New “Editions”* at Lotus Chinese Learning
Reading is the key to acquiring advanced proficiency in a second language. Reading is the key to becoming a better reader, writer and thinker in a person’s native language as well. I tell my students all the time that they need to read in Chinese if they want to get to the next level. Reading in the language is a part of all my Mandarin classes. In an effort to emphasize the importance of reading (especially the kind of reading that we do for pleasure) I installed a Little Free Library with books in Mandarin Chinese, English and Spanish in front of Lotus Chinese Learning headquarters. They are for students to read, and it is also for the benefit of our neighbors.
Why Read Chinese?
Students learn Mandarin (and any other language) through comprehensible input. This input is even more effective when it is highly compelling to the student. This is an academic way of saying that students get more out of reading when they are interested in the content. Dialogues in traditional textbooks in which Dawei asks Xiao Wang about his family members are not compelling input. This is very boring for students and they do not get much out of it because they don’t care about a stick figure’s family members. If students read extensively in their second language, on a topic of their choice, they will learn the vocabulary and grammar (without explicit instruction in vocabulary and grammar) necessary to reach the next level of language acquisition.
Renowned acquisition researcher Stephen Krashen writes: “Self-selected voluntary reading is often compelling, and studies confirm that it is the primary
source of our reading ability, our ability to write with an acceptable writing style, our
vocabulary, spelling and our ability to understand and use complex grammatical structures … It has also been established that more self-selected reading leads to
more knowledge in a variety of areas, including history, science, and practical matters.”
Reading is that “special sauce” that leads to more advanced language acquisition. With extensive reading, students acquire more complex grammar structures and also more vocabulary words. Inside of every fluent speaker of a second language is a passionate reader in that language.
What is in the LCL Little Free Library?
The Little Free Library at LCL headquarters is stocked with books in Chinese, English and Spanish. Why those three languages? I want my students to be able to freely take books in Chinese to improve their own language, at their own pace. LCL also has many students who speak Spanish as their home language. Literacy in the home language is essential for development in an second language. The library also has English books, because it should also serve the neighborhood at large where most readers are going to want books in English.
*I’ve spend too long in China and now I cannot resist a pun 🙂