Teach English in MujiAyingzi Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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While all languages have differences and present unique languages to learners, challenges for Chinese students of English are particularly well understood due the sheer number of English classes and programs for Chinese students and professionals. An obvious stumbling block for Chinese students is the alphabet. Whereas English has a 26 letter Roman alphabet, Chinese uses non-alphabetic logograms. Chinese speakers are taught pinyin, or the Romanization of Chinese characters early on. However, the subtleties of the Roman alphabet remain a challenger for the new language learner. The rhythms of the two languages are different. English is stress-timed, meaning that stressed syllables last longer than unstressed ones. Mandarin is a syllable-timed language, where each syllable takes up about the same amount of time. A number of sounds exist in English for which there are no direct Chinese correspondents, such as ‘l’ and ‘r’. Chinese students often cannot tell the difference between how these two sound. Showing how these two sounds are made in the mouth, as well as exercises on listening to minimal pairs and playing games which make use of both sounds serve to teach students the difference. Whereas both English and Chinese are subject - verb - object languages, Chinese also makes use of subject - object - verb structures. In this case, the subject might be omitted altogether in Chinese. Students ‘thinking’ in Chinese while speaking English occasionally mistakenly introduce this usage. While English appends the end of a word to mark plural, Chinese either does not mark it at all or uses a counting word in front of the noun. This can lead Chinese students to omit the use of the correct English plural form or overcompensate and use the plural English form in cases where the singular is appropriate. The sound for ‘he’ and ‘she’ in Mandarin is the same, while the logogram is different. This can lead the Chinese student to use ‘he’ when they mean ‘she’ and ‘she’ when they mean ‘he’, and it can take a long period of conscious practice to get rid of this habit. English words that end in a consonant such as ‘ten’ and end with the sound /ə/ are hard to pronounce for Mandarin speakers. In this case ‘ten’ ends up being pronounced something like ‘tenah’. Another difficulty is with the pronunciation of the word ‘the’, which often ends up sounding something like ‘ze’ or ‘se’. Repeated, conscious drilling and self-study through speaking and listening make these mistakes less serious. Verb conjugation and tenses also present a fundamental problem for Chinese speakers because they do not conjugate or use tenses that change in spoken form in their native language. A common way to deal with this situation is, when talking about the simple past for example, to show that the verb changes, how it changes for each person, and anything else relevant such as irregular usage. The technique of rote repetition is more wide spread in China than in the US, for example, and it can lead the student to simply imitate the teacher and close themselves off to actively understanding and memorizing the lesson. While that might work in the specific context that piece of information was taught in, when placed in a different context the student will have difficulty using it.