Pitching Putonghua

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2008, 12:00am

Chinese University sees growing need for skills in a language that is increasing in popularity

The 21st century is being hailed as the Chinese century, just as the 20th century was American and the 19th British.

The mainland is the most populated country on the planet and has one of the fastest-growing economies. People are also jumping on the cultural bandwagon, with mainland language learning at an all-time high, with no end in sight.

According to the mainland's Ministry of Education, there will be about 100 million people worldwide learning Chinese as a foreign language by 2010. To meet this growing need, the Chinese University will be offering a master of arts programme in the next school year called Chinese Linguistics and Language Acquisition.

The programme is the first of its kind in Hong Kong and, according to Gu Yang, programme co-ordinator of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, it will be a commitment to the field of Chinese linguistics and language acquisition.

Gladys Tang Wai-lan, chair and division head of the Department of Linguistics and Modern Languages, said that it was the department's decision to offer the programme, which it had considered for a long time.

'We are pitching our programme at students learning more at the theoretical level, meaning they are being taught what to teach rather than how to teach. The students will be teachers of Putonghua who want to deepen their knowledge of the subject.'

The department expects an intake of between 30 and 40 students per year, with different students being targeted in three phases. Students entering the programme in the first phase will come from the mainland.

Professor Tang said: 'We are targeting 10 mainland universities, asking them to recommend students to us.'

The second phase will recruit students from elsewhere in Asia, with the final stage seeing more foreign students entering the programme.

Professor Tang hopes that some of the students will want to stay on at Chinese University when they complete their studies and work as researchers or teachers. 'For those wanting to work in research, they can take elective courses such as field practicum, where they will be paired with researchers, either at the university or elsewhere, and work on research into linguistics. For those wanting to stay on as teachers they can take the Chinese Language Curriculum and Assessment elective, where they will gain practical teaching experience.'

Required courses include linguistics and language teaching, topics in Chinese syntax and semantics, and topics in Chinese phonetics and phonology. Other electives include topics in pragmatics, topics in comparative grammar and seminars in linguistic research.

The programme can be taken either as a one-year full-time period of study or a two-year part-time basis, with students required to complete 27 units. Applications must be in by February 29. Professors in the department hope to make students competent and confident in linguistic research, and in teaching Putonghua as a second language.