their traditional counterparts in teaching Chinese and other foreign languages. Under the content-based approach, majority of the teaching uses Chinese as the instruction language. To attain the concurrent learning of the first language and the target language, other institutions have also opted for bilingual immersion where the learners comprising primarily of English speakers attend classes with the speakers of the target language (Orton, 2008). In the end, the instructor teaches half the curriculum in English and the other half in Chinese to enhance the understanding of the language.
The characteristics of the bilingual immersion encompass long-term instruction conducted in both languages, integration of content areas and language arts, additive bilingual environment, separation of instruction languages, focus on academic curriculum and the optimal input and output of the primary and the target language (Orton et al., 2012). One of the merits of bilingual immersion entails the reduction of the distance between the speakers of the target and native languages. The programme also impacts positively on the social status of both groups of speakers. The main advantage of the programme is its ability to ensure that use of both languages in the professional context by the speakers of both groups.
Increasing the levels of proficiency of LOTE students has also resulted in the consideration of the in-country or study abroad programmes (Orton et al., 2012). The two programmes reveal significant differences. Short-intensive courses suffice to be one of the programmes utilised by Australian schools under the in-country study. The course durations vary between one and six weeks. The exchange programmes entail schools in China visiting Australia to mingle with the learners for the short duration. Apparently, the experience guarantees cultural and social benefits on the part of the students that take part in the exchange programmes. However, there is little evidence that associates the short-term exchange programmes with an increase in the language proficiency exhibited by the students. Extended courses suffice to be the other in-country study programmes that take place in Australian schools to enhance the proficiency of students in speaking Chinese and other foreign languages.
Even though extended courses are prevalent among tertiary institutions, the increased use of such programmes in secondary schools has a significant effect on enhancing the language proficiency of the students (Orton et al., 2012). The inclusion of ‘parallel multi-locational’ programmes in Australian secondary schools also plays a great role in enhancing the learning of Chinese and other foreign languages regardless of the fact that its utility is evident in tertiary institutions. On the significance of learning Chinese language to Australian students, Australia targets to establish and maintain a mutual social and economic relationship with China by having Australians that understand and speak fluent Chinese (Orton, 2008).
To determine the existing strategies used to teach Chinese in the schools.
To determine the support services offered by teachers and learning institutions to the learners of Chinese.
To understand the significance of learning Chinese in Australian secondary schools.
What are the effective strategies of teaching Chinese in Australian secondary schools?
What are the existing support services implemented by the institution to hasten the understanding of the language?
Following the rising concern of the Australian Government towards teaching Chinese in the secondary schools, what is the motivation behind learning the language?
The case study entails 100 students in an Australian secondary school in years 2 and 3 that have enrolled in the LOTE Chinese programme from the onset of the programme. The research will use questionnaires as the primary tool of data collection. With the use of the questionnaires, it will be possible to understand the existing teaching practices of the Chinese language in the selected school. The questionnaire will also enable the determination of the possible reasons or motivating factors behind the decision of the Australian Government to recommend the study of the foreign language such as Mandarin Chinese in Australian schools (Gao, 2014). The selection of questionnaires as the tool of data collection emanates from the several advantages associated with using questionnaires to collect data such as their effective use in summarising data, efficiency, time-saving and ability to provide accurate data.
The research will make use of the thoroughly planned questionnaires that will also seek the consent of the respondents and a clear outline of the purpose of the study prior to embarking on answering the questions. The questions in the questionnaire will incorporate issues on the existing teaching strategies that the school has implemented towards enhancing the proficiency of the students to speak Chinese. The questions will also ask whether there exist support services such as short-course programmes comprising of visits of Chinese speakers to enhance the understanding of the native styles of communicating among the learners. The other important aspect of the questionnaires will entail identifying the importance of studying Chinese on the part of the students. On the contribution of technology and other support services, the questionnaire will also ask whether the institutions have put in place the necessary technological sources such as computer assisted learning technology to realise the desired level of proficiency among the learners. The appendix section provides a sample of the research questions used in the questionnaire.
The data collection aspect of the research will be efficient bearing in mind that the research will focus on one secondary school. As a result, it will be easy to conduct the data analysis exercise on the collected data (Phellas et al., 2015). The respondents will comprise of students speaking Chinese language in the secondary school. The respondents will also include Australian students that learn Chinese as a secondary language to determine the success of the already implemented strategies of teaching on their proficiency.
For easy analysis, the research will deal with tabulated data after having filled the collected data in tables for easy analysis (Polhemus, 2015). The ease associated with analysing tabulated data suffices to be the driving force behind the necessity of such data formats in analysing data. The research also targets to use percentages, pie charts and bar graphs in the analysis and presentation phases to guarantee easy interpretation of the results. The simplicity associated with the data analysis and presentation tools will also enable the identification of the appropriate recommendations.
From the research, it is evident that proper learning of the Chinese language necessitates the existence of a competent teacher possessing both the teaching skills as well as the skills required to use technology in teaching the language. The existence of an all-round teacher will play a pivotal role towards dealing with the challenges encountered by students that learn Chinese in Australian schools. The proposal also enables other teachers to understand the effective strategies of teaching Chinese to Australian students as well as the rising importance of the language in Australia bearing in mind the positioning of China on the globe.
Gao, X. (2014). Motivations, learning activities and challenges: learning Mandarin Chinese in Australia.
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Hu, S. (2003). Teaching Chinese to English Background Primary School Students. The Perceived Complexity of Vocational Workplace Rehabilitation and its Implications for Supervisor Development, 4(1), 60.
Lee, S. T. (2008). Teaching pronunciation of English using computer assisted learning software: An action research study in an institute of technology in Taiwan (Doctoral dissertation, Australian Catholic University).
Lu, J., Throssell, P., & Jiang, H. (2013). Exploring the Application of Computer-Assisted English Learning in a Chinese Mainland Context: Based on Students’ Attitudes and Behaviours. International Journal of English Linguistics, 3(3), 31.
Orton, J. (2008). Chinese language education in Australian schools. Melbourne: The University of Melbourne.
Orton, J., Tee, J., Gong, J., McCulloch, J., Zhao, Y., & McRae, D. (2012). Profiles of Chinese language programs in Victorian schools. U. o. M. Chinese Teacher Training Centre.
Phellas, C.S, Bloch, C. & Seale , C. (2015). Structured Methods: Interviews, Questioners & Observation
Polhemus, W. N. (2015). Overview of Data Analysis Using Strgraphichcs Centurion. Tat Point Technologies, Inc.
Sit, H. H. W. (2013). Characteristics of Chinese students’ learning styles. International Proceedings of Economics Development and Research, 62, 36.
What is your gender? (Tick where appropriate)
State your current level of education
Tick where appropriate
Do you learn Chinese as an additional language or a primary language?
Tick where appropriate
On a 5-point Likert Scale, highlight the level of difficulty associated with learning Chinese.
It is challenging to understand most of the phrases
It is difficult to memorise Chinese phrases
The existing support services are effective in teaching Chinese
I would like to learn Chinese following the completion of my secondary studies
I enjoy learning Chinese
The support system makes use of the CALL technique to enhance the learning of the language
I am learning Chinese because it is mandatory
I am learning as a voluntary decision
There exists immersion programmes used to teach Chinese
Learning Chinese also takes place through In-Country study programmes
According to your understanding, what is the relevance of studying Chinese?
Are you comfortable with the existing support services? If not, what else do you need to enhance your understanding of the language?
What are some of the challenges that you encounter while learning Chinese?