An Empirical Study of Chinese EFL Learners’ Understanding and Translation of Expressions of Multiplication Entailing “Times”

  •  Jing Li    


The debate on how to understand such expressions of multiplication entailing “times” as “n times more than” and “increase (by) n times” has been on and off in China since the 1980s. A review of literature seems to suggest that despite early-stage divergence in understanding, there is a general consensus among the Chinese academia at present that the English word “times” entails the base number, and therefore expressions of multiplication like “n times more than” and “increase (by) n times” are equivalent to the expression “n times as much/many as”. This paper intends to find out whether this consensus is reflected in Chinese EFL learners’ understanding of those expressions. Altogether 16 English majors from one of the key universities in the northern part of China were tested on their understanding and translation of two passages with embedded arithmetic comparisons using “n times more than” and “increase n times” respectively. It is found that a sizable proportion of them (62.5% for the former and 56.25% for the latter) gave inaccurate translation and that their rendering manifests not only their misunderstanding but also indiscretion in the translating process. Such factors as students’ indiscriminate use of information from the Internet, ambiguity and errors in popular grammar books, the presumed disjunction between EFL research and EFL teaching, and the untimely updating of English competence on the part of Chinese EFL teachers in China are proposed as possible reasons.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.