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Comparison and Contrast Method in Adult’s Second Language Teaching

Most foreign learners who come to learn Chinese in China are the adults. There are many methods to teach Chinese language in the second language teaching. However, for the adults, the approach of comparison and contrast is a beneficial way to stimulate their interest and promote them to learn better and remember more firmly. Therefore, teachers can pay more attention on this aspect to improve learners’ language skills.

Foreign adults all have acquired their native languages very well. Therefore, there is no doubt that the second language learning will greatly affected by the mother tongue. This is the problem that teachers inChinese school in China should solve to help learners remove the learning obstacles. And there are two kinds of different opinions on this issue.

Some people hold the opinion that the classroom teaching should let students completely forget the mother tongue because the Chinese language and their native language are two totally different language systems. So they are supposed to think and communicate with the logic of the second language. Another opinion for teaching learners who study in China is that teachers can take the advantage of learners’ native language to teach Chinese because they think there must be some common points between these two languages. It is time saving and energy saving to improve the teaching efficiency.

As a matter of fact, both the two opinions are not totally correct. For the former point of view, it emphasizes too much about the individuality of the languages but neglects the similarity. In the second language teaching, especially for those who are in elementary level, it is not realistic for learners forget their mother tongue when they learn Mandarin in China. It is impossible for teachers and students to remind of their native language.

Of course, if the language learners have a firm foundation to learn Chinese, such requirements can be put forward. However, for the latter viewpoint, it attaches much importance to the common points of languages but neglecting the different characteristics of various languages. Therefore, teachers in qualified Mandarin program should properly handle the relationship between mother tongue and second language.

But, how can we make a proper adjustment between the native language and target language? Most teachers agree to teach adult learners to study Chinese with the method of comparison and contrast. It can realize a better teaching result with less time and energy. The reason they think this method is suitable for the adults to learn a second language is that the adults have a stronger inference ability and judgment capability.

Now, the attention should be paid to how to use the comparison and contrast method in the language teaching. To teach foreign learners to learn Mandarin, the very beginning should be the pronunciation teaching. What teachers should do first is to summarize some similarities between two different languages and take that advantage to teach Chinese language.

By comparing the pronunciation of Mandarin with learners’ native languages, generally speaking, three conditions can be concluded. The first one is the same sound, that is to say, some certain pronunciations are totally the same. Another condition is the different pronunciation. The vowels and consonants of learners’ mother tongue are different from the syllable onsets and syllable rimes in Chinese. The most difficult one for students who learn to speak Chinese is the similar pronunciation with different phonemes.

On the basis of the above situations, we should stress the handling of different difficult points in pronunciation teaching. For those English speakers who learn Chinese language in China, they often confuse the rising tone and falling tone in English with the four tones in Chinese characters, even replace them. Therefore, the key point for teaching pronunciation is to help them analyze and practice over and over again about the four tones in Chinese characters.

What’s more, during the process of foreigners learning Mandarin Chinese, teachers should not only make comparison and contrast in the two languages, but also in the two cultural backgrounds. Therefore, the second language teachers should be familiar with the theoretical knowledge of the second language and the native language, and more importantly, the different cultural knowledge of different nations. In this way, the requirements for the teachers are improved.

All in all, the method of comparison and contrast is necessary in second language teaching. And what teachers should know is not only the language knowledge but also the relevant cultural background.

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