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Mainland Chinese Undergraduates’ English- learning Experiences in Hong Kong: A Case Study focusing on Learning Strategy Use GAO, Xuesong (Andy) English.

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Presentation on theme: "Mainland Chinese Undergraduates’ English- learning Experiences in Hong Kong: A Case Study focusing on Learning Strategy Use GAO, Xuesong (Andy) English."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mainland Chinese Undergraduates’ English- learning Experiences in Hong Kong: A Case Study focusing on Learning Strategy Use GAO, Xuesong (Andy) English Centre/ Faculty of Education Nov. 8 th, 2006, HKU Constituent Theme, “Languages, media and Communication: Language in Education and Assessment” Seminar

2 Purpose A case study on one mainland Chinese undergraduate’s language learning experiences in Hong Kong: limited in generalization Researcher’s background, position, and subjectivity Drawing on a larger interpretative, ethnographic and longitudinal inquiry A sociocultural perspective on learning and learning strategy

3 Background: Constructivist Learning ‘Learning […] through cooperative social activity, discourse, and debate in the communities of practice’ (Fosnot, 2005, p. ix) ‘The classroom […] seen as a mini-society, a community of learners engaged in activity, discourse, interpretation, justification, and reflection (ibid, p. ix) The role of language: medium vs. means (Glaserfeld, 1998; Scheinder, 2006) a shared repertoire of ‘stories, artifacts, tools, actions, historical events, discourses, and concepts, and styles’ to ‘negotiate meaning without the constant need to compare notes’ (Wenger, 1998, p. 84)

4 Background: Constructivist Learning Language problems related to constructivist learning in Hong Kong (e.g. Jackson, 2002; Liu & Littlewood, 1997) Causes of students’ apparent reticence (Liu & Littlewood, 1997): Lack of experience in speaking English Hong Kong as ‘input-poor’ learning environment The dominance of Cantonese The arrival of mainland Chinese students

5 Background: Language Learning Strategy Social turn in language learning research Learning is ‘both a kind of action and a form of belonging’ (Wenger, 1998, p. 4) Learners are ‘able to reflect upon’ and ‘seek to alter or reinforce, the fitness of the social arrangements[…] for the realization of their own interests.’ (Sealey & Carter, 2004, p. 11)

6 Background: Language Learning Strategy Learning strategy: Learners’ contributions to their own language learning (Chamot, 2001) Learning strategy: open up access within power structures and seek cultural alternatives (Oxford, 2003, p.79)

7 Background: Language Learning Strategy Accounts of strategy use reveal the interplay of structure and agencythe interplay of structure and agency Structure: anterior and enduring (Layder, 1991, 1993) Structural constraints/facilitation (Norton, 2000; Norton & Toohey, 2001; Palfreyman, 2003, 2006): discursive resources, material resources, and social agents The role of agency (Tseng et al, 2006; Wenden, 1998, 2002) Agency: revealed in the use of power, the will and capacity (Giddens, 1984)

8 Background: A Realist Perspective Agent Structure Strategic behaviors Constraints/facilitation Autonomy Dependence Autonomy Dependence Structural power: Constraints/facilitation Strategic behaviors Individual Power: the will and capacity) Emergent Structures

9 Background: Mainland Undergraduates Cultural tradition: a pragmatic approach Hierarchical worldview Acquire academic and literacy skills, upward social mobility, and personal development (Thogersen, 2002) Learning for earning or learning (Cheng, 1996)

10 Background: Mainland Undergraduates Contextual reality on the Chinese mainland Overcrowded and competitive educational context Search for better educational opportunities The increasing importance of English Motives for coming to Hong Kong for tertiary studies: quality education, English and better opportunities for social advance

11 Background: Mainland Undergraduates Mainland undergraduates in Hong Kong: social and cultural vulnerability Huge investment, uncertain results Linguistic problems: Cantonese vs. Putonghua Differences between mainlanders and Hong Kongers may be diminishing but still ongoing and enduring (Li, et al, 1995; Ho, Chau, Chiu & Peng, 2003)

12 Background: Mainland Undergraduates English is widely spoken by the foreign community and in business circles, but not every Chinese person will necessarily understand English, as many are new immigrants from mainland China’ (The University of Hong Kong, 2005, p. 39). 本地大学大量招收内地学生。不得不承认,内地生成 绩优秀,但少见参与活动,他们大都埋头苦读,对自 身社会以及文化认识不深,也可以说是无文化内容, 对于两地学生互相交流文化有用吗? (HKU Post, 2006, p. 4)

13 Background: Mainland Undergraduates


15 The Study It has three stages 1) Interviewed twenty-two mainland undergraduates in 2004 2) follow-up ethnographic inquiry into 6 volunteer participants’ learning experiences (2004-2006) 3) Interviewed 15 out of the original 22 in 2006

16 The Case Study Participant:Jo Born in a ‘middle-class’ professional family Parents closely involved in her previous language learning experiences Use of rote memory strategies on the Chinese mainland Studying in a faculty where there is a constant need for defending her designs in English Most of her time spent in a studio, working in groups A desire to continue studying and working in Hong Kong to acquire her professional qualification

17 The Case Study Participant Highly motivated Positive perceptions of learning environment Some disappointment with learning progress Strategy use (from a questionnaire in the 3 rd stage) MemoryCognitiveMetacognitiveAffectiveSocial Jo 3.25003.30773.00003.16672.8333 N=15 3.20003.42313.13332.67782.8889

18 Experiential Narrative: Learning Cantonese I try to communicate with my classmates in Cantonese because local students, after all, like to use Cantonese. If I use Putonghua or English, it will cause barriers in our exchanges. They will not be too willing to talk to me. If I use Putonghua, Putonghua will be too difficult for them (Sept. 28th, 2004). If I keep speaking Putonghua, maybe they (local students) do not want to speak to me. (Because) They have a lot of chances to speak to other students in Cantonese. So I will have less chance to communicate with others. […] I speak Putonghua to myself. And I speak Cantonese to my classmates in order to be part of them (Nov. 20th, 2004).

19 Experiential Narrative: Learning Cantonese I do not feel good about it. (Interviewer: Why?) It was just like this. If I do not speak, they cannot tell me that I am not one of them. They cannot tell that I am actually not from Hong Kong. The sudden change in their ways of talking to me always reminds me of the fact that I am not from Hong Kong. It is an act to differentiate my identity from theirs. I feel annoyed for there is always someone who wants to separate me out from them (May 30th, 2006). […] their lifestyle is a bit different from mine. They like to sing KARAOKE. Sometimes they spent too much time on doing something meaningless. I think that they are wasting time (Nov. 20th, 2004).

20 Interpreting Narratives The need for learning Cantonese: partially generated by constructivist learning on the campus a cultural fear of being isolated and marginalized

21 Experiential Narrative: Struggle for English In fact, English matters more to me than Cantonese (Sept. 28th, 2004). I watch TV in English. When I watch TV, I just want to improve my English (Dec. 12th, 2004). I watch TV, most of the time, English TV, on CCTV, ATV world. I watch David Late Show. […] CCTV 9 is much easier for me to understand. Maybe because of its accent and the key words they chose. For the other English channels, I have difficulty in understanding them. […] (March, 3rd, 2005).

22 Experiential Narrative: Struggle for English Speaking English with teammates: I cannot express myself in Cantonese efficiently. So I use English and Cantonese at the same time (Nov. 20th, 2004). I still made some progress in English, […] in spoken English. When we (my partner and I) were designing the model, I kept talking English (Dec. 18th, 2004). Memorization: I really need words helping me to understand other people’s English […] I just have one book on vocabulary and tried to remember words. Everyday twenty words or so. Just go through it. Most of them, I have already been familiar with. I just take out those difficult ones. […] I also tried to memorize words from architecture textbooks (Nov. 6th, 2004).

23 Interpreting Narratives The struggle for learning English: English medium of instruction the critical importance of English Strategy use: Contextual facilitation: rich resources, availability of English speakers (limited) Contextual constraints: learning without belonging An intriguing question: to what extent watching TV programs has benefited her learning English?

24 Experiential Narrative: GRE One of my classmates (mainland Chinese student) who is from Beijing went to New Oriental School because she wanted to take GRE or TOEFL. She wanted to go abroad after her undergraduate study. I have not decided whether to go or not. But I need to take it as well. […] I plan to take the course in Beijing in August. I just want to push myself to learn more English. […] Everybody else is doing the same thing. If I do not do it, I feel that I am losing something. […] They say that the school is very good at this thing, guessing exam questions. […] a lot of people have decided to take the course even they have not decided whether to go abroad or not. They just said that they wanted to improve their English (April 16th, 2005).

25 Experiential Narrative: GRE I spent about ten days trying to memorize all the GRE words. […] I used the Red book and memorized most of them. […] Ten days, I just memorized these words. And I did nothing else. […] Our teacher told us that we did not need to remember the words’ pronunciation. Because we only used them in the exam and we did not have to read them. I just read all the sample sentences for three new wordlists for the day. For other lists that I should review for the day, I just read Chinese and English. I did not have time to read all the sample sentences if I had to memorize twenty four lists on one day (Sept. 17th, 2005).

26 Interpreting Narratives GRE effort: Exercise of learner agency Anxiety over uncertain outcomes of educational investment

27 Conclusion Learning is both doing and belonging Language learning success lies at what levels learners participated in particular communities of practice in the target language (s) (at least partially) Individual learners responsible for deploying strategic efforts to create such communities and/or enhance their participation in such communities What about language teachers, administrators, policy- makers, and…?

28 Questions and Answers

29 References Chamot, U. A. (2001). The role of learning strategies in second language acquisition. In M. Breen (ed.), Learner Contributions to Language Learning (pp. 25-43). Harlow: Pearson Education. Cheng, K.M. (1996, November). Excellence in education: Is it culture-free? Keynote paper presented at the annual conference of the Educational Research Association, Singapore. Fosnot, C. T. (Ed.) (2005). Constructivism: Theory, perspectives and practice. New York: Teachers College Press. Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of the theory of structuration.Berkeley : University of California Press. von Glaserfeld, E. (1998). Why constructivism must be radical? In M. Larochelle, N.Bednarz, and J. Garrison (Eds.) Constructivism and education (pp. 23-28). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 吴德华 (2006). 要文化还是要国际化? (Culture or internationalization, original in Chinese). HKU Post, Issue 19, 4. Ho, D.Y. F., Chau, A.W.L., Chiu, C., &Peng, S.Q.(2003). Ideological orientation and political transition in Hong Kong: Confidence in the future. Political Psychology, 24(2), 403-413. Jackson, J. (2002). Reticence in second language case discussions: Anxiety and aspirations. System, 30, 65-84. Layder, D. (1991) The realist image in social science. Basingstoke : Macmillan Press. Layder, D. (1993) New strategies in social research: An introduction and guide. Cambridge: Polity Press. Li, F.L.N., Jowett, A.J., Findlay, A.M., and Skeldon, R.S. (1995) Discourse on immigration and ethnic identity: Interviews with professionals in Hong Kong. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 20(3), 342-256. Liu, N. & Littlewood, W. (1997). Why do many students appear reluctant to participate in classroom learning discourse? System, 25, 371-384. Norton, B. (2000). Identity and Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity, and Educational Change. New York: Longman.

30 References Norton, B., and Toohey, K. (2001) Changing perspectives on good language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 35, 307- 321. Oxford, R. (Ed.) (2003). Towards a more systematic model of L2 learner autonomy. In D. Palfreyman & R.C. Smith (eds.), Learner Autonomy across Cultures: Language Education Perspectives (pp. 75-92). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Palfreyman, D. (2003). Expanding discourse on learner development: A reply to Anita Wenden. Applied Linguistics, 24(2), 243-248. Schack, T. and Schack, E. (2005) In- and outgroup representation in a dynamic society: Hong Kong after 1997. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 8, 123-137. Schneider, J. G. (2006). Language and mediality: On the medial status of ‘everyday language’. Language and Communication, 26, 331-342. Sealey, A., & Carter, B. (2004). Applied linguistics as social science. London: Continuum. Thogersen, S. (2002). A county of culture: Twentieth-Century China seen from the village schools of Zouping, Shangdong. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press. Tseng, W., Dornyei, Z., & Schmitt, N. (2006) A new approach to assessing strategic learning: The case of self- regulation in vocabulary acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 27(1), 78-102. The University of Hong Kong (2005). Guide for newcomers. Hong Kong: Office of Student Affairs, The University of Hong Kong. Wenden, A. (1998). Metacognitive knowledge and language learning. Applied Linguistics, 19 (4), 515-537. Wenden, A. (2002). Learner development in language learning. Applied Linguistics,23(1), 32-55. Wenger, E. 1998. Community of practices: Learning, meaning, and identity. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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