3. Third Stage: 1970s to 2000 - Transitioning Period
Exploration and change mark Chinese language education in this era. During the 1970s, Chinese language education in the United States increased despite the waning of funding from the NDEA. Two hundred sixty colleges and universities in 39 states in the United States established Chinese language courses until 1978. In New York and California, the number of such colleges and universities reached 30 and 29, respectively. The enrollment of Chinese classes reached 7,842. However, the NDEA entered its final stage and affected federal language programs. After the 1970s, the United States government turned its attention to domestic affairs and funding for foreign language education was drastically cut. As a result, there were only eight East Asian studies centers supported by the Federal government.
Besides, socio-political drivers still played a significant role in Chinese language education. Before the 1970s, the growth of Chinese language education in higher education in the United States was slow due to the isolationism of China and the hostility between the two countries caused by ideological antithesis. After the 1970s, the world was changing rapidly. China's admission as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council made Chinese one of the six working languages in the United Nations, which contributed to its elevation of status in the world. After the Ping Pong Diplomacy in 1972, the People's Republic of China resumed diplomatic relationships with the United States, which contributed to the enthusiasm of Chinese language learning and the studying of China. As a result, the need for mutual communication significantly increased. Subsequently, the connection between people in China and the United States increased at an unprecedented level, which, in turn, spurred the interest in Chinese language teaching and learning in the United States.
Socio-political factors influenced Chinese language education through immigration too. Also, the Opening and Reform Policy adopted in China in the late 1970s and early 1980s completely broke the isolation in China and transformed the communication between the two countries. An increasingly significant number of people started to travel between the two counties for commercial, political, educational, and various other kinds of activities. Besides, with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the ensuing economic globalization, the world became connected as never before. A massive influx of immigrants from the People's Republic of China came to the United States, and the population outnumbered that of the Chinese community that traditionally consisted of immigrants from Hongkong and Taiwan in the 1990s. The new socio-political situation made the Chinese community even stronger as well as influenced Chinese language education. They brought different cultures to the Chinese speaking community in the United States. For example, a lot of immigrants from mainland China would like their children to learn simplified Chinese characters and Pinyin and identify with the culture of mainland China.
(2) Pedagogy: Various Pedagogies
Unlike the previous two periods, each dominated by a primary pedagogy, in this period, pedagogies start to exhibit a diversified trend. Chinese graduate students who studied TESOL, applied linguistics, and linguistics applied what they had learned to Chinese language education in American university classrooms: the Silent Way, Suggestopedia, Community Language Learning, the Total Physical Response Method, and the Communicative Approach. Besides, with the drastic socio-political change in this period, the purposes and motivations for learning Chinese had gone way beyond what existed during the development of the Audio Lingual Method. Combined with the diminishing of the primary source of support for the Audio Lingual Method, it became more than necessary to explore new Chinese language pedagogy to adapt to the unique situation.
Overall, regardless of what the pedagogy in the post - audio-lingual period is, a more communicative and holistic approach is the trend because it is what is needed to address the diverse learning needs of Chinese language learners at an unprecedented level of cross-cultural communication. Focusing only on specific skills in Chinese language instruction, like the Grammar-Translation Method that focused on reading and the Audio-Lingual method that focused on speaking and listening, is not sufficient. Pedagogies that lead to the students’ comprehensive language acquisition and their cross-cultural competence is the emerging trend. As is pointed out by Liao (2015), in addition to the Grammar - Translation Method and Audio Lingual Method, the Communicative Approach, Content-based Instruction, Task-Based Instruction, Performance-based Instruction, and so on have all been promoted for a certain period in Chinese language education in higher education in the United States. It shows that there has been tremendous exploration after the Audio Lingual Method past its prime in the 1970s. These new pedagogies, primarily drawn from English as a Second Language, have all been shifting away from the narrow focus on linguistic structures and exploring more possibilities beyond the Audio Lingual Method.
Take the communicative approach as an example. Its principles demonstrate the trend of the development of Chinese language instruction of higher education after the audio-lingual period. This pedagogy emphasizes the importance of non-structural aspects of language communication, such as context, meaning, register, and communicative purpose. Communicative activities that integrate the four skills of language learning, such as roleplay and problem - solving activities, are the main form of classroom instruction. Making mistakes is considered as an inevitable part of the learning process.
(3) Organizations and Programs: The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) and the Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP)
4-1 ACTFL Proficiency levels
The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) played a pivotal role in the transitioning of second language pedagogy. Founded in 1967, ACTFL is a membership organization committed to language instruction at all levels. Derived from the Foreign Language Program of the MLA, it was separated from the MLA and became an independent entity in 1974. In 1986, ACTFL published its Proficiency Guidelines, which became the foundation of Proficiency-Based Language Instruction. From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, ACTFL developed and promoted its well-known language assessment system: the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI), which is still widely used in second language education in the United States today. At the end of the 1990s, ACTFL developed the Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century— the 5Cs, and other forward-looking documents that led the transitioning of second language teaching in the United States.
The Proficiency-based Language Instruction framework establishes a hierarchy of language proficiency, which includes five general levels: novice, intermediate, advanced, superior, and distinguished. Under each proficiency level from novice to advanced, there are sub-levels of low, mid, and high. Each level contains criteria for listening, speaking, reading, and writing. A distinctive advantage of this pedagogical framework is that it centers on proficiency rather than specific language skills such as speaking or reading. This pedagogy is thus more holistic than those in the previous periods. It views communication, rather than the language system per se, as the unit of analysis for language instruction, which avoids the compartmentalized analysis based on culture, language, context, and so on. Whether it is for assessment or classroom instruction, in the Proficiency-based Instruction system, everything leads to communication.
Proficiency-based Language Instruction solved a problem identified in the previous periods: lack of coherence in second language education in the United States. When an increasing number of diverse students learn Chinese together in college, there needed to be specific criteria for placing the students in the proper class regardless of the teaching methodology. However, no matter what the student's background is and how long have they learned Chinese, they can start at the current level as long as the proficiency level system is adopted at the college or university that the student is attending. The unique advantage of the Proficiency-based Language Instruction framework pointed out a clear direction for the transitioning of second language education in the United States and has become the foundation for leading language programs for the next period. It effectively leads second language learning from structure-centered to communication centered.
The National Security Education Act (NSEA) of 1991 was one of the most critical efforts in improving teaching and learning of foreign languages during this period. Passed by the United States Federal Government, NSEA aimed at raising awareness of foreign languages and cultures in the United States and thus increased the competitiveness of the United States and increase its international influence. NSEA started to fund foreign language education through The Foreign Language Assistance Program (FLAP) in the 1980s and 1990s. Chinese was categorized as a critical language in 1992 and started to receive funding. After the NDEA, Chinese language education was closely connected to national interest through the federally-funded program again, and the influence on its pedagogy would start to show in the next period.
(4) Textbooks: Kaiming Intermediate Chinese
Kaiming Intermediate Chinese, co-written by Chinese language instructors at Nankai University and Minnesota University, is representative of the transitioning period. This book is based on the experience of students from the University of Minnesota who learned Chinese at Nankai University in the summer. The scenario is set in the City of Tianjin, China, where Nankai University is located. All of the themes in the book are about students’ daily life, such as In the Cafeteria or a Restaurant, Visiting a Friend, Shopping, Urban Public Transportation, Asking for Help, Making Phone Calls, Seeing a Doctor, and Traveling.
The book has made significant advancement to go beyond the simple Audio-Lingual approach and has made communication in real-life situations its priority. Unlike the Audio-Lingual textbooks, this book prioritizes the pragmatic and functional items of language use and real-life language tasks. Although linguistic structures still play an essential role in this book, the authors have made successful attempts in transitioning away from solely using the Audio Lingual Method and fostered innovation in incorporating more communicative rather than structural elements in the book. In the preface, it says “the goal of this book is to develop further or improve the learner’s ability to use Chinese in real-life situations ”and “the dialogues of each unit are designed around contexts where the language is used, sentence structures, and function of the language.”
Another advantage of the book is that it organizes grammar points based on their pragmatics functions, rather than list them in the order of appearance in the text, like what the audio-lingual textbooks do. A list of pragmatics functions is at the beginning of each lesson. It means the book centers around pragmatics rather than linguistic structures. It encourages the teacher and the student to start with what they want to express and then learn the linguistic forms to express their thoughts. The reversed order may seem simple. Still, it fundamentally subverts the logic of the Audio-Lingual Method, which is to fill the students’ minds with pre-made language materials, and then let students decide for themselves how to use them. From meaning to form is what the Audio Lingual method lacks. A problem of the Audio Lingual Method is that although some students can internalize the structures through intensive repetitive drilling and rote learning, it is still confusing when they try to express themselves in real-life communication. It is because a lot of the chunks they have memorized are not applicable in the specific context. The grammar rules they have internalized have their limitations, and the texts that students have internalized are not stemmed from the natural thinking processes of the students when they try to express what they need in the target language in a real context. There is a significant disparity between what the students know and what the actual context requires. This book starts with the pragmatics, which let students have more say in what to learn and how to learn through using and identifying the components they need.
The functions in the list are, in fact, of different kinds: some of them are pragmatics functions, e.g.,” Asking about desires,” “Asking about opinions,” “Advising or making a suggestion.” They are what language users do to carry out daily conversations. Some of them are semantic/grammatical functions, e.g., “Expressing possibility or impossibility” and “Expressing two things happening at once.” Other functions are for specific themes in daily life, which are, in essence, “performance tasks,”: e.g., “Greetings,” “Introducing others,” and “Ordering food.” The three types of functions are essential to the student’s language learning, and they make the book more comprehensive than the Audio-Lingual Method, which focuses mainly on the semantic/grammatical function. In addition, the Audio-Lingual textbooks are not even organized according to the semantic/grammatical functions - they are organized according to specific sentence patterns and structures. The primary learning objective for students is to master the required structures in a text.
In contrast, the lists on Kaiming Intermediate Chinese give a clear signal to teachers and students that the various types of functions are what students and teachers need to know to say that they have mastered the lesson. What they need to focus on is what they may need in real communication. It helps shift the student’s mindset from the narrow and isolated acquisition of linguistic elements to functional elements in real communication.
3-2 Pages 37-38 of Kaiming Intermediate Chinese. The pages show how the learning objectives of a lesson are listed. The items in the tables include semantic/grammatical functions, pragmatic functions, and performance tasks.
Also, while focusing on functional elements, this book focuses on linguistic structures as well. However, unlike the Audio Lingual textbooks, which view language learning as acquiring a symbol system, Kaiming Intermediate Chinese sees it as using the system in real contexts. In this textbook, linguistics structures are designated as an essential step to conduct real-life communication. Therefore in the tables at the beginning of each lesson, not only the functional elements are listed, so are the linguistic forms that express those functional elements. It is because not only do students need to understand the functional items in using the Chinese language to communicate, and they also have to know the specific structures of the symbol system to express the corresponding functional elements. It is also how the authors design the exercises - each set focuses on a functional component and the relevant linguistic structures, all in real contexts.
Although not explicitly stated, many exercises and activities in this book are, as is named by ACTFL, virtually “performance tasks.” They are language tasks used in an instructional setting that reflect language use in real-life communication, which are fundamentally different from the suggested teaching and learning method in the DeFrancis book: analysis and repetition. Whereas the DeFrancis book and the Audio-Lingual Method treats language learning as the repetitive and mechanical study of a static and stable linguistic system, Kaiming Intermediate Chinese views it as using the linguistic system in real contexts to fulfill real-life purposes.
For instance, the exercise on pages 97- 99 is about planning a trip to different places in China. In this exercise, a simple map with major tourist cities in China and a table with the estimated time of traveling to the cities. Students are expected to complete a travel plan for a two-week trip. They are divided into groups to complete the project and share their projects with the whole class. On page 99, an outline on designing the itinerary of the travel plan is given to help students complete the task.
3-1 Pages 97- 99 of Kaiming Intermediate Chinese.
This activity is a performance task because it is what users of the targeting language do in real life for a practical purpose. Needs discovered in the process of completing the task drive language learning. Students communicate in the target language in real context when completing the task through interaction and collaboration with their partners, which is also what language users do in real life. While completing the task, the students actively learn the useful knowledge of the language that derives out of their need in expressing themselves because they will know what language components they need to achieve the real purpose. In other words, they learn them in use.
Finishing the performance tasks in this book requires active learning from the students, just like what language users do in real-life communication. When accomplishing a goal, the speaker needs to seek information actively, process the acquired information, and convey the results through language. A more natural language teaching and learning process that oriented towards communication and language use needs to imitate this process. A more student-centered active learning pedagogy is appropriate to achieve this purpose. In other words, the teacher's intervention should be kept at a proper level for students to use language to perform communicative tasks actively. In the pedagogical framework of the Audio Lingual Method, the instructor should always intervene with the student's speech to ensure it's correctness. Therefore, it is not an ideal pedagogy for a communicative classroom. Unlike in the Audio Lingual Method, there is a minimum teacher's intervention required to complete the performance task. The teacher serves as a facilitator who addresses the real needs of the students rather than a drill instructor who monitors the students' speech to ensure they are as correct and error-free as possible. The mechanical and repetitive rote learning emphasized by the Audio Lingual Method is giving way to a more holistic, interactive, and authentic approach of language learning in this book.
3-3 Page 214-215 of Kaiming Intermediate Chinese, showing the performance task of asking for directions.
Another example of performance task in this book is asking for directions on page 214-215. First, a more audio lingual exercise was provided along with images to visualize the context. When students are familiar with the language of asking for directions, a more authentic performance task was provided for students to practice. It provides a local map of the City of Tianjin, where students were studying Chinese, and ask them to give directions to real places on this map. This is a wonderful performance task where language system and language use are perfectly combined.
The use of technology in this book also fosters a more communicative approach. Video tapes are provided for the textbook. It is an improvement from the audio tools for drill practice of the sound only because the video tapes can demonstrate more vividly and holistically the context of language use and thus encourage and motivate students to actively learn Chinese.
The book embodies the transitioning of Chinese language education in colleges and universities in the United States. In general, when seeking new pedagogy for the new era, Chinese language educators shifted the focus from a narrow focus on linguistic structures to the communication process and dynamic language use. While the field of Chinese language education is exploring possibilities beyond the Audio-Lingual Method, ACTFL is promoting performance and proficiency based language instruction, which has been gaining ground in second language teaching in the United States. The next stage witnesses a more prominent role that ACTFL plays in Chinese language teaching. The waning government funding on Chinese language education will come back in the new era when communication with the world in various languages becomes urgent and essential for national security and economic development. Language teaching and governmental funding will cooperate again in breaking the barriers for communication between people in the world.
 Sheng, Yiyuan. "The Historical Process of Chinese Teaching in American University." Overseas Chinese Education5 (September 2016): 613-17. http://oec.xmu.edu.cn/(S(5ezhicy0yqhz0x2xlxl5rb45))/file/oce/2016/20165/20160505.pdf.
 Li, Ying. “History of Chinese Language Education and the Development of Chinese Textbooks in the United States.” Chinese America: History & Perspectives – The Journal of the Chinese Historical Society of America, 2015, 75–81.
 “ACTFL Performance Descriptors for Language Learners.” ACTFL. Accessed September 23, 2019. https://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/actfl-performance-descriptors-language-learners.
 ACTFL. Accessed September 23, 2019. https://www.actfl.org/publications/guidelines-and-manuals/actfl-proficiency-guidelines-2012/chinese.