Saturday, July 2, 2011

Learning Chinese I

I came across this article the other day.
Short and sweet: one reason why Chinese students do better in math than English speaking students is because their numbers are shorter, and their numbers make a little more sense.
Yi, er, san, si, wu, liu, qi, ba, jiu, and shi (accents omitted), one through ten, are all mono-syllabic.
To say a number over ten you just place the one's digit after "shi" (twelve is shi-er). For a number greater than 19 you place the number of the tens digit in front of shi (34 is san-shi-si).  One hundred is bai, and the same rules apply.
So, for my part, learning how to say numbers has been pretty easy.  I even became a bit of a sideshow for my non-English speaking boss (John, say 956.). I still have quite a bit of trouble listening to numbers though.
Whether or not these differences have a large effect on our ability to do math, it does seem like I have picked up the Chinese numbers much more quickly than my students have picked up English numbers.  Most of their problems have to do with the teens and tens (thirteen vs thirty).

More to come on learning Chinese and some of the root causes of "Engrish".