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I think speaking with native speakers is important, or at least listening to native speakers on tapes, CD's or videos. When you learn in school, do you listen to tapes a lot? |
I am learning chinese, and it's especially difficult, almost impossible to only learn from books. You will never get the pronunciation without hearing several different native speakers, and really repeating a lot until you sound just like them.
Then having conversations is a whole new issue - I think in any language, listening is the hardest part, would you agree? When someone is talking, it seems so fast, and just when you think you've understood a word or half a sentence, they have meanwhile spoken 2 more sentences that you missed because you were thinking of the one sentence you understood! LOL.... I think it really takes spending time with native speakers.
One problem with getting native speakers there is that the pay and lifestyle are so different from western countries. It's probably difficult to get foreigners to want to come there, and to stay more than a year or two.
Many people are not happy because a lot of the foreign teachers aren't fully qualified, but if they have high degrees, they can make so much money in their own country, why would they come to China unless they love China? It's difficult..... I think maybe China could hire people not based on qualifications, just based on their pronunciation - not to be teachers, but just for speaking, to work WITH chinese teachers, having conversations with the students. Still, that would require paying them well, and would require patient foreigners with good speaking skills.
I think student exchanges are a good idea. Foreign college students could come to China for a working-vacation. They could learn about China, see sights, being taken around by chinese students around the same age. They could agree to each do maybe 2-3 classes a day in a chinese school, just talking with students. They could all talk together while visiting sites, an intense 2 weeks of English-only for the chinese students, and some chinese cultural education for the foreigners.
Then later the chinese student could go to the UK, US, AUS, etc and be in an english speaking country for two weeks (or whatever, maybe the summer)