Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Preparedness of Chinese Students for American Culture and Communicating in English

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Preparedness of Chinese Students for American Culture and Communicating in English

Article excerpt

Abstract

What Chinese students learn about American culture and the English language in the classrooms of China does not adequately prepare them for the reality of American culture and communication in English. In this study, the constructs of American culture and models of English language taught in Chinese classrooms are compared with the reality of American culture and English communication, as experienced by eight undergraduate students from China. The students visited the United States for the first time to observe American culture and university classes in four cities with plans to return for graduate studies. In light of their experiences, findings revealed that Chinese students may often be unprepared for the challenges they will face associated with cultural dissimilarities and communicating in the English language.

Keywords: American culture, English communication, international education, study abroad

Attending college in the United States (U.S.) is a career preparation goal for numerous students in China, and, for many of them, that goal has become a reality. According to the Open Doors Report 2011 issued by the Institute of International Education (IIE) (2011), 157,558 Chinese students attended school in the U.S. during the 2010-2011 school year, an increase of over 23 percent from the previous year. These numbers describe China as the number one source of international students in the U.S. during 2010-2011. When Chinese students enter the U.S., they are often unprepared for the challenges or difficulties they will face associated with cultural dissimilarities and communication. Hostede (2005) defines culture as "the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one category of people from those of another" (p. 4). While Chinese students are taught about American culture in Chinese classrooms, a greater focus is placed on the English language. However, American culture and English taught in Chinese classrooms may not fully prepare students for the reality of American culture and English communication in the U.S.

Many research studies discuss the focus of Chinese education upon the learning of English, as well as the challenges faced by international Chinese students attending school in the U.S. However, the literature is sparse concerning Chinese students' expectations and perceptions of American culture based upon the constructs of American culture as they were taught in the classrooms of China. In order to address this gap, we conducted a focus group and interviews with eight undergraduate Chinese students to explore the reality of their experiences with American culture during their first visit to the U.S., compared to their previous expectations and perceptions of America based upon the constructs they were taught in Chinese classrooms. The Chinese students came to America for four weeks to observe American culture and university classes in four cities with plans of returning to the U.S. for graduate studies. In this study, we examined the following research questions: (1) how do the constructs of American culture as taught in Chinese classrooms compare with the reality of American culture experienced by students from China; and (2) how well did the English language model taught in Chinese classrooms prepare students from China for English communication in the U.S.

Attraction of an American Education

For the most part, the majority of students coming from China are undergraduates who realize that earning a college degree in China today does not necessarily ensure a comfortable standard of living (Fischer, 2010). Consequently, they seek a degree from a school in the U.S. because of the prestige and reputation it carries (Lin, 2010). In an article published in U.S.- China Today, Lin (2010) interviewed Wang Huiyao, Director of the Center for China and Globalization, who identified a number of potential reasons or enabling factors for the increase of Chinese students traveling west to earn a college degree. …

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