On Business Chinese Teaching for Beginners Li Bailing Shanghai Jiao Tong University For the Business Chinese Language and Culture Conference at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA on Sept. 21-22, 2007
Abstract It has been controversial in the Chinese teaching circle whether Chinese beginners can learn business Chinese. Generally speaking, the negative viewpoint takes an overwhelming majority. This paper, by an analysis of the close relationship between business Chinese and the general Chinese, the weakness of the negative viewpoint in inference, and market demand for business Chinese teaching for beginners, argues that business Chinese teaching for beginners is of urgent needs, realizable in practice, and theoretically grounded,
and as well suggests that business Chinese curriculum including the program for beginners should be designed on diverse needs of students, and that the teaching principles and methods should be decided on diverse students’ such variables as linguistic and cultural backgrounds, cognitive styles, learning stages, and learning availabilities.
Introduction • What stage the business Chinese teaching should start at? With or above the elementary level? Or in other words, can Chinese beginners learn business Chinese? • In current academic researches, the positive viewpoints are few to find but the negativism is often found in the literature.
Positive viewpoints • The textbook Elementary Economical and Commercial Spoken Chinese compiled by Huang Weizhi in 1993 tried the business Chinese for beginners earlier but was viewed as a failure by a paper in 2006. • Lu (1998) suggested that business Chinese should be mixed into the basic Chinese gradually from the very beginning for those students who aim at the business Chinese. • Zhang Li (2007) makes a clear claim in his book for the first time that business Chinese can start for beginners and argues that the basic Chinese proficiency shouldn’t be a prerequisite for a business Chinese course.
Points in negativism • Business Chinese is a special Chinese course based on general Chinese. (Lou 2004) • Business Chinese is based on basic Chinese and for students of some basic Chinese proficiency. (Zeng 2006) • Business Chinese must be taught on the base that the students have had a basic master of Chinese listening, speaking, reading and writing. (Wan 2004) • Only when a learner have some Chinese proficiency can he learn business Chinese. (Zhang 2005) • Most of business Chinese students are those who have basic Chinese proficiency. (Liu 2004) • The starting language proficiency of business Chinese learners should be fixed at the intermediate level. (Yuan 2004) • Business Chinese may be offered at the intermediate and advanced stages. (Yang 2003) • Most people agree not to offer business Chinese to beginners. (Lu 2006)
My objections to the negativism • The negativism ignores the demand of business Chinese learners: the most in-service learners in China are badly in needs of short term study of business Chinese. • The negativism rushes to a depreciation to the practices of business Chinese for beginners. • The negativism makes an inconvincible inference.
The essence and nature of business Chinese • Business Chinese is a language for special purpose (CPS) which is closely related with the economical life of the Chinese people. • Compared with other CSPs such as electronic, chemical, medical or physical Chinese, business Chinese is less professional because of its open border on the general Chinese.
The character of business Chinese • Business Chinese is more universal. Of all CSPs, it is the closest related with the general Chinese. • Business Chinese is more communicative. Of all social activities, business activity is the closest approaching Chinese people’s daily life. • Business Chinese is hierarchical. The hierarchy exists not only between the intermediate and advanced levels, but also between the elementary and intermediate levels and between the first elementary (of beginners) and the second elementary (the basic) levels.
The relationship of business Chinese and the general Chinese • The triangle: business Chinese • The square: the general Chinese • A: advanced • B: intermediate • C: basic • D: beginning
How to design a business Chinese curriculum • First stage for the beginners: Chinese language in the general business background, less professional and focused on the skills in speaking and listening and the linguistic knowledge. • Second stage for the learners of basic proficiency: more professional, focused on some special business area. • Third stage for the learners of intermediate and above proficiency: focused on the core skills for the business activity including communicative strategies.
Conclusion • It is necessary to try our best to meet the demand of business Chinese for beginners. • It is necessary to strengthen the experimental research on business Chinese teaching for beginners in future. • It is necessary to have a clear understanding of the nature of business Chinese and its relationship with the general Chinese.