Recent years have witnessed rapid and diversified developments in Chinese language education in the United States. Through formal courses in colleges and universities, multi-faceted curricula in weekend Chinese schools, general Chinese classes in public schools, as well as instruction for AP Chinese Tests, growth in Chinese language education has expanded in an unprecedented manner, both in the extent and the breadth of information. Along with the increase in demand for Chinese language education has come an urgent demand for proper Chinese Textbooks.
In light of this need, China's People's Education press (PEP) has planned and organized writing a series of Chinese textbooks targeted to US public school students (grades 7-12). This series of textbooks has been developed with the collaboration of the International College for Chinese Language Studies (ICCLA) at Peking University (PKU) and the US-based Nanhai Company, and written by teachers of Chinese from both China and the US. The complete series includes Chinese for Middle School Students, volumes 1 and 2, and Chinese for High School Students, volumes 1, 2, 3, and 4.
The objectives of this series of textbooks are:
To naturalize the course material to meet American requirements, to design textbooks that conform to the principles guiding second-language education, to generate interest in Chinese among students and particularly in young adults, and to provide both teachers and students as much ease as possible.
To achieve these objectives, the framework of this series has been based on extensive research by the writers. This research was carried out according to Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century, and included many visits to classrooms in the US and panel discussions to consult Chinese language teachers.
The two volumes of Chinese for Middle School Students are written for students in grades 7-8. They include the following considerations:
- Writing concepts that meet current demands
Task-based language teaching has become very popular in Europe and America in recent years. This form of teaching emphasizes "learning while using", "learning while doing", and "learning by experience". It requires selecting or creating tasks that generate an authentic linguistic environment with meaningful communication for students. By doing so, students can complete the cognition, thinking, and socialization learning process through tasks performed in the second language, and finally achieve understanding and the command of the language.
Task-based language teaching can stimulate the students' innate motivation to the greatest extent. Through completing various tasks, the students are given opportunities to use the language in an integrated fashion. By focusing on the meaning expressed in the language, the students are able to extend their interactions. For this reason, usage of the language and the ability to complete tasks are the ultimate goals for language education.
This series of textbooks places special emphasis on practical communicative tasks, with the aim of cultivating the learner's competence through task-based learning. This series of textbooks is written based on the guideline that using practical communicative tasks is the main focus, with the aim of cultivating the student's competence in the language through usage-based learning.
- Considering learning styles of middle school students
Middle school students are energetic and curious. They relish challenging themselves and their desire to prove themselves should be encouraged. Thurs, the textbooks must reflect these features by selecting topics interesting and familiar to them. These are eight units in teach volume, with the following topics:
Society & Communication, School & Community, Home & Diet, Media & Education, Health & Life, Leisure & Fashion, Literature & Art, and World & Exploration.
Moreover, the capacity of the textbooks is adjusted to accord with instruction in the context of the US, i.e. the amount of new words is strictly controlled to around 360 new words in Chinese for Middle School Students 1 and around 380 new words in Chinese for Middle School Students 2. We hope to provide lively, interesting learning materials that arouse and challenge students within the limited vocabulary.
- Maximizing the users' convenience
In addition to the textbook, this series is also equipped with a student's workbook and a teacher's book. There are abundant exercises and classroom activities in the workbook for the convenience of both teachers and students. Each lesson contains more than ten activities and exercises, which are carefully designed and have been proven effective in current Chinese classes in the US. The teacher's book consists of the teaching objectives of each lesson, important language points, snapshots of culture, games and activities, and other relevant supplements.
In sum, this series of textbooks has fully considered the unique characteristics of the Chinese language, fully integrated the psychological and cognitive features of students, and absorbed the writing and editing experiences of existing second language textbooks, with the aim of providing some ideas and innovation in this domain.