Hsinhua Wu: The 2nd Post.
The reasons we call our son « Coco » is not because it is a term of endearment used by francophones for babies, it is because of his mixed race identity; he is white and yellow. He doesn’t need to choose a side. Although some research studies show that racial identity is influenced by a number of factors, I believe language is the central component in the development of self-identity. This is why I have spoken Mandarin at home since my son was born.
It is undeniably challenging to teach a heritage language alone in a foreign country. Challenge accepted. I switched my role from mother to teacher, and home became a classroom. My children’s environment is set up to promote the learning of Mandarin and Chinese culture. On this journey of formation of their personal and cultural identity, my children focus on learning to communicate with my family and other Taiwanese people, and I now realize that it is also the goal of most foreign language classes, to help students use the target language in any settings appropriately. Therefore, in this post, I am going to share with you some of the methods I use at home, which I could also use in class to develop students’ sociolinguistic competence which refers to the ability to use language linguistically and socially appropriately.
First of all, I want to talk about the choice of Mandarin. There is no standard Mandarin. The differences between Taiwanese Mandarin and Chinese Mandarin are similar to French French (French in France) and Canadian (Quebec) French; the biggest differences are the spelling and the writing systems, but we can understand each other well. Moreover, I taught Traditional Chinese characters with Bopomofo when I was in Taiwan; in Montreal, I taught both Traditional and Simplified Chinese with Pinyin. When it comes to teaching my children who live in Canada, I am open to both Mandarin(s). Chinese Mandarin is widely used due to its big population and rapid growing economy, so it is beneficial to have a good knowledge of it. However, my family has a strong preference for Taiwanese Mandarin, they are concerned about our children’s Mandarin learning specifically will have a French accent or put English or French in their sentences, I personally think, this is not a big obstacle to communication.
Moreover, the story books and activity books were purchased from Taiwan online bookstores, my children also participate in activates held by Taiwanese Playgroup in Montreal and the Taiwanese Canadian Association de Grand Montreal so they can have actual interactions with Taiwanese people in order to “talk like them”. Indeed, the textbook mentions that different groups of people that we interact with influence our linguistic choices (Van Herk, 2012). In addition, at home we celebrate all the Chinese holidays, and L2 teachers are encouraged to incorporate more cultural activities in a classroom. One way I suggest for integrating culture and language that prepares the learners to communicate and collaborate effectively is to celebrate these holidays with those who speak the language in question. Therefore, if I teach again in Quebec, I will arrange more opportunities for my students to practice their speaking with Mandarin speakers. These are win-win activities that my students practice speaking while immigrant Mandarin speakers have also the opportunity to integrate into society.
Lastly, teachers nowadays incorporate various forms of technology to support their teaching and engage students in the learning process. Mandarin movies and TV shows are accessible online and are useful and effective supplements to foreign language learning, in which students interact with authentic data and build their own understanding of a foreign culture’s products, practices, and perspectives. However, media is flooded with information about the negative effects on children who use technology, due to the restriction on the use of technology at home, « Face time » and « Facebook live » are the most recommended software. They allow my children to video talk with my family and travel with them as if they are with them. The e-social tool is definitely a good teaching tool for teachers to use in their foreign language classrooms as it can give students a chance to build up cross-cultural friendships, while partly experiencing being in a target language speaking country.
Students learn in different ways, and cultures do have distinctive learning style patterns. I would like to learn from you about any teaching strategies you use to improve your students’ sociolinguist competence.
Van Herk, Gerard (2012). What is sociolinguistics? Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley Blackwell