Get­ting rev­o­lu­tion­ary in lan­guage learn­ing

Eastern Courier - - OUT & ABOUT - LIU CHEN

Lin­guist Svet­lana Chevenko has a knack for mak­ing the daunt­ing task of learn­ing 50 Chi­nese char­ac­ters in two hours pos­si­ble.

A key method of the Paku­ranga res­i­dent’s crash cour­ses is the in­cor­po­ra­tion of et­y­mol­ogy - il­lus­trat­ing the ori­gin of words, which proves to be ef­fec­tive for a lan­guage fea­tur­ing many pic­tographs and ideo­graphs.

Lots of the con­tent is based on Shuowen Jiezi, a clas­sic book on Chi­nese lan­guage and char­ac­ters, as well as the con­cept of Zen.

With pic­tures and games, learn­ers are able to recog­nise, read, write and type the Chi­nese words she taught after an in­ter­est­ing ses­sion, Chevenko says.

Among her stu­dents are young ones from the NZ As­soci- ation for Gifted Chil­dren, and she also teaches classes at schools in Auck­land that have an em­pha­sis on Rus­sian lan­guage and cul­ture.

‘‘They were very happy [about the learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence],’’ Chevenko says, adding she hopes to make bet­ter use of her skills and in­tro­duce the lan­guage to more peo­ple.

‘‘China is a great coun­try with won­der­ful his­tory and cul­ture,’’ she says.

‘‘In Auck­land, there are so many Chi­nese peo­ple and so many in­scrip­tions in Chi­nese. Why not un­der­stand a lit­tle bit? It’s great knowl­edge.’’

Orig­i­nally from Ukraine, the lin­guist spent six years study­ing Chi­nese, Ja­panese and English at Moscow State Univer­sity, and got a PhD in ap­plied lin­guis­tics at the Rus­sian Academy of Sciences.

She worked as a re­searcher at the in­sti­tu­tion for many years be­fore com­ing to New Zealand in the early 1990s, study­ing au­to­matic trans­la­tion from Ja­panese and au­to­matic recog­ni­tion of Chi­nese char­ac­ters.

The ex­pe­ri­ence of the ‘‘teach­ing ma­chine’’ helped her cre­ate her own method of lan­guage teach­ing, which is dif­fer­ent from the ‘‘hor­ri­ble’’ way of rote mem­o­ri­sa­tion, ac­cord­ing to Chevenko.

Her book shelf is filled with dic­tio­nar­ies and books on lan­guage stud­ies, and she spends lots of time de­vel­op­ing new crash cour­ses, with a re­cent one called Let’s Start Read­ing Chi­nese.

She’s also work­ing on videos to make her cour­ses avail­able on­line.

Any­one who wishes to con­tact lan­guage ex­pert Svet­lana Chevenko can send an email to liu.chen@fair­fax­me­


Paku­ranga res­i­dent Svet­lana Chevenko dis­plays her crash course in Chi­nese lan­guage.

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