Wǒ jiào Sonya


What I know

As part of the TPDL course I have undertaken for the year, one criteria is reflecting on my journey of learning Mandarin.

I have been a student at Unitec learning Mandarin for one evening a week from Huang Wu who teaches Chinese (Mandarin) Level 1A at Unitec.

The lessons have been the incentive I needed to learn Mandarin, however the real motivation to learn the language has been from teaching the five and six year olds each week. That is a blog post in itself.

So far I can say my colours, how to count to 99, I have several basic greetings and am learning to ask questions.

What I am learning

Then this week I attended the pedagogy component at Auckland university. Two thirds of the session was immersion in Mandarin. That was an absolute challenge and I admired our tutor Janelle Wood immensely for modelling formulaic expressions.  Formulaic expressions accelerate language acquisition and students can gain 33% of  vocabulary using this strategy. Therefore we were exposed to 100% Mandarin and were expected to use the language. 

We covered several activities with varying levels of forced output, such as a dominoes activity, where we found  the answer to statements based on the ten Ellis principles.

When we split into our language focus groups we were introduced to further language learning strategies such as:

  1. Introducing ourselves,
  2. Reading a Chinese book silently and in pairs and discussed what we could using Mandarin.
  3. Trimono a puzzle activity (2:5.1)
  4. What is this?
  5. Songs like the transport one that reinforced colours by listening.
  6. Dot to dot focusing on Mandarin number characters.
  7. Matching activity where we matched a formulaic expression with the English.
  8. Race against the clock.

I was exhausted after the two days. I came home both days and had a nana nap. I thought about our children who go through this exercise day after day and really empathised with them.

The TPDL course puts us in the place of the learner. So we learn a language that we are unfamiliar with. We learn how to acquire a language. A lot of what I am learning is a revisit of what was covered in the Diploma of TESOL. However being a language learner has reminded me of the challenges our English Language Learners encounter every day.

I had forgotten about the exhaustion of language learning.

In my Mandarin focus group, I had 3 colleagues from the Mandarin course at Unitec. So it was great to make further connections with them.

My week’s highlights

  • Catching the train to and from Unitec allowed me the opportunity to download my thoughts.
  • Attending an ALLIS Lead Teacher Meeting hosted at Epsom Girls grammar where we shared our school’s journey.
  • Having a student help me with translation. She showed me how she used her chrome for Mandarin character writing and then used google translate to add the PinYin.
  • I memorised and use formulaic expressions in my teaching of Mandarin.
  • A child told his mother that I spoke Mandarin and I understood the statement.

What I still need to learn:

I need to:

  • Memorise the number characters and the colour characters;
  • Learn more formulaic expressions;
  • Learn to tell the time.

What I still need to do:

  • I still need to create formulaic expressions as learning mats for my learners.
  • I need to apply for my student Identity Card so I can get Wifi at Auckland university.

Overall I now believe I can learn Mandarin and I am glad I asked to teach the language because this has enabled me to memorise vocabulary. The spin off is the incredible connections I am making with my children who take great delight in helping me. The experience is also a reminder that learning a language is hard work and is exhausting for our learners. Teachers remember to provide heaps of visuals both in picture form and to provide a learning mat of formulaic expressions for your learners in class to help them survive the early days.



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