The Pedagogical Implications of Multimodality in Mandarin Teaching

Chia-Chi Hsu
Department of Chinese as a Second Language


Since the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world, the way people work and the pattern of life people are accustomed to have changed gradually. One of the changes involves the increased use of online conferencing as a means of communicating or holding work meetings. In the field of education, the direction of physical learning has changed to online learning. Various types of applications and tools also rise to meet different students’ learning goals and teachers’ teaching processes. For second language learners, the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO, 2020a) introduced the concept of “multimodality” in the Language Acquisition Guide, which shows the significance of achieving the learning objectives in listening, speaking, reading, and writing respectively. At this point, understanding how Mandarin teachers implement multimodality into the pedagogy is essential to people who would like to apply multimodality to Mandarin learning and teaching strategies. Therefore, the following will introduce some tools about listening, speaking, reading, and writing tools that can be used in Mandarin teaching.

First, “Mandarin Chinese Listening Training” is a website that has diverse Mandarin recordings allowing learners to listen to different accents from Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, other foreigners, and so on. If teachers need to show students the difference and the comparison in different regions, this website gives some good and authentic scenarios for students to listen to. Another tool for listening is a podcast called “Slow Chinese.” This podcast reads Mandarin at a slow speed and the contents tell authentic social phenomena in Mainland Chin, which is friendly and brings advantages to beginners.

Second, “telling a story by watching four pictures” can be a way for students to practice both speaking and writing skills. For writing practice, teachers can either take off the last picture and students guess the ending or ask them to tell the whole story in Mandarin based on the images. Scaffolding is also important to guide the way they tell. As a result, teachers can build students’ thinking processes by asking them to describe, interpret, and evaluate what they see in the pictures step by step to make their outline, then write the story using proper grammar and sentence structure to complete their story.

Third, “Ponddy Reader” is a website that provides different reading texts, including translations, pinyin, and audio recordings for learners of different levels. It uses an AI-powered approach to strengthen learners’ reading skills by making reading in Mandarin more accessible and engaging. For example, Ponddy Reader provides a comprehensive vocabulary builder and insights into grammar and sentence structure that can help students improve their comprehension and communication skills. What’s more, each text provides exercises to make the comprehension check by matching the meaning and doing the word arrangement, which is a great way for teachers to assign homework and track students’ progress.

Last but not least, “Make Beliefs Comix” is a website where students can either make comic strips with a group or do it as individual work. Students can make their comic strips by choosing their favorite characters, backgrounds, and speech bubbles. They will learn how to make their conversation smoothly and reasonably through the writing process when choosing words. Therefore, this website provides a great chance for students to practice writing skills while also fostering creativity and cultural exploration in an interactive way.

Overall, every student has a different learning style and individual differences, as Mandarin teachers, we should take students’ needs in visual, aural, or kinesthetic into consideration and think about how to apply multimodal learning in our teaching strategies to help them learn better.