Chinese the Easy Way Web-Site Enhances Audio and Learning

By Stephanie Wejbe, Student Intern of CHASS College Computing

The Chinese language textbook Chinese the Easy Way has been formatted into a streaming-audio web-site. The web-site serves as an advanced way to distribute the much-needed audio practice component to the beginning or first-year level Chinese courses throughout various universities in California and Arizona. Although the textbook has not yet been adopted at UCR, the creation of the web-site has prompted possible consideration as an optional textbook. This textbook has already been required reading for several university courses in California and Arizona.

Professor of Chinese, Yenna Wu, has taught at UCR since 1992. She believes that the web-site would benefit a good number of students who are taking various Chinese classes, as well as those students interested in learning Chinese on their own.

The web-site overcomes many of the disadvantages of former methods of providing an audio component in foreign language learning. The new delivery application allows digitized audio files to replace old analog media such as cassette tapes. The deterioration of sound quality in audio tapes made learning more arduous, as well as time-consuming for students to rewind or fast-forward the tapes. Many students have access only to CD players, not cassette players. In addition, lab availability and personal student scheduling made it difficult to obtain access to the audio lessons.

With the new application and a free version of the downloadable audio software RealPlayer, the digital audio files on the website have significantly enhanced the sound quality, and it is easier and faster to locate a specific lesson on the digital files than on audiotapes. The students learning Chinese will be able to listen to the audio files 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on-line, as long as students have Internet access. Availability of the language lab and whether school is in session no longer affect students.

Professor Yenna Wu states, “By having students practice more of their speaking and listening skills outside of class time, the instructor can utilize the limited class time more effectively for other useful activities that would enrich the students’ learning experience. Indeed, a competent instructor who knows how to utilize such technology would be able to enhance instructional quality in and outside of classroom.”

Textbook contributions were made by the collaborative authors Professor of Chinese Yenna Wu and Arizona State University Professor of Chinese Philip F.Williams. CHASS College Computing designed, created, and developed the website. Support was provided from the Academic Senate IUC grant.

The textbook is divided into two parts: Pronunciation and New Vocabulary and Dialogue. The website and the textbook can be used by students on their own for supplementary practice in listening comprehension and speaking. The website can also help individual learners from the community outside UCR.

Wu comments, “Although Chinese is a difficult language to learn on one’s own, my co-author and I have been in contact with readers worldwide who are beginning to use the audio-file website in conjunction with the textbook to study Chinese independently of a classroom format.”

Since the creation of the web-site, the co-authors have received only positive feedback from web-site users. Comments or constructive criticism is welcome to make future refinements and improvements. The website has been accepted for a peer review by an academic language instructional media consortium MERLOT, which should be completed and published on the web by Spring 2004.

Wu says in relationship to other courses offered in the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, “The potential of this kind of website is tremendous. I would assume that almost any course that requires students to practice certain skills outside of class time can work on a digital media application that is web-based and convenient for student use.”

To view the web-site, please go to http://chinesetheeasyway.ucr.edu

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