Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

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Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby Shimokitazawa » 20 Aug 2012, 12:21

I've been curious about something that I see some of my students doing here regarding the use of "besides" and was wondering if any of the linguistics and TESOL experts here could help me understand if the usage is correct or not.

It seems that the Taiwanese EFL learners are using besides to mean also, as in this example on the Wikipedia article for Demographics of Taiwan, which, from the way it has been written, seems like it was probably written by a Taiwanese writer:

Besides, there are People from each Area of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao residents, and Nationals without registered household in the Taiwan Area.


My question is, is this usage wrong? Instead, should the speakers be using something like: "In addition, there are people from each area of mainland China...." or "Moreover, there are people from each area of mainland China....".

My experience with the use of besides, as a native American speaker of English has been only when only providing additional reasons for justifying why nott to do something or providing additional negative reasons for not doing something. For example:

Speaker A: Why don't we go for beers at Carnegies tonight?

Speaker B: Not tonight, I've got to get up early tomorrow. Besides, I'm short on cash and won't get paid until next week.


Have I got this all wrong and, unbeknownst to me, are Tawanese English speakers really using besides correctly here to mean also, as shown in the Wikipedia article above?
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby finley » 20 Aug 2012, 12:30

It's not wrong; it's just immensely irritating. I was reading a document the other day that was full of unnecessary "besides", "moreover"s and "in addition"s. It's just another millisecond of reading comprehension time wasted on a word that conveys no information.

It's a matter of style. Chinese/Taiwanese writers don't understand that modern English is a fundamentally terse language, whereas Chinese is (still) a verbose one, where the aim is to impress the reader with the writer's cleverer-than-thou witterings, rather than to enlighten him. They all need a good spanking with a blue pencil.
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby Tiger Mountaineer » 20 Aug 2012, 12:40

It's the result of the standard high-school & cram school teaching materials here in which synonymous phrases are taught as equal with no regard to usage in context. A typical excerpt would be something like:

also = in addition
= additionally
= besides
= furthermore
= moreover

...followed by a formula for plugging that into a sentence. "In addition, S + V ..."

This post was recommended by tomthorne (20 Aug 2012, 18:22)
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby lostinasia » 20 Aug 2012, 12:48

Shimokitazawa wrote:It seems that the Taiwanese EFL learners are using besides to mean also, as in this example on the Wikipedia article for Demographics of Taiwan, which, from the way it has been written, seems like it was probably written by a Taiwanese writer:

Besides, there are People from each Area of mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao residents, and Nationals without registered household in the Taiwan Area.


My question is, is this usage wrong? Instead, should the speakers be using something like: "In addition, there are people from each area of mainland China...." or "Moreover, there are people from each area of mainland China....".

I agree with you: it's wrong. "Besides" usually is something like "because part 2": you're providing additional reasons for something. However, they don't normally learn that in high school here. "In a word" is another one that grates on me: "In a word, the topic needs further research and investigation in order to reach definite conclusions."

(Note that slightly different sentence patterns do have more of an "also" meaning: "Besides the aboriginals and Taiwanese, there are people from each area...")
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby Shimokitazawa » 20 Aug 2012, 13:06

Thanks for the comments.

So, based on the replies above, some still feel it's not strictly wrong but also unnecessary in terms of usage and Lost in Asia believes it to be wrong. I have to agree with Lost in Asia in that I believe the usage is wrong. I grade a lot of students' writing and have noticed an over usage of the word besides to mean also.

As Tiger Mountaineer points out, this is most likely how it is taught in cram schools, etc., as a synonym for "also".

Lost in Asia, good point about "besides" also meaning "because part 2" and also as in "Besides the aboriginals and Taiwanese, there are people from each area...". I'll have to remember that example for when I'm working with my students and providing them with feedback.

Thanks again for all the comments.
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby Rockefeller » 20 Aug 2012, 13:39

Hi fellas,

Thanks for an interesting read. I was always more in line with Shimokitazawa's thinking of how besides should be used, though there have been circumstances where I would use (or have heard others use) besides when giving an additional point to support/justify the speaker's intentions/actions/argument/whathaveyou in a non-negative capacity. For example:

Gal: Are you sure I don't need to have a little more cash on me this evening?

Guy: It's Vegas! We have ladies' night here. Besides, with how you're looking tonight you probably won't spend a dime.
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby hansioux » 20 Aug 2012, 17:20

hmm... besides and also seems different to me. I do use besides like the original post sometimes. For me I use also when the new information is on the same line as the original. I use besides when it's unrelated.

eg.
Nah, I can't sleep because I drank too much coffee, also I put too much sugar in my coffee.
, also my cat was clawing my face.
, also I took a hit of a big sandwich.

vs.
Nah, I can't sleep because I drank too much coffee, besides I need to get up early anyway.
, besides sleep is for losers.
, besides I have to finish writing my code.

maybe this still seems wrong? But that's how i took it when I learned English, besides I hear it in Sitcoms sometimes. <-- there, I just did it again!
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby ehophi » 20 Aug 2012, 17:23

finley wrote:It's not wrong; it's just immensely irritating. I was reading a document the other day that was full of unnecessary "besides", "moreover"s and "in addition"s. It's just another millisecond of reading comprehension time wasted on a word that conveys no information.


The underlined part is incorrect. Most "conjunctive adverbs" convey strictly logical relations between propositions, and they convey other information about the presumed state of the listener. Many of them are just emphatic (e.g. moreover, furthermore).

The word besides is particularly interesting, because it states that all previously mentioned premises of an argument are irrelevant, but some other tangential or irrelevant propositions argue to the same conclusion. That's a lot of information for just one word.

If you like brevity, you'll hate most sentences of English (or any other natural language), because we have lots of redundant conveyance in sentences.

"I actually went there!" (...as opposed to counterfactually going there?)
"It's true that P." (Why not just say P, since declarative sentences assume that you're claiming the truth of something?)

I highly doubt you'd be willing to excise these and other common phrasings from your regular use of language.

But Tiger Mountaineer is right about how Taiwanese high schoolers learned these terms, and that explains why they cling to them.
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby tomthorne » 20 Aug 2012, 18:29

Tiger Mountaineer wrote:It's the result of the standard high-school & cram school teaching materials here in which synonymous phrases are taught as equal with no regard to usage in context. A typical excerpt would be something like:

also = in addition
= additionally
= besides
= furthermore
= moreover

...followed by a formula for plugging that into a sentence. "In addition, S + V ..."


That's the problem across the board. Something is equal to something else. Will equals be going to, for example.

The problem when teaching adults is they will then respond "So if x isn't equal to y as I've been taught, what is it equal to?". It's a tough nut to crack without introducing them to loads of different examples, but that's usually not what they want to hear. As a result even western teachers usually take the short cut and split the conjunctive adverbs and other linking expressions into but, and, so or some similar nonsense. This is the core problem with rules.
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Re: Use of "Besides" by Chinese Speaking EFL Learners

Postby Shimokitazawa » 21 Aug 2012, 07:25

ehophi wrote:
finley wrote:It's not wrong; it's just immensely irritating. I was reading a document the other day that was full of unnecessary "besides", "moreover"s and "in addition"s. It's just another millisecond of reading comprehension time wasted on a word that conveys no information.


The underlined part is incorrect. Most "conjunctive adverbs" convey strictly logical relations between propositions, and they convey other information about the presumed state of the listener. Many of them are just emphatic (e.g. moreover, furthermore).

The word besides is particularly interesting, because it states that all previously mentioned premises of an argument are irrelevant, but some other tangential or irrelevant propositions argue to the same conclusion. That's a lot of information for just one word.

If you like brevity, you'll hate most sentences of English (or any other natural language), because we have lots of redundant conveyance in sentences.

"I actually went there!" (...as opposed to counterfactually going there?)
"It's true that P." (Why not just say P, since declarative sentences assume that you're claiming the truth of something?)

I highly doubt you'd be willing to excise these and other common phrasings from your regular use of language.

But Tiger Mountaineer is right about how Taiwanese high schoolers learned these terms, and that explains why they cling to them.


tomthorne wrote:
Tiger Mountaineer wrote:It's the result of the standard high-school & cram school teaching materials here in which synonymous phrases are taught as equal with no regard to usage in context. A typical excerpt would be something like:

also = in addition
= additionally
= besides
= furthermore
= moreover

...followed by a formula for plugging that into a sentence. "In addition, S + V ..."


That's the problem across the board. Something is equal to something else. Will equals be going to, for example.

The problem when teaching adults is they will then respond "So if x isn't equal to y as I've been taught, what is it equal to?". It's a tough nut to crack without introducing them to loads of different examples, but that's usually not what they want to hear. As a result even western teachers usually take the short cut and split the conjunctive adverbs and other linking expressions into but, and, so or some similar nonsense. This is the core problem with rules.


Thanks. Some helpful language analysis and examples of usage here. I'll try to explain this to my students.
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