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What makes an intercultural speaker? An ethnographic investigation of Chinese EFL learners' perceptions of language use in socially-situated context
Vincent X. Wang
2008-12
Conference NameAnthropology, Interculturality and Language Learning and Teaching
Source PublicationAnthropology, Interculturality and Language Learning and Teaching
Conference Date2008-12-04
Conference PlaceParis
Other Abstract

Culture should be considered not only as a component in language teaching/learning curriculum but also as a context that permeates and influences language use. Second language learners are ‘intercultural speakers’ who “establish a relationship between their own and the other cultures” (Byram 1998: 8). Previous studies have shown that Chinese and English speakers differ markedly in their linguistic behaviour and also in their value system (Gu 1990; Lee-Wong; Wang 2006). The present study attempts to uncover Chinese EFL learners’ conceptualisation in socially-situated context, in order to better understand why they behave as they do. The learners and native speakers are interviewed to show how they perceive and interpret ‘contextual cues’ (Gumperz 1982) in a number of scenarios of requesting. The interview is semi-constructed which encompasses theoretical factors including positive/negative face, power relation, distance, imposition (Brown & Levinson 1987), and in-/out-groupness (Scollon & Scollon 1991). We further examine learners’ identity – whether they intend to retain certain Chineseness, or, to what extent they want to shift to subscribe English norms and conventions. A particular emphasis is placed on how they perceive the meaning of formulaic language in context, since formulae plays a central role in indirect speech-act performance (Fillmore 1976; Searle 1975). The results show that ‘context of situation’ (Malinowski 1923) is a key for studying learners’ intercultural competence: discrepancies in linguistic behaviour between the learners and native speakers can now be examined in light of their different perceptions of contextual cues, and the Discourse models (Gee 2005) the two groups invoked in given contexts. The learners negotiated their identity with the target cultural norms, sometimes felt uncertain, and did ‘bricolage’ (Lévi-Strauss 1966) to cope with new situations. Learners’ perception and use of formulae in recurrent social contexts are conspicuously non-native-like – an important area that deserves close attention in subsequent studies.

Language英語English
Fulltext Access
Document TypeConference paper
CollectionDEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
AffiliationDepartment of English, Faulty of Social Sciences and Humanities, The University of Macau
First Author AffilicationUniversity of Macau
Recommended Citation
GB/T 7714
Vincent X. Wang. What makes an intercultural speaker? An ethnographic investigation of Chinese EFL learners' perceptions of language use in socially-situated context[C],2008.
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