One of the funny parts of my job is that I have to teach teenagers how to write in Chinese. Actually, I really like that aspect of my job; if I could do that full time, I would.
So we read and write Chinese from the very beginning; there’s a lot to learn and it’s really never too early. Some of my friends advocate a “learn to speak first” approach, which is great for children and adults, but teenagers are on their own damn learning schedule. So what the hell, might as well.
Anyway, here’s the scene: the students get out their hanzi practice paper (small)(large) – (I made it myself, just the way I like it!) and in my character voice, the one that’s calming and serious as death at the same time, I call out the strokes, in Chinese, while I’m writing them at the podium; my own page is projected on the screen.
In college programs, I think they only teach characters by-the-stroke in the beginning levels; in the higher levels they leave the students to use their own common sense to figure it out stroke order themselves… it’s not that hard. At the high school level, though, I feel like I’ll be teaching stroke order at every level.
Here’s the deal; for the lower levels, I call out the strokes in Chinese, but when I talk about areas of the grid onto which we’re writing the characters, I speak in English. And not only is it in English, but it’s a crazy mix of North American geography and parts of the football field. And lest you for a second think that it’s football geography, it’s absolutely not… it’s marching band geography. Deal with it.
If I ever find myself teaching in Australia or Hawaii, I can switch to Pacific Ocean geography, I suppose. The geographies of Spain and France would be pretty suitable for practice square reference as well… though eventually I’ll be wanting to do the whole lesson in Chinese, so eventually I suppose I’ll have to find out how actual Chinese teachers actually describe those areas.
<eyes roll> Guh. </eyes roll>
UPDATE: Oh wow, this was my 2000th post!