‘The foreign teacher is an idiot’: Symbolic interactionism, and assumptions about language and language teaching in China.
Issue: Vol 4 No. 1 (2008)
Journal: Linguistics and the Human Sciences
This paper examines Western teachers’ and Chinese students’ assumptions about second language acquisition and the nature of language itself. It explores the interaction of outward classroom behaviours derived from these assumptions as symbols that may be misunderstood across cultures, using symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework. Said’s Orientalism, and its mirror image, Occidentalism, inform the intercultural (mis)communication in this context, which is a public university in Shanghai.
The study found that the student participants conceptualized language as a set of discrete, quantifiable items. In this view, language is learned by acquiring more items rather than by developing discourse and other competences. Students’ beliefs are at odds with the theories of language and language learning implicit in the (weak) communicative methodology used by the Western participant teachers. However, students perceived their teachers’ classroom behaviours as indicative of their ineffectiveness rather than as indicative of differences in underpinning theoretical models.
Author: Phiona Stanley