NIE takes Chinese teaching to English speakers

WHEN it comes to teaching Chinese to students who are more proficient in English, Singapore knows a thing or two.

Now, the National Institute of Education (NIE) has crystallised the wisdom of teachers here and launched a master's course in teaching Chinese to students from countries where English is the dominant language.

The course in Teaching Chinese as an International Language started last month with 48 students. Three in four are from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan or Macau, with the rest from Singapore.

"We can see the rapid rise of China as a global economic power.

There is a worldwide trend of an increasing number of learners who are seeking to master the Chinese language," said course coordinator Choong Kok Weng, a senior lecturer at NIE's Asian languages and cultures department.

Students taking the new course will learn to use English to support the teaching of Chinese.

"When people directly translate sentences from English to Chinese, they often get their sentence structures wrong," said Associate Professor Joyce Aw of the same department.

"But a teacher who is not proficient in English and Chinese will not be able to explain to a student why a sentence structure works in English, but is incorrect in Chinese."

Professor Goh Yeng Seng, who headed the NIE Asian languages and cultures department until last year, said Singapore has an advantage over other places when designing such a course.

"In Singapore, English is used as the main language. But Chinese is also important here - we have Chinese-language newspapers, radio and television stations," he said.

The new course could put NIE and its pedagogies on the world stage, said Prof Goh.

"Our main role is to train teachers for our local education landscape. But we also hope to make a name internationally in this area, especially when we have the right environment," he said.

To get into the course, students must show proficiency in English, and have either a degree where Chinese is the medium of instruction, or a postgraduate teacher education qualification specialising in teaching Chinese.

Singaporean Peng Xuan Hui, 25, took up the two-year full-time course after working for nearly two years at a language centre.

Ms Peng, who holds an NIE bachelor's degree specialising in teaching Chinese, said: "I have always been interested in the teaching and learning of Chinese as a foreign language."

This article was first published on Feb 26, 2015.
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