When we teach Chinese people Chinese language, what we teach is the mother tongue. But what do we teach when we teach Mandarin language to foreigners? Foreigners are learning another language besides their mother tongue when they are studying Chinese language. Therefore, some people believe it is the second language, and some other think it is foreign language.
However, some foreigners who study in China may wonder what the difference between second language and foreign language is. First of all, the second language is appositive with the first language. Generally speaking, the first language is the earliest language acquired by children after they are born. And the second language is another acquired language after they learned the first language. There are many people learn the third and the fourth language and so on.
However, the acquired languages have something in common with the second language. Therefore, we call them “the second language” in general. In addition, the second language is the language learned and used in the target language environment, without using the first language. For instance, when foreigners come to learn Chinese in China, the Chinese language is the second language for them. Therefore, we say the Chinese teaching to foreigners is the second language teaching.
Let’s move out attention to the so-called “foreign language”, which means the languages of other countries. From the definition, it is difficult for us to tell apart the second language and the foreign language. Western scholars distinguish the two concepts from the language learning environment. Accordingly, teachers in Chinese language school would tell you that the foreign language is the language learned not in the target language environment besides the first language.
For instance, if Chinese people study English and Japanese in China, then English and Japanese are their foreign languages. In the same sense, when foreigners learn Chinese language in their countries, Chinese language is their foreign language. If we see from this view, the Chinese language teaching to foreigners is foreign language teaching.
From all analysis above, we can see that the Chinese language teaching to foreigners is processed as a second language or foreign language. Therefore, we should obey the principles of second language or foreign language teaching. The followings are some rules and principles teachers should obey in Mandarin learning courses.
First of all, the second language teaching is a kind of language and the basic task of language teaching is to teach language commendably. Now the question comes to how to teach effectively. Foreigners who learn Mandarin in China may have heard about that learning language is not to learn a set of knowledge but to learn a skill. Accordingly, teaching language is not to teach a set of knowledge but a skill. Therefore, teachers should lecture less and practice more in teaching, which is a basic principle in language teaching.
Secondly, the second language teaching is also a kind of foreign language teaching. Therefore, we should take the foreign language application into consideration in foreign language teaching. The basic purpose of the second language teaching is to train students’ ability to put what they have learned in the classes into the new context. Therefore, when foreigners learn to speak Chinese, the setup of the new contexts is essential. Then, teachers should take more time to design the proper contexts.
The last but not least one is that the final purpose of the second language teaching is to cultivate students’ capability of applying the target language to the daily communication. That’s why teachers should use the target language as much as possible in the second language classes. It will be beneficial for foreign learners to study Chinese more effectively.
For example, in China, the students are from different countries and there is no uniform intermediate language in the classes. And most teachers can use one or two languages. If they use one foreign language to teach, other students may not understand. Therefore, it is better to use the target language. In abroad, there is uniform intermediate language in classes. If teachers use too much, students’ opportunities of learning Mandarin language will be lessened.
All in all, the Chinese language teaching to foreigners is the second language teaching or foreign language teaching. Therefore, to teach Chinese better, should teach Chinese language as a second language to improve their language skills.