Textbook Introduction

Chinese through Global Debate is designed for students who have attained Advanced-level proficiency according to the guidelines established by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Thus, the textbook’s primary objective is to facilitate acquisition of Superior-level proficiency.

To progress from Advanced to Superior-level proficiency, learners must be able to discuss abstract topics, express and support opinions, hypothesize, and tailor their language to specific audiences. Debate offers a powerful forum for developing and honing this skill set. The topics selected for Chinese through Global Debate are Environment vs. Economy, Interventionism vs. Isolationism, Wealth Redistribution vs. Self-Reliance, The Cultural Influence of Migration, Security vs. Freedom. These pertinent topics will likely be of interest to adult language learners.

The textbook structure

Chinese through Global Debate contains six chapters, each of which begins with

scaffolding exercises to introduce the topic to learners and activate their background knowledge. These exercises allow students to write and articulate their own ideas on each of the topics and prepare them for reading the texts that comprise the heart of each chapter.

At the center of each chapter is a piece written by a professional journalist from China. These texts are not simplified in any way, and thus provide a rich source of input, particularly in terms of contextualized vocabulary. Each article presents an overview of the topics, including the major arguments on both sides of the debate, and each reading assignment is followed by comprehension checks.

A major portion of each chapter is dedicated to vocabulary development. Lexical items are introduced not as single words, but rather as collocations—groups of words commonly used together. The choice of vocabulary in each chapter was, in part, governed by frequency of use as found in linguistic corpora. Students often are directed to use online corpora to further their word knowledge so that they learn words as they are used in the language, not in isolation.  Open-ended discussion questions offer a starting point for learners to apply new vocabulary introduced in the articles. Interspersed throughout each unit you will find also grammar and cultural notes.

Note that the text does not provide translations or pinyin, favoring instead the contextual approach provided by language corpora. At this point in their training, students should earnestly begin to develop the kind of metalanguage necessary to deal with native Chinese speakers on their own terms and to learn to talk about the nuances of Chinese words in the target language.

It is critical for students entering the Chinese speaking professional realm to develop a writing and speaking register appropriate to the task. Accordingly, the text emphasizes use of the literary layer (书面语) of modern Chinese, including the suitable use of Chinese idioms (成语) in higher level discourse and writing.

Once students have become acquainted with a topic and the vocabulary necessary for discussion, they turn their attention to preparing for the debate. In the “Constructing Critical Discourse” section, learners are introduced to advanced syntactical features of the language, particularly those used to form hypotheses—a function particularly important for performing at the Superior level. They put their new knowledge to use in a role-play by representing various stakeholders discussing the issue in a concrete way.

In the “Listening” section, learners listen to brief mock debates that illustrate important turns of phrases used for turn taking, arguing a point, agreeing, and disagreeing.

The final two sections, “Formatting the Argument: Speaking ” and “Formatting the Argument: Writing” are the culminating tasks for the textbook, for which all of the other sections have been preparation. In the speaking section, learners are introduced to important rhetorical strategies used in debate, such as conjecture, questions of definition, and questions of value. In the writing portion, learners are introduced to the elements of persuasive writing, from writing a thesis statement, to constructing paragraphs, and, finally, strategies for revision. This section also includes a “position paper” written by a Chinese professional to serve as a model for articulating a particular point of view. At the end of each section, learners put their skills to the test as they debate other class members and write a persuasive essay, arguing one side of the issue.

This text can be used as a complete course or in conjunction with other materials.