12 Facts You Should Know – An Interview with Fu Xianling
An Interview with New Concept Mandarin’s Founder and CEO, Fu Xianling
Fu Xianling had 15 years university teaching experience in both China and Australia before he founded New Concept Mandarin Institute. His research at Griffith University of Queensland, Australia, laid the foundations for our methodology to teach Chinese as a foreign language. Here he explains the philosophy behind our teaching methods and how we have used technology as a learning tool.
“When you demand involvement you ignite the learning process, you capture excitement and interest, and counteract passivity.”
Q1. What makes your approach to linguistic learning different?
It’s very simple. The fact is that we have developed our own methodology through many years of linguistic research and practical teaching experience in Western Universities. This, together with over twenty years of experience running training centers in mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, has given us a unique insight into how to teach Mandarin. Our conclusion is to focus on learner needs and goals.
We teach our students the skills to improve their daily lives rather than to ‘sell’ an expectation that they may not actually achieve. It’s more about ‘communication skills’. Above all we want our students to enjoy learning.
Q2. How does this differ from your competitors?
We recognize that everyone has a different goal for learning. For a teacher’s success it is not about how much content they teach, but rather how much a student can learn. One student cannot be compared to another and our teachers must be sensitive to this fact. Not all schools appreciate this point.
Q3. How do you back this up?
I started teaching foreigners Chinese more than 25 years ago. The basis for our teaching methodology was developed through the linguistic research that we did at Griffith University in Australia, and then continually added to and complimented by my teaching in business.
At the University we were the first to develop computer based tools to help our students learn and review between classes, something we have continued to evolve all the way up to our newly launched video courses and Apps for iPhone/iPad.
We have developed all our own textbooks and materials based on this methodology and our teachers go through in-house train-the-trainer programs no matter where they are based….. Shanghai, Singapore or Hong Kong.
It’s a proven and successful formula!
Q4. How Mandarin was taught 20 years ago must be different to how you teach today?
Our basic philosophies are the same, but we have adopted new technologies to deliver them. We still believe that understanding the learner’s needs and style is essential and our goal has always been to maximize the learning outcomes for each individual.
20 years ago everything was based around the classroom and the teacher. Now convenience and technology play a more integral part. You can achieve more learning results with our integrated course books, Apps, videos, and online tools.
You can learn on the go at a fraction of the cost that you would have incurred previously for additional lessons. Now you can watch a video lecture before class, prepare your lesson with our website and review content with our mobile Apps.
Location is no longer an issue.
Q5. Was adapting and incorporating the changes in technology easy?
It was more a question of adapting to change. Our expat students are always very busy and often travelling. If they cannot practice their Chinese for long periods of time their learning will be very slow. We had to respond to this.
If a technology platform helps them study conveniently anywhere, anytime, for even 15 minutes a day then they will progress quickly. We found most of our students use iPhones/iPads, so we developed Apps for them to download.
Q6. You have talked before about stimulating all the senses. What do you mean by this and how do you achieve it?
We believe in experiential learning. Experiential learning is learning through reflection on doing, which is often contrasted with rote or didactic learning. We strictly require our teachers to reduce the time of “lecturing” in class and facilitate learners to acquire language skills by participating in learning activities and tasks.
They learn by DOING. When someone uses all their senses, hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching to learn Mandarin it will create a rich mental image that can be easily retrieved later. It actually helps to reduce the burden of rote memorization.
A very simple example is Chinese numbers where the use of fingers and shapes is a far more effective and lasting way of learning to count.
Q7. You talk about teaching the whole body…explain?
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. I practice and I master. We put more emphasis on real situations and the analogy here is learning to drive a car. Driving skills cannot be acquired by hearing and watching alone. It requires the learner to practice with his body.
We put students in real-life situations, where they would use all their senses so that when the same situation arises in the real-world they feel comfortable. It’s a common sense and practical approach.
Q8. How do you balance personal face to face methodology with online learning?
Our online learning tools are a great way to watch a lecture before actually attending, do some warm-up exercises and then use them later to review the materials. That way the time spent during the face to face lesson is more productive for practicing the language under the guidance of a professional coach.
Face to face time with the teacher is used more effectively.
Q9. How have you kept the personal touch?
Our teachers are well trained. They will find out about each student’s individual learning style and needs, and create activities relevant to their lives. Our managers and after-sales staff always follow up with students to make sure they are enjoying the classes and learning effectively.
Q10. You put a great deal of emphasis on the training and selection of teachers. How important is that?
A teacher who is dedicated to their job and passionate about helping a student learn always stands out from the crowd. They are the kind of teacher that we invest in. We spend a lot of time during the recruitment process to make sure they have the qualities that best represent our philosophy and put a lot of energy into training them. They are our ‘Brand’ custodians.
Q11. What sets your online learning experience apart?
Many online training companies come from the technology side and don’t necessarily have the language methodology to back it up. Our online tools are linked with our face to face training and delivered by experienced teachers.
We don’t believe anybody can become a good teacher through technology alone.
Q12. Can online learning still retain a personal touch?
When students combine the online study tools with our guided training they will get instant feedback and support from our professional teachers. It maintains a personal relationship and ‘humanizes’ the whole experience.
Fu Xianling, CEO, New Concept Mandarin.
Sources: Based on interviews broadcast on CNN, TVB Pearl and CNBC.
Published material from The Economist & China Daily.