The use of English as a lingua franca in the teaching of Chinese as a foreign language

Danping WANG

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


With the rise of China’s economy, the teaching of Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) has prospered in the past decade. The large influx of students of Chinese as a foreign language (CFL students) has brought different cultures and languages into the Chinese classroom. In the meanwhile, English has spread widely around the world, and the number of English speakers is increasingly growing, especially in the countries where English is taught and used as a foreign language. CFL students studying the Chinese language therefore are potentially English speakers, link the added potential for using English as an international lingua franca for assisting the learning of Chinese language and understanding Chinese culture. This thesis provides a preliminary study of the use of English as a lingua franca (EFL) by CFL teachers and students. On the basis of a systematic review of the past studies of first language (L1) use in the second language (L2) class with sections on the L2 student, L2 teacher and L2 classroom, the thesis correspondingly discusses the CFL students’ attitudes towards the use of English for learning Chinese, CFL teachers’ beliefs about the use of English for teaching Chinese, as well as the CFL students and teachers’ communication through English in actual classroom settings. Despite the rigid regulation of using a Chinese-only pedagogy by the state language policy and teaching syllabuses, this study investigates whether ELF is playing a role as an alternating pedagogy in CFL class. It is one of few studies focusing on ELF as a teaching pedagogy for CFL teachers and students regardless of its controversial status as a default medium of instruction in CFL teaching. Following primarily a multi-method research approach, three studies were conducted. In 2010 October, four universities in Beijing were surveyed. Quantitative and qualitative data were provided by 497 CFL students through questionnaires, 24 CFL teachers through in-depth interviews and four CFL classes through classroom observations. Study one is a quantitative study examining the current situation with regard to the use of languages by CFL teachers and students and which practical goals that CFL teachers and students would more likely to achieve through an ELF pedagogy. It then focuses on describing CFL students’ attitudes about using English and the possible factors influencing their attitudes. Results indicated that English is used for CFL students and their CFL teachers. This study suggests that the Chinese-only pedagogy is not fully abided by in actual teaching practices. Study two is a qualitative study investigating CFL teachers’ beliefs about ELF and how their identity has shaped these beliefs. Findings indicate that CFL teachers’ beliefs of the use of ELF form a continuum of perspectives which following Macaro (2009) can be further classified into three categories of beliefs: the virtual position, maximal position and optional position. Two types of identity, national identity and foreign language identify, are identified to be pertinent for explaining CFL teachers’ beliefs about the use of ELF in CFL teaching. Study three is a study of classroom observation describing the actual use of ELF in CFL classroom. It proposes three principles for CFL teachers and students to adopt an ELF pedagogy: for comprehension, for communication and for efficiency. It also has identified three major purposes to use ELF: the explanatory purpose, managerial purpose and interactive purpose. This thesis concludes by pointing out directions for future studies on the judicious use of ELF pedagogy in CFL teaching. Findings of this study can help Chinese language teachers and educators, language policy makers and curriculum designers make future decisions to enhance the teaching and learning of Chinese as a foreign language. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Education
Awarding Institution
  • The Hong Kong Institute of Education
  • KIRKPATRICK, Andy, Supervisor
  • LI, Chor Shing David, Supervisor
  • GU, Ming Yue, Michelle 谷明月, Supervisor
Award date05 Aug 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Chinese language -- Study and teaching
  • Theses and Dissertations
  • Thesis (Ed.D.)--The Hong Kong Institute of Education, 2011


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