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  1. 1. FROM CHINA TO CATALONIA A long linguistic trip By Artur Vidal and Isabel Minguell (translator) Barcelona, SpainAccording to Idescat sources, Catalonia lately has “Teaching Catalan to Chineseexperienced the insertion of about one million people has given us an insightpeople from different countries worldwide and inconsequence, a new pluri-lingual society has to the problems Chineseemerged. A unique experience in the world as students have to face whenregards the number of people who have arrived learning a foreign language.”within such a short period of time. Moreover, weshould also take into account our situation here, memory-based following an authoritarian ap-where Catalan is a co-official minority language proach, and that followed by those who have onlyliving together with Spanish, along with the known the Catalan system offering a very up closeprocess of a linguistic immersion, which started in and personalised treatment. The main difference isthe 80s and has now reached another dimension. that some students have to learn to write using the Latin alphabet. This process is called “Pinyin”,This model of linguistic immersion was inspired on which is taught only in some schools in China.other models (such as the one in Quebec, Canada) Only schools where English is taught teachto face the arrival of immigrants from the rest of “Pinyin”. These are normally private or stateSpain who did not know the native language, schools located in non-rural areas. “Pinyin”: HànyǔCatalan, and enrolled in the Catalan education Pīnyīn) is the official system to transcribe Chinesesystem as of the 1940s (the end of the tragic characters into Latin script.Spanish Civil War). Being both students of English and teachers for aNow, the arrival of new learners who come from long time has given us both the experience of aall parts of the world accounts for about 300 teacher and a learner. And, on the other hand,languages, according to Carme Junyent (1) from teaching Catalan to Chinese people has given usGrup GELA. Out of this group, in this article, we an insight to the problems Chinese students havewill focus on the arrival of 47,743 Chinese people to face when learning a foreign language.and, more specifically, on an area created forthem called “aula d’acollida” or foster classroom, With Chinese students learning Catalan and/orwhich serves the purpose for this linguistic Spanish, we deal with some specific traits. Theimmersion in a progressive period of coexistence, main characteristics of Chinese students include:going from six months to two years for those 1. Being Mandarin or Putonhua the most spokenlanguages considered remote. language in their country, despite theWhile the Chinese community has as a common existence of more than one hundred otherstandard language, Mandarin Chinese (北方話) or languages, they tend to use Mandarin as it ispuntonghua (普通话) (Sinotibetan family) spoken the official language in China. This fact isby 1200-1300 million people around the world,, reflected on the way they see Catalan as notChina’s linguistic magma encompasses an being as useful as Spanish.important group of other languages such as Wu 2. Chinese students are self-conscious. That is to(吳語) spoken by 77 million people or also mǐn say, they are afraid of making mistakes so,(閩語 ) spoken by 70 million in addition to many this prevents them from communicatingdifferent dialects (many students come from fluently in other languages with other people.qintiang, zhejiang province popular republic ofchina, including as many dialectical variations from 3. Most of the times these students arewhezou or wenxi). responsible for passing on both the new linguistic and cultural codes to their families.This article deals with the learning process of They are also in charge of translating a way ofChinese people who learn Catalan and/or Spanish. understanding the world which is veryFirst of all, we have to consider the difference different from theirs.between the language learning process of thoseChinese students familiar with the Chinese 4. Last but not least, we have to bear in mind theeducation system, which is very demanding and enormous linguistic and cultural gap between a NZALT Polyglot, No 37, 2012
  2. 2. Sino-Tibetan language and a Latin Roman one. important to be in contact with the language you are learning as much as possible. Some ways ofTo understand the learning process and its doing this include: interacting with native speak-characteristics better, let’s have a look at this ers, watching foreign TV channels, attendingtheoretical background which is based mainly on speaking corners, having speaking partners,The Common European Framework and Elizabeth listening to the radio, travelling…Coelho’s book (2). We must accept that we live in a multilingualTo start with, we would like to say that to achieve society. An example of this, as we have stated atknowledge learners should concentrate on five the beginning, is Catalonia where today 250skills: listening, speaking, reading, writing and different languages are spoken. So, in this sense,interaction. The main aim when learning a foreign all teachers should speak different languages to belanguage is to get a linguistic competence able to cope with this reali-enabling learners to speakin an everyday situation. “Learners need a certain ty. emotional predisposition To conclude, a brief sum-We should take into ac- towards the language they are mary of the main ideascount two main factorswhen learning a language. learning.” about the learning process Chinese people follow whenAccording to Sebastià Ser- learning Catalan. Language learning is based onrano (3), these factors comprise 30 per cent four elements:intellectual capacity and 70 per cent emotionalaspects. 1. Methodology: Being used to learning by heart Chinese characters (any competent ChineseOn these grounds, who could be considered a writer knows about 1500) in Catalonia theygood learner? A good learner is a person who can are faced with the fact that the Latin alphabetobtain enough information intake or input, and has only twenty-six letters and a grammarattitudes and motivation that do not interfere in that is very different from theirs and thus,this input. much more complex.When learning a language another important 2. Emotional aspects: Learners need a certainfactor is the methodological patterns which are as emotional predisposition towards the languagefollows: we should work on speaking, use activities they are learning. In the case of Chinesethat foster both teacher-student and student- students, we must be aware of their culturalstudent interaction, develop and encourage and linguistic self-consciousness. It has beenpositive attitudes, relate speaking and writing, use shown that to be able to learn a foreigna lot of visual aids, select material carefully and if language one should have overcome what ispossible, use authentic material. called “migratory mourning” as defined byIn addition to this, it is also vital that classroom Joseba Achotegui: leaving their grandparents,teachers understand the difference between social their uncles, their friends, their landscape,language and academic language acquisition. Here their sky… Leaving all these to go to a countryis a simple description of BICS and CALP (4) as they haven’t chosen. It is their family who hastheorised by Jim Cummins: imposed this transnational project on them. BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Com- 3. Family language: The importance of keeping munication Skills. It is based on what learning the family language or native language to is about in the first two years: Speaking improve and motivate the learning of new competence, conversation face to face, languages. This keeping and improvement of concentrating on the now and here, familiar the family language is normally carried out content, everyday vocabulary, language in outside the classroom within the project called contexts with lots of aids, relaxed atmosphere. “Educational plan for urban contexts”. On the other hand, it is also true that these families CALP stands for Cognitive Academic language enrol their children in Chinese schools on proficiency. It would be after five or seven Saturday mornings or even the whole day years: very abstract language, more distant in where they use traditional teaching metho- time and space, less familiar contexts, more dologies imported from China in most of the specific vocabulary (more topic-related), cases. language with little context, more demanding atmosphere. 4. Usage. To improve the use of a language, weWhen we are learning a language we should target must raise the families’ and the students’the five aforementioned skills. But also it is very awareness about the importance of having a NZALT Polyglot, No 37, 2012
  3. 3. good knowledge of both the native language, Besides, students who have Chinese as a mother Catalan, and the co-official language, Spanish tongue or other dialectical Sinotibetan variations to get through both the secondary school show some specific traits that will be analysed in degree (ESO), vocational training or univer- depth in further articles and which Lluïsa Gràcia sity. The use of the language can be enhanced started describing in her work Xinès (5). by means of linguistic partners, reading tutor (an older student helps a younger one with Artur Vidal is an LIC which stands for Language, reading), “cicerone” (guide) programme Interculturality and Social Cohesion advisor from (where the older teaches and shows how Departament d’Ensenyament of Generalitat de students work in the classrooms here), Catalunya.He has been a secondary school teacher for improving the language during breaks… more than 20 years. He now works as a teacher trainer of language methodology to primary and secondary schoolAll in all, from the beginning of the establishment teachers. He has contributed to some books aboutof the foster classroom by the Departament Catalan language and litetature.d’ensenyament (Department of Education) we Isabel Minguell has been an English teacher for adults for 25have seen that the learning process of primary years. She works at the Official School of Languages ofand secondary students requires three to four Barcelona where she teaches upper-intermediate and advanced levels.She has also taught English for specificyears to achieve a remarkable linguistic compe- purposes at Ramon Lull University and Universitat Autonomatence that will enable them to follow the learning of Barcelona. She is highly interested in cross-culturalprocess of the students in an ordinary classroom. awareness and Asian culture. Link to bibliography NZALT Polyglot, No 37, 2012

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