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English language development in P.R. China : a study of the impact of some learner-internal and learner-external factors


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Wu, Xudong 1994 , 'English language development in P.R. China : a study of the impact of some learner-internal and learner-external factors', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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English learning in China belongs in what is called "foreign language" learning, which has so far been little studied in the field of second language acquisition research. This study investigated, within a single theoretical framework, the English language development of Chinese university students as revealed from their oral production, and how some learner-internal and learner-external factors contributed to this development. The oral English development was investigated by examining how the subjects used the English they learnt in the classroom to express the discourse functions of "foreground" and "background" and the concept of "past time" in oral narrative. The learner-internal factors considered were: the subjects' attitudes both in relation to English learning and to the classroom learning environment, their motivations for learning English, and their learning strategies. The learner-external factors under investigation were: the subjects' classroom learning experiences, and their out-of-class contact with English.
Based on some representative theories of second language acquisition, and relevant empirical studies, a conceptual framework was first established which delineated the possible relationships between the chosen factors and their relevant concepts. Data for the study were collected in an 11-month period from 20 students majoring in English in Foreign Languages Department of Fujian Teachers University in China. The subjects were chosen by random sampling from 98 of the 109 students enrolled in 1989. The data comprised (i) three administrations of four types of questionnaires which provided information concerning the subjects' attitudes, motivations, learning strategies, and out-of-class contacts with English; (ii) the subjects' performance of a metalinguistic judgment test; and (iii) orthographic transcriptions of the subjects' speech elicited at an interval of three to four weeks, two narratives for each subject on each of the 14 occasions.
Data analyses reveal the following main findings. First, discourse functions had selective impact on the subjects' choice of linguistic features to express them, on their expression of the notion "past time", and on their adoption of self-corrections and communication strategies. Second, the subjects' oral English development can be described linguistically and non-linguistically. Linguistically, the development was reflected in the subjects' growing ability to use more types of linguistic features. Non-linguistically, the development manifested itself in (i) an ability to break chronological order of the events described in oral narratives, (ii) a growing desire to be both conceptually and linguistically accurate in oral production, as indicated by the use of irregular verbs in past tense after a growing number of auxiliaries and inflectional forms of the link verb "to be", and by the self-correction of more types of linguistic features, and (iii) a growing ability to cope with communication problems. Third, the subjects' intrinsic interests in English-speaking people and in learning English appeared to be channeled by the knowledge-oriented language instruction into the adoption of the type of learning strategies which enabled them to extend only the knowledge about the target language. The lack of oral practice both in and out of the classroom resulted in a great gap between a highly analytical knowledge about the target language and an under-developed procedural knowledge. The under-developed procedural knowledge prevented the subjects from engaging in fluent oral communication. The possible dissatisfaction with their own oral learning outcomes appeared to prevent the subjects from further participating in oral practice.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Wu, Xudong
Keywords: English language
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Copyright 1994 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 218-239). Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 1994

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