This month’s LTS blog post features Zuxuan Ni and Yang Li, who are both interested in teaching Mandarin to older children in the U.S. In LTS they have been taking some classes specifically focused on Chinese linguistics and teaching, as well as assisting middle and high school learners of Chinese at Oak Hill School in Eugene.
Hello Xuan and Yang! Tell us a little about yourselves.
(Zuxuan) My name is Zuxuan Ni, sometimes my friends call me Xuan. I am from Beijing, China. I got married in Seattle and moved with my husband to Eugene three years ago. My interests include second language teaching and psychology and education. I like traveling. When I was studying for my first MA in psychology and education in England, I visited several European countries among which Denmark was my favorite. Now I am enjoying my time studying language teaching here in Oregon. I love this beautiful state very much and hope to become a Chinese language teacher after graduation.
(Yang) My name is Yang Li, and I’m from Hunan, China, where foods are known for being spicy. It’s no surprise that I love spicy foods. I got married in my hometown two years ago and came to the US with my husband, who is studying at Oregon State University right now. I’m really happy to study in LTS program and met new friends, this is a valuable treasure for my life.
What experiences in teaching did you each have before starting the program?
(Zuxuan) I worked as an L2 English teacher at an international high school in Beijing for half a year. During this period, I planned and delivered English lessons to seven classes with 20 students in each class. It was a great experience in which I engaged in creating a stimulating learning environment and varying my students’ learning activities in class by providing more interactive tasks to practice.
(Yang) I taught English grammar and TOEFL and IELTS reading before starting LTS. After graduating in 2013, I started working in an International high school for two years. During that time, I was responsible for teaching English grammar and tutoring students with their TOEFL reading. Then, in order to have more chances to gain teaching experience and work near my hometown, I got another job to teach TOEFL and IELTS reading in a private Language training center. Normally, the class size was pretty small, with three or four students per class. I enjoy teaching students and being one of their supporters. However, I desperately felt that I myself needed to improve before I could really help my students to a larger extent. So that’s why I’m here.
What attracted you to a program like LTS?
(Zuxuan and Yang) As we delved deeper into our English teaching work in China, we encountered some practical problems of developing our course designs and fostering students’ autonomous learning, which made us realize that we lacked some professional training in language teaching. This is why we are here in the LTS program. The courses offered by LTS are what we are expecting to learn. For example, in Second Language Teaching Planning, we learned how to analyze and examine the major methods used by L2 teachers to teach target languages as well as the principles and concepts associated with the L2 teaching. Such course perfectly met our learning needs and helped us build a firm foundation for a further career. We are very grateful for it and looking forward to the following terms!
We’re glad to hear that! What are you doing now in the program?
(Zuxuan and Yang) We are learning to develop language course designs for our target learners in the program. It is very helpful for us to learn to analyze our specific teaching contexts and set appropriate learning outcomes so that we can make our future language teaching successful. In addition we are working as Chinese language partners to teach speaking and listening at Oak Hill School (a K-12 private school in Eugene). We meet with two intermediate-level students aged 16 once a week to provide them with more language input and encourage them to talk with us about some cultural topics. We are happy to see that the students become more and more confident in speaking Chinese and they start accurately
using higher-level constructions when talking to us. It is always a pleasant time with the students.
What are you thinking of doing for your final MA capstone projects?
(Zuxuan) For my final MA project, I plan to design a task-based Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) course for the purpose of reinforcing middle and high school students’ oral skills by using authentic materials. I want to develop a course which is suitable for young students and offers helpful scaffolding for those lower-proficiency learners in the K-12 context. Since Chinese pronunciation, especially the tones, is generally considered to be a critical challenge for non-tonal language speakers, my project will focus on engaging students in meaningful tasks which involve a variety of tonal practice. Besides, I will also utilize a usage-based constructionist approach to offer form-function mapping to
students to learn distinctive Chinese structures. Hopefully, my final MA project can be useful for my future language teaching after graduation.
(Yang) After graduation, I want to have more experience studying or working in the US. Therefore, for my final project, I’m thinking of teaching Chinese in a CFL context and to build learner agency by utilizing task-based language teaching principle in classrooms. And I’m seeking to see the effectiveness of the task-based approach in motivating students and in optimizing their learning experience. As a foreign language, there are not many opportunities for learners to practice Chinese, and mostly the learning behaviors are triggered by external incentives. So, I believe there is an urgent need to find how to encourage students to take initiative in learning Chinese. I hope my final project will be beneficial for my future teaching career.
Finally, this program is intensive, and we are now more than halfway through it! Are you looking forward to the last spring and summer terms?
(Zuxuan and Yang) Yes, definitely. We are definitely looking forward to the spring and summer terms. Because we may start guest teaching in different elementary schools in Spring and get more familiar with classrooms in the US. We are so excited about having these opportunities and experience. Also, we’ll start to write our final project and research for the topic we are interested in. Furthermore, we are really looking forward to the courses of these two terms, like the assessment and pronunciation course, which would benefit us a lot for our final project and future teaching career.