How do Chinese /Taiwanese University Students in the UK Improve Their English Proficiency? An Exploration of Language Learning Strategy Use and Social Identity Development
thesisposted on 21.11.2012, 13:05 by Hung-Chun Pen
Although there has been a great deal of research on second or foreign language learning in study abroad (SA) contexts, it can be noticed that the focuses are largely on either cognitive (psychological) or sociocultural (or social) perspectives. Moreover, few studies have investigated the experiences of Chinese students, or indeed any other cohort of overseas students at British universities; most of the studies have been conducted in the USA, Australia and New Zealand. The present study attempts to explore the experiences of Chinese L2 sojourners living and studying abroad and how they go about improving their language proficiency, focusing on how their language learning strategies (LLSs) use and social identity affect their L2 learning and use as well as how they may influence one another. In order to investigate the relationships among their use of language learning strategies, their social identities, and L2 learning and use, a mixed methods research design is proposed, using a questionnaire (SILL), learning diaries, online (MSN) communication, and stimulated recall (face-to-face and e-) interviews. 62 SILL questionnaires were completed twice, and 14 (7 pre-sojourn and 7 during sojourn) interviews were conducted. 6 students kept diary entries for around 6 months. 11 participants took part in the MSN communication for around 10 months (how often and how long depend upon individuals) and the time of the conversations for each participant was around 90 to 110 hours in total. The result of SILL shows that there were significant changes of the mean scores of three categories of LLSs, namely memory, metacognitive, and social strategies, employed by the Chinese students after around eight months residence abroad in the UK. The qualitative data interpreted the change of the use of some LLSs. Additionally, the qualitative data have also provided the evidence supporting their social identity reconstruction during study abroad. The change of their LLS use and social identity were examined, which indicates that whilst their development of social identity affected their choice of LLS use, the employment of LLSs influenced the reconstruction of social identity as well. Furthermore, both their LLS use and social identity affected their L2 learning and use. The study sheds new light on the relation between identity and LLSs, proposing that they are complementary and mutually reinforcing each other. It also implies the potential interrelations among several factors relevant to SLA, such as learner autonomy, agency, social identity and LLSs.