18 July 2013 12:36

The British Academy has announced its support for a Lancaster University research project designed to improve the teaching and learning of Mandarin as a foreign language.

The three-year initiative, which presents a pioneering approach to Chinese language teaching and learning, will further develop and strengthen the recently established partnership between Lancaster University and the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS).The British Academy has announced its support for a research project designed to improve the teaching and learning of Mandarin as a foreign language.

The three-year initiative, which presents a pioneering approach to Chinese language teaching and learning, will further develop and strengthen the recently established partnership between Lancaster University and the Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (GDUFS).

The joint bid was submitted by Dr Richard Xiao, Director of Lancaster University Confucius Institute and a lecturer in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, and Professor Hai Xu, from GDUFS, and will be funded by the British Academy’s International Partnership and Mobility Scheme.

This project, which is entitled ‘The corpus-based approach to the acquisition of Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language’, will result in the compilation of a large-scale electronic database (or ‘corpus’) of  naturally occurring spoken and written language produced by people of different mother tongues learning Chinese as a second or foreign language in authentic communicative contexts.

“It is really important that the British Academy has agreed to support this research and we are delighted with the news,” said Dr Xiao. “We view this as a major endorsement of the work we are about to start. With the rise of China as a global power, Chinese has become an increasingly popular foreign language.”

“And this is a truly pioneering project which will look at various theoretical and practical issues relating to how people learn Chinese as a foreign language.”

The research will examine, for example, conversations, presentations and compositions under test and non-test conditions by learners at different levels and from a wide range of first language backgrounds.

“This will allow us to create a balanced ‘corpus’ so we can explore a spectrum of factors, including typological distance and cross-linguistic differences between the learner’s first and second languages, which may impact on the learning of Chinese as a foreign language,” added Dr Xiao.

The database will include grammatical analysis and learners’ error types which will enable both qualitative and quantitative analyses of those variations between the mother tongue and the foreign language.

“Lancaster University is the most renowned corpus linguistics research centre in the world and GDFSU is one of the best universities in China which hosts China’s only national key research centre for linguistics and applied linguistics; so this joint project will bring out the best in both research partnership institutions to accomplish an important piece of research which will further previous work in this field,” concluded Dr Xiao.

The project, which will start in September, will involve six team members at Lancaster, including three at the Confucius Centre, and six in China.

The British Academy, which supports and champions excellence in the humanities and social sciences, is to grant more than £20k (non-full economic costing) to the Mandarin project.