Things changed quickly. The growing concerns about the travel and the recommended social distancing amid the novel coronavirus crisis prompted the College Board and Asia Society, the organisers of the National Chinese Language Conference, to cancel the coming NCLC 2020, scheduled in May in Orlando, Florida.
It was merely two months ago when I was excited for the opportunity to become a presenter in this big conference, sharing my take on teaching and learning Chinese, and looking forward to meeting many Chinese teachers teaching in the US and elsewhere, whose primary teaching field is like mine, teaching Chinese as a second language. It would be a pretty cool event. But the current crisis stopped it, reminding me of a Chinese saying, 计划不如变化快 (Planning can’t catch up with the changes).
Although the conference is cancelled, work continues. I am continuously producing new video lessons, teaching beginner students how to read and write Chinese. Currently, Lesson 3 in Chinese Reading and Writing 1 is nearly finished.
Online Chinese lesson definitely has its advantages. It meets the current requirement of social distancing and it can reach people in many different locations at once. If any of you are bored while being stuck at home, try to watch some of these video lessons and learn the basics of reading and writing Chinese, as long as you have taken some listening and speaking lessons before.
However, I also increasingly realise the disadvantage of online Chinese lesson, that it does not promote the interactions which are absolutely needed to bring out the best learning result. When learning Chinese, being physically in the same classroom with teachers and other students works to our best interests. We are social animals and we need to talk to other human beings, especially when we are learning a new language.
Online Chinese lesson is absolutely staying, but I hope people also realise how important the physical classroom is. And when the pandemic is over, we will find a good balance and the right tools for the best combination of online and onsite learning.