The Increasing Importance of Learning English and Chinese for Young People

This month we published Learning English and Chinese as Foreign Languages by Wen-Chuan Lin. In this post the author talks about the themes explored in the book.

This book compares English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teaching and learning in Taiwan with Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) education in England and highlights how classroom activities are embedded within ethnic or social group cultures, family resources and school visions or goals. From Vygotsky-inspired sociocultural theory and a cross-cultural comparative angle, I hope to highlight the following themes and critical issues in foreign language education:

  • The impact of globalisation on EFL/CFL: There is a growing impact of globalisation on foreign language education and I would argue for a future need to view foreign language learning from traditional ‘knowledge value’ as school subjects or ‘use value’ to ‘exchange value’ and ‘intercultural value’.
  • Elite social status of EFL/CFL: There are similar emerging social issues such as elitism and inequality in language learning identities that affect both EFL and CFL practice in Taiwan and England. This social inequality has the potential to persist if certain attitudes remain; such as the English educational myth that ‘only intelligent students can learn languages well’.
  • Pedagogical ‘cultural bridging’ and ‘sociolinguistic bridging’: Those Taiwanese teachers who employed students’ ethnic culture or mother-tongue in dialogical interactions were able to create a psychological co-membership and enhanced students’ EFL learning, while in England similar interactional use of students’ everyday culture or teacher’s own background culture were also detected in Chinese classrooms. In teaching CFL, an emerging form of culturally responsive pedagogy using learners’ existing sociolinguistic knowledge of English to learn Chinese was found to be useful in helping young people who are native speakers of English.
  • ‘Knowledge-based’ EFL vs. ‘activity-based’ CFL pedagogy: Among the differences of interactional styles evident in schools in both studies, the most pervasive general pedagogical pattern was of ‘knowledge-based’ grammar teaching in Taiwan in contrast to ‘activity-based’ pedagogy in England despite the fact that the class sizes are different – on average 30-40 in Taiwan and 10-15 in England. It could be argued that an ‘activity-based’ pedagogy would help students to move from a traditional view of foreign language learning as ‘knowledge value’ to one of ‘exchange value’ and ‘intercultural value’ in an era of rapid globalisation.
  • Emerging social issues in EFL and CFL: Both EFL and CFL practices are not isolated from the influence of socialisation and enculturation. Emerging social issues such as resource-divide and social gender identities were discovered in learning these two foreign languages that must draw our attention at personal, interpersonal and policy level if we wish to encourage students to access them without excluding those who are not provided with appropriate cultural resources.

It is my hope that this book will provide pedagogical insights for foreign language teachers to take into account classroom pedagogy that incorporates both cultural and sociolinguistic bridging in order to motivate learning; and provide theoretical and methodological insights for researchers to look at young people’s foreign language learning processes that take place within social, cultural and historical contexts.

Wen-Chuan Lin, Department of English, Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages, Taiwan

97072@mail.wzu.edu.tw

 

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might also like Soft Power and the Worldwide Promotion of Chinese Language Learning by Jeffrey Gil.

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