How Does Cultural Differences Impact Your Chinese Language Learning Experience?

“So, what is your secret of teaching Chinese to the English-speaking adults?” I am often asked this question with great curiosity when people hear about my Chinese teaching company. And I would always respond, “well, I give people the key to open that mysterious Chinese door.”

Let’s talk about the key I mentioned above. First, let’s make a distinction about teaching children Chinese and teaching adults Chinese - the same thing when educators use the term “pedagogy and andragogy”. Children often receive information well when it is presented interestingly, whereas adults often choose to accept information when it is explained logically. Because of this essential difference, we should match the children with the approach of “what”, and then match the adults with the approach of “why”. Therefore, immersing children in a Chinese-oriented environment and asking them to recite sentences would just work well. But reciting won’t work as effectively as on adults. What we need to do is to enable adult students to translate their own English sentences into Chinese.

Let’s move forward to one of the applications in the approach of “why” in teaching adult learners Chinese as a second language.

Western culture embraces freedom, and Chinese culture embraces order. Therefore, English language has sentences, such as “My uncle’s name is Tom” and “I have an uncle whose name is Tom”. But in Chinese language, you would only see this pattern, “I have a named Tom uncle”. The position of “uncle” is very free in English sentences, but it is very strictly locked at the end in Chinese sentences. Why? Because in Chinese culture, we always leave the most important information at the end to demonstrate a sense of modesty.

If you think this is just a coincidence, you are wrong. Let’s look at more examples:

English: Source of Life Chinese: Life’s source

English: Food in Minnesota Chinese: Minnesota’s food

English: Key to the Door Chinese: Door’s key

This cultural difference sets apart the way how “attributives” are used in the Chinese language compared to the English language. If you want to learn more, you are welcome to check our product “Module 3: Detailed Analyses on Chinese Attributives” by clicking

Unless otherwise noted, all teachings about “prepositive Chinese attributives” are taken from the Self-study Chinese curriculum. Copyright ©2019 by Beihu Chinese Institute LLC, a Chinese teaching company and publishing entity for the Self-study Chinese curriculum.