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A Preliminary Study on Needs Analysis of Integrating Humor into Chinese Teaching Materials
Second language learners
Humor is an act to stimulate laughter or amusement (Martin, 2007). Although it is an indispensable element in everyday communication, it is also a significant barrier for L2 learners. Scholars have thus conducted research on L2 learners’ humor understanding or output (Bell, 2002, 2005, 2007; Shively, 2013; Davies, 2003; Bell& Attardo, 2010). However, there is little research in this field focused on Chinese learners, I, therefore, believe integrating humor into Chinese textbooks can possibly improve Chinese learners' comprehension and ability to generate Chinese humor. This study aims to fill literature gap in this field by analyzing humor contents of three textbooks - "當代中文課程 (A Course in Contemporary Chinese)", "新版實用視聽華語 (Practical Audio-Visual Chinese 3rd Edition)" and "迷你廣播劇 (Mini Radio Plays)", as well as conducting experience survey and needs analysis of teachers and students. The results of the textbook analysis showed that humor in these textbooks all remain at an intermediate level. Most of the humor contents in 當代, 視華, 迷廣 are presented in these respective occasions: articles, comic dialogues, and dialogues in grammar examples. In general, not much humor can be found in these textbooks, and the humor content does not correspond to what scholars define as “learning interest,” one of the fundamental principles of designing teaching materials. As for the experience of failed humor, in terms of output, most students stated " I wanted to express myself in a humorous Chinese way, but I didn’t know how then," and " I thought I had expressed myself in a humorous way, but people there didn't think that was funny." In terms of comprehension, most students commented, " I understood most of the vocabularies people there were using, but I still didn’t know why what they had said was funny," and “I didn’t get the humor that people were trying to convey to me." In summary, the main reasons for the failed humor include the insufficiency of Chinese and popular slang words and unfamiliarity with Chinese cultures. Thus, if Chinese humor is going to be integrated into Chinese textbooks, we still need to focus on language learning. Besides, the humor should be presented in complete contexts which provide students with knowledge of its occasion and the culture behind it. The majority of the participants not only supports the idea of implementing Chinese humor in textbooks but also provided some suggestions. In terms of the topic, most students prefer humor regarding daily life. In terms of location, both teachers and students prefer seeing them in articles and illustrations. In terms of frequency, most of the students and teachers prefer having humorous content when relevant. In terms of presentation, both the teachers and students believe whether the humor contents are presented “in text or comic” depends on the content itself and the proficiency of the students. In terms of explanation, most teachers and students think there should be an explanation of humor content. While teachers and students at the beginner level prefer Chinese explanation, intermediate and advanced students prefer English explanation. In terms of the appropriate time for students to learn Chinese humor, teachers and students at the beginner level claim that this should start at the beginner level, whereas intermediate and advanced students believe otherwise. Through the combination of students and teachers’ suggestions and related research, I believe that for beginners and intermediate students, it is more appropriate to present cultural jokes in straightforward or visual content; on the other hand, humor containing difficult culture or language knowledge is more suitable for upper-intermediate and advanced students. As for universal jokes, because students don’t need too much knowledge mentioned above to understand these jokes, they fit every level.
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