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Language Barrier as the Major Challenge of Chinese International Students

Chinese students are probably among the smartest people on earth. An international study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) shows that even the poorest kids in Shanghai—that is, those whose parents are factory workers or cleaners—outperform the children of British doctors and lawyers in mathematics.

OECD also reports that China’s richest schoolchildren are about three academic years ahead of British kids. In a similar report, results also show that students who fall in the 90th percentile in the US actually scored below the average Shanghai student.

However, these tests can only tell us so much, as Chinese students have been reported to face many struggles as they attend American universities.

Language Barrier

One of the many struggles of Chinese students who go abroad and study in the US is the language barrier. Because the English and Chinese languages are based on different logic, Chinese students find it difficult to master the foreign language. In addition, although English is taught in Chinese schools, Chinese children have little experience in actually speaking the language as Chinese schools put more emphasis on its written over spoken form.

The language issue has caused major communication problems for Chinese students. It has caused them difficulty in articulating their thoughts, thus many of Chinese international students remain reticent in class, refraining from asking questions and participating in class discussions. Being non-native English speakers has also made it hard for Chinese students to communicate and interact with their American classmates. Chinese students also find it hard to produce original academic essays, as they seem to lack the skill of analytic writing in the English language. Thus, language barriers bring academic as well as social implications to international Chinese students.

Overcoming Language Issues

To overcome language issues, Chinese students should see to it that they attend extra classes or tutorial sessions to improve their verbal and written English skills. They should also consider making friends with locals since spending more time and living with Chinese students can hamper one’s learning of the language. By having American friends and talking to them in English, Chinese learners can greatly improve their English skills.

Finally, students should also make use of the available resources and services offered in school. Many international schools designate organizations and advisors to help international students should they encounter a problem. Approaching these advisors can help Chinese students adapt to the American culture and learn the local language.

It is not to be thought of that language problems indicate intellectual issues. Just because Chinese students do not speak English well doesn’t mean that they are not smart. Everyone has his own strengths and weaknesses. By leveraging on his strengths and by focusing one’s energy to improve on his weaknesses, there is no doubt that any Chinese international student can successfully complete an American education.

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