Posts Tagged ‘lessons’

Reflections on CW

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The CW is in reference to Colonial Williamsburg, which granted I have not visited in many years, but I can still hold opinions!  Especially after reading Richard Handler and Eric Gable’s book entitled The New History in an Old Museum.  Over the course of this semester I have worked in conjunction with Professor Eric Gable, anthropology professor at UMW, for an Anthropology 491 (independent study) course focusing on the nature of museums.  This course doesn’t, however, touch on the same range of topics that say a historic preservation class would.  We aren’t so much interested in how to create an exhibit, but rather what are the effects of the created exhibit, what does it say about the world around it?  Every week I work through a book, typically with a question in mind given to me by Prof. Gable.  As I already mentioned, I was actually reading a book that he wrote and working, toying really, with the question “How ethnography works in studying museums, what does an ethnography offer?”  Here’s the thing, the authors I have read so far on Museology (Tony Bennett and Carol Duncan) do not take a strictly ethnographic approach (which needs some defining in a moment here), but rather these authors study the texts a museum already produced.  These are generalized messages and ignore the everyday status of a museum space.  First we have to ask why studying that museum space is important.  Is it not possible to just study the artifacts and plaques around the museum?  My answer to that is no, of course not.  Right, why?  The Museum exists as more than the pure collection of text written by and about it.  Gable’s choice of a detailed ethnography of Colonial Williamsburg (CW) produces a wealth of details that bring many of the conflicts and questions which both Bennett and Duncan seek answers.  The central question posed by Gable and Handler is whether or not the “social history” CW promotes so heavily is truly being carried out.  The ethnography, as a main technique for anthropology, grants the researcher a flexibility that pure library research lacks, the ability to interview and look at an exceedingly broad picture.  Gable in his opening to this work neatly draws out the initial stages of thinking as well as methods for his ethnographic research.  During the entire book, the authors make extensive use of actual quotes, as opposed to purely paraphrasing.  Quotes recorded from multiple interviews with employees add additional layers of details to the anthropological analysis of what occurs at CW.

In addressing how the ethnography works in studying museums, field research steps away from just studying the plaques, pamphlets and other works produced by the museum, and turns to the people within the museum itself, both workers and visitors.  Rather than focus mainly on architectural concerns, an ethnography seeks to understand how the people themselves make sense of the contradictory messages of commercialism and genuine desire to educate all visitors to CW.  Through the collection of interviews, the anthropologists start to use recurring thoughts or conflicts to create new questions dealing with the museum.  An ethnography, unlikely many forms of study, attempts to approach the research subject without bias or previous judgments.  Here is where ethnography tends to be problematic for those unfamiliar with the idea of fieldwork, ethnography’s questions are generally produced as you go, narrowing as you gain a strong understanding of the important details.  Gable is very open that they started with broad ideas about what they wanted to study.  The second question I need to address is what an ethnography brings to the table.  One of the final chapters of this book, “The Picket Fence” deals with a strike between a union and upper management that occurs during Handler and Gable’s two year period of field research.  The ethnographic line of thinking decides to take advantage of any shift in the field, because field research actively seeks out what matters to the research subjects.

The New History in an Old Museum covers a broad range of topics within the world of CW, but again its main interest lies in uncovering whether the rhetoric of the new social history truly exists within this museum or is it another “Republican Disneyland”?  The narrative fluidly moves from topic to topic, building upon the foundations of the organization that attempts to constantly deal with potential views held by the public towards the CW foundation.

But it’s four in the morning go check it out yourself!

Week 3

Sunday, July 5th, 2009

Has this become the blair witch project? You catch these snippets of me running around with short breath and snot dripping out of my nose? It’s quite possible, but that is just fine. This weekend went absolutely awesome in terms of training. A few of my new Taiwanese friends sat me down and forced me to make sounds and read outloud as they corrected me. I can finally ask questions of how you would say a specific word, which the word in question is the only time I am allowed to speak English with them. After last week’s successive defeats the weekends minor victories in communication have been glorious! I keep thinking about what it will take to break into a level of somewhat fluency. Chinese doesn’t have the same learning curve of European languages that we pick up in college. The problem with Chinese basics is that there is a lot of reprogramming that needs to take place in an English speaker’s brain before you can even hope to get anywhere. I don’t even sit at the point of being reprogrammed and ready to speak Chinese, which is exactly why I stumble. Dr. Campbell gave me some interesting book recommendations concerning second language acquisition and neural patterns that should be good reads when I get back home. I have basically nixed full hard core reading of books until I get home. I tend to read for hours at a time, and unfortunately I don’t have those stretches of hours…although with two independent studies next semester, will I even have the time then? Anyway! Today’s assignment is to go to a restaurant, order in Chinese and write about the experience. Superstoked since pictures also count as part of the assignment. Ooof I’d kill to have someone teach me photography, get me a nice camera, and (due to heavy bookbags) give me a shoulder massage : D! Don’t mind me I’ve just gone a little bonkers. As a side note, fourth of July when abroad is pretty lame, especially if you are the only American around. I got up and did a little dance for America, since I’m not exactly sure if people can set off fireworks in Taipei without some sort of authorization. The last thing I need is to be thrown into jail while abroad. Alright let’s get this week rolling. 3….2….1 BING!

Weekend’s Work

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

So the site has fallen into slight disrepair, the classes at ICLP can keep you so busy that your head spins right off. Regardless, you have to attack things with a plan. Random moves and work won’t get you anywhere. The workload is simply too large to not have a plan. So with that in mind! It’s the weekend which means it’s prime time for review. I’ll be doing a review of all the grammar patterns and vocabulary acquired thus far in these past two weeks…if I really have gotten a handle on it then the review should be a very fast process. The next thing is writing in my Chinese Journal (sometimes a very long process) and then crashing into the current lessons that I’m working on. Sounds pretty jam packed, but I took last night off from working on anything and am seeing another film for Taipei’s film festival. I can’t complain too badly : D

Lots of Vocab

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I have been meaning to update but been a bit busy watching my brains splatter on the computer lab’s screens as I work at ICLP. I will be sure to throw everything up here asap. The big theme recently has been restaurants…which has actually come in handy as well as some words like “borrow” which I’ve been managing to get a lot of mileage out of. Today was a backwards day for me as I took a few steps back and lost some ground in my training. I’ve cooled off now and am working to build a medium between ultra confident and knowing I don’t know a bit of the language. It’s going to take some thought, but will do me a lot of benefit down the road, I’m sure of it.


Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I checked one of my homework assignments only to find that it has marking all over it. I often strive to make my sentences more complex so the markings are always welcomed. I want to find out what I did wrong and how to fix it, improve it. Lucky me they don’t mark in red…just green. Eh, green the life giving color. It reminds me of how I felt when I got a writing assignment in one of my history classes back. It literally had more ink on it then I originally handed it in with. I felt bad and a little miserable, but then realized each mistake was a great learning experience. If you take it that way you can loosen up a bit and dissect it. If you sit and only see markings and failure, you’ll never be able to make any progress or look at your own work with the proper form of critical analysis.

六月 三十號

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Picked up a quick meal at Vegetarian Paradise and am now ready to roll for another night of work. I have two sets of vocabulary to prepare for as well as some grammar aspects. I’ll be posting up the lists of both later on tonight. The big thing is a new assignment consisting of crafting well thoughtout journal entries in Chinese…funny how laoshi pegged me as the type to journal. It’s a fairly hand tailored assignment, and I am digging a challenge. Just for my own sanity writing out my schedule: 1)FEEC Dialog/Vocab(listen/write)/Grammar 2)PAVC Same set up, create flashcards. Speaking of flashcards, I still need to get more use out of that Anki program, that’s probably best done another day though. Alright Let’s do this!

A quick post

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I need to find a way to really beef up my training. The classes are intense, but as of yet I am not rising to the occasion for these classes and need to find another tool or method to get myself up to that next level. Maybe a quick talk with my Laoshi will handle it. I just need to find other ways to improve my training methods, because right now I just sort of do “whatever” until I feel like my brain is going to explode. The problem with this is that it is an unguided workout. That’s not a good way to train. Imagine if you went to the gym and did some different exercise every single day. Yeah sure you are exercising, but what are you really accomplishing? It takes a good regiment of exercises that are strategically planned and then thorougly executed nigh daily to have solid and more importantly lasting improvement. I’ll be thinking about these training methods and let you know what I come up with!

Week 2

Monday, June 29th, 2009

Today marks week 2 of ICLP classes. Everything went by real smooth like, which is awesome, but it tells me something. I am not pushing myself hard enough in terms of what I expect out of the course. If my expectations are too low, my work ethic will also take a fairly severe nose dive. The large goal, overarching is a better phrase, should be to internalize grammatical structures as well as develop a mouth for tones. This should be on top of all other homework assignments.

Tonight’s homework is pretty light given that I am a little ahead of the curve with my vocabulary. Lin Laoshi gave the students a roleplaying assignment where we create a dialog based on a situation given to us, via random selection, at the end of this morning’s class. My assignment “Ask the staff for the postage and time-spent of a postbard, a regular letter, and a registered letter. ” It sounds really straightforward, but it took me a little while to put together. The problem isn’t that I don’t recognize vocabulary, only that my familiarity is more than a little weak. It simply isn’t flexible enough to create a new situation other than a mirror of what is given in the book Far East Everyday Chinese. This is the same exact problem I experienced with Integrated. Part of my problem with integrated was just straight up the book doesn’t encourage you to think outside the dialog. Here, I am dealing with the effects of that mindset. (While I am writing this I am working on another assignment which is to listen to myself from my one on one class. I sound retarded…) : P Maybe a post about the records could be helpful.

So, now that the main piece of homework is out of the way, I have a mission: type out the different grammar pieces, blow them up on a piece of paper and print those suckers out. Also, I have been having serious issues with the sound represented in pinyin as “c” which is said like “ts” of students. I either make it sound like a z or too aspirated and therefore a “t” I need to hang out with a linguistics person focusing on how sounds are made. It would probably be helpful. Alright, let’s put up those grammar sheets! And then silly sounds ahoy : D

Weekend Work–A Preview

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

I have never made a very good weekend worker. There is some sort of time device that makes Saturday speed by so quickly that it is essentially impossible to accomplish whatever it is that you set out to do. This phenomena is a crime against productive humanity! That aside, I tried to work my way through some of the homework assignments I got from my classes on Friday. The language homework is always tricky because I often don’t know how to properly phrase something. If I view it as a practice and not as a test or mortal kombat, I tend to loosen up and take more risks on potential misusing a sentence structure. I figure the comments and markings from the teachers will be more helpful if I stretch myself beyond my means a little bit.

Right now I am on the third lesson for Practical Audio Visual Chinese (Book 2!)–all of this can be shortened to PAVC. The lesson works through a restaurant situation to teach its grammar and vocabulary points. Trying to get what you want to eat when you don’t have the right vocabulary or making word salad can be next to impossible. The vocab list I have been slaving away at!

  • 給 gei for this chapter means for (the benefit), to
  • 介紹 jie shao is a verb for introduce or suggest
  • 魚 yu is a fish, I don’t believe it is necessary to add word for meat to make it the food.
  • 非常 feichang, an adverb ,meaning very or extremely
  • 對 dui in this instance is a coverb meaning to, toward, for
  • 牛肉- Beef, the first character by itself means cow or bull
  • 青菜 The second character is incorrect but I couldn’t find the actual one in my list : ( means vegetables, green ones!
  • 雞 ji is Chicken if you want it to mean like the meat throw the character “肉” at the tail end of it.
  • 湯 tang means soup and will often be the last word of a phrase describing what kind of soup it is!
  • 封 measure word for below word
  • 信 Letter, we’ve had this one in other books
  • 謝 when doubled it means thank you but by itself is a Chinese surname
  • 替 ti is a handy coverb meannig for, in place of, a substitute for.
  • 錢 qian–money but also a Chinese surname
  • 問...好 “wen….hao” is an idiomatic expression use to wish someone well or send your regards
  • 方 fang for this lesson is a Chinese surname
  • 自己 zi ji oneself or by oneself to make yourself for instance simply take on that character to ni and make “你 自己”
  • 碗 wan is the measure word for servings of food but can also straight up mean bowl.
  • 大家 da jia means everyone or everybody. If addressing an audience a speaker can say “大 家 好”
  • 慢用 man yong is an idiomatic expression meaning to enjoy your food literally translates as “Slowly use”
  • 水果 shui guo is the word for fruit, for specific types of fruit take off the “shui” and put the appropriate word infront of “果”
  • 刀叉 dao cha is a knife and fork set as opposed to the traditional chopsticks “筷子”
  • 湯匙–tang chi a soup spoon
  • 句 “Ju” measure word for sentences and phrases. This word is also seen in: 句子 meaning a sentence
  • 鉋 “Bao” character meaning full, typically dealing with eating so “to be full after eating”
  • 毛筆 The second character “bi” deals with writing utensils and the 1st character (字) let’s us know it is a brush

Pretty heft vocabulary list, but all necessary words. Often times it seems like I pick up a useless character but actually turns out to fit with a whole bunch of characters, thereby becoming handy to know. For the grammar it looks as if it will be straight forward, awesome. The first piece is a redux of a previous lessons work on using question words as indefinites. Now we can figure out how to give the idea of inclusiveness or exclusiveness. They show two patterns: (S)–Question Word–(S)都–V We can use this structure to say things like “He knows everything” or conversely another pattern, (S)–QW(S)–都/也–Neg-V “He doesn’t know anything. It’s a really handy technique to have in my little bag of tricks now. The idea of course is that we don’t literally mean he doesn’t know anything, rather that what he knows is so pointless or not meaningful that it is like nothing. The book gives tons of examples to go with it, most of which I had to sort out a little it in my head before I got it. I keep having to remind myself that the grammars don’t match each other! Exclusiveness intensified give the idea of not even a little bit. So we can throw this structure into our sentence, which I know is written 句子, “(S) 一 MW–N 都/也 Neg-(AV) V. This gives us something like “I can’t sing any song at all.”Alright sweet but what if I don’t want to use a measure word in it at all. Instead of using a measure word we can drop 一 點 兒 into the mix which will still give us the same general “at all” feel.

We are now talking about how to use less and more as adverbs instead of what is termed as a stative verb (if you just raised your eyebrow at that we can touch on it later). The structure here is: 多/少 (more/less) V (Number-MW) (Obj) It gives you the ability to say “East a little more, Drink a little less…etc.” While that may not seem like much it can go a long way. Oh I bought less paper than I need…things like that. Even though we could maybe find simpler ways of phrasing things, we have to move away from a childish language to more dignified, complex ones. The final piece that we will be looking at for the first half of the week is using certain words as coverbs and setting up indirect objects, although I think the setup can do more, details as I get them. We have five words that the book gives for right now (跟,給,替,用,對) These words can help give more clarity about what we use to eat, where something is directed to, substituting for someone, all sorts of goodies tonight! The tricky thing will be internalizing these aspects and making use of them in everyday speech.

Onwards to finishing up a forgotten piece of homework!

The ICLP Approach

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I haven’t gotten opportunity to write on the first few experiences I have had at ICLP here in Taiwan. ICLP (InterChinese Language Program) is a well established program. Many scholars in Chinese studies from all different academic backgrounds deem this program to be among the top to get good and solid training. It is a title that is well deserved. I have never had such a full throttle educational experience. The place is less of a school and more of a training camp…boot camp? Without a frame of reference the school can be difficult to understand so let’s hit on that important note first.

ICLP, located at National Taiwan University, has made its mission to teach scholars good Chinese into a mantra that is focused on finding the strongest teaching method. The school is filled with brilliant pedagogues who constantly attempt to find the best and most appropriate training method for any given student. They start off with a general rule of not having any class larger than about four people as its maximum. Right now for instance I have two classes that are a total of three people (myself included). The smaller class sizes eliminates the possibility of a student hiding within the crowd. The hiding element commonly creeps up in normal language courses at universities across the states. You don’t know how to say such and such phrase or didn’t do the homework? Okay, just hide behind someone else and don’t get seen. Well, that doesn’t work here. At all! With smaller classes, each student receives a great deal of attention. Most importantly is also a fair amount of pressure to perform at higher levels, lest ye hold backeth the class! There aren’t really grades, although you do take an exit exam to assess your gains since entering the school, but the distinctly personal approach leaves students wanting to do well. Another key factor, ICLP makes use of extensive testing on both written and oral skills in order to gauge where each student’s level is at. This has some major benefits. If your speaking is pretty solid you will get put into a higher speech course. But say if your reading abilities suck, okay so you start off at a lower level for writing. Although each student is placed in classes that are meant to challenge and push them, I have yet to see a student get put into a course that is inappropriate for their skill level. Certainly students will groan about the amount of work. Yet everyone is equally dedicated to progressing. Upon entering the school you sign a contract to speak only Chinese in ICLP’s classroom, hallways and offices etc. Interestingly enough they allow you to write in your own punishment clause if you fail to stick to the Chinese only rule. I wrote in that I have to scrub both levels’ floors by hand. My lack Chinese skills have effectively made me silent when not in class unless it is using some of the pocket phrases that I have on hand.

Once classes start, ICLP’s awesome teaching style gets cranked to a whole other level. The teachers that you have for your classes will talk to one another about your performance, books, lessons and vocabulary. What they try to do is establish a core class which all of the classes connect to and reinforce. The bridges between classes have been absolutely helpful for me. One book may describe a piece of grammar better than another etc. The books function together very well.

This has me thinking about my school’s approach to teaching Chinese. ICLP’s methods get me very excited about the potential directions my institution could take their language training. What ICLP does here could be somewhat mimicked at other universities. No school has the resources to fully does what ICLP successfully does here, that’s not what we should be going after either. We need to be thoughtful planning how and what we teach our students about Chinese language. The courses, no doubt, could be more intensive and perhaps other books than integrated Chinese could be used. Integrated is geared specifically towards foreign students, but this comes with a penalty. The grammar tends to be explained from a very Western perspective. Chinese grammar however has little to no connection to English’s way of constructing sentences. While Chinese grammar seems much more simple than English, it still takes a little getting used to. There are many concepts in Chinese that simply have no cross over to English. What this may mean is the use of multiple books and the absolute requirement for every single student to purchase a dictionary. Anyway, I’ll get off of my horse for right now. I keep wondering what I can do to help with the budding Chinese program at Mary Washington. I think it has a lot of potential, because students at UMW have a strong dedication to learning and are very passionate about the courses they take. No one goes into a Chinese class lightly, and I firmly believe that if we were to intensify the courses somewhat, that the students would rise to meet the challenge.

To be honest, my experience at ICLP has been highly frightening. My two semesters of Chinese does not take me very far here. My training before ICLP did not internalize grammar and vocabulary. I could essentially make the sounds and some of the tones, but in no one was producing language…just sounds. There’s a difference just parroting and full on taking the language as your own. Language is not just a grammar structure and vocabulary. It is a feeling, a feeling of communication, of connection. I have started a new blog space to talk about my homework and new lessons. The space is more focused to just saving the information I gain rather than being a flowery swirl of thoughts and confused sentences! More extended posts on language training and difficulties of Chinese, for instance I could talk for days about tones, will still be on the Panda Musings, because that’s what they are! So if you are interested, check out: