Do you find it surprising to meet educated Chinese people who cannot speak, or worse, write their name in Chinese? (Hook doesn’t work – modify, audience would be led astray) I do. Chinese immigrants in America get absorbed in speaking English to the extent that they find it difficult to teach their children Chinese. It is common to find Chinese families in America that are completely assimilated into the American culture, hence finding it difficult (repeating) to interact with their extended families in their native countries. Besides, it is important to acknowledge the fact that there is a significant difference between the Chinese and English language. The differences can be results in the disconnection between the languages exhibited by Chinese Americans. The essay will use the argument presented in the book by Risager, (2006), as well as the articles written by Wang & Chen (2013) and Wang (2009) to explicitly draw the distinctions that underlie the Chinese language and English. Despite the similarities that exist between the Chinese language and English, the complex modifiers and expressions in the western language clarifies the differences that exist in both languages (make language and cultural acquisition uniquely difficult). (Need thesis)
Differences between Chinese and American English
In writing, English sentence structuring is very crucial compared to that of Chinese language. Most sentences in English are long and comprise of numerous modifiers for expression of ideas. On the other hand, Chinese language relies on simple sentences that bring out the intended meaning, making it difficult to find long and complicated Chinese phrases. Wang & Chen state that, “The Chinese stresses the whole and abstract, and the Westerners stress the components and the specific; the Chinese favors synthesis, while the westerners analysis.” (Wang & Chen 647). Therefore, while dealing with the Chinese language, it is important to focus on comprehending the meaning of the phrases and forget about the specific words used to construct the sentences.
Besides writing, different modes of thinking are associated with languages. While comparing Chinese and English thinking modes, Wang & Chen (647) explain that people living in different areas think differently due to a variety of factors such as culture and geography (cut or give example), which in turn influence their languages. For instance, Chinese are visual thinkers while their western counterpart is rational thinkers. In terms of expressions, Chinese language focuses on the whole context before considering the abstract, while the Americans are concerned with the components first then the specifics (reword). Wang & Chen state, “Even in their acquaintance introduction, the Chinese would list the titles (whole) first (from the higher to the lower) before referring to the specific names (individual), but the English would announce the specific name first (individual), then list a succession of duties from the lower to the higher” (Wang & Chen 647). (Examples? analysis the language word they use. )
According to Wang (139), English brings more logic compared to Chinese. While reading or listening to Chinese, it is important to understand that Chinese words in a sentence fail to conjugate properly to represent a specific role within a phrase. Therefore, getting the true meaning of the sentence will depend on the order of words and the context of the expression. For example, when indicating time, the time always comes first in the sentence which makes it not logical. In Chinese, an individual may say “on Tuesday lets meet here.” The sentence construction is logical as long as Chinese is concerned, as the listeners will only pick up the relevant word which defines the meaning (more information) of the whole sentence. Among the Westerners, that sentence does not make sense. However it can be reconstructed to “Let us meet here on Tuesday.” Therefore, the complexity in English brings in more logic ( is it not a matter of subject focus?) than in the Chinese language.
Effects of Chinese to English Learning
Due to the differences between the two languages, Wang (138) explains that language transfer from mother tongue to the target language can be a challenge for either the teacher or parent. Wang states, “The transfer errors appearing in the translation suggest that the learners are confused with the essential differences between those forms or structures that they conceive to be similar with the two languages” (Wang 141). In his study, Wang demonstrates how Chinese English learners are negatively affected by their mother tongue. It is important to note that the knowledge of mother tongue can affect the learning of a second language regarding word choice, logic and thinking mode. First, while learning about subjects and predicates, subjects cannot be omitted from the sentence. However, in Chinese subjects can be easily missed. This means that expressing information in English may result to the omission of the subjects hence compromising the sense of the sentence. ( opposed to [ Spanish/ French/ German] language speakers? Why, and Example)
While considering the Chinese’s negative effect to second language learning based on the thinking mode, Chinese people tend to describe objects making the pronouns as the subjects. This is due to their idea that people and nature are a unity (example) . Wang states, “Results from investigation of learners’ knowledge about cross-linguistic differences between English and Chinese have indicated that the subjects have difficulties between the two languages” (Wang 141). However, in English non-pronouns are taken as the subject based on the fact (rationale) that people and nature are separately. The disparity of choice between pronouns and non-pronouns regarding the subjects results to an improper translation of Chinese to English (Wang 139).
Word choice is very critical when it comes to English. For instance, constructing a grammatically correct and sensible sentence in English will require the use of verbs, tenses, prepositions and conjugations. Without proper punctuations (Semicolons, ellipsis, question mark etc) , a sentence may not have its intended meaning. The Chinese language does not focus on sentence structure in such great detail. Surprisingly run-on sentences, which are forbidden in English, are acceptable in Chinese (Wang 139). This implies that with the knowledge in Chinese, learners are likely to face challenges while developing correct English sentences. For example, Wang states, “The subject in English sentence cannot be missed. And the predicate is taken as the centre; the subject is mutually restrained by the predicate. However, the subject in Chinese sentence can be missed.” (Wang 139). This implies the manner of words are more important in English language especially to reinforce the meaning than it is in Chinese.
Relationship between Language and Culture ( very important)
Culture is not only an aspect of the society that includes morals, beliefs, and knowledge but also a symbol of meaning. The semiotic systems within various cultures play a role in communicating the meaning of various words. Therefore, cultural symbols used by most communities act as a connection between signifying form the intended meaning. According to the book by Risager culture can be characterized as a unified system composed of significant integral parts and language forms an essential element (Risager 2). Language forms an integral part of cultural communities and the general characteristics of the human behavior. Risager states, “Language spreads through culture and culture spreads though language” (Risager 2). Further, every culture bears its uniqueness hence influencing its language. Specifically, words in Chinese culture may differ while used in a different culture. A common example is the word “dog.” Among the Western cultures, an expression with the word dog is not offensive (more specific “Dawg” = term of endearment; friend, slang) (it is to women, though…..) as the dogs are an animal pet considered as true friend to human. However, in Chinese the phrase “dog” is linked to an obsequious individual. Therefore meanings of specific words can be culturally specific. One common story told to describe this scenario is of a French couple who visits China with their dog pet and orders some dog food. Amusingly, Chinese translation led to the dog being cooked and presented to the table. (Also plays into racial stereotypes does it not?)
We can say that the vital tool that can be used while transmitting culture is language. This means that one does not need to learn the Chinese language separately with its cultures. This is because some of the cultural aspects within the Chinese is connected with their language. Therefore, students learning the Chinese language are simply learning their culture. The same applies to Chinese learning English language. Chinese immigrants in America may have experienced challenges while adapting to the western culture, therefore, with children, parents would prefer children mastering English and its culture and making Chinese as an optional language. While living America, one can easily find Chinese families that are eloquent English speakers. Besides, they have assimilated into the western culture forgetting their native culture. Therefore children interested in learning their native culture will need to learn and understand their mother language as well. (add example like children in those condition are discriminated by other children)
The relationship between language and culture draws relevant implications during language teaching. While teaching a new language, instructors are expected to describe the cultural background associated with the teaching of certain language. If the instructor teaches the language without a reference to a specific culture, then students end up learning meaningless symbols, hence attaching incorrect meanings to the words taught. According to Risager, the real purpose, or rather meaning, of a sentence will be compromised if the language is not explained under a cultural context (Risager 12). Risager states, “The metaphorical uses of the concept of language, which have been characteristic manifestations of modern and modernist developments since the turn of the 20th century have been and are highly productive and a stance has per se to be taken regarding them if one is interested in the relationship between language and culture from the point of view of cultural studies” (too long) (Risager 3). (more analysis) Therefore, instructors teaching a different language will be expected to learn and understand the cultural values within the community so as to determine the appropriate methods to disseminate their information. However, misunderstanding may result especially when the cultural values of the instructor do not match with those of the language taught. For instance, factors such as cultural ideologies and boundaries may limit both the student’s and the teacher’s expression.
The Reason children are learning new language
As much as children may view it a punishment when expected to learn a second language, it truly brings a positive life impact. For example, a Chinese child born in America who finds his or her parents and friends speaking English will be reluctant to enroll for Chinese lessons. One of the reasons that children learn new language includes the connection to the child’s heritage. Initially after immigration, most parents are focused on assimilation into the American culture hence working towards learning the language and its culture. At that time, to demonstrate a commitment to the new culture they discouraged their children from learning their native language. Currently, global culture has become dominant where people appreciate their (measurable?) differences rather than dismissing them. Therefore children with origin from the non-English speaking communities have the opportunity to learn about their identity, families, and heritage through learning their native languages.
Once in a while immigrants goes back to their native countries to interact with friends and family. A child who is not able to communicate with his or her peers during the holiday would feel left out and uneasy. (Need evidence or example) When the children are fluent in their native language, they are able to interact freely with members from their community. It is important to note that children who are allowed to learn their second language at an early age are likely to be more open and appreciate diversity. A child exposed to different culture settings is able to appreciate different systems while at the same time understand the role of language in uniting the two different communities. Understanding different cultural systems through language learning form part of the societal contributions. For example, a Chinese who is eloquent in English can facilitate the elevation of the economic competitiveness by maintaining their political and security concerns. Besides, while visiting their native communities, English learners can bring together the society and explain the relevance of diversity to their peers and relatives.
While Chinese is an interesting language (1) hich predominately borrows its elements and expressions from the Chinese culture, the current generation ought to commit towards learning their native language to demonstrate and appreciate their culture and heritage (2) (1and 2 history, culture, connection, add example) . Learning English from a Chinese cultural background can be challenging, especially due the difference in sentence composition and logic. However, for the sake of globalization, every member will be expected to learn how to interact with different communities, while at the same time learn how to appreciate each other’s cultural values. (Learning-> Language and culture)
Risager, Karen. Language and Culture: Global Flows and Local Complexity. Clevedon: Multilingual matters, 2006. Print.
Wang, Xang. Exploring the Negative Transfer on English Learning. Asian Social Science. Vol. 5. No. 7. 2009.
Wang, Ying. and Chen, Jing. Differences of English and Chinese as Written Languages and Strategies in English Writing Teaching. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp. 647-652. 2013.