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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The power of listening

When learning Mandarin, many people are facing these two common problem:

1. When they read a text, they understand. When they listen to it, they don't or not as well as when they read.

2. They are always afraid that their pronuciation isn't good enough. The joke of addressing mother as horse seems has a greater impact on people than I though of. (It actually never happened. I guarantee you!) There was a girl I met last year. She told me she took some Mandarin lessons before. I said that was good and asked if she liked it. Then she told me that at the end she hated it because she was so afraid to speak because her teacher corected her pronuciations of every word when she was trying to speak. It was like setting up a mental block that she will never be able to say those tones right or pronuce 'j, q, x, zh, ch, sh, r' in the teacher's way (the pefect way). She cried once or twice and eventually gave up learning. That was really sad. I told her it really was the teacher's fault. That teacher has no teaching ability but to demonstrate perfect pronuciations.

These two problems can actually be traced to the same source: Students probably didn't do enough listening exercises. This is a very transparent answer to the first problem, but seldom do people realize that listening can help (truely help) their pronunciations and their understanding of this language in general.

Most of the time, students are very vulnerable because they really rely on teachers to guide them and help them. So how can teachers truely help them?

Over the time, I have developed a theroy in regarding the above two mentioned problems. It worked remarkablly well with my students: increasing their listening exercises.

There are certain things teachers need to pay attention to is:
1. Don't let the students listen to TV all the time, especially not Intro or Basic level students.
2. Listening script must contain no new words or a maximum one or two new words to students.

With the help of Grace, we have pull the resources together and published Mandarin Express Intro Level A workbook. It has 55 compatible listening exercises. It's available now at MSL Learning Center. The cost is HKD132 (incl. 2 CDs).

After a certain amount of listening exercises, I found my students not only improved their pronunciations, but also more confident in speaking, and as a bonus to me, they have greater faith in me as well.

MSL Learning Center