The English language experiences of Chinese international students at a UK higher education institution.
University of Wales Institute, Cardiff.
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The UK is a popular destination for international students, a large number of whom come from China. This small scale case study was undertaken in the 2O1O-2O11 academic year and looked at the experiences of Chinese students on pre-sessional, international foundation and postgraduate courses at a UK higher education institution. The study included students from mainland China and Hong Kong who spoke different Chinese languages. The broad aim of the study was to examine students' English language learning experiences in China and the UK. Following a literature review which considered existing research into language learning, learning and teaching styles, and language education policy in China, data were collected by questionnaires, focus group and interview, providing a range of quantitative and qualitative data for detailed analysis. The study found that there is literature exploring the profile of the 'typical' Chinese style of learning and classroom behaviour (for example, Levinsohn,2007, p.12 and Mariani, 2007, pp.3-4). The students in this case study described a range of learning styles and English language learning experiences. These included differences in their age when they started to learn English, their exposure to native English speaking teachers and non-native English speaking teachers, and the extent to which they had experienced a bilingual or multilingual education. Differing views are highlighted by Gan (2009) who considers the criticism being voiced of "cultural stereotypes of Asian students as being prone to rote learning, passive and teacher-dependent" (Gan, 2009, p.41) and who concludes that students' approaches to language learning are influenced more by the pedagogy they experience than by cultural influences. The range of results in this study suggested that, for this research group at least, generalisations of 'typical Chinese students' did not apply. It was further concluded that, as this was a small scale study, there would be merit in repeating the exercise and developing the research over time in order to better understand the diversity of students from China. Such developments would also allow for individual student experiences to be assessed over an extended period of time. Such an understanding could benefit HEI providers, not only in the area of pre-sessional and international foundation courses but also when delivering in the international classroom where Chinese students may be only one of many nationalities represented.
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