Date of Graduation

5-2021

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies (MA)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Graduate School

Advisor

Danjie Su

Committee Member

Rebecca K. Foote

Second Committee Member

Linda Carol Jones

Keywords

authentic materials, Chinese as a second language, learner's attitudes, Mandarin tones, shadowing, tone training

Abstract

Mandarin Chinese tones are notoriously difficult for second language (L2) learners. Previous research focuses on tone training methods that can help learners produce monosyllabic lexical tones, and studies about the production of multisyllabic lexical tones at the sentence level in spontaneous speech are limited. This study applies shadowing—a method where the learners repeat what they heard with as little delay as possible—to tone training and compares the effects of using authentic videos and textbook audios as shadowing materials for beginner L2 Mandarin learners’ tone improvement at the sentence level. Fourteen students in elementary Chinese classes at an American university participated in the tone training activity for four weeks. The participants in the “authentic video” group received authentic videos as their training materials, while the “textbook audio” group was trained with textbook audios. The participants shadowed the materials twice a week, six times per session, at home in their free time. Tone accuracy was rated by Mandarin native speakers according to the pre-test and the post-test consisting of a read-aloud task and a one-on-one conversation. Qualitative and quantitative surveys were conducted to analyze learners’ attitudes toward the shadowing activity and the materials.

The results indicate that learners in both groups showed significant improvements in their accuracy in spontaneous speech with no significant differences between the two groups. As for learners’ attitudes, although the participants reported overall positive feedback on the shadowing activity regardless of the materials, authentic materials generated great interest from the participants and were more appealing to the learners. A strong correlation between learners’ confidence in speaking and flexibility of the activity was also found. Based on the finding, pedagogical implications are discussed, including how to select suitable materials and shadowing instructions. For example, educators could introduce textbook audios first and gradually add authentic materials. The findings provide Mandarin Chinese instructors an effective and engaging way to improve learners’ tone production in spontaneous speaking. Incorporating shadowing activities into class has great potential to encourage learners’ autonomy without occupying precious class time. The findings not only contribute to research on teaching Chinese as a second language and the related pedagogy but also shed light on the use of authentic materials in second language teaching and learning.

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