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What Challenges do Chinese Learners of English Face in their Studies?

What Challenges do Chinese Learners of English Face in their Studies? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Teaching English in China has become very popular for ESL teachers and many are looking for job opportunities in China. Finding a teaching job in China isn’t too hard but working with Chinese students can be quite challenging.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate VIKTORIIA H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Grammar Challenge

Chinese grammar is very different from English and many Chinese students try to copy the grammar rules of their native language and apply them to English. As a result, they form awkward sentences that are difficult to understand. They struggle to use gerunds and articles as these parts of speech do not exist in Mandarin. One more grammar problem the Chinese students face is conjugation and the system of tenses. In Mandarin Chinese, the tenses are very simple and the words don’t change their form, the time of action is explained by the additional characters and some indicating words.

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Pronunciation Challenge

It seems to be difficult for Chinese students to articulate and use the correct pronunciation in English because Chinese is a rhythmical language and tones define the meaning of the word while in English the intonation and stress are quite different. Also, the system of sounds in Chinese differs from the one in English too much and the ESL teachers should pay a lot of attention to pronunciation. I use a lot of choral repetitions in my classes, various tongue twisters, and drilling of proverbs and rhymes to help the students pronounce the word correctly.

two chinese students

Environmental Challenge

Chinese students have few opportunities to use their knowledge outside the classroom, they lack the language environment and therefore it takes them longer to get used to using the language outside the classroom situations. This leads us to another problem linked to this one - large classes. Due to this problem teachers have to practice receptive skills - reading and listening, paying much less attention to the developing of productive skills - speaking and writing. Many Chinese students can understand English but they struggle to converse and use English in real-life situations.

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Cultural Challenge

Traditional beliefs often prevent children from thinking creatively and experimenting with the language. The Chinese educational system is based on drilling, memorizing, and reciting, and the students do not have opportunities to develop their language guess. Unfortunately, many teachers make the children memorize the dialogues or the texts without explaining the meaning. The students are taught to pass the exams well, not to be able to use the language. As a result, Chinese students are very shy and can read or write but struggle to converse.

Generation Gap

Parents’ pressure is another difficulty the Chinese students of English have to face. The parents often turn the students into little interpreters, giving them pressure to translate or to say something to the foreigners on the streets. The parents may mean well but they make the children feel as if they have to be able to speak but they don’t always know how to. The English classes are quite expensive and the parents often force the children to show what they have learned which usually decreases the motivation and makes the students feel uncomfortable.

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