Here is a situation:

You have two students who want to learn English, considering both have good knowledge of English grammar but can't speak English at all. One speaks Spanish and other speaks Japanese. Teaching which one is more difficult than other? As I am working in Japan so I can explain about Japanese learners only.

Japanese student learning English :
1. Teacher has to work on his accent as he has monotonous rhythm.
2. Japanese language has fewer sounds than English. Therefore student needs to learn new sounds which are used in English.
3. Sentence order in Japanese is different from English.
4. Japanese has adopted some English words but changed them into "Japanese-English". For example "Computer" is spoken as "Kaampyutaa". Again, teacher needs to work hard to have his student use correct sound of English words.

Spanish student learning English :
- ?
- ?
- ?

I am sorry I don't know anything about Spanish language. The question may be a little different e.g. Japanese student Vs German student. But I don't know German either.

Could anybody please help me to explain the difference?

Thanks in advance!
1 2
Hi Meg,

I have experience almost exclusively with Japanese students, too, so I'm not much help; but I'm going to move your post to the more appropriate Teaching (TEFL) Forum.
Thank you so much dear Mister Micawber!
As you have mentioned about your experience with Japanese students, could you please tell me more about the problems they face while learning English? Currently I am working in Japan but I am not a Japanese and I have only one year experience of teaching so far.
Thanks again for your help!
I am looking forward to know more about your experience.
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I am in no way an experienced teacher but I would have thought that the most obvious differences between the Spanish ( or German) student and the Japanese student would be that the former already speak an Indo-European language and hence there are certain similarities between their language and its structure, and English, which will help in the learning process, and that they use the Latin alphabet. This instantly gives them an advantage over their Japanese brethren in English learning, as the Japanese must use the impenetrable ( to me!) "writing system" of kana, hiragana and katatkana all used at once in the same sentence or even word!

I have been teaching English to elderly Chinese speakers for a couple of years and it is surprisingly difficult. Teaching English to mature Kurds and Afghans has been much easier, despite the cultural differences and native language illiteracy of all three groups, and even though my Chinese students appear to have a much greater desire to actually learn and practice their English. I am sure a large part of this difference can be ascribed to the fact that Kurdish and Pashto are both Indo-European languages and that their speakers - even if illiterate - will be at least vaguely familiar with the Arabic, Cyrillic or Latin alphabets and the principles of how the alphabet system works.

Of course I am sure many people can correct me on this and have far more developed and educated theories about language learning.

What does 1. mean?

The teacher has to work on their own accent? or they have to work on the students' accent?

The question overall is a little unclear. Teaching which one would be difficult in what sense? What would you be teaching them? Why would you want to draw a comparison between the two?

However, I might hazard a guess that it is more difficult to teach a student when you are unattuned to their L1 system. I say this because, when we understand the L1 system of our students we can more readily understand some of the reasons they make mistakes or encode language in the way that they do because of intereference from their L1 system.

In this way, we can anticipate errors and also consciously avoid helping the students fossilize language through applying various strategies that accomodate common patterns in the students learning preferences.

Arguably, this could be negligable if say you had a good rapport and personal understanding of both students.
I am sorry Mandrake if I was not clear.
In number 1, of course teacher has to work on his student's accent.... anyway, it was just a general question I posted in English Forum and many thanks to Mr Micawber who moved this question to TEFL section. I suppose it should be clear if you go back to my question and read the first line after "Here is a situation...".
I am very sorry if I sound rude.

Thanks liz! I agree with you. But as I know Chinese has rather more sounds than Japanese. I can't say for sure but I think due to this reason, teaching Japanese students should be more difficult than Chinese students (please correct me if I am wrong). Just a few days ago, I was reading about the history of English language and I read about the origin of Spanish or German. So it makes sense that Spanish students may face few difficulties while learning English (speaking and listening).

Here is one more difference I found while searching EF:
The students who speak Latin or a Germanic language can face the problem of false cognates. They know the words of their native language which look or sound same as English words but have entirely different meanings.

Some languages like Spanish use articles a lot more than English people do because they do need them in their native language, so they tend to overuse the article when they learn English.

Need more feedback.....
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Hello meg2589 and all,
I almost exclusively teach Spanish students, with the exception of some American students who are learning Spanish but this is a different story. I can tell you the most common mistakes and difficulties that we, Spanish people, find when studying English.
The first problem that you mention is the 'false cognates' which we call 'false friends': they are similarly written words or expressions that have different meanings in both languages. The funniest example I can give is 'to be constipated', which I'm sure you know the meaning. Well, in Spanish we have 'constipado' which means to have a cold: not at all the same meaningEmotion: wink
The overuse of articles is also a problem. But students learn the rules of when to use it and when not.
As for more grammar mistakes:
- 'Auxiliary verbs': there is no such thing in Spanish, so a lot of emphasis must be put on the use of them. A useful and popular exercise is to change an affirmative sentence to negative and interrogative.
-Third person singular s in the Present Simple: Even with 18-year-old students, we still have this problem. They simply skip it and we, teachers, must put a lot of emphasis in this simple aspect of grammar.
-Adjectives: 'they have no plural form'. I repeat this sentence thousands of times and they don't catch it. This doesn't happen in Spanish: adjectives have gender and number, unlike English. The same happens with the order: in Spanish they usually go after the noun, not before it.
-Speaking of order...: Word order in a sentence. In Spanish it's much more free, but in English is more fixed. Another point to be taken into account if they want to be understood. Common mistakes are, for example, Said the teacher that would give we more homework which should be The teacher said that he would give us more homework Do you see what I mean?
Well, the list would go on and on, but I'm giving you some examples. I don't know if you were looking for this. If I'm right, feel free to ask for more, and I'll post more examples of common mistakes Spanish students make.

See you.
Many thanks dear Novalee!! It's really new thing for me to know about the Spanish students. It's really funny. I couldn't stop laughing when I read about the false cognates "constipation". It may put them in trouble if they catch cold and go to see an English doctor. Emotion: smile
Thanks again!
Ha ha, yes it's very funny. I've just remembered something that happened to a friend of mine when living in London. She run out of batteries for her walkman and she went to a shop to buy some. But she didn't know the word in English for this. We, Spanish people, think that everyone can understand us, no matter if they speak Spanish or not. So, she asked the shop assistant for some "piles" which is very similar to our word for batteries ("pilas"). I can picture her saying: "Please, I need piles, you know, for my walkman". I can also picture in my mind the assistant's puzzled face. Ha, haEmotion: wink
I know so many people living now in England, Ireland, Belgium, Germany, etc, that I have some very funny stories about misunderstandings in another language, but the funniest for me was this one.

See you
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