The difficulties and differences for English and Chinese students is a summary about the variations and similarities of learning both English and Mandarin Chinese. Subjects such as phonology, morphology, syntax and vocabulary are covered. In this summary you will find an explanation going into detail about the phonology of how each speaker pronounces their syllables and the difficulties of each student trying to learn the other language. Information regarding word formation in English and Chinese or the morphology of the language. Details about suffixes, affixes, tense, word classes, comparative and superlative forms, noun inflection for gender, derivations, diminutive forms, ordinal numbers and Chinese classifiers will be discussed. The majority of the summary will be about the syntax of these languages. How each language forms sentence patterns, verb phrases and noun phrases. Lastly, vocabulary will be covered by explaining the corresponding words in English and the ones that have no equivalence. The purpose is to help give a deeper explanation of the difficulties each speaker may be dealing with and how to hopefully assist them with their language learning goals.
The complexity and variations of the Chinese and English language can be daunting and exhausting. Learning these languages requires a student to remember many rules and exceptions to the rules. Language is very subjective depending on the environment one may find themselves. Learning a new language requires learning the phonology, morphology, syntax and vocabulary. The differences between English and Chinese are sometimes similar but also at the same time very different. Complexity endured there are some techniques and important factors to know about. Knowing these will help reduce the difficulty and hopefully make it easier for the student to learn their target language.
The first topic to be covered and most important is the foundation of any language. Phonemes are the sounds that make up a language. Learning the phonetic foundation of any language is very important. You can't build a skyscraper if you don't have a solid foundation. "Learning a second language is very much like trying to construct a new building with the wrong kind of foundation" (A contrastive study of English and Mandarin Chinese). Chinese and English Phonemes can vary and be similar in many aspects. It all depends on the environment and being voiced or voiceless. When dealing with phonemes there is voiceless and voiced types but Chinese consonant phonemes are all voiceless. The difficulties that both students will run into is learning their counter parts stops, affricates and fricatives. Both languages have two sets of stops and affricates but English has 1 voiced and 1 voiceless. Chinese speakers will eventually need to learn voiced stops to become proficient. The best way for both students to learn is to hold their hands over their ears or by touching their throats when making the pronunciations. It is difficult for Chinese speakers to hear weakly articulated stops.
Consonants and final consonants are difficult for Chinese speakers to produce. Chinese speakers follow consonants with a vowel and are not used to consonant clusters. Also, English has three consonant transitions that are close, open and vowel. For Chinese speakers to achieve a close transition they should approach it through the intermediate stage of open. As for vowels, English vowels can be demonstrated in a simple chart showing the positioning of the tongue. The chart uses front, central, back and hight, mid, low positioning. The Chinese version would need additional features such as rounded and unrounded or retroflix-plain. The syllables in each of the language can cause many different problems. Especially because the Chinese language is tonal and English has consonant clusters. English also requires every syllable to have a vowel as with Chinese this isn't that case. Chinese speakers tend to just substitute or completely drop the vowel pronunciation. With many variants of English syllables it can become confusing to a Chinese speaker. On the other hand Chinese students will need to be trained in some of the pronunciations of Chinese syllables.
Another feature that will need to be addressed is prosodic features which cover the stress, intonation and rhythm. A lot of research has gone into English regarding this but Chinese is considerably less complex. Chinese stressed syllables have expanded pitch and are longer while English stressed syllables are longer and louder but may not carry any pitch change. English students tend to exaggerate the pitch rather than make it loud. A Contrastive Study of English and Mandarin Chinese explains how Chinese students have "learned primarily through printed pages". They usually just omit the unstressed syllables. Intonation is the rise and fall of voice pitch over a sentence. Chinese pitch rises higher and falls lower than English. English intonation is carried through voice quality while Chinese use intonation particles, this becomes a problem for Chinese students. Rhythm is the succession of stressed and unstressed syllables. With the different statements and questions or exclamatory sentences, Both have a mixture of rising and falling pitches. For instance, in English when making a factual statement it uses a final falling pitch while Chinese doesn't use anything.
The Chinese writing system is logo-graphic unlike the English alphabetic orthography system. It is comprised of almost 8 thousand different graphs while English is comprised of a few dozen symbols. This new Romanization system is call the pinyin system. Pinyin is made up of an initial, a final and a tone. There are 5 tones in the Chinese language. The first tone is a high level tone, the mark being a straight line. The second tone is a high rising tone, the mark is a comma like mark moving upwards to the right. The third tone is a low falling then rising tone, its mark is an upside down ^. The fourth tone is a high falling tone which has a mark completely opposite to the second tone, its mark is a comma moving downwards to the right. Lastly, is the fifth tone or normally called the neutral tone. The neutral tone is neutral and bares no marks.
Another aspect of learning another language is the morphology of that language. With English and Chinese, the students needs to learn about inflections and derivations. The teacher should let the students know of the importance of inflections in English at an early stage. With English, ineffectual patterns are difficult to Chinese students because Chinese doesn't carry any of the inflections that English has. Chinese speakers become confused of inflectional affixes such as the /s/ and they find them redundant as they don't actually use them in their own language. Describing multiples of something are mentioned if needed in Chinese and they use a modifier however English uses the suffix "s". Chinese students will need to stop thinking in numerical modifiers and think in inflectional affixes. With irregular plural forms, a student can only learn through memorization and practice practical sentences.
When students are learning possessive suffixes, the Chinese language uses "de" and "ge". Chinese students are sometimes likely to add a "s" in inappropriate places such as "she's leg". As for tenses it can be very confusing to the students. It's best if they learn by situation rather than the complex rules. Many of the suffixes will need to apply by the same rule. Another problem is that Chinese have difficulties distinguishing between subjective and objective pronouns. Chinese uses "men" and "de" but English will use many variations for the different pronouns. With word classes such as nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs the word classes change according to the function they serve. English and Chinese word classes don't coincide. Also, Chinese speakers use classifiers to which the English language does not. Some other issues the students will run into will arise from learning comparatives and superlatives and noun inflections for gender. Chinese speakers don't make distinctions with gender as does English. There is also derivations of words of one class from another like slow to slowly and possible to possibly being a adjective changing to a adverb and the many other forms. So, conclusively it will take one step at a time and primarily learned through memorization.