A new "VIP" training course in Auckland for Chinese students charges $200 an hour to learn English from Chinese teachers.

Teachers at the Kite Prime International school on Queen St say Chinese teachers are in a better position to teach English to Chinese students because they can explain the language in their native tongue.

Language tutor Rui Zhong. Kite Language Institute has started a VIP English language course for Chinese students, who are charged $200 an hour. 15 March New Zealand Herald photograph by Michael Craig.
Language tutor Rui Zhong. Kite Language Institute has started a VIP English language course for Chinese students, who are charged $200 an hour. 15 March New Zealand Herald photograph by Michael Craig.

KITE English language teacher Rui Zhong says Chinese students have "specific needs" in learning the language.

"When we can speak both languages, the students can understand Chinese and how it can be translated into English," Zhong said.

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"So they will have a better understanding of how to use this specific English from what they are thinking about."

Zhong said Chinese teachers would understand how the students think and Chinese and Western cultures.

"When English [Western] teachers teach English to Chinese students, they don't know what they think about," she said.

"But when Chinese teachers teach Chinese students English, they will understand students' needs and what they're thinking."

Zhong argues the classes are worth the $200-an-hour price tag because it helps students to pass the IELTS exam faster than other teaching methods.

"Students will get specific analysis of their personality, their weaknesses and strengths in learning English," she said.

"With our one-to-one course, students will get specific training and they will pass exams as quickly as possible."

Learning is divided into the four skills required for the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) testing - listening, reading, writing and speaking.

Jessie Kuang, the institute's marketing director, said more than 20 students had signed up for the programme, which began last month.

Most students needed between 30 and 40 hours before they were ready to sit the IELTS test, she said.

IELTS measures the language proficiency of people who want to study or work where English is used as a language of communication.

The system which uses a nine-band scale to identify levels of proficiency from non-user (band score 1) through to expert (band score 9) is accepted to measure English language proficiency for immigration purposes.

Student Joyce Cui, who has signed up for the programme says she has benefited from learning English in "the Chinese way".

She did not think the $200-an-hour fee was too much to pay because she was "learning a lot".

AUT University head of language and culture Associate Professor Sharon Harvey said there was evidence to suggest that explanations in students' first language could be helpful in language learning.

"But this has to be balanced by plenty of high-quality input in the target language, English, and opportunities for the students to communicate across the four skills themselves," Harvey said.

"The research varies but tends towards suggesting very high percentages of target language teacher use in class, that is English in this case, perhaps as high as 90 per cent."
Dividing the lessons into the four skills was also a "false division of communication", she said.

"In reality, we are often doing these things simultaneously," she said.

"In order to speak we should listen to what has been said, in order to write we need to read and listen etc etc."

Harvey said questions must also be asked about why these students came to New Zealand in the first place.

"There is another point, that is why are these students learning English and taking IELTS?" Harvey said.

"If it's to study in New Zealand, then it might be good to also be taught by teachers who understand the Western university context."