Confucius Institute Update July 2020 Edition

2020 will be renowned as year of challenges, adaption and innovation. With COVID-19 having a significant impact on the global community, it is with great fortune and efforts that education can continue through new streams of learning on-line. Chinese language learning has followed a similar pathway, with course offerings, programs and support incorporating a stronger on-line component.

Since mid-Semester 1, the UQ Confucius Institute (UQ CI) has been impacted in its ability to provide language learning initiatives and cultural experiences in a traditional face-to-face manner. Like many within the UQ community however, UQ CI is continuing to review ways to support learning through new and innovative means to encourage the delivery of future programs with participant health and safety as a continued priority. A UQ CI-facilitated HSK/HSKK language proficiency test preparation course is one such on-line offering proposed for the coming period (see HSK article below).

Key Events of Q1/Q2 2020: 

Language learning goes on-line

In spite of the challenges raised with COVID-19, UQ CI is pleased to have continued to support students in their language studies during this period, adopting new methods of learning on-line through the likes of Zoom and similar applications. In encouraging continued language learning, students and teachers have been urged to adapt to these new methods in order to maximise benefits for their studies.

Teaching staff at UQ CI, including its Chinese language volunteer teachers working at six schools in Queensland have also been tasked to develop skills to effectively deliver classes through on-line technology. Feedback from UQ CI language teaching staff thus far has been very positive, with a few observations/general tips collated to assist language learning on-line:

  • Prior to class: Establish a suitable learning space free from distraction, test equipment (computer/Internet connection) and login to class early, revise prior to class and prepare any questions beforehand in order to maximise classroom interactions.
  • During class: Where possible, students to turn on their camera to allow easier interactions with the teacher, use the break-out rooms to engage with the teacher and other students and raise any questions regarding language study, use the ‘chat’ function to raise questions during class, use the break time to stretch and refresh.
  • After class: Revise class content and complete homework as soon as possible to consolidate the language skills learnt in class, email the teacher with any questions regarding the class content.

Online culture course a success     

In April and May Dr Haiyan Liang successfully delivered a Semester 1 Chinese culture course on-line on behalf of UQ CI. 

Delivered across 4 sessions, the course was part of the Institute’s commitment to learning opportunities for the local community. Each session focused on a different element of Chinese culture, combining multimedia and other content with opportunities for discussion with participating students.

Similar to previous year courses, this on-line offering was well attended by students and the general public. A further course is being considered for Semester 2, 2020 with details to be announced on the UQ CI website. In previous years, this course was also complementary to a similar course offered by UQ CI that focused on understanding culture through Chinese film.

Classroom hopes to strengthen language learning

In February, Trinity Bay State High School in Cairns together with UQ CI officially opened a Confucius Classroom for language learning and cultural experiences.

Being the fourth such classroom to open in Queensland in partnership with UQ CI, Trinity Bay State High School has excelled with its strong Chinese language program, its commitment to further development, connections with the local community as a hub of expertise, and resources for Chinese language education.

The classroom will incorporate technology to enhance language learning as well as strengthen relationships within the school, with the local Chinese community, Chinese visitors to the region, in-country Chinese people and sister schools in China.

School connections open pathways for Qld students learning

The opening of a fourth Confucius Classroom in Queensland in February signified a further step forward in the development of Mandarin learning opportunities and cultural experiences in partnership UQ CI.

With the first UQ CI-partnered Classrooms established in 2013/14, the network has since expanded throughout Queensland, working with schools at their request that have either an established Mandarin program, or are in the process of developing one.

Supported by UQ CI, the Classrooms are managed and administered in accordance with the schools requirements and best interest of their students to encourage Mandarin learning. The Classroom network remains an important part of UQ CI’s work within the community, and is pleased to support schools in providing new learning opportunities and future pathways for Queensland students.  

Chinese Lantern Festival kick-starts the year

Indooroopilly State High School Department of Languages and Global Citizenship hosted a Lantern Festival in February to celebrate the end of two weeks of festivities for the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival.

Students had the opportunity to engage with authentic cultural activities, with learning moving out of the classroom and into our languages hub for the day. Students from across the school had the opportunity to experience Chinese language and culture, providing a chance for students who do not study Chinese to share in the festivities.

Starting the term with the festival complemented the range of cultural celebrations planned throughout the rest of the year through excursions which highlight the diversity of Chinese language and culture.

Indooroopilly State High School is a partner school with UQ CI in the establishment of a Confucius Classroom. Support towards cultural festivals and events are a key part of the classroom’s annual activities.  

Cultural event connects schools with UQ 

Chinese language teaching staff in the School of Languages and Cultures (SLC), supported by UQ CI facilitated various activities to provide visiting students and teachers from local schools in Brisbane with a “taste” of learning Chinese at The University of Queensland in February.

As part of the one-day offering, UQ CI supported the rotation of students through various activities to experience a “Taste of Chinese”. The warmly received UQ CI classes introduced students to mask painting, traditional paper cutting and Chinese dance, the latter proving very popular amongst students.

Sessions offered by SLC included learning Chinese through activities such as Chinese songs, tongue twisters and games, as well as written Chinese, showcasing Chinese character writing and its evolution through multimedia and authentic teaching materials.

HSK, YCT and Preparation courses to resume

After a lengthy delay to a number of language learning offerings in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, HSK, HSKK and YCT testing and preparation courses are set to return from September.   

With testing dates recently announce on the UQ CI website for September 19 and October 17, interested students are now able to register for the test up to one month prior to the test date. Due to COVID restrictions still in place however, tests will be conducted at an external location (see website for details).

In preparing for the tests, students have a number of resources available to further their skills including practice testing via the HSK Webportal. The HSK Webportal offers practice options for test takers from HSK 1 to 6. Level-specific online vocabulary lists can also be found on-line. Additionally, starting from September, a HSK-specific preparation course will be run focusing on students undertaking HSK Level 3 and above. Details available on the UQ CI website.

In July, UQ CI also engaged with Brisbane-based Chinese language schools to deliver two online information sessions for parents interested in enrolling their children in the YCT Mandarin test, a HSK equivalent for young language learners. With the HSK, HSKK and YCT a key offering in terms of language learning, UQ CI is pleased to work with language schools in resource support towards encouraging an uptake in Mandarin learning from an early age. YCT testing will also resume in September in partnership with Chinese language schools.

Did you know? 

When discussing learning Mandarin, the conversation often raises the questions ‘how many words or characters do I need to know to be proficient?’ or ‘how many characters does the reader need to know to read a newspaper?’.

The debate around character and word learning is an interesting one. UK BBC website indicates around 2000-3000 characters required to read a newspaper, with an educated Chinese speaker knowing up to 8000 characters. In spoken Mandarin, some sources indicate anywhere from 750-1000 words for ‘daily conversation use’, and 2500-3000 words for a relatively high level of proficiency.

It would be difficult however to fully gauge the level of proficiency just by the number of characters learnt, or the words spoken. Similar to other languages, both having a base vocabulary in Mandarin (particularly in the early stages of study) and a desire to grow that vocabulary base throughout language study is beneficial.

In language learning, applying this acquired information is equally if not more important, primarily in being able to form sentences and use words in their intended context. The application is where learners/speakers can see significant gains in their language ability, closing the gap between learner/intermediate level and that of an advanced speaker.