Worlds Apart: Experiences of Students Learning Chinese as Foreign Language in Universities in China and South Africa

Yuhua Wang Qi, EM Lemmer


Due to the prominent position China holes in the global economy, there is now an increasing demand, worldwide, to learn Chinese as a foreign language. However, most non-native speakers regard CFL as a very difficult language to master. This paper presents the findings of a qualitative inquiry into student experiences of CFL study in universities in China and South Africa. CFL programmes offered by a substantial number of Chinese universities are well-established and provide foreign students who want to study CFL with an attractive opportunity. In South Africa, the progressive development of CFL programmes, currently offered by four major universities, has been modest but steady. Using an interpretative approach, this paper explores (through in-depth interviews) the lived experiences of two groups of full-time CFL students in different sociolinguistic settings. Participants were chosen using purposeful sampling carried out in three selected universities in China and the four South African institutions mentioned above. The results identify differences in course delivery, classroom communication and language support outside the classroom. Despite the differences created by the widely differing contexts of CFL acquisition in China and in South Africa, participants shared similar experiences regarding emotional dimensions of language learning, academic ‘push and pull’ and specific difficulties of CFL acquisition. The paper concludes with a discussion of findings and recommendations to enhance CFL in both contexts.

DOI: 10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n15p414

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Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences ISSN 2039-9340(Print) ISSN 2039-2117(Online)

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