Problems that chinese
Speakers have when Speaking EnglishAfter reading an article on the common problems that chinese
people in general have when speaking and trying to learn english
, I’ve made a note of several key areas that I should be aware of when teaching my charges. Namely, pronunciation, verb tenses/ and phrasal verbs.
Ah, yes, pronunciation. The butt of jokes about english
language learners everywhere and the creator of the infamous “flied lice” jokes. The biggest problem that seems to hurt Asian language speakers and in particular, the chinese
, are /r/ and /l/. Often, without context, “light” and “right” become indistinguishable from each other. Or, as the article on the TESOL course site states
The pronunciations of some vowels are confusing to english
learners in China. /I/, /e/, and /ae/ do not distinguishably make any difference to the most of chinese
students. Words like “bit”, “bet” and “bat” will be pronounced in the same sound by them.
The best way to correct this poor pronunciation is to expose the students to a native speaker and have them practice vigorously. But often, the mechanics of Mandarin often mean that unless the students have had previous english
practice, they will not be able to open their mouths wide enough to be able to make the requisite sound.
The best way to teach that mechanic, that I can find, is to have them practice making the sounds by holding mirrors up to their mouths and have them open their mouths as wide as their index finger when attempting to make the /I/, /e/, and /ae/ sounds.
Of course, another solution to present the students is to familiarize them with the IPA alphabet as a good way to break down the words and then make it easier for them to look up words on their own and use the pronunciation key that is often in most english
dictionaries. This is not a quick solution to the problem but one that takes lots of study and effort. In my opinion, it may be distracting from trying to learn english
because it seems to be an extra step, but if it helps the students, then that is what matters.
And these are just some of the problems—the ones involving the explanation of long and short vowels (vowel duality) is mind-boggling.
The other big point of confusion and contention is verbs. Although Mandarin functions as english
does—subject, verb then object—the adverbs of english
often confuse the chinese
, as their versions of “he,” “she” and “it” are all homophones /ta/ [?, ?, and ?, in order]. The end result from the lack of comprehension is that “she” and “he” are often substituted with each other, confusing the english
speaker. Phrasal verbs are worse, arguably, because they don’t exist in chinese
at all, at least according to the articles that I found.
So what does this mean? Phrasal verbs, which can sometimes be broken apart by another word in the middle, or keep running on the sentence to great length, should be taught as special vocabulary words or just made as the focus for an entire group of lessons as many of the mare colloquialisms. For example “Knocked-up,” “Pick (someone) up,” “Call out” (when talking about starting a fight).
So what else to do?
Well, unfortunately, there is never an easy fix or a quick one, or learning a language would be easy. The old standbys of flexing your brain and tongue and practicing often are all one can do when learning a language. Just don’t forget to have them teach others as well.
1. http://www.tesolcourse.com/tesol-course-articles/pronuniciation-problems/article-01-pp.php TESOL Articles: Pronunciation Problems for chinese
Students of english
-students.htm “Difficulties Faced By chinese