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每一堂课都要听到孩子的笑声 — 专访汉语文中心校长韩永元
To Hear Students’ Laughter in Every Lesson
Chu Luo Jun
Photos courtesy of HAN Language Centre
Published: EduNation, Issue 5, September-October 2013
Chinese lessons, for many students here, are a painful experience. Their parents also probably have painful childhood memories of learning the language. Surprisingly, though, there is a place in Singapore where children positively enjoy their Chinese lessons because they promise so much fun and laughter.

EduNation interviewed the Principal of Han Language Centre, Mr Ann Jong Juan, who has many years of experience in crosstalk and the theatre, and championing the cause of local culture. We learnt how he has incorporated these influences into Chinese teaching so that lessons are lively, interactive and rich with culture, producing students who make immediate and rapid improvement in the language.

Crosstalk and Drama — Educational Entertainment

Because he is a firm believer that each student represents a living link to Chinese culture, Han Language Centre Founder Mr Ann sets a high requirement for his teachers. “Every lesson, I want to hear the students’ laughter so I know they are enjoying their lessons, and not feeling that the language is boring or that sitting through the lessons is a form of punishment.

“Why does there need to be laughter? I believe that as long as children are happy when learning they will look forward to the next lesson. When students attend my classes they often ask, ‘Mr Ann, what joke do you have today?’ My jokes have become a kind of reward.”

Mr Ann was trained to be a teacher in 1968. 45 years spent teaching have led him to the conclusion that the more one learns the more one realises how little one knows, and that it is only through teaching that one appreciates the difficulties of learning. In fact, one needs to keep learning to be a good teacher.

“In Singapore, the environment is not conducive to the learning of Chinese, but as an educator it is my responsibility to make my students love the language instead of rejecting it. Therefore, for every lesson I teach, I will rack my brains over what I can do to better engage my students so that they will learn to like the language. From writing course materials to teaching, my starting point is to guide the students into loving the language,” said Mr Ann. Chinese lessons that are taught by a veteran theatre practitioner and an experienced crosstalk artist who has also been awarded the Cultural Medallion must be fascinating.

Mr Ann has been interested in theatre since his own secondary school days; later he also fell in love with crosstalk.

These influences have given him a strong sense of cultural heritage, so much so that his words and gestures are infused with a distinct charm. At the start of the 1970s, under the pen names of Tan Tian and Han Lao Da he wrote a number of very popular crosstalk scripts. Unsurprisingly then, as a teacher, he has always tried to bring both the humorous elements of crosstalk and the storytelling elements of the theatre into his teaching so that his lessons are uniquely engaging. “Not every teacher can learn my teaching methods. In every class I teach I incorporate elements of theatre and crosstalk, making the lessons lively and interesting. In this way students will better remember what is being taught,” said Mr Ann.

“After their examinations, I will let my Primary 6 students view crosstalk master Ma Ji’s videos to allow them to pick up more vivid vocabulary. Ma Ji has a crosstalk Cheng Yu Xin Bian in which he uses idioms indiscriminately which makes for amusing material. After my students are entertained, I ask them to list down the idioms they can remember, and it becomes a little competition. In this way, we learn Chinese via the arts.”

Mr Ann not only incorporates the elements of crosstalk in his lessons but he also includes elements of the theatre, often improvising in class to guide students to think and come up with their own ideas. It is only after watching one of his performances that the students realise Mr Ann is actually teaching them about picture compositions. Later, when they come to write their compositions they will remember Mr Ann’s performance and having fully grasped the ideas he was trying to give them they will be that much more confident and able to write well.

Mr Ann’s vivid performances have often made things difficult for the teachers who have trained under him. They will say, “Mr Ann, we don’t know how to perform.” Mr Ann will comfort them by saying, “You don’t need to perform. As long as you narrate your stories with liveliness in a way the children will enjoy, that’s enough.”

Curriculum Based on 30 Years of Teaching Experience

Mr Ann is both an artist and an experienced educator with more than 20 years of experience in primary and secondary teaching. He also has more than six years of experience writing curriculum materials and supplementary reading materials for the Ministry of Education (MOE).

30 years ago, the Principal of The Chinese High School (TCHS), Mr Tooh Fee San, had a lot of foresight when he seconded Mr Ann, a primary school teacher, from the MOE to teach Chinese and promote theatre in TCHS. Mr Ann had no experience of teaching at the secondary level, nor had he any tertiary qualifications (he received his Master’s degree in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics from Xiamen University, China in 2010). At TCHS, Mr Ann wrote, cast and directed the play Tan Kah Kee, which was a sensational hit when it debuted. Unfortunately, though, he soon felt overwhelmed by his dual role as both theatre practitioner and educator, and he began to fear that he couldn’t keep the required up for very long. After a lot of thought, he decided to tender his resignation to concentrate on educational publishing, but after just one year in the publishing industry a twist of fate led him to establish his own Language Centre.

“In 1993 the examination mode for the Chinese Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) was changed drastically, and the then president of the Singapore Chinese Teachers’ Union Mr Chen Keng Juan invited me to study the new format. Together with Friday Weekly we co-organised a forum on the PSLE. That forum was fully booked.

“From the enthusiastic response we received, I saw there was a market in this area. I therefore registered Han Language Centre, rented a classroom in a small unit in Ang Mo Kio and started to enrol students. I initially used my surname ‘Han’, which meant Korean, so some people mistakenly thought I taught the Korean language. It was only later I had it changed to ‘Han’ (Mandarin) Language Centre.”

When Han Language Centre was opened, demand alone was not enough to guarantee its success. Mr Ann had to rely on his personal appeal and his contacts. Fortunately, two decades of teaching experience and six years of curriculum and assessment book writing ensured the Centre had a high profile when it entered the market.

With his own experience of and natural ability for writing course materials, Mr Ann felt that the Ministry’s publications were too rigid and too bland. For example, “fragrance” was not included in the vocabulary list for Primary 2, hence textbooks could not refer to “the fragrance of flowers”, but were instead restricted to “the beauty of flowers”. In following Western language teaching practices the curriculum was also built on the progressive accumulation of sentence elements. For example, “I have a book”, “I have an interesting book” and so on. Mr Ann, however, thought that storytelling was a better method of building up knowledge and ability.

“These teaching methods were dry and boring, because there was no element of storytelling. Learning cannot take place without stories, and on top of that, the phrases that could be used were very limited, with no room for lively words and phrases because students hadn’t yet learned these. It was only later that the MOE relaxed these rules and started having three categories of words — those students only needed to recognise, those they needed to pronounce and those they needed to write.”

When he discovered these pitfalls, Mr Ann decided to write his own curriculum. “When I write my own materials, I not only include the terms taught in school but those not covered in the formal curriculum that students ought to know. My texts are stories based on the vocabulary lists of five to ten chapters covered in school,” said Mr Ann.

“For instance, our Primary 1 text can be a few short but poetic sentences: ‘The sky is covered with puffy white clouds, and this looks like a cow while that looks like a sheep. The cows and sheep have no grain to feed on, that’s why they’re in the sky.’ I am able to use very simple words to write a short piece that is very easy to remember for the students.”

Mr Ann also discovered that the MOE does not teach many fairly frequently used three-character phrases, like “unheeded advice”, “in a flash”, “jaws of death” and “a feast for the ears”. Even at Primary 6 a student wouldn’t have learnt more than ten such phrases. He is incredulous that such lively phrases are neglected.

“According to the content of these phrases I put them in different levels of text and treat them as intensive learning. Every lesson I teach five of these, like ‘a feast for the ears’, then ‘a feast for the taste buds’. In this way they realise that they can change something or tweak it to mean something else. By the time my students are in Primary 6, they will have mastered a hundred of these phrases.

“Other than the more commonly used phrases, there are also many maxims and proverbs which, although they only use simple words, are very vivid in their descriptive power. For example, ‘taking responsibility for one’s deeds’ not only contains significant moral education but is simpler in Chinese than ‘confess’. Proverbs and maxims such as ‘helping others is the source of happiness’, ‘a moment’s folly may result in lifelong regret’, and ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ also come in very useful during composition writing,” said Mr Ann.

The MOE syllabus is revised every five years, but the syllabus at Han Language Centre is revised every year. “The teachers in all 20 of our centres give me feedback every year, and I will revise the curriculum based on what they say. For example, some texts might be overly difficult for students of that level, so I will change it completely. The secondary curriculum, especially, needs constant revision because it focuses a lot on current affairs.”

Mr Ann not only performs research and writes the course materials but he also observes his students so he can better understand their problems and find solutions to them.

“I have a Primary 6 student who does pretty well in his studies, and performs well in exams, but he always complains about the difficulty of writing essays. It is as if his pen weighs a ton and he cannot write a single word. When asked what’s wrong, he will say, ‘I don’t have good phrases, so I can’t write anything.’

“This is the result of the schools teaching the children to use ‘good phrases’, to have a good introduction, poetic sentences and so on. Students are not only unable to memorise them but those with weaker language abilities fail to even grasp the meaning of these phrases, and therefore they feel that they are unable to write anything. In order to help these students overcome this psychological barrier, I teach them not to care about ‘good phrases’ but instead to concentrate on just saying what they have to say. When they do that they can finish writing the essay and at least pass that component,” said Mr Ann.

Differentiated Teaching

When Mr Ann appeared in Lianhe Zaobao last year, he said, “A language centre is different from a tuition centre.” The students who choose to study at Han Language Centre have a range of linguistic mastery. The Centre then chooses the appropriate types of teaching based on the needs of the students.

“For those who are weak in the language, we have tuition and ‘lifebuoy’ classes. When we register the students, we first ask their parents about their ability. Those who are near the passing mark in school are encouraged to join the tuition classes.

“Our ‘lifebuoy’ class has a very special curriculum. This class is specially designed for those students who are unable to write Chinese compositions at all. Parents can request this class for their child if it is needed. Every teacher at our Centre knows the methods of the ‘lifebuoy’, and is able to lend a helping hand to those who are drowning.

“Many years ago a parent approached me and asked if I would be able to rescue his son, who hadn’t passed a single composition test from Primary 3 to Primary 6. When I saw samples of his work, I realised that all his sentences were fragmented and unintelligible.

“This child’s cognition process was similarly fragmented, so I started a ‘composition lifebuoy’ method. First, I gave him a sentence to start every composition with, no matter what the topic was. This is a dead method. For example I would get him to use, ‘Today’s weather is fair’ for all his picture compositions. Even if it was a rainy day he could say, ‘Today’s weather is not very good, and it started raining, so I couldn’t go out.’ Next, I advised him to use the helping words or phrases, but only those he understood, and to leave out those he didn’t. After that I taught him the simplest conversation, and how to punctuate it with colons and quotation marks because dialogue uses plain language and is therefore the easiest to write.

“After this student managed to pass his composition using these methods, we went on to teach him how to improve his writing by adding characters’ thoughts and generally making it more vivid. The whole course takes ten lessons, and focuses on writing with simple words — actions like ‘see’, ‘listen’, ‘run’ and mental activities like ‘I think’, ‘this is terrible’ and so on. All the time the student uses plain words, he will express himself clearly, and some students can even narrate events in quite a lively manner. For example, ‘speechless’ can be used for many scenarios: ‘scared speechless’, ‘so happy he was speechless’, and so on. An idiom like ‘terror-stricken’, however, would be hard to remember for these students.”

Exceptional students who enrol at the Centre are held up to different expectations by Mr Ann. “I require students with a strong language ability to think of an introduction before the first picture so they can use it as a prelude.

“There are many ways to start a composition: with the weather, with a memory or even with an object. For example, ‘There is a single character — Endure — framed in my father’s study.’ From such a beginning you can guess what kind of story it will be. If the composition starts off well half the battle is already won. In writing any introduction, the most important thing is for students to have their own ideas, and to write according to what they have observed. I don’t want the better students to memorise an introduction. We have collated and published a book of the best essays our students have written, and not one introduction is the same. None of the essays start with, ‘It was an excellent morning.’”

Even the best students have areas in which they can improve. “Students now seldom read, so they are not exposed to good writing, and this results in a lack of creativity. They are unable to write essays which are not cliché. Therefore I will often direct the stronger students to good classical works.

“Aside from encouraging them to read, I will also have my students do some brainstorming exercises. I remember a class where I played the famous Taiwanese singer Fei Yu Ching’s Yi Ba Ni Tu. After that, I got my students to compose another song based on what they had heard, or to use their own ideas to compose a song based on the same structure. The students managed to write verses with many different flavours. The lyrics of Fei’s song, ‘This soil has been trodden by enemies, tilled by farmers, and walked over by us,’ are very poetic and they teach students the appeal of words. It is no coincidence that many song lyrics are good poems.

“In recent years, based on parents’ needs, we have organised a workshop in June for PSLE students. I speak at this workshop myself, which only has two classes. The duration is four hours per day for five consecutive days. This intensive course is aimed at helping students achieve better marks. Students who enrol in this workshop must have scored no lower than 70 marks. I teach these students useful proverbs and maxims to help them score better,” elaborated Mr Ann.

Future Plans

Han Language Centre is entering its twentieth year, and its 20 centres currently have about 4,000 students on roll. Mr Ann, who is 66 this year, is, however, planning to retire.

“I am looking for a successor. I feel that the Centre should continue to develop, and not stop after I leave. Therefore I am training my teachers to be independent.”

Mr Ann has taught students who have gone on to become President’s Scholars and Prime Minister’s Book Prize winners. Already retired from actual teaching, he does not force his teachers to be like him. “I don’t ask to be replicated, and I think that as long as we make sure that students are happy when learning, and that they improve, parents will trust us, and that is enough,” said Mr Ann.

Mr Ann still has an unfulfilled wish. In 1990 he was awarded the Cultural Medallion (Theatre), but up until now he has yet to receive the creative sponsorship fees from the National Arts Council that are given to awardees. “I am currently writing a script, and would like to work with director Kok Heng Leun. The SAC has already approved my application. The work will be based on the history of Singapore, and will have a total of eight acts. What makes this work special is that it contains elements of crosstalk. I want to hear laughter in every act, just as I do in my classes. But the laughter will be tinged with sadness. That is what I want to achieve. I want to record our country’s history with something that is non-traditional. History is filled with funny and incomprehensible moments, and satire is a valid historical perspective.”

Mr Ann hopes that this play will be ready in 2015 to celebrate Singapore’s fiftieth year of independence.

Some people say that Mr Ann will stop caring about his Centre after he has retired. To this, Mr Ann replies, “I will not stop creating just because I have retired. I will still work in theatre and crosstalk because those are my passions. I have never stopped writing crosstalk for students to perform.” China’s famed crosstalk master Mr Hou Baolin once presented Mr Ann with the following phrase: “As the pen flows.” To create and write is indeed what is most important for Mr Ann, and as someone who has fought for Chinese culture his whole life, he will almost certainly want to continue leaving his mark on Singaporean culture long after he has officially retired.
 


精选文章 > 每一堂课都要听到孩子的笑声 — 专访汉语文中心校长韩永元
每一堂课都要听到孩子的笑声 — 专访汉语文中心校长韩永元
丘珞君
图:汉语文中心提供
刊载:《新学》, 第5期,2013年9月-10月
华文课,对许多学生都是一段痛苦的时间。对一些已经晋级为家长的新加坡人,甚至也是惨痛的童年回忆。本地却有这么一个学华文的地方,上课时经常传出哄堂的欢乐笑声,教师幽默风趣的课,让孩子们不再感觉学习华文是一场恶梦。

《新学》新加坡教育双语双月刊专访教学经验丰富,且精于相声和戏剧创作,数十年来致力推动本地文化事业发展的汉语文中心创办人韩永元校长,了解他如何把相声和戏剧等艺术元素,融入华文教学,让学生学到最活泼的、最生活化的、最生动的、最有文化的华文。学生学得非常愉快,还立竿见影,进步神速。

相声戏剧寓教于乐

因为深信“留住一个学生,就留住一个华文的根”,创办汉语文中心20年的韩永元,为旗下教师定下一个高要求,就是“每一堂课,都要听到孩子的笑声、要让孩子学得愉快,不再感觉学习华文是枯燥乏味,是在受刑罚。”

“为什么要有笑声呢?我认为只有让学生有愉快的学习心情,才会对下次上课有所期待。所以孩子上我的课,常问我:‘韩老师,你今天有什么笑话?’我的笑话变成了一种嘉奖。”

韩永元于1968年受训成为教师。45年教学生涯,让他充分体会“学而后知不足,教而后知困”,只有不停学习、深入学习,才能把学生教好。

他说:“在新加坡,这个让华文教师感到无奈甚至是回天乏力的语言环境中,怎样使学生爱上华文,而不是排斥华文,是我身为华文教师的沉重担子。所以,我每上一堂课,总是绞尽脑汁,使尽浑身解数,务必让孩子亲近华文、喜欢华文。我从编写教材到上课,都是以如何引导孩子喜欢华文为切入点。”

华文补习课由一位国家文化奖得主,享誉戏剧和相声界的艺术家当老师,这样的课哪能不让孩子感到兴味盎然,如痴如醉?

韩永元自中学时代开始对戏剧艺术产生浓烈兴趣,后来又爱上相声。戏剧和相声为他积垫了丰厚的艺术文化底蕴,使他的一言一行或举手投足,都充满了魅力。世纪70年代开始,他以谭天和劳达笔名创作相声作品,大受欢迎。同时兼任教师的他,把相声的幽默元素和戏剧的故事元素融入教学,让学生听得津津有味。他说:“不是每名教师都学得到我的教学法。我讲的每一堂课,常常都有一些戏剧和相声的元素在里面,生动谐趣,使学生对所学的语文知识印象深刻。

“我会让六年级的学生在考完试后,在我的课上观赏已故相声大师马季的相声录影,从中学习生动的语言。马季有一个相声叫做《成语新编》,他乱用成语,制造笑料。学生笑完以后,我问他们记得多少个成语,以此来比赛看谁记得最多。我们是这样通过艺术来学习华文。”

融入相声元素辅助教学以外,韩永元也会在课堂上即兴表演,以戏剧的方式,创意引导学生思考,发掘自己的想法。孩子在看了一场表演后,才发现原来韩老师“就是教我们看图作文嘛”。看图作文的图片唤醒之前所看到韩老师表演的记忆,充分理解故事之后,就会把看过的情节片段用在作文里面。”

韩永元活灵活现的表演,常让跟他学习的教师感到为难。他们会说:“韩老师,我们不会表演。”韩永元会安慰他们说:“你不必表演,只要把故事讲得生动,让孩子喜欢就行。”

汉语文中心教材以30年教育经验为基础编写

韩永元除了是艺术工作者,还是资深教育工作者,拥有20多年的中小学教学经验,并为教育部编写教材和辅助读物长达六年。

30年前,华侨中学(简称华中)校长杜辉生独具慧眼,把从没有教过中学,没有大学学历(2010年韩永元才完成厦门大学的硕士研究生课程,获文学硕士学位)的小学教师韩永元,从教育部借调到华中教华文,并推动校园戏剧。在华中期间,韩永元创作《陈嘉庚》剧本,还负责统筹,动员全校师生演出。公演时轰动一时。这项必须兼顾推动戏剧工作的教学生涯,让韩永元感到不胜负荷,恐怕无法年年如此忙碌。几经深思,他决定向教育部提出辞呈,放弃养老金和公积金,投入教育出版事业。从事了一年的出版工作,1993年一个机缘,让他创办了汉语文中心。

“1993年,小六会考华文考题方式大改变,当时的华文教师总会会长陈经源校长请我研究新题型,并与《星期5周报》合办了一场小六会考讲座。那场讲座爆满。

“从那一次讲座和之后踊跃的回响,我看到新加坡在这方面的市场。我于是去注册了‘韩语文中心’,一个人在宏茂桥一个小单位,开了一间小课室,开张收生。当初用‘韩语文中心’,是因为我姓韩,可是有人误以为我教韩文,所以才改名‘汉语文中心’。”

开语文中心,单有市场还不够,韩永元凭的是实力和人脉所具备的号召力。20年的丰富教学经验,还有六年在教育部从事编写教材和编写学生课外补充读物的经验,使他的“汉语文中心”一投入市场,就备受瞩目。

编写教材和课外读物的六年经验,使他充分掌握了编写教材的技巧,以及深切了解教育部的教材因为过分受制于条条框框,导致出版的课本和教材枯燥乏味。例如小二的字表没有“香”这个字,课文就不能教“花儿香”,只能教“花儿美”。教育部采纳西方的“递进法”编写教材,结果编写出来的教材是“我有一本书”、“我有一本好看的书”,毫无吸引孩子学习的故事性。

“这样的教学法枯燥无味,因为其中没有故事。学习不能没有故事,再加上,可以用的词汇很局限,无法用一些较活泼、贴近生活的词语,因为学生还没有学到。直到后来,教育部才在这方面放松,允许课程中有若干比例的生字,叫做‘见面字’,另外还有‘认读字’和‘习写字’。”

发现了这些问题,韩永元为自己的中心编写教材,就避免重蹈覆辙。他说:“我自己编写的教材,除了包含学校里所学的词汇外,还加上不在课程里,但学生应该认识的字词。我的课文是综合学生五到十课所学到的生字,编成故事。

“举个例子,我们小一的课文可以是几个简短又极富诗意的句子,如‘天上有一朵朵云,这朵云像牛,那朵云像羊。羊和牛没有草吃,因为它们都在天上。’我可以用很浅的字,写出一篇让孩子琅琅上口的短文。”

他还发现教育部课本里的三字惯用语教得极少,如“耳边风”、“一溜烟”、“鬼门关”、“饱耳福”等,小学六年学不到10个。惯用语是如此生动的语言,竟不教小学生,让他感觉匪夷所思。

“我于是根据惯用语的内容,把它放到不同年级的教材里面,密集学习。一堂课教五个惯用语,比如‘饱耳福’,接下来学‘饱口福’,这样举一反三,一直到六年级,学生可以累积近100个惯用语。

“除了惯用语,华文还有很多格言或谚语,用字简单,却有非常生动的意义。比如‘一人做事一人当’,既有品德教育意义,也比写‘承认’两个字还简单。还有‘助人为快乐之本’、‘一失足成千古恨’、‘己所不欲、勿施于人’等等谚语、格言,作文的时候就派得上用场了。”

教育部每五年修订一次教材,汉语文中心的教材却是每年都修订。“我们20所分校的教师每年都会给我反馈,让我从反馈中发现问题,改善课程。例如有些教材内容过于艰深,学生难以理解,我就会整篇换掉。中学的课文尤其要换得频密,因为中学课文很注重时事。”

韩永元不只研究和编写教材,他也观察学生,发现他们的问题后再对症下药。

“有一些孩子,六年级了,功课不错,考试也考得很好,但总说作文难写。手中的笔就好像千斤重,什么都写不出来。问他为什么难,他会说,‘我没有好句子,所以不能下笔。’

“这全是因为学校的作文教学都是从‘好句子’的角度灌输,教学生好的开头、优美句子等等。学生不仅背不来,语言能力弱的也无法吸收,结果他们的笔就如千斤重,写不出作文来。为了帮助这类学生突破心理障碍,我教导他们不要先想‘好句子’,而是先想要说的话。想说什么就说什么,把故事讲下去,才能把作文写完,才能及格。”

差别教育

韩永元去年接受新加坡《联合早报》访问时说,“语文中心和补习中心是有区别的”,因为报读汉语文中心的学生不只有华文水平差的学生,也有优秀生。汉语文中心针对不同需求的学生有不同的教法。

“对华文能力弱的学生,我们有补习和‘救生圈’课程。收生的时候,我们会向家长了解孩子的能力,凡是在学校接近不及格边缘的,我们会鼓励他们上补习课程。

“我们的救生圈课程,是很特别的课程。这是为根本写不出作文,华文几乎‘没顶’的学生设计的,家长可以根据孩子的需要向我们提出上这项课程的要求。我们每名导师都知道如何使用‘救生圈’的方法,可以向特别弱的,快要没顶的学生伸出援手。

“好多年前有一个家长来找我,问我能不能救他的孩子,孩子的作文从三年级到六年级从来没有及格过。我看了他的作文,发现他的句子都是支离破碎的,不知所云。

“我看到这孩子的思维是断裂的,我开始使用了这种叫做‘作文救生圈’的方法。首先,我给他一个开头的句子,设法让他每一篇文章都用,是死方法。比如‘今天天气很好’,什么作文都这样开头。下雨天也可以说,‘今天天气不好,下起大雨来,我不能出门’。再来是善用图片上的帮助词,会用就用,不会用就不要用。接着是教他们用最简单的对话,学会用冒号和引号。对话是最通俗浅白的,最容易写。

“用了这些方法,这个学生的作文及格了,之后我才教他怎样使作文更加生动,加入人物的心理活动。整个救生圈课程是10堂课,专门写基本的词汇,如:看、听、跑等动作 , 以及心理活动。‘我想’、‘不得了’等,都是很浅白的字,但可以写得很清楚,有些甚至可以让情节很生动。如‘说不出话来’是任何情感都可以用的,害怕得说不出话来、高兴得说不出话来等等,不然,坚持要他们学‘胆战心惊’等成语,他们是记不住的。”

在汉语文中心上课的优秀学生,韩永元对他们写作文则有不同的要求。“我要求华文能力强的学生,在第一个图之前想一个开头,当作序和介绍。

“开头法有很多种,有天气开头、回忆开头,甚至可以用一件物品作为开头。例如:爸爸的书房里有一幅字,写着大大的‘忍’字,从这样一个开头,可以想象后面发生什么样的故事。有了好的开头,就可以把好故事讲出来。开头千变万化,重点是要让学生有自己的想法,根据生活去找开头。我不要好学生背开头。我们挑选学生佳作,编印成书。这本汉语文中心的学生作文选,每一篇作文的开头都不一样,没有一篇是以‘一个风和日丽的早上’开头的。”

优秀生仍有可以加强的地方。韩永元认为很多学生在文章结构方面是可以再进步的。“现在的学生少阅读,接触的好作品太少,以致不够创新,很难写出不落俗套的故事。所以我常会引导好学生看好作品,看文学名著。

“鼓励他们阅读之外,也会让学生做一些创作的脑力激荡。有一班我特别难忘,记得我让他们听台湾歌星费玉清的歌曲《一把泥土》,听完以后,我叫学生用一把泥土来写另一首歌,或者以其他物件如一张照片,借歌曲的结构来写。结果学生写出很多不同味道的短诗。费玉清的《一把泥土》里面的歌词,如‘这把泥土,敌人踏过,农民耕过,我们俩一起走过’,多优美,可以使学生认识到文字的感染力。很多歌词都是很好的诗歌作品。

“这几年来,我都应家长需求,在六月份开办‘小六会考增值班’,由我亲自主讲。只开两班,是连续五天,每天四小时,总共20小时的密集班。这个增值班是帮学生拿高分的,来上课的学生华文成绩不可低于70分。课上我会教学生很多非常好用的谚语和名人格言,帮他们考取高分。”

未来计划

汉语文中心迈入20年,有20所分校,约4000名学生。现年66岁的韩永元,开始计划退休了。

“我正在找接班人。我认为汉语文中心应该永续发展,不应该在我走后就停下来。所以我现在在培养很多可以独当一面的好老师。”

韩永元曾亲手教出获得总统奖学金、总理书籍奖的学生,现在已经不再教课的他也不强求教师像他。“我不能被复制,但只要我们坚守让学生愉快上课的原则,课后学生真的觉得华文有长进,学校功课有进步,家长给予我们肯定,这样就足够了。

韩永元(劳达)还有一个未了的心愿。1990年他获颁新加坡国家文化奖(戏剧),至今还未领取国家艺术理事会提供给文化奖得主的创作赞助费。他说:“我正在写一个剧本,准备和导演郭庆亮合作。国家艺术理事会已经批准我的申请,这出剧以新加坡的历史为题材,总共八场。戏的特点是结合相声元素,我要每一场戏都有笑声,像我教课一样。但我的笑是笑中带泪,我的创作追求的是这样的境界。我希望以不同于传统的方式记下新加坡的历史。历史有很多滑稽、不可理解的情况,用调侃的方式处理,也是一个体会历史的角度。”

韩永元希望这出新加坡历史剧可以赶在2015年建国50周年期间公演。

有人笑称韩永元退休不管汉语文中心,就是“上岸了”,但他说,“我的脚步不会因为从汉语文中心退休而停下来,我还是可以从事我喜欢的戏剧创作,相声也是,我一直都在写相声给孩子们演。”中国已故相声大师侯宝林送他一幅字,写着“笔如意”,可见创作和“写”在韩永元生命中的重要。相信为了文化奋斗一生的韩永元,退休后会继续用笔在新加坡文化界留下他的足迹。

韩永元 / Ann Jong Juan
Of Hainanese descent, Mr Ann Jong Juan was born in Singapore in 1947. When he was in secondary school he was active in theatre. In the 1970s he started writing crosstalks under the pen names Tan Tian, Lao Da and Hai Shu. His first play, The Gift Ticket (1973) became hugely popular in Singapore and Malaysia. In perfecting and promoting the art of crosstalk, Mr Ann frequently went to China to meet with crosstalk masters like Ma Ji and Jiang Kun. In 1986 he created the Sin Feng Xiang Sheng Society with fellow crosstalk lovers. Mr Ann was awarded the Cultural Medallion (Theatre) in 1990, in recognition of his contribution to Singapore theatre. More recently, he set aside some of his teaching duties at the Han Language Centre to further his studies at Xiamen University, China where in 2010 he was awarded a Master’s degree in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics. 1947年生于新加坡,祖籍海南文昌。中学时代便参与戏剧活动。70年代起开始自学相声创作,笔名谭天、劳达、海叔,出版多本相声集。1973年的相声处女作《送票》,在新马大受欢迎。韩永元为精进相声造诣,推广传统艺术,常到中国与相声大师交流,结识马季、姜昆等名家。1986年与同好创立“新风相声学会”。1990年荣获新加坡国家文化奖(戏剧),他对新加坡戏剧的贡献受到肯定。学而不倦的他于2006年放下汉语文中心部分教学工作,报读厦门大学硕士课程,2010年获得文学硕士(语言学与应用语言学专业)学位。

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