epistemological beliefs, language learning beliefs

《新加坡中学生的认识论信念、华文学习信念探究》(An Exploratory Study of the Epistemological Beliefs and Language Learning Beliefs of Singapore Secondary School Chinese Language Students), that is the topic of my dissertation close to 5 yrs ago **gasp** 一晃快5年了。

while a search some 3 yrs ago revealed that my writing can be found in CNKI 知网,but i did not realise it’s not available for download through the Storeroom. so here you go, a local mirror, if you are interested that is (:

word recognition n memorisation

chanced upon cram.com from a mailing list:


two games for any singe list. a taste of it:

time will be sucked away by the games, but this could probably be time well-spent to recall and revise any characters set that a teacher desires a student to learn. yet to collect empirical evidence to proof that it works 😛

english dictation vs chinese dictation

today marks the opening session of ICT for SDL and CoL Clinic (traisi code 12470) for sec/jc/ci CL teachers. this course marks two first, a. the first blended learning course conducted at SCCL, and b. the first course i conduct at SCCL after joining the centre for 8 months. thanks to two fellow colleagues, Wu Jing and Anchi, who were there to lend support (:

during the class with 10 fellow CL teachers from 8 schools, i had a chance to share my view on the importance of questioning and be clear about the purpose(s) every time we introduce something (for e.g. an activity, an instruction, an approach) to our students.

this evening, i helped yh4 revised his english dictation taking place tmr. english dictation is carried out by the teacher reading aloud the words and punctuations, with students listening and writing out the passage on paper. last week this time, i helped yh3 revised his chinese dictation. chinese dictation is carried out by the students memorising 3 lengthy sentences and regurgitating them in class with pencil/pen & paper.

it appears that the practices of english dictation and chinese dictation haven been quite different with 30 yrs in between. i recalled going through such activities when i was a pri & sec student. i wonder when teachers carry out dictation, do anyone of us understand and/or question the purpose of carrying it out? until i do more research, i can only hypothesise that in english, the purpose is to assess if students could recall words as a whole, or to form words based on hearing pronunciation. ‘sound’ is closely associated with the word forms. at the same time, it could also be a training for students to sharpen their listening ability as they reproduce what they’ve heard in writing.

now, what’s the purpose of chinese dictation, aka mo-xie 默写? is the purpose just to test students’ ability to memorise chinese characters after characters? why arent chinese dictation carried out the english way? given that chinese characters are logograms, the purpose of testing students’ memory can likewise be achieved. why do we not use the same opportunity to sharpen students’ listening ability too? are any underlying assumptions about chinese language learning preventing chinese teachers from doing so? i suspect it is, for one, linked to the chinese’ belief of equating the ability to memorise as a virtue. but the larger question here is, how often do we revisit the purpose, or at a deeper level, our underlying assumptions about chinese language learning as we design our activities?

if i were a student, you really cant blame me for “liking” english lessons more than chinese lessons just by comparing the dictation activity alone. before we jump to the conclusion that it’s difficult to “interest” students to learn chinese, perhaps we should take time to reflect upon how we’re teaching the language, and the soundness of existing approaches. we could be a major culprit in ‘killing’ off the language though i doubt anyone would readily admit it.

a translation lesson courtesy of IKEA Singapore

language is dynamic. so very often meaning and use could be localised. whether a translator is aware and appreciates this will show through when s/he is required to perform language translation. this advertisement by IKEA found in Lianhe Zaobao on 7th March 2014 is an excellent piece of teaching/learning resource for a translation lesson:

2014-03-07 19.58.40

from the 2 GLARING translation errors here, we can be almost 100% sure the advertisement originates from an English version. let’s look at them:

1. 春鸡

an apparent direct word-for-word translation from Spring Chicken. so the first question that comes to mind, “Does IKEA sell chickens from different seasons 夏鸡、秋鸡、冬鸡? Or IKEA only sells chicken born during spring season in today’s context?” Spring chicken as we know refers to young non-grown up chicken. the erroneous translation obviously lacks appreciation of this. in the local Singapore context, spring chicken is called 童子鸡, which will cause no one to mistake it from a fully grown-up adult chicken. on to a deeper meaning of the words 春 and 鸡 that’s used here. 鸡 is often used in casual context to refer to 妓 (prostitute) due to the nearness in pronunciation. when 春 is seen with 鸡, mental association of 春 with 叫春 occurs. 叫春 refers to animals emitting sounds when they are looking for mates. so it begs the question “what is IKEA selling again!?!” “Adults and children should avoid such a place at all cost, for obvious reasons.” this is definitely a direct opposition to the original intention of an advertisement, not to mention the harm it’s doing to the advertiser’s image :O

2. 双方宜家餐厅 (双方 IKEA restaurant)
it’s been quite a while since we went to IKEA, a year at least? and we din know that IKEA has named its restaurant 双方,meaning ‘Both Side’. “huh!?! what sides? which sides? who and who’s involved?” one will immediately ask when seeing this. without seeing the original English version, the best guess here is 双方 refers to BOTH (cos IKEA has 2 outlets here). this translation once again demonstrates ZERO appreciation of the meanings of the original text. a translation that demonstrates appreciation for meaning, and language use would be 任何一家。 the whole sentence will read 可在任何一家宜家餐厅购买,售完为止。 a side point, the original translation 卖完 is so CRUDE;即止 or 为止 there’s no right or wrong here, but more Singaporeans (from the local 3.31 million population) use the latter more often.

(acknowledgement: Lianhe Zaobao for the print; IKEA for funding the advertisement for educational purposes)

updated 22:34hr

it’s interesting to note that mainland Chinese’s day-to-day term is also 童子鸡。 in this report, the expert is trying to explain to the Chinese why the English term is ‘spring chicken’, and the literal translation is 春+鸡。however, it’s easy for one to be lost in this explanation and mistook the Chinese expert to mean spring chicken = 春鸡, when it is not!!! Google Translate for one is mistaken, and propagating such a mistake :O

URL: 北京推出中国菜官方英译名 童子鸡译为’春鸡’

Google Translate screen capture:
140308-google translate spring chicken

it is good for one to note that Google’s business is NOT in mainland China as of now. maybe that’s part of the reasons for such problems? (: