The idea of second language teaching has entered a post-methodological age, in which it is people-oriented, emphasising on group study, cooperation, embracing the communicative, task-based and theme-based integrated language skills. Under the guidance of these concepts, the compilation of our course will display the following features:
1. Students-Centered Integrated Language Skills
The premise of the concept “combination of testing and teaching” is to serve students’ needs for taking the test, but it is not merely about test-taking. Our concern is how to improve students’ language skills under the premise of serving their needs for taking the test, which is also one of the distinctive features of this series. Take HSK Level 1 and Level 2 tests for instance. Though tests at Levels 1-2 have only listening and reading parts, not involving speaking and writing, we’ve still provided pertinent materials and exercise for Chinese pronunciation and characters in the course books at these levels. Besides, absorbing the strengths of the aural-oral and cognitive approaches, the texts are mainly made up of “situations + dialogues + pictures” which cultivate students listening and speaking skills, and the workbooks focus on training students’ listening, reading and writing skills so as to improve their integrated language ability.
2. Integrating the Essential Ideas of the Communicative Approach and Task-Based Language Teaching
The communicative approach stresses the appropriateness in language use and the role of context, while task-based language teaching emphasises the authenticity of language and the acquisition of language through tasks.
Both approaches attach much importance to the authenticity of language, the design of situations as well as the development of language skills in communication. HSK is not an achievement test based on any textbook; it is a proficiency test assessing learners’ language abilities, designed on the basis of the Chinese Proficiency Test Syllabus. Bearing this in mind, we are aware that the course cannot be written in the same way as the existing textbooks which require students to do repeated practice and drills on language points rather than covering every aspect that may be tested. Therefore, while ensuring the words and grammar points used are within the syllabus, we employ different situations to give students a direct sense of how language is used in real life and help them learn and acquire the language through and personal experiences.
3. Reflecting on the concept of Theme-Based Teaching
Theme-based teaching is a language teaching activity focusing on the content and the connotation of the text. It emphasises the diversity and richness of content. Generally, after a theme is chosen, students will be exposed to materials related to various aspects of the theme, in which way their internalisation and understanding of the new content is accelerated; by further probing into the theme, students’ creativity may be developed. To relate to students’ reality and broaden their horizon, starting in Book 4, the course uses themes as leads, each theme divided into smaller themes. The themes are interrelated with each other, forming an organic network of knowledge that will stay firmly in students’ memory.