It has been argued that a student’s capacity to learn a foreign language could be primarily influenced by his or her mother tongue. Kellerman (1995) as cited from Chan (2004) argues that the more similar languages are, the more it is probable for a student to develop his or her skills for a particular language (p. 33). The English and the Chinese language are two highly different languages. Historical roots of the English language would trace it back top the Germans within the Indo-European language family. On the other hand, the Chine language could be traced back to the Sino-Tibetan (Li & Thompson, 1981 as cited from Chan, 2004).
In effect of this, it could be implied that the English and the Chinese language varied greatly in terms of its phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics as well as their pragmatics (Chan, 2004, p. 33). There has been a wide degree of difference among the pronouns of the English and the Chinese language. The Chinese personal pronouns are viewed as richer and not strictly restricted by gender unlike the English pronouns. Chinese nouns are also used for denoting non-human entities such as “ taa13 (it: animate); spiritual figures, i. e. taa1 (he: spiritual), or showing respect or affection, i. e. nei5 (you: with respect)” (Chan, 2004, p. 34).
The uses of Chinese pronouns are used more cautiously in comparison with their English counterparts. The Chinese pronouns are oftentimes deleted every time their referents are vivid. For instance, the pronoun is often omitted in two consecutive clauses in a sentence, as a presence of a noun, more specifically in the third of the second person is already enough to interpret a particular sentence (Chan, 2004, p. 34). For instance: siu2 ming4 jat1 wui4 gaa1, taa1 zau6 heoi3 seoi6 gaau3. Siu Ming one back home he then go sleep (Siu Ming went to bed immediately after he (another person) had gone home. )
(Chan, 2004, p. 34). The sentence above if to be translated to English needs a pronoun in order to be the subject of the respective clause. English count nouns when compared to Chinese nouns also display a significant degree of difference. For instance, nouns, when depicted in their plural form, changes in their spelling. For instance, the singular word “pen”, if used in its plural form will become “pens”. Albeit, the case is not the same with Chinese nouns, as Chinese nouns do not change in number. Chinese nouns only “markers” that would indicate a particular word’s plurality.
For instance: tung4 hok6 mun4 faai3 faai3 zo6 haa6. student plural quick quick sit down (Students, sit down immediately. ) (Chan, 2004, p. 35).. Determiners in the English language are composed of articles such as a, an, and the; demonstratives such as this, that, these, those; and possessives such as my, our, etc. On the other hand, the Chinese language do not have the aforementioned in its language. Although Chan (2004) noted that the word “yat1” could be used similar to the function of an indefinite article, its usage could still be said as something that is optional.
For instance: (13) jat1 go3 jan4 one CL person (a person) (14) jau5 go3 jan4 zoi6 mun4 ngoi6 dang2 nei5. have CL person in door outside wait you (There is a person waiting for you outside. ) (Chan, 2004, p. 37). In relation with this, it could be said that the most common determiners that are used in the Chinese language are determiners such as “ze5 (this), naa5 (that))” (Chan, 2004, p. 37) which are only used for deictic functions that will refer nouns back in a particular phrase.