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Studying Mandarin Chinese : Canadian students’ experiences Mah, Donna E. 1996

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STUDYING MANDARIN CHINESE: CANADIAN STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES by DONNA E . M A H A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL F U L F I L M E N T OF T H E REQUIREMENTS FOR T H E DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in GRADUATE STUDIES F A C U L T Y OF EDUCATION M O D E R N LANGUAGES EDUCATION We accept this paper as conforming to the required standard T H E UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 1996 © D o n n a E . Mah, 1996 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department of LArJCrUA&£ ZOUCPrTlOhl The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada Date DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT Experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese as a language program at the elementary school level are explored to find out what it means for Canadian students to study Chinese. Five students, two who were of Chinese heritage, and three who were not, were invited to talk about their experiences in the language class by engaging in conversation with their former teacher, as researcher. Themes believed to be already present within the students' words were uncovered first. Following that, the themes were re-visited and re-constituted to produce new ways to understand the familiar concepts of language, culture, and curriculum that the students had come to accept as valid and believable. In re-constituting the substance of the conversations, the following realizations emerged. Language and cultural studies are often viewed as a set of concrete skills and knowledge that can be acquired, hence, language as a commodity is viewed as the dominant objective. However, engaging in a study of language and culture is more than the mere acquisition of skills; it provides learners with opportunities to explore and develop new ways to re-understand themselves and their own cultures as their new understandings help them to re-constitute themselves. Another propensity of the language curriculum is that of unlocking the target culture by using mostly voyeuristic, museum approaches. Challenging the commonly-accepted and culturally-constructed beliefs that have come to be associated with learning a new language, gives us the chance to re-think what it means to study Mandarin Chinese in British Columbia in the 1990's. The objectives that have been allowed to dominate language education must be challenged for they are somewhat limited and narrow in scope. This thesis endeavours to show that by continuing to validate the limited and narrowly-conceived meta-narratives, it only promotes more binary thinking and resists the creation of new spaces for developing more rich and varied language opportunities for our students. It is in the space between languages and cultures, that something new can be created by the students themselves, as they are encouraged to develop their intra-cultural and inter-cultural relations with others. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iv Acknowledgement vi Chapter One: Contextnalizing the Study 1 Coming to the Research Question 3 Situating the Canadian Students 5 Situating the Teacher/Researcher 9 Chapter Two: Reiinderstanding the Research Question 14 Reunderstanding the word Experience 15 Approaching the Study 21 Chapter Three: In Conversation with Tina 27 Living in the Midst of Many Languages and Cultures 29 Studying Mandarin Chinese Opens a New World 33 Exploring Mandarin Chinese is like Journeying 37 Revisiting the Conversation with Tina: 39 Theme One: Experiencing Mandarin Chinese as a Journey 40 Re-understanding journey without-set-destination 43 Theme Two: A Hybrid Language at the Speech Contest 44 How shall we understand the text of Tina's speech? 45 In the spaces between Chinese characters and English 48 Chapter Four: In Conversation with Caroline 51 Experiencing Mandarin Chinese as a "good" language 53 Experiencing Mandarin Chinese as a novelty 56 Studying Mandarin Chinese is experiencing "a different cultural thing" 59 Revisiting the Conversation with Caroline 60 Theme One: Studying a language is more than just speaking 60 Theme Two: Being able to read and write Chinese 63 Theme Three: Speaking Mandarin Chinese as a "privilege" 67 Chapter Five: Conversations with Joanne, Lily, and Nina 71 Conversing with Joanne 72 Speaking lots of languages, the more, the better 73 Conversing with Lily 75 Learning the languages that others speak 77 Conversing with Nina 79 Studying Mandarin Chinese was a good idea 80 Chapter Six: Revisiting the Study: 83 Reflections of the Mandarin Program What was the Mandarin program plan? 85 Students' lived experiences constituted new spaces 86 Reflecting on a newly-created language 91 Reflections on the Researcher's Experiences 93 Wondering where to begin 96 Stumbling along the way 98 Where are we at and what are we doing? 101 REFERENCES 103 ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The writing of this thesis could not have evolved without the guidance and on-going support that was bestowed upon me by Ted Aoki and Stephen Carey. For their time, patience, and encouragement, I wi l l remain ever grateful. I would also like to acknowledge Wendy Sutton for the input and time she afforded me as the external examiner of the thesis. My journey of ten thousand l i began with this single step. The journey was enriched by living vibrantly and ambivalently within and in-between the many languages, cultures and experiences that have been encountered with my students and colleagues, my family and friends. For the support that these people have given me, I thank them. 4 1 Chapter One Contextualizing the Study Studying Mandarin Chinese at the elementary school level in British Columbia, as a language alternative to French, has neither been widely practised nor promoted in this province. Opportunites for offering Mandarin Chinese languages studies were introduced in the early 1990's, and three elementary programs were initiated. However, at the present time, all three programs have been discontinued. With this information, one might surmise that Mandarin Chinese as a course of study in the elementary school seems to have missed the mark in finding a viable place within the intermediate students' overall education plan. One might also hypothesize that the future of Mandarin Chinese as a bonafide subject in our elementary schools remains only tenuous at best. Paradoxically, in June 1994, an announcement from this province's Ministry of Education indicated that the study of a foreign language for all students in grades five through grade eight, would soon become mandatory. That news came in the form of a new provincial languages policy. Introduced in its early "draft" form at that time, the policy seemed to allow for greater possibilities and opportunities for a variety of languages to be taught as foreign language courses in our elementary schools. After a lengthy process of revision, the present form of the resulting language policy specifies that the education plan for all students in grades five through eight must include the study of another language, i.e., as a subject 2 of study in addition to developing basic competence in English. The subsequent timeline for the language policy to be fully implemented in all schools in the province is being publicized as the academic year 1997/1998. The language policy presents many of the standard arguments for promoting the study of a second language as part of the required curriculum in grades five to eight, stating as one of the valuable contributions an overall enhancement of the students' intellectual growth and development. In an attempt to acknowledge the cultural and linguistic diversity in this province, the policy makers also claim that by educating our children to speak a wide variety of languages, we, as Brit ish Columbians, wil l be promoting positive intercultural, international and intracultural relations. Prior to the announcement of the new languages policy, this province did not have any specifically mandated second language requirements for students in grades five through eight. As a result, there has been a wide discrepancy of language studies made available to our students in elementary schools. The offerings vary not only from district to district, but from school to school within districts. Now, with the new policy, almost any language can be initiated as a second language study for our students in grades five through grade eight. Second language education seems to have finally come of age! 3 Ctoming to the Research Question According to this province's Ministry of Education, the study of Mandarin Chinese and other languages in British Columbia schools in the 1990's is not specifically designed to fulfill heritage language needs and objectives. Instead, new language offerings in our multiculturally-evolving Canadian contexts appear to have been created as foreign language options to expose students to something new. As one of the early pioneering teachers of elementary Mandarin Chinese in this province, having taught the subject for four years prior to the announcement of the new languages policy, I have been pondering how the study of Mandarin Chinese in British Columbia is experienced by Canadian students. I have been wondering what happens in the minds of students when they experience studying this language at this time and in this place. Research and documentation about foreign language learning and teaching is diverse and abundant, covering about thirty-five years of history. Learning foreign languages within the school system has been supported, in principle, by the general public as well as national and local governments in Canada, the United States, Australia, England and many other countries around the world since the 1960's. It is regarded as a worthwhile endeavour for its contribution to a sound, well-rounded educational background and is recommended in most educational reports, 4 to be initiated at the elementary school level by commissions that have explored it (Benya and Muller, 1988). Without a doubt, there is no shortage of empirical research published on language learning from a broad range of perspectives. Popular topics of research in this field include second language acquisition, foreign language learning and teaching methodologies, program evaluation, language achievement, methods of program delivery, e.g., immersion, second, foreign language and cultural models, optimal-age for beginning second language studies, and more. Researchers have tried to understand the phenomenon from both cognitive and psychological perspectives (Gardner, 1985; Krashen, 1981; Long, 1991; Schumann, 1986); studies report how to improve the methods of language instruction for our teachers, and still others have focused on raising the levels of language achievement for our students. Yet, in spite of the vast number of studies that have explored the teaching and learning of foreign languages, there do not appear to be many studies that have explored the experiences of the learners themselves to bring out what the experience of studying a foreign language comes to mean for our pupils. When students become involved with studying a foreign language, perhaps something more that just language learning takes place. It is my suspicion that, in addition to attaining the obvious linguistic outcomes, there may be other, less obvious, below-the-surface consequences that result from an involvement with Mandarin Chinese 5 language and cultural studies in this particular province, in this particular time. Inquiry into Mandarin Chinese language education in this province is timely. On the brink of the implementation of the new provincial languages policy in British Columbia, finding out what it means to students to be studying Mandarin Chinese here and now is not only timely, it is critical. This next step must be completed to provide the necessary directions for future programs which, in turn, could lead us to an understanding of the meaning of studying Mandarin Chinese in British Columbia in the 1990's. This thesis, then, was initially conceived as an attempt to discover what it means for Canadian students to experience studying Mandarin Chinese. The study contained in this report grew from the following research question: What is it like for Canadian students to experience studying Mandarin Chinese? Situating the Canadian students Of the students who were involved in studying Mandarin Chinese at elementary schools in this province, most have not been of Chinese heritage, though some students were. The primary language for most of the students was English but there were students who had other first languages as well. Many did not have any previous Chinese language background, yet some of the students were of Chinese extraction. In the 6 three lower mainland schools where elementary Mandarin Chinese classes took place (one in Delta School District and two in Coquitlam), there was a broad mix of cultures; the schools were microcosms of our diversely multicultural Canada. Students with their rich and varied backgrounds participated in learning Mandarin Chinese. This particular inquiry into students' experiences was carried out with students from Meadowbrook Elementary School in Port Coquitlam, where Mandarin Chinese had been offered since September 1991. At that time, a small group of students (15) chose to participate in Mandarin Chinese studies as a pilot program and classes were scheduled during the noon hour. Students gave up two of their lunch hours each week to study Mandarin Chinese. This was a sacrifice at times, when their peers could be found playing outdoors and having time-off. In the years that followed, from 1992-1994, whole classes of grade four students participated in Mandarin Chinese language studies within the regular school timetable (i.e., between the hours of 9:00-3:00 p.m.) for two, forty-minute periods per week. However, as stated above, Mandarin Chinese classes are no longer taking place. The participants who were selected for this study had a willingness to participate in the study and a desire to talk about their experiences. They had their parents' permission to participate in this project and their involvement with Mandarin Chinese at Meadowbrook School was over when I met to talk with them. 7 It was felt that our relatively long personal history together, i.e., a span of three years (four years with some), was advantageous for a number of other reasons. First, the students were not hesitant about coming to talk to me about their experiences. Second, since I had taught these students other subjects either as their classroom teacher or as their music teacher before our Mandarin Chinese studies began, I knew much about their personal histories and development both academically and emotionally. Lastly, the students chosen for this study were no longer students at the school since they had moved on to junior high school by the time we got together for this research. By my using students who were no long involved with the program, it was felt that there would be less risk that students would feel obligated to please the teacher, acting as researcher, when talking about their experiences. The teacher, as well, was not bound to l imit the discussion for fear of jeopardizing the student/teacher relationship. The connection of the student to the researcher was no longer defined by one who was in the position of authority over the other, i.e., students who were trying to achieve good marks. Rather, we worked together to explore the idea of studying Mandarin Chinese to find out what their experiences had been like. The students were informed that by exploring their experiences through conversations with me as the researcher, I sought to find out more about what studying Mandarin Chinese meant to its participants. It was also explained to the students that the possible insights that evolved from 8 our conversations might be useful to other teachers and educators in ways that could help to design and plan future language programs for other Canadian students in other settings. This project explored particular students' experiences by engaging them in conversations. The nature of the conversations was co-operative and co-constructive as the researcher invited the students to explore their lived experiences through re-living them by talking about them. This approach was established as opposed to having the students respond to predetermined questions that suggested specific answers. The initial conversations opened with the invitation to talk about what studying Mandarin Chinese meant for the student and what was it like for him/her to study this particular language. Topics for discussion were mostly open-ended and students were informed that they would neither be judged nor marked by their responses. In this way, students were invited to tell their stories about their Mandarin Chinese language learning experiences. Students were given the opportunity to talk about their lived experiences with their Chinese teacher, myself as researcher. It is from those conversations with individual students, using the words uttered by the students themselves, that this study explored the research question that guided this inquiry. 9 Situating the Teacher/Researcher Born and raised in British Columbia, Canada, to parents also born and raised in Canada, this researcher is also a Chinese Canadian, like some of the students who were chosen for this inquiry. Participation in a rich cultural heritage as a Chinese Canadian has contributed much to my personal interest in learning and teaching Mandarin Chinese in this province. My own Mandarin Chinese language studies, as a fourth generation Chinese Canadian speaker of English, began in my third year of university. As a raw beginner, i.e., someone who had never had any formal Chinese language training, I had much success learning Mandarin Chinese as I found the language to be relatively easy to learn. When I became aware of the opportunity to share my Chinese experiences and knowledge of the Mandarin Chinese language with my students in the public school system, I jumped at the chance, for I wanted my students to be exposed to the same thrill that I had experienced (if that was possible), and I hoped that Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language study would be as stimulating for them as it had been for me. As a Chinese Canadian teacher of Mandarin Chinese in a Canadian context, I have been interested in finding out what my students' experiences could reveal and where that information might lead me. I was interested in understanding what their experiences of studying Chinese 10 language and culture would come to mean for them. This thesis is the result of that desire to find out about Canadian students' experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese. I have experienced Chinese and Canadian cultures first-hand by participating in Chinese and Canadian family traditions since I was a child. As an adult I have been able to share my experiences of Chinese Canadian language and culture with my Canadian students who are in contact with an increasing number of Chinese citizens from the broad Asia Pacific region. It appears that people from all over the globe have been finding a niche for themselves in British Columbia. The students who experienced the elementary Mandarin Chinese program with me were exposed to the idea of creating new spaces for language-learning in their lives as they experienced an innovative language opportunity. My students and I dwelled with many others in a vibrant world between eastern and western cultures. This space has become for me a privileged position in which I have experienced Canadian traditions and culture, Chinese traditions and culture and beyond that, many other traditions and cultures as well. In this vibrant in-between space, i.e., between English and Chinese languages and cultures, my Mandarin Chinese language teaching experiences were initiated. But there always seemed to be a lack of funding, materials, direction and leadership. Dissension continues to run rampant within the ranks of the Mandarin teachers themselves, and 11 sometimes, even interest appears to wane, as different stakeholders take up with the cause, for different purposes. It is no wonder that uncertainty arid tension have persisted for more than four years. With the implementation, and dissolution of only three elementary school programs, I have felt very strongly about how necessary it is that we, as educators, must re-consider more openly, what kind of spaces are created in the lives of our students when they experience Mandarin Chinese studies. My attempts to de-mystify this particular language opportunity led me to participate in a wide range of Mandarin Chinese-related educational developments. Advanced personal language studies included two summers in Beijing, China at the Foreign Language Institute in 1991 and 1992. The search for suitable teaching materials resulted in my involvement with the request for a grant so that I could field-test the implementation of materials that had been developed in Queensland, Australia. Only with great determination and patience was I able to overcome the bureaucracies of two continents to finally obtain the much-needed materials. Dialoguing with colleagues and presenting forums for discussion at parent meetings, Asian Language teachers' conferences, Modern Languages teachers' conferences and with administrators, have all been ongoing throughout my involvement with this endeavour. Working on several Ministry of Education and local school district committees, that have focused on the new languages education policy and opportunities, were also a very necessary and critical part of my learning process. Hence, 12 along with other related committees, I have worked on the Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Revision Committee (1994-1995), and on the Integrated Resource Package (IRP) team (1996), under the direction of the Ministry of Education, to develop relevant support documents for this language program as well. The writing of this thesis is but a singular aspect of my desire to re-understand more of what it really means to study Mandarin Chinese in this time and place. In the chapters that follow, the ways in which the students understood what it meant to study Mandarin Chinese as Canadians will be presented. However, the words and essences of those actual utterances of the students depict only one way for us to understand studying Chinese. The objective of this study endeavours to provide the reader with more than just the words and sentiments of the students as information that is accepted as fixed and final. A form of interpretive inquiry was used in an effort to further our understandings of studying Mandarin Chinese. In the next chapter the research question will be explicated by conceptualizing the underlying concepts and strategies that were utilized while designing and carrying out this study. An examination of those key notions was felt to be critical as a means to reunderstand the question in broader contexts. How the research approach in this inquiry evolved will also be detailed. 13 The study as a whole will be revisited in the last chapter in two distinct, yet interconnected dimensions. Reflections on the Mandarin Chinese language program as it was first planned, then "lived-out" in reality wi l l constitute the first part of that chapter. Various ways in which we have come to understand foreign language education, culture and curriculum in this province will be explored. In the latter portion of that chapter, reflections of my own experiences of doing this study wil l be represented. Just as I have been pondering the significance of studying Mandarin Chinese for my students, throughout the writing of this research I have had to question as well the significance of carrying out this inquiry in the ways that I did. It is my hope that what is presented here challenges the way that studying a foreign language such as Mandarin Chinese is understood. 14 Chapter Two Re-understanding the Research Question In this chapter, key notions of the research question will be explored in an attempt to re-understand the question as it served to shape this inquiry. As outlined in the previous chapter, this study is about the experiences of Canadian students who studied Mandarin Chinese at their elementary school as a course of foreign language study. The research question was formulated in such a way as to open up new possibilities for exploring those lived experiences. The question was also influenced, in part, by my belief that it was possible that something other than linguistic outcomes could result when children engage in foreign language studies. To invite students to talk about their experiences the following question was posed to them: "What is it like for Canadian students to experience studying Mandarin Chinese?" From the recollections of those students' experiences, this thesis took shape. This study could not have been created without a vibrant re-telling of those recollected experiences. However, in the subsequent reporting and treatment of those experiences, this thesis endeavoured to explore those same lived experiences of the students beyond the actual words they uttered, and further, beyond the themes that their words suggested. 15 Reunderstanding the word Experience This study was predicated on a particular notion of experience. Experience as it was understood in this study was based specifically on Culler's notion that "Experience is divided and deferred - already behind us as something to be recovered, yet still before us as something to be produced" (1982, p. 82). Experience understood in this way suggests that there are two distinct, but not necessarily opposite ways, to treat the experiences that were recollected by the students in this study. Aoki's (1994) metaphor of an iceberg appears to illustrate the recovery aspect of experience well. The tip that is immediately visible to the observer depicts the external aspects of an event and the submerged portion of the iceberg that is hidden from view discloses deeper meanings of the phenomenon. To help us to understand the very notion of studying Mandarin Chinese in this particular time and place, we need to look beyond what we find on the surface. In keeping with this notion, it was this researcher's belief that the experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese must have entailed more than what was easily visible on the surface. Researching the lived experiences of students in this way was also informed by van Manen's approach in Researching Lived Experiences (1990). The way in which the research question was conceived led naturally to a phenomenological approach in the beginning stages. Researching lived experiences in this way, according to van Manen, has much to do with pedagogy, i.e., the activity of teaching, parenting, educating, and generally 16 living with children, that requires practical acting in concrete situations and relations; such pedagogy that requires a phenomenological sensitivity to lived experience....and a hermeneutic ability to make interpretive sense of the phenomena of the lifeworld in order to see the pedagogic significance of situations and relations of living with children (1990). Questioning in a phenomenological manner, the ways in which Canadian elementary school students experienced studying Mandarin Chinese stemmed from a desire to know more deeply the world in which we live as human beings. In order to achieve this, this research looked to the lived experiences of students to uncover possible meanings and gain a deeper understanding of the nature and meaning of that everyday experience. > The notion of uncovering the meaning of experiences through a process of phenomenological recovery has also been aligned with traditional humanistic treatments of subjects' experiences. The underlying belief in those discourses has been based on the notion that meanings from lived experiences can be recovered and in doing so, a universal essence can be revealed. Phenomenologists claim that it is possible to get to the deep meaning that is embedded in the words themselves if we divide and conquer them by analyzing the subjects' words, looking long enough and hard enough to uncover something already present. This notion of experience is presented by Culler (1982) as "already behind us as something to be recovered." 17 In modernist narratives of lived experiences, too often, the humanistic narrative is totalized and made dominant as the only kind of narrative possible. Re-searching the experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese called to me to explore more deeply. Writing about my students' experiences, at first, through the genre of traditional humanistic narratives, proved to be a fruitful place to start my inquiry to try to understand the experiences of my students. However, the more demanding challenge came when I sought to fulfill the writing of this thesis in the second rigorous phase of "re-search." It was felt that merely articulating the essences that were already present in the actual words of the students themselves did not seem sufficient for a deeper understanding that cried out to be acknowledged. In the late seventies, Pinar (1976) acknowledged a similar deficit in the predominant methods of educational research at that time when he said: Educational research as it is presently conducted...its focus...on the public, on the visible, and its methods of making sense of what it sees...correlating that, counting caught in a vision of reality that while adequate for the past, and for many in the present, is not adequate for the future, (in Pinar & Grumet, 1976, p. 4) Further, he stated: ...we have gone just about as far as we can go in understanding the nature of education by focusing on the externals. It is not that the public world - curriculum, instruction, objectives - become unimportant; it is that to further comprehend their roles in the educational process we must take our eyes off them for a time, and begin a lengthy, systematic search of our inner experience, (ibid) 18 Even into this decade, i.e., the 1990's, research methodologies are continuously being challenged for what they can really tell us (Britzman, 1995, Denzin, 1995,1994a, 1994b, 1991, Kondo, 1990, Lather, 1991). In writing about the implications which characterize contemporary critical theory, that methodologies based on humanistic notions of the subject can only represent part of the subject's story, Lather describes the humanists' flawed vision of the subject in this way: an autonomous individual capable of full consciousness and endowed with a stable "self....[has] been at the heart of the Enlightenment project of progress via education, reflexive rationality, and human agency (1991, p. 5) She goes on to tell how "such a subject has been de-centered, refashioned as a site of disarray and conflict inscribed by multiple contestatory discourses" (ibid). In her textually experimental book, Crafting Selves. Kondo (1990) offers many new ways to challenge what she regards as "persistent North American narrative conventions [that are] unable to fully account for the complexities and ambiguities of everyday life" (p. 300). Her writing strategies, deployed as an oppositional discourse to the conventional and culturally-entrenched tropes of academic research and marginalized subjects, create an exciting space in which to "complicate and dismantle the ready stereotypes" (p. 302). She suggests that "by examining the ways the whole, unified subject and the self/society trope insidiously persist,... perhaps we can find ways to problematize and eventually subvert those 19 tropes" (p. 37). Advocating for new forms of contestatory discourse, she believes that only by considering and accounting for the ways that institutions, language and social contexts have influenced our lives, can we "problematize the notion of 'description' as the transparent inscription of reality on the blank page" (p. 8). Further, Kondo posits that: ... meaning can never be fixed, for there is no transcendental signified that commands authority and exists without signifiers....The subject, too, becomes a site for the play of difference, a site for the play of shifting and potentially conflicting meanings, (p. 36) Britzman (1995), also writing about current poststructural debates over ethnographic questions of representation, challenges the belief that there can be "an educational ethnography that exceeds the constraints of humanism." In her search for alternative approaches for writing ethnographies, she cites Said who says: The things to look at are styles, figures of speech, setting, narrative devices, historical and social circumstances, not the correctness of representation nor its fidelity to some great original. (1978, p. 21) Ultimately, Britzman (1995) challenges the reading and writing of traditional ethnographies as "[injcapable of producing truths from the experiences of being there" (p. 229). Arguing further that the "ethnographic real" can never be fully believed, Britzman, along with others (Denzin 1995,1994a, 1994b, Jardine, 1992), asserts that for poststructuralists writing about critical theory, representation is always in cr isis. 20 Elaborating on the crisis of representation and legitimation in current ethnographic research, Denzin (1994b) writes: Language and speech do not mirror experience; they create experience, and in the process of creation, constantly transform and defer that which is being described. The meanings of a subject's statements are therefore, always in motion. There can never be a final, accurate representation of what was meant or said, only different textual representation of different experiences .... Description becomes inscription. The task is to understand what textually constructed presence means, because there is only ever the text. (p. 296) Reflecting on education, hermeneutics and ambiguity, Jardine (1992) further challenges the absolute authority of the "Word," and stipulates: ...a recognition that the Word cannot be pinned down,....that hermeneutics deeply recognizes the place of language, culture, and history in human life and discourse and the propelling ways in which life is conditioned and contextualized by such phenomena, (p. 120) In keeping with the ideas portrayed above, that there exists a crisis in representation, and that traditional ethnographies are insufficient for truly understanding all that is involved in an inquiry such as this, Culler's second notion of experience comes into play, i.e., that "Experience is divided and deferred...[and] still yet to be produced" (1982, p. 82). With this understanding of experience I found the space in which to produce something new from the themes that emerged out of my conversations with the students. 21 Approaching the study In an endeavour to pursue the research question posed above, I invited some of my former students who had been involved in Mandarin Chinese language classes to talk to me about their language learning experiences. Not content to merely quantify or retell their stories, I wanted to try to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of my students, first in the spirit of researching lived experiences as human science research (van Manen, 1990), and second, by producing something new out of the recollections of those experiences. I explored my Canadian students' experiences phenomenologically to uncover the essence of the meanings that were constituted from their experiences, and then hermeneutically, to bring out different ways to understand what it was like for them and what it meant to them. The concept of a "conversation," as it was carried out for this thesis, was in keeping with Deleuze's idea of this mode of discussion as articulated in the volume entitled Dialogues (1987). Chapter One opens with the question: "It is very hard to 'explain oneself - an interview, a dialogue, a conversation....The aim is not to answer questions, it's to get out, to get out of it" (p. 1). In speaking to students about their experiences, I wanted them to do just that, i.e., "to get out" of the questions to help me to understand the experience itself. But in addition, I wanted them to guide me to find out about the "becomings" which were "silently at work....For as someone becomes, what he is becoming changes as much as he does himself (Deleuze, 1987, p. 2). 22 Deleuze further insisted that the very format of an interview, where questions are posed and replies are given, does not have any real value. A preferable form of discussion is that of a dialogue, "without beginning or end...without a forced, external ordering" (1987, p. x). In this way, the "conversation as a dialogue" has a better chance of producing new ways of understanding and can "grow in many directions, without an overall ordering principle....[like] a multiplicity of interconnected shoots going off in all directions" (ibid). The conversations for this study were constituted as Deleuzian-type dialogues that provided "simply the outline of a becoming." I asked the students specifically, "What was it like for you, as Canadian students, to experience studying Mandarin Chinese?" The questions posed were intended to serve as open-ended invitations, merely provided as an outline for the students to "grow in many directions." Here it must be acknowledged that the initial inquiry into the students' experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese did look first to the "externals" and the "themes" that were recovered from the actual words in the conversations. Using a traditional, humanistic approach the experiences were examined to recover embedded meanings. That was the first step. However, in an attempt to move beyond those phenomenological ways of understanding, believed to be somewhat limited in what they could 23 reveal, deliberate efforts were made to re-visit the conversations to seek the spaces where new life for the Word could be generated (Jardine, 1992). It is this tension that propels the generativity of the Word - that makes education hopeful, that makes it possible. It is its love of this generativity and its longing to open up inquiry to such generativity that makes hermeneutics appear so negative in regard to certain forms of inquiry and discourse, (p. 126) The hermeneutic notion of understanding, according to Jardine (1992), "returns inquiry in education to the original, serious, and difficult interpretive play in which we live our lives together with children: it returns inquiry to the need and possibility of true conversation" (p. 125). The task of inquiry in education, he states, is not to dispel the tensions between illumination and concealment, but to live and speak from the spaces within them. So in this newly-created space, between illumination and concealment, I searched for a place to speak about the experiences of my students while studying Mandarin Chinese. Thus, two distinct movements were employed in this strategic writing-as-method of re-search. Through a rigorous process of re-visiting and re-constituting the conversations of students' experiences, the "field texts" were re-constructed as "research texts" as Clandinin & Connelly (1994) suggest: Field texts may consist of inviting, captivating family stories, conversations, and even dream texts. But researchers cannot stop there, because the task is to discover and construct meaning in those texts. Field texts need to be reconstructed as research texts, (p. 423) 24 In re-constituting the field texts into research texts, Clandinin & Connelly (1994) also suggest that the process of production that is re-constituted beyond re-covery, wil l be created by the writer's experience. The search for these patterns, narrative threads, tensions, and themes that constitute the inquiry that shapes field texts into research texts is created by the writer's experience, (p. 423) Culler's doubled notion of experience wherein "Experience is divided and deferred - already behind us as something to be recovered yet stil l before us as something to be produced" seemed an appropriate premise on which to enact this exploration of Canadian students' Mandarin Chinese experiences. In the first treatment of the lived experiences, stories were constituted from the conversations and embedded themes were uncovered. In the second treatment, new experiences were produced by the student and the researcher from those re-tellings of the students' experiences. The students' experiences were constituted and re-constituted many times over creating and re-creating new possibilities for understanding those experiences of what the study of Mandarin Chinese was like. The ways in which the students' experiences were treated in this report included both re-covery and a re-constitution of meaning, for this was the place that seemed to open the space in which to create multiple ways of understanding. The experiences of the students were explored both phenomenologically and hermeneutically. Both notions of experience were 25 applied. One approach did not seem to be better than the other. Rather, it was felt that both were very necessary in order to bring new insights and understandings to studying Mandarin Chinese in Brit ish Columbia. In the chapters that follow, chapters three, four and five, there wil l be two distinct but interconnected parts. Each section endeavours to explore the students' experiences based on Culler as explicated above. In the first part, the experiences of the students will unfold as narratives; as storied versions of the re-lived conversations that served to portray the lived stories of the students based upon their experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese. In the first re-telling of each conversation, themes wil l be uncovered as suggested by the students' own words. In the second part of those chapters, the words uttered in those conversations wil l be subsequently re-constituted and re-presented. The re-constitution of the experiences wil l take into account a wide variety of factors that have contributed to the ways that the students came to live with Mandarin Chinese language education and how new spaces were created through its place in their personal lives. Various contributing contexts (meta-narratives) wil l also be explored to encourage new ways to contemplate students' re-covered Mandarin Chinese experiences. At the same time, re-understanding the "grand narratives" of legitimation that surround this study calls out to be re-examined, for there are more and more questions of (dis)belief about what 26 reports such as this can really reveal. It behooves us to question the meta-stories of our times for their credibility is now being questioned; the meta-stories may no longer be credible (Lyotard, 1984) and this wil l also be acknowledged. Challenging the commonly-accepted and culturally-constructed beliefs that have come to be associated with learning a foreign language gives us the chance to re-think what it means to study Mandarin Chinese in Brit ish Columbia in the 1990's. It is felt that the objectives that have been allowed to dominate language education must be challenged for they are somewhat limited and narrow in scope. 27 Chapter Three In conversation with Tina Tina is one of the Caucasian Canadian students who shared her personal thoughts with me about her experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese. I have known Tina since she was seven years old, in grade two, when I was her music teacher. The following year she was a student in my own classroom for grade three and she participated in Mandarin Chinese studies from grade five through grade seven (1991-94). At the time of our conversation for this thesis, she was thirteen years old. A happy-go-lucky kind of person, I have seen Tina in situations with her peers, younger children, and adults, and she is rarely at a loss for words. Other teachers who have worked with Tina in the intermediate grades describe her as an average student in the academic subjects, who enjoys working with others and participating in public speaking. Tina does not regard herself as a "couch potato" who "just sits around." She describes herself as "perky and talkative," and says that she is the kind of person who "wants to go out and do things." Her sustained interest and enthusiasm for studying Mandarin Chinese seemed to reflect this outward nature of her personality. When Tina and I got together, I reminded her that our conversation should focus on the recollections of her experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese from the previous three years. However, I also pointed out that during our discussion, we might very well touch upon and explore other language experiences that she had had if it seemed to be related to her 28 Mandarin Chinese language studies. I informed her that I would be asking her some questions to which there were no specifically right or wrong answers and I further explained that the questions I would pose were intentionally open-ended so that she could share what she regarded as her most personal experiences to help me to understand what they meant for her. I encouraged her to speak freely for I wanted her to talk as much as she could about her experiences. To that invitation to talk as much as she wanted, Tina responded, "We might be here all day!" and we both laughed, for with this statement both Tina and I were acknowledging the fact that "talking" was something that she enjoyed doing very much! Thus began our conversation. I invited Tina to tell me about how she came to be interested in the study of Chinese in the first place* for I wanted to know about any previous experiences that she had had with Chinese people, language, and culture before her formal studies began. She said: I thought learning a different language(s) would be fun,...the Chinese are coming to dad has a whole bunch of Chinese friends and so does my mom so that we can kind of talk and my dad says it's really good....[there are] people around me, people at the school, around my place, like Simon [a fellow student], and others, they're all around me and in the school,....the people around me, there's a whole bunch of Chinese people, and I was kind of wondering what it would be like to learn Chinese....It [the opportunity to study Mandarin as a foreign language] came up and I took the chance. *To be accurate, it cannot be said that the decision to study Chinese in the first place was completely of Tina's own design. The decision to initiate this language program came from this teacher/researcher who then solicited the support of the administrative officer of the school and the local school district. 29 When Tina said, "I was kind of wondering what it would be like to learn Chinese," I sensed a similar spirit of questioning from her that seemed to match my own. We were both curious about studying Chinese in British Columbia in 1991, and we both willingly devoted our attention to it. Living in the Midst of Many Languages and Cultures I wanted to understand Tina's experiences of wondering more deeply as she thought about learning Chinese as a foreign language. She went on to tell me about some of the experiences that stood out in her mind when she had heard young children in her neighbourhood speaking languages other than English. I asked her to tell me about those experiences that she had had and how she came to wonder about those people and their languages and she said: how would they...? I was just wondering, I guess it's the same for English, like when you're a baby, you kind of grow up to learn the language, but [with] English [it] seems like a really easy language. But if you're Yugoslavian or something like that, something different [from English], you have to grow up to learn that language and it's kind of hard. I also asked her to tell me if she could recall other personal experiences that she had with different languages and she went on, "I do have other neighbours around me that speak Polish and I know a little bit of that now." I asked her to tell me about her experiences when she had heard these other languages, e.g., Polish, and she said, "...the people in my 30 complex [who] speak Polish are so young, they're only three, [I think] it's so neat for them to learn all those words in just three years." I continued by asking her to tell me about her experiences of hearing people speak Chinese in her neighbourhood. She answered, "It's a whole different sound....and there are words that sound the same, but [they] mean different things." Tina went on to tell me about how she had heard simple, monosyllabic sounds like "it" in both Japanese and in English and "wo" in Chinese and Japanese. The same sounds can be found in several languages at the same time, but they do not share anything else in common; the meanings are not the same and are not related in any way. The idea of similarity and difference at the same time seemed to impress her. As we explored the experiences that Tina had with other languages, her knowledge and understanding about the nature of language itself was presented. Born and raised in Brit ish Columbia as an English speaker, with English-speaking parents and grandparents, she thought that English must be the easiest language to learn. When she encountered young children speaking other languages, it seemed to impress her. She said, "It's so neat for them to learn all those words in just three years." She expressed admiration for the youngsters who were able to learn so many different words in "just three years," and it seemed to surprise her that this would be possible. 31 When Tina heard languages other than English, she seemed to regard the other languages as merely linguistic codes, in relation to the English that she knew. She did not appear to think that there might be something more involved. As we talked more about Tina's experiences with other languages, it gave me an opportunity to explore the prior knowledge and understanding of language learning that Tina had before studying Mandarin Chinese. And as we continued to talk about what her Mandarin Chinese experiences were like, I tried to uncover the underlying layers of meaning about her later language perceptions. The experiences that she had had with languages beyond English and French seemed to have left her with deep and lasting impressions. I wanted to know more about how Tina became so interested in studying Mandarin Chinese, in particular. She reminded me that when she was a student in my grade three class, at the time of the Chinese New Year celebrations, I had taught the class how to count to ten, in Cantonese. She said, "I still remember how to count to ten in Cantonese, you know. Remember you taught us that in grade three?" She proceeded to recite the numbers one to ten with great confidence, and without hesitation. In relating the above knowledge to me, four years later, Tina seemed still proud that she was able to recite those ten Cantonese numbers flawlessly and without faltering. Thinking back to that time that stood out so vividly for Tina, I recall that I had taught a brief lesson on counting the numbers one to ten in Cantonese, as I had always done in the past, to 32 supplement a class discussion of the Chinese New Year celebrations. I usually introduce the students to some of the typical Cantonese expressions of good wishes for the occasion and how to write some simple Chinese characters as well. Could it be from that single event, i.e., the first time Tina found she could be successful in saying words in another language, that that particular experience impressed her in such a way as to provide her with the incentive to pursue Chinese in the years that followed? It seems that from that introduction to how to count in Cantonese in grade three that Tina's journey into Chinese studies began. Using her previous experiences as a starting point, I continued to guide our discussion to find out if Tina's subsequent Mandarin Chinese language studies offered her any new insights or understandings about what it meant to personally experience a foreign language. Tina's curiosity about learning Chinese seemed to have been inspired by many different aspects of learning a foreign language. Some of the possible motivations are expressed in her first response above. She shared some of the experiences she had had of being with people she knew that already spoke Chinese; she said there were Chinese people all around her. There were friends of her father and her mother, and there were several of her classmates and some of the people in her neighbourhood. She said that there were many "people all around" her that were Chinese and she 33 thought it would be fun to talk to them in Chinese. She seemed to be interested in communicating with Chinese people, in Chinese. Studying Mandarin Chinese Opens a New World I asked her to tell me about her first experience in the Mandarin Chinese class. I wanted to know what it was like for her to be in the class knowing that some of her classmates already had some previous background knowledge about the language, but that she did not. She said: I remember when I first came [to the Chinese class] I was feeling nervous; some students already knew some Mandarin and I thought whoa!...but then again, it was kind of fun, like when I had the Japanese students I could talk [Japanese] and my mom wouldn't know what I was saying. Asking her to think about the beginning stages of her studies, she described her strong initial reaction to the Mandarin Chinese class with the word "whoa!" I think that in using the word "whoa," Tina seemed to be expressing the impact of how the sounds of Mandarin Chinese, for her, were so different from English; perhaps it also indicated that she was feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all. Her impression on that first day was one of awe and perhaps, inspiration. The initial sounds of Mandarin Chinese that Tina heard did not make any sense to her; the sounds themselves were probably meaningless and they caused her to stop. "Whoa," she said, here was something new, something she knew nothing about, "I thought it was going to be hard, but I 34 really wanted to try it." This first encounter in the Mandarin Chinese class confirmed for Tina that learning Mandarin Chinese was going to be somewhat of a challenge, but she wanted to try it nonetheless. The strange sounds that Tina heard in her first language class were little more than "non-sense," i.e., there was little sense to be made from the foreign sounds that she heard. Nevertheless, those initially strange sounds of the Mandarin Chinese language would soon become meaningful for her as a Mandarin Chinese language learner. We relived another experience that Tina recalled, from her first year of formal studies, that seemed to have to have left her with a similar impression. I asked her to tell me about some of the experiences that she felt had contributed to her positive attitude about her Mandarin Chinese studies. Without hesitation, she announced, "I was in a speaking competition." The speech competition was sponsored by the Mandarin Speaking Club at the University of British Columbia and invitations were extended to the three elementary schools that had Mandarin Chinese programs, as well as the local high schools. Students who were studying Mandarin Chinese language at the university also participated in the contest. Speakers presented their prepared speeches, were adjudicated, and prizes for participation were awarded to all. Three students from the 35 Meadowbrook program took part in this fieldtrip experience. Tina was one of those participants. The speeches for the contest were created in the following fashion. Each student composed a brief self-introduction that included many of the sentence patterns that we had practised in our lessons. To begin her speech, Tina greeted the audience, stated her name, age, grade and school. A description of her family followed that listed each member and one interesting fact about each person. To round out the presentation, Tina recited a prepared poem taken from one of our Chinese language textbooks. It was felt that the recitation of a poem would enable her to demonstrate her oral expertise by taking advantage of the natural singsong qualities of the Mandarin Chinese language itself. Tina's speech, is presented here textually as she recited it for the audience at that speech contest. Prepared in Hanyu Pinyin and English, it is included here to show the written form that was used in Tina's Mandarin Chinese class: Nimen hao. Hello everyone! Wo jiao Teleixi. My name is Tina. Wo jui sui, shang wu nianji. I am nine years old, in grade five. Wo zai Meadowbrook xiaoxue, xuexi. I am a student at Meadowbrook Elementary School. Wo jia you wu kou ren, you mama, baba, meimei, didi he wo. There are five people in my family, my mother, my father, a younger sister and a younger brother. Mama he baba meitian gongzuo. Mother and Father go to work everyday. Meimei shi xuesheng, shang san nianji. My younger sister is a student, in grade three. 36 Didi hai mei shang xue. My little brother doesn't go to school yet. Xianzai wo gei nimen nian yi shou shi jiao Chun You. Now I will recite a poem called Spring Outing: Chuntian daole, Spring is here Cao'er lu, hua'er hong, the grass is green, the flowers are red Hudie fei, xianniao jiao. butterflies fly, birdies sing Laoshi dai women qu chunyou, Teacher takes us out for a spring outing Women laidao gongyuan li, youde changger, When we got to the park, some students sang songs, Youde tiaowu, youde zhuo hudie, Some students danced and some others chased butterflies Dajia zhen kuaile! Everyone had a good time! Xiexie nimen lai ting wo de Zhongwen jiemu. Zai jian! Thank-you for listening to my speech. Bye-bye! The above is an example of how Tina mixed both English and Mandarin Chinese words together to create something new. I wanted Tina to share more of her thoughts about what she found so interesting about studying Mandarin Chinese and I asked her to talk about what her language studies were like, and if it were possible that her experiences were like anything else that she had done before. She suggested that Mandarin Chinese language study "seems really [like] exploring I guess." Trying to understand her experiences of exploration better, I asked her to describe what she meant by the term "exploring." She continued: it's somewhere you've never been before, and it's like over a mountain/giggle) like you're on this side and you have to go over that way and you want to accomplish it. I want to accomplish going to different're going into a whole new world; you're going into a whole different place and you have to learn a whole new've never learned it before; we had to do it from scratch. 37 With the language that Tina was using to describe her Mandarin Chinese experiences as a form of exploration, it struck me that she was likening her participation in the language class to a journey. She said, " it's somewhere you've never been before." There was an excitement to explore this language that in the beginning, was something of a mystery. E x p l o r i n g M a n d a r i n Chinese is like J o u r n e y i n g The sense of journeying came out early in our conversation when Tina said that studying Mandarin Chinese was like "going to explore new places and things." In describing her journey further, she used the metaphor of a mountain. Her words were: "'s like over a mountain, (giggle) like you're on this side and you have to go over that way and you want to accomplish it." For Tina, the mountain signified both an obstruction to her vision and a challenge that she wanted to overcome. Journeying over the mountain to get to the other side also seemed to represent an accomplishment that she regarded as worthwhile and one that she wanted to achieve. The mountain suggested the invisibility of the end of her journey but also represented the challenge to find out what lay on the other side. So in this, journeying for Tina was not one wherein the destination was pre-known, but at the same time it was something she wanted to reach. The journey was one in which she was not really sure what to expect and she was excited and open to the idea of exploring something that was new and unknown. 38 Tina's experiences in the Mandarin Chinese program were like, she said, exploring a "whole new world," one that was distinct and separate from an English-speaking Canadian one. Her desire to explore the "newness" of Chinese language and culture seemed to appeal to her very much in that it brought with it a sense of adventure to explore things unknown and unfamilar. Tina seemed to see exciting opportunities for herself as she experienced the new world of Chinese language and culture. The world that she seemed to be interested in "opening-up" was the one in which Chinese-speaking people and their culture were explored. Tina herself used the term" a whole new world" thereby implying something that was not familiar and not typical, in her eyes. The "whole new world" experiences Tina wanted to challenge herself with were ones that would involve the Chinese language and culture. She really wanted to explore "a whole new world" and "journey over the mountain." In the storied version of Tina's Mandarin Chinese experiences as a conversation presented above, the "essences" of her recovered experiences are uncovered as themes, already present and discovered in the course of our conversation. They were uncovered to get at a deeper understanding of the nature and meaning of her lived experiences. By accepting Tina's metaphor as sufficient for elucidating the "deep meaning" of her experiences, we would be allowing ourselves to fall back on traditional 39 humanistic assumptions in which the subject is posited as "an autonomous individual capable of full consciousness and endowed with a stable 'self " (Lather, 1991, p. 5). However, beyond uncovering the layers of meaning embedded in our conversations, there is something more to be explored and produced if the real objective is to inquire more deeply into students' experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese. Within the above re-presentation of the conversation with Tina, we have a site for exploring some of the underlying culturally-constructed assumptions that have allowed us to think of studying a foreign language in the ways that we do. To produce something "new" in the form of a "different textual representation" is a way of allowing a different form of hermeneutics to occur. Asking questions of meaning and social significance gives us an opportunity to envision a new and different understanding of the Mandarin Chinese experiences that were explored in this study. Revisiting the Conversation with Tina: Two themes Through a "re-visiting" and a "re-writing" of the discovered themes extracted from Tina's Mandarin Chinese experiences, I now seek to re-constitute those experiences by taking into account more of the multiplicities and tensions that helped to create the landscape in which Mandarin Chinese and this inquiry takes place. The first theme of studying Mandarin Chinese as a journey will be explored by "re-thinking" some of the connotations of journey. In theme two, the "hybridized 40 language" that we created in our Mandarin Chinese class will be examined via a re-visitation of Tina's speech. Theme One: Experiencing the Study of Mandarin Chinese as a Journey Tina used the metaphor of a journey to describe her experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese and she said it "seems really [like] exploring, I guess." She elaborated on this idea further by saying that it was like "going over a mountain, like you're on this side and you have to go over that way and you want to accomplish it." How did the study of Mandarin Chinese come to be viewed as a journey of exploration? In describing her experiences studying Mandarin Chinese, which for her was a foreign language, Tina said: "It's like you're on this side and you have to go over that way and you want to accomplish it." She seemed to have a specific destination in mind, somewhere that would signify the end of the journey. In fact, she even said that she wanted to travel to China some day. She said, "I really want to go to Japan or China, because everyone says it's really nice there. There are so many people that come from there, it seems really crowded, but in a way, it's like exploring." Tina appeared to regard her Mandarin Chinese studies as a means to achieve a particular end-result in the form of an "accomplishment." She wished to take a "journey" into the study of Mandarin Chinese that would allow her to reach her selected destination. Even though she could not see what lay on the other side of the mountain, she knew that she wanted to get 4 1 there. She saw her participation in the language study as a way to achieve that end. Studying Mandarin Chinese, understood in the way that Tina had been conditioned to understand it, was something that could be accomplished. The commonly-articulated goal of studying Chinese language and culture was believed to encompass the notion that specific skills and knowledge about Mandarin Chinese could be "mastered." The successful achievement of those goals would mean that the language learner and the program could then be deemed a success. Viewed in this way, the language study came to be seen as a curriculum of concrete knowledge that could be doled out to eagerly-awaiting minds, hungry for information about how to understand Mandarin Chinese. It was further believed that, given the necessary skills, students would be able to accomplish what the curriculum guide sets out for the program. This view of language learning seems to have been perpetuated in our school system by the popular notion that foreign language skills can be acquired by those who engage in language studies. Knowledge about how to speak the foreign language provides students with new opportunities, seen listed in curriculum guides as most useful for students' future career prospects and for those same students' potential contributions to our local economies. To answer the question, "Why teach modern languages to B.C. students?" the 1989 Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Guide states: 42 A rapidly shrinking world means that for British Columbians, language and cross-cultural communication skills are not only assets, but rather are critical elements in our economic competitiveness. (B.C. Ministry of Education, 1989, p. 7) Jardine (1992) explains how some of the motives for this kind of education may be somewhat narrow: could say that a predatory job market and adverse economic conditions have turned education more and more toward the development of "marketable skills" and away from a "liberal" education....It has turned toward the comparative security of self-possession (involved in the accumulation and securing of specific technical skills, intended to give one comparative control over one's place in the world, ways of "having command," not only over the world, but over one's self-understanding, e.g., "I can do this; I have these skills: I have mastered these techniques"), (p. 121) As the teacher who agreed to teach Mandarin Chinese to students as outlined in the Ministry of Education's Elementary Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Guide, I now see that I was quietly complicit in endorsing the study of this language for those same purposes. Yet at the same time, ever since I began the teaching of this language course, I have been questioning what specific outcomes are achieved in the study of Mandarin Chinese. This particular query haunted me for a very long time as I kept on pondering what it was that this language study accomplished. Something else that Tina told me she wanted to find out was how Chinese-speaking people might act differently from what she would expect, but she really did not know what the differences would be. She said, "...I would like to go to China and see how they act, not like [our] normal life, not 43 like [over] there. I'd like to see how they act the whole time, if they're really nice, would they really help you or [be] really kind of rowdy?" Chinese people and the way they might behave is something that Tina would like to look at. Attempts to try to understand the behaviours of others as objects is very much caught up in issues of ethnocentrism in which the "alien" is reduced to some culture-bound total vision (Chow, 1986). Is this the kind of exploring that we had in mind as educators when the program was initially conceived? Re-understanding journey-without-set-destination Tina's interpretation of a journey was but one way to interpret that concept. Are there not other ways to interpret the meaning of a journey, other kinds of journeys that could have been pursued? Sometimes journeys are taken to explore destinations, yet undetermined. A journey conceived in this way might not have a specific goal in mind when one sets out. If that were the kind of journey that Mandarin Chinese study entailed, then the experiences of the journey might evolve somewhat differently, less linearly, and more generatively. Is the study of a foreign language a straight path from point A to point B or does it involve more random exploration and creative wandering? Perhaps the study of Mandarin Chinese could reflect a different type of journey than the one described above: one that does not end at a pre-set destination. Other possibilities for interpreting "journeying" include 44 rambling, wandering, and roaming, to name a few. In this ongoing kind of journey, there might be opportunities for more exploration and processural learning. The study of Chinese as a foreign language could include the kind of learning that would stimulate and challenge multiple intelligences (e.g., interpersonal and intrapersonal) and not merely the linguistic and the logical. A different kind of journey would not necessarily reject the acquisition of specific language skills, but to accompany the "accumulation and securing of specific technical [i.e., language] skills" (Jardine, 1992), we as educators might promote new ways of thinking about what it means to learn a new language and in doing so, explore broader contexts for re-understanding the intents and purposes of language education. Writing about "multiplying intelligences and opportunities" for our students, Willinsky (1995) encourages educators to "expand the range of ways in which students engage the world, while shying away from imagining children as housing one or multiple intelligences." Studying Mandarin Chinese could offer us this kind of space if we conceive of the "journey" differently. Theme Two: A Hybrid Language at the Speech Contest Looking back at Tina's speech as it was re-presented previously in this chapter, one will notice that the speech was written in Pinyin and English. Pinyin is the form of "Chinese" text that Tina used and the 45 English meaning of her words are included in the speech at the same time. Can the written representation of Tina's speech be considered as Mandarin Chinese? How shall we understand the text of Tina's speech? Before attempting to re-understand how the language in this speech can be called "Mandarin Chinese," it might be useful at this point to reiterate the research question that guides this thesis. This inquiry has been contemplating what it was like for Canadian students to experience studying Mandarin Chinese. Re-visiting Tina's speech provides us with an opportunity to explore by questioning what it was like to experience Mandarin Chinese that came into being in the space between English and Chinese. This "new" language was created as an approach for English-speakers to explore the foreign language of Chinese. The speech became, as Tina was becoming, something new, not easily recognizable as one language or another. The language in the speech is a hybridized form that combined elements of both English and Chinese languages and cultures. The new language was not created from just one language, nor out of the other; it was created out of both languages. Neither was it a simple juxtaposition of the two languages, separate and distinct. Rather, it was created from both languages, not bound together and not separately isolated. It was something newly created and brought to life in that space 46 between two cultures and two languages. What was the language of Tina's speech that was created in the elementary Mandarin Chinese program? The speech was not written wholly in Chinese nor was it written wholly in English. How did this newly-produced language qualify as Chinese? Perhaps it has to be acknowledged first and foremost, that the language in Tina's speech does not conform to any pre-conceived notion of what Chinese script looks like. And just what are the generally accepted truths that serve to define the Chinese language? Our late twentieth century understandings of language have been informed in many ways by Saussure and his broadly-accepted work in which he acknowledges the existence of ideographic writing systems such as Chinese, yet goes on to base his "course in general linguistics" on the more commonly-encountered phonetic systems (Chow, 1986). Does that imply that only phonetic systems are recognized as having merit? The Pinyin system that was used in Tina's speech is also a phonetic system, one not entirely unlike the systems that utilize the Roman alphabet, but entirely unlike the ideographic writing system that we have come to recognize as written Chinese in the form of characters. By utilizing the phonetic system instead of the ideographic one to introduce Mandarin Chinese to my students, was I also complying with the de-valuation of written systems that do not employ the phonetic systems that are based on the Western system of writing? 47 Chinese characters are absent from the written form of Tina's speech. As mentioned earlier, the written speech is not recognizable to the eye as being written in Chinese. Learning to read and write Chinese characters, as understood in the traditional sense, is probably the most challenging aspect of learning that language. It requires the application of skills and strategies that may or may not have been developed in the acquisition of English as a first language. Each character, composed of an intricate set of strokes that must be executed in a specific order, challenges not only the learners' visual memory but their rote-learning strategies as well. Russell (1995), in his study about the teaching of Japanese kanji to Canadian English-speaking students, labels the character-memorizing/learning process a "paint-by-number nightmare," and believes that it is strictly through rote processes that students in Japan apply themselves to learn several thousands of the kanji, i.e., Chinese characters, in their schooling. Describing the character learning process as daunting is on all counts, a gross understatement. Character reading and writing is included in the Mandarin Chinese program; however, as specified in the Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Guide, only a small number of characters are introduced in the early stages. It cannot be argued that Tina's speech is not considered to be written in traditional "Chinese," i.e., with Chinese characters. Can the newly-created hybrid form of text then qualify as an acceptable form of written Chinese language? Who will be the judge in this contest? 48 The themes presented above are re-constitutions of Tina's Mandarin Chinese experiences that she recovered in our conversation about what it was like for her to experience studying Mandarin Chinese. The re-constitution of meaning grew out of Tina's personal re-called experiences and were influenced by the socially-constructed contexts in which she lived. The re-constituted re-presentations of her experiences are an attempt to explore new ways of interpreting her experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese. In the spaces between Chinese characters and English Tina's reading and writing of Mandarin Chinese began with texts transcribed in Hanyu Pinyin, and did not include Chinese characters. Reading and writing Chinese as it was realized in our elemenatary Mandarin Chinese classes might be classified by the Chinese purists as unacceptable in its "non-traditional" textuality, but this was the language between English and Chinese characters that the Mandarin Chinese language student was exposed to. Interestingly, pinyin is also the approach used for teaching young children Mandarin Chinese in China, before Chinese characters are introduced. In British Columbia, students began their study of Mandarin Chinese using the phonetic system known as Hanyu Pinyin (also referred to as Pinyin only) that utilizes the Western alphabet. With this system, English-speaking students can quickly decode the foreign sounds of 49 Mandarin Chinese by learning the appropriate sounds that correspond to specific consonants, vowels and their combinations. With the inclusion (or exclusion) of Chinese characters in the course, what knowledge and understandings of Chinese language are we imparting to our students and for what purposes? How will the students in British Columbia be able to utilize their Mandarin Chinese knowledge and skills and in what contexts? We had to experiment with new ways of understanding how to approach a foreign language. Reading Chinese by using only characters would have been too difficult given our time constraints. The lived world of Mandarin Chinese in the elementary school timetable, did not allow this to happen. So, between the languages of English and Mandarin Chinese there was a space for something new to evolve. Chinese language teachers in this province have been known to advocate for Mandarin Chinese studies as a means to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to understand the language when they hear it spoken, to be able to read and write Chinese (characters), and to be able to use Mandarin Chinese for the purposes of communication with Mandarin Chinese speakers. Is the inclusion of Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language study in our B.C. schools, then, envisioned as a way to assist our Canadian students to become proficient readers, writers and speakers of Chinese in order to broaden their future career opportunities so that they will be able to contribute to a prosperous and sustainable economy? 50 Or, is the experience and study of a foreign language and culture included in our intermediate students' education aimed at achieving other goals? Perhaps second/foreign language studies are being promoted as a means to develop tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of our nation's multicultural differences. With this intention, the study of Mandarin Chinese could provide useful opportunities for students to gain insights into their own culture, and encourage the development of intracultural sensitivities towards others. If foreign language studies are not designed to meet some of the above objectives, then what other possible outcomes can be accomplished by studying a foreign language such as Mandarin Chinese in British Columbia? 51 Chapter Four In conversation with Caroline A conversation with Caroline about her experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese had to begin with Caroline's personal background as a Chinese Canadian. Born in Canada to Taiwanese parents, she has been attending Canadian schools all of her life. While she was in elementary school, she also attended Chinese classes after school every Friday, to study Mandarin Chinese formally with other Chinese Canadian children. A conversation with Caroline is rich for exploring Mandarin Chinese experiences as a Chinese Canadian student with a distinct Chinese Canadian background. Caroline has always been a good student in all subject areas. Other teachers who have worked with her usually describe her as both conscientious and diligent, achieving very good results. I first met Caroline when she arrived as a new student in my grade four class in September, 1990. At that time, she was eight years old; at the time of this conversation she was thirteen. Caroline had had previous exposure to Mandarin Chinese both formally, in after-school sessions at Chinese school, and informally with her family in their home. Living in British Columbia she lived with two languages, both very much a part of who she was. I describe her as a language learner whose cultural identity was situated somewhere between 52 the English and Chinese languages and cultures; experiencing both, she lived her daily life in this kind of hybridized space. I ensured Caroline that there were no specifically right or wrong answers to the questions that I would be posing, and that my main interest was to understand more fully what the experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese were like for her. In the course of our conversation, she appeared to contemplate the topics that I brought forward with care as she took time to ponder what aspects of her experiences she wanted to share with me. With this conversation, I wanted to get a better sense of what it meant for Caroline to study Mandarin Chinese as a Chinese Canadian within the Canadian school context, and to explore her experiences through the themes that evolved. Caroline's story was felt to be significant for the potential it offered this researcher to explore her Mandarin Chinese experiences in the space between two languages and cultures. I began by asking Caroline to tell me about the very beginning of her Chinese language experiences. She explained that she was not really sure which language she would classify as her first since she remembers learning both English and Mandarin Chinese at the same time when she was little. As a youngster, she was taught to speak English and Chinese in her home, and in grade two, she also began studying French at school. Speaking two languages at home and having experiences with languages other than English were very much a part of Caroline's early education. To 53 my invitation to talk about her first language experiences, specifically about Mandarin Chinese, her response was: I can't really remember, because my first language was Mandarin and English at the same time. I would talk with my parents and they really "forced" Mandarin in our family. They didn't really tell us to speak English. I got the impression from this that her parents were very interested in strengthening and maintaining their own heritage language and culture by encouraging (she used the word "forcing") their children to speak Mandarin Chinese in their home. Experiencing Mandarin Chinese as a "good" language She stated several times throughout our talk that she has always had the impression from her parents that speaking Mandarin Chinese was very important. She said: My parents really wanted us to have a "good" language; to speak another language [other than English], to make sure that I would know how to speak a "good" language. They wanted me to speak Mandarin correctly, so they made sure that we spoke it at home....I have been speaking it with my parents since I was little. Elaborating on the concept of what she meant by "good" in describing her perceptions of the Mandarin Chinese language, Caroline proceeded to tell me a story about a friend of hers who had also learned Mandarin Chinese in his home setting. She said: ...well I know a person, I have a friend and he knows Mandarin, but he doesn't pronounce it very correctly and his family doesn't really force it. His parents know how to speak both Mandarin and Cantonese but my friend does not speak Cantonese, his parents do. 54 They all speak English as well...I don't know which language he spoke first, it could have been English, or Mandarin, or maybe he had's like he doesn't know a lot of things...when he says stuff, it doesn't really make sense... not in English, but it's like something he is trying to explain [in Mandarin], he doesn't really get it right...but that happens to me sometimes too....You see my cousin and my brother have both studied Mandarin at university, speaking and linguistics, and their Mandarin is very good. As Caroline shared these particular stories of her experiences of hearing others speaking Mandarin Chinese, she seemed to be of the opinion that the study of a language should provide the learner with specific skills and knowledge of that particular language. It followed in her mind that this knowledge, if applied correctly, should help the speaker be successfully understood by other speakers of that same language. Her brother and her cousin had formally studied the language, at a well-respected institution, and they "speak very well," she said. Her friend, on the other hand, perhaps, did not receive adequate formal instruction and, as a result, was not as successful at expressing himself in Mandarin Chinese. Ultimately, it seemed that Caroline was not really sure what to attribute this to, yet she maintained that there must have been some gaps in the language learning process that her friend had experienced. As Caroline was telling me the story about her friend, it reminded me of my own early experiences of speaking Cantonese and the times that I had stumbled embarrassingly in my own struggles to speak each word "correctly." The utmost care and attention must be applied when speaking each and every syllable in Chinese, for if an incorrect tone is applied to a word, then it very often takes on a completely different meaning from the one intended. This is the precision that is involved in speaking a tonal 55 language, such as Chinese. And as I have heard so many Chinese elders grumble in the past, "If you cannot say the words correctly, then perhaps you should not attempt it, for what is being said, is very difficult to comprehend." The importance of speaking Chinese accurately by applying the correct tones, cannot be overstated. It is imperative, if one desires to be successfully understood. Caroline said that it seemed important to her parents that she "speak Mandarin Chinese correctly," and that her parents really wanted her to have a "good" language. They wanted her to speak another language, in addition to English and to make sure that she would know how to speak a "good" language. Perhaps another way of interpreting what Caroline's parents said was that they wanted her to speak the language accurately, and well. Her friend, on the other hand, seemed not to have been successful, possibly for the reasons as outlined above. Having established Caroline's early language experiences, I invited her to tell me next about other Mandarin Chinese experiences that stood out in her mind, and to explain for me what they were like for her. She told me that she wanted to continue with more Mandarin Chinese studies in the future, at university if possible, and she said: I would like to take more Mandarin studies, and at university, if I can get in, I want to finish the language program [learning Mandarin]. I want to know a lot of Mandarin, how to speak better, to read and write it; to get better at it, to improve... 56 The value that Caroline placed bn speaking Mandarin Chinese seemed to be a direct reflection of her parents' influence and beliefs. By speaking both Mandarin Chinese and English in the home and enrolling Caroline in an after-school Mandarin Chinese program, it seemed to demonstrate that her parents wanted Mandarin Chinese to be a vibrant part of Caroline's education and cultural legacy. When the opportunity to study Mandarin Chinese within the school timetable arose, reinforcement was given yet again, by another agency that validated this particular language study to both Caroline and her parents. By taking up the Ministry of Education's challenge of establishing Mandarin Chinese language education in our public school setting, I must have also been complicit in endorsing it as a worthwhile choice for Caroline and the others who wanted to study it. I believed that by engaging my non-Chinese-speaking students in Mandarin Chinese language studies, I would be offering something not only novel, but educationally enriching as well. I thought that it was a "good" idea, and a "good" language, as did Caroline. Experiencing Mandarin Chinese as a novelty As a speaker of Chinese who conversed daily with her family in both Mandarin Chinese and English, one might think that studying beginners' Mandarin Chinese with her peers who have had far less exposure to the Chinese language and culture would have been somewhat boring or uninteresting for Caroline. However, this does not appear to have been the 57 case. As we talked about our times in the Mandarin Chinese class together, Caroline remained positive about her experiences throughout. She never complained about not learning anything new, nor did she ever state that the content was boring or too simple for her. It is possible that her positive attitudes toward studying Chinese reflected the fact that it was a matter of choice for her. Chinese study was not imposed on the students; it was very much a matter of choice. Additionally, her attitude may have been influenced by the fact that the program was supported by her parents and the school administration. We both laughed about a few incidents that she fondly recalled. I asked her to tell me what it was like for her to experience studying Mandarin Chinese and she said: It was actually quite fun, because you had friends there, [you] speak a different language, it's fun there. We learn Mandarin, it's a language and it's Chinese and you get to do some things there like write [Chinese characters] and speak, and go on field trips sometimes. The writing part of the program, calligraphy, was fun, it's like art. We watched the videos, sang songs.... Later on, while recalling some of the more memorable events of her studies she said, " get to eat, you get red envelopes (na hong bao), get candies, get Chinese paper money; it's just a different cultural thing, different from French." We explored the idea that she was a member of only a small group of students who studied Chinese and that many of her classmates in her homeroom class did not. We talked about the times when the Chinese 58 students were in their homeroom class with their classmates that were not participating in Chinese studies and sometimes students from the Mandarin Chinese class would sing or say things in Mandarin Chinese and the class would laugh. She recalls that people who didn't study Mandarin Chinese would laugh as well as the Chinese students. I wanted to know how she experienced the laughter by the others. She said,"...even people who were not taking Mandarin Chinese would laugh and they would even start to sing too...I think they were all laughing and feeling good about it." I have the impression that Caroline's recollection of those moments in her homeroom class were positive because as she related this story to me she giggled about it as she was telling me the story. We speculated about some of the possible reasons that other non-native-speaking students in the program might have had in mind as they chose to study Chinese as an entirely "foreign" language study and Caroline started to tell me about two of her non-Chinese classmates whose parents were very supportive of the program. The favourable endorsement of the Mandarin Chinese program by these particular students' parents may very well have contributed to how the students themselves came to cultivate their own positive attitudes and enthusiasm for learning Mandarin Chinese. She felt that the Chinese experience for these students was very much, ...a privilege to speak a different language...they want to see what it is like; they have experienced French and most people I know, they want to banish the language, and by that I mean, to get rid of the language, to put it in a hole and cover it up! 59 I was struck by Caroline's extremely strong sentiments that were expressed in this utterance. In it, she disclosed a desire "to banish the language [of French]" and to get rid of the language; she suggested that it should be put in a hole and covered up! By endorsing a new language study option for our students, instead of French, how unwittingly do we pit one language against another? An exploration of this idea will be developed more fully in the "re-visiting" part of this chapter. Studying Mandarin Chinese is experiencing "a different cultural thing" I wanted to know more about how Caroline came to understand her studies in Mandarin Chinese as being so different from her French language experiences at school. We explored this idea by talking about her studies of French that took place concurrently with her studies of Mandarin Chinese. She said: French... I never had stuff like eating French food, or [experiencing] festivals....I had a video about Quebec and France and Monaco, but they wouldn't do any of them, they would never do any of those things, e.g., eat toffees, or maple syrup on the snow. But in Mandarin, we would see them on the tv [video] and the next time we would eat them. For example, at the Chinese New Year, we would eat them [e.g., significant foods related to the celebrations, e.g., dumplings, candies, sticky rice, etc.]. We got to do more than just reading and writing. You get to watch videos, play games, talk in front of the class; but in French you don't do any of them. In the above explanation, Caroline uncovered more of her personal perceptions of what was significant for her in the study of another language and culture. A dominant belief that she seemed to hold was that in studying a language, the language classroom should include a broad range of activities. She specifically stated that her Mandarin Chinese experiences 60 were not just about "reading and writing," but involved much more than that. She believed that it was important to develop her skills in these two areas beyond the level which she had achieved to this point. I continued to question what Mandarin Chinese language education, in British Columbia, was really about. Revisiting the Conversation with Caroline: Three themes Re-visiting the conversation with Caroline contemplates three themes. The first theme explores Caroline's consideration of Mandarin Chinese study as something more than just learning how to speak a new language. It was introduced by Caroline herself as she recalled the wide variety of activities that served to make up her memories of studying Mandarin Chinese. Secondly, a re-presentation of Caroline's perceptions about what it meant to her to be able to read and write Chinese leads us to a new space to explore how we have come to understand this idea in the western world. In the third theme, the value that Caroline placed on the specific study of Mandarin Chinese as a whole will be examined. Theme One: Studying a language is more than just speaking As Caroline talked about what her Mandarin Chinese experiences were like, she said: It was actually quite fun, because you had friends there, [you] speak a different language, it's fun there. We learn Mandarin, it's a language and it's Chinese and you get to do some things there like write [Chinese characters] and speak, and go on field trips sometimes. The writing part of the program, calligraphy, was fun, it's like art, We watched the videos, sang songs... 61 Buttjes & Byram (1991) in Mediating Languages and Cultures, state that, "A lot more is involved in language teaching than a mere exchange of linguistic labels; subjective experience and personal identity are at stake" (p. 8). Caroline's comments, as re-stated above, seem to support Buttjes and Byram's premise. However, as a young adolescent of only thirteen years, it does not seem likely that Caroline herself was aware of just how much more than "the labels" of the new language, was involved in learning a new language. What Caroline did articulate was that her experiences in the Mandarin Chinese class included more than just learning how to read and write. She recalled many of the cultural activities and contexts that she had experienced. "In engaging in language, speakers are enacting sociocultural phenomena; in acquiring language, children acquire culture" (Buttjes & Byram, 1991, p. 18). Perhaps, as with Tina, Caroline may have been naively led to believe that "culture" was something that could be possessed, and once we had "experienced" each new cultural activity, we would then be able to claim that we had acquired a discrete understanding of that particular concept. What is this concept of culture that Caroline and her classmates acquired in their study of Mandarin Chinese? Bisoondath (1994) writes about the notion of culture as commodity, "as a thing that can be displayed, performed, admired, bought, sold or forgotten. It represents a devaluation of culture, its reduction to bauble and kitsch" (p. 83). This brand of culture 62 presented at so many ethnic and multicultural festivals, he labels as "Culture Disneyfied." Aoki (1993,1990) further labels the kind of culture that has been included in much of our multiculturally-conceived curricula to date as "multicultural curricula a la museum" or, curricula embedded in the "museum approach." However, he acknowledges that this form of multicultural thinking "has helped us in moving beyond the hold of the monocultural/monolingual and bicultural/bilingual," and "by opening up into the world of multiplicity and heterogeneity, we have sensed beginnings of cracks in the vertical edifice of homogeneity" (1990, p. 1). Later on, while Caroline continued to recall some of the memorable events of her studies, she said, " get to eat, you get red envelopes (na hong bao), get candies, get Chinese paper money; it's just a different cultural thing, different from French." Studying Mandarin Chinese for Caroline came to be associated with doing a variety of different things; it was no mere language study. She did not recall textbooks, speech exercises nor language drill activities in our conversation. Rather, what seemed to stand out for Caroline were the memories of actively experiencing Chinese cultural events. The exposure to Chinese language and culture that Caroline experienced in school was perceived to be very different from her experiences in French. Studying Mandarin Chinese as a language study was far more for Caroline than a language system to be explained. It seemed to come alive for her as "culture in motion" (Savignon, 1983), and it provided Caroline with opportunities to reach out to others across cultural and linguistic boundaries. 63 Most teachers consider that language learning has a wide range of aims, including "creating tolerance of and insight into other cultures, but how these aims are realized in daily practice remains unclear" (Buttjes and Byram, 1991, p. 104). As a teacher of the Mandarin Chinese program, I now ponder and have begun to think more critically about the kinds of knowledge that I had shared with my students. Foreign language education, as we have been conditioned to understand it, is first and foremost a language study, yet cultural activities are also included. With cultural activities, as it is stated over and over again in curriculum guides and in various language syllabi, there is a strong belief and commonly-held assumption that we are offering to our students an opportunity to experience "other" culture(s), first-hand. I now wonder about how involving my students to "look at" those things that I have come to accept as "Chinese culture," can be much more than a superficial "magic-carpet-ride-to-another-culture" (Robinson, 1981). Theme Two: Being able to read and write Chinese Caroline and I talked about her cultural background and the experiences with Mandarin Chinese that she had outside of school and she said that even though she had received instruction and had various opportunities to practise using the language, "...well, I still don't think my Chinese is good enough, because I can't read or write a lot." With this statement, Caroline seemed to be implying that she felt that she was not very competent in Chinese because she perceived her abilities in reading 64 and writing to be quite low. Did this mean that her achievements as a result of studying Chinese Mandarin were not very good? What does it mean to be able to read and write Chinese? What did it mean to Caroline at the time of this conversation and what did it mean to the teacher of the program? An exploration of what this meant to Caroline in this dialogue cannot stand alone and isolated from the larger context in which it is embedded. It must be viewed along with my own perceptions of reading and writing Chinese as the teacher who conceived and constituted this particular program of experiences. My own notions of reading and writing Chinese have no doubt influenced the ways that I chose to structure those instructional experiences that I, in turn, enacted with my students. Being able to read and write Chinese has traditionally been understood as having the ability to recognize and reproduce Chinese script in the form of characters. However, from my experiences as an English-speaking Canadian student of Mandarin Chinese myself, I know that to read Chinese characters requires the application of some entirely new skills and strategies that may not necessarily have been developed in the acquisition of other first languages such as English. Learning to read and write Chinese (characters) is for many students who study Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language, the most challenging aspect of learning this language. The basic concept of how the characters have evolved from 65 ancient pictographs, and ideographs, is introduced very early to beginning students of Mandarin Chinese, but to become functionally "literate" in reading and writing Chinese characters demands much more time and effort than can be realistically allotted in our elementary language programs. What, then, are the main goals and objectives that would be reasonable for teachers to expect our Canadian students to "accomplish?" Caroline seemed to believe that much more reading and writing should be included, but in so claiming, she presents us with a challenging proposition. On the one hand, she said, the study of Mandarin Chinese involves so much more than just reading, writing and speaking, yet at the same time, she expressed there was some value in acquiring specific literacy skills. These she presented as some of her expectations of experiencing a language study. What begins to become apparent in this analysis of what it means to read and write Chinese for Caroline and for me is that, as two separate individuals, we seemed to understand the concept of reading and writing, very differently. Caroline said, "I can't read or write a lot," and she said that she definitely wanted to learn "more" and that she wanted to "improve" and "get better" in these two areas. As she was a relative beginner of Mandarin Chinese who did not receive a very long period of instruction in terms of total hours spread out over three years, it did not really surprise me that Caroline wanted to learn more. I did not see this as 66 a negative outcome. Instead, I perceived her statement to indicate that, as a result of the initial exposure to reading and writing characters that we had in the program, she became more interested in furthering her understanding of Chinese characters; she was open to the idea of expanding her language studies in order to be able to read and write more characters. In the Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Guide (1989), the reading and writing of characters is defined by a specific number of characters for each level of the program. The guide specifically states as its linguistic goals and objectives, the following: By the end of the program, students, within the range of their linguistic and thematic experience, will have developed the following abilities: 1. Listening: understand basic spoken Mandarin 2. Speaking: participate in conversations 3. Reading: recognize 225 basic Chinese characters 4. Writing: write 225 basic Chinese characters It is not really surprising, then, that Caroline herself came to understand her abilities in the two areas of reading and writing were somewhat lacking. Perhaps she was not satisfied with the number of characters that she was able to read and write. It seemed that one of the ways that Caroline understood being successful in studying Mandarin Chinese was associated with acquiring skills that were measurable and demonstrable. As teachers and developers of Chinese language programs in British Columbia elementary schools, we should be re-examining and clarifying 67 what it means to read and write Chinese characters and what would be realistic and appropriate for our students to experience, living in British Columbia somewhere between English and Chinese languages and cultures. Theme Three: Speaking Mandarin Chinese as a "privilege" At several points throughout our conversation, Caroline's very personal biases about French and Mandarin Chinese language and culture were expressed. With the words she chose to describe her experiences in the two different language classes, it soon became apparent that she perceived Mandarin Chinese to be a worthwhile pursuit, whereas French, in her mind, was not. The statement that surprised me the most was the one in which she stated, "...most people I know, they want to banish the language [French], and by that I mean, to get rid of the language, to put it in a hole and cover it up!" Before engaging in this conversation with Caroline, I would not have been able to predict such a strong sentiment against the study of French. She referred to Mandarin Chinese as a "good" language, as did her parents. Speaking about her Mandarin Chinese experiences, she said, "It was actually quite fun, because you had friends there, [you] speak a different language, it's fun's just a different cultural thing, different from French." Additionally, when we talked about some of her classmates who were not of Chinese ancestry, her sentiments were that it was, "...a privilege to speak a different language...they want to see what it 68 is like." Reinforcing the notion of "privilege" was the fact that she was a member of only a small group of students who studied Mandarin Chinese and that many of her classmates in her homeroom class did not. From the beginning, the context in which Caroline lived out her Mandarin Chinese experiences was somewhat divisive in that it immediately set the students that participated in it apart from their peers. I wanted to believe that the students who participated in Mandarin Chinese studies were interested in the endeavour for the anticipated contribution that it would make to their global education, and that through the experience of this innovative language study, my pupils could become more open-minded world-citizens. It appears that I had allowed myself to believe in the rhetoric of the Ministry of Education's Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Guide and I had become involved with the teaching of Mandarin Chinese believing it to be a worthwhile endeavour. Of particular significance here is the following paragraph from the guide that answers the question: Why teach Mandarin Chinese to B.C. students? It states that: ...learning more about Chinese culture through the study of the language is valuable in Brit ish Columbia due to the large number of Chinese Canadians living in our province. We hope that one of the outcomes of the establishment of Mandarin Chinese language programs in Intermediate 1-4 wil l be an increased understanding and appreciation of the contributions made by Chinese Canadians to the multi-cultural mosaic of Brit ish Columbia. (B.C. Ministry of Education, 1989, p. 8) I see now that by highlighting the contributions of only Chinese Canadians and not mentioning "other" ethnic minorities and their 69 contributions, we should be questioning whether we are establishing new biases and binary distinctions rather than encouraging more "multi"-cultural appreciation and understanding. Perhaps the whole idea of foreign language study in this province, designed to provide a more multi-l ingual and multi-cultural opportunity for our students, is somewhat naively conceived. What appears to have been perpetuated, and brought out in Caroline's conversation, was merely another superficial propensity for bi-lingualism and bi-culturalism, in which two cultures and languages are endorsed. But in so doing, are we unintentionally excluding "other" Canadians, e.g., Japanese Canadians, German Canadians, etc., and their contributions and cultural presence? It would be difficult to blame Caroline for her naive mis-understandings about why Mandarin Chinese was a worthwhile language option as it was offered to Canadian students in the way that it was. Caroline lived with English and many other languages. She did not only dwell bilingually and biculturally, in-between two languages, but she lived amidst many, multiligual and multicultural contexts. Her personal reality not only had room for learning one or two "good" languages, but more as wel l . By allowing ourselves to be limited by the rhetoric of bilingualism and second language education, it appears that we have a long way to go to move beyond the understanding that language education in our schools comprises either one language study or another. This kind of thinking may 70 be dangerous in that it only promotes more binary logic and resists the creation of new spaces for developing more rich and varied language opportunities for our students. Mandarin Chinese may be a useful language to study in our schools in British Columbia, but we must be able to articulate an educationally-sound rationale more clearly with the belief that as a language study, students will benefit from the study in more ways than have been uncovered in this conversation with Caroline. 71 Chapter Five Conversations with Joanne, Lily and Nina In this chapter, the most salient themes from conversations with Joanne, Lily and Nina will be presented. All three students shared their very personal and unique motivations that led them to participate in Mandarin Chinese studies and we explored different ways to understand their individual experiences of studying this Asian language. All three constructed their understandings of the experiences as they contributed to their elementary school lives in British Columbia, within the larger context of their personal lives and identities. As in the previous two chapters, each student will first be introduced and portions of our conversation about studying Mandarin Chinese will be interpreted. Following the narratives of each conversation, they will be re-visited noting the themes that the narratives bring forth. In the theming, there will be an attempt to disclose the meta-stories which the students have come to accept as the culturally and socially-accepted "norms." Only a portion of the each student's conversation is presented in this chapter as each revealed only one theme sufficiently significant to include in this study. It should also be noted here that two of the three students presented in this chapter were extremely quiet individuals, one, in particular, 72 "painfully" so. It came as quite a surprise to me when the shyest child I have ever worked with actually approached me to be included in this study. Conversing with Joanne Joanne was the student who volunteered to participate in this project without any prompting from me. Due to her quiet nature, I had not originally planned to speak with her, but she decided to present herself at the meeting which I held to invite the students back to the school to discuss their participation in my study. She had heard from others in the group about my interest in having conversations with former Mandarin Chinese participants and when one of the students dropped out because she was moving to a new school, Joanne saw her opportunity to come to me. At that time, I advised the students that they should only volunteer if they felt comfortable enough to talk about their Mandarin Chinese language experiences. Joanne rarely chose to contribute to our class discussions but she seemed to get along well with her peers, had many friends, and demonstrated very satisfactory abilities on paper and pencil tests. These personal observations of mine were confirmed by her later teachers when she achieved much the same results from year to year while at our elementary school. It took much effort on my part to get her to open up with actual stories of her personal experiences, but what is presented here is interesting for revealing how she came to constitute what the study of Mandarin Chinese, as a new language study, personally meant to her. 73 Our conversation began with questions about Joanne's general background and language history as a Caucasian Canadian so that I could establish where she was coming from, both literally and figuratively. She was quick to respond with New Westminster as her birthplace, but hesitated for a moment when I asked her about the language that she learned first as a youngster. I asked if English was her first language and she paused and then responded, Well, kind of...when I was three I learned French from my grandparents that lived with me downstairs....after, they died so then my mom spoke French to me. All of my relatives are French, so I spoke with them as well...on the phone and when they came over. As she shared her experiences of speaking French with me, Joanne seemed proud of the fact that she was able to speak that language. For the very first time since I have known Joanne, I sensed a degree of confidence. She went on to say that she noticed she had a definite advantage when she began studying French at school in grade four. Speaking lots of languages, the more, the better Moving the conversation along so that we could begin talking about her Mandarin Chinese experiences, I asked her how she decided to take up the study of Mandarin. She replied, I wanted to learn another language and I wanted to learn Chinese. I guess I wanted to know what it would be like....I just wanted to keep learning something about another language. I would also like to learn German because my dad is German. I like to listen to people speaking other languages, I like to try speaking other languages, I like to help people understand. I want to be an interpreter when I 74 grow up. I do that for my sister sometimes, when people talk to me on the phone, I tell her what they're talking about. When I asked her about her thoughts about other languages, she said that she really wanted to know many different ones. This was something that was a personal endeavour. She did not seem motivated by the actions of her peers nor did it matter to her what others were pursuing. She knew that she herself was strongly motivated to study more foreign langauges, but she did not think less of those that only speak English. "It's o.k. if people just speak English and it's also o.k. if people speak more than one language." In her remarks, the question that arises for me is that of difference between monolinguality and multilinguality and monoculturalism and multiculturalism. I asked her to tell me about her experiences studying Mandarin Chinese and she said, "It's kind of easy to say the words, but it is hard to write. The characters are the hard part." I wondered if it was like anything else she had ever experienced and she shared these thoughts: It's like any other thing that you learn, learning something new, like skating, or swimming. They teach you something you didn't know, you try it and you learn. In Mandarin, you are taught something, you say it, you learn it. It's not a big deal, it's not uncomfortable, it is not a struggle. It doesn't matter it you get it wrong, or if others laugh, I just do it. I want to learn it....I like the different parts of learning Mandarin, the words, participating in the activities, everything. For the most part, Joanne seemed to have an interest in learning languages in general. At one point she told me that she wanted to know "lots" of different languages, more than four or five, she said. It did not 75 seem to make much difference which languages she studied, as long as she was able to learn many. Are the ways that Joanne understood language learning, more multi-cultural in spirit and less restrictive than our narrowly conceived mono-linguistic and bi-lingualistic pursuits? Perhaps she has constructed an understanding of language learning differently from the others. The ways in which Joanne had constituted her desire to learn more languages so that she could communicate with others and perhaps become an interpreter one day, seem to reflect a more global interest in interacting with others. Such an interest on Joanne's part, reminds me of Savignon (1983), who stated: Learning to speak another's language means taking one's place in the human community. It means reaching out to others across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Language is far more than a system to be explained. It is our most important link to the world around us. Language is culture in motion. It is people interacting with people, (p. 187) Conversing with Lily Lily is a thirteen year old Chinese Canadian, who had studied Cantonese in Toronto, from the age of three, but recalls that she has always spoken both Cantonese and English with her parents in their home. In fact, she went on to say that she remembers speaking mostly English when she was little. When she moved to Vancouver as a kindergarten student, her Cantonese instruction continued every Saturday at the Chinese Cultural Center in Vancouver's Chinatown. At the time of this conversation, Lily told me that she was completing her last year of the Cantonese program and that she intended to enroll in a local after-school Mandarin program in Coquitlam the following year. 76 I have known Lily since she was eight years old as one of the students in a class of grade threes that I taught music. From grade five to grade seven she participated in the Mandarin program and she was in grade nine when we had our conversation. In the time that I have known Lily she has always achieved excellent results in all her school subjects and she is well-liked and respected by her peers and teachers alike. As she grew older her parents nurtured Lily's Cantonese skills further by insisting that she speak Cantonese with them at home. Lily laughed when she told me that her mother pretends not to understand what she is talking about if she speaks to her in English. Lily also noted that, although it seemed that her parents were quite strict about this, she herself realized that the benefit of speaking Cantonese with her parents helped her to maintain the level that she had already attained. She seemed to accept the fact that Cantonese was an integral part of her background and that she was able to use it very satisfactorily. She appeared to be equally at ease using either Cantonese and English, whichever was suitable for the purpose required. Because Lily had so much experience learning Cantonese, I wanted to find out if she had thought her Mandarin experiences would be similar to her experiences studying Cantonese. Lily stated that she saw Mandarin as an entirely different language from Cantonese and she thought that learning a new language would be fun. She had not thought that there was 77 going to be much overlap in the two languages; she felt that it would be a brand new experience for her. Lily did not think that her Cantonese experiences would contribute much to her Mandarin Chinese studies, except for reading characters. Other than that, she said that speaking the language was "totally different....Cantonese and Mandarin sound totally different from each other." She acknowledged that the characters were basically the same, but the sounds of the words would be different, so she had predicted that the act of speaking Mandarin was going to be the most interesting aspect of the course for her. I invited Lily to tell me about her very first experiences with Mandarin and she recalled "...learning words and singing songs." The most impressionable aspect of those first days in class were that the sounds were different from anything else she had ever heard. She also said that learning Mandarin was something like the learning she had experienced in her Cantonese classes, "...we learn new words, new words and we go over the words. The same thing happens in Cantonese class, we learn words." I wanted to know if there were other aspects of studying Mandarin Chinese that stood out for her and she said: I learned a lot, I learned the main conversations [introducing self, shopping, going to a restaurant, celebrating Chinese New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, counting, expressing likes and dislikes]; enough to be able to say a few things to my mom and brother .... Perhaps speaking Mandarin will help me in the future, in finding a job, speaking to new people. I still want to learn more. I 78 want to speak it fast, like the other people in Chinatown that I have heard. Learning the languages that others speak Lily thought that the experience of speaking another language, other than English, was mostly for fun; people enjoy it. "I want to learn lots and lots of languages, all countries' languages, I want to learn them. When I hear other people speaking other languages, I want to know what they are talking about." She has felt this way since about grade six, since she realized that there were so many people around her who spoke so many different languages. She would like to be able to understand others. Other language studies of interest for Lily are Japanese, and German. She also knew that she would have to concentrate on one language at a time in order to really learn it well. In total, Lily told me that she would like to learn from five to ten different languages! She told me about an experience that she had with people who spoke Chinese who came from Hong Kong. On one occasion, she asked them to tell her what a word that she did not know, meant. At first, the Chinese Cantonese speakers were surprised that she did not know the word in question and Lily said that she felt embarrassed. She said that after a while, she no longer asked for an explanation because she was too embarrassed to admit that she did not know the word. She said that others also questioned her ignorance and mockingly asked her if she was truly "Chinese." Lily told me that at that moment she thought to herself: "I 79 know I am Chinese and I know a lot of Chinese. I just want an answer, I just want to know." How did Lily come to value the study of Mandarin Chinese and other languages? At one level, experiencing language studies came to be understood as a commodity, as skills worth acquiring for their potential to help her to do well in the future, especially to secure a job. Additionally, there was something that Lily wanted to know about what "others" were saying. She did not come out and say so, yet it appeared that she did not want to be "left-out" by not being able to understand what other language-speakers were talking about. Conversing with Nina Nina was another Caucasian, born in B.C., who took part in Mandarin for three years. She was a student of my homeroom class in grade four, and she pursued the study of Mandarin with me as did the others, from grade five through seven. She acknowledged the fact that the idea of studying Chinese in the first place was really the result of my personal invitation to my own class of grade fours to participate in the program as an innovative foreign language study. She remembered that I had informed the class that there were very few schools offering Mandarin language study to Canadian students and that it was an exciting opportunity for us to pursue. It was further validated for Nina and her classmates in that it was endorsed by the provincial Ministry of Education 80 and our own school board and school administration. This was how it came to be viewed as an acceptable language study. Studying Mandarin Chinese was a good idea She said that she also became interested in studying Mandarin Chinese partly as a result of knowing so many Chinese people. It was something new and it was something that most people didn't get a chance to do, unless you were born in a country where they speak Chinese, or you have relatives or parents that speak Chinese. It was an elective, and I took it because I wanted to learn it. It was something different, something that was not offered in very many schools. The impression that Nina had of her Mandarin Chinese experiences were positive overall. She thought that she was good at it, so the study of this language was an important one for her: "It was quite easy to learn and I liked learning it. I'll always know the basics, that was pretty easy to learn....and to get into college, a second language is required." A second language, she said, would be useful in a career. Nina also participated in the Mandarin Speech Contest, as did Tina. Like Tina, Nina's accomplishment in that event was also deemed a success by her parents, herself and her teachers. As I recall, she spoke well and had diligently prepared for the big day. She spoke clearly, possessed confidence, and demonstrated a very genuine desire to do well in presenting her speech. Her aptitude, or perhaps it was her attitude, for learning Chinese, appeared to be very strong. The interest and enthusiasm that Nina brought to her studies of Chinese were very real. She told me 81 how she would study Chinese at home and it seemed quite important to her. She said: Kerrie and I practised together every night because I would be at her house everyday after school until about 8:00. We did that alot and that made a real difference. We practised a lot. I might not have done as well if not for my friend Kerrie. We met and saw other students who were learning Mandarin at the other schools; that was fun. We got to see other people who were also learning it. People who were not Chinese to start. It's not about taking tests, it's not about pressure and marks. I think that I can remember more without that pressure and the quizzes. We keep learning new stuff, not just reviewing the same stuff. Once again, as with Caroline, it appeared that studying Mandarin Chinese was perceived to be a novelty. Also, since Mandarin Chinese was an optional study that the student chose for themselves, the attitudes that she had about her studies from the very beginning were very positive. The ways in which Nina constituted understanding from her language experiences seemed to have much to do with the fact that her study of this particular language set her apart somehow from her peers and those that studied French. She even went as far as to say that she did not like the study of French, or anything "French." With that declaration, there seemed to be the hint of the idea that her not liking the French language or anything deemed "French" was something that she had heard from people around her, particularly her own family members. Her biases about that language may have been influenced by things that she heard others say in her home. Delving a little deeper into the idea of how French 82 came to be viewed so negatively by her parents revealed that their attitudes may have been the result of their own experiences when studying French in school. As with Caroline discussed in the previous chapter, it appears that Nina's experiences were also informed by her parents' attitudes. And although it may appear that the ways in which the students experienced their language studies were a reflection of their own personal attitude, it should be noted that the students' opinions probably had been influenced by the prior biases of their parents. The students portrayed in this chapter were all open to the idea that there were spaces for learning about new languages and cultures in their lives. However, in our western culture the dominant language is still considered to be English and that attitude appears to be entrenched. In Canada, and particularly in this province, British Columbia, English has rarely been questioned as the one-and-only language. The very legitimation of languages other than English, even French, seems to be a political act of liberalism. What we may be witnessing in this province is an extension of that legitimation process within the liberal scheme of tolerance. As such, many parents, students and administrators have come to see the study of Mandarin Chinese as only a novelty, an intriguing innovation, at best. It leads me to question once more if this is an appropriate climate in which to establish new language opportunities such as this. 83 Chapter Six - Revisiting the Study: Reflections of the Mandarin Program and on the Researcher's Experiences In this sixth chapter, a re-visitation of this study will be constituted as an opportunity to reflect on two different aspects of studying Mandarin Chinese in this province. In doing so, this chapter does not profess to offer any final or definitive conclusions, but instead, aims to elucidate more possibilites for re-understanding the experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese that were depicted in this thesis. At this stage of re-writing and re-visioning, experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese are explored once more. Reflections on the program will constitute the first part of this chapter. The program as planned by its curriculum developers and then as experienced by the students will both be re-presented. By re-visiting the early curriculum plans that informed the implementation of Mandarin Chinese in this study we have the chance to re-consider the preamble which introduced this language study. Following that, a re-visitation of the substance of the conversations in chapters three, four and five provides us with another opportunity to reflect upon various taken-for-granted notions of language, culture, and curriculum. The second part of this chapter will articulate reflections of my own experiences of doing the study as teacher/researcher which will then be 84 reconstituted to open up more spaces for re-understanding this study. By enunciating what it meant for me to research experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese at this particular time and place, my aim is to show that there is a space of ambivalence that can be explored between what is recovered from our lived experiences and what can be re-constituted from those lived experiences. As outlined in chapter two, this doubled notion of experience is based on Culler's belief that "Experience is divided and deferred" (1982). A similar premise developed by Denzin is also useful to remember here. He states: "Language and speech do not mirror experience; they create experience and in that process of creation, constantly transform and defer that which is being described" (1994, p. 296). From my experiences of doing this study, I will endeavour to show that in the process of creating this report, my understanding of the experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese was constantly being transformed and deferred. In the process of re-constituting my experiences I have been actively engaged in creating something new. I remain ever hopeful and open to the idea that in the space between naming and questioning this subject, I will create even more possibilities for re-understanding the place of this language study in our schools. 85 Reflections of the Mandarin Program What was the Mandarin program plan? In the beginning, teachers of Mandarin Chinese were given a provincially-developed Mandarin Chinese Curriculum Guide (B.C. Ministry of Education, 1989) that served as the program guide. That curriculum guide provided interested parties like myself, the whys and wherefores of the program, the rationale, and the program goals and objectives. It also provided page after page of lists of words, Chinese characters, and suggested language patterns, all embedded within suggested cultural contexts. The curriculum developers seemed to believe that the students who participated in the course would be better equipped to deal with the cultural, economic, and political challenges that would meet them in the twenty-first century. According to the curriculum plan that served to legitimate the program, the experience of Mandarin Chinese for Canadian students was supposed to meet a wide variety of attitudinal, cultural, developmental and linguistic objectives and outcomes. The curriculum guide lists these goals as follows: Attitudinal Goals The program will provide a context in which students may develop a greater awareness of Chinese speaking people throughout the world and a deeper appreciation of Mandarin Chinese and its contribution to the cultural diversity of the global community, (p. 15) Cultural Goals: The program will enable students to develop knowledge of the beliefs, behaviours and values of Chinese speaking peoples, and an 86 awareness of the unity and diversity of beliefs, behaviours, and values of the global community, (p. 16) Developmental Goals: The program will enable students to improve thinking skills and strategies for managing their own learning, (p. 19) Linguistic Goals: The program will enable students to develop a basic ability to communicate in Mandarin Chinese, (p. 21) However, in spite of the broad and all-encompassing range of goals listed for the program, the study of Mandarin Chinese has always been promoted solely as language study. By re-visiting some of the themes that were uncovered and discussed in the preceding three chapters, I will reflect upon and re-constitute them in an attempt to re-articulate some of the ways that the study of this particular language came to have meaning for the students in the context of this study. Students' lived experiences constituted new spaces One of the recurrent themes articulated by the students was that experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese were perceived to be novel and unique. Studying Mandarin Chinese, they said, was not like studying French at all, and the sounds of the new langugage did not come close to anything that they had ever heard before. It was exciting, like embarking on a sort of adventure, a "journey" to an undetermined destination. Tina, in particular, said that she really had no idea about what the study of Mandarin Chinese would be like but she knew that she wanted to do it and she likened it to the exploration of a whole new world. 87 There was excitement associated with the exploration of a new language and culture, the opening up of opportunities to communicate with others who spoke a language other than English or French. Many of the themes that the students uncovered brought out the idea of "newness" and "difference." The language sounded different from both English and French; Chinese customs and traditions were not like our Canadian ways; and writing Chinese characters and deciphering the Hanyu Pinyin phonetic system were both entirely novel systems of writing. Several students said that studying Mandarin Chinese was mostly about experiencing new things. The study of this language was viewed as a novelty and involved something more than just learning how to speak. Mandarin Chinese language studies were also memorable for the cultural activities experienced in the classes and these cultural contexts seemed to stand out most, in the students' memories. The metaphor of a journey was used by one participant to describe her experiences of studying Mandarin Chinese. The image of a mountain was used to describe a kind of obstruction that had to be overcome; it had to be surpassed to get to a place somewhere on the other side. In that depiction, there was a place that was desirable to reach; however, the student was not really sure what she would find there. Nevertheless, her journey, likened to an adventure, presented her with an exciting proposition. 88 In the re-constitutions of the students' lived experiences, new experiences were produced. Many of the students recognized that there were many languages and cultures present "all around us." Tina said that she admired those around her that could speak languages other than English and once she got the idea that it would be possible for her to communicate with people who spoke a different language, she was all for it. In what kind of context were Tina's experiences embedded? What allowed her to see the study of Mandarin Chinese as a space of opportunity? Tina and her classmates in this study seemed to dwell in a vibrant space between many cultures and languages. The students themselves said that they were excited about the prospects of experiencing novelty, and brought out the idea that they were interested in pursuing many different language opportunities. Living interlinguistically and interculturally between many languages and cultures, they were no longer limited by bilingual and bicultural modes of thinking. Kramsch (1993) describes this in-between space between languages and cultures as one that each individual must come to terms with in his/her own way. She states: At the intersection of multiple native and target cultures, the major task of language learners is to define for themselves what this "third place" that they have engaged in seeking will look like, whether they are conscious of it or not. Nobody, least of all the teacher, can tell them where that very personal place is; for each learner it will be differently located, and will make different sense at different times, (p. 257) 89 In this newly-created "third place" between languages and cultures, Kramsch suggests that language learners will create for themselves a very personalized and hybridized understanding of culture. From their experiences with a wide variety of languages and cultures, new experiences can be produced. Also writing about the location of this kind of hybrid culture, Bhabha (1994) asserts: ...that the theoretical recognition of the split-space of enunciation may open the way to conceptualizing an international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but on the inscription and articulation of culture's hybridity. To that end we should remember that it is the "inter" - the cutting edge of translation and negotiation, the in-between space - that carries the burden of the meaning of culture. It makes it possible to begin envisaging national, anti-nationalist histories of "the people." And by exploring this Third Space, we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of our selves, (p. 38) As Kramsch and Bhabha both suggest, in that newly-created space that emerges between languages and cultures is the location that carries the "burden of the meaning of culture." Bhabha further stipulates that in recognizing this in-between space, there are possibilities for moving beyond "the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures." The enunciative split, he suggests, between assertion and interrogation, which are only partial ways of understanding, is the space in which we can "emerge as the others of our selves" (ibid). 90 Recently, I was surprised to find the following story in a local community newspaper which seemed to address this very same notion, albeit in a different light. It was about an immigrant teen from Malaysia who described how she found herself living a hybrid existence in Coquitlam, B.C. Living in-between cultures, she did not know exactly where she belonged in the diverse Canadian mosaic. Her situation is described as living "in-difference" at her school, and was reported in the following way: ...with dark hair and almond eyes, she is often mistaken for what she dubs a "CBC" i.e., a Canadian Born Chinese. Chinese students at her school did not expect her to know how to speak Cantonese, while stereotyping led Caucasian students to be surprised at her English skills. She found herself in limbo and wonders where she belongs in the Canadian mosaic. "I'm stuck in the middle and I'm thinking to myself, who am I supposed to be? Does that mean I don't fit anywhere? (Bach, 1996) It appears that her "third space" between cultures is an uncomfortable one not only for herself, but also for those around her. Her question about "fitting-in" suggests that she is trapped by traditional notions of exoticism and difference. Her hybridized existence is questioned because she does not appear to "fit" the stereotype that has been imposed by the world she lives in. Trapped by binary logic, the girl in this story is limited by the boundaries imposed on her by stereotyping. To challenge this kind of binary logic as depicted in the story above, we need to encourage more creative ways to live between cultures, all the while creating ambivalent new spaces in which to dwell with others. 91 Living inter/culturally and intraculturally in British Columbia we have many opportunities for re-understanding our spaces in our continually-evolving Canadian culture. Using Hanyu Pinyin, English and Chinese characters to initiate the study of Mandarin Chinese for English-speaking Canadian students was one such way that emerged in that new space between languages and cultures. Reflecting on a newly created language As one reads the Pinyin transcriptions of the Mandarin dialect in Tina's speech, one might pause to ask, what is the language that Tina recited in her speech; is it really Chinese? One might further wonder where the Chinese characters were, for they were not brought out in this program. How could students speak and study Chinese if there are no Chinese characters? What was the language being taught in this Mandarin Chinese language course? As stated above, my students and I lived in an ambivalent space between English and Chinese languages and cultures. By living with both languages and cultures, and not allowing one to dominate over the other, something new evolved. The Hanyu Pinyin phonetic system was itself a newly-created language, having evolved as a written system that incorporated elements from both Mandarin Chinese and the Western alphabet. 92 Mao Zedong originally proposed the development of the pinyin system to enable non-native speakers of the Western world access to enter the world of Chinese language. He recognized the difficulties that were involved in mastering Chinese characters and two modifications to the Chinese written language resulted. In 1956 Mao instructed that written Chinese be reformed in the direction of adopting a phonetic alphabet that was common with the languages of the world. He also mandated that the complicated, traditional characters be simplified. The intentions of this reform were to help promote the development of culture and education in China and to make it easier for foreign learners to master the script. The pinyin written system was developed in China in the 1950's so that foreign learners would have an easier time learning Chinese. Utilizing that system, Canadian students in British Columbia were able to begin their studies of Mandarin Chinese fairly easily and with generally good results. However, living in English-speaking Canada where Mandarin is not an official language and is not being taught as a heritage language for ethnic Chinese children, a hybridized form of the Mandarin Chinese language had to be created. As developed in chapter three, English, and Hanyu Pinyin were blended together in Tina's speech to produce a new way for Canadian students to understand this foreign language. When Tina recited her speech to audiences that included both Mandarin Chinese students and speakers and non-Mandarin Chinese speakers and students, English had 93 to be included for meaning to be conveyed. Tina's speech would have been otherwise inaccessible to the majority of the staff and students at her school. In that speech, as in the Mandarin Chinese language classroom, various components of the English and Chinese languages were allowed to co-exist in a newly-created hybridized form. This turned out to be a realistic approach that produced tangible results for Canadian students who studied Mandarin Chinese in their Canadian school settings. Our engagement with the Chinese language in a Canadian context allowed us a place to experience a hybridized version of an age-old language. In doing so, students' experiences of studying the "new" language produced even more experiences, constituted in spaces of difference. Contemplating these newly-created spaces of difference will remain for me an invitation to re-search new ways to re-understand more experiences of studying Chinese. Reflections of the Researcher's Experiences The actual writing of this thesis posed challenge after challenge throughout the entire process of re-constituting the notions that were re-searched, re-visioned, re-written and re-presented here in this inquiry. As a graduate student/researcher/teacher attempting to understand a little more about teaching an Asian language as a modern language in these postmodern times, I lived amidst all of the in-between spaces fraught with tensions and differences. 94 Throughout the process of carrying out this inquiry, I have been like Tina in that I, too, have been on a journey. I have been exploring a whole new world, one with no pre-set destination. And I, too, have had to traverse over my own mountains-as-obstacles that I have encountered along the way. I didn't really know what to expect when I started out, but it sounded exciting, so I decided to "go for it," just as Tina did. Reflecting now on my journey, I know that I have come a long way, but alas, I still have far to go. In this moment of reflection I will re-visit the highlights of my journey and re-constitute what the experience of doing this study has come to mean for me. Without this kind of reflection, my inarticulated experiences would remain "raw" and would be less capable of informing and transforming my future thoughts and actions related to this topic. Clandinin and Connelly (1994), in writing about personal qualitative research methods, claim that "raw sensory experience" is next to meaningless, so, I take this re-search a few steps further in an effort to make sense of my experiences of doing this study. I will re-present here, just one more narrative, to describe my own experiences. In this very personal reflection, I will speak from that ambivalent space that privileges neither traditional humanistic notions, nor poststructuralist forms of deconstruction. Instead, I would like to try to understand the place that I inhabit between those conformist borders, that place that has not yet been named. 95 Like Trinh Minh-ha in Framer framed. I found myself continually "working at the borderlines of several shifting categories" (Trinh, 1992). The conformist categories and borderlines that seem to define my place are: Chinese Canadian, elementary school teacher, classroom teacher, elementary Mandarin "pioneer", modern language education graduate student, researcher, department-head, curriculum developer, Mandarin language committee member; the list is endless. And within each category and with each label, there are different expectations, struggles, and agendas. As I attempted to re-understand the place for making meaning from students' Mandarin Chinese experiences, it was from my own lived experiences within those shifting categories that the spaces for re-understanding this study were constituted. Informed by my pioneering role in establishing one of the early Mandarin Chinese in-school programs, my work with the Ministry of Education to prepare new curriculum documents such as the Integrated Resource Package for Chinese, my participation in the evaluation of curriculum documents, from my regular attendance at language conferences, and in collaboration with other Asian language teachers, members of diverse Chinese communities and my academic cohorts, I am sill left wondering where to find the place to make meaning of Mandarin Chinese language education. "I have to find a place for myself since I am at odds with all these categories of writings and modes of theorizing" (Trinh, p. 138). Here now, is my attempt to explore where it is that I find myself. 96 Wondering where to begin Almost from the beginning of my involvement with teaching Mandarin Chinese to Canadian students, I wondered about all that this language study would entail. I experienced excitement at the prospect of constituting something new, but at the same time I felt apprehensive about the "newness" of the innovation. I made the following entry in my personal journal upon return from my first Asian Language Teachers' Conference in 1991: Something is happening, I know, but exactly what it is, I am not sure. Studying Mandarin Chinese at the elementary school level is worth questioning; there is so much left unsaid at this point. I can not just sit back and accept the course of events as they unfold (and/or collapse), without looking into the process more deeply. This is definitely something that I feel compelled to do. (Researcher's Narrative, 1991) One full year later, after beginning a graduate student program at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Language Education focusing on Asia Pacific Studies and Modern Languages, I began to question a much broader aspect of teaching Mandarin Chinese in British Columbia. Once again, I wrote in my personal journal: What is Asia Pacific Language education? What is Mandarin Chinese language education? These are the critical concepts that I must understand before proceeding with the study. My specific research question and research approach cannot be developed until this is clarified. Where can I turn, to find the answers to guide my re-search? And just exactly what is it that I am "searching" and re-searching to find? (Researcher's Narrative, 1992) 97 After making the decision to dive head-first into exploring student experiences of Mandarin Chinese studies in a B.C. school, more questions surfaced. This next set of questions plagued me throughout my engagement with this study. I had questions about how to conduct a significant inquiry into the experiences of some of the students who were involved in the program. They revolved mostly around how to conduct the inquiry itself. No single research approach presented itself to me, nor was I able to stumble upon a specific methodology to follow, as a recipe, in the course of my actual coursework. The coursework, I thought, was meant to lead up to the actualization of a meaningful research project. The courses which I took in curriculum and instruction, second language acquisition, global education, even research methodology, provided me with numerous opportunities to think about my topic, but beyond that I was at a loss for what to do with the information that I had gathered about my topic. Clearly wanting to question the study of Chinese in a generative fashion, there was no singular nor eclectic approach that I could find that would allow me to explore the concept in that way. The dominant canons that I had been exposed to in my academic program did not open up a space in which to question matters; but pointed instead to more traditional modes of research that merely measured and/or evaluated outcomes, and accepted the modern humanistic subject as a totality, capable of understanding everything phenomenologically boiled down to their essences. This never 98 seemed quite sufficient for the kind of exploration that I wanted to undertake. Stumbling along the way I now see that the way in which the writing of this thesis evolved is very much a product of this stumbling-in-the-dark process that I had to experience first-hand, and mirrors the stumbling process that we seem to be going through in language education in this province. My struggles with how to explore my students' language experiences were directly related to my own experiences of struggling with how to write about those lived experiences in academic and political contexts that did not always support what I was about to present. Now, as this chapter is being written, many questions remain. I cannot claim that this is the end of this particular inquiry, for I do not believe that there is a point that is final in this endeavour. New questions have emerged. They have evolved from everything that has gone into this project thus far and are very different from the ones established at the outset. As in life, there are always more questions than there are answers. On the next stage of my journey I will endeavour to re-search more of what is happening under the auspices of Modern Languages education and I would like to discover new ways to go about exploring these issues. I look forward to the time when I will be able to have more conversations with informed and interested individuals to travel a little farther along the paths of this journey which I have only just begun. 99 In November 1994, upon return from the seventh annual Asian Language Teachers' Conference, I made the following journal entry: I find myself experiencing much less optimism than when I first began my involvement with teaching Mandarin, almost four years ago now. I feel frustrated, disappointed, disillusioned, annoyed, angry, betrayed, tired, and less-than-inspired by what I have heard and experienced at this year's conference. There appears to be a lack of direction and leadership that could help us to strengthen our programs and define our goals and objectives. We need to clarify these points so the public, our students and our colleagues could be convinced that offering Mandarin and Japanese language studies in our B.C. schools is in fact a good thing to do. Both praise and criticism have been recorded in the media and by the general public to date. (Researcher's narrative, 1994) Contemplating the initial question that guided this study, I think back to how my involvement with teaching Mandarin began. I have been living with this question and wrestling with this concept from the time that I initiated Mandarin Chinese as a course of study at my school. I felt compelled to share my experiences as a Mandarin Chinese pioneer with others as one of the means to find out if, indeed, this course of study was worthwhile (and of what worth) for its participants, both teachers and students alike. Thinking and re-thinking and writing and re-writing about Mandarin Chinese experiences in British Columbia schools is the process I chose to pursue and explore. An inability to outline more multi-purpose outcomes for the inclusion of this language, and others, in our schools, could result in the demise of any kind of future but one that is short-lived and only narrowly understood. 100 Asian language programs have been shifted from branch to branch of the Ministry of Education. Will we ever find a place to call home? Where do we "fit," and why do the "borderlines" continually shift? In the fall of 1994, Asian language programs were moved to the Social Equity Branch in the Ministry of Education. The branch is responsible for programs dealing with children "at-risk," we were told. Other programs included in this branch are ones that provided for the challenges of inner-city schools, such as establishing lunch programs, English as a second language programs, multicultural and racism concerns and national and international education. I wonder how learning a language other than English comes to be constituted as a program for children "at-risk?" Perhaps the placement (or displacement?) of language education in the branch of social equity is a fair indication that the Ministry of Education recognizes that we do not really "fit" easily under any one specific label. Rather, it is acknowledged that Modern Languages education is very much in a state of flux and cannot be pinned down. In this there is hope, for where there is movement, there are ever-changing spaces left to be explored. It would be much more disasterous if the place of studying Chinese was finalized with nothing more left to be said! Thankfully, there are spaces still left open to possibilities. 101 Where are we now and what are we doing? Living with many languages and cultural opportunities, we are in the midst of experiencing our own unique Third Spaces somewhere in-between all of the multiplicities that surround us. It is critical that this thought be acknowledged, that spaces be left open for students and teachers to explore and to find their own unique and personal Third Spaces to dwell less ambivalently, more attuned to a "restoring of life to its original difficulty" (Caputo, 1987). In these in-between spaces, so many new possibilities can be created. Isn't that more in keeping with how we could be living more generatively with our students in times to come? As we prepare with our students for the challenges of the twenty-first century, studying Chinese as a "modern language" provides us with an interesting, newly-constituted site somewhere in-between East and West. As responsible educators we can no longer ignore that somewhere within that in-between space our students are bound to meet multiplicities of differences. The exploration and experiencing of such places could be all-empowering, or all-debilitating. Kipling's proverb of "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," can no longer hold true in this time and place. Instead, we must remind our students and our colleagues that there are multiple possibilities that can be produced in the spaces between the languages and the cultures of the East and the West. Perhaps a more appropriate and 102 timely version of the East/West proverb that we should embrace is that "East is East and West is West, but somewhere the twain, must meet!" It is my hope that more students in this province are allowed to experience more of the in-between spaces, such as the study of foreign languages, that will nurture their interests to dwell generatively in those spaces of possibilities. How can there be anything else but that? 103 REFERENCES Aoki, T. (1994). Journalizing as writing/rewriting: Recovering and constituting meanings of lived experiences. 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