A Mandarin Curriculum: What To Do And What To Avoid Doing.

20 May

What does teach math to eight year olds, university level Marco-economics and mandarin studies have in common? Dimensions can conceptualize each and important lessons can be learned.

The two main factors that govern sustainable and rapid knowledge acquisition is the amount of new, or raw, information that a student is introduced to and the amount of dimensions in which this information is delivered. For example, take the multiplication table; the first factor (pure raw information) is in this scenario the amount of multiplication sequences that a student is required to learn in a given time period, for e.g. 2 times 5 is 10. The second factor (the scope of the dimensions) can be considered as, for instance, applications of this material; if Billy gives 5 apples to 2 friends, how many apples does Billy give? The reason that we consider this example another dimension of teaching the multiplication table is that it requires an additional vantage point; in this case it is a very simple model taking into consideration real life objects and their relationship to each other (2 friend and 5 apples). One needs to understand both fundamental multiplication and have knowledge of the world.

The problem is taken from my much younger cousins math book, and it is in fact not introduced parallel to the basic multiplication exercises. For very young minds even two dimensions constitute a major barrier to understanding. So first students are introduced to the basic technique (2 times 5 is 10) and after 2 weeks, once all sequences have been memorized, the curriculum moves on to handle applications of multiplication. The extra dimension then help cement the knowledge in terms of concrete examples.

The math example was taken from a very basic math textbook. Once a person matures, the ability to comprehend more new dimensions simultaneously is enhanced. When a student is able to comprehend more information in this way, the curriculum should reflect this because it is then also possible to cement the raw input of facts or relationships between facts, by real life examples, sooner. However, even the adult brain struggles with three or more dimensions in a short time period. For instance, a good university level curriculum on economics will not simultaneously introduce the students to the statistics behind data gathering, how to model this data and how the modeled data creates a business cycle. Instead, the lessons will take each in turn and build on previous lessons to form a holistic perspective on this basic macro economical concept. The lesson will in this way vary from a primary schools basic constitution in that two, or in the end three, relatively new ideas are used in parallel in a much shorter time span.

What does this mean for Mandarin language studies for young adults? First off, the classes should be based on no more than 1 conceptualization of the language at a time. Second, the students should however quickly be introduced to a second topic that takes the first topic and places it in the real world. Thirdly, the time period between the first topic and the second should not be prolonged or the cementation factor is under addressed. Fourthly, a Mandarin curriculum is different from most other language programs in that the dimensions there introduced are more alien to foreign students as the language itself is formed in a different way from Germanic and Latin languages. This means that each dimension should contain more raw new input to allow students to assimilate not only the data itself but also to form and larger structure pertaining to each dimension. Fifthly, because understanding requires examples and not only raw data, when linking dimensions to build a more complex and holistic picture of the language as a whole, each return to previous dimensions will be well served by a reiteration, and also a re-exemplification, of past structures. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the optimal mandarin curriculum will be well served by personalized content. That is to say: content tailored to individual interests of the students. This is of course because of the base response of relevant content can never hope to be matched by that of a general curriculum.

Rui Ming works for a Mandarin language school in Beijing that is a great option for those that want to learn Mandarin in China. If you are interested in more information about the best way to learn Chinese, please see his summary of the key ideas involved.

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