Thursday, January 24, 2008

Learning English for the Olympic Games

2008 is the year that Beijing is host to the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, in an age when English is becoming more and more important, a lot of Chinese struggle with the language. A clip on the BBC recently showed an elderly Chinese man who couldn't answer the question 'Where is the nearest restaurant?' after months of English classes. In fact, the Chinese are notorious for their poor command of the language. But why is this?

After all, the Chinese are also famous for their work ethic, and they are willing to study hard to improve their English to help make the Olympics a success. But why is it so difficult for them to speak English. (Just listen to Jacky Chan!)

The reason is simple: English is different from Chinese in just about every way imaginable: the alphabet, the grammar, the pronunciation, the mechanics of the language are all 100% different. If we compare this to European languages, for example, the word for 'name' in German is 'namen'. Mein namen ist Fritz. You don't even need to know German to understand - and it works both ways. Therefore Germans and other Europeans learn English much faster. In Chinese, even the names of people and places can be very different. The word for America is 'Meiguo'.

Of course, that's not the only reason. Community classes in China often teach more than 50 participants at a time, and they learn by repeating phrases like 'What time does this bus leave?' over and over. Sometimes the teacher dresses up in a blonde wig to help the students get over their 'fear' of talking to a foreigner. Obviously, English teaching in China has a long way to go!

1 comment:

seamstress said...

...the word for 'name' in German is 'namen'. Mein namen ist Fritz.

Well, actually the German word for 'name' is 'Name'... ;-)

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