I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. / 不闻不若闻之,闻之不若见之,见之不若知之,知之不若行之,学至于行之而止矣。

During this year’s fall Faculty Normal, a guest speaker from a local university was discussing the struggles of college students today. When touching upon note-taking in the modern classroom, he brought up an “ancient Chinese quote” that I enjoyed:

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. “

Upon further research, it appears this line is most often erroneously attributed to the all-knowing sage Confucius, when it was actually the work of Xúnzi/荀子, a disciple of Confucius who produced his most famous work 劝学 (Quànxué-On Learning) almost two hundred years after his scholarly forefather is thought to have passed.

Now lets take a closer look at the actual Chinese saying and what has been lost in translation:

不闻不若闻之,闻之不若见之,见之不若知之,知之不若行之,学至于行之而止矣。《荀子》

Bù wén bù ruò wén zhī, wén zhī bù ruò jiàn zhī, jiàn zhī bù ruò zhīzhī, zhīzhī bù ruò xíng zhī, xué zhìyú xíng zhī ér zhǐ yǐ.  -Xúnzi

Not hearing is not as good as hearing, hearing is not as good as seeing, seeing is not as good as understanding, understanding is not as good as doing. To reach implementation/doing, is the apex of learning.”

Although these are very simple and straightforward words of wisdom, I find it to be extremely relevant, felxible and useful even today, 2,000 years after it was proclaimed.

My first year teaching in the Chinese language classroom was largely focused on how to effectively immerse my students in the language through a Chinese-only classroom. This was a struggle, given that as a student, many of my previous Chinese teachers had rarely sought to maintain a Chinese-only environment, even in some higher level courses. All though it was difficult for both the students and myself, through this, I realized the importance of comprehensible input, and why maximizing the amount of hearing/闻 is so crucial in the foreign language classroom.

This past year, after a teacher inservice in January of 2015 that focused on helping students become more effective students, I focused a fair amount of time on doing just that. I sought to help my students develop skills that will stay with them beyond the Chinese language classroom. One of my focuses was seeing/见 the language through effective note-taking. Although I have yet to convince many of the students on the merits of good note-taking, it is one of my many continued goals for this school year.

Now, this year, I think it would be a great goal for both my students and myself to do more to implement/engage/use/do行 the language. This could include more task-based learning in the classroom, or encouraging students to take advantage of the many opportunities to use the language with native speakers at Chinese Corner or during Chinese Club events, etc.

This blog, is a new undertaking and somewhere I hope to share with other students of the Chinese language, many of the successes and failures I hear, see, know or do over the course of the school year. I hope that you will also share yours!

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