I would like to discuss the above topic today. I will call my fellow Mainlander Chinese friends "Mainlanders". I will use the ways Hong Kong (HK) people learn English as a reference to find out where the "problems" are.

I think the problems faced by Mainlanders in learning English as comparing to Hong Kong people are:

  • There are not as many foreilgners whom Mainlanders can practise their English with. Whereas in HK, we have a lot of chances to practise with colleagues, tourists or even foreign domestic helpers (外籍家庭佣工) & etc..
  • There are not as many English resources in Mainland as comparing to HK. Hong Kong is an open society. Such websites like Wikipedia, Wordpress, Google blogs & etc. and TV channels like CNN, BBC & etc. are available in HK. They are excellent sources for researches on English subjects and for learning English.
  • HK is a bilingual city, English and Chinese. We have a lot of chances to be exposed to (接触) English.
  • Many of the people like myself have studied overseas and/or emigrated to overseas.
  • Many of the middle class families (中等收入家庭)send their children to international schools, In those schools many of the students are native English speakers, so the HK children can speak like natives.
  • HK schools start teaching English at kindergarten (幼儿园), but Mainland may be doing so in senior high school.
  • Mainlanders are, relatively speaking, shyer and less likely to speak with foreigners, which is the most important way, or the only way, to learn oral English.
  • The pinyin pronunciation of English alphabets is different from English pronuciation. The preconception (先入为主) has affected Mainlanders' English pronunciation negatively.
  • With respect to Mainland English teachers (我对国内老师十分尊重) I think some of them are not qualified to be an English teacher because there are much much more demands than supplies 滥竽充数  Some of them were not trained to be English teachers. 

Having said the above,  I think the Mainlanders are hardworking and very serious about learning English. I have seen the level of English of my fellow Chinese improved a great deal in the last two years. As a matter of fact, many of my friends are taking English as their major. Their English proficiency is high. Many of them are studying to be teachers. So I can foresee that the standard of  Mainland English teachers will improve a great deal in the future and this will benefit future students too. I am seeing the the gap in English skills between Mainlanders and HK is narrowing. If this trend continues, one day the English proficiency of Mainlanders might surpass HK.

Many of my Mainland friends asked me how to improve their English, I think, first and foremost, is to improve your oral English.It is because there is little time for you to think when you speak English and you need to think in English. Whereas in writing, it gives you more time to think and I think many of my friends think in Chinese and then translated it into English.I do not know of any one, who is good in English, can do it that way. I think you need to aim at the level that you can talk and write with the same proficiency(
出口成章). As a start one should improve his listening skill. I think the CCTV English channel is the best choice. The English of the members of that channel is of international standard. As for improving the spoken English skill one should make good use of the Italki and LiveMocha facilities.
4/25/2010 11:50:04 am

Brandon.Thank you for your suggestion about Mailanders learning English at first .
I agreed with What you said in your blob,and I very like your blog.At present ,I faced the same problems your offered.I hope you can help me in the future.I like Englidh and want to improve it as soo as possible.You are a good man and have a good luck.

4/25/2010 12:37:10 pm

Xiuying, thanks for you comments. I'll do the best I can to help you. I look forward to voice chatting with you.

4/25/2010 01:12:08 pm

You really know a lot about the english education situation of the mainland. You are right.
Sometimes I do not listen to the class because the teacher only talks about the content of the book. In fact they do not need to talk about it, we all know it well. So it is very boring. Even sometimes the teachers are not qualified to teach us. I usually spoke ill of us our teachers since I was in my frist year in college. You can see the problem is more serious than you have learned. Someone say it is a bad result of Student enlarged enrollment学生扩招。So many subjects should be not opened in many colleges, but......EDUCATION NEEDS A REFORM!

4/25/2010 02:00:09 pm

Nancy, thanks for your comments. I suggest what you can do is to practise more on italki and LiveMocha. Don't be shy. Many of the foreigners are very friendly and are prepared to help. I learn Spanish only through the internet. I don't go to classes. As you said they are boring.So good luck to your studies.

4/25/2010 04:55:39 pm

Your words are very instructive!(听君一席话,胜读十年书。I don't know whether it's corrrect in English.)
We, as you said mainlanders, are lack of the environment of English. We are only exposed in Chinese and shy in speaking English.
Um..I come here to ask you for help, actually. I saw a marriage certificate on web and had problem in understanding the whole sentence, so would you lile to help me ? The sentence is as follows:
I, xxx ,Consul of Canada at Seoul, Korea, duly commissioned and qualified, do hereby certify that xxx , whose true signature and official seal are respectively subscribed and affixed hereto, was on the date of April.20,2008, the date hereof, the Mayor of Ku Office, to whose official acts, faith and credit are due.
You see, the sentence is so long. Sorry for trouble you.
P.S.:I find a mistake in your article. in the eighth item, which is the second item from the bottom, you wrote"The pinyin pronunciation of English alphabets is different from English pronuciation" maybe what you meant should be "The pinyin pronunciation of Chinese alphabets is different from English pronuciation". ^^

4/25/2010 08:01:32 pm

Eureka, thanks for your compliments. I am flattered.

As for the marriage certificate, I would translate it as: 本人驻韩国汉城加拿大领事,受正式委任及合资格,特此证明xxx于2008年4..当天真正签字及将公章分别在此签署及加盖,其为KU市长及其办公室,并为他们的公务及应有公信行为。

Thank you for pointing out th apparent mistake. However, I don't think there is a mistake. What I tried to say is that, for instance, the pinyin pronunciations of the alphabets "q" and "z" are different from the English pronunciations of those two alphabets. I hope it is clearer to you now.

4/26/2010 10:24:30 am

what you said is our mainland's students heard.do you know CET(college english text)4 amd 6 level,every student should attend it,most of students can pass the cet4,but little student can speak english smoothly,we only in text to use english,i think.i am not good at english,don't know if i say my mind clearly.

4/26/2010 12:21:46 pm

Well, I got it now. For both the translation and your article. ^^

4/26/2010 12:43:29 pm

Jacqueline, I understand what you are saying. It is very clear to me.

5/4/2010 01:52:59 am

Brandon, I can't agree with you any more. I studied english from primary school, maybe some place would start from middle school or high school, but I felt my english still poor. Most of time, we learn english just for examination or for so-called diploma.

5/9/2010 10:15:21 pm

thank you!
could you give me some suggestions to remember vocabularies ?

5/9/2010 11:05:57 pm


Practices, practices and more practices. As you are a member of Italki, you may make good use of the "notebook" facility there, whereby you write a passage and your friends will correct them. You can increase your vocabularies manifold (many times)that way.

Further, make good use of the internet. Read as many English passages or articles in the internet as possible. Also have a dictionary on the internet handy, when you come across vocabularies that you don't understand look them up However, don't over rely on a dictionary as it will slow down your readings. Guess the meanings first.

Happy learnings!

5/13/2010 12:49:52 pm

thank you!
I will try to learn english in that way. i think it's very helpfull. only one question i am worried. it will cost me much time and i have much work to do
in my Domain Knowledge. but i also know this no shortcut.so i must work hard.ringt? thank you for help.

5/26/2010 12:31:51 am

dear brandonzin,
yeah, i cannot agree with you anymore. as mentioned much above, i just want to thank you at first!
i appreciate your kindness and patience lot!it is so relax and happy to read all your words. and you are such a patient man, you do not only give good suggestions but also make chinese notes for us to master the native expression way.
have not use the internet for one month. and i come back to study with you through this space now.
i should also learn with your spirit to change with a new langurage.
thank for your kindness a lot!
yours, sheep

Anna Hu
4/11/2012 01:06:27 pm

Hi, everyone

I’m a typical Mainlander with awful Chinese accent! Here are my experiences (a painful and an unfortunate one) of learning English: I started my English learning only from senior high school and with almost 10 years of hard work … I feel that I’ve accomplished nothing or nearly garbage!!! My former English teacher always uses Chinese to teach English; and he never speaks any English at all… he suggested to us that learning more vocabularies will be the only way to the ultimate success to improve ones’ English proficiencies. Furthermore, our Chinese Pinyin has ruined and continues to ruin the way we learn proper English pronunciation! Each of our Chinese Pinyin alphabets has fundamental and subtle differences than the Western alphabets … our mindset has been firmly attached to the Chinese Pinyin system in such a way that we can no longer able to undo our rare Chinese accents in speaking English! Very sadly speaking, the modern Chinese generations are not in any way prepare themselves to face the challenges of this age of using English as the international language for communications …

Anna (Ph.D in Linguistic Studies)

5/30/2012 12:49:26 pm

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