21 February 2007

Chinese students and spelling

A teacher said: "I teach a number of mainland Chinese and they seem to have the same problem. Could it be that they too are taught and learn pin-yin as if it were Chinese characters? I do not know. I just have a strong feeling that the massive memorization needed for literacy in Chinese affects the approach to learning."

I have noticed that my students really seem to excel in spelling. They seldom misspell words. Perhaps this is because they are not taking the hazardous route of trying to spell by the way the word sounds but have learned the picture of the word.

This is similar to the issues with teaching children their native English. Some educators like to start children with phonics whereas others advocate sight reading. Perhaps, because of mastering the Chinese system of picture reading they are actually picturing English words.

If so, this would reflect a difference with the Chinese learner and could suggest that Chinese might be more capable of rote learning than other students. However, it cannot mean that the Chinese English language learning system of grammar translation and rote learning is more effective. If it was more effective then Chinese would be learning English faster than comparable students who are learning under a communicative approach methodology.

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