Title: Learning how to mean in writing: The student teachers' acquisition of Modern Standard Written Chinese in Hong Kong.
It's been pointed out by scholars that one of the serious problems in Chinese language teaching in Hong Kong is that many teachers who are not subject trained in Chinese language teaching teach the subject 'Chinese language'. With the establishment of the Hong Kong Institute of Education in 1994, a new two-year Certificate in Primary Education Course (2PC) is offered for post-secondary graduates who intend to be teachers in primary schools. Students accepted to the Course are to concentrate on learning how to teach four subjects in primary schools. Out of the four subjects, Chinese language, Mathematics and General Studies are compulsory. Although all 2PC graduates will eventually become teachers of Chinese, their subject training does not seem enough. As no 2PC student is 'major' in Chinese language, within the two-year training, they are supposed to spend equal efforts among four subjects. Obviously, there would not be enough time for students to grasp skills of teaching Chinese, let alone enhancing their language abilities.
With regard to writing ability, student teachers' incompetency is revealed in a compulsory Chinese writing class. Types of lexical, grammatical and graphemic errors reported by former researches in secondary students' writing can all be found in student teachers' writing. When discussed with the lecturer, some of them confessed that they are aware of their poor performance in written Chinese but they have no idea of how to make improvements. Even if they try hard to avoid making careless mistakes (e.g. characters errors), what they write is just a reflection of what they intend to mean verbally (full of redundant words and a lack of clarity in subject-predicate structures etc.). That is, there is still a certain distance from their writing to Modern Standard Written Chinese. If the potential language teachers themselves are not able to correct their own writing, how can we expect them to mark primary student's composition professionally?
In the light of systemic functional grammar, the lecturer tried to shorten the distance between student's spoken and written Chinese by getting them to do 'translation' (from spoken to written) in class. The objectives of doing such an exercise are to direct the students' attention to the existing linguistic phenomenon which causes a communication problem, show them the nature of the problem and work out ways with them to solve it. This paper will thus report on the whole process and results, and evaluate the pedagogical value of adopting systemic functional grammar in enhancing the quality of teaching writing in Chinese.