The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages designed the Standards for Foreign Language Teaching in 1995 in order to provide guidelines for successful language teaching. Acknowledging that the essential objective of language learners is to communicate, the guidelines propose a framework to accomplish this goal. The question is “what” language skills are necessary to communicate one’s desires, opinions, feelings and responses. In investigating language acquisition, researchers developed the Standards for Foreign Language Learning, commonly referred to as the 5 C’s. Although communication is the focal point of these standards, the 5 C’s recognize the importance of culture, interdisciplinary studies, and global interconnectedness to further language proficiency and performance.
As stated by ACTFL, the National Standards are presented below:
Communication: Communicate in Languages Other Than English
Standard 1.1: Students engage in conversation, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions.
Standard 1.2: Students understand and interpret written and spoken language on a variety of topics.
Standard 1.3: Students present information, concepts, and ideas to an audience of listeners or readers on a variety of topics.
Cultures: Gain Knowledge and Understanding of Other Cultures
Standard 2.1: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the practices and perspectives of the culture studied.
Standard 2.2: Students demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the products and perspectives of the culture studied.
Connections: Connect with Other Disciplines and Acquire Information
Standard 3.1: Students reinforce and further their knowledge of other disciplines through the foreign language.
Standard 3.2: Students acquire information and recognize the distinctive viewpoints that are only available through the foreign language and its culture.
Comparisons: Develop Insight into the Nature of Language and Culture
Standard 4.1: Students demonstrate understanding of the nature of language through comparisons of the language studied and their own.
Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate the understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.
Communities: Participate in Multilingual Communities at Home and Around the World
Standard 5.1: Students use the language both within and beyond the school setting.
Standard 5.2: Students show evidence of becoming life-long learners by using the language for personal enjoyment and enrichment.
As a player in the development of language learning, textbook designers need to use these guidelines as a framework for their instruction. In our Chinese in Focus series, the implementation of the guidelines is evident throughout our text and other learning materials.
Chinese in Focus is based on a communicative approach to language learning. In each unit there is ample opportunity for the learners to practice new sounds and vocabulary, to pair with classmates for the purpose of language exchange, and to participate in group activities. The unique challenge of writing in Chinese, using both pīnyīn and characters, is creatively approached. New characters and vocabulary are introduced by legendary Chinese figures who instruct the students on the pronunciation and formation of the new words. In culturally rich dialogues, students are
exchanging language with these legendary figures, their classmates, and even with web-mates.
Chinese in Focus is a culturally rich series. With one quick glance at our textbooks the abundance of cultural stimulation will impress you. Colorful, authentic pictures of landscapes, monuments, cities and people enliven this series. The students meet Chinese folk characters who teach them about China, its language and its people. Each unit is situated in a different cultural environment, exposing the students to the vastness and beauty of China. The units begin with a cultural introduction which is then explored throughout the unit. In addition to the big “C” cultural topics, Chinese in Focus concentrates on the integration of small “c” usage – vocabulary, grammar structures, sentence formations, customs and behaviors are all authentically developed from a Chinese perspective.
The extensive use of poetry, rhymes, songs, history, geography, technology and pop culture throughout the textbook assures the connectivity of Chinese in Focus with the global realities of today. Our textbook enlightens the student to the richness of Chinese society and welcomes him/her to investigate it more thoroughly.
Language competency is best developed by using the learner’s accumulated knowledge of his native language. By interweaving linguistic and cultural references, Chinese in Focus strives tobuild language competency by comparing and contrasting language usage, structures and pronunciations with English, when appropriate. The student’s linguistic and cultural knowledge in his first language is used to transition the learner to integrate new concepts and formations. We
acknowledge that language is infused with cultural perspectives, therefore customs, traditions and national values are discussed with an appreciation for both differences and similarities between the English and Chinese-speaking communities.
Chinese in Focus awakens the American student to a new world of ancient wonders and modern developments. By showcasing the history and traditions of China the students can better comprehend the quickly emerging importance of China in the 21st century. Early in the series the students learn about the role of the Confucius Institutes in promoting Chinese language and culture.
Through the text and the workbook, and particularly through our web-based support center, the students are encouraged to use the resources of the Confucius Institutes in their studies. The internet is also used as a source of research and investigation, connecting the students with the global Chinese community. By engaging the students in this broader community, their motivation to learn and their interest in “all things Chinese” will be maximized.