Proceedings of The 4th World Conference on Research in Teaching and Education
Why Are Some Languages, Like Chinese, Harder to Teach and Learn than Others, and What Are the Implications for Effective Language Teaching?
David S. Rosenstein
Both theoretically and practically, all modern languages are inherently more or less equally difficult. Theoretically, they all exist within two rather narrow parameters which determine their minimum and maximum complexity; that is, they have to be complex enough to describe modern life and an individual’s or group’s past, present and future experience, and yet easy enough to allow for efficient communication among all its educated and uneducated speakers. Practically speaking, all normal children learning their native languages do so at approximately the same rate and with the same competence, progressing from easy to more complex grammar and syntax in the same way. Why then, do some languages seem more difficult to teach and learn than others? All L2 learners must cope with hardened L1 language habits trying to cope with contrasting L2 habits, but more importantly, they have to deal with unfamiliar and unique L2 characteristics which, cause faulty language expectations. Effective L2 teaching must take these two sources of difficulty into consideration, with special emphasis on a learner’s faulty language expectations, making effective teaching somewhat different for each given foreign language. Examples from Chinese and other languages are presented.
keywords: communication; complexity; expectations; habits; parameters.