Teachers Report: 10+ Mistakes Chinese Students Make in English 101 Essays

Writing guide
Posted on October 3, 2018

All the international students who’re studying in American colleges have to pass English 101 – the entry-level English class that teaches the basics of analytical reading and essay writing. To most of Chinese students, this is not an easy task, because Chinese and English are two totally different languages:

  • English is a Latin language, and you can guess the pronunciation from its spelling, while Chinese is a character-based language, it can’t be spelt and you can’t guess the pronunciation from the characters.
  • English has far less dialects and accents than Chinese.
  • The written form of English is quite simple, while in Chinese it’s varied and that’s the cause of Chinese calligraphy.

These differences taken into account, it’s really hard for the Chinese students to learn English easily, and they often make mistakes in their writing.

According to study from teachers both home and abroad, below are some common errors that Chinese students make in their English 101 essays.

Mistake #1. Errors in the use of nouns

Errors involving countable nouns where the s is left out, e.g. 20 year (years) and many car (cars)

Here we can also add errors involving singular countable and uncountable nouns where the s is included. For example, a pieces of cake (piece) and buy foods in the supermarket (food).

Mistake #2. Word-to-word writing or translation due to the interference from the Chinese language

A vivid example would be I very much thank you. In Chinese it’s 我非常感谢你,and the correct saying in English is Thank you very much.

Another sample – Five flower meat (in Chinese it’s 五花肉, 五=five,花=flower, 肉=meat, the correct saying is streaky pork).

Mistake #3. Wrong use of near synonym

  • I have a small (little) sister.
  • I questioned(asked) my teacher a question

Mistake #4. Spelling mistakes

  • My father is a teacher, my mather(mother) is a nurse.
  • I have made great progres(progress) in learning English.
  • Regular runing(running) is good for your health.

Mistake #5. Wrong use of phrases

  • He went to Guiyang, sitting in front(in the front) of the bus.
  • She always complains for(complains about) the society.

Mistake #6. Errors in the use of adjective, adverb, comparative

  • I am very angrily(angry).
  • She feels very frightening(frightened).
  • Who is the best (better) player, Ronaldo or Messi?

Mistake #7. Errors in the use of past tense verb

  • I spended(spent) 2 days reading the novel.
  • It taked(took) me 3 hours to finish the homework.

Mistake #8. Errors in the Use of Articles

  • But the God looked very sad …
  • it was the recess time.
  • I want to buy a bread …

This is the common mistake for almost any Chinese student, because articles do not exist in the Chinese linguistic system. Thus, the absence of articles in Chinese indirectly influences them to commit errors when using English articles.

Miskake #9. Omission of definite articles

  • He written my name down and took me to discipline master’s room. (He wrote my name down and took me to the discipline master’s room.)
  • I need to buy food in supermarket (buy food in the supermarket)

Mistake #10. Errors in the use of prepositions

Wrong choice of prepositions

  • I jumped on (to) my feet
  • In (on) a hot terrible morning

Insertion of prepositions

  • My mother was comforting at
  • She ran back to

Omission of prepositions

  • When she heard the accident, she… (When she heard about the accident, she…)
  • wash my face and change my uniform in a short time (wash my face and change into my uniform in a short time)

Mistake #11. Errors in the use of tense

  • Yesterday, I come(came) home very late due to traffic jam.
  • It is(was) an afternoon at 1998 in France, I met my wife at Starbucks.
  • He shouted so loudly yet no one heard him, because the house is(was) empty.

These are a few common mistakes that Chinese students usually make in their English 101 essays. As Chinese and English are two languages belonging to different language systems, it’s very normal for non-native speakers to have errors in their writing. However, always believe practice makes perfect. The more you practise, the better you will be!

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