Title page for ETD etd-03162010-103230

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Lai, Yajuan
URN etd-03162010-103230
Document Title The problem of low proficiency in English as a foreign language in urban middle schools in China
Degree Master of Arts
Department Afrikaans
Advisor Name Title
Prof V N Webb Supervisor
  • Chinese urban middle schools
  • China
  • English language
  • EFL
  • foreign language
Date 2009-04-24
Availability unrestricted

This research examines the low proficiency in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and the effectiveness, or rather lack thereof, of English studies in Chinese urban middle schools.

While most Chinese students learn English in middle school, very few are able to speak functional English. Even the surprisingly high marks for English tests and examinations are misleading, as these do not reflect the true ability of these students to use the English language.

Possible factors contributing to this problem are highlighted, such as the inappropriate nature of university entrance examinations, ineffective teaching and learning methods as well as the teaching material used, overcrowded classrooms, lack of meaningful exposure to English, and learner’s heavy study burden.

Aspects of learning and teaching English – the skills required (such as speaking, reading and writing) as well as the various teaching methods – are discussed. Learning a language involves grammatical, textual, functional and sociolinguistic knowledge, yet Chinese English language learners appear to develop organisational competence rather than pragmatic competence. This suggests that there is a possible flaw or shortfall in the teaching methodology and pedagogy behind teaching English and questions the effectiveness of English studies currently implemented at urban Chinese middle schools.

In the light of this problem an in-depth look at language knowledge, the nature of language and proficiency levels, as well as the verbal communication process and language acquisition is taken. Furthermore, the differences between NLA, SLA and FLA are explained with a view to theories about how human beings learn a language. This involves various teaching methods, highlighting communicative language teaching and, at the same time characteristics of effective teaching as well as the textbooks used in a Chinese context for teaching English.

The questionnaire methodology is applied in this research, and has been used to investigate and find reasons for this problem.

Finally, recommendations are put forward regarding the following aspects: adding value to the present syllabus, improving the setting of assessments, providing more teaching materials, improving the language proficiency and teaching abilities of English teachers, and letting students have more time and opportunity to be exposed to the English language.

Copyright © 2007, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Lai, Y 2007, The problem of low proficiency in English as a foreign language in urban middle schools in China, MA dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-03162010-103230/ >

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