Aim: to check and show the students if they can apply the principles of dealing with the unknown words; to practise finding correspondences between the Chinese and non-Chinese languages.

Students: Form 11 (2nd year) and Form 12 (3rd year), Form 10 (1st year) 

Task: guess the meanings of the words on the board.

Basically, I was happy to see that the 3rd-year students were more successful than the 2nd-year, because they remembered that not all Chinese words are absolutely different from Latvian, or English, that sometimes the meaning can be guessed if you simply pronounce the word and listen to how it sounds. So I think they have learnt one of the thinking strategies. But they would have been more successful if they had thought why exactly those words were given.  


The 2nd-year students tried random guessing. They guessed that "Taiwan" is Taiwan and that "Yindu" is India, but they couldn't work out the technology of guessing. The map helped both groups to complete the task, but it became a matching task. Actually, this task requires a lot of general knowledge, but if you think a bit, your knowledge of geography can help deal with the language, and the knowledge of language can help deal with geography.

A similar experience was with the 1st-year students. After studying for 3 weeks, they had already learnt a couple of numbers, so when I wrote the list of numbers from 0 to 11 and numbers 20 and 34 in Chinese on the board I expected that they would guess immediately what those words meant. Again, they had to recognise the familiar words, understand what united those words and to think about the link of the familiar words with the unknown ones. They had to guess the logic of word selection for the list on the board. Some students guessed quickly that those were numbers, so I asked everybody to translate each word and they did it correctly. Because in this case they used the stereotypic logic of number lists: before 1 there's only 0; after 10 there's 11, which is very simple in Chinese: 10 and 1. So logically, 2 and 10 is 20, 3 and 10 and 4 is 34.

My conclusion is that within a category, we can orient quite successfully, the problem is to find the right category first. I see my further task as to teach them the mechanisms of analyzing, at least the movement from the specific to the general and back to the specific. We'll do more similar tasks and will discuss the steps of thinking. Otherwise these tasks become more amusing than educational. 


# Alexander Sokol 2011-12-11 16:33
don't you feel that the need to find a category as you say is exactly the right context for the TA? This is the situation when they naturally seem to be facing a challenge and this challenge is in fact directly related to learning Chinese. So, why not work with it?
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