Zhang Jinjun: “My first lesson teaching chinese”

Zhang Jinjun (Madagascar): “Since it was my first lesson, I was a little nervous. As soon as I entered the classroom, greetings arose from among the students: “Hello!” “Hello, teacher!” I was momentarily disoriented, but immediately called back: “Hello, everyone!” I had not expected the students to be so lively and so polite. I was so happy, my face was wreathed in broad smiles”.

Currently there are over 4,000 Chinese language teachers and volunteers teaching Chinese in Confucius Institutes, primary and secondary schools and universities throughout the world. While spreading Chinese language and culture, these cultural envoys personally experienced exchanges and interactions with different teaching practices and other cultures. The column of Teachers’ Voices is a channel where Chinese language teachers and volunteers can share their teaching experience with each other. There will also be a collection of stories on their unique experiences in foreign lands these cultural envoys can share with our readers.

Zhang Jinjun, Chinese teacher at the Confucius Institute at Antananarivo University, Madagascar

Even before I left China, I knew that Antananarivo University is the best university in Madagascar, equivalent to China’s Ts­inghua University or Peking University. So, it was with a heart full of excite­ment and anticipation that I came to teach at the Confucius Institute at An­tananarivo University. Although I have never studied at Peking University or Tsinghua University, it is surely a pleas­ure to come to the most prestigious university of a foreign country to teach Chinese as a second language.

It was on a Monday morning, in the classroom of the Confucius Insti­tute at Antananarivo University, that I gave my first lesson in Chinese as a foreign language. The lesson was about Chinese writing, and the students were first-year Chinese majors. The class started at 8:00, and I had arrived 10 minutes earlier. According to the stu­dent roster, the class had 63 students, each one of whom had a Chinese name. One of the Chinese names was Rong  Zu’er, the exact namesake of a Chinese pop singer.

Zhang Jinjun
After class, students take great interest in learning Chinese songs.

Since it was my first lesson, I was a little nervous. As soon as I entered the classroom, greetings arose from among the students: “Hello!” “Hello, teacher!” I was momentarily disori­ented, but immediately called back: “Hello, everyone!” I had not expected the students to be so lively and sopolite. I was so happy, my face was wreathed in broad smiles.

During the class, I found that the students were highly motivated and eager to express their views. After teaching ten new words, I organized a game, dividing the students into four competing groups. The game required the students to stand, in two columns, facing the blackboard. My job was to dictate the words we had just learned and do the timing. The students each wrote a stroke before passing the chalk on to the next student, and I judged which group wrote the word out the fastest and the most accurately. With the students eagerly participating, the classroom atmosphere was full of en­thusiasm.

“By the time my first Chinese lesson came to a suc­cessful conclusion, I had already made friends with the students. The saying goes “All beginnings are difficult”, but the first step I made in teaching Chi­nese turned out to be so smooth that it has filled me with confidence in my potential of becoming an excellent teacher of Chinese and in the delight of imparting the Chinese language to the rest of the world”.

Most of my students were begin­ners. This means that I had to use a foreign language to help me teach them, because using Chinese as the classroom language would have made it extremely hard for them to follow me. Madagascan is their native lan­guage, but Madagascans begin to learn French in primary school; only in col­lege do they begin to learn English. I don’t know Madagascan, of course, and neither were the students good at English, in which I am skilled; so, I had to turn to French, another second foreign language for me in which I was not very effective. Before the les­son, I prepared with a massive French-Chinese dictionary in hand. I found translations for all the Chinese words I might possibly need in class; writing them down in a notebook, I translated and learned by heart the sentences that I was to use in class. Thanks to my French, I went through my first Chi­nese lesson smoothly. There was hardly any instance of students being unable to understand me.

Luckily, the students were all mak­ing a real effort to learn. By the time my first Chinese lesson came to a suc­cessful conclusion, I had already made friends with the students. The saying goes “All beginnings are difficult”, but the first step I made in teaching Chi­nese turned out to be so smooth that it has filled me with confidence in my potential of becoming an excellent teacher of Chinese and in the delight of imparting the Chinese language to the rest of the world.


Confucius Institute Magazine 7

Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Magazine 07. Volume II. March 2010.

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