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Why Do Chinese ESL Students Have So Many Troubles When They Learn English?

Why Do Chinese ESL Students Have So Many Troubles When They Learn English? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

With English being one of the most widely used languages in the world, many individuals are learning English in China. The learners include children, businessmen, etc. Although the learners have their own reasons for studying English, there are three main problems that the Chinese learners face while trying to learn English.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Ning G.

Drilling vs. Understanding

The first issue is that learners pay too much attention to memorizing a new vocabulary while ignoring the phonetic symbols. In China, memorizing English words is the ‘standard ’approach to learning English. However, this learning approach is not a comprehensive technique for learning English. In the memorization-oriented learning approach, the learners write down each word without knowing its phonetic symbols. This exercise is carried out for several days until the learners can speedily recall the words. Although the exercise may allow learners to know more words, it is imperative that learners should more concentrate on phonetic symbols. In fact, a learner may be proficient at writing the word rather than saying it. The learners rely heavily on memorization without practicing phonetic symbols. Therefore, to effectively learn new vocabulary, learning phonetic symbols are also equally important as memorization.

Also Read: What is an ESL teacher?

Exams vs. Communication

Actually, language is a facilitator of communications; language learning is essential for human communications. However, in China, most learners focus on written exams rather than speaking in real life. For example, Chinese students spend at least ten hours at school studying. Moreover, the teachers are more focused on rote learning techniques to enable students to improve their written grades, rather than stimulating the students’ initiative to speak. In China, English is such an important subject because students and parents hope to get high marks in exams. This assists students in their quest to secure admission at renowned high schools or universities. Therefore, learning English specifically for exams is a social problem.

Also Read: 4 Insights on the Role of Evaluation and Testing in Education

Selfishness vs. Open-mindedness

The last issue is that the majority of the learners are introverts. This makes them hesitant in communicating with people in English. They may not be open to expressing their own thoughts and ideas to others, especially while using other languages, which learners are not familiar with them. For many instances, the Chinese are not used to disclosing their feelings to others. Rather, they express their feelings in a subtler manner. It is a common behavior in China to openly point out learners’ mistakes. Such social behavior hampers the self-confidence of the learners and they often become too self-conscious to speak in public. Therefore, people generally tend to avoid occasions or situations wherein they are required to speak in English. As the most crucial function of language is to facilitate communication, if the learners are hesitant to communicate, it will be difficult for them to improve their verbal English skills.

Also Read: How to Use Lesson Planning to Its Fullest Potential

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In conclusion, learning English is a huge challenge for Chinese people. It is important to view English as a tool to communicate, rather than as a subject of examination. If learners want to acquire comprehensive English skills, they should focus on phonetic symbols rather than just memorizing words. Furthermore, learners must practice verbal English and verbally communicate in English more often.

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