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LINGUIST List 24.4620

Tue Nov 19 2013

Review: Applied Ling.; Lang. Acquisition; Sociolinguistics: Kecskes (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 28-Aug-2013
From: Han Luo <luohan78gmail.com>
Subject: Research in Chinese as a Second Language
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-2222.html

EDITOR: Istvan Kecskes
TITLE: Research in Chinese as a Second Language
SERIES TITLE: Trends in Applied Linguistics [TAL] 9
PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Han Luo, Northwestern University

SUMMARY
As China plays an increasingly important role in the world economy and
international politics, worldwide interest in learning Chinese has emerged.
For example, from 1998 to 2002, enrollments in Chinese classes in American
higher-education institutes increased 20%, from 28,456 to 34,153 students
(Welles, 2004). In 2006, the number enrolled in Chinese classes rose to
51,582, a 51% increase compared to 2002. Despite this, the field of teaching
Chinese as a foreign/second language (CFL/CSL) has not developed a strong
research background. ''Research In Chinese as a Second Language'' edited by
Istvan Kecskes collects eleven papers by scholars and researchers in Chinese
linguistics and Chinese language education from around the world in an effort
to promote a strong research base for Chinese language education. This book is
intended for CFL/CSL teachers, researchers and other professionals in the
field.

The eleven papers are divided into three sections: research base for practice,
integrating culture and language, and acquisition of language structures.

Section 1 includes three papers. In the first, ''Developing Chinese oral
skills -- A research base for practice'', Jane Orton examines and synthesizes
research findings and existing knowledge in four major fields, the nature of
spoken language, the nature of spoken Chinese, the nature of the learning
task, and pedagogical principles and practices to shed light on the
acquisition of Chinese oral skills, one of the most challenging tasks for
CFL/CSL learners. Her literature review identifies the importance of teaching
the rhythm of Chinese as a foundation for oral proficiency, recognizes how
overlooked the learning task and processes have been in current practice and
resources, and advises the development of learners' metacognitive awareness of
the learning process through a wide variety of exercises. Ping Yang's
''Asymmetrical style of communication in Mandarin Chinese talk-in-interaction:
Pedagogical implications for TCSOL professionals'' discusses status, power
distance, verbal and non-verbal dominance, and asymmetrical styles of
communication between CSL/CFL teachers and students drawing on a detailed
analysis of audio and video data, providing pedagogical implications for
CSL/CFL professionals. According to Yang, it is important for CSL/CFL
teachers to understand different communication styles of varying cultural
groups where students come from, to recognize the importance of promoting
cultural diversity and equity, and to integrate this understanding into
classroom learning activities and extra-curricular activities. The third
paper, ''Learning tones Cooperatively in the CSL Classroom: A Proposal'' by
Wang Chen, deals with the challenge of learning tones. This paper proposes an
innovative method of tone learning, which views the learning of tones as a
cognitive process occurring throughout all stages of Chinese language
acquisition. In this framework, the teacher is a facilitator rather than a
modeler or monitor and students learn cooperatively by providing each other
learning tips and carrying out mini teaching tasks. Compared to traditional
teacher-led tone training, this method provides more opportunities for
meaningful language production among students.

The four articles in the second section focus on the element of culture in
Chinese language classrooms. Ned Danison's ''Integrating culture and language
in the CFL classroom: A view from the bottom up'' investigates CFL learners'
perceptions of Chinese culture gained from learning the language texts.
In-depth interviews with the students and the teacher of one class reveal
students' impressions of culture when culture is not explicitly included as a
component in the CFL classroom, the role of the target language in introducing
the target culture, and the role of the native-speaker Chinese teacher. The
researcher proposes that the teacher should not only have a thorough
understanding of her native culture, but also needs to be well informed about
differences between her native culture and the students' culture(s).

''Analysis of pragmatic functions of Chinese cultural markers'' by Xiaolu Wang
and Tingting Ma explores the pragmatic complexity of Chinese cultural markers,
defined as elements which can trigger Chinese culture and display distinctive
ways of communication among Chinese. The theoretical framework is New
Intention and New Common Ground Theory. In a close corpus analysis the
researchers find that Chinese cultural markers can promote mutual reciprocity
between interlocutors, soften tones, hide interlocutors' true feelings,
alleviate negative expressions, and smooth the progress of discourse.

''Gestures as tone markers in multilingual communication'' by Chun-Mei Chen
examines the effect of gestures as tone markers on the tonal achievements of
CFL learners in classroom-based face-to-face communication. The researcher
videotaped 180 hours of two elementary-level CFL classes which were divided
into a control group and an experimental group. In the control group, tones
were taught in the traditional five-scaled system; in the experimental group,
hand gestures were used as tone markers in drills and classroom interaction.
The results showed that the learners in the experimental group had
significantly better communication achievements. However, it is difficult to
understand why this paper appears in the section on integrating language and
culture as this paper does not really focus on culture.

The last paper in the section, ''The collaborative construction of cultural
knowledge in a Chinese movie class'', examines the observational data to
reveal how target culture contexts were constructed in a second-year Chinese
movie class. From the analysis, Ying Liu presents a model of cultural
knowledge construction in CFL classes and shows that Chinese movie classes
provide a good opportunity for CFL students to learn about Chinese culture.

Section 3 collects four papers on the acquisition of language structures. Wen
Xiong's ''The acquisition of Chinese modal auxiliary Neng Verb Group (NVG): A
case study of an English L2 learner of Chinese'' is a longitudinal case study
of the acquisition path of the Neng Verb Group by an English L2 learner of
Chinese. Xiong interviewed the learner over 35 school weeks. A close
examination of the learner's L2 speech production shows that the learner's
developmental use of the NVG words went through two broad phases: the
interlocutor dependent uses (IDU) phase and the interlocutor independent uses
(IIU) phase. The IDU reflects constraints imposed or support provided the
interlocutor, whereas the IIU reflects the learner's own control of the
interlanguage. This study also reveals that the acquisition of the NVG words
could not have been completed in one step and that the learner initially used
the NVG words as separate items rather than a connected group. However,
current teaching practice tends to introduce these words as a group, which may
not be the most effective way to handle the NVG words.

''Acquisition of Chinese relative clauses at the initial stage'' by Yi Xu
explores the initial acquisition of Chinese relative clauses by CFL learners
based on a listening comprehension task. According to Xu, CFL learners tend
to have a slight preference for the subject relativization structure of
Chinese relative clauses and they rely on semantic knowledge to process
relative clauses. Pedagogically, it is important to provide explicit grammar
explanation of Chinese relative clauses to students.

Zi-Yu Lin's article ''Conceptual similarities in languages -- Evidence from
English be going to and its Chinese counterparts'' uses the principles of
grammaticalization to examine the grammatical and semantic behavior of ''be
going to'' and its Chinese counterparts within Cognitive Linguistics. In the
view of cognitive linguists, grammatical morphemes develop from lexical items
via a diachronic process of semantic extension motivated by a wide range of
cognitive mechanisms such as metaphor and metonymy. Xu explains the
grammaticalization of ''be going to'' and its Chinese counterparts by applying
the concepts and mechanisms of metonymy, embodiment, practicality,
decategorization, frequency, relevance and iconicity, showing that English and
Chinese share many conceptual similarities in the development of future and
modality grams.

The last paper, ''SLA of Mandarin nominal syntax: Emergence order in the early
stages'' by Helen Charters, demonstrates how Emergent Functional Grammar, an
acquisition theory based on universal grammar, could effectively account for
observed emergence order of nominal structures in the spontaneous speech of
second language learners of Mandarin. The three major phases of Emergent
Functional Grammar are the pre-syntactic phase, the local-syntax phase, and
the long-distance syntax phase and each phase involve a number of relevant
processes, which could readily explain the emergence order of nominal
structures of Mandarin resulted from empirical findings from three independent
longitudinal studies within the framework of Processability Theory.

EVALUATION
This book is among the first attempts to bring scholars and researchers in
Chinese language education together to create a platform and set a research
base for teaching and learning Chinese as a second/foreign language. The
topics discussed are diverse and interesting. The studies cover linguistics,
second language acquisition, language pedagogy, and culture. This book is a
much-needed and long-awaited collection for language teachers, researchers,
and other professionals in field of Chinese as a second/ foreign language.
However, a few areas leave something to be desired.

Some papers are somewhat difficult to understand, likely due to the fact that
the writers are not native speakers of English. Other papers are very well
written in terms of language quality, but contain a lot of linguistic jargon.
While specialized terminology is unavoidable for some discussions, simple
language would be helpful in a book intended to promote language teaching.

The four papers on the acquisition of language structures in Section 3 set
good examples of research methodology, probably because of the relative
maturity of linguistics and SLA. For example, Wen Xiong's case study of an
English L2 learner of Chinese not only has useful implications for language
teaching, but also contributes to SLA methodology by introducing and
exemplifying how to analyze learner speech production. In contrast, the papers
on practice in the classroom and integration of language and culture have
great room for improvement in terms of research methodology. For instance,
Xiaolu Wang and Tingting Ma give a nice analysis of pragmatic functions of
Chinese cultural markers, but do not provide any information about their
research design and method.

Finally, as the purpose of this book is to promote Chinese language teaching,
practical implications are particularly relevant, though the pedagogical
implications of some studies may not benefit language teachers and students
due to their over reliance on linguistic jargons. For example, in the article
on the grammatical and semantic behavior of ''be going to'' and its Chinese
counterparts, Zi-Yu Lin proposes that language teachers should tell their
students that ''while English future grams evolved from both volitional verbs
and movement verbs, Chinese future grams mostly developed from volitional
verbs''. On the other hand, another study (i.e. Helen Charter's paper on SLA
of Mandarin Nominal Syntax), a paper of theoretical significance, does not
seem to have any clear pedagogical implications.

The field of teaching Chinese as a second/foreign language is still
developing, full of challenges and opportunities. High-quality studies
directly related to classroom teaching are scarce and much needed. For
example, we particularly need studies on material development, curriculum
design, and assessment to guide CFL/CSL teaching. Although there has been a
rapid increase of interest in learning the Chinese language, CFL/CSL learners
seem to have difficulty sustaining their efforts in learning Chinese (Luo,
2013). Thus, research is needed on affective factors such as motivation,
anxiety, and attitudes associated with Chinese language learning. Another
trend in Chinese language education lies in the boom of Chinese heritage
learners, so that Chinese heritage language education deserves attention (He &
Xiao, 2008).

REFERENCES
He, A. & Y. Xiao. (2008). Chinese as a heritage language: Fostering rooted
world citizenry. Honolulu: University of Hawaii National Foreign Language
Resource Center.

Luo, H. (2013). Chinese Language Learning Anxiety and its Associated Factors.
Journal of Chinese Language Teachers Association, 48 (2), 109-133.

Welles, E.B. (2004). Foreign language enrollments in United States
institutions of higher education, fall 2002. ADFL Bulletin, 35, 7-26.


ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Dr. Han Luo joined Northwestern University as a Chinese lecturer in the Fall
of 2011. She received a PhD in Foreign Language Education with a
specialization in the teaching of Chinese from the University of Texas at
Austin in 2011, and a PhD in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics from Beijing
Foreign Studies University in 2007. Before coming to the U.S., she taught
English and linguistics at the Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences
in Beijing for 6 years. Her research interests include second language
acquisition, teaching Chinese as a foreign language, foreign language learning
anxiety, Chinese linguistics, cognitive linguistics, and heritage language
education.
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