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5.3 EDUCATIONAL SCIENCES
In response to a world-wide tide of Chinese language learning, educational institutions in Ireland have begun, in the last five years, to put in place degree courses and an increasing number of classes for the teaching of Chinese. It is helpful to understand the attitudes and expectations of students and teachers concerning the learning and teaching of Chinese language and culture in an Irish teaching environment. Language is part of a particular culture. The learning and acquisition of a target culture are as important as learning the language per se. In a non-target language environment, the learning and teaching of culture helps build comparisons and connections. A heightened understanding of culture is essential in furthering study, encouraging long-term learning and in resolving possible misunderstandings in language. Chinese language and culture have deep roots and a long history. Successful language learning evolves in tandem with cultural understanding. The teaching of Chinese characters is a part of the teaching of culture, because the written language not only carries many cultural elements, but also shows the logic and philosophy of the language through its characters. Moreover, Chinese educational concepts have a strong influence on the learning and teaching of the language. Questionnaires were devised and distributed to 130 students aged between 15 and 24. The purpose was to obtain fundamental information about the learning situation and to investigate students’ expectations of Chinese language learning and their attitudes and reactions to it. The aim was also to evaluate the likelihood of continued engagement in a learning process. The inclusion of students from different educational levels and cultural backgrounds exhibits the diversity of reactions to learning Chinese. Non Irish-born respondents show more positive attitudes, seem keener about learning than Irish-born respondents including those from a Chinese family background. As a counterpart to the questionnaire survey of students, qualitative interviews were conducted. Six Chinese-language teachers in Dublin were interviewed. They stressed the importance of maintaining and developing students’ learning interests. They also sought to encourage an active and committed involvement on the part of their students in cooperating with their teachers’ approaches. They believe it is important to develop positive attitudes towards learning the language and culture. Pedagogical proposals originating from the author’s own practice, especially at the beginner level, use Chinese culture to promote learning interests and long-term motivation. Further research is needed to fully develop the use of culture of TCFL pedagogy in a non-
Liu, Y.: Learning and Teaching Chinese Language and Culture in Dublin: Attitudes and Expectations. Masters Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2009.