A diary study of difficulties and constraints in EFL learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Drawing on learners' course diaries, this paper explores Chinese EFL learners' perceptions of difficulties and constraints in EFL learning and their responses to the perceived difficulties and constraints. The diary data appear to indicate that the students' learning difficulties lay mainly with their linguistic competence, but a closer scrutiny of the classroom discourse seems to reveal that their linguistic difficulties might be a product of the relationship between their linguistic competence and the demands that examinations placed on it. Students' responses to linguistic difficulties were characterized by predominantly "quantitative" conceptions of, and approaches to, language learning. This quantitative orientation was not generally problematized but deemed functional by students in the examination-oriented context. Socio-psychological constraints raised by diarists included undesirable teacher-learner role relationships, negative self-evaluation, examination anxiety, deficient study skills, and obstacles to independent learning. Although these non-linguistic constraints were not frequently mentioned, it could be argued that socio-psychological factors substantially affected learning. Based on the findings, suggestions are made to aim at informed teaching in the general Chinese EFL university context. Copyright © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-621
Issue number4
Early online dateOct 2005
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005


Huang, J. (2005). A diary study of difficulties and constraints in EFL learning. System, 33(4), 609-621. doi: 10.1016/j.system.2005.04.001


  • EFL learning
  • Linguistic difficulties
  • Socio-psychological constraints
  • Quantitative/qualitative conceptions of learning
  • Quantitative/qualitative approaches to learning


Dive into the research topics of 'A diary study of difficulties and constraints in EFL learning'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.