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How do students from China and Spain compare?

Define educational success in EFL (In two different countries or more)

Diary submitted by Adam G., Madrid

How do students from China and Spain compare?

Having only taught English in Spain I don’t have any first-hand experience to be able to create the basis for an argument or draw a conclusion. However, this diary will examine the difference between the difficulties faced by Spanish students and Chinese students when learning English. I will use information gathered from research on the difficulties faced by Chinese students and use my own experience from my time in Spain to discuss the difficulties faced by Spanish students.

To begin, I feel that the most obvious difference between Spanish and Chinese students is that the English and Spanish languages share the Latin Alphabet. This immediately puts the Chinese students at a disadvantage. Whilst this causes problems, it can also be viewed as somewhat of a benefit. Spanish students when reading English see the same (or very nearly) letters but often in different orders to form words. They therefore have knowledge of how to pronounce these letters, especially vowel sounds, in their own language. In English, however the number of sounds exceed the number of vowels, constants and their combinations that exist. English has 205 spellings its 44 sounds. Whilst this is still difficult for Chinese students to learn, they are start from scratch on a new alphabet, whereas Spanish students have to rewire their brain to start correctly pronouncing the new sounds.

Another aspect of English that Chinese students find difficult is constant cluster both at the end and beginning of words. According to what I have researched this is because they are lacking in Chinese. This issue is something that Spanish people see in their own language and so it will not necessarily affect them as much.

One aspect that affects both sets of students is what part of the word to stress when pronouncing words. The Spanish make this easy by adding accents to their letters to indicate where to stress. Something that many of my students have pointed out in classes after they have had difficulty pronouncing a certain word. Both groups find this difficult and it is one of the most frustrating things for a learner of English, as English is often so confusing and different to many other languages in this way.

Overall, I feel that the research I carried out combined with my own experience of teaching Spanish students has given me some insight into the similarities and differences between Spanish and Chinese learners of English. However, I feel that this, despite being interesting, is not crucial for me to know. Unless perhaps in the future I consider teaching in China. Personally, I may find it more useful to have a look at the differences between Latin American Spanish learners and Spanish learners as teaching in South America is something that I am thinking about for my time after university.

 

Sources:

How do students from China and Spain compare? TEFL Trainer

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