Teaching your SO

My girlfriend speaks about as much English as I do Japanese (read: almost none) because she hasn’t touched it since high school. For the past five years, that hasn’t been a problem since we live in Taiwan, but now I’m looking into the possibility of a job back home, where not being able to speak English would be a hassle at best and isolating at worst. At the same time, I’ve found myself completely incapable of teaching her myself, partially because of our relationship and partially because I’m just not very good at teaching. She constantly tells me to speak English with her but it’s a chore for both of us since she never understands. Should I just send her off to the nearest adult buxiban?

Really, no advice?

I never hear anything but failure stories on this topic. Somebody and their SO say they’re going to teach other or do some kind of language exchange, but they always end up reverting back to the language of whoever has better proficiency. Then whichever person that is always ends up getting pissed and impatient with the other person. So don’t even bother.

When I was in high school, I was one of the two people in our high school that could actually carry on a basic English conversation. I did it by watching American TV with Chinese subtitles. I took English conversation classes at YMCA and spoke English to American missionaries. I also read novels in English and in Chinese side by side (only picked love stories).
I did not do well in my English classes. I hated memorization, would not memorize the grammar rules (it was gibberish to me) or vocabularies.

Watch only English TV shows with subtitle is very helpful. She can start picking up basic daily conversation.

She can also watch Taiwanese TV shows on Viki.com and read the English subtitle. This should be helpful. She can see the English version of Chinese conversations. Sometimes, I wonder if this is the best way to avoid Chinenglish.

She needs to take English conversation classes. Teaching English to your wife is like teaching your wife how to drive, too many land mines.

Even if your wife cannot understand a lot of English, you should try to speak to her. The sooner she can get the rhythm of your speech the better it is for her accent. Rhythm of speech is very important.
Think about how you would say “get out of here” and have her say it, you will understand what I am trying to point out here.

There are videos on YouTube that teach people how to pronounce difficult words. I have problem with “L” sound. Search on accent reduction.

I never spoke English to any of my Taiwanese exes for pretty much the same reasons as you don’t speak it with your girlfriend. I’d say you’re better off finding a tutor for her or sending her to an English conversation class, at least for the time being. Maybe you guys can set aside a day or two each week to chat in English once she gets better, but if you’ve been communicating in Chinese for five years and she speaks almost no English, you really can’t change overnight. Good luck!

I’ve got a similar issue, but with Spanish, so bear with me. I speak Spanish fluently, and my Taiwanese girlfriend has to use it for her job and majored in it at university. However, unlike your end, she won’t accept any advice, materials, anything… She hopes that listening to our friends (natives here from Spain and Latin America) will improve her abilities, but I haven’t noticed any progress from her. Luckily, we can fall back on Chinese and English, so it’s not a big deal for me.

She decided to go and study Portuguese on top of all of that. I tell her that I can understand most of her Portuguese reading that she’s shown me because I can read Spanish, and I suggest that she focus on that first, then transition over to it. Again, deaf ears…

Where was I? Oh, yeah, advice…

I think it’s virtually impossible to set a teacher-student dynamic in a romantic relationship, and the approach to improvement has to be much more passive. I think that not getting frustrated with each other when you decide to speak in English with each other would be a good first step. I also find that starting with shorter sentences with known words, then expanding from there, is helpful.

But when you’re in a rush for information, I would stick with the language(s) that you know better.

Does anyone else have the issue where certain people fall into the English-speaking side of your brain and other people on the Chinese-speaking side? I have several bilingual friends whose English is better than my Chinese, but because of (reasons) we just never speak English to each other, ever. I also have a couple of German friends who always speak Chinese with me… and I find it next-to-impossible to switch over. So asking me to speak English to her is truly a difficult task because I automatically phrase things in Chinese, then have to think them through in English, every time I want to say something. Plus I have to speak so slowly that it impedes communication.

She just audited an adult buxiban class today but found it was too hard and is now super discouraged. Some people “don’t have the language-learning gene” (aka not enough interest to apply themselves to it), just like I don’t have the chemistry gene, but I think she can do it if she tries. Just don’t know how to appropriately jiayou for her.

Instead of a “teaching” approach, maybe you could start with some words now and then: instead of 好 you can say “OK”, instead of 真的嗎? ask “really?”, etc. Maybe a couple of words per day first, and progressively increasing the frequency in a natural and casual way, until you end by substituting enough words and phrases so she’ll be actually listening and later speaking English by herself. :slight_smile:

back in the day when i spoke zero mandarin, i had my then gF speak english to me and I would reply in mandarin. And we corrected each others mistakes.

Worked well.

I would speak mando to her ( as much as possible) and she would speak english as much as possible to me in reply.

takes some discipline but its do-able.

[quote=“tommy525”]back in the day when i spoke zero Mandarin, I had my then gF speak english to me and I would reply in Mandarin. And we corrected each others mistakes.

Worked well.

I would speak mando to her ( as much as possible) and she would speak english as much as possible to me in reply.

takes some discipline but its do-able.[/quote]
This is great!