No one likes learning this stuff or teaching it, but the sad truth is that we must. Students need to learn how to say sentences correctly if they don’t want to come off as complete morons, which some of them will do regardless.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same old common grammar mistakes over and over again, even when we’ve just gone over them. And it seems like no matter how many times you correct their speech or writing, they’ll still make the same mistake.
Still, I do notice a lot of students self-correcting themselves or others, and lots of them know a written grammar mistake when I point it out to them.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes I see teaching English in China.
- A/An: This one happens frequently at lower levels, but not so much with teenagers. The key rule here is that if the word following the article begins with a vowel, use “an.” Any thing else, use “a.”
- To: Boy oh boy! Will students ever remember to put this simple word before a location? “I’m going to library, I’m going America, I’m going school.” You get the idea. I try to correct this in class, but after about the twentieth time I just kind of throw in the towel.
- The: Unlike “to,” this article gets used way too much. “The Australia, the Tom, I’m going to the Beijing today.” Again, I try to stamp it out, and always do in written work, but how many times can you hear the same mistake before you flip out?
- He/She: You can’t really fault Chinese students, or adults, for making this common mistake that anyone who’s lived in China before knows all about. In Chinese the word ‘ta’ refers to both he and she. There’s no differentiation between the two pronouns. I usually let it pass unless the student catches their own mistake.
- -ing: You’re always going to see people using the continuous tense at the wrong times and not using it at the right times. “I’m go to the park. He’s going to the park yesterday. Let’s going to the park.” I found that a really good way to get my students to stop using this, and to know when to use it, is by always saying “now” when I want them to use it. My kids got real good at that through the Big Word card game that I offer on the site.