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Hotchkiss’s Instructor in Mandarin Chinese Wei Liu Discusses Her Latest Book

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.

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