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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, X 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, X
Keywords: English language
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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 (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1994

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