Laoshi

Mandarin Chinese speakers with standard accents are sought to facilitate individual and group conversation, speaking, and pronunciation practice sessions for beginning through intermediate adults.

Participants’ primary goal is to gain proficiency in Mandarin Chinese in order to communicate on a meaningful level with speakers of Mandarin Chinese. “Meaningful” is defined as “the ability to speak, listen, write, think, feel, work, relate, collaborate, and connect in Mandarin Chinese.”

Compensation

$50 for each 30-minute session. The fee is to include prior lesson preparation time and 30 minutes of direct contact with students during the group session. Contact with students outside of the session is not expected.

Current needs

  1. Beginning adults, online. Instructors for our 30-minute, online group speaking practice sessions for beginning adults via Zoom, weekdays TBD, 1:00 – 1:30 PM, U.S. Eastern time, for 1 to 6 students.
  2. Early intermediate adults, online. Instructors for our 30-minute, online group speaking practice sessions for early intermediate adults via Zoom, weekdays TBD, 1:00 – 1:30 PM, U.S. Eastern time, for 1 to 6 students.
  3. Beginning adults, in-person. Instructors for our in-person, 30-minute group speaking practice sessions for beginning adults, weekdays TBD, 3:30 – 4:00 PM, U.S. Eastern time, for 1 to 6 students, in Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A.

The speaking practice sessions for beginners are components of an experimental Mandarin Chinese learning system. If of interest, here is the description and here is the syllabus.

Speaking practice sessions are conducted in Mandarin Chinese only.

Why?

  1. Disruption. A learner’s beginning system for making meaning in Mandarin Chinese is developing and vulnerable. Although instructors and students may believe they are helping when they use English, much like being interrupted while doing a math problem or writing programming code, during speaking practice, use of English disrupts concentration and learning.
  2. Artificiality. In non-classroom situations with speakers of Mandarin Chinese, students need to be able to use Mandarin Chinese. Sessions need to simulate real life. Students need to practice what they will need to be able to do. They cannot count on their listeners to use or understand English. For an example of teaching only in Mandarin, please see this video of Benfang Wang using only Mandarin Chinese to teach a complete novice. For further context, please also see the Middlebury Language Pledge.
  3. “Othering.” Although the use of English may be well-intended, the result is othering, a form of exclusion. However unintentionally, use of English communicates to earnest students trying their best: “You don’t belong. You are, and always will be, a 外国人.” A sense of not belonging can invoke a sense of shame, an intensely painful feeling destructive to learning.

“I am neither an Athenian, nor a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”
– attributed to Socrates by Plutarch

Job description

Plain language summary, in the beginning student’s words:

“Please use Mandarin Chinese to help me practice speaking using the first characters and words in Mandarin Blueprint‘s* curriculum. Although the curriculum is behind a paywall, here is the list of characters and words I am learning through Phase 4, Level 36. Please use words I know to help me learn new words. A ratio of 80% or more known words to 20% new words works best for me. My system for understanding Mandarin Chinese is fragile. Using English disrupts my train of thought and my understanding and leaves me feeling disconnected from you. For my sake, please do not use English. Someday, I hope to take and pass the HSK 3 exam. I measure and track my achievement of proficiency using HSKlevel.”

More specifically, let’s begin with the ends in mind.

Students would:

  • Hear and speak only Mandarin Chinese.
  • Gain measurable proficiency efficiently.
  • Experience a sense of genuine accomplishment at the end of each session.
  • Attend the next session.

The instructor would:

  1. Have in mind that bright and motivated adults begin studying Mandarin Chinese. Most quit. Learning Mandarin Chinese as an adult requires no less than inserting a new priority into a set of high stakes priorities already in place, often family and work. We try to help by screening for readiness. But Mandarin Chinese classes can have dropout rates as high as 95%. Our goal is to be able to say, “Most of the students who begin continue.” We would consider a 51% continuation rate a significant accomplishment.
  2. Have in mind that busy adults have, at most, one hour per day to engage with Mandarin Chinese. Immersion in an in-person culture of speakers and listeners is nearly impossible. Regardless of how helpful the “input” of listening to or watching electronic versions of spoken Mandarin Chinese might be, listening is suboptimal because it is not interactive,
  3. Rather than focus on students’ 努力, use the content of the curriculum to create “quick wins,” i.e. “feel-good” quick and early successes.
  4. Use shaping to reinforce successive approximations of accurate pronunciation and expression.
  5. Help learners build proficiency by creating speaking practice sessions that contain 80% or more of content students already know – that is comprehensible to them – and 20% or less of new material. Understand that this helps counteract the “forgetting curve.” Please see John Pasden’s essay, What 80% Comprehension Feels Like.
  6. Attempt to create one or more of the 3 to 17 exposures researchers have found language learners need to master a new word.
  7. Selectively correct students’ pronunciation and grammar through asking clarifying questions using the student’s words, but pronounced correctly. Little to no direct instruction and no use of English would occur.
  8. Desired but not required: Provide assessments.
  9. Be able to be paid though PayPal or another readily available electronic means.

To apply

  1. Fill out the contact form here. (If you are an italki teacher, please feel free to message me through italki.)
  2. In the message section of the contact form, please include a link to a page that identifies you. (Not needed for italki teachers.)
  3. In the message section, acknowledge that you have read and understood the job description in its entirety.
  4. Prepare a 10-minute demonstration of a group speaking practice session that displays your willingness and ability to meet the criteria above. These criteria will be used as a rubric for evaluation.
  5. Applicants will be compensated at their 30-minute rate for doing a demonstration group lesson.

*Mandarin Blueprint is an online curriculum for learning to read and write characters. Mandarin Blueprint introduces characters in order of frequency of use to accelerate proficiency. Here is the list of characters and words through Phase 4, Level 36. Note: We acknowledge the challenge of working with beginners using characters in this order.  做 isn’t introduced until Level 26. 学 isn’t introduced until Level 27. For 90-day Mandarin Chinese Workshop sessions for beginners, our milestone is for students to complete through 想 xiǎng, “to think.” character #117, part way through Level 13.

With questions, please contact Anne Giles.

Last revised 10/12/22.