Chinese educators from area schools, including Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Berkshire School, Indian Mountain School, and Millbrook School shared their teaching experience over a catered Chinese meal on May 7 in the Center for Global and Independent Thinking as part of the 2019 faculty colloquia series.
Following the meal, Instructor in Mandarin Chinese Wei Liu spoke about her recently published book, A Thematic Dictionary of Contemporary Chinese (Routledge, 2019).
Liu’s book evolved from her experience developing curriculum that would be more responsive to student interests while she was teaching at Harvard; and, more recently at Hotchkiss. She and her two co-authors developed a thematic dictionary as a resource both for instructors seeking to develop their own teaching units and for students who might use it as a textbook. The book contains 9,000 words organized by 300 different themes and includes practical vocabulary for everyday use and for conducting meaningful conversations with native Chinese speakers on a variety of topics, including politics, business, hobbies, and education.
During her presentation, Liu also discussed the process of reimagining traditional teaching tools in a digital era. In a recent talk she gave at the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, she suggested that artificial intelligence holds a lot of promise for corrective drills on pronunciation (including hard to master Chinese tones). However, she noted, there is still a need for traditional resources such as printed dictionaries.
The thematic nature of her book makes it a better fit for paper publishing over the design of services like Google Translate because it is organized into units that list vocabulary, grammatical points, and exercises for students, she said.