Prof. Joel Bellassen: Embrace Dualism to teach Chinese effectively

Prof. Joel Bellassen, Academic Advisor to hihilulu; Honorary Inspector General of National Education France; and President of European Association for Chinese Teaching
Join the professor as he shares his views with leaders in education in Dubai about Chinese language learning and culture integration

Dubai, May 26, 2023: Recognising the dual nature of the language is key to teaching Chinese effectively, says Prof. Joel Bellassen, Academic Advisor to hihilulu, Honorary Inspector General of National Education France, and President of European Association for Chinese Teaching.

Speaking to Education Middle East, Prof Bellassen said that the most common methodology used in teaching Chinese treats it like any other language, ignoring the fact that it has two minimal units. This dualism, he believes, is vital to effective Chinese learning. He emphasizes that to ignore this fact leads to ineffective teaching of Chinese.

Prof Bellassen says that unlike other languages, such as English, French, Spanish and Arabic, which have only one minimal pedagogical unit, the word, Chinese has two: characters and words.

“The word, most often dissyllabic, is the minimum unit that governs the oral language; while it is character, the unit of meaning, which is the basic unit of the language on its semantic side,” he explains.

Prof Bellassen laments that there is a pedagogical split, divided by two diametrically opposing viewpoints, although considerable progress has been made globally in the teaching and learning of Chinese over the past 20 years.

“In the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language advocated by China, the mainstream view is to Westernise Chinese to teach with ‘words’ as the smallest unit just like other foreign languages. However, the ‘dualism’ method of teaching-learning Chinese has been adopted for a long time in Europe,” he says.

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A renowned expert in Chinese language teaching, Prof Bellassen has systematically developed the ‘dualism’ method of teaching-learning Chinese since the 1980s.

Based on Prof Bellassen’s dualism theory, immersive Chinese education platform hihilulu has designed a natural Chinese language acquisition pedagogy for children. The pedagogy facilitates natural acquisition of character-based Chinese language by exposing children to an early immersive Chinese language environment.

“hihilulu’s content platform, animated by age-appropriate cartoons and multimedia content, perfectly complements the dualism approach in making Chinese language learning playful and interactive yet highly effective,” says Jennifer Huang, the Founder & CEO of hihilulu.

With the use of innovative digital technologies, hihilulu is able to create blended solutions with personalisation for educational institutions. hihilulu also offers comprehensive training to teachers to equip them with the unique pedagogy.

The dualistic approach is of immense significance in reducing the learning burden for Chinese learners, and thereby optimising the learning effect, says the professor.

To embrace this approach, it is important to dissociate communication and language activities (oral expression, written expression, listening comprehension, reading comprehension) from the graphic side of Chinese (the characters, the identification of components, visuographic and kinesics memory, graphic execution), he says.

hihilulu has applied this principle successfully into its pedagogy through its course plans. “This is probably why top private schools, particularly Montessori schools feel a quick pedagogical synergy to use hihilulu for their Chinese programs,” adds Huang.

By recognising the uniqueness of the Chinese language and adopting a dualism approach, Chinese learning can be made fun and easy for learners, he says.

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Prof Bellassen will be sharing his views on culture and language integration with leaders in education in Dubai at an exclusive event in Dubai, ‘Mandarin Soirée’. This invitation-only event brings together principals and heads of primary and elementary private schools in Dubai to understand the nuances of culture in foreign language learning while offering a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals.

Organised by hihilulu in association with Education Middle East at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort on June 7, 5pm, the event will also explore the benefits of Chinese as a second language in the school environment.

Heads of schools interested in attending the event can write to or call +971 50 5349594/54 3916932.