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. The fact that most instructors, curriculum designers and resource authors are not native speakers is the root of most of these systemic flaws. While the inclusion of a foreign language on the college entrance exam has its merits, when schools cannot provide competent foreign language instruction, this requirement severely disadvantages their students. If the government is interested in equity, intellectual development, and accruing the economic benefits of foreign language study, systemic reforms must be enacted. The lack of instruction by native speakers severely undercuts the effectiveness of China’s English instruction program. Non-native teachers frequently employ non-standard or outright incorrect pronunciation, and contort English sentences to make them conform to Chinese rhythm. Whereas instruction by native-speakers can help very young students develop native or near-native pronunciation and rhythm, instruction by non-natives who are themselves unfamiliar with English can cause students to develop awkward or unintelligible speaking habits that retard communication and discourage conversation. Frequently, students are frustrated and embarrassed by their inability to communicate clearly, which discourages them from taking the rare opportunities to speak with natives. This same problem of non-native instructors passing on their own errors to their students applies to grammar. Frequently, instructors rely on text-books and fixed constructions that, while technically correct, are often awkward to native ears and severely limited in the meaning they can convey. As with pronunciation and rhythm issues, the embarrassment of using incorrect or awkward grammar deters students from socializing with native-speakers. This vicious cycle, poor instruction deterring the practice that would eventually ameliorate the student’s English issues, can be broken in one of two ways: prevention or persistence. Either the student must take it upon themselves to persist despite their embarrassment, or the educational system must remove the hurdles placed by incompetent instructors. Of course, embarrassment is attendant to the language study process, and it would be dishonest to suggest that native-instructors would produce absolutely confident and competent English speakers. However, native instructors would not burden their students with the additional problems that non-native instructors frequently do. It may be argued that an instructor who speaks English as a second language may be so skilled that their speech is indistinguishable from that of a native, and that is indeed true. However, it is also the case that such a speaker is not only atypical, but so uncommon that it would require several decades of focused training to create enough such China-born English speakers to meet the demand for competent English teachers. Even if the government were able to organize an effective program to produce nearnative English speakers, it would have to offer substantially greater compensation to ensure they did not abandon teaching for the myriad of far more lucrative opportunities that would be available to them. Compounding the problem of incompetent instructors, the materials used in many English courses are inauthentic, inaccurate, and ineffective. These materials tend to focus on simple word substitution questions, and short phrase translation; questions that do little to help the student practice the language, but are easy for instructors to correct. The tendency to focus on vocabulary arises from the fact that it is very accessible measurement of whether students are ‘learning;’ parents and instructors can point to a number of words learned, and be confident that the students are making progress. However, this vocabulary is very rarely applied in or outside of class, is quickly forgotten, and often, is of very limited use to begin with. Frequently words are defined using terms that are either esoteric or archaic; where a native would substitute a more frequently used word, the Chinese instructors are dependent on the text and can offer no alternatives. The materials tend to focus on simple narratives or dialogues, but do not provide students with the language necessary to navigate daily tasks or common
they have supreme difficulty finding the opportunity to speak. Rather than complementing each other. This makes the Gao Kao even more classist than it already is. most find speaking far more difficult than writing. it must facilitate collaboration between Chinese and Western publishing companies and educators to produce higher quality materials. and facilitate Chinese citizens’ efforts to understand foreign cultures. it must capitalize on the burgeoning population of native English speakers eager to do language exchange with Mandarin speakers. the paucity of authentic and accurate resources. This contributes to students misunderstanding grammar and spelling. when different authorities--their instructors. and create new programs to recruit and train native-English instructors. the dearth of opportunities to practice speaking. And. Third. and speakers of other dialects. the materials are also often poorly edited. and critically. Aside from being poorly designed. are the result of the universal requirement imposed by the Ministry of Education and the Gao Kao. students often resort to awkward and overly complex sentences because they are not familiar with simpler forms of expression. and instead replace it with a supplemental language test. Materials that are easy to score and are accessible to non-speakers may be attractive. Typical students find it easier to understand English than to produce it. but they help to produce students who cannot express their own ideas. it must remove the English portion of the Gao Kao as a mandatory component. the lack of qualified teachers. their instructors as well. While students have ample opportunities to practice written English. favoring students who can receive quality in-school instruction and the supplemental classes that few can afford. It must also facilitate the introduction of alternate foreign language classes so as to ensure that all students have the opportunity to study a foreign language with a qualified instructor. both in and outside of class. the Ministry tailors the test to the English skills they believe the system can teach and penalize students who must attend schools with belowaverage English instruction. They contain grammar errors that while obvious to the eye of a native speaker are undetectable to students. it is impossible to determine which rules are genuine. Currently Chinese people have very limited access to English language . This difficulty is frustrating. To properly understand a language’s idiosyncrasies. their dictionaries--all teach them different rules. Second. students often abandon English at the first opportunity because they do not see any value in the skills the school system has provided them. abstain. and that frustration breeds disinterest. which has little value even with respect to pronunciation or vocabulary acquisition. and often when presented the opportunity. When forced to express complex ideas. their texts. this is a cycle to be broken: students cannot have confidence in speaking unless they are forced to speak. it represents another obstacle to meaningful social mobility. How does one then begin to address the systemic issues plaguing the students? First. The government must both reform its immigration policy to allow native-English speakers to more easily enter and exit China.problems they would encounter abroad or in conversing with a native speaker. Rather than admit that the country lacks the resources to provide quality English instruction to all students. Relaxing the restrictions on immigration would increase the pool of language partners. This English requirement not only wastes limited resources. Most of these problems. one must be familiar with its host culture. the teacher and the text compound the problems caused by the other. Fourth. which incidentally would help to disabuse the population of pervasive stereotypes. Again. The lack of instructors means that class sizes are generally far too large to accommodate any oral practice beyond simple recitation. They cobble together sentences out of the structures they have read. the government must recruit more native English instructors for all-levels of the educational system.
The program should be designed by or in cooperation with a Western organization that has experience in compressed-period teacher training. and much of it is skewed so as to give an inaccurate representation of the culture it is supposed to represent. and probably also some additional benefits like housing or Mandarin lessons. Students can attend high-quality high schools and universities in a range of non-English speaking countries. there are fewer students interested in learning Cantonese or regional dialects. which would still be valuable for students. business. However. Greater exposure is the only means of dispelling misconceptions. or they may be merely a lost opportunity. If this goal cannot be reached. and help students develop the skills necessary to speak freely and independently. .) For students who do not speak Mandarin. The ever-expanding pool of Mandarin students in English speaking countries. and those that do not can be provided with adequate resources (the expense would be trivial for the national budget. To improve the quality of instructional materials. This should help reduce the number of errors in texts. While Chinese instructors may prefer the grammar-translation method for teaching English. To provide students with the opportunity to practice their oral English. compulsory English lessons are a waste of resources for all involved. There are too many students in need of instruction and too few people who would be both willing and able to teach them. to ensure that the new instructors do not use the ineffective methods of the current ones. Recruitment of recent graduates would require substantially increasing the salary of starting teachers. provides tremendous opportunities for a productive language exchange program. The only way to ensure that a significant portion of students receive meaningful foreign language instruction would be to diversify. and cultural literacy is key to getting the most out of academic. understudied languages represent tremendous opportunities. however. Fluency is necessary for students interested in understanding the subtleties of a culture. providing students with neither useful skills. The benefits of learning a second language are greatest when students achieve fluency. Studying a regional language like Korean or Thai affords all of the benefits of studying any other language. If compensation packages are not commensurate with experience. And. all of these measures would be inadequate to ensure that all students could receive competent English instruction. similarly. this would have little affect on written exchanges. Courses in Arabic or Russian fill a very lucrative niche: critical.media. As recent graduates are the most likely candidates for English instructors. the government may need to create its own teacher training program. and social exchanges. the government can help publishing companies enlist editors and curriculum designers with experience in ESL and native-English instruction. there are a range of means to ensure that the instructors can be effective in the classroom. language exchange opportunities should be built into the curriculum. Most schools have the technology necessary to allow students to speak directly to native English speakers. given the relative expense of international travel for mainlanders. it is far more practical to invite outsiders in. nor meaningful understanding and discouraging them from learning. ESL and native English instructors can help design texts and curricula that incorporate more application-oriented lessons. this would still be a marked improvement on the status quo. There are a variety of tools the government could employ to attract would-be and experienced English instructors. but it is also easier to recruit and import instructors who are themselves native speakers. both for future study and employment. These lessons may either be a total waste. such as TFA. it will be extremely difficult to recruit people with background in education. Note.
Of course. and assessment of schools would need to be reformed to place that goal within reach. with educational gains often undermined by instability or economic insecurity at home. As it stands. those issues are beyond the scope of this argument. in and of themselves. However. management. many students struggle with less-than-adequate resources and less-than-competent instructors. none of these measures would. Simply reforming the language instruction program would be inadequate to solve these fundamental problems. A host of policies relating to the funding. be adequate to ensure that all students receive quality foreign language instruction. .
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