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The Foundations of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language: An Investigation of Late 19th Century Textbooks

Abstract
Although the field of Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL) is still a relatively emerging one, its history runs much longer than we expect. As early as the mid to late 19th Century, Chinese was being shown in way that had not been done before – as textbooks. More importantly, these textbooks were created by non-native speakers. Yet their value as historical documents and as foundation pedagogical resources has not yet been fully recognized. The present study is an initial conversation of four late 19th century textbooks and how they pioneered presenting Chinese to a Western audience. After discussing the theoretical differences between China and the West that led to the need for textbooks, the four textbooks will be compared on how they addressed the aspects of pronunciation, tones, characters and the skills of reading, writing and speaking to their respective audiences. Such comparisons should reveal that by understanding the learner’s perspective and utilizing non-native knowledge, these textbook authors were able to teach Chinese as a pedagogically progressive, learnable language. This study should not only add depth to our knowledge of the historical foundations and teaching precedents, but will also highlight the ways Chinese was instructed and how this can positively impact our modern teaching.
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Date
2013-01-01
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