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Problems for learners of english in ChinaI am sure that volumes could be written about the problems EFL students face while learning this difficult language. I’ve chosen the three most common areas of difficulty for Mandarin speaking chinese students: pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary to write about. Each one could be a research article of its own but I’ve tried to briefly describe some of the more common problems I am likely to encounter while teaching in china
Pronunciation seems to be the most talked about problem for chinese learners of english. Many students have difficulties pronouncing consonant sounds. Mostly due to the fact that all consonants in chinese phonemes are voiced. Remembering the voiced and unvoiced consonants may take a long time to master. It is common to hear extra vowel sounds inserted between a string of consonants. Many students also have difficulty hearing the difference between the consonant “r” and “l” pronouncing “right” and “rice” as “light” and “lice”. The pronunciation of some vowels can be confusing as well since many chinese students cannot tell the difference between them. Words like “sit”, “sat” and “set” are likely to all be pronounced the same. The cadence of pronouncing english also causes confusion because it is so different from Mandarin. The timing of spoken english is dependent upon the amount of stressed syllables in a sentence as opposed to the total number of syllables the sentence contains. Native english speakers will speak more quickly when saying non-stressed syllables and slow down their speech when speaking stressed syllables. The confusion for chinese EFL students is their desire to pronounce every word fully and correctly, which results in choppy speech that can sound so unnatural it is hard for a native speaker to understand what is being talked about.
Grammar is the next problem area for chinese EFL students. The first difference is that Mandarin does not contain any articles of speech. Most can decipher when to properly use a and an, but have a more difficult time figuring out when to use, the. It is common to see the placed in front of proper names such as, I want to go to the Beijing. There is also no equivalent of the english possessive form of the noun in chinese, for example, Sara’s book, Todd’s car. More often than not, the chinese EFL student will want to write: It is the book of Sara instead of, It is Sara’s book. Another major difference is how english and Mandarin express the concept of time. In english, time is expressed through the use of different tenses and verbs forms, but this is not so in Mandarin. Mandarin expresses time with specific time phrases and the use of yesterday, today and tomorrow. So, the verb system can be tricky for chinese learners.
Vocabulary is the last problem area for chinese students that I will discuss. Let’s begin with the most obvious difference. chinese languages use characters to represent an entire word as opposed to vocabulary comprised of an alphabet strung together to make separate words. Memorizing all the english rules (or lack of rules) can make learning vocabulary very difficult. In Mandarin, the characters for he, she and it are different but all three are pronounced as “ta”. It is common for chinese students to continually interchange the use of he and she when speaking. A TEFL teacher many find themselves correcting the use of personal pronouns quite often. Phrasal verbs are another area of difficulty for chinese ESL students. Learning which preposition to use with which verb and how that choice can subtly change the meaning of the phrasal verb can be a tedious process for most non-native english speakers.
Despite all of these issues I will face teaching english in china
, I have also learned during my research that teachers describe teaching there as pleasant and exciting. That the chinese students are eager to learn and tend to be excellent students which makes the teaching experience a good one. I am glad to know about some of these problems before I begin teaching and I am very excited to get started.
Online Article References:
1. http://www.Teflcorp.com TEFL Pronunciation Problems for chinese Students of english by Zhou Yin
2. http://middlekingdomlife.com Difficulties Faced By chinese EFL Students