Why is English so hard for a Chinese person?

I teach English as a Second Language in Taiwan, so I see native Mandarin speakers struggle with English every day. Literally, every day. As a native English speaker who studies Mandarin; I know the struggle is real lol. Below are some of the things my students do that make learning English more difficult:

我在台湾教英语,看到母语为普通话的人每天吃力学着英语,真的是每天。作为英语为母语、学普通话的人,我知道这过程是不好受的。以下这些是我学生的做法,结果英语学习变得更困难——

Not having a clear idea of why they are learning English, or how to make a study plan to help them reach a realistic goal.
A common question I ask students is why they want to learn English. There are a variety of answers; from business-related needs, studying abroad, to travel, to talking to English speaking relatives, etc. When I ask them their goal, however; every single reply is the same: I want to be fluent in English. It’s a lofty goal, to say the least; along the lines of “I want to be the President of the world!” Or, “I want a pet unicorn!” It sounds awesome, but it probably won’t happen. Instead, when you go to bed tonight, imagine yourself speaking English easily and comfortably. What are you doing? Where are you? Who are you talking to? If you imagined yourself killing it in a meeting with foreign colleagues; expressing your thoughts well, taking part in the conversation, impressing others with your ideas; then, that’s where you start. Start reading industry websites and blogs, watch videos or listen to podcasts to see and hear how people communicate. Learn and know the vocabulary about your job, then join discussion groups, forums, meetups (www.meetup.com), language exchanges, run it by your teacher for corrections and suggestions, and practice expressing yourself. If you picture yourself traveling the world, making new friends, then do with same with travel shows, videos, blogs, etc. You probably won’t, or don’t need to be fluent, so relax and focus on your specific goal. Figure out why you want or need to study English and go from there.

不清楚学英语的目的,或者不懂制定一个有助达到现实目标的计划。

我经常问学生为什么他们想学英语。回答千奇百怪,从商务相关需求,出国留学,到去英语国家旅行等。当我问他们的目标时,却只有一个答案:流利地说英语。这可是个崇高的目标。就像“我想成为世界总统!”或者“我想要一只独角兽!”听起来棒棒哒,但可能不会实现。

相反,晚上睡觉时,想象你自己轻松说着英语。你在做什么?在哪里?跟谁对话?如果你想象自己在与外国同事开会。好好表达你的想法,参与对话,用你的想法给别人留下印象;然后,那就是你开始的地方。

开始读行业网站和博客,看视频或听博客,听听看看人们如何交流的。学习并了解关于你的工作的词汇,然后加入讨论组、论坛、meetups、语言交流,由你的老师提出改正和建议,练习表达你自己。

如果你想象环游世界、结交新朋友,那也可以在旅游节目、视频、博客等上完成。你可能不会,或不需要很流利,所以放轻松,专注自己的目标。总结为什么你希望或需要学英语,从那里开始。

Learning a language is a journey- not a destination.
If you are like my students, you have probably studied English for years, but still don’t feel comfortable or confident using English. How can this be? The more we do something, the better we will be, right? Not necessarily.
If you study by memorizing words and grammar patterns; English will be hard and boring. Change your thinking and change your study method. Make English a fun part of your daily life and you will learn and enjoy the process. If you don’t think learning can be fun and something you do every day, then you need to change your thinking and study method. When something becomes a habit, we no longer think about- we just do it.

学一门语言不是一段旅程,不是一个目的地。

如果你像我学生,可能学了很多年的英语,但在说英语时仍不自信。为什么会这样呢?

如果你通过单词记忆法和语法来学英语,学英语就会又难又无聊。改变你的想法,和学习方法。让英语成为你日常生活有趣的一部分,你将学习并享受这个过程。如果你认为学习是无聊的,那你需要改变你的想法和方法。当某种事情成为习惯时,我们就不再去想,而是去做了。

Fun: you can think of fun as interesting, relaxing, whatever you want; just keep it positive. One way to do that is to not make it so hard. If you’re not very good at English, watching BBC News or CNN will be a waste of your time. They speak quickly and use a lot of vocabulary you probably don’t know. It will be too hard and you will give up and lose confidence. Instead, try the app duolingo. You can set the amount of time you want to use it for each day. It’s interactive and let’s you practice speaking, listening, translation. If you don’t like that app, try others- there are many. Want to read a novel in English? Great! Read the Mandarin version or see the movie first. Start with a subject you already know about. Try short stories, or young adult novels. Listen to the audio book, too. Like music? Translate your favorite song into English, study the English lyrics and find the meaning of the words you don’t know, learn an English song to sing at KTV. Keeping it fun also means you need to Learn for yourself: think about your interests and hobbies and learn about them in English. Do you like food? Who doesn’t?! Start by translating take out menus, follow food blogs, etc. Like to cook? Read a recipe in Chinese, then look at the English version. Google “_____ vocabulary words English.” Fill in the blank with whatever topics you like. If you don’t know what you like, then think about the things you like to read or talk about in Mandarin, or what kind of topics you click on when surfing the internet.

乐趣:你能将乐趣当成有趣、轻松的东西,什么都好。保持积极态度。办法是不要搞得太难。英语不好,那看BBC或CNN就是浪费时间。他们说得很快,很多你不懂的词汇。这太难了,你会放弃并失去信心。相反,试试“多邻国”APP,你可以设定每天使用的时间。如果你不喜欢这款应用,试试其他的——有很多。

想读一本英文小说?棒极了,先读中文版,或看电影。从你已知的书籍开始。尝试短篇小说,或者青少年小说。喜欢音乐?也可以听听有声小说。把你最喜欢的歌翻译成英文,学习英文歌词,查找你不会的词,在KTV唱。

保持乐趣也意味着你要自学:想想你的兴趣爱好,用英语学习。你喜欢美食?谁不爱呢!开始翻译外卖菜单,关注美食博主等。喜欢烹饪?阅读中文食谱,再看看英文版。

谷歌一下XX的英文词汇,XX就是你所喜欢的主题。如果你不知道自己喜欢什么,那想象你说普通话时喜欢阅读或谈论的东西,或者你在上网时点击的主题。

Daily: Start with 10 minutes a day. Making daily contact with English depends on your personality and schedule.
Schedule: Can you wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning and read English aloud? Do you have 10 minutes on your way to/from work or school to listen to English, write in a journal, or use a learning app? If watch TV every day at 7:00pm, can you open your English book or app at 6:50pm? If you spend more than 10 mins a day on social media, can you add some English sites or forums (like Quora!). Find your 10 mins each day.

日常:从每天10分钟开始。根据你的个性和时间表,每天进行英语交流。

时间表:你能每天早起10分钟,大声读英语吗?你能在工作或上学的路上抽出10分钟听英语,写日记,或使用学习APP吗?如果每天在早上7点看电视,那你能在早上6点50打开英文APP或英文书吗?如果你每天在社交媒体上花的时间超过10分钟,那你能逛一些英文网站或论坛吗,比如quora。

Personality: If you’re not very motivated, start with an app that will remind you to study, or a site that will send you a new vocabulary word each day. Challenge a friend or classmate to study for 10 mins a day and do it together. Competitive? Each day give yourself a category; like fruit, cities in Europe, NBA teams, and write down in English as many as you can in one minute. If you can only name three fruits in English, learn more and test yourself again the next day. Creative? Try a new method every day. Do what works the best for you. The point is: if you don’t have an English environment, you can make your own. If you make it a habit, you won’t have to think about it. If it interests you, you’ll stick with it! Also, if you ever have problem; Quora can help ????
Good luck!

个性化:如果你不那么勤奋,设置一个可以提醒你学习的APP,或者每天给你推送新单词的网站。挑战一个朋友或同学,每天学10分钟,并一起做。比赛?每天给自己一个类别:例如水果、欧洲城市、NBA球队,并在一分钟内,尽量用英语写下来。如果你只能写下3种水果的英文,那就学多点,第二天再自测。重点是:如果没有英语环境,你就自己创造。如果你将它当成习惯,。你就不必想着它、如果它让你感兴趣,你就不用坚持!如果你有问题,Quora就能帮助你。

祝你好运!


In my experience, the biggest obstacle to Chinese learners of English is logic. English and Chinese are built on inherently very different logics. We say things in English that you just wouldn’t say in Chinese, and vice versa. We *think* differently. This transcends beyond the mire of grammar or the (extremely real) difficulty of accurately mapping vocabulary across the two languages.

根据我的经验,中国人学英语最大的障碍是逻辑。英语和中文是建立在不同的逻辑上的。我们用英语表达的东西,你们无法用中文表达,反之亦然。我们“思考”的方式不同,这超越了语法的困难,也超越准确地映射两种语言的词汇表的困难。

As a simplistic example that happened to come up in one of my classes a few days ago, let’s take the sentence 我怕冷。Directly translated to English this would be “I’m afraid of cold,” and that is exactly what my student said to me. I told him, “You don’t like the cold.” He considered briefly and reiterated, “I’m afraid of cold.” All I could tell him is, “That’s not how we say it in English,” and trust him to abandon his (very evident) confusion in time.

举个简单的例子,恰好前几天发生在我班上,让我们说“我怕冷”的句子。英语直译是“I’m afraid of cold”,我学生正是这么说的。我告诉他是“You don’t like the cold”,他三思后又说,“I’m afraid of cold”。我只能告诉他,“英语不是这么说的。”

I could understand his feelings (and have founded confidence that he would eventually wrap his head around the whole situation), because some years ago I was in the same the same situation, but reversed. I had told a Taiwanese 我恨热 (I hate the heat), and that person had replied 你怕热 (You’re afraid of heat), and I had been deeply confused. Heat isn’t scary! But in Chinese it is. As are any foods you just can’t stand.

我能理解他的感受(并相信他最终会理解这种情况),几年前,我也是这样的,但扭转过来。我告诉一个台湾人“我恨热”(I hate the heat),那个人回到说“你怕热”((You’re afraid of heat),我深深疑惑了。热并不吓人!但中文表达是这样的。

This kind of logical discord is common between any two languages, but between English and Chinese it’s practically the name of the game. And this, I think, is why it’s so difficult for Chinese to really get English, and vice versa. The only way to get past it is deliberate immersion, and at least a small dollop of talent.

这种逻辑混乱在两种语言间很普遍,但在英文和中文之间,它只是一种游戏。我认为这就是中国人真正难以掌握英语的原因,反之亦然。唯一方法是有意识沉浸其中,还需要至少一点资质。

From Quora

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