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My native language is Chinese. This language I was taught since childhood and the language my parents, friends, and fellows speak in everyday life. I do not have any bilingual relatives or environment that, I consider now, would be great. I come from Guangdong province in China. We speak Mandarin and Cantonese as well. Therefore, I easily absorbed Chinese from the conversations of parents and school. Regarding another language background, I tried to learn Spanish in high school. However, it did not bring any positive results. Therefore, I decided that European languages are too hard and switched attention to the Asian group. I spent a lot of time doing my best learning of Japanese. Meanwhile, the need for international communication made me study English. Thus, in this paper, I will cover the particular differences between Chinese and English and provide issues that usually happen to Chinese English learners.

Everyone knows that English is the most common language of international communication. I had obligatory English classes since the fifth grade in school, two times a week. At that time, I was a naughty child who did not pay attention to essential things. Therefore, these classes had not left a huge impact on my language skills. Becoming older, I decided to take additional private classes. Besides I attended advanced courses for English learners, learned grammar, vocabulary, and tried to be engaged in real-life communication with native speakers. So I learn English for few years now.

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English is not a difficult language to learn. However, due to the huge difference between it and my mother tongue, I encountered difficulties. I needed to adjust myself to the new alphabet, different grammar structures, and syntax. I had to study every day, also on my own.

To clarify the differences between these languages, in this paper, I will provide the comparison of sound and grammar systems of Chinese and English. The research focuses mostly on the features that English has, and Chinese has a lack of and personal perspective of these issues.


Certainly, it is easier for me to speak my native Chinese. I do not have to think which word to choose to express my thought or mood as well as spend time creating the correct grammar sentence. It automatically appears in my head as since I have been always surrounded by the representatives of this language and culture. English language is the one I have been learning for a long time. However, its level still is much lower than Chinese. I still have many troubles with vocabulary and tenses, articles and prepositions. I often can forget to put the word in a proper case with an appropriate preposition etc.. For instance “I go shop” instead of “I go shopping” became my terrible habit. As we do not use such constructions in Chinese, I just omit them. It is hard for me to distinguish where I need to put prepositions and where they are not required. When I speak English, I still have to translate the phrase from Chinese in mind before utterance instead of thinking in English. Nevertheless, practice will make perfect someday.

Comparison of Sounds

English and Chinese have many phonological aspects that may bring difficulties for learners. Unlike English, Chinese is a tone language. Therefore, stress, intonation, and pitch are important for word meaning differentiation. A native Chinese speaker requires a lot of time to get used to English way using the pitch for expressing emotional characteristics.

However, the consonants provide the highest amount of issues. There is no “R” [r] sound in Chinese. Thus, many of words are just mispronounced. Chinese students often pronounce “Rice” [raɪs] or “rake”[ reɪk] and “lice”[ laɪs] or “lake” [leɪk]. Chinese English learners tend to skip [r] in the English word endings making different words sound identical as in the example with “his” and “her”. It is a common problem with the closed syllables that are common for English and almost do not exist in Chinese. I struggled to pay more attention to the pronunciation of word endings. In the beginning, I just omitted the ending syllables if the last sound was a consonant.

Considering the issues of sound absence in the languages, there are about 15 English phonemes that have no corresponding sounds in Chinese. They are /b/, /g/, /d/, /v/, /θ/,ð/,/z/, /s/, /ʃ/, /ʒ/, /h/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/, /r/, /j/.I would like to their impact on the learning process and creation of a specific accent of Chinese English speakers. First, I want to mention that there has been created a special system (called pinyin) for transliteration of Chinese sounds in Latin. Therefore, I will render all the sounds in pinyin. English /ʒ/ and /ʃ/, /tʃ/and /dʒ/ may sound similar to Chinese sounds [r], [sh], [ch], and [zh]. Chinese people tend to substitute these sounds. Due to different organs of speech involved in their creation, they belong to different sound groups that do not correspond to each other. English sounds are palato-alveolar fricatives and affricates while Chinese are palato-alveolar retroflex. Besides the /dʒ/ is voiced affricate while Chinese affricates and fricatives are always voiceless. There is no [v] in Chinese. Therefore, it tends to be replaced by [f] or [w] — vine [wain], even [i:fn], [z] is replaced by [s] or [dz] – zoo [ su:], [dzu:]. Other non-existing in Chinese English sounds have also issues with mispronunciation. For instance [ʃ] is often said as [s] (she [ʃi:] →see [si:]) , [ᶾ] as [s] or [z] (pleasure [pleᶾᵊ]→pleasir[ plesᵊ] or plearer [plezᵊ], [ᶿ] is substituted by [s]( think [ᶿᶦᵑᵏ] →sink [sᶦᵑᵏ]), [ᶞ] may be transformed into [z] or [d] (this [ᶞᶦs] →zis[zis], that [ᶞᵆᵗ] →dat [ᵈᵆᵗ]) . Personally, I have a great difficulty with /th/ [ᶞ] and still cannot say this sound properly.

Therefore, many differences in consonant systems of these languages lead to troubles during the learning process of English. It is hard for a native Chinese to adjust to these issues and pronounce the sounds they never used in their life. That is also the reason why Europeans or English native speakers often can hardly understand a Chinese person speaking English even with a perfect grammar. Those who cannot overcome the issues created by consonants systems have a very strong accent while speaking English. Many people have difficulties with the perception of this accent.

Comparison of Grammar

The grammar of these languages is even more different than sounds system. Chinese people do not use grammar for changing the meaning as it is ideograph-based. We use auxiliary words or tones to deliver needed information. Chinese does not distinguish neither singularity or plurality nor gender. Unlike English, there is no need to choose a proper verb form in Chinese to express the action of a subject. There are no cases as in English. Hence, “I” and “me”, “he” and “him” are the same words in Chinese. The sentences as “I travel by train” will sound as “I travel train”, or “I go shopping” will look like “I go shop”. Also, it is worth mentioning, even looking at previous examples, that Chinese people almost do not use small additional words as prepositions, conjunctions, etc. There are no articles and word “no” in Chinese.

A significant issue occurs with studying of tense forms. English has sixteen tense forms of verbs while Chinese verbs do not express time but just action. Adverbs or time words render the meaning of future, past, or present. Such grammatical tenses as Future-in-the-Past or Progressive tenses are very complicated for understanding and comparison with Chinese grammar structure. When I was young, I could say “learn English need learn grammar, only know vocabulary is not enough” instead of “To learn English, you need to learn grammar, only knowledge of vocabulary is not enough”. I translated the sentences literally from Chinese skipping the English grammar rules and structure. For a Chinese native speaker, it is obvious that there is a huge amount of differences that complicate the learning process. Therefore, it is needed to find the way to overcome them. It means that those people who have learned English worked really hard. Thus, I am not an exception.


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