presents a unique set of difficulties to an expatriate teacher
from a western country, as there are numerous difficulties facing learners of english
. Some of these problems are cultural, while others are caused by lack of exposure to english
speakers, or the enormous differences between english
and Mandarin chinese
(for the purpose of this article, it should be assumed that references to “chinese
” refer to Mandarin).
When working with adult chinese english
learners, many expatriate teacher
s may find students frustratingly passive and unwilling to participate in classroom activities. This isn't caused by a lack of desire to learn, but differences in expectations about the roles of teacher
s and students. According to Manfred Wu Man Fat, this hesitance to participate “is caused by chinese
learners' concept of the roles of teacher
s and students, in which teacher
s should be dominating, authoritative while students should be obedient and respect teacher
s who are at a higher level in the social hierarchy (Wu Man Fat 2).” In other words, a chinese
student may not be holding back because he or she is bored or unmotivated, but rather because he or she is worried about usurping the teacher
's role as the leader of the classroom.
Along with not wanting to upset the expected social structure of a classroom, an adult chinese
student may be worried about losing face if he or she makes a mistake. Many western teacher
s might feel as if the extreme anxiety their chinese
students feel about looking foolish is irrational, but to chinese
people face isn't only about a single person's ego: “Face is collective, not individual for chinese
. . . An employee's error may cause the company to lose face (Dong 5).” An english teacher
must be aware of these cultural reasons for adult students to be somewhat shy or passive, and work to make students feel comfortable and understand that there are different expectations in place for english
class. It is especially important to not single out students for ridicule if they make mistakes. Conversely, in my experience chinese children
who are used to having teacher
s who demand complete silence, teach entirely through rote memorization and recitation, and physically discipline students who disobey may become extremely rowdy and talkative when being taught by a foreign teacher
who encourages speaking out and playing games. Therefore, it is up to the foreign teacher
to create an atmosphere that maintains discipline while still encouraging active participation.
Another source of potential problems for chinese
learners of english
is the enormous number of differences between english
and their native language. Many vowel sounds in english
do not exist in chinese
, making it easy for chinese
students to confuse and mispronounce words. A chinese
student might, for example, have trouble differentiating between “I am riding a bike” and “I am reading a book.” Final consonant sounds, which are infrequent in chinese
, also present difficulties. As Paul Shoebottom explains: “Hill may be pronounced as if without the double ll but with a drawn out i, or as rhyming with killer.” These pronunciation problems can be aggravated by generations of chinese
people being taught to speak english
by other chinese
people (often people who themselves can speak little to no english
) and never speaking to native english
speakers, creating a sort of negative feedback loop of poor pronunciation (Amity 1).
Along with pronunciation difficulties, the differences between chinese
grammar are enormous, and often cause confusion for chinese english
learners. In chinese
, for example, whether something occurs in the past, present or future is almost entirely contextual, making the extremely complicated english
tense system somewhat overwhelming for the chinese
learner. A teacher
, therefore, should take the time to break english
grammar into small, manageable parts, and give students lots of time to practice actively using the grammar structures being taught.
Overall, it is true that chinese
learners of english
face more unique problems than are encountered by students from countries with a culture and language more similar to that of english
speaking countries. However, this shouldn't be looked at as an nothing but a series of headaches for a teacher
. Instead, the teacher
should take the opportunity to familiarize his or herself with chinese
language and culture, so that she can understand what causes the hesitation and confusion she sees in her students, and work to find ways to directly address her students' unique challenges.
Dong, Qiumin, and Yu-Feng L. Lee. "THE chinese
CONCEPT OF FACE: A PERSPECTIVE FOR business
COMMUNICATORS." New mexico
State University. Web.
"Ma, Why Can't My english teacher
?" Amity Newsletter | The Amity Foundation. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. .
Wu Man Fat, Manfred. "Problems Faced By chinese
Learners in L2 english
Learning and Pedagogic Recommendations from an Inter-Cultural Communication Perspective." TELUS Internet Services - Member Services. 2004. Web. 25 Jan. 2011. .