Language As Sense Making

By Dr. Haiyan Fan

Chinestory taps into the innate capacity of language learners, which according to the influential American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, logician Noam Chomsky’s well-established theory of Universal Grammar, is universal to all humans

The basis to Chomsky's linguistic theory is that the principles underlying the structure of language are biologically determined in the human mind and hence genetically transmitted. He therefore argues that all humans share the same underlying linguistic structure, irrespective of socio-cultural difference. 

In Chinestory, learners will not see anywhere linguistic jargon or elaborate discussions on grammar rules. We believe that language flows out of one’s own desire to communicate, which everyone was born with, and one’s own innate capacity to connect the dots. Legalistically forcing grammar rules only adds unnecessary cognitive burden to the learners and sucks out all the fun and spontaneity from learning.  

Second Language Learning As Re-cognizing The World

In language education literatures, one’s native language is considered to be “developed” as in an organic growth mode. In contrast, foreign language or second language is deemed to be “acquired” as in an artificially grafted mode. 

A significant drawback of the traditional teaching language through grammar approach is that language is singularly grafted on grammar alone, leaving out the rich soil of history, culture, philosophy, world view, which are the part and parcel of the whole deal of language learning. 

Language is merely a bridge to the magnificent castle of the culture splendor of a different world. Traditional pedagogy assumes that unless the learner has sufficient language proficiency to cross the bridge, he or she simply cannot have access to the richness of the castle. Hence learners of this approach spend years and years learning language alone in a vacuum devoid of all the richness of the cultural context in which language is alive, feeling dry and boring. Then one day when they finally built a decent bridge to cross over to the castle, they found themselves in the castle feeling lost again, because everything still seemed so strange and frighteningly counter-intuitive.  

Chinestory thinks differently. We do not think there is the bridge in front of the castle to make the connection, but many bridges could be built directly to the rooms, corridors, windows, courtyard, and to the people in the castle. 

hinese learners using Chinestory will find themselves not only learning the mechanics of the sound bytes and the strokes of the Chinese characters, but also gaining the understanding and appreciation of the inner textures and intricate fabric of the language; a way of thinking; an oriental world view that is also deeply engrained in the legacy of the Chinese language of more than 5,000 years old, a language that was attributed to the unification of more than 50 ethnic groups for more than 2,000 years.

Dr. Haiyan FanComment