Massey-China language centre to drive Mandarin momentum

Guests at the launch(from left) Mr Tianshu Dong; Dr Michael Li; Dr Gillian Skyrme; Associate Professor Kerry Taylor (all from Massey University); Professor Zhang Baojun (BLCU); Stuart Morriss and Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley (Massey University); Ambassador Wang Lutong (Chinese Embassy); Professor Cui Xiliang (President BLCU); Mr Chen (Chinese Embassy Education Consul); Professor Cao Zhiyun (Vice President BLCU); Professor Nie Dan and Professor Jianqin Wang (both BLCU and (front) Professor Cynthia White (Massey University) with Professor Zheng Yanqun (BLCU).

The development of innovative online Chinese language programmes for learners across the Pacific region is at the heart of a new partnership between Massey University and Beijing Language and Culture University.

A joint research centre in applied linguistics – launched today – is the first of its kind for language education run jointly by the Chinese government and a New Zealand university.

It aims to be a hub of excellence for research in the field of innovative digital language education in the Australasian/Pacific region, says Massey’s School of Humanities’ head Associate Professor Kerry Taylor.

“It is the first and only such joint research centre involving Chinese collaboration with an overseas education partner,” he says.

“It will facilitate the research collaboration between the two universities focusing on distance language acquisition of Chinese within digital environments. This centre aims to develop high standards of rich online academic research resources and distance Chinese language teaching materials, which can be accessed and shared by various research and teaching institutions in the Asia-Pacific region,” he says.

'This is the Asian century' – Paul Spoonley

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, says the centre represents a shift towards Asia. “As we, the Western world, move into the 21st century, we changing our attention from Western Europe to Asia. This is the Asian century.”

Chinese is “the new world language, and how it is learnt and understood in a more global and digital world is a significant issue.

“The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is delighted to work with China’s top language university, Beijing Culture and Languages University, to establish this new research centre on the Chinese language,” Professor Spoonley said at the launch.

Among overseas guests at the launch, held at Te Papa Musuem in Wellington, were the Chinese Ambassador, Mr Wang Lutong; Professor Cui Xiliang (President of Beijing Language and Culture University/BLCU); Professor Wang Jianqin (Director of the Center for Studies of Chinese as Second Language); Dr Emma Kruse Va’ai (Professor of English and Applied Linguistics – Faculty of Education at the National University of Samoa); and Dr Akanisi Kedrayate-Tabualevu (Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Law and Education, University of the South Pacific, Fiji).

In his speech at the launch, Professor Jianq Wang, of BLCU, said one of the key aims of the joint venture is to build and develop a ‘win-win’ mode of distance Chinese teaching and personnel training. “This platform is responsible for the distribution of the ‘win-win’ mode of personnel training based on distance Chinese learning around Asia-Pacific region.”

He hopes the Massey University-BLCU Joint Research Centre for Applied Linguistics “will become a top-level institute for the teaching and globalization of the Chinese language.”

Online learning links NZ students to tutors in China

Linguistics expert and international authority on distance language learning Professor Cynthia White spoke at the launch about her 2016 project; Synchronous Chinese Online Language Teaching (SCOLT). It is based on tutorials bringing together one of the trainee Chinese language teachers from BLCU and a Chinese language learner from Massey University in a series of one-to-one online tutorials. She gained Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Catalyst seeding funding to develop the project with BLCU.

She says students and tutors reflect on the process after each of the tutorials, and those reflections, as well as the recordings of the sessions themselves, become data for investigation of a very under-researched area. A pilot was run at the end of 2016, and a new phase is underway at the moment.

Other collaborative activities include a Massey University and BLCU jointly organized the International Conference on the Teaching of Chinese held at Massey’s Auckland campus last August. Scholars from seven countries attended, including researchers from prestigious universities such as Harvard University, Peking University, and Griffith University. This year, Massey, BLCU, and Shandong Normal University will jointly organize a similar conference in China this October, attended by 200 scholars from over 10 countries and regions.

Importance of learning another language stressed

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Operations, International and University Registrar Stuart Morris told the audience that intercultural skills and proficiency in foreign languages are increasingly important for the modern graduate in a global environment.

“With growing trade between China and New Zealand, more and more people realise the importance of learning Mandarin. In this regard, multi-lingual students have a real advantage.”

Business graduate Henry Kyle, who studied Chinese language by distance through Massey University, says learning Mandarin will enable him to pursue his dream of a cross-border career in finance. He is one of several students to talk about his experiences learning Chinese in a Massey University YouTube video that screened during the launch.

Mr Kyle, who graduated from Massey last year with a Bachelor of Business Studies and a minor in Chinese language, won a New Zealand Prime Minister’s Scholarship and is currently study finance for a master’s degree at Peking University. He says online learning at Massey has enabled him to manage everyday life in China and to converse easily. He thinks learning Mandarin is an “under-rated choice in New Zealand.”

“China’s importance in the world is increasing exponentially and Mandarin is arguably the most important second language a Kiwi can learn,” he says.

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