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".

You think word verification is annoying? Try not being able comment on your own %#%$# blog because the program you are using to get around China's firewall stops Blogger from remembering who you are.
My comment:
Short answer: yes. My English-speaking boss has mentioned a few times that a big problem in getting students to pass their IELTS and visa interview (and ultimately be successful in college in the States) is their inability to think for and express themselves.
A more thorough answer on other observations later.
I will have to find some way to deal with this... one possible option is killing this blog and moving over to wordpress... apparently it isn't considered to be quite as subversive by the CPC.


  1. So, on NPR they were talking about the real problem with the Chinese educational system being a lack of creativity among students.

  2. Dude, turn off word verification. It's obnoxious