Prepare Cultural Materials for AP Chinese Class


Always inspired by the wisdom in Chinese culture, I thought textbook publishers must have created sufficient materials to introduce Chinese culture to heritage and non-heritage mandarin learners, and teachers must be very innovative in adapting cultural materials into their classrooms. However, last summer at a conference in Orange County, CA, I was told by a middle-school Chinese teacher that she couldn't find good cultural materials for her son to prepare for his AP Chinese Language and Culture test. I felt that actions are urged to integrate cultural components into Chinese curriculum. One month ago I had a discussion with the main author of three books, which consist of a series of Chinese Philosophers: Confucius, Zhuangzi and Laozi. He explained to me that the essence of Chinese can be briefly summarized as ”礼" and "仁", which is taught in most standardized textbooks in mainland China. But the Chinese culture is not as simple as these two words. With unique background of its origin thousand of years ago, it can be categorized into various schools, each representable in its own settings. A combination of unity and variety in Chinese culture is the difficulty to study it, even for some scholars, but is also the beauty of it. To bring Chinese culture into your classroom, introducing "cultural practice" is a good way to start. Cultural practice can include anything that most Chinese people do in the Chinese community, some of which are already recognized as routines or customs. For example, why most Chinese people greet each other with "你好" (Hello) instead of "你好吗?" (How are you?) in daily communicative settings? This is the first cultural practice that students learn when they start learning Chinese, and its cultural perspective can be explained as the belief in "礼" in Chinese culture: when greeting someone, Chinese people always hope that this person is doing well. My understanding, to add to this point, is that Chinese people are "含蓄" in expressing their feelings. They rather politely greet other people and wish them all good, than expressing their actual feelings in the first couple of sentences of their conversation. This example might not be the most appropriate or relevant one, but it implies that some cultural perspectives can be introduced when explaining some cultural practices in your Chinese classes. Instead of finding cultural materials for your students' AP test when their Chinese is good enough, start teaching a little bit of Chinese cultural in every class. Your students will always be ready for it regardless of their Chinese level. Let's discuss how to connect cultural practices and cultural perspectives when teaching Chinese to learners of different language/age levels!

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