ODU Faculty Speak World Languages: Dr. Zhongtang Ren | P37

January 24, 2023 Betty Season 5 Episode 37
ODU Faculty Speak World Languages: Dr. Zhongtang Ren | P37
Show Notes Transcript

ODU attracts the best and brightest scholars from around the world. Their contributions as leading educators and researchers make our community increasingly globalized. ODU has a time-honored tradition of providing a diverse and welcoming community where we learn from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. International faculty are helping to make ODU a world class institution of higher education. We want to get to know them better. 

It is an honor to welcome Dr. Zhongtang Ren to our new series, ODU Faculty Speak World Languages! Dr. Ren is a Master Lecturer of Chinese in the Department of World Languages and Cultures. His research interests are student and teacher epistemological beliefs in different cultures, different domains, and different learning environments.  In 2017, he received the prestigious Robert L. Stern Excellence in Teaching Award at Old Dominion University.

Our sincere thanks to our host, Wayne Chan. He is an exceptionally talented and  multilingual student of Asian Studies and International Studies, '22.  Wayne prepared the transcript from this interview.


Host: [00:00:24] Good afternoon and welcome to LLChat, the Language Learning Center’s Podcast on issues related to world languages and cultures from the perspective of students, faculty, and community members.

[00:00:37] Background Music

Host: [00:00:53] It is my distinct pleasure to kick off our new series: ODU Faculty speak world languages. I am your host, Wayne and we come to you from the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia! ODU attracts the best and brightest scholars from around the world. Their contributions as leading educators and researchers make our community increasingly globalized. ODU has a time-honored tradition of providing a diverse and welcoming community where we learn from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. International faculty are helping to make ODU a world-class institution of higher education. We want to get to know them better. I am joined today by our guest, Dr. Ren, who is a professor of Chinese in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at ODU. Welcome, Dr. Ren!

Host: [00:01:27] 今天我们的特邀嘉宾是欧道明大学世界语言与文化系的中文教授任教授,欢迎任教授。Our special guest today is Professor Ren, Master Lecturer of Chinese, Department of World Languages and Cultures at Old Dominion University. Welcome Professor Ren.

Dr. Ren: [00:01:38] 你好Wayne

Hello, Wayne,

Host: [00:01:40] 教授你好!

Hello Professor!

Dr. Ren: [00:01:41] 你好!


Host: [00:01:43] 请简单地介绍一下您的背景,您来自哪里?您的专长是什么呢?您是教什么的?您大学的学科和兴趣是什么呢?和我们谈一谈自己吧。

Please briefly introduce your background, where are you from? What is your specialty? What do you teach? What are your subjects and interests in university? Tell us about yourself.

Dr. Ren: [00:02:32] 好,谢谢Wayne。我是欧道明大学世界语言和文化系的老师。同时呢,也担任中文辅修项目的主任。我教授从初级,中级到高级和超高级的各级中文课程。我的研究和兴趣呢,主要是跨文化认知信念道德推理研究。对语言文体和立场研究也有兴趣。我简单介绍一下我的教育背景和工作背景吧。我在中国获得的是英文语言和文学专业的学士学位。到美国以后就先后获得了中学教育硕士学位还有应用语言学硕士学位,还有就是城市教育博士学位。无论是以前在中国还是现在来到美国我的工作环境一直都是大学,教授的学生也都是大学生。

Ok, Thank you, Wayne! I am a faculty member at the Department of World Languages and Cultures of Old Dominion University, and the director of the Chinese Studies minor program. I teach Chinese courses at all levels, from beginning and intermediate to advanced and super advanced. My research and interests are primarily in the study of cross-cultural epistemological beliefs and moral reasoning, with an interest in linguistic style and stance studies. Here is a brief description of my educational and professional background: I received my bachelor's degree in Language and Literature in China, and after I moved to the United States, I earned a master's degree in Secondary Education, a master's degree in Applied Linguistics, and a doctorate in Urban Education. Whether I was in China or I am now in the United States, I have always worked in a university setting and taught students at college level.

Host: [00:03:36] 哇!老师您真的非常地厉害。那您能告诉我们更多您关于在中国长大的事情吗?比如中国的文化给您什么最大的启发呢?

Wow! Dr. Ren, you are really talented and smart. Can you tell us more about growing up in China? For example, what has inspired you most about Chinese culture?

Dr.Ren: [00:03:50] 好,我在中国的成长经历比较丰富啊。先后经历了文革也就是文化大革命的后期,还有就是经历了社会秩序的恢复,经济建设的调整,中国的对外改革开放,还有中国的经济腾飞等不同的时期。中国的文化在这些不同的时期被赋予不同的内涵,比如说在传统文化在这个文革期间遭到了严重的破坏和彻底的否定。当时的中国文化语言甚至包括外语学习都被高度的政治化了。所以我们在学校学的中文啊英文啊在日常生活中都用不上。这种情况直到文革结束以后才加以改变。我们所学的中文啊外语都开始接地气了


I grew up in China with rich experiences. I experienced different historic periods including the late Cultural Revolution, the restoration of social order and the adjustment of economic construction, China’s reform and opening up to the outside world, and China's economic take-off. The Chinese culture has been given different connotations in these different periods. For instance, during the Cultural Revolution, Chinese traditional culture and value were severely damaged and completely rejected, and Chinese language learning and foreign language learning were highly politicized. So what I learned from school could not be applied to our daily life. It was not until the end of the Cultural Revolution that this situation was changed so I began to learn Chinese language and foreign language that would be useful for our everyday life. After the Cultural Revolution, China gradually carried out reforms and opened its economy to the outside world. Chinese culture, especially traditional culture, was revived while embracing Western culture. Although individualism began to sprout and people began to pursue individuality, the core and mainstream of Chinese culture was still the concept of collectivism. What "collectivism" emphasizes is the individuals’ responsibility and obligation to society and their service for the common good of society. These Chinese cultural concepts have still had a great influence on my personal spiritual growth.

Host: [00:05:23] 嗯,好的。您所说的对我也是差不多这样的启发。

Yes. What you have said has inspired me almost in the same way.

Dr.Ren: [00:05:29] 一样的。That’ll be great.

Host: [00:05:30] 好。那您是什么时候搬来美国的呢?过渡到一种美国人的生活方式是什么样的感觉呢?对您来说是具有挑战性吗?

When did you move to the U.S.? What was it like transitioning to an American way of life? Was it challenging?

Dr.Ren: [00:05:41] 我是在2000年也就是两千年来到美国。从留学到工作至今已经有二十一年了。从中国的生活方式过渡到美国的生活方式,总的来说,适应的还是很快的。这可能是得益于我在专业和语言能力吧。当时挑战的地方,我觉得是留学前期的生活问题,因为远离家人远离自己所熟悉的工作和生活环境,一切都是从零开始,就成为一个全日制的学生。我个人又得专注学习又得生活。比如,在生活中需要租房啊买车,购买各种保险,支付各种生活开支,购物,洗衣,做饭等等。在学校里,我不但要自己选课助课,全力以赴地认真学习,还要担任这个助教工作,帮助这个教授安排课程啊,帮助学生熟悉课程的结构。特别是网上的课程设置,在那个时候,也就是两千年的时候,还是属于比较新的,所以很多东西都是现学现卖。另外,我还有担任老师指导的支持美国贫困地区教育项目的评估工作,所以每个星期还要下到弗吉尼亚西部的一个贫困县做评估调查,所以当时忙得,可以说,不可开交。所以,我到我刚到美国的时候还是有点蒙圈。

I came to the U.S. in 2000, and it has been twenty-one years since I studied and worked here. Thanks to my professional and language skills, the transition from the Chinese way of life to the American way of life was, in general, a quick adaptation. The challenge at that time, I think, was my life as a student at the beginning: I was far away from my family, and from my familiar working and living environment, and I had to start from scratch as a full-time student. I had to focus on studying as well as living all by myself, for example, I had to rent an apartment, buy a car, purchase all kinds of insurance, pay for all kinds of living expenses, shop, cook, do the laundry and so on. For my academic life, not only did I have to choose and register my own classes, but I also had to work as a teaching assistant to assist my professor to arrange classes and help students get familiar with the structure of the classes, especially the online ones, which were still relatively new in 2000, so I had to learn a lot of new things before I knew how to help students. In addition, I had to work for my professor’s educational programs in the poor areas in the U.S. I had to travel to a project county in western Virginia every week to do an evaluation survey. I was so exhausted, so to speak, that I felt very overwhelmed when I moved to the U.S. in the first one or two years.

Host: [00:07:19] 但是这些都成为您非常宝贵的经历呀。那您最想念您家乡的什么呢?But these are very valuable experiences for you. What do you miss most about your homeland?

Dr.Ren: [00:07:30] 最想念家乡的还是家乡的美食。大家都喜欢家乡的味道,还有就是那种中国特有的文化吧!就是人们为了共同的利益的一种信念和行动。

What I miss most about my hometown is its delious food. People like the taste of their home food and the uniqueness of their home culture! For instance, the belief and action of people for the common good.

Host: [00:07:47] 那能说几个家乡的美食吗?

Can you tell me some delicious foods from your hometown?

Dr.Ren: [00:07:50] 我们家乡的美食有这个洛阳水席啊,都是这个汤汤汤水水的。24道菜有八个凉菜,有十六个都是那种热菜啊,各种各样的都是带有汤。

The delicious food of my hometown is its local soup dish banquet: 8 cold dishes and 16 hot dishes out of 24 course dishes, with different soup.

Host: [00:08:12] 有机会的话我也想去洛阳旅游品尝一下。

I'd like to travel to your hometown and have a taste if I have the chance.

Dr.Ren: [00:08:15] 对对对。到时候,如果我们那时候都在中国的时候我可以当你导游。That’s great. Then, I can be your tour guide if we are both in China at the same time.

Host: [00:08:22] 好好好。那您除了上课的时候说中文,您在诺福克校园还有社区里还会和其他的人说中文吗?

Awesome! And do you speak Chinese in the Norfolk community and on campus?

Dr.Ren: [00:08:33] 嗯,除了上课的时候说中文,那是我的工作语言以外,其实我在下面在这个中国教会里头,在中文学校里头也说中文。

Well, besides speaking Chinese in class, which is my working language, I actually speak Chinese at a Chinese church and at a Chinese school.

Host: [00:08:50] 那掌握另一种语言如何支持您的研究演讲还有其他的学术活动呢?

How does knowing another language(s) support your research, presentations, and scholarly initiatives?

Dr.Ren: [00:08:58] 我的博士论文和大部分学术论文都是用英文完成的。英文是我们的外语嘛。但是在这儿是我们的工作的语言。那有的学术论文有的是用中文,大多都是比较这个中美文化的。另外,就是我还把美国作家的小说啊,学者的学术论文啊,翻译成中文。

Yes, I wrote my doctoral dissertation and most of my academic papers in English, which is my working language here, and some academic papers in Chinese, mostly comparing Chinese and American cultures. In addition, I have translated novels by American writers and academic papers by scholars into Chinese.

Host: [00:09:30] 好,在您大学学科中就是掌握一门外语有多么重要呢?How important is it to know another world language in your discipline?

Dr.Ren: [00:09:37] 在我的学科中,因为我本身就是教授外语就是中文,在这里是中文是外语。所以要单单的掌握一门外语或者是中文是远远不够的。而是必须要对母语,比如说我的母语是中文,那对于我的学生来说是外语,那我所教的、我用的这个工作语言是英文,所以这两门语言我都要精通才行。还有就是,除了要精通这两门语言的语音系统和语法系统以外呢,还要精通它们的语义系统,能够准确的分析语用的语境啊等等。所以那另外还有对这个两门语言的这个语言所承载的文化系统了如指掌,因为语言它不是孤立的,它是文化的载体。

In my discipline, since I teach a foreign language, which is Chinese here, it is far from enough to master a foreign language itself, but rather I must be proficient in both the native language and the foreign language. In this case, I will teach Chinese, my native language, as a foreign language to my students in English, their native language. In addition to being proficient in the phonological and syntactic systems of both languages, I must also be proficient in their semantic systems and be able to accurately analyze the context of usage, etc. It is also important to know the cultural systems that both languages carry, because languages are not isolated, they are carriers of cultures.

Host: [00:10:41] 嗯,那您对目前正在学习世界语言和文化的欧道明大学的学生有什么建议吗?Alright, what advice would you offer our current ODU students studying world languages and cultures?

Dr.Ren: [00:10:52] 学习外语,学习这个世界语言和文化,就不能只是出于工具性的动机,也就是instrumental motivation。在这种工具性的动机下呢,就是学习者他/她只重掌握

外语之后伴随的一些实际的益处,比如说满足所学专业的外语学分要求啊,找到一份工作等等。因为这些动机它都是被动的,外在的,短暂的。所以我觉得学习世界语言和文化,更重要的是,要去有这个融入性动机就是integrative motivation。这就是说,学习者在学习某种语言的原因,主要是为了与这些目的语族群的人进行交流,或者是呢为了更好地理解这些人他们的文化或者生活方式,甚至有融入所学外语的文化当中的激情和热情。那么这样学习外语的主动性和自觉性就更会更强一些。内在性和能动性也更强,学习也会更持久。

Learning a world language and culture cannot be driven by "instrumental motivation" , in which, learners pay attention only on the practical benefits that come with mastering a foreign language, such as meeting the foreign language credit requirements for their major, finding a job, etc., for such motivation is passive, extrinsic and short-lived. I believe it is more important to have an "Integrative Motivation" for learning a world language and culture, by which, the learner learns a language in order to communicate with people of the target language group, to better understand these people, their cultures and their way of life, or even want to integrate into the culture of the target language with passion and enthusiasm, so that the learner tend to be more conscious, intrinsic and proactive to learn the language, and the learning will be more sustainable.

Host: [00:12:09] 好,谢谢您对欧道明大学学生的建议,那么对您个人来说会说多种语言意味着什么呢?Well, thank you for your advice to Old Dominion students, and what does it mean for you personally to be multilingual?

Dr.Ren: [00:12:19] 对我个人来说,会说多门语言非常的重要。因为会说多门语言,不仅是提高一个人的生存技能,让我们在求职的时候更有竞争力,让我们在社交中更有魅力。在旅游的时候给我们带来诸多的方便等等。但更重要的是呢,学会一门新的语言,等于我拿到了打开那门语言承载的新的文化的那扇大门的钥匙,然后去进入它,去探索去认知,去领悟全新的文化。反过来又会对自己所熟悉的文化进行对比,重新认识和领悟自己的文化。所以在这个交流过程中,我的眼界会更加的广阔,看待事物会更加的多元。更激动人心的是,我们会在这个文化交流的过程中,自觉或不自觉地,起到桥梁的沟通作用。

For me personally, being multilingual is crucial: not only can being multilingual improve our survival skills, make us more competitive in job hunting and more socially competent, and bring us a lot of convenience when traveling, etc., but more importantly, learning a new language also implies that we have obtained the key to open the door to

the new culture carried by that language, allowing us to explore, to perceive, to comprehend the new culture. In return, we will be able to compare and contrast the two cultures, and at the same time to re-examine and re-appreciate my own culture. In this process of communication, we have a broader vision and a more diversified view of things. What is more exciting is that we will play a special role to bridge the gaps in this cultural exchange process, either consciously or subconsciously.

Host: [00:13:19] 对,我非常同意您的观点。那您还有什么其它的想让我们的听众知道的吗?Yes, I couldn't agree more. Is there anything else you'd like our listeners to know?

Dr.Ren: [00:13:27] 我觉得那个学习外语在我的这个所教授的就是中文,特别是成人学习外语或者中文,这个跟儿童学习语言学习的机制不一样。因为儿童的属于语言学习关键期,所以他们能够轻松而很快地掌握一门新的语言,而成人学习的外语,就特别的需要耐心,不能期望一蹴而就,而是要根据每个人不同的特点,寻找到属于自己的Ebbinghaus 记忆遗忘曲线。然后呢,科学的进行规划,有针对的复习练习总结。还有一点,也就是非常重要的一点,就是要充分利用身边可用的资源,比如:听外语歌曲,看外语新闻,看外语电影,跟所学语言的语伴儿交流,就是为自己打造一个学习外语的一个全方位的有利的环境,这样,我相信,有志者事竟成!

To me, the process of adults’ foreign language learning, including Chinese, is different from the mechanism of children’s language learning. Children can learn and master a new language easily and quickly because they haven’t missed the critical period of language learning. Adults need patience to learn a foreign language. They can’t expect to do it overnight. Instead, they must find their own Ebbinghaus Memory Forgetting Curve based on their own learning experiences, and then plan accordingly to review, practice and summarize what they have gained, forgotten and retained. It is also very important to use the resources available around you, such as listening to foreign language songs, watching foreign language TV news, watching foreign language movies, and having conversation with your language partners, so as to create a favorable environment for learning foreign languages for yourself. So, I believe: where there is a will, there is a way!

Host: [00:14:44] 好,非常感谢任老师。那谢谢您今天加入我们的这次的访谈,我非常感谢您分享那些重要的观点。我想听众听完之后一定会受益匪浅。

Alright, thank you very much, Dr. Ren. Appreciate you for joining the interviews today. Also, thank you for sharing those important views. I believe the audience will benefit a lot after listening.

Host:[00:14:58] Thank you for joining us today! We are grateful to you for sharing your viewpoints. Thank you。

End: [00:15:23] Hello, listeners. I wanted to give a special thanks to Kichibachi for allowing us to play his song "Miracle" to our podcast. Check him out the new preferred music listening platform. I also want to thank each of you, our listeners for tuning in to our podcast, for showing an interest in World languages and cultures. Happy listening!

[00:15:44] Ending music.