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Can you teach Chinese without attending a Chinese language teacher class?

TLI Chinese teacher Shen Pei

Can you teach Chinese if you can only speak Chinese?

I have been a teacher of Chinese as a foreign language for 10 years. When I first came into contact with this industry, many people asked me, "What is the major of Chinese as a foreign language?" I said it was teaching foreigners to learn Chinese. People will respond, "Then I can too, I can teach Chinese if I speak Chinese!"

At first, I also felt that my major did not have any advantages, because as long as you are in a Chinese place, if you can speak fluent Mandarin, you can probably teach Chinese. But four years of study in college have taught me the breadth and depth of Chinese - a single word "le" may take as many as three pages to explain all of its grammar content. So, how can a person who speaks fluent Chinese understand these three pages simply and clearly? For the average person, "le" is a word that often appears in our colloquial speech, and usually, we don't even pay attention to it. But for teachers who study grammar knowledge every day, it is really a troublesome grammar point, because it appears frequently, causing confusion among students.

For 「了」(le), everyone's first concept is the past tense, for example, 「我吃飯了(wǒ chī fàn le), but sometimes you will hear 「我吃了飯」(wǒ chī le fàn). At first glance, these two sentences express the same meaning, but why does 「了」(le) appear in two places? For another example, 「我吃了兩頓飯了」(wǒ chī le liǎng dùn fàn le). At this time, there are two 「了」(le), so what is the meaning of each 「了」(le)? It's also in the past tense,「我去年很胖」(wǒ qù nián hěn pàng), why isn't the word 「了」(le) included this time? 「我去年很胖,可是今年瘦了」(wǒ qù nián hěn pàng ,kě shì jīn nián shòu le). The second half of this sentence clearly mentioned 「今年」(jīn nián), but it used 「了」(le), so what does 「了」(le) " mean?


When students see a large paragraph of Chinese, they often fall into the deep pit of 「了」(le) and cannot extricate themselves. At this time, the teacher needs to be clear and familiar with every grammar point. Otherwise, sooner or later, you will doubt whether you are a qualified native Chinese teacher! I have met some teachers. When faced with unanswerable questions, the most common answer is "this is the way it is, that's what it says, no other reason...". If you learn a language, when you encounter a problem, the teacher's answer is like this, or tell you that you just need to speak more and you will understand, will you be convinced?

A few days ago, I interviewed a teacher of Chinese as a foreign language, who graduated from a famous foreign university, obtained an IPA certificate, and participated in training courses. Although this teacher does not have very rich teaching experience, he upholds equal treatment and believes everyone needs room for growth. Under the same principle, I still met the teacher. I found some problems in the communication with the teacher. The teacher speaks fluent Mandarin, and also introduced to me what teacher training she has participated in; she said that when problems are encountered during the training, the institution will open another class for them to solve the teaching problem, which feels a bit like a patchwork. The institution invited experienced teachers to help the trainees solve the problems encountered in the classroom. The teacher is a good teacher, and the cost of a class is also reasonable. The students also felt that it was worth the money. Moreover, she felt that she was able to improve her teaching abilities. She has previously received teaching certifications, but less experienced teachers can also charge class hour fees, just with lower rates. I can't help but wonder, isn't it more valuable to be a teacher with more qualifications?

The students taught by this teacher do not need exams and do not pay attention to learning effects. The teacher only needs to prepare general textbooks before each class, and flip through the textbooks at will when encountering problems. Her students only need to practice oral English, no grammatical explanation is required, so there is no need for the teacher to be familiar with the medium language at all.

I just want to say that students like this please give me a dozen!

So back to the original question, Can you teach Chinese if you can speak Chinese?

Please let me say it again, No! no!


As a foreign language teacher, what qualities do we need to have?

1. Solid grammar knowledge

We want to know every grammar point thoroughly, so that you can face every question from students calmly.

2. Familiar with the difference between medium language and Chinese

As a Chinese language teacher, you must be familiar with the differences between foreigners' native languages and Chinese, so as to better understand the students' confusion and explain things to them in the most direct and clear way.

3. Standard Mandarin

Put another way, you don't want a teacher who speaks an Osaka dialect to teach you standard Kansai Japanese!

4. Rich knowledge of Chinese culture

Chinese teachers are cultural disseminators and bridges for communication between countries. How should foreigners understand Chinese culture? They should start with their own teachers.

5. Serious and dedicated work attitude

A Chinese language teacher is also a teacher, upholding the attitude of teaching and educating people, we must be worthy of the title of teacher.

Every Chinese teacher has been trained for a long time before taking up the post. Every student has his own evaluation of the teaching standard. As a Chinese language teacher, I have a long way to go. I hope that Chinese language and Chinese culture can be spread and that the world will know more and more about the ancient and magnificent oriental culture.

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