Problems for English learners in ChinaChinese esl students
face many problems that stem from the characteristics of their first language, including problems with pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary. chinese students
? cultural background may also present problems in relation to their style of expression and patterns of communication.
Many aspects of the English phonological system cause difficulties for chinese
learners. There are many phonemes found in English that do not exist in chinese
. For example, there are thirteen single vowel sounds and three double vowel sounds found in General American English, while Mandarin contains considerably fewer. Most chinese
learners of English also have difficulty distinguishing the difference between the consonants r and l. As a result, students
will have difficulty correctly pronouncing words that contain these phonemes. Final consonants also pose a problem, as this feature is much less common in chinese
. So, students
may fail to pronounce the final consonant or add an extra vowel to the word.
In addition to problems with unfamiliar phonemes, using the proper stress and intonation is also problematic. chinese
is a tonal language, so the pitch of a phoneme carries meaning. In English, pitch does not change meaning but instead emphasizes or expresses emotion. native speakers
of English increase their rate of speed when saying non-stressed syllables and slow it for stressed syllables. chinese
speakers do not have this sort of stress system, so will often pronounce each word the same way, resulting in staccato or unnatural speech.
In terms of grammar, chinese
learners have a particularly hard time with using the proper tense, modal verbs, and articles. chinese
is an uninflected language and it conveys meaning through word order, adverbials, and shared understanding of the context. The concept of time is not handled through the use of different tenses and verb forms as it is for English. Consequently chinese
learners have trouble understanding what tense is appropriate for different situations. One of the usages of modal verbs in English is to express shades of meaning and different degrees
of politeness. chinese
modals do not have such a wide range of meaning, so chinese
learners have trouble using English modals sufficiently which may result in them seeming peremptory when making requests or suggestions. Because chinese
does not have articles, students
often struggle with when to use the definite or zero article.
The huge difference between chinese
and English also creates a problem when it comes to vocabulary. English contains many phrasal verbs, and this combination of verbs and particles is not found in chinese
. Therefore, chinese
learners have difficulty understanding their meaning and usage. In addition, the chinese
words for he, she, and it are homophones, which causes chinese students
to frequently use them interchangeably.
Specific language problems aside, chinese students
? cultural background also has an effect on their English learning. For example, chinese students
have difficulties in initiating discussions and tend to be passive during group discussions. Also, chinese students
often frame their arguments with a lot of background information and history at the beginning and state their viewpoint very briefly at the end. There are also many contrasts in communication styles between Asian and Western cultures. For example, Asians often use indirect and implicit language, while Westerners often use direct and explicit language. Language is usually more formal in Asia, while it is usually more informal in the West. While Westerners tend to be self-promoting and egocentric, Asians tend to be self-effacing and modest. Because of these differences, chinese students
not only need to get used to speaking a different language with totally different grammar and vocabulary, but they must also adjust to different communication styles and expectations.
If teachers are aware of these specific difficulties, they can better tailor their lessons to chinese students
of English and their lessons will be more effective.