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Three Biggest Mistakes English Learners Make

Popularity 3Viewed 1702 times 2017-1-15 07:34 |Personal category:English|System category:News| English

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I know of at least 56 common problems that Chinese English speakers/learners/students make. However there are 3 of the most common mistakes that are agreed upon by English experts who teach ESL/EFL/TEFL. In fact, the number one book in America on learning English faster, 'Learn English 300% Faster' by Sebastian Archer, also outlines these three huge mistakes that English language students most often make.

The first one is, learning English in a large classroom.

It is much preferred by most students who are serious about learning English to learn in VIP classes or one on one. Both of these have advantages and disadvantages. However, both are far more effective than learning in a large classroom. There should be no more than 10 students in a class. 8 students is even far more preferable. 

If the only place you've ever learned is in a Chinese classroom with 70-80 students or a training center with several dozen, you have not had a good chance to really acquire English. It is just very ineffective. The better training centers will only have VIP Classes of less than 10 students. If a training center has more, you can be assured that the center isn't skilled in teaching English effectively or is just teaching English to get more money. They aren't serious English teachers.

Public school classroom Chinese English teachers cannot control the size of their classes nor how many students are there to learn English. I've talked to a few really great teachers who teach English the right way, but, who are frustrated because they are forced to teach in large classrooms.

One on one is good when a student is at an advanced level of learning. However, it can be quite expensive to study one on one with a good quality English teacher.

The second biggest mistake in learning English is, learning grammar first. There is an idea in China that English is controlled by grammar rules. This isn't true any more for English than it is for Chinese. Most Chinese teachers don't teach grammar at all. (I've talked to dozens of them.) In learning Chinese, grammar is something that is 'caught, not taught.' It is the same with English in the USA. We do teach grammar, but, not usually by just teaching rules.

As a foreign teacher in China, I've also heard a few Chinese English training center teachers say that native speaking English teachers cannot teach English grammar to Chinese students. One day, one of them told me this. He said, "You foreign teachers very can't teach English grammars to Chinese student." I nearly laughed because his English grammar was so bad. First, he has the word 'very' in the wrong place and second, there is no such thing as 'grammars'. The word 'grammar' is an uncountable word. There is no word called 'grammars.' And, it is 'students', not student.

The third biggest mistake that Chinese students make in learning English is, they learn it from a teacher who spends 98% of the time in class speaking Chinese. If you ask anyone here in America about this, they will laugh. We practice something called 'classroom immersion' when teaching any foreign language. A huge advantage that we have in America is that we have many different cultures represented here. It is relatively easy to find a native speaker as a teacher of nearly any language you want to learn. We would be slow to accept a non-native speaker of a language as a teacher. If we did, the school systems here would require that teacher to be fluent and likely, to have lived in the country where the targeted language is natively spoken. Our school systems wouldn't allow a teacher to teach a language unless that teacher is fluent.

When I first started teaching English in China, I taught 32 classes a week and was given 7 assistants. One of them would speak so much in Chinese in the classroom that I hardly couldn't teach the class. This is terrible for students. My daughter, who also teaches English in China, will not allow translation or interpretation in her classes. Of course, her students excel at a very high level. She gives 'immersion only classes.' I allow some, but, not much.

These are three of the biggest mistakes that Chinese English students make. I realize that some of these mistakes are unavoidable (like large classrooms in your school). However, wiser parents who are themselves well educated, will find better ways to get their children taught English the right way.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


Recent comments

  • Brilliant Chinese Parents 2018-6-21 14:40

    parcher: i was asked to teach my collegues daughter english, because her teacher was doing such a poor job (his words ) i tried to put him straight that rome w ...
    You are wise.

  • Brilliant Chinese Parents 2018-6-20 20:37

    i was asked to teach my collegues daughter english, because her teacher was doing such a poor job (his words ) i tried to put him straight that rome wasnt built in a day then declined his offer. i am not a teacher, but have been asked a few times from parents annoyed their kids are not learning faster english

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