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Chinese Linguistics and Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL)

This research field investigates the Chinese language as the basis of our access to and understanding of China as well as related questions regarding the Teaching of Chinese in a European context.

Chinese linguistics

The Chinese-speaking area in a broader sense („sinophone world“) encompasses all speakers of Sinitic languages, and includes more than 1 billion inhabitants of the Greater China area as well as millions of people in South-East Asia, America and Europe. Correspondingly, research in Chinese linguistics looks at how to differentiate those languages and language families from one another and from the varying forms of the state-determined standard language 普通话 Pǔtōnghuà (known as 國語 Guóyǔ in Taiwan, and 华语 Huáyǔ in Singapore), which is in the focus of both our work as well as that of “Chinese” language teaching worldwide.

To this day, the description of the Chinese language(s) is largely shaped by the perspective and categorical framework of Western linguistics, which is not always suitable for describing linguistic phenomena of the sinophone world. This is because Sinitic languages a) do not possess inflectional morphology, b) are characterized by tonality and syllabicity, c) have a writing system which, due to its complexity, offers the speaker / reader a different kind of access to language and textuality than phonographic writing systems do.

Nevertheless, Chinese linguistics is still similar to any other kind of linguistics in that it encompasses universal areas such as phonology, morphology and syntax, pragmatics and text linguistics, the latter also addressing questions of culturally and socially rooted linguistic conventions as well as registers of written and spoken utterances. Furthermore, it comprises the large field of sinographemics (research on development and structures of Chinese characters).

Apart from that, we are also interested in questions regarding the juxtaposition and translation of descriptions of the Chinese language and writing systems in different cultures and traditions as well as their impact on the practice of teaching and explaining the language.

Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL)

In the scope of our teacher’s training for Chinese at secondary schools, we are conducting empirical research on the teaching practice of Chinese as a “distant” [1] foreign language in a European context. We are investigating core questions such as the feasibility of certain written, oral and (inter-)cultural teaching and learning targets in the scope of Chinese lessons at school as well as in adult education, and the didactic and methodological characteristics of Chinese as compared to “cognate” European foreign languages. This includes the development and evaluation of linguistic, textual, intercultural and personal competencies of the learners, aspects of digitalization of Chinese character-based language classes as well as the integration of native language learners in the classroom.

[1]cf. Guder, Andreas (2005) „Kann man das überhaupt lernen?“ Zur Vermittlung von Chinesisch als distanter Fremdsprache. In: Lebende Sprachen 2/2005, 61-68, sowie: Guder, Andreas (2008) Was sind distante Fremdsprachen? Ein Definitionsversuch am Beispiel des Chinesischen. In: Burwitz-Melzer, Eva et al. (Hrsg.) Sprachen lernen – Menschen bilden. Dokumentation zum 22. Kongress für Fremdsprachendidaktik der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Fremdsprachenforschung (DGFF) (= BFF - Beiträge zur Fremdsprachenforschung Band 10). Baltmannsweiler 2008, 69–78.