Difficulties for learners I chose to write about difficulties for
I chose to write about difficulties for learners, and the country I chose was China. I realize that China is a huge country, so my opinions will only reflect on a small part of it, which is the Guangxi province, in southern China. Things may differ a great deal throughout the country. These are the problems I witnessed during my time here in Nanning. My sources were my friends and sister who are teaching here, and my own observations!
The majority of the students here speak Mandarin, but many speak Cantonese, as well as local dialects. All of these languages do not use the Roman alphabet, so all of the students must learn an entirely new system of writing. I think this brings a whole new degree of difficulty to learning English for Chinese students, as opposed to a French, Spanish, Portuguese or Italian student who uses the same alphabet in their native language. I have also noticed many words in these languages sound similar, whereas there are really no similarities to English in the Chinese language.
I took French classes throughout high school, and did not find it too difficult to learn, but Chinese and English are very different from each other. A student must train their mouths to make a number of sounds that they have never used in their own language. I understand the difficulty for these students, because I am studying Chinese myself, therefore I can see first-hand what they are going through while studying English. I don't think that you could find two languages any further apart from each other!
A huge problem that I have noticed, and discussed with friends and teachers here, is that English students do not have much opportunity to use English outside the classroom. Here in Nanning, there is hardly any English used anywhere. It is rare to see any English on any signs or billboards, and to find an English speaking person here is a rare treat! Even when you do see English on signs, it is often very poor, and filled with mistakes. There are a few ´English corners´ around the city, and at the university, where English learners can get together with foreigners and other English students. I have attended a few of these, and it seems that only a few students take advantage of them. I'm not sure why. There are not a lot of foreigners here at all, so the English students rarely get a chance to use English in ´real world´ situations.
I have found that even high-level students at the school have much higher reading and writing skills than they do speaking skills, simply because they don't have many opportunities to speak. I feel sorry for the students for this. I have met many, many people that want to sit and talk, and practice their English with me for a long time, just because they are excited to meet and talk with a foreign person. It is not something they get to do often. I realize that other parts of China may not be like this, especially in places like Beijing, Guangzhou, or Hong Kong where there is alot of tourism. I was surprised to find that Nanning has less English speaking people by comparison than even the "non-touristy" parts of Thailand and Laos that I have visited. I guess that there is not a huge demand for English speaking here. There are many English students, though. Mostly young learners, put into English classes by their parents.
Taking this into mind, along with my own experiences learning their language, I have a great deal of respect for people here that have managed to learn English, because I think that they have overcome many challenges to get to where they are.