The Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) organised the Research and Development Project Dissemination Conference themed “Advancing Excellence in Language Education: From Research and Development to Innovative Practice” on May 9 2019 at Hong Kong Science Park. Language and education experts gathered to discuss different issues such as the pedagogy of Chinese/English language teaching to cater for learners’ diversified needs.
Dr LI Bin, Associate Professor, Department of Linguistics and Translation, was invited as one of the three speakers at the inaugural symposium of the conference, to share her insights on new perspectives on biliteracy and trilingualism in Hong Kong. As a scholar who is passionate and experienced in language acquisition and the teaching of Chinese as a second language (CSL), Li delivered a presentation on her research entitled “An Investigation of Strategies and Methods in Learning Vocabulary by Non-Chinese Speaking Students in Hong Kong”, co-authored with Dr LUN Suen Caesar and Dr WONG Pui Kwong.
“Learning Chinese vocabulary is no easy task for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students, because the knowledge of one’s mother tongue, sociocultural factors, individual or family factors can all be playing a role in the learning process,” said Li. She cited examples of sociocultural factors, saying, “The culture, religion and lifestyle habits of the NCS students are very different from local Chinese. Some Chinese expressions might be traditional taboos in their culture. Such difference also poses challenges in CSL classrooms as teachers need to be sensitive in identifying relevant issues when they prepare pedagogical materials.”
Li also shared the implications arising from her studies of CSL acquisition. “Try to identify radicals or roots in a Chinese compound word. This is a productive strategy that helps learners infer meanings. Besides, learners can also rely on context for inference,” said Li. She then addressed the issue of NCS students’ parents’ possible concerns over the influence of Chinese on their children’s mother tongue. Her research findings suggest a positive correlation between Chinese proficiency and first language skills among young NCS students. Li suggested that parents could try to be more supportive of their children’s learning of the local language, as a mastery of Chinese is important and beneficial to NCS children’s academic and career prospects.