The rapid development of e-learning has opened up new opportunities to reinforce Chinese language learning. As Chinese becomes one of the most popular foreign languages, Taiwan should seize the opportunity to improve its Chinese learning environment in a multimedia setting, academics and experts said yesterday.
In an effort to establish Taiwan as a major Internet Chinese learning base, the OCOA and the Ministry of Education held the 4th International Conference on Internet Chinese Education (ICICE), which will run through Sunday at the National Taiwan Science Education Center.
More than 400 local and international Chinese teachers and scholars joined the conference to explore the opportunities and challenges of Chinese education in an e-learning environment.
"With more than 2,000 high schools in the United States planning to offer an advanced placement (AP) program in Chinese language and culture, Chinese as a second language will definitely gain wider popularity around the world," said Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission (OCAC) Chairwoman Chang Fu-mei (張富美) yesterday during the opening ceremony.
To improve Taiwan's Chinese education environment, the commission will build a "Taiwan Chinese e-learning Institute," promote Chinese learning, and establish more than 3,000 Chinese learning spots around the world, Chang said.
Sharing the application of multimedia technology to Chinese language learning and teaching, Cornelius Kubler, director of the Asian Studies Department at Williams College, said that interactive drills would be a great tool in Chinese e-learning education.
"One of the things Chinese teachers and curriculum editors need to consider from now on is what kind of content or teaching activities can be used on computers, so that students can benefit more from interactive learning in a multimedia setting," he said.
As a former student who spent years studying Chinese in Taiwan, Kubler said that Chinese-language learners should start with conversation, since writing Chinese characters is much more difficult than writing in other languages.
Regarding the dispute about whether simplified or traditional Chinese should be used in Chinese-language teaching and learning, Kubler said that either character system should not be left out.
"In William College, we teach pronunciation, pinyin and traditional Chinese in first year Chinese-language course, and then we introduce simplified Chinese in the second year. Living in a global village, it is important to know both sets of Chinese characters simply because you may need to read either simplified or traditional Chinese," he said.
Meanwhile, Chang denied media reports that the advanced placement program favors China's simplified Chinese over the traditional Chinese characters used in Taiwan.
"The AP Chinese courses will use both traditional and simplified Chinese. There is no such thing as the US government favoring simplified Chinese," she said.
More than 30 million people learn Chinese around the world. The number is estimated to rise to 100 million in 2007. In Taiwan, currently a total of 17 colleges and universities have established Mandarin Chinese language centers. National Taiwan Normal University and National Kaohsiung Normal University both formed graduate institutes for teaching Chinese as a second language.
According to statistics from the education ministry, the number of foreign students in Taiwan was about 5,000 in 1993. The number rose to 7,000 in 2002. To encourage more foreign students to study Chinese in Taiwan, the ministry offers more than NT$100 million in scholarships each year for foreign students.
For more information on the conference, visit the commission's Web site at www.ocac.gov.tw.
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