Sunday, November 25, 2007

Righteous indignation against the Economist

We've written about Ken Carroll's Chinesepod business before (and here). It's very interesting, well done and, as far as we can see, represents a novel take on technology and language teaching. Thanks to Fons Tuinstra, we see that Ken has started a blog and this post is a blast.

Like most of us, he holds the Economist in high esteem but takes them to task with great gusto over what he sees as a case of very sloppy reporting about Chinese teaching:

...this is probably the worst article I’ve ever read in the Economist. The writer seems to have put this together so quickly and superficially you have to wonder if he did it purely to fill a column space on a bad morning. As I said, I read and love the Economist, but this is appalling. Tell me this was written by an intern with a bad hangover, please!
The Economist article addresses what I think is an important topic: the value of the current "fad" (their word) for the teaching and learning of Mandarin/Putonghua. Read Ken's piece to find out what he thinks is the matter with the piece.

My concern focuses on the bad teaching of Chinese to unwilling kids by teachers whose main qualification is being Chinese. It's a reversal of the old problem with English-speaking
youngsters paying for their backpacking trips around the world by 'tutoring' English. Never has so much damage been done by so few...etc. If it's going to be done, it needs to be done much better and with much more careful thought.

It probably also needs to be done either much earlier or much later. Trying to drill 13 year old boys who are not interested in tones, China or Chinese must make for misery all round.

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