In our increasingly globalized world, learning a foreign language has become a vital part of preparation for the intercultural communication that has become so essential for students’ success after graduation. In my eleven years as a Chinese language lecturer at New York University, I have had the honor of contributing to the cultivation of student leaders and globally-minded citizens by the means of Chinese language education. I believe that learning a foreign language goes beyond the vocabulary and grammar taught in textbooks, and is ultimately about the broader linguistic and intercultural skills that students are able to utilize in their daily lives. These skills offer the opportunity for students to participate in intercultural exchanges both in the U.S. and abroad.
In enabling students to advance their Chinese language proficiency, one of my main roles as a teacher is to foster an active classroom environment in which students feel comfortable and confident expressing themselves in Chinese. Language instruction should be student-centered, as in any given class, students are of different language levels, prefer different learning methods, and require individualized attention. The excitement that the dynamic environment of each class brings motivates me to continue exploring various teaching methods such as role play, group discussion, debates, and oral presentations, and to continue developing teaching materials that are related to each student’s interests and goals.
Motivation is another key factor in successful language learning. One way that I motivate students is by providing feedback and evaluations based on their personal progress, so that students can see their own improvement. Enhancing course content with knowledge about the Chinese values and cultural context that the language embodies also causes students to see how the vocabulary and grammar they are learning applies to the wider scope of cultural learning and communication. This motivates students to continue persevering in their language studies, even outside of the classroom.
For students who do not have the opportunity to speak with native speakers outside of class, want to improve their confidence in speaking Chinese, or do not have the opportunity to take Chinese classes, I have held language table events every week for the past two years. These activities have given students extra opportunities to enrich their classroom learning and discuss topics related to Chinese culture and current events.
Helping students use language learning to expand their worldview has led to some of my most rewarding moments while teaching. I have had students tell me that they have changed their views and stereotypes of China and have a newfound interest in the culture as a result of our class discussions; opening the door to intercultural communication like this is what I strive for in my career as a Chinese language teacher.
Teaching is a passion and an ongoing learning process for me, as there is always more to learn and improve upon. I will constantly refine my teaching philosophy by conducting teaching-related research, drawing suggestions from students’ feedback, exchanging teaching experience with my colleagues, and learning from other language professionals.