Friday, December 13, 2013

China Pushes Back Against English Language

There is a movement afoot in China to strip English language of its status by dropping the English language requirement from the Gaokao (China's national higher education entrance examination). Typical reaction:
How many Chinese have been hurt by the English education? It should have been abolished long ago. English is a language and should be studied as such. But Chinese students force themselves to remember the English vocabularies as imprinted signs for exam purposes...
The problem, as far as I understand it, is not with spoken English, which is actually quite simple and quite useful for communicating with people around the world. The problem is with English being taught as a written language, forcing Chinese students to memorize thousands of arbitrary sequences of Latin characters of which written English is composed. By a standard measure of phoneme-grapheme correspondence, English spelling is less than 1% phonetic, compared to 99% for Spanish and Italian, 95% for Russian and 90% for German.

Perhaps the Beijing Municipal Education Commission and China's Intelligence Research Academy would enjoy taking a look at Project Unspell. Why make students attempt to decipher spelled English when they can achieve the same results by learning 39 new characters and using a piece of software?

4 comments :

Sheila chambers said...

No wonder I can't spell! the english language isn't spelled like it's pronounced. This needs to be changed. I'm tempted to revolt by spelling words the way their pronounced leaving out the odd, random letters that just fuck things up.

Patrick said...

I'll never forget a funny incident at the dinner table when I was a kid. My younger brother had done poorly on a spelling test, and my dad said "your trouble is that you spell phonetically." Only half-listening, my brother thought he'd been asked to spell the word "phonetically" and began: "F - O - N… Everyone cracked up.

Anarcissie said...

Part of what is going on in China is a resurgence of nationalism or nativism. This is as much a reason for the deprecation of required English as its crazy spelling. Note, though, that China and other East Asian countries have some fairly weird writing systems of their own; anyone who learns them ought to find English a piece of cake.

Mark Sebela said...

Hi Dmitry.

My late father was a elementary school here in Canada, for about 35 years and I remember him talking about how stupid English spelling is. He too said it should be spelled phonetically,like it use to be. He always said "they" will never change it due to classicism & elitism. I think that all the spelling and grammar Nazis that the internet has exposed, has proved him right.