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Three Taiwanese Teaching Assistants,Trained to Teach Mandarin, in Australia

The Ministry of Education in Taiwan offers students undertaking graduate programs on teaching Chinese an opportunity to do a teaching practicum overseas in Australia. The Education Division at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia works with the local governments and schools to select the most suitable participants, and it worked with the ACT Education Directorate in Canberra and the Education and Training Department in Queensland to select and send three trainee teachers from Taiwan in 2017.
This provides a wonderful opportunity for the trainees to learn about teaching Mandarin “as a foreign language”. This refers to teaching a language in a country where it is not a national language and where the students don’t generally use that language outside the classroom. In contrast, teaching Mandarin in Taiwan as a so-called “second language” is much easier.
Ms. Alice You-An Zhang is working at Kingsford Smith School in Canberra, and Ms. Zoe Jui-Yu Kao works at Melrose High School, both as Mandarin teaching assistants. Both are currently undertaking a master’s degree in Taiwan in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language, Alice at the National Taichung University of Education, and Zoe at the University of Taipei.
Alice shared her reflections about her first month as a teaching assistant at Kingsford Smith School:
The way Australians and the teachers at school welcomed me was overwhelming which helped me fit in quickly. Under my mentor teacher Mr Wang’s support, my first month working with the students has been a rewarding experience. The greatest challenge for me would be to balance pedagogical approaches between Chinese way and Western perspective. To adjust my traditional modes of teaching, I spent more time on thinking how to design and implement learning activities which may help increase student engagement effectively. I also have chances to try out new pedagogy and learn to manage a classroom. I know I will benefit from this opportunity for a long time to come as this valuable experience gives me confidence in my abilities to trial a career as a Mandarin teacher one day.
Zoe at Melrose High School shared her reflections:
My mentor teacher Ms Yuan Ma at Melrose is dedicated and encouraging. I am extremely grateful. From day one the students have been truly inspiring by showing me their thoughts, demonstrating their learning progress, and giving me feedback. With support, I can help out designing a teaching program, setting up a Mandarin section for school open night, and facilitating cultural activities to share my cultural heritage with parents and the school community. All of these provided me with incredibly positive learning experiences and thoughts that have helped me to reassure me about my choice of profession as a Mandarin teacher.
Ms. Bella Jia-Yu Chen is working as a Mandarin teaching assistant at Trinity Bay State High School in the city of Cairns in North Queensland. Bella has already completed a 360-hour traineeship in teach Chinese and she’s currently a fourth year student majoring in English literature at Shih Hsin University.
Bella described her first two weeks at Trinity Bay where she genuinely enjoys the school community’s hospitality below. She has lots of time to observe her supervisor teacher’s teaching, and she puts effort into assisting individual students’ learning in class.
It was challenging to adjust to the simplified Chinese characters rather than the traditional Chinese which are the standard in Taiwan. It is also worth noting that it is hard for Australian students to learn to write Chinese characters and the way they write is so unique that it looks to me more like drawing a picture. I am extremely appreciative that my host family has been so accommodating towards me that they even followed a Taiwanese recipe to cook my home dish to cheer me up and make me feel more at home.
Taiwan looks forward to continuing this Chinese language education collaboration in the years to come.
(Published with permission given by Alice You-An Zhang, Zoe Jui-Yu Kao, and Bella Jia-Yu Chen)